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The objection to the Inspiration of the Evangelists and Apostles from
their manner of quoting texts from the Old Testament.
THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, ANDOVER, SEPT. 20, 1823. To the Reverend Professor Woods ;
REV. AND DEAR SIR, By the direction of our fellow students, we take this method to request for publication a copy of your Lecture, lately delivered in the Seminary, on the Objection to the Inspiration of the Evangelists and Apostles, from their manner of quoting texts from the Old Testament. We are aware it is unusual for a Professor to publish a single Lecture, which makes a part of his regular course. But, as the subject is specially important at the present day; as it is not easy to find any author who treats it in a satisfactory manner; as there is reason to think the publication of the Lecture will result in immediate and extensive good; and as your life is devoted to the welfare of this Seminary, and the church of God; we hope you will not hesitate to comply with our wishes.
H. SESSIONS,} Committee.
TAEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, DEC. 12, 1823. To the Students of the Seminary ;
GENTLEMEN, In compliance with your request, and with the advice of my respected Colleagues, I have at length consented to the publication of the following Lecture. I have also added notes on the topics suggested by your Committee. You will bear in mind, that this is one of six Lectures, which I delivered in my regular course, on the subject of INSPIRATION. The particular subject of this Lecture, is one on which every theological Student, first or last, finds himself perplexed with difficulties. It was the consideration of these difficulties in the LectureRoom, and an attempt, from year to year, to present the subject in a clear and satisfactory light, which had the principal influence in bringing my mind to its present state.—My confidence in the soundness of the principles, advanced in this Lecture, is greatly strengthened by the opinion of the Rev. PROFESSOR STUART, who, after a much more critical examination of the subject than could be expected of me, has come to the same conclusión ; and also by the fact, that these principles agree, in a good measure, with the views expressed by Sykes, and occasionally by Doddridge, Michaelis, H. Owen, Schleusner, Storr, Kuinoel, and other commentators. I am most indebted to the first of these authors, who, though in my apprehension, very erroneous, respecting some important doctrines of Christianity, has more valuable thoughts on this particular subject, than any other writer within my knowledge. It will be seen that I have, here and there, adopted his mode of reasoning, and, in a few instances, somewhat of his phraseology. The whole is submitted to your candid perusal, with the hope, that it may have some influence in promoting your knowledge of God's holy word, and your future success in teaching it to others.
An objection has often been raised against the inspiration of the Evangelists and Apostles, from the manner in which they make quotations from the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The objection is summarily this ;
The writers of the New Testament make quotations from the Old Testament incorrectly; that is, the quotations do not exactly agree with the passages which are meant to be quoted. The writers sometimes apply the texts quoted to subjects entirely different from those to which they were applied by the original writers.
Sometimes texts are both quoted incorrectly, and applied to a wrong subject, in the same instance. In many places, the writers quote, as predictions, texts which were not intended to be predictions. Such mistakes, the objector says, are utterly inconsistent with the supposition, that the writers were divinely inspired.
The consideration of this objection, so far as the difficulties arising from various readings, and other appropriate subjects of Biblical criticism, are concerned, belongs directly to the Department of Sacred Literature. It belongs to me to consider the objection merely as it respects the inspiration of the New Testament. And as I can consistently devote only one Lecture to the subject, the most I can accomplish will be, to bring distinctly before you the principles, on which the proper solution of the difficulty rests, and to adduce as many instances of quotation, as may be sufficient to illustrate and confirm those principles.—You will perceive, however, that the conclusiveness of my reasoning on this subject, must depend, in a measure, on the result of discussions, which belong appropriately to another department.
We begin with the texts which are thought to be quoted, as predictions, and which are represented by the Evangelists as being fulfilled. These, you are well aware, have been made an occasion of violent objections against the New Testament. Collins, with deep-rooted hostility against the whole system of Christianity, but in a manner very artful and plausible, endeavours by this argument to undermine the authority of the Christian Scriptures. The design of his book on the Grounds of the Christian Religion, is to show, that the first publishers of the gospel laid the whole support of the Christian religion on pretended Jewish prophecies, applied in a sense entirely contrary to their plain, original meaning ; that those prophecies which are cited in the New Testament in proof of Christianity, are only allegorical proofs ; i. e. no proofs ; and accordingly, that the only argument in support of Christianity, is false.
Others have been led, by that manner of citing prophecies, to which I allude, to speculate loosely in regard to the origin of the New Testament, and to give up the plenary inspiration and infallibility of the writers.
The objection, in whatever form it is brought forward, obviously implies, that there is some real mistake or error in the manner of quotation. Otherwise, it is wholly insignificant.
Now with regard to those passages in the New Testament, in which real predictions are quoted from the Old, there can be no difficulty. The quotations may not, indeed, be made in the exact language of the prophets; and they may be cited in one place in a manner somewhat different from what they are in another. But, in regard to this subject, what more can we desire, than that a writer should distinctly show us, what passage he means to quote as a prediction? It can be of no consequence to us, whether he does this by citing the whole passage exactly; or by citing exactly such a part of it, as will satisfy us to what prediction he refers ; or by giving the substance of the passage in other words, and this more or less briefly, as the case may require ; or by merely referring to the place, where the prediction is found. All these methods of citation or reference are in good use with writers of the first character; so that either of them may be employed, without
mistake or impropriety. And you must be sensible, that it is frequently a matter of great convenience, both in speaking and writing, and a means too of making the most favorable impression, to quote in the most summary way. To make out a quotation fully, and in the very words of the author, we often find not only unnecessary, but disadvantageous. These remarks are specially applicable to predictions which were generally regarded as most important, and which were of course most familiar to those, for whose sake they were cited in the New Testament.
Without entering on the inquiry, which of the particular passages, quoted in the New Testament, as being fulfilled or accomplished, are real predictions ; I will just remark, that predictions may be contained in many pas