Why Incarnation is Not a Model for Biblical Inspiration

Why Incarnation is Not a Model for Biblical Inspiration July 26, 2018

Many theologians describe the dual divine-human authorship of the Bible through the analogy of incarnation. So it goes, the Bible is a theo-anthropic book, it is divine and human, and Christ’s incarnation provides us with an analogy as to how the Bible is simultaneously divine and human.  Gregory of Nyssa used the word anakrasis (mingling or mixing) to describe the relationship between the divine Logos and the words of Scripture, a term also used by the Cappodocian Fathers to describe the relationship between the two natures of Christ, though the term was later associated with monophysitism.[1] The 1942 Papal encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu says, “For as the substantial Word of God became like to men in all things, ‘except sin,’ so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error” and even the 1982 Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics avers that, “We affirm that as Christ is God and Man in one Person, so Scripture is, indivisibly, God’s Word in human language. We deny that the humble, human form of Scripture entails errancy any more than the humanity of Christ, even in His humiliation, entails sin. [2]

However, John Webster was right to complain that to regard Scripture as an incarnation  is “christologically disastrous, in that it may threaten the uniqueness of the Word’s becoming flesh by making ‘incarnation’ a general principle or characteristic of divine action in, through or under creaturely reality.” Incarnation is about hypostatic union, such a union is not the only mode of God’s gracious condescension to speak to human subjects nor God’s normative mode of self-communication. While Jesus is God and Man and Scripture is God’s speech inspired through human subjects, the differences in mode of divine communication here are so great that the analogy is tactless. While God identifies with his written word, he does not become the written word. This theory flirts with the danger of bibliolatry.[3]

[1] Vasile Mihoc, “Greek Church Fathers and Orthodox Biblical Hermeneutics,” in Greek Patristic and Eastern Orthodox Interpretations of Romans (eds. Daniel Patte and Vasile Mihoc; London: T&T Clark, 2013), 8.

[2] See Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005); Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics § 2; Divino Afflante Spiritu § 37.

[3] John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (Cambridge: CUP, 2003), 22–23; Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “Triune Discourse: Theological Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks,” in Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, Worship, eds. Daniel J. Treier and David Lauber (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 35–41 (25-78); Timothy Ward, Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God (Nottingham, UK: Apollos, 2009), 79–80; Blocher, “God and the Scripture Writers,” 530-34; Katherine Sonderegger, “Holy Scripture as Sacred Ground,” in The Task of Dogmatics: Explorations in Theological Method  (eds. O. Crisp and F. Sanders; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017), 142-43 (131-43).

Photo: Wikimedia commons.

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