More Foundation articles from past issues of the Presbyterian Standard are available online here.

Jesus and His Bible

by Prof. Louis Gaussen

The material presented under this title is taken from a work published in 1847 entitled, "'It Is Written:' or, Every Word and Expression contained in the Scriptures Proved to be from God. " The author was Professor Louis Gaussen of Geneva (1790-1863), who states at the beginning of his work that his aim was: "to set forth, defend, and establish the Christian doctrine of Theopneustia - the Divine, complete Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. " At various times the divine inspiration of Scripture has been denied altogether; more subtly it has been limited to certain portions or said to vary in degree from place to place. In our selection Gaussen shows conclusively, by appeal to the highest possible source, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, that the Bible is entirely from God: our faith may indeed rest secure here.

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard in two parts: Issue No.13, January-March 1999 and Issue No. 14, April-June 1999.

B UT now let us leave the apostles; prophets indeed as they are, sent by God to establish his kingdom, pillars of the church, mouths by which the Holy Ghost has spoken, and ambassadors of Jesus Christ; and go to THE MASTER. Inquire of him in what estimation he held the Scriptures? This is the great question. The testimonies which we have been setting forth are, doubtless, conclusive; and the doctrine of a full and entireInspiration by God is as clearly taught in the Scripture as that of the resurrection of the dead. This ought to suffice for us; but we will nevertheless avow that the argument upon which we are about to enter renders all others superfluous:- how has Jesus Christ himself quoted the holy Bible? What was his mind as to the letter of the Scriptures? What use has he made of it, - He, who was the object of the Inspirer, the beginning and the end, the first and the last? He, whose Holy Spirit, says St. Peter (1 Pet. 1:11), animated all the prophets of the Old Testament; He who was in heaven, in the bosom of the Father, at the same time that he was seen below holding converse with human kind and preaching the gospel to the poor? Were I to be asked, What do you think of the holy Scriptures? I should answer,What has my Master thought of them? How has He quoted them? What use has He made of them? What, in His estimation, were even its least parts?

Speak thyself, O Eternal Wisdom! - Uncreated Word! - Judge of judges! And whilst we proceed to review the declarations of thy mouth, do thou display to us that majesty in which the Scriptures appeared before thee; that perfection which THOU didst acknowledge in them; and especially that unchangeableness which thou hast assigned to their least iota, and in virtue of which they will survive the universe, when heaven and earth shall have passed away!

We do not hesitate to say, that when we hear the Son of God quoting the Scriptures, the question of their divinely inspired nature is, in our judgment, settled. We want no further evidence. All the declarations of the Bible unquestionably are divine; but this example of the Saviour of the world at once tells us all. This proof does not require either long or learned researches; the hand of a child can grasp it as powerfully as that of a theologian. If any doubt assail your soul, turn to the Lord of lords, and behold him kneeling before the Scriptures!

Follow Jesus in the days of his flesh. See with what serious and tender respect he holds continually the "volume of the book," to quote from its every part, and to show the import of its least details. Observe how each expression, even a word, a psalm, or an historical book, has the authority of a law. Mark with what confiding submission he receivesall the Scriptures, without ever contesting the sacred canon; because he knows that "salvation comes of the Jews," and that under God's infallible providence the "oracles of God were committed unto them." Do I say that he receives them? From infancy to the tomb, and from resurrection to his disappearance in the clouds, what did he bear about with him everywhere - in the desert - in the temple - and in the synagogue? What does he quote, with resurrection voice, when the heavens already are about to exclaim:- "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in!" It is the Bible, - evermore the Bible. It is Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets, which he quotes and explains. But in what way? Even verse by verse, and word by word.

After such a spectacle, in what sad and fearful contrast do those men present themselves to us, who, in the present day, dare to judge, gainsay, test and mutilate the Scriptures! One trembles after beholding the Son of man commanding the elements, stilling the tempest, and despoiling the tomb, yet filled with profound reverence for the sacred volume, declaring, that he would one day return to judge, by this book, the quick and the dead: one trembles, I say, and the heart bleeds, when, setting foot upon the threshold of a rationalist academy, the eye lights upon a poor wretched, learned, accountable mortal seated in the Professor's chair, irreverently handling the word of his God - and this, unhappily, before a concourse of youths eager for knowledge, and destined to be the future instructors of an entire people; capable of so much good, if led onward in the path of faith, and of so much evil, if trained to question those Scriptures which they must one day preach! With what arrogant self complacency do these deluded men parade the phantasmagoria of their hypotheses!

