THE UNFOLDING MESSAGE OF THE BIBLE
THE HARMONY AND UNITY OF THE SCRIPTURES
G. CAMPBELL MORGAN
- Genesis. 17
- Exodus. 26
- Leviticus. 33
- Numbers. 42
- Deuteronomy. 51
- The Fulfillment of the Pentateuch. 60
- Joshua. 68
- Judges, Ruth. 76
- I Samuel 87
- II Samuel, I Chronicles. 96
- I Kings, II Chronicles. 104
- II Kings, II Chronicles. 112
- Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther 119
- Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. 175
- Jeremiah. 185
- Daniel, Ezekiel 192
- Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi 200
- World Conditions and the Old Testament 209
- Matthew – The King. 218
- Mark – The Priest 225
- Luke – The Prophet 232
- John – The Logos. 238
- Acts – The Lord of the Church. 246
- Romans, Galatians, Thessalonians. 256
- Hebrews, I John, II John, II John. 264
- Philippians, Philemon. 270
- I Peter, II Peter, James, Jude. 278
- I Corinthians, II Corinthians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus. 284
- Ephesians, Colossians. 292
In most of his books, Dr. Morgan is a teacher and the reader a student; in this book, the scene and the relationship are different. This is a fireside chat, and the most informal of all his writings. It is as though the reader were invited into the home of the renowned and beloved scholar to sit before the fire and just talk about the Scriptures. It is as intimate as that. Here is completely new and previously unpublished material, and a new look at the warm and glowing personality of this master of the Word.
Originally, he called it “The Harmony of the Scriptures,” but we felt that such a title might indicate that it was another of those “Harmonies” which run the Gospels in parallel columns, for the purposes of comparison. This is not a comparison, but a weaving together. The Bible is indeed a library of sixty-six books, each of which must be studied separately if we are to understand it. But we must also understand that the books are chapters in a long, connected story – the story of a community, and a record of divine government – and that, as Dr. Morgan has it, “It is concerning… Christ, and the history of that Lord, that the Bible is one.”
This is the divine, interwoven tapestry of the Word, as God gave it warp and woof, described by one who sees the golden thread of one increasing purpose and unfolding message running through it all. It is G. Campbell Morgan at his informal and inspiring best.
Bible teachers insist upon the fact that the Bible is a library, and that is an important fact to know and to remember. We have sixty-six books, as we find them in our Bible, bound together, written over a period of 1,500 years, mostly in Hebrew and Greek and some small portions in Aramaic. But it is a library, and that must be insisted upon again and again when studying the Bible.
But while that is perfectly true, these books form a whole in a simple and yet very remarkable way. This series of studies is intended to show that wholeness: that although we treat the Bible as a library and advise students desiring to begin the study of it to take a book at a time, it is certainly true that we shall far more intelligently study any part of the Bible in proportion as we have some conception of its entirety, a view of the wholeness of it. That unity is what we are attempting to show.
I wonder how many are familiar with those wonderful lines of George Herbert. I have written them in the beginning of a number of Bibles at one time or another, because they do so express my feeling in the matter. He said about the Bible:
Oh! that I knew how all thy lights combine,
And the configuration of thy glory,
Seeing not only how each verse doth shine,
But all the constellations of the story.
In this first Lecture I propose to take a general conspectus. I shall first describe some of the terms that may be used, and then take a broad outlook at the whole of the library.
Our theme is the harmony of the divine library. What is harmony? The dictionary definition of harmony is “a fitting together of parts so as to form a connected whole.” It is agreement in relationship. That is harmony.
If a musician were lecturing on harmony he would go much more into detail in the matter from the musical standpoint. If my friend, Frank Salisbury, the artist, were lecturing on harmony, he would go more fully into it from the standpoint of colors and artistry. But it is all there. It is a fitting together of the parts so as to form a connected whole; how it agrees in relationship, and the relationship of all its varied parts.
