Francis Turretin on The Holy Scriptures


FIRST QUESTION: THE WORD OF GOD -- Was a verbal revelation necessary?
THIRD QUESTION: Were the sacred Scriptures written only occasionally and without the divine command?
FIFTH QUESTION: Do real contradictions occur in Scripture?
SIXTH QUESTION: From what source does the divine authority of the Scriptures become known to us?
SEVENTH QUESTION: THE CANON -- Has any canonical book perished?
EIGHTH QUESTION: Are the books of the Old Testament still a part of the canon of faith and rule of practice?
TWELFTH QUESTION: Is the present Hebrew text in things as well as words so authentic and inspired?
THIRTEENTH QUESTION: VERSIONS -- Are versions necessary?
FOURTEENTH QUESTION: THE SEPTUAGINT -- Is the Septuagint version of the Old Testament authentic?
FIFTEENTH QUESTION: THE VULGATE -- Is the Vulgate authentic?


The work of Francis Turretin in the 1600's predates John William Burgon and his 19th century defense of the orthodox text. Why introduce the work of Francis Turretin at the Dean Burgon Society? By sharing Turretin's faith in the Holy Scriptures, we illustrate conformity to our position from both antiquity and orthodoxy. The Holy Spirit has consistently taught and strengthened us all for hundreds of years with the same common faith in God's Holy Scriptures.

"Francis Turretin (1623-87) has been called 'the best expounder of the doctrine of the Reformed Church' (Samuel Alexander), 'a marvelous synthesizer' (Roger Nicole), and 'a towering figure among the Genevan Reformers' (Leon Morris). His Institutio Theologicae Elencticae, first published in 1679-85 was the fruit of some thirty years' teaching at the Academy of Geneva."

The English translation of Turretins's work by George Musgrave Giger, classics professor at Princeton University (then College of New Jersey), was translated in response to a request from his friend Professor Charles Hodge. This English translation of the Institutio "spanned eight thousand handwritten pages." Giger's "Turretin manuscript was placed at the desk in the library of the seminary (at Princeton) in order for students to examine the appropriate pages assigned in Dr. Hodge's systematic theology classes."

Our quotes of Francis Turretin are from Volume one of Institutes of Elenctic Theology as translated by George Musgrave Giger and Edited by James T. Dennison, Jr. The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, (Box 817, Phillipsburg, New Jersey 18865), published the first complete edition of the Institutes to be printed in the English language in 1992.

"As an 'elenctic' theology - which aims at affirming and demonstrating the truth, in refutation of false doctrine - the Institutes contrasts Reformed understandings of Scripture with conflicting theological perspectives, particularly Roman Catholic, Arminian, and Socinian."

The current paper is a brief review of the 112 pages of Turretin on The Holy Scriptures from the 685 page, Volume I of III. We have reproduced all 20 questions answered by Turretin and identify each Turretin quote under the context of the appropriate question. (We trust this review will encourage the reading of the book.)

Turretin's answer to these 20 questions also give support to the 10 articles of systematic theology of Holy Scriptures found in chapter one of the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1646, the Savoy Confession of Faith of 1658, and the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. Turretin not only adds much commentary giving historical understanding to these 10 articles, but further expands and strengthens our present faith position in the divine providential preservation of the received text.

Following are Turretin's 20 questions and his brief statement of affirmation or denial to help present all quotations from within the general context. Quotations were selected under each question which seemed most relevant to our topic of Bible Preservation. (Boldness added for emphasis.)

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"FIRST QUESTION: THE WORD OF GOD -- Was a verbal revelation necessary? We affirm."

"As the word of God is the sole principle of theology, so the question concerning its necessity deservedly comes before all things." Rejecting false appeals to reason and nature, Turretin says: "But the orthodox church has always believed far otherwise, maintaining the revelation of the word of God to man to be absolutely and simply necessary for salvation. It is the 'seed' of which we are born again (1 Pet. 1:23), the 'light' by which we are directed (Ps. 119:105), the 'food' upon which we feed (Heb. 5:13,14) and the 'foundation' upon which we are built (Eph 2:20)"

"Although natural revelation may hand over different things concerning God and his attributes, will and works, yet it cannot teach us things sufficient for the saving knowledge of God without a supernatural verbal revelation."