They retrench, they add, they praise, they blame, and they pity the simplicity of those who, reading the Bible as Jesus Christ himself read it, become like him attached to it, and see no error in the word of God. Where Jesus Christ had no doubts, they decide what interlineations or retrenchments holy Scripture shall undergo; they lop off whole chapters which they understand not; and denounce it as containing mistakes, illgrounded or inconclusive arguments, prejudices, rash assertions, ignorant conceits, and vulgar errors!

The Lord pardon the necessity of recording the fearful dilemma; but the alternative is inevitable. Either Jesus Christ exaggerated and reasoned ill when he thus quoted the Scriptures, or these daring and unhappy men unwittingly blaspheme the Divine Majesty. Deeply painful it is to us to pen such a sentence. God is our witness, that our first desire was to forbear the expression of it, and afterwards to blot it out; but we can venture to affirm, under a deep sense of what becomes us, that it is in obedience and in love we have retained it. Alas! after the lapse of a few years, these teachers and their pupils will be consigned to a common tomb; they will wither like the green herb; but not one particle of a letter of this divine book will then have passed away: and as certain as the Bible is truth, so certainly shall we see the Son of Man come in the clouds of heaven, and judge by this eternal word the secret thoughts of all men. (Rom. 2:16; John 12:48; Matt. 25:31.) "All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man is as the flower of grass: the grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which is preached unto us." - It is this word which will judge us.

We shall now proceed to complete our proofs, by sketching under this point of view the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us follow him from the age of twelve years to his descent into the tomb, or rather to his ascent to the clouds in which he disappeared; and in all the course of this incomparable career, let us see what the Scriptures were in the estimation of Him who "upholdeth all things by the word of his power." In the first place, observe him when twelve years old. He has increased, like a child of humanity, in wisdom and stature; he is in the midst of the Doctors, and his answers amaze all who hear him; for (said they) he knows the Scriptures without having studied them. (John 7:15.)

Observe him at the time of entering upon his ministry. He is filled with the Holy Ghost; he is led into a wilderness, there to sustain, like the first Adam in Eden, a mysterious conflict with the powers of darkness. The Unclean spirit ventures to approach, and seeks to overthrow him; but how does the Son of God, he who was come to destroy the works of the devil, resist him? With the Bible only. The sole weapon in his divine hands during this threefold assault, was the sword of the Spirit, the Bible. Three times successively he quotes the book of Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:16; 6:13; 10:20; Matt. 4:1-11): at each new temptation, He, the Word made flesh, defends himself by a sentence from the oracles of God, and even by a sentence whose whole force lies in the employment of one or two words: in the first place, of these words (άρτω μόνω) bread alone ; afterwards of these, thou shalt not tempt the Lord (ούκ έκπειράσεις Κύριον); and finally of these two words (Θεόν προσκυνήσεις)thou shalt worship God.

What an example for us! His only answer, his only defence, is - "It is written." "Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written," - and as soon as this terrible and mysterious conflict ended, angels came and ministered unto him.

But let us further and particularly remark, that of such authority is each word in the Scriptures in the estimation of the Son of Man, that the Unclean spirit himself (a being so mighty for evil, who knew the Saviour's estimate of the words of the Bible) could not devise a more secure way of operating upon his will, than by citing a verse of the ninety-first Psalm; and immediately Jesus to confound him, contents himself with once more replying, "It is written."

Thus commenced his ministry - by the use of the Scriptures. And thus it was that, soon afterwards, he entered upon his prophetic ministry - by the use of the Scriptures.

Let us further follow him when, engaged in his work, he goes from place to place doing good; in poverty, always exercising his power for the relief of others, and never for himself.

He speaks, and things have being; he casts out devils, stills the tempest, and raises the dead. But in the midst of all these marvels, observe how great is his regard for the Scriptures. The Word is always with him. He bears it about, not in his hands, (he knows it entirely,) but in his memory and matchless heart.

Observe him, when he speaks of it:- when he unfolds the sacred volume, it is as if a door in heaven were opened, to enable us to hear the voice of Jehovah. With what reverence, with what subjection, does he set forth its contents, commenting upon, and quoting them word by word! This was now all his business - to heal and to preach the Scriptures; as it was afterwards to die and accomplish them!

