Introduction: Young on Scripture
John R. Muether
This past summer the Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church republished a series of popular lectures delivered by Dr. Edward J. Young (1907–1968), professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia from 1936 until his death. Dr. Young delivered these talks, entitled "The God-Breathed Scripture," at Grace Theological Seminary in 1966.
A decade earlier, Young published his pioneering study on biblical infallibility, Thy Word Is Truth (Eerdmans, 1957). Fifty years later, this book remains in print, and it continues to stand, in the judgment of theologian John Frame, as the "best resource for showing the rationale for inerrancy." Young was a remarkably calm and humble voice in the din of debate that developed over the inerrancy of Scripture. On the one hand, he was fully conversant with contemporary biblical scholarship, and he responded to the attacks of higher critics with the greatest of scholarly integrity. On the other hand, he resisted the temptation (to which many of the Bible's defenders yielded) to advance artificial harmonizations of problem passages. "When we meet difficulties in Scripture," he wrote, "it is well to be cautious about asserting the presence of error. We as Bible believers are not called upon to offer an answer to all the problems in the Bible any more than we are called upon to offer an explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity."
Young's lectures, which were delivered shortly before his untimely death, display continuity with the basic argument of his earlier work. As his son-in-law, Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., also a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, explains in his foreword to this new edition of Young's lectures, Young understood that there were two ways to approach the infallibility of Scripture. An increasingly popular method emphasizes human authorship and focuses on the so-called "phenomena" of Scripture. The older and wiser approach, to which Young was committed, began with the divinity of Scripture and focused on its self-witness. In these lectures, Young outlines the Scripture's own claims about its divine nature.
This was no mere academic exercise for Dr. Young. Ultimately, he connected the doctrine of biblical infallibility to Christian discipleship. "To assume that [God] could breathe forth a word that could contain mistakes is to say, in effect, that God Himself can make mistakes. We must maintain that the original of Scripture is infallible for the simple reason that it came to us direct from God Himself." When the readers are armed with this confidence, the Bible is able to make them wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
The following pages present an excerpt from Young's treatment of 2 Timothy 3:16, in which he examines Paul's claims that Scripture is inspired and profitable. If this sample whets the reader's appetite for more, The God-Breathed Scripture can be obtained at the OPC website for $5 plus postage. In commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Dr. Young, the Committee for the Historian offers these lectures as an attractive, 112-page paperback, with hopes that Orthodox Presbyterians will continue to benefit from his scholarly and pastoral insights.
The author is the historian of the OPC. Reprinted from New Horizons, October 2007.