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"SECOND QUESTION: THE NECESSITY OF SCRIPTURE -- Was it necessary for the word of God to be committed to writing? We affirm."

As Turretin reminded us of the necessity of God's word unto salvation in question #1, so in question #2 he stresses the importance that this word of God be written down in scripture. He reminds us that the Papists "...endeavor studiously to weaken the authority of Scripture in order the more easily to establish their unwritten (agraphous) traditions and the supreme tribunal of the pope himself..." rendering the scriptures "useful" but "not absolutely necessary."

Turretin said of Scripture "...We hold it to be necessary simply and absolutely, so that the church can never spare it....Since God has seen fit for weighty reasons to commit his word to writing. Hence the divine ordination being established, it is made necessary to the church, so that it pertains not only to the well-being (bene esse) of the church, but also to its very existence (esse). Without it the church could not now stand. So God indeed was not bound to the Scriptures, but he has bound us to them."

Turretin surely knew 1 Tim 3:15: "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

Turretin said, "Three things particularly prove the necessity of the Scripture: (1) the preservation of the word; (2) its vindication; (3) its propagation. It was necessary for a written word to be given to the church that the canon of true religious faith might be constant and unmoved; that it might easily be preserved pure and entire against the weakness of memory, the depravity of men and the shortness of life; that it might be more certainly defended from the frauds and corruptions of Satan; that it might more conveniently not only be sent to the absent and widely separated, but also be transmitted to posterity."

Turretin said the scripture is necessary for the Holy Spirit to teach us. "The Holy Spirit (the supplier (epichoregia), (Jer. 31:34; Jn. 6:45 and 1 Jn. 2:27) does not render the Scripture less necessary. He is not given to us in order to introduce new revelations, but to impress the written word on our hearts; so that here the word must never be separated from the Spirit (Is. 59:21). The former works objectively, the latter efficiently; the former strikes the ears from without, the latter opens the heart within. The Spirit is the teacher; Scripture is the doctrine which he teaches us."

Turretin said the scripture is necessary for Christ to teach us, "Christ is our only teacher (Mat. 23:8) in such a sense as that the ministry of the word is not thereby excluded, but necessarily included because now in it only he addresses us and by it instructs us."

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"THIRD QUESTION: Were the sacred Scriptures written only occasionally and without the divine command? We deny against the papist."

"This question is agitated between us and the papists. In order to lessen the authority and perfection of the Scripture, they teach not only that it is not so very necessary and that the church could do without it, but also that it was not delivered to the church by the express command of God, but only in peculiar circumstances; that Christ neither commanded the apostles to write nor did the apostles think of writing the gospel with a primary intention, but only with a secondary and occasional intention(Bellarmine, VD 4.3,4, pp.116-122)."

"Hence Paul calls the Scriptures God-inspired (theopneuston, 2 Tim. 3:16) and Peter says that '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' (hypopheumatos hagiou pheromenous, 2 Pet. 1:21). Now it would be absurd (asystaton) to say that the apostles wrote as God inspired and moved them and yet that he did not command them. A command is not more efficacious than the inspiration of the things to be written; nor does a faithful ambassador ever depart from his instructions."

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"FOURTH QUESTION: THE AUTHORITY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES -- Are the holy Scriptures truly authentic and divine? We affirm."

"The first question may seem hardly necessary among Christians who should consider as an incontrovertible truth the fact that the Scriptures are inspired of God (theopneuston) as the primary foundation of faith."

Rather the question is whether in writing they were so acted upon and inspired by the Holy Spirit (both as to the things themselves and as to the words) as to be kept free from all error and that their writings are truly authentic and divine. Our adversaries deny this; we affirm it."

Turretin makes a distinction between the things and the words emphasizing both the words and doctrinal truth presented by the words are inspired. Earlier under question two he spoke of this division: "...The word "Scripture" is used in two senses: either materially, with regard to the doctrine delivered; or formally with regard to the writing and mode of delivery. In the former sense (as we said before), we hold it to be necessary simply and absolutely, so that the church can never spar it." (More details later on this.)