Observe him, "as his custom was," entering a synagogue on the sabbath-day; for (we are told) "he taught in their assemblies." (Luke 4:15,16.) He enters that of Nazareth. What does he there? He, "the eternal Wisdom, whom Jehovah possessed from everlasting, when there were no depths, before the mountains were settled, or the hills brought forth" (Prov. 8:22-25): he rises from his seat, takes the Bible, opens at Isaiah, and reads a few sentences; he then closes the book, sits down, and whilst the eyes of all assembled were fixed on him he says, - "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears." (Luke 4:21.)

Observe him traversing Galilee. What does he there? Still occupied with "the volume of the book," explaining it line after line, and word by word, and claiming our respect for its least expressions as much as he would for the law of the "ten commandments" uttered upon Mount Sinai.

Observe him again in Jerusalem at the pool of Bethesda. What does he call upon the people to do? - "Search the Scriptures." (John 5:39.) Observe him in the holy place, in the midst of which he does not shrink from declaring, "that in this place there is One greater than the temple." (Matt. 12:6.) Follow him before the Pharisees and Sadducees whilst he alternately rebukes both, as he had done Satan, in these words, - "It is written."

Hear him answering the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the body. How does he refute them? By ONE SINGLE WORD from an historical passage in the Bible; by a single verb in the present tense, instead of that same verb in the past. "Ye do greatly err, (said he to them,) BECAUSE YE KNOW NOT the Scriptures."

"Have ye not read what God has declared unto you, in saying, I am the God of Abraham?" It is thus that he proves to them the doctrine of the resurrection. God, on Mount Sinai, 400 years after the death of Abraham, said to Moses, not "I was," but "I am the God of Abraham" (Matt. 22:31,32); I am so now. (יהלא יכנא מהרבא, which the Holy Ghost translates, Έγώ είμι ό Θεος Αβραάμ). There is therefore a resurrection; for God is not the God of a few handfuls of dust, of the dead, of annihilated humanity: he is the God of the living. Those you speak of, therefore, live before Him.

Observe him afterwards among the Pharisees. It is still by the letter of the word that he confounds them.

Some few who had already followed him to the borders of Judea beyond Jordan, came and inquired his doctrines respecting marriage and divorce. What did the Lord Jesus do? He might certainly have answered with authority, and given his own laws. Is he not himself King of kings and Lord of lords? But not so: it is to the Bible he appeals in order to show the foundation of the doctrine, and this he does in a few simple words taken from a purely historical passage in the book of Genesis (1:27; 2:24). "HAVE YE NOT READ, that He who made them at the beginning, made them male and female; so that they are no longer two, but one single flesh? What therefore God has joined, let not man sever." (Matt. 19:4,5,6.)

But hear him especially, when in the temple he desires to prove to other Pharisees, from the Scriptures, the divinity of the expected Messiah. Here again, in order to demonstrate it, he lays stress upon the use of A SINGLE WORD, selected from the book of Psalms. "If Messiah be the Son of David (he observes), how then doth David BY THE SPIRIT call him LORD, when (in Psalm 110) he said, Jehovah said unto my LORD, Sit thou at my right hand? If David call him Lord, how is he his son?" (Matt. 22:43.)

How was it, that among the Pharisees there were none to answer him? What! would you insist upon a single word, and this too in a sentence taken from an eminently lyric composition, in which the royal poet might without risk indulge a fervid style, and use exaggerated expressions, and words which doubtless he had not theologically weighed in his mind ere he put them into his psalmody? Would you pursue the method, at once fanatical and servile, of minutely interpreting each expression? Would you revere the Scriptures even to the very letter? Would you ground a doctrine upon a word?

Yes, answers the Saviour, I would - yes, I would rest on a word, because that word is from God, and with one word he created light. To cut short all your objections, I declare to you that it was BY THE SPIRIT that David wrote all the words of his Psalms; and I ask you, how, if the Messiah is his Son, David could BY THE SPIRIT call him Lord, when he said, "Jehovah said unto my Lord?"

Students of the word of God, and you especially who are designed to be its Ministers, and who as a preparation for preaching it, desire, in the first place, to receive it into an honest and good heart, see what, in the estimation of your Master, was each utterance, each word of the book of God. Go therefore and do likewise!

