Scripture Says, God Says (Warfield)

One thing that has been in my mind lately is how the NT authors and Christians in the early church viewed the OT. Suffice it to say that since they learned from Jesus, the NT authors and early Christians had a deep and profound respect for the Scripture (the OT). They viewed it as God’s authoritative word that is essential and extremely relevant for them as they followed Christ. I appreciate how B. B. Warfield wrote about this in Revelation and Inspiration. In chapter eight, Warfield explained in much detail some of the nuances of how the NT authors quote/cite the OT. It’s a very thorough discussion. Here’s a three paragraph summary:

It would be difficult to invent methods of showing profound reverence for the text of Scripture as the very Word of God, which will not be found to be characteristic of the writers of the New Testament in dealing with the Old. Among the rich variety of the indications of their estimate of the written words of the Old Testament as direct utterances of Jehovah, there are in particular two classes of passages, each of which, when taken separately, throws into the clearest light their habitual appeal to the Old Testament text as to God Himself speaking, while, together, they make an irresistible impression of the absolute identification by their writers of the Scriptures in their hands with the living voice of God. In one of these classes of passages the Scriptures are spoken of as if they were God; in the other, God is spoken of as if He were the Scriptures: in the two together, God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that in point of directness of authority no distinction was made between them.

Here’s one paragraph where Warfield explains his point:

Examples of the first class of passages are such as these: Gal. 3:8, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed” (Gen. 12:1–3); Rom. 9:17, “The Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up” (Ex. 9:16). It was not, however, the Scripture (which did not exist at the time) that, foreseeing God’s purposes of grace in the future, spoke these precious words to Abraham, but God Himself in His own person: it was not the not yet existent Scripture that made this announcement to Pharaoh, but God Himself through the mouth of His prophet Moses. These acts could be attributed to “Scripture” only as the result of such a habitual identification, in the mind of the writer, of the text of Scripture with God as speaking, that it became natural to use the term “Scripture says,” when what was really intended was “God, as recorded in Scripture, said.”

Here’s the conclusion of this chapter:

…The very essence of the case is, that, under the force of their conception of the Scriptures as an oracular book, it was all one to the New Testament writers whether they said “God says” or “Scripture says.” This is made very clear, as their real standpoint, by their double identification of Scripture with God and God with Scripture, to which we adverted at the beginning of this paper, and by which Paul, for example, could say alike “the Scripture saith to Pharaoh” (Rom. 9:17) and “God.… saith, Thou wilt not give thy Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 13:34). We may well be content in the New Testament as in Philo to translate the phrase wherever it occurs, “It says”—with the implication that this “It says” is the same as “Scripture says,” and that this “Scripture says” is the same as “God says.” It is this implication that is really the fundamental fact in the case.

Warfield, Benjamin B. The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Revelation and Inspiration. Vol. 1. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015