"The Bible proves itself divine, not only authoritatively and in the manner of an artless argument or testimony, when it proclaims itself God-inspired (theopheuston). "

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"FIFTH QUESTION: Do real contradictions occur in Scripture? Or are there any inexplicable (alyta) passages which cannot be explained and made to harmonize? We deny."

Turretin said "Papists" insisted "upon the corruption of the original so as to bring authority to their Vulgate version." He also spoke of "Libertines who, living in the bosom of the church, are constantly bringing forward these various difficulties (apora) and apparent contradictions (enantiophane) in order to weaken the authority of the Scriptures." In dealing with the charges of contradictions, Turretin said, ""Finally others defend the integrity of the Scriptures and say that these various contradictions are only apparent, not real and true; that certain passages are hard to be understood (dysnoeta), but not altogether inexplicable (alyta). This is the more common opinion of the orthodox, which we follow as safer and truer."

Proving the scriptures are not corrupted, Turretin said: "The reasons are:

(1) The Scriptures are inspired of God (theopneutos, 2 Tim. 3:16). The word of God cannot lie (Ps. 19:8,9); Heb. 6:18); cannot pass away and be destroyed (Mt. 5:18); shall endure forever (1 Pet. 1:25); and is truth itself (Jn. 17:17).

(2) Unless unimpaired integrity characterize the Scriptures, they could not be regarded as the sole rule of faith and practice, and the door would be thrown wide open to atheists, libertines, enthusiasts and other profane persons like them for destroying its authenticity (authentian) and overthrowing the foundation of salvation. For since nothing false can be an object of faith, how could the Scriptures be held as authentic and reckoned divine if liable to contradictions....For if once the authenticity (authentia) of the Scriptures is taken away (which would result even from the incurable corruption of one passage), how could our faith rest on what remains? And if corruption is admitted in those of lesser importance, why not in others of greater?" "Nor can we readily believe that God, who dictated and inspired each and every word to these inspired (theopneustois) men, would not take care of their entire preservation." Comparing man's diligence to preserve their own words, Turretin says of God, " much more, must we suppose, would God take care of his word which he intended as a testament and seal of his covenant with us, so that it might not be corrupted; especially when he could easily foresee and prevent such corruptions in order to establish the faith of his church?"

Turretin explained how to reconcile copyists and printer errors from divine preservation: "Although we give to the Scriptures absolute integrity, we do not therefore think that the copyists and printers were inspired (theopneustous), but only that the providence of God watched over the copying of the sacred books, so that although many errors might have crept in, it has not so happened (or they have not so crept into the manuscripts) but that they can be easily corrected by a collation of others (or with the Scriptures themselves). Therefore the foundation of the purity and integrity of the sources is not to be placed in the freedom from fault (anamartesia) of men, but in the providence of God which (however men employed in transcribing the sacred books might possibly mingle various errors) always diligently took care to correct them, or that they might be corrected easily either from a comparison with Scripture itself or from more approve manuscripts." Before explaining in many pages several charges of contradictions in Bible passages, Turretin said, " will be wiser to acknowledge our own ignorance than to suppose any contradiction."

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"SIXTH QUESTION: From what source does the divine authority of the Scriptures become known to us?" Does it depend upon the testimony of the church either as to itself or as to us? We deny against the papists."

"The object of the papists in this and other controversies set forth by them concerning the Scriptures, is obvious, viz., to avoid the tribunal of Scripture (in which they do not find sufficient help for the defense of their errors) and to appeal to the church (i.e., to the pope himself) and thus become judges in their own cause....we must now inquire concerning the Scriptures themselves whether it is proper that religious controversies should be decided by their authority and testimony." Turretin quoted Irenaeus, Against Heresies: "When they are convicted from Scripture, they turn round and accuse the Scripture as being corrupt, and having no authority."

