Thursday, June 25, 2015

Haldane on Textual Criticism

I'm reading through Robert Haldane's Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans reprinted in 1960 by The Banner of Truth Trust.  His original work appeared in three volumes from 1835-1839.  As I read and study this summer (and probably this fall), I will post quotes and make observations from time to time.

I'll quote Mr. Haldane at length here as he speaks to textual criticism in the Preface to his Exposition, (pp. 3-4):

"The spirit of speculation and of novelty which is now abroad, loudly calls upon Christians to give earnest heed to the truths inculcated in the Epistle to the Romans.  There is hardly any doctrine which has not been of late years exposed to the corruptions and perversions of men who profess to be believers of Divine revelation.  Many, altogether destitute of the Spirit of God and the semblance of true religion, have nevertheless chosen the word of God and its solemn and awfully momentous truths as the arena upon which to exercise their learning and display their ingenuity.  In consequence of the Scriptures being written in the dead languages, there is doubtless scope for the diligent employment of critical research.  But if it were inquired how much additional light has been thrown upon the sacred volume by the refinements of modern critics, it would be found to bear a very small proportion to the evil influence of unsanctified learning applied to the holy doctrines of revelation.  It has become common, even among Christians, to speak of the critical interpretation of Scripture as requiring little or nothing more than mere scholarship; and many seem to suppose that the office of a critical and that of a doctrinal interpreter are so widely different, that a man may be a safe and useful critic who has no relish for the grand truths of the Bible.  There cannot be a more lamentable delusion, or one more calculated to desecrate the character and obscure the majesty of the word of God.  To suppose that a man may rightly interpret the Scriptures, while he is ignorant of the truths of the Gospel, or disaffected to some of its grand fundamental doctrines,--to imagine that this can be to him a useful or even an innocent occupation,--is to regard these Scriptures as the production of ordinary men, treating of subjects of ordinary importance, instead of containing, as they do, the Message of the Most High God, revealing life or death to every soul to whom they come.
Christians ought to be particularly on their guard against tampering in any degree with the word of God.  We should never forget that, when we are explaining any expression of Scripture, we are treating of what are the very words of the Holy Ghost, as much as if they had been spoken to us by a voice from heaven.  The profane rashness of many critics is much emboldened by the circumstances that men have been employed as the instruments of the Almighty in communicating His revelation.  A sort of modified inspiration only is granted to the Scriptures, and they are often treated as the words merely of those who were employed as the penmen.  When God is thus kept out of sight, little ceremony is used with the words of the Apostles.  That profound reverence and awe with which the Scriptures ought to be read and handled, are in many instances too little exemplified.  The poor man's Bible is the word of God, in which he has suspicion that there is anything but perfection.  The Bible of the profoundly erudite scholar is often a book that is not so necessary to instruct him, as one that needs his hand for alteration, or amendment, or confirmation.  Learning may be usefully employed; but if learning ever forgets that it must sit at the feet of Jesus, it will be a curse instead of a blessing.  It will raise clouds and darkness, instead of communicating light to the world."

"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.  Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us," (Eccl. 1:9-10).