8 Properties of Scripture (by Mastricht)

Peter van Mastricht’s teaching both took the Bible’s view of itself seriously and, as a result, it was multi-faceted.

The entire Trinity is the author of Scripture, from the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit (125) as God communicates through Scripture his will towards human beings for their salvation. Mastricht’s treatment of the eight properties of Scripture, which I will summarize below, can help us gain a fuller picture of the Reformed doctrine of Scripture and its relevance today. Due to the depth of the subject, I will summarize rather than present all of Mastricht’s arguments.

 

The doctrine of Scripture has often been the battleground on which the fate of true and false religion is decided. In the seventeenth-century, Roman Catholics taught the authority of Scripture, while denying its sufficiency and clarity. Socinians taught the sufficiency and clarity of Scripture, while restricting their reading of Scripture by the dictates of human reason. A spectrum of views on Scripture has persisted to the present day. Some deny the verbal inspiration of the Bible while maintaining its experimental power in the lives of believers. Others outright deny its unique status as the Word of God. Still others argue that only some books in the standard Protestant canon of Scripture are genuine, usually recognizing only those that they can accommodate to a particular theological hypothesis. What is often missing in older and contemporary debates about Scripture is a careful study of the Bible’s self-evaluation and the multi-faceted attributes ascribed to Scripture in its pages.

Peter van Mastricht’s treatment of the eight properties of Scripture is valuable in this regard. His teaching both took the Bible’s view of itself seriously and, as a result, it was multi-faceted. His view was largely representative of classic Reformed theology. Building on the premise that because true theology was supernatural (“the doctrine of living for God through Christ”), he concluded that the rule, or first principle (principium), of theology must be supernatural as well (113). In this sense, Scripture is “our axiom” (117) and Scripture is the doctrine of living for God as it is set forth in books (119). While revelation is a broader category than Scripture, God chose to reveal himself to mankind through Scripture due to the increasing brevity of human life, the increasing number of people on earth and the size of the church, the liability of oral tradition to corruption, “the weakness of human memory,” for “the stability of heavenly teaching,” and against “the perversity of heretics” who abuse unwritten traditions (119). The entire Trinity is the author of Scripture, from the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit (125) as God communicates through Scripture his will towards human beings for their salvation. Mastricht’s treatment of the eight properties of Scripture, which I will summarize below, can help us gain a fuller picture of the Reformed doctrine of Scripture and its relevance today. Due to the depth of the subject, I will summarize rather than present all of Mastricht’s arguments:

1. Scripture Possess Divine Authority (126)

Authority comes first because all other attributes of Scripture reflect this one. Reflecting the independent God, Scripture authority is “supreme and independent,” depending on God alone. He added that, according to 1 Peter 1:20, this is the “first article of faith” because without God speaking with authority in Scripture there could be nothing for faith to rest on. The power of Scripture comes from its authority. It decides controversies, directs our lives, and judges us all, “just as if God himself was speaking” (126).

2. Scripture is Divine Truth

Scripture can neither deceive nor be deceived. This means that doctrinal and historical aspects of Scripture correspond to the facts, practical statements agree perfectly with the will of God, prophecies, promises, and threats agree with future events, etc. (127). These things make Scripture preferable to every other form of divine revelation (citing Lk. 16:31Gal. 1:8). The full canon of Scripture has also superseded them.

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