Turretin said, "....We maintain that primarily and principally the Bible is believed by us to be divine on account of itself (or the marks impressed upon it), not on account of the church.....Hence if the question is why, or on account of what, do I believe the Bible to be divine, I will answer that I do so on account of the Scripture itself which by its marks proves itself to be such. If it is asked whence or from what I believe, I answer from the Holy Spirit who produces that belief in me. Finally, if I am asked by what means or instrument I believe it, I will answer through the church which God uses in delivering the Scriptures to me." "We think that revelation to be contained in the Bible itself which is the first and infallible truth and rule of faith. But papists maintain that it must be sought in the voice and testimony of the church."

Turretin says: "That the authority of the Scriptures either as to itself or as to us does not depend upon the testimony of the church is proved: (1) because the church is built upon the Scripture (Eph. 2:20) and borrows all authority from it. Our opponents cannot deny this since, when we ask them about the church, they quickly fly to the Scriptures to prove it." "Thus Scripture, which is the first principle in the supernatural order, is known by itself and has no need of arguments derived from without to prove and make itself known to us."

Turretin explains the function of the church in relation to the Scriptures: "She is: (1) the keeper of the oracles of God to whom they are committed and who preserves the authentic tables of the covenant of grace with the greatest fidelity, like a notary (Rom 3:2); (2) the guide, to point out the Scriptures and lead us to them (Is. 30:21); (3) the defender, to vindicate and defend them by separating the genuine books from the spurious, in which sense she may be called the ground (hedraioma) of the truth (1 Tim 3:15); (4) the herald who sets forth and promulgates them (2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 10:16); (5) the interpreter inquiring into the unfolding of the true sense. But all these imply a ministerial only and not a magisterial power."

Concerning the establishing of the canon, Turretin quotes the French Confession: "We know that the books of Scripture are canonical, not so much from the common consent of the church, as from the internal testimony and persuasion of the Holy Spirit....For the same Spirit who acts objectively in the word by presenting the truth, operates efficiently in the heart also by impressing that truth upon our minds."

Concerning the common faith of the entire church or body of believers produced by the Holy Spirit, Turretin said, "For the Spirit that testifies in us concerning the inspiration of the Scriptures is not peculiar to individuals with regard to the principle and origin. Rather he is common to the whole church and so to all believers in whom he works the same faith, although he is such subjectively with regard to each individual because he is given separately to each believer." Thus we are reminded that the common faith which directed the approval of the reformation Bible as taught by the late Dr. Edward F. Hills is not some new doctrine of the 20th century.

Turretin reminded us again that the Holy Scriptures though proved by the work of the Holy Spirit, are also self-authenticating. "Therefore since the Bible is the first principle and the primary and infallible truth, is it strange to say that it can be proved by itself?" "The canon or authenticity of the Bible comes from God the author and not determined by the church." As Turretin says, " can be known and believed as an assembly of believers and the communion of saints by a divine faith, only after the marks of the church which Scripture supplies have become known."

Turretin brings the witness of the Scriptures and of the Spirit together saying, "We prove the Scriptures by the Spirit as the efficient cause by which we believe. But we prove the Spirit from the Scriptures as the object and argument on account of which we believe."

Turretin said the church is called "the pillar and ground of the truth" (Eph. 2:20) "...not because she supports and gives authority to the truth." "So the church is the pillar of the truth both by reason of promulgating and making it known....and by reason of guarding it. For she ought not only to set it forth, but also to vindicate and defend it."

Turretin said, "Whatever is called the pillar and stay of the truth is not therefore infallible....Whatever is here ascribed to the church belongs to the particular church at Ephesus to which, however, the papists are not willing to give the prerogative of infallibility."

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"SEVENTH QUESTION: THE CANON -- Has any canonical book perished? We deny."

Turretin said, "Most papists contend that many canonical books have been lost in order that thus they may prove the imperfection of Scripture and the necessity of tradition to supply its defects."

