Chapter II:49: Retention of the Force and Breadth of Scriptural Expressions

Finally, our AUTHOR adds that the Force of the Words and Phrases of Scripture is also to be held in exposition, as far as the Analogy of Faith and Context allows.  This is certainly urged, α. by the breadth of the Divine word, Psalm 119:96; β. by the Wisdom of God, whereby He, knowing best the force and use of the words, did not use them in a restricted sense, unless with a sufficient indication added.  Thus, when Christ is called God, this title ought to be thought to be attributed to Him, not merely analogically and in a slight sense on account of this or that similitude, as with Angels[1] and Magistrates,[2] but in the full and proper sense.  Thus under Bread in the Lord’s Prayer is comprehended whatever pertains to both sustenance and clothing, according to the Heidelburg Catechism, Lord’s Day L.[3]  The Breadth of the Sense of the Decalogue especially is gathered from Rules,[4] which our AUTHOR sets forth below, Chapter XI, § 31.  Now, the Analogy of Faith is not sufficient here; but a consideration of the Analogy of Context ought to be added, according to the things that we observed on § 45:  so that quite frequently a certain Interpretation is to be called false, which, considered simply in itself, contains nothing false; insofar as it agrees with the Analogy of Faith, but is not able to be reconciled with the Analogy of Context:  which does not allow multiple and widely diverse Interpretations of one passage, and what Interpretations, therefore, are not able to be subordinated to each other, to be conjoined, because of the Unity of the Literal Sense asserted above, § 37, 38, and the Perspecuity and Normative use of Scripture, concerning which § 25, 26, 32.

Therefore, that hermeneutical Rule, that the Words of Sacred Scripture signify whatever they are able to signify, is false, if it be taken without any limitation, and with no regard had to the Analogy of Context, as often happens in practice; through imitation of the Jewish Rule, that it is allowed to explain Scripture בְּכָל־פָּנִים שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר, in whatever way it is possible for it to be done; whence those Kabbalistic interpretations by Gematria, Temurah, Notarikon, etc., flowed forth, as BUXTORF the Younger observes, de Punctorum Antiquitate et Origine, page 100.

What is commonly said, that Words mean whatever they are able to mean, this, in other words returning to the same sense, they observe to be promoted by the Most Illustrious COCCEIUS on Habakkuk 2:9, § 45, page 186b, “To what all things predicated are applicable, certainly concerning this it follows that something is said:”  yet as the things predicated are such as are permitted to their subjects.  In a similar manner the same COCCEIUS writes on Romans 10:6, § 121, pages 162, “It is impossible for anything to be done in the world, concerning which the words of the Holy Spirit might be able rightly and aptly to be used, with all reasons agreeing, that the Holy Spirit speaking in prophecy might not have regard to it, and might not mean for the reader to accommodate those words to that matter, and πληροφορεῖσθαι, to be certain, of their signification.”  But that Impossibility is not so easy to approve as possible; unless under all agreeing reasons is comprehended in addition to the Analogy of Faith the rationale of the Analogy of Context and of the Scope of the Author speaking:  compare what things I have commended in § 45 of this Chapter out of WESSELIUS’ Oratione de Simplicitate prudenti in Oratore Sacro.

Concerning the use and abuse of this Rule, that Words signify all that they are able to signify, consult at length LEYDEKKER’S Facem Veritatis, locus II, controversy VI, pages 48-53, with the added Preface, *****4b; and ANTONIUS HULSIUS’[5] Specimines Theologiæ hypotheticæ, part I, Disputation II, which is Concerning the Interpretation of Sacred Scripture, pages 9-26, and part II in the Vindications of Disputation II Concerning the Interpretation of Scripture, pages 3-63, and Disputation XXIV, which is on the Question, How and to what extent the Prophets of the Old Testament prophesied of the Matters of the New Testament, and in what manner might whatever belongs to the quarrel surrounding this argument be able to be removed from the Church?; to which add MARCKIUS’ Commentarios, especially upon the Minor Prophets and the Song, and the strictures everywhere met there upon the interpretations of the Most Illustrious COCCEIUS.

Without danger we hold with our AUTHOR: A Word is able to signify all that according to the intention of God and Context has regard and is able to be referred unto its one signification.

[1] For example, Psalm 8:5:  “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels (מֵאֱלֹהִים, than God or the gods), and hast crowned him with glory and honour.”

[2] Exodus 22:28; Psalm 82:1, 6, 7.

[3] Heidelburg Catechism 125:  “Which is the fourth petition? Give us this day our daily bread; that is, be pleased to provide us with all things necessary for the body, that we may thereby acknowledge Thee to be the only fountain of all good, and that neither our care nor industry, nor even Thy gifts, can profit us without Thy blessing; and therefore that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures, and place it alone in Thee.”

[4] Westminister Larger Catechism 99:  “What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments? For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed:  1.  That the law is perfect, and bindeth everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience for ever, so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin.  2.  That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.  3.  That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments.  4.  That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded; so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included.  5.  That what God forbids, is at no time to be done; what he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times.  6.  That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded together with all the causes, means, occasions and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.  7.  That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavour that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.  8.  That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them.”

[5] Antonius Hulsius (1615-1685) was a Dutch Reformed philologist and theologian.

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