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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : § 2. The New Testament has added to the Revelation in history a second written proclamation of this Revelation, and has given it a position of superior authority.

The Origin Of The New Testament by Adolf Harnack

§ 2. The New Testament has added to the Revelation in history a second written proclamation of this Revelation, and has given it a position of superior authority.

In Judaism -- not only in the more cultured Judaism of Alexandria -- one had long been accustomed to see the Revelation of God to His people in a double form: God has revealed Himself in a long chain of facts, institutions, persons, etc., and He has deposited the content of this Revelation in a book and has thus embodied it permanently for men in written letters. In course of time the book itself became Revelation, indeed the Revelation -- the double form seemed superfluous -- and there arose a kind of quid pro quo in that, since the book became Revelation, Revelation itself was regarded as consisting of accounts of events, doctrines, laws, ideas, and so forth. All that happened, happened only that it might be taken up into the book, and that in the book and working from the book it might first effect that for which it was intended. No longer was it a question of Moses, but of the Law; no longer of David, but of the stories about him, and of the Psalms.

Scarcely was the New Testament created when here also the same idea makes its appearance: the book takes its place beside the facts for which it vouches, indeed it transforms all facts into words, into doctrine. It represents the Revelation of God as a literary revelation, and sometimes it seems as if the revelation in facts of history required this literary revelation at least as a complement, sometimes it seems even to disappear entirely behind the written revelation. The text, |What was written was written for our learning,| was understood almost as if it meant, |What happened for our learning must be written.| But the idea is carried still further as we see already in the writings of Origen. God the Creator has brought into existence two great Creations, no more and no less, in which He reveals Himself: the Universe and the Bible (i.e. the Old Testament and the New Testament). The Bible is the parallel to the Universe; over both the Holy Spirit brooded and brought them into existence. Both consist of pneumatic, psychic, and material elements. Side by side with the Kosmos stands the Bible. While the one is the outcome of Divine thoughts the other is the Divine system of thought itself. Thus the Christian Revelation acquired a quite different, or rather a |higher| nature; it became a complex of ideas, or, rather, it is proved to be in fact a complex of ideas, because the Revelation is given as a revelation in writing. From this point of view the Christian religion became a religion of a book, namely of the Book of Divine Ideas. Then it necessarily followed that the Revelation in historic fact, including the historic Christ, of which the Book gives the narrative, must fall into the background when compared with the Revelation in writing and must become something symbolic. It is merely |Mythus,| while in the Book the |Logos| bears sway. Hence what really matters about Christ is not that as Christ He had an earthly history, but that as the Logos of the written record He reveals eternal truth. But even where things did not go so far, indeed even where speculative theories were rejected, the position adopted in spite of all |Realism| was not so very different. Even here |It is written| expressed the true authoritative Revelation, and the Revelation through historic fact was to be found only in Scripture -- nowhere else. All that was revealed must be in accordance with Scripture. Scripture is the fundamental document of doctrine, and scarcely anyone felt an impulse to search for the history that lay behind it. The Revelation upon which Religion and Church were founded is a written thing. When the formula, |The Scriptures and the Lord,| still ran, |the Lord| was still something living; when the formula became, |The Scriptures and the Gospel,| He had lost something of this attribute of life; when it then became, |The Scriptures and the Gospels,| the attribute of life had become already strictly limited in favour of the letter; when finally it came to the formula, |The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament,| then the Revelation in history was practically transformed into a revelation in writing. Thus the whole idea of Religion was altered and was fixed in the direction in which, up to this time, it had been developing. Because the Bible of the two Testaments contained an enormous wealth of material of every possible variety, all this belonged to Religion, indeed was Religion. Religion is just as much knowledge concerning what happened on the second day of Creation as it is knowledge of the loving-kindness of God, of the journeys of the Apostle Paul as of the Coming of the Saviour. The content of the teaching and letter of the two Testaments is the content of Religion.

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