After describing a strict and wide use of the word canon, Turretin spoke of the "two-fold aspect" of the canon: "But as the word of God can be considered in a two-fold aspect )either for the doctrine divinely revealed or for the sacred books in which it is contained), so there can be a twofold canon: one of the doctrines, embracing all the fundamental doctrines; and the other of the books, containing all the inspired (theopneustous) books." "The Scriptures are called canonical for a double reason, both with regard to the doctrines (because they are the canon and standard of faith and practice, derived from the Hebrew QNH, which signifies a "reed" or surveyor's pen and is so used in (Gal. 6:16 and Phil. 3:16) and with respect to the books (because it contains all the canonical books)."

Since the papists claim the same 27 book canon or the New Testament we do, and add their apocryphal books to the Old Testament, Turretin dealt at length in defense of the 39 book canon of the Old Testament. Arguing that no book has perished from the canon, he quoted the testimony of Christ: "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail" (Lk. 16:17; cf. Mat. 5:18). He quoted Paul, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning" (Rom 15:4), which supposed all the writings of the Old Testament existed." He reminded us that neither Christ or the apostles every accused the Jews of altering scriptures, only their interpretation. Finally, the practice of the Jews preserved the same 39 book canon we still accept. (Rom 3:2).

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"EIGHTH QUESTION: Are the books of the Old Testament still a part of the canon of faith and rule of practice in the church of the New Testament? We affirm against the Anabaptists."

Many of Turretin's arguments in this section presuppose the church originating as Israel in the Old Testament, and also a rejection of dispensationalism. All of us believe with Turretin in the inspiration of the entire Bible, and it's profitability for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Turretin made a good argument for evangelism: "If the Old Testament is not important for Christians, it could not be unexceptionably proved against the Jews that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the true Messiah."

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"Ought Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, the first two books of the Maccabees, Baruch, the additions to Esther and Daniel to be numbered among the canonical books? We deny against the papists." (We deliberately omitted comment on these four pages of material because of our subject matter and not because they are not good or important. We recommend their reading.

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"TENTH QUESTION: THE PURITY OF THE SOURCES -- Have the original texts of the Old and New Testaments come down to us pure and uncorrupted? We affirm against the papists."

"By the original texts, we do not mean the autographs written by the hand of Moses, of the prophets and of the apostles, which certainly do not now exist. We mean their apographs which are so called because they set forth to us the word of God in the very words of those who wrote under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit."

"Rather the question is have the original texts (or the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts) been so corrupted either by copyists through carelessness (or by the Jews and heretics through malice) that they can no longer be regarded as the judge of controversies and the rule to which all the versions must be applied? The papists affirm, we deny it."

Turretin says, "The providence of God proves that the sources have not been corrupted." "The following arguments prove that the sources have not been corrupted. (1) The providence of God which could not permit books which it willed to be written by inspiration (theopneustois) for the salvation of men (and to continue unto the end of the world that they might draw from them waters of salvation) to become so corrupted as to render them unfit for this purpose.... (2) The fidelity of the Christian church and unceasing labor in preserving the manuscripts. (3) The religion of the Jews who have bestowed upon the sacred manuscripts great care and labor amounting even to superstition.... (4) The carefulness of the Masoretes not only about verses and words, but also about single letters (which, together with all the variations of punctuation and writing, they not only counted, but also wrote down, so that no ground or even suspicion of corruption could arise). (5) The multitude of copies; for as the manuscripts were scattered far and wide, how could they all be corrupted either by the carelessness of librarians or the wickedness of enemies?... (6) If the sources had been corrupted, it must have been done before Christ or after, neither of which is true. Not before because Christ would not have passed it over in silence (for he does censure the various departures in doctrine), nor could he bear to use corrupted books....Not afterward, both because the copies circulated among Christians would have rendered such attempts futile, and because no trace of any such corruption appears..... (7) The Jews neither would nor could corrupt the sources...." Turretin argues that if the Jews had corrupted any scripture it would have been concerning the Messiah and prophecy used by Christians. On the other hand, Christians would immediately have noticed any changes made by the Jews since the time of Christ.

Turretin made a difference between corruption and variants: "A corruption differs from a variant reading. We acknowledge that many variant readings occur both in the old and New Testament arising from a comparison of different manuscripts, but we deny corruption (at least corruption that is universal)."

