The Nature of Scripture

Scripture presents special problems to interpreters: The nature of scripture? Etymologically, nature is derived from the Latin noun natura, based on the participle natus, born. All things in nature are born, i.e. not supernatural. But isn’t scripture supernatural? Some religious people say it is. Others say no; it is like all language, a human creation, not Truth, but a human attempt to cope with Truth, limited by all the contingencies of our times and places, buffeted as we are by forces beyond our control. What could it possibly mean to say either that Scripture is supernatural, or that it has a nature?

When people think of Scripture as supernatural, or holy, or as the Word of God, they mean it is not a product of human wisdom, but of a Spirit that breaks into the world from outside. Now we’re deep into capital letters. “Word” and “Spirit” denote persons of the Trinity. If we treat Scripture similarly, we will have divinized it. But nowhere is it said that Scripture is a God or any part of God. We may say the Spirit of God speaks through the prophets, but that is about as far as we can safely go. The tablets given to Moses at Sinai are covered with words from God, but they can be smashed to bits if necessary to make a point.

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