In the first Epistle General of Peter we read:
“Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; searching what time or what manner of time the spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow them."
Any idea of a progressive revelation implies that there was a light coming on into the world, which to them of olden time showed dimly a mystery into which they strove to look further. A vision of ideal goodness rose before them. It rested above the ideal Israel, chosen and called of God for a holy work. It shadowed that righteous servant of God with sorrow. The lot of the elect one was to be suffering. Thus the world was to be saved to God. This the great Prophet of the Exile saw. Christ’s coming filled out this mystic vision, and it is fairly translated into the terms the Epistle uses.
The prophets were, in such lofty visionings, under an influence beyond their consciousness.
“The passive master
lent his hand
To the vast soul that o’er him planned.”
All other passages claimed in support of the notion of an infallible Bible fail on the witness-stand.
There is positively nothing in the New Testament which lends a reasonable countenance to such an amazing theory.
Even the stock argument, used when all other quotations failed, disappears in the honesty of the Revised New Testament. People who know no Greek see now that Paul did not write “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God”; but
“Every Scripture inspired
of God is also profitable for teaching for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
This is precisely the claim to be made for the Bible, as against the exaggerated notions cherished about it. It is good for—all forms of character-building. Its inspiration is ethical and spiritual. The test of the inspiration of any writing in it is its efficacy to inspire life with goodness.
The Bible carries the refutation of this claim upon the face of its writings.
They thrust upon the attention of all who are not blind the traces of human imperfection, of a kind and an extent which precludes any notion of a clean copy of a perfect script let down from the skies.
The Old Testament historians contradict each other in facts and figures, tell the same story in different ways, locate the same incident at different periods, ascribe the same deeds to different men, quote statistics which are plainly exaggerated, mistake poetic legend for sober prose, report the marvellous tales of tradition as literal history, and give us statements which cannot be read as scientific facts without denying our latest and most authoritative knowledge. I shall not enumerate these “mistakes of Moses,” and of others. That is an ungracious task for which I have no heart. It may be needful to remind the children of a larger growth, who persist in believing a saintly mother’s beliefs to be final authority in their studies, that she is not infallible. But one does not care to catalogue her mistakes and taunt her with them.