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"ELEVENTH QUESTION: THE AUTHENTIC VERSION -- Are the Hebrew version of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New the only authentic versions? We affirm against the papists."

"Of the versions of the Scriptures; some are prototypoi or archetypoi ("original" and "primary") which the authors themselves used. Others are ektypoi (or "secondary"), namely versions flowing from them into other languages." After explaining how the papist differed concerning the degree of certainty in the Hebrew or Greek texts, He quoted the Council of Trent Session 4, which says that "the Latin Vulgate should be held as authentic in the public reading, disputations, preaching, and expositions, so that no one should dare to reject it under any pretext" "Hence Mariana complains that after this promulgation of the Council of Trent, "the Greek and Hebrew fell at one blow."

Turretin said, "Our opinion is that the Hebrew of the Old and the Greek of the New Testament have always been and still are the only authentic versions by which all controversies of faith and religion (and all versions) ought to be approved and tested."

What is an authentic writing? "An authentic writing is one in which all things are abundantly sufficient to inspire confidence; one to which the fullest credit is due in its own kind; one of which we can be entirely sure that it has proceeded from the author whose name it bears; one in which everything is written just as he himself wished."

"However, a writing can be authentic in two ways: either primarily and originally or secondarily and derivatively. That writing is primarily authentic which is autopiston ('of self-inspiring confidence") and to which credit is and ought to be given on its own account....The secondarily authentic writings are all the copies accurately and faithfully taken from the originals by suitable men...."

"Again, the authority of an authentic writing is twofold: the one is founded upon the things themselves of which it treats and has relation to the men to whom the writing is directed; the other is occupied with the treatise itself and the writing and refers to the copies and translations made from it. Over all these this law obtains - that they ought to be referred to the authentic writing and if they vary from it, to be corrected and emended."

"Finally, authenticity may be regarded in two ways: either materially as to the things announced or formally as to the words and mode of annunciation. We do not speak here of authenticity in the former sense for we do not deny this to versions when they agree with the sources, but only in the latter which belongs to the sources alone. The reasons are: (1) because the sources alone are inspired of God both as to the things and words (2 Tim 3:16); hence they alone can be authentic. For whatever the men of God wrote, they wrote under the influence of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:21), who, to keep them from error, dictated not only the matter but also the words, which cannot be said of any version..... (2) They are the standard and rule to which all the versions should be applied, just as the copy (ektypon) should answer to the pattern (archetypon) and the stream be distinguished from its source.... (3) These editions were authentic from the very first and were always considered to be so..... (4) If the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament and the Greek edition of the New Testament are not authentic (authentias), there would be no authentic version, since none besides this has a divine testimony of its own authenticity.... (5) Our opponents acknowledge that in certain cases it is right to have recourse to the sources."

Concerning the papist argument of Hebrew points being added late by the Masoretes as an argument for tradition, Turretin rejects, arguing that the points were of divine origin.

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"TWELFTH QUESTION: Is the present Hebrew text in things as well as words so authentic and inspired(theopneustos) in such a sense that all the extant versions are to be referred to it as a rule and, wherever they vary, to be corrected by it? Or may we desert the reading it supplies, if judged less appropriate, and correct it either by comparison of ancient translators, or by suitable(stochastike) judgment and conjecture, and follow another more suitable reading? We affirm the former and deny the latter."

"As the authority (authentia) of the sacred text is the primary foundation of faith, nothing ought to be held as more important than to preserve it unimpaired against the attacks of those who endeavor either to take it entirely away or in any manner to weaken it." "Far different however is the opinion held in common by our churches; viz., that no other codex should be held as authentic then the present Hebrew one, to which as to a touchstone, all the ancient and modern versions should be referred and if they differ from it to be corrected by it, and not to be amended by them." "That this has ever been the opinion of all Protestants is perfectly clear. The controversy carried on previously with the papists about the authentic edition sufficiently confirms it. The illustrious author in question cannot deny it, for in the beginning of his Critica Sacra, he says, 'The first and most ancient Protestants have said that all things should be examined and corrected by the Hebrew text, which they call the purest source..."

