The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section I.8

This section of the Confession is one of those places where there needs to be added those portions written in Aramaic, and some words in the New in other languages. As such, it also reinforces the point that these languages were the common spoken languages of the people, and that which was inspired by God. The authors also believed that the transmission of the manuscripts were also “by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, and therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them.” “No other ancient texts survive in such great number and in such good form as do the biblical texts. For example, when this confession was written in the 1640s, the first-century books and letters which might have been possible contenders for inclusion in the New Testament either existed in fragments only or were missing entirely. The fact that late-dated copies of works like the Epistle of Barnabas or the Shepherd of Hermas were finally located at the turn of the twentieth century only emphasizes further the contrast between the preservation of the New Testament books and other pious literature.

We can determine the text of the Bible and believe it with such confidence that we can actually discuss its jots and tittles, the smallest letters and pen strokes (Matt. 5:18).”1 Hence the importance, for any minister of the word, to learn the original languages. However, on the same principle that they were given for all to read and not just the scholars, the scriptures “are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come.” This section is proof positive that the authors envisioned one of the chief tasks of the church to be the taking of the word of God to all peoples, of all languages. “That the word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.” “All are enjoined to read the Scriptures (Jn. 5:39); and the laity are commended not only for searching them, but for trying the doctrines of their public teachers by them (Acts 17:11).”2 We should also note that the new testament writers often quote from the old testament Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX).

Dr. Van Dixhoorn also makes a very valuable point with respect to the New Testament phenomenon of speaking in tongues and the gift of translating that activity, so that it would be on a par with the prophetical messages in the common language of the scriptures. “The insistence on translation of the biblical text seems to capture one idea behind Paul’s corrections to Corinthian worship, for he tells them not to communicate in languages that no one can understand (I Cor. 14:6, 9, 11, 12, 24, 27, 28). Hence we translate the Bible so that the Word of God will dwell ‘richly’ or ‘plentifully in all’ (Col. 3:16). Only then will we ‘worship him in an acceptable manner’. Only then will the words of the Apostle Paul at the end of Romans ring true for all Christians: the things written in old times ‘were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope’ (Rom. 15:4).” “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Is. 8:20) “The Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35), and ‘endures forever’ (I Pet. 1:25).

1. (Van Dixhoorn, 23)

2. (Shaw, 56)

3. (Van Dixhoorn, 24)

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