The Institutes (12)

Book 1 Chapter 8 Sections 5-10

The supernatural portions of Scripture have always caused natural man to balk. Thomas Jefferson’s Bible is probably the most famous (at least in the States) example of this. But if the supernatural portions of Scripture are denied, how can we claim to know or serve a transcendent God? In the remainder of chapter 8, Calvin continues through the external proofs for the authenticity and authority of Scripture. In this section, he spends time bolstering the supernatural elements of Scripture using rational evidence.

Calvin takes Moses, the prophets, and the intertestamental period as case points. First, how could Moses have been the mediator of such a harsh law unless there was something (or someone) backing him? It’s apparent that the entire congregation of the Israelites turned against Moses, even to the point where they were willing to kill him. And yet, he survived. To top that, how could he have published an account of God’s supernatural works among the people of Israel without someone raising up in objection? Instead, the people experience God over the course of 40 years in the wilderness, and are continually reminded of and then subject themselves to God’s power.

Granted, these things don’t take into account modern textual criticism, and other potential issues from the rational side of things. However, for the believer, who has the settled conviction that Scripture reflects historical events, the evidence bolsters our faith. And as previously mentioned, why would Moses have written about his own failings, and the failings of the patriarchs if he was merely trying to declare Hebrew superiority?

Calvin moves onto prophetic events; Israel and Judah falling after the prophesies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekial, etc. Beyond that, the return of the people from exile was also predicted. Greece is prophesied to become a world power. The coming of Messiah as suffering servant is foretold. Here, Calvin also inserts an interesting note: Jeremiah and Ezekial agree entirely, writing at the same time in Jerusalem and Babylon around the time of the conquering of Judah by the Babylonians. Are all these things mere coincidences? Do we discount them simply because “we have no other evidence that shows that something like this can happen?”

Finally, Calvin moves onto the intertestamental period… showing how the Scriptures survived under the evil reign of Antichous Epiphanies. He had ordered all the copies of the Hebrew law (our Pentateuch) to be burned… and yet they survived. On its own, I wouldn’t think of this as overwhelming evidence. But when you consider that the Romans, the Catholics, and many other powers have tried to do the same thing… the evidence piles up. Compare this to the Koran, where there was always a physical power (dar al-Islam) to protect their text. Throughout the history of the Christianity and Judaism, there have been numerous attempts to destroy the Scriptures that have been prevented by what can only be described as supernatural means.

Even this must be admitted by skeptics, and is probably one of the stronger evidences for the supernatural origin and continuance of the Scriptures. And now, from the time of Moses until the time of Christ, we have the whole testimony and history of salvation laid out before us. Christ, as sacrificial Lamb, has come… and we know of Him through the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments.

God gives us His Son through the Scriptures as the object of our faith… and has preserved the same Scriptures for our faith. Consider the weight of our salvation, and the record that has been preserved for us against all opposition. Thank God!


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