Turretin warns of the danger of conjectures on the sacred text: "If it is lawful to make conjectures on the sacred text, even when the Hebrew codices agree with the versions (as the learned man (Cappel) says, Critica sacra 6.8.17 (1650), p. 424), there could no longer be any certainty of the authenticity (authentias) of it, but all would be rendered doubtful and unsettled and the sacred text would be subjected to the will of each conjecturer. Whether this is not to divest it of all authority anyone can readily tell....Now who could be the judge whether these conjectures are made rightly and truly?...But what will become of this sacred book, if everyone is allowed to wield a censorious pen and play the critic over it, just as over any profane book?"

Turretin not only believed the original text was still used at that time by both Jews and Christians, but added: "And all the theologians who thus far have in any way argued concerning the Hebrew text and its authenticity have meant no other than the common and now received text."

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"THIRTEENTH QUESTION: VERSIONS -- Are versions necessary, and what ought to be their use and authority in the church?"

"This question has two parts. The first relates to the necessity of versions; the second to their authority..." The arguments for the necessity of versions: (1) The reading and contemplation of the Scriptures is enjoined upon men of all languages, therefore the translation of it into the native tongues is necessary...(2)The gospel is preached in all languages; therefore it can and ought to be translated into them. The consequence holds good from the preached to the written word because there is the same reason for both and the same arguments (which induced the apostles to preach in the native tongue) prove the necessity of versions....(3) Vernacular versions are necessary on account of the constant practice of the church, according to which it is certain that both the oriental and western churches had their versions and performed their worship in the vernacular tongue, as their liturgies evince...(4) The numerous Greek versions of the Old Testament follow these....Hence it is evident that it has been the perpetual practice of the church to use versions."

The arguments for the authority of the versions:

"Although the versions are not authentic formally and as to the mode of enunciation, yet they ought nevertheless to be used in the church because if they are accurate and agree with the sources, they are always authentic materially and as to the things expressed."

"Hence we gather what the authority of the versions is. Although their utility is great for the instruction of believers, yet no version either can or ought to be put on an equality with the original, much less be preferred to it. (1) For no version has anything important which the Hebrew or Greek source does not have more fully, since in the sources not only the matter and sentences, but even the very words were directly dictated by the Holy Spirit. (2) It is one thing to be an interpreter, quite another to be a prophet....The prophet as God-inspired (theopneustos) cannot err, but the interpreter as a man lacks no human quality since he is always liable to err. (3) All versions are the streams; the original text is the fountain whence they flow. The latter is the rule, the former the thing ruled, having only human authority."

"Nevertheless all authority must not be denied to versions. Here we must carefully distinguish a twofold divine authority: one of things, the other of words. The former relates to the substance of doctrine which constitutes the internal form of the Scriptures. The latter relates to the accident of writing, the external and accidental form. The source has both, being God-inspired (theopneustos) both as to the words and the things; but versions have only the first, being expressed in human and not in divine words."

"Hence it follows that the versions as such are not authentic and canonical in themselves (because made by human labor and talent). Therefore, under this relation (schesei), they may be exposed to errors and admit of corrections, but nevertheless are authentic as to the doctrine they contain (which is divine and infallible). Thus they do not, as such, formally support divine faith as to the words, but materially as to the substance of doctrine expressed in them."

"There is one perfection of thing and truth to which nothing can be added and from which nothing can be taken away; another perfect ion of the version itself. The former is strictly divine work and is absolutely and in every way self-credible (autopiston). Such perfection is in the word carried over into the versions.. The latter is a human work and there liable to error and correction - to which indeed authority can belong, but only human (according to the fidelity and conformity with the original text), not divine."