The harmony of the Scriptures is the harmony of the Testaments, Old and New. I but refresh your memory when I say we get our word testament from the Latin, and the Latin word testamentum means a witness. It has much wider meanings in use, but a testament is a witness. I take my Greek New Testament and find that the word means practically, if not always, a testament as a witness that constitutes an agreement.
We do not find that word Testament used about the Scriptures anywhere in the Bible except perhaps at one place; and it may be open to question, though I think it cannot finally be so. It is used when Paul, writing to the Corinthians, spoke of the reading of the Old Testament. Using the Authorized Version it reads exactly like that: “The reading of the Old Testament.” The Revised Version has changed the word to “covenant,” “the reading of the Covenant.” Of course, it is the word our Lord made use of when He said, “This is the new covenant in my blood.” I am only dealing with the word now, not with its placing there. But testament means a witness, and a witness that constitutes the principles of a covenant.
So we take the Old Testament and the New. In the Old Testament we have the Hebrew Scriptures. I do not mean that they belong to the Hebrew nation alone, for they belong also to us. One cannot read the New Testament without reference to the Old. We can start at the very beginning of our New Testament and read, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Suppose we had never read that before! We should say at once, What is this about Abraham and David? We have to go back to the Old Testament before we can begin the New.
Or if we take the second book in the New Testament, how does it open? “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Even as it is written in Isaiah the prophet.” Written where? In Isaiah. But we do not need the Old Testament! Don’t we? Go back and look at Isaiah. So we might go all through the books. When I refer to them as the Hebrew Scriptures, I mean they were the Scriptures of the devout Hebrew.
Then the New Testament consists of the Christian Scriptures. By that I do not mean to say that the Old Testament is not for the Christians. I have been trying to show how necessary the Old Testament is, but we never finish in the Old Testament, if we are Christians. We always finish in the New Testament. But we must go back to the Old to find out all the things which are fulfilled in the New.
What is meant by “conspectus”? The word means a “comprehensive survey.” Here is the Bible. It is a library of sixty-six books. We begin at the beginning, and read right through to the end. I am not saying it is the best way, though I am certain it is a profitable thing to do, especially for the young people, if they have never done it before.
I want to suggest two things as to broad outlook. First, that this Bible contains two great movements beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation. I will name them, and then say a word or two about each. First, there is a history of a community, not a full one, not complete, not of the whole race, but of all the really essential things in human nature and human life. And it is a history. It is not an interpretation for psychology alone. It tells a story and there is a movement of continuity followed all through the story.
In the second place, it is a record of divine government. I am content to make these two statements and leave them. Taking the Bible in its entirety, it is first the history of humanity, and all the way a record of divine government. These are the two great movements that constitute the wholeness of the library.
It is the history of a community. If we begin to ponder dates we will in all likelihood be confused. It is not easy to deal with dating. In the Old Version we find on page after page a date, and the earliest date there at the commencement of everything is 4004 B.C., and the latest date at the end of the Apocalypse is A.D. 96. These are the dates with which we were familiar in childhood. Everyone knows that they were Ussher’s dates.
An old friend of mine, Martin Anstey, produced with great labor and care an exact and remarkable volume that was a chronology of the Bible. When it was published it was out of the reach of the majority of people, but it has been a book of great value. Before Martin Anstey did his work he resolutely consulted the text itself, and every reference was tabulated. It was a tremendous piece of work. Another friend of mine, Philip Mauro, saw Anstey’s book and condensed it into a small volume called The Chronology of the Bible, and in that will be found in the briefest form all the salient points of the dating found within the Bible. This is technical, but it is important. This Book is a history of humanity. It begins with the origin of the human race. How did this humanity come to be? What were its origins? It then records the fact of a disaster, a failure. (I am not afraid of the old word, a “fall.”) And from that moment it proceeds, first of all, to trace the early chapters in the history of the race; then a moment when a man Abraham is called out from the rest, from whom a nation sprang. Then a nation under Moses, and it goes straight on, all the way through as far as history is concerned, right on to Malachi. I do not mean to say that the prophets are to be treated as history, but we cannot study them without considering the background of history behind them. It is the consolidated history” of a nation that came from a man – God’s people, chosen, created for a very clear and definite purpose. Then the historic sequence shows a gap of about 400 years. No reference is made to it in the Bible at all.
