The Perspicuity Of Holy Scripture
According to the Roman doctrine, Scripture becomes clear through the light emanating from the “Church,” that is, from the Pope. According to the doctrine of the “enthusiasts” of all ages, it is illumined by the “inner light,” which is communicated immediately. According to the view of modern theology, the Bible is “divine-human” in the sense that Scripture presents a mixture of truth and error, and it is the business of “the self-consciousness of the theologizing subject” to shed light upon this confusion—by means of his “experience” he separates the truth from the error and thus clarifies Scripture. All these views regarding the “perspicuity” of Scripture have one common feature: It is man who must illumine Holy Scripture. According to the teaching of Scripture, however, exactly the opposite relation obtains. Not men illumine Scripture, but Scripture illumines men. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105).
According to Scripture, the perspicuity of Scripture consists in this, that it presents, in language that can be understood by all, whatever men must know to be saved. By way of elaboration:
- This perspicuity is presupposed, as a matter of course, since not only those who are specially gifted, but all Christians are to read the Scriptures, are to believe on the basis of Scripture and to judge truth and error on the same basis. The perspicuity of the Old Testament is taken for granted in Luke 16:29: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” In like manner Christ tells the Jews who would not believe His Word: “Search the Scriptures” (John 5:39), and we are told Acts 17:11 concerning the Bereans: “They searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so.” The same applies to the writings of the New Testament. Paul admonishes the Thessalonians: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). The fact that most of the Apostolic epistles were addressed to whole congregations and were to be read in their meetings (Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27) presupposes their perspicuity.
- But the perspicuity of Scripture is not only presupposed as self-evident, but Scripture teaches it also very expressly; it most emphatically protests against ever regarding Scripture as an obscure book, as do not only the unbelievers, but also some within external Christendom; at times even devout Christians are disturbed. Scripture says of itself that it is a “light shining in a dark place” (2 Pet. 1:19) and that it “is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” (Ps. 119:105). It is clear even for the unlearned, “making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7). Even children can understand it, for “from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures” (2 Tim. 3:15). Even the writings of St. John, which have been singled out as being particularly obscure, were understood not only by the “fathers,” not only by the “young men,” but also by the “little children” (1 John 2:12–13).