Monday, March 22, 2010

Truth bears Repetition

Repetition is a key feature of the Scriptures. It is very remarkable
because not everything that could have been has been included about
the life of Christ, the history of Israel or of the early Church. Only
that which is necessary according to divine wisdom has been included.
Repetition draws out attention to key truths. When God says something
once, we must always listen, when He says something twice (Job 33:14;
Ps. 62:11) we must pay close attention and when He speaks three times
we must give ourselves wholly to it because it is being reinforced.
Every verse and word in Scripture is essential, there is nothing
included that is non-essential or merely to provide context. There is
no such thing as mere repetition in Scripture. Some phrases are
repeated hundreds of times such as the "name of the LORD". Christ
used repetition in His ministry, declaring the same truths on numerous
occasions. The gospels repeat many incidents concerning Christ three
times amongst themselves. Typology is, as it were, a way of
reiterating truths in Scripture.

The number of times that something is repeated is not an accident but
significant and with purpose. The phrase "and God saw that it was
good" is repeated seven times in Genesis 1:4-31. The phrase "He that
hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" is
also repeated seven times (Revelation chapters 2 & 3). There are also
seven repetitions of the word "blessed" in the book of Revelation
(1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14).

Counter-reformation Roman Catholic theologians such as Bellarmine
maintained that "many things not necessary have been written; as all
the histories of the old Testament, many of the new, some of the Acts
of the Apostles, and all the salutations in the apostolic epistles".
Post-Reformation theologians such as William Whitaker granted that
some of this information is not essential to the being of faith but it
is still essential to its wellbeing. That things are repeated in
Scripture does not make them redundant but underlines their necessity.
Whitaker states: "as to many things being frequently repeated, this
makes it still more a rule; since that repetition is
profitable to our better and surer understanding of what is said".

John Arrowsmith who was one of the Westminster Divines wrote
concerning repetition in Scripture in '"Theanthropos, God made Man."
The summary is pithy, concise and instructive.

1. In prayer, repetition serves to express fervency and earnestness.
Matthew 26:44

2. In prophecies, repetition serves to note the certainty of them. Genesis 41:22

3. In threats, repetition indicates unavoidableness and, perhaps,
suddenness. Ezekiel 21:27

4. In precepts repetition serves to note a necessity in performing
them. Psalm 47:6

5. In truths, repetition serves to show the necessity of believing
them and of knowing them. John 3:3, 5, 17

We take great exception, however, to the language of the Chicago
Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The "Chicago Statement on Biblical
Inerrancy" was produced at an international Summit Conference of
evangelical leaders, held at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Chicago in
the fall of 1978. This congress was sponsored by the International
Council on Biblical Inerrancy. The Chicago Statement was signed by
nearly 300 noted evangelical scholars, including James Boice, Norman
L. Geisler, John Gerstner, Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, Harold
Lindsell, John Warwick Montgomery, Roger Nicole, J. I. Packer, Robert
Preus, Earl Radmacher, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul, and John

The Statement says in relation to translation:

the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking Christians,
at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of
excellent translations and have no cause for hesitating to conclude
that the true Word of God is within their reach. Indeed, in view of
the frequent repetition in Scripture of the main matters with which it
deals and also of the Holy Spirit's constant witness to and through
the Word, no serious translation of Holy Scripture will so destroy its
meaning as to render it unable to make its reader "wise for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15).

This is evangelical reductionism gone mad and an improper deduction
from repetition in Scripture. All we need from Scripture it says is
what is necessary for salvation. You may see how far it diverges from
Whitaker's view above and instead approaches the position held by
Bellarmine. The "assured results of science" have always been less
than assured in theological matters and here no less so. The fact is
that some translations do obscure the main matters and key doctrines
through inaccurate translation or through preference for corrupted
manuscripts. Some things are reiterated but not repeated in the same
way and that is an important distinction. Yet we ought to be thankful
that there is something of the truth remaining which can be used to
make one wise for salvation.