Now take the New Testament and we find the same running history. The Son of God is seen as the Son of Man, and resulting from His presence in the world is the record of the creation and the growth of a new race of human beings. And so it runs on. We begin at the beginning with origins, and the account of failure. We look on and watch the process of the whole race seen for a little while, as a man comes and a nation is formed, and we look upon that nation. We watch that nation through into the New Testament, and there we have another disaster, the element of failure of the nation to fulfill its purpose, as manifested in the crucifixion of the Son of God. But there when the darkness is deepest, light springs, and immediately we see a newborn race, all human but different. And the process marches on until we come to the Acts, where we have glimpses of that new nation at the beginning, in all its initial movements, and the story is never finished, because it could not be finished. It has been running on ever since. But the Bible illustrates this new period and this new race. It is history; it is history right through.
Take the Psalms, or the Prophets; they are all set against a background of history. It is an historic sequence, and we cannot break in upon that historic sequence without doing some violence to the perfect message of the Bible delivered to the human race. But that is only one element. The other is this. It is a record of divine government from the very beginning to the end. I will not trace that but summarize; and I do so by turning to one of the ancient prophets, Jeremiah. Hear the words again in this connection. In the midst of his ministry, Jeremiah said: “A glorious throne on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.” The beginning! That is how the Bible opens. “In the beginning God created… Jeremiah says, “From the beginning was the glorious throne of God on high.” Our Version says, “set on high.” That word “set” is not in the Hebrew. Of course I am not objecting to its insertion, but in some ways it rather spoils it. It does not say it is set there as if by a time limit, and a beginning. It is “on high from the beginning.” If we would know what Jeremiah meant, turn from Genesis to John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” A glorious throne on high from the beginning (and mark the wonderful declaration) is the place of our safety, of our sanctuary.
When we come to the start of the Book we find God governing, but not governing by giving laws. He is not governing by uttering commandments. He is governing in communion. That is the meaning of the marvelous statement in the third chapter of Genesis, when the Lord God walked “in the garden in the cool of the day,” as the Old Version puts it. Very pleasant, that “cool.” But why they rendered ruach as “cool” there, I could never understand. He walked in the garden “in the wind of the day.” That is a little better. It does mean “wind,” but it is far more accurately translated “spirit.” “The Lord God walked in the garden in the spirit of the day.” The first man walked in fellowship with Him, and God governed by communion. We can say He uttered a law, if we like so to do, but He did it as He talked to him in the spirit of the day, as He told him his liberty was limited. We know the story. Throughout, God is always there, always on the throne, always governing.
Then came a catastrophe, a definite rebellion against that very government. From that moment on God is governing, shall I say, mediatorially; not as He did at first by direct communion, but through means and methods and persons and messengers and voices – God governing through prophets, through singers, always making known His will to humanity. I wonder as I look around me today why so many people want to get rid of the Old Testament with its revelation of human failure. It is the same story still running on, from the standpoint of human history. It is a long continuation, blunders, and disasters and appalling failure. But God is governing all the way through. Governing! That is the Bible. Go outside the Bible, and we may call that in question. But we shall find as we go through, that this method of government – and I want to say this carefully because my very words may be misunderstood – was that of an accommodation, not to principle, but to meet human necessity resulting from human failure.
I can take an illustration of the proceeding to which I have referred. The monarchy was an accommodation to meet human weakness; as the Temple was an accommodation to meet human weakness. So it has been all through, even the great prophetic utterances were an accommodation of God in which by symbols and sentences, here a little, there a little, He was talking to people who had been chosen, but who rebelled against obeying God. It is always God governing. That is the Old Testament.