But there is more. Let us further hear him, even on his cross. He there made his soul an offering for sin; all his bones were out of joint; he was poured out like water; his heart was like wax, melted in the midst of his bowels; his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth; and he was about to render his spirit to his Father. (Psa. 22:16-18.) But what did he first do? He strove to rally his expiring energies to recite a Psalm which the church of Israel had sung at her festivals through a thousand years, and which records in succession all his sufferings and prayers, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?") He did even more; and let us well remark it. There remained one little word of Scripture unaccomplished: vinegar was to be given him on that cross. The Holy Spirit had declared it, in Psalm 69 a thousand years before. "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. - And when Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished! then bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19:28-30.) Could David, when he chanted this Sixty-ninth Psalm upon Shoshannim, and the Twenty-second upon Aijeleth - could David, we ask, have known the prophetic sense of each of these expressions? - of the hands and feet pierced, of the gall and vinegar administered, of a vesture appropriated by lot, of people shaking the head and pouting the lip in derision? It matters little to us whether he understood it - the Holy Ghost did; and David, says Jesus Christ, spake BY THE SPIRIT. The heavens and the earth are to pass away; but there is not in this book the particle of a letter which will pass away without being fulfilled. (John 10:35.)

Nevertheless, we are called to observe something yet more striking, if it be possible. Jesus Christ rises from the tomb; he has conquered death; he is about to return to the Father, to reassume that glory which he had with him before the world was. Follow him in his remaining rapid movements upon the earth. What words will flow from that mouth to which utterance has been restored by resurrection from the dead? Words of holy Scripture. Again he quotes, explains, and preaches it. In the first place, we behold him on the way to Emmaus, accompanying Cleopas and his friend; next, in the upper room; and afterwards on the borders of the lake. What does he do? He expounds the Scriptures; beginning at Moses, and continuing through the Prophets and Psalms, he shows them the things concerning himself, he opens their minds to understand them, and causes their hearts to burn whilst he talks with them. (Luke 24:27,44.)

But we have not yet done. All these quotations demonstrate in what estimation the Bible was held by Him "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3), and "by whom all things subsist" (Col. 1:17). But we must further produce two declarations and one final example of our Lord, touching the letter of Scripture:-

"It is easier," he has said, "for heaven and earth to pass, than for one particle of a letter (κεραία) of the Law to fail" (Luke 16:17); and by the term law, Jesus Christ understood the whole of the Scriptures, and even more particularly the book of Psalms. (John 10:34; 12:34.)

What words could be conceived which would express with more force and precision the principle we are maintaining than do the foregoing? I mean the principle of the plenary Inspiration, and everlasting character of all the parts, even to the very letter of the Scripture. Students of the word of God, behold then the theology of your Master! Be such theologians as He was: have the same Bible as the Son of God!

But let us hear another declaration, pronounced by our Lord in his sermon on the mount:-

"Until heaven and earth pass away, there shall not pass from the Law a single iota, nor the tittle of a letter" (Matt. 5:18). All the words of THE SCRIPTURES, even to the least letter and particle of a letter, are equal to the words of Jesus Christ HIMSELF; for he has also said, "Heaven and earth shall one day pass away, but MY words shall not pass away" (Luke 21:33).

The men who oppose these doctrines ask us, if we go so far as to pretend that holy Scripture is a law from God, even in its words, as hyssop or an oak is the work of God, even in its leaves? We answer, with all the Fathers of the Church,Yes, we do;-or rather, Jesus Christ our Saviour and Master, lifts his hand to heaven, and replies, Yes, even in its words - even to (ίωτα έν, ή κεραία) a single iota or particle of a letter!

Having recorded these two declarations, let us now consider one of the last examples of our Lord, to which we have not hitherto referred.

It is still Jesus Christ who is about to quote the Scriptures; but this he does in claiming for their least words such an authority as compels us to range ourselves among the most ardent disciples of a verbal inspiration: nor do we think that, if all the writings of our theologians, even the most decided in orthodoxy, were produced, there could be found among them the example of so profound a reverence for the letter of the Scriptures and the plenitude of their Inspiration.