"The certainty of the conformity of the versions with the original is twofold: the one merely grammatical and of human knowledge apprehending the conformity of the words in the versions with the original this belongs to the learned, who know the languages); the other spiritual and of divine faith, relating to the agreement of things and doctrines (belonging to each believer according to the measure of the gift of Christ, as he himself says, "My sheep hear my voice, Jn. 10:27; and Paul, "he that is spiritual discerneth all things," 1 Cor 2:15). Although a private person may be ignorant of the languages, he does not cease to gather the fidelity of a version as to the things themselves from the analogy of faith and the connection of the doctrines: 'If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself'" (Jo. 7:17)

"Conformity to the original is different from equality. Any version (provided it is faithful) is indeed conformable to the original because the same doctrine as to substance is set forth there. But it is not on that account equal to it because it is only a human and not a divine method of setting it forth."

"Although any version made by fallible men cannot be considered divine and infallible with respect to the terms, yet it can well be considered such with respect to the things, since it faithfully expresses the divine truth of the sources even as the word which the minister of the gospel preaches does not cease to be divine and infallible and to establish our faith, although it may be expressed by him in human words. Thus faith depends not on the authority of the interpreter or minister, but is built upon the truth and authenticity (authentia) of the things contained in the versions."

"If a version could contain the pure word of God in divine words, no correction could take place. For the sources neither can nor ought to be corrected because they are God-inspired (theopneustoi) in things as well as in words. But because it sets forth to us in human words the word of God, it follows that it can admit of correction, not with regard to the doctrine itself (which still remains the same), but with regard to the terms which especially in difficult and obscure passages can be differently rendered by different persons according to the measure of the gift of Christ."

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"FOURTEENTH QUESTION: THE SEPTUAGINT -- Is the Septuagint version of the Old Testament authentic? We deny."

"FIFTEENTH QUESTION: THE VULGATE -- Is the Vulgate authentic? We deny against the papist."

"SIXTEENTH QUESTION: THE PERFECTION OF THE SCRIPTURES: Do the Scriptures so perfectly contain all things necessary to salvation that there is no need of unwritten (apraphois) traditions after it? We affirm against the papists."

"In order to shun more easily the tribunal of the Scriptures which they know to be opposed to them, the papists endeavor not only to overthrow their authentical (authentian) and integrity, but also to impeach their perfection and perspicuity. Hence arises this question concerning the perfection of the Scriptures between us."

"The question relates only to things necessary to salvation - whether they belong to faith or to practice; whether all these things are so contained in the Scriptures that they can be a total and adequate rule of faith and practice (which we maintain and our opponents deny)."

"The question then amounts to this - whether the Scripture perfectly contains all (not absolutely), but necessary to salvation; not expressly and in so many words, but equivalently and by legitimate inference, as to leave no place for any unwritten (agraphon) word containing doctrinal or moral traditions. Is the Scripture a complete and adequate rule of faith and practice or only a partial and inadequate rule? We maintain the former; the papists the latter, holding that "unwritten traditions pertaining to faith and practice are to be received with the same regard and reverence as the Scriptures."

"....We give to the Scriptures such a sufficiency and perfection as is immediate and explicit. There is no need to have recourse to any tradition independent of them."

"Finally, they were intended to be the contract of the covenant between God and us."

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"SEVENTEENTH QUESTION: THE PERSPICUITY OF THE SCRIPTURES -- Are the Scriptures so perspicuous in things necessary to salvation that they can be understood by believers without the external help of oral (aprophou) tradition or ecclesiastical authority? We affirm against the papists."

"EIGHTEENTH QUESTION: THE READING OF THE SCRIPTURES -- Can the Scriptures be profitably read by any believer, and ought he to read them without permission? We affirm against the papists."

"NINETEENTH QUESTION: THE SENSE OF THE SCRIPTURES -- Whether the Scriptures have a fourfold sense: literal, allegorical, anagogical and tropological. We deny against the papists."

"TWENTIETH QUESTION: THE SUPREME JUDGE OF CONTROVERSIES AND INTERPRETER OF THE SCRIPTURES -- Whether the Scriptures (or God speaking in them) are the supreme and infallible judge of controversies and the interpreter of the Scriptures. Or whether the church or the Roman pontiff is. We affirm the former and deny the latter against the papists."

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Francis Turretin (1623-87)
On The Scriptures Presented at:
The 1995 Annual Meeting of The Dean Burgon Society
Rev. D. A. Waite, Th.D., Ph.D. President