Then we come into the New Testament and what do we find? Here I am going to summarize by two quotations. My first is from Paul in the Galatian Letter when he said, “When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son.” That was in Genesis – “In the beginning.” In Mark – “the fullness of the time.” It is a great phrase. Ponder it. We say it was a long time: but at the right time, at the right moment, in the fullness of the time, He sent forth His Son.
I am sure that could be illustrated by a consideration of world conditions, and certainly in this Hebrew nation. In the fullness of the time! The fullness of the time was when the whole world, Jew and Gentile, was bankrupt – in the fullness of the time He sent forth His Son. That is one quotation.
The other one is often used but I think too often the greatness of it is missed. I am referring to something James wrote in his Epistle when in a figure of speech he applied to God: “The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth.” That is the story of God’s governing still. He is governing, He is waiting, and He is patient. Don’t imagine that the long-suffering of God means anything other than the waiting for the fullness of time, as the Bible shows all the way through. That is one method of looking at it. Human history and divine government. I pray you remember, that the Christ with which the Bible deals was revealed as the Christ of the Cross. That is true in the Old Testament and in the New. Take up the New Testament and look at Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is one story in each case, and the one story is perfect because of the absolute harmony in these four Gospel narratives. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John give more space to describing, or referring to the death of Jesus than anything else. They take a great deal more space dealing with His death than with His teaching, or any department of His human life. That is the central thing. Whether we have the King in Matthew, it is the cross which is the throne; or the servant in Mark, it is the cross which is the chain that bound Him. Whether we have the Perfect Man in Luke, it is the cross that manifests His ultimate perfection. Whether it be God manifest in the flesh in John, it is the cross wherein His glory shines finally forth. That is the New Testament.
Or to go back to the Old Testament, that great line is running through it all. If I were asked what is the greatest story in all the Old Testament, I should say it is the story of the Passover, and that the Passover was the very foundation of the national life. Read the prophets, and see how constantly they were reminding the people that they had been redeemed, redeemed from Egypt. There is that thought underlying it all, running through. What is the supreme, the most glorious height reached by any prophet of any age among all those in our Bible? If we take time to think, we shall say the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. It is the unveiling in the Old Testament of the coming of Christ, the vision of the Son of God.
Or turn to the poetry with all its figurative wonder, all its expressions of human vision in differing circumstances before God. What is the greatest theme of it? Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It brings us to the very presence prophetically of the cross itself. All the literature of the Old Testament leads to Christ. Nothing is finished. History is not finished. Prophecy is not finished. Poetry is not finished, until we reach Christ Himself, in the New Testament. All the Old Testament is centered in Him, all the New Testament is circling round Him. This is a library, but it is a great continuous history of humanity, and the account of divine government, and at the center of everything is Christ and His cross. All the high hopes, the highest aspirations of desire and expectation lead us on until we stand confronting Him on Calvary’s cross; and in all the expositions and interpretations of the Apostles in the New Testaments, the evangelists tell the story of His earthly career and His triumphant death, and it is Christ and His cross. The whole Bible is unified there.
We may summarize it by quoting the four lines with which Myers’ great poem “Saint Paul” begins and ends. Who does not love that poem? Paul is the spokesman. I feel as if the Bible is speaking to me, I hear it from Genesis to Revelation. What does it say? Just this:
Christ! I am Christ’s and let the name suffice you;
Aye, for me, too, it greatly hath sufficed.
* * *
Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning;
Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ.
That is the harmony of the Testaments. We have the first song after man has fallen; the song, as it seems to me, which God whispered into the heart of a mother, in which He says that her seed shall bruise the serpent’s head. And that initial solo of the divine heart runs on with decades of longing through the ages, and it is running on still; and one day we shall listen to the ultimate anthem, “The Kingdom of the world is become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.”
It is concerning that Christ, and the history of that Lord, that the Bible is one.