It was on a winter's day. Jesus was walking under the colonnade of the Eastern Porch of the Temple; the Jews come round about him; and he then (John 10:27) says to them, "I give eternal life to my sheep; they shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of my hand. I and my Father are one." They were amazed at his language; but he continued to rebuke them unmoved, until at length the Jews accused him of blasphemy, and took up stones to stone him, saying, "We stone thee, because, being a man, thou makest thyself God." (John 10:27ff.)

We would now invite especial attention to the several features of the Lord's reply to this. He proceeds to quote an expression from one of the Psalms, and on this single expression to found the whole of his doctrine: "for," says St. John (chap. 5:18), "he made himself equal with God." To defend the most sublime and mysterious of his doctrines, and to commend to our belief the most marvellous of his pretensions, he rests upon an expression of the Eighty-second Psalm. But, mark! previously to uttering this expression, he deliberately pauses for a moment, and then, in a solemn parenthesis, adds with impressive authority, - "and the Scripture cannot be destroyed !" (και ου δυνασται λυθηναι ή γραφεη.)

Have we sufficiently felt the force of this? Not only is our Lord's argument founded entirely upon the use which the Psalmist has made of a single expression; and not only does he proceed to build upon it the most amazing of his doctrines; but further, in thus quoting the book of Psalms, and in order to enable us to comprehend that in his estimation the book is wholly and throughout a writing of the Holy Ghost, in whicheach word ought to be to us a law, Jesus calls it by the name of LAW, and says to the Jews, "Is it not written in your law, I said ye are gods?" These words occur in the middle of a psalm; they might appear to have been the result of inconsiderate fervour on the part of the prophet Asaph, or a fanciful creation of his poetic genius. And if the plenary inspiration of all that is written were not admitted, we might be tempted to view them as indiscreet, and to think that their imprudent use by the psalmist might have led the people into customs elsewhere rebuked by the word of God, and into idolatrous notions. And here we would once more inquire, how did it happen that some rationalist scribe, of the Israelitish universities, was not found under Solomon's porch to say to him, "Lord, you cannot take that expression as your authority. The use which Asaph has made of it may have been neither considerate nor becoming. Although inspired in the thoughts of his piety, he doubtless did not weigh his least words with jealous apprehension as to the use which might be made of them a thousand years after he should cease to exist. It would therefore be rash to pretend to lay stress upon them"?

But now mark how the Saviour anticipates the profane temerity of such an evasion. He solemnly calls to mind that he had just uttered words which would be blasphemy in the mouth of an archangel, - "I and my Father are one;" but he interrupts himself, and immediately remarks, "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" He then pauses, and fixing his eyes with authority upon the Doctors who surround him, adds, "THE SCRIPTURE CANNOT BE DESTROYED." As if he had said, Beware! there is not in the sacred books either an expression which can be questioned, or a word which can be neglected. That which I quote to you from the Eighty-second Psalm, is traced by the hand of Him who made the heavens. If therefore He has been pleased to give the name of gods to men, in so far as they were the anointed, and types of the true Christ - of the supreme Anointed One - being at the same time fully aware that they "would die like men;" how much more will it become ME, doing the works of my Father, as him whom God the Father hath sealed?

We will here ask every serious reader, (and we wish it to be remarked that our argument is entirely independent of the orthodox or Socinian interpretations of these words of Jesus Christ) - we will here ask - Is it possible to admit that the Being who made such a use of the Scriptures, DID NOT BELIEVE IN THEIR PLENARY AND VERBAL INSPIRATION? Had he imagined that the words of the Bible were left to the free choice and pious fantasies of the sacred writers, would he ever have resorted to the thought of grounding such arguments on such an expression? The Lord Jesus, our Saviour and our Judge, believed therefore in the most complete inspiration of the Scriptures; and for him the first rule of all interpretation, and the commencement of every exposition, was this simple maxim applied to the least expressions of the written word, "AND THE SCRIPTURE CANNOT BE DESTROYED."

May, then, the Prince of life, the Light of the world, rank us all in His school. What He believed, let us receive. What He reverenced, let us revere. Let that word, to which his heart of redeeming love, and all the thoughts of his holy humanity were subject, let that word, we say, be bound upon our diseased hearts, and gain the mastery over every emotion of our fallen nature. Let us seek GOD in its least expressions; nourish with it daily all the roots of our being; that we may be like a tree planted by running waters, which yields its fruit in its season, and whose leaves never wither.

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."

- 2 Peter 1:19-2.