Collected Writings on Scripture

Collected Writings on Scripture

Hardback D A Carson

Over the past thirty years, D. A. Carson has written widely on the nature and interpretation of Scripture. This timely collection of his work selects five key essays on relevant themes and critical reviews of nine books on Scripture.

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Publisher's Description

God's Word has always had enemies, but in recent years the inspiration and authority of Scripture have been attacked with renewed vigour. Over the past thirty years, respected scholar D. A. Carson has written widely on the nature of Scripture, and this volume presents a timely collection of his work, in two parts.

In Part 1, Carson selects essays written on such themes as how to interpret the Bible, recent developments in the doctrine of Scripture, unity and diversity in the New Testament, and redaction criticism. Presenting a theologically balanced and confessional perspective, Carson defines the terms of a number of debates, critiques interpretative methods and theories, and suggests positive guidelines for future action.

Part 2 presents critical reviews of nine books dealing with the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Though substantial in content, Carson's detailed reviews will foster careful thought and perspective in those who are relatively new to the debates surrounding biblical inspiration and authority. This authoritative and diverse collection will prove to be a helpful resource to both seasoned pastors and scholars and those who are just starting serious study of the Bible.


'This book is a road map of pathways to pursue and pitfalls to avoid in handling Scripture. D. A. Carson would be the first to agree that God himself upholds his written word, the Bible. But God uses means. In recent decades, Carson’s voice has been among the most forthright, consistent, rigorous, faithful, and compelling in serving the vital divine end of testifying to Scripture’s veracity. This book guides readers to the priceless destination of confidence in God’s Word through refutation of its critics and commendation of its truth.' - Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, New Testament Department Chair, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

'D. A. Carson is for this generation what B. B. Warfield was for his—the scholarly stalwart for the doctrine of Scripture, possessed of prodigious skills both as an interpreter of Scripture and as a biblical and systematic theologian, critically engaging the most significant arguments of the day and upholding the historic position of the Christian church and the Bible’s own self-attestation. Everything that comes from his pen is worthy of careful attention. Given the current state of the doctrine of Scripture (in theory and practice) in evangelical academia, this is an important and timely volume. Seminarians and pastors alike need to be abreast of present trends in this vital subject. The classic essays and critical reviews in this book offer a bird’s-eye view of the past thirty years of the discussion, as well as world-class scholarship and discernment in articulating rejoinders to sub-biblical theories while positively presenting a faithful view of the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures and their entailments.' - J. Ligon Duncan, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi; President, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

'With tedious regularity, the doctrine of Scripture comes under attack again and again, and while many of the arguments used are familiar and hackneyed, each generation adds its own twists and turns to the cries of criticism. Thankfully, the church has always had eloquent defenders of the truthfulness of the Scriptures and of the God who inspired them. In our time, Don Carson is one such figure; and in this volume, the reader will find many of his most significant essays on Scripture. Scholarly, reverent, carefully argued, and generously footnoted, these pieces all make important contributions to current debates; and taken as a whole, they admirably expose the problems of the revisionism offered by certain voices within the church while pointing readers to a better way.' - Carl R. Trueman, Academic Dean and Vice President, Westminster Theological Seminary

'As a young theological student I wrestled with the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. No one helped me more to understand what Scripture teaches about itself than D. A. Carson. His insightful essays and incisive reviews preserved and shaped my doctrine of Scripture. I rejoice to see some of those older essays (along with some new essays and reviews) presented together in one place in this volume, for the issues of yesterday are not dramatically different from what we face today, and Carson’s words continue to speak powerfully to our contemporary situation. Fidelity to Scripture and rigorous reasoning mark this volume, reminding us that the words of Scripture are the very words of God.' - Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Bibliographic Details

ISBN: 9781844744473
Format: Hardback
Extent: 336 pages
Publication Date: 16/07/2010
Published by: Apollos / IVP




Part 1 Essays

1. Approaching the Bible

What the Bible Is

How to Interpret the Bible

2. Recent Developments in the Doctrine of Scripture

Revisionist Historiography

Focus on the Phenomena of the Bible

Debates over Various Terms

Uncritical Attitudes toward Literary and Other Tools

Sensitivity to “Propositions” and “Literary Genre”

The New Hermeneutic and Problems of Epistemology

Discounting the Concursive Theory

The Diminishing Authority of the Scriptures in the Churches

3. Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: The Possibility of Systematic Theology

Statement of the Problem

Working Definitions


Positive Reflections


4. Redaction Criticism: On the Legitimacy and Illegitimacy of a Literary Tool

The Development of Redaction Criticism

Common Criticisms Leveled against Redaction Criticism

Two Examples

Suggested Guidelines for the Use of Redaction Criticism

Appended Note

5. Is the Doctrine of Claritas Scripturae Still Relevant Today?

Historical Summary

The Contemporary Challenge

A Preliminary Response

Part 2 Reviews

6. Three Books on the Bible: A Critical Review

William J. Abraham, The Divine Inspiration of Holy Scripture (1981)

James Barr, The Scope and Authority of the Bible (1980)

I. Howard Marshall, Biblical Inspiration (1982)

7. Three More Books on the Bible: A Critical Review

John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (2003)

Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (2005)

N. T. Wright, The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture (2005)

8. Review of Jeffrey L. Sheler, Is the Bible True? How Modern Debates and Discoveries Affirm the Essence of the Scriptures (1999)

9. Review of Alan G. Padgett and Patrick R. Keifert, eds., But Is It All True? The Bible and the Question of Truth (2006)

10. Review of Roland Boer, Rescuing the Bible (2007)

(From the) Preface

Over the last three decades I have written a number of essays and edited two or three books dealing with the nature of Scripture. One of the effects of getting older, I suppose, is that colleagues sometimes suggest that some of what one has written earlier be gathered together in useful collections. In this case the guilty parties are primarily Mark Dever and Tom Schreiner, who independently pressed me to gather into one place some of this material on the nature of the Bible and how to interpret it. The result is this book.

The material is quite diverse. The first essay, “Approaching the Bible,” was first written as the lead piece for a new edition of the New Bible Commentary. It does not aim to be groundbreaking or adventuresome, but to spell out for those who might use the Commentary how Christians ought to think about the Bible and interpret it as they study Scripture and any commentary upon it. My slant is broadly confessional, and the overview may help some who are just getting started in serious study of Scripture.

The next three essays are of a more technical nature (nevertheless the text is pretty accessible, if not the footnotes). All three appeared in either Scripture and Truth (1983) or in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon (1986), two volumes that John Woodbridge and I edited a quarter of a century ago. Pulling out my three contributions to those volumes is dictated by the desire to group my scribbles on this subject in one place, but I must insist that there are numerous essays in those two books that are still worth reading today, even if discussion has in some cases eclipsed them. The three essays reprinted here have very different aims. “Recent Developments in the Doctrine of Scripture” surveys trends in how Scripture was viewed and handled during the two or three decades prior to the publication of the piece in 1986, so inevitably the discussion is dated. Yet it is worth including here for two reasons: first, many younger students focus almost exclusively on recent literature and lose sight of how many discussions from earlier times ought to be taken into account; and second, not a few treatments of the nature of Scripture introduce what are boldly claimed to be new insights, when in reality they are barely touched-up echoes from earlier debates. Historical perspective is never to be despised. The essay titled “Redaction Criticism: On the Legitimacy and Illegitimacy of a Literary Tool” is less significant today than it was twenty-five years ago, because the percentage of biblical scholars who use this “tool” has greatly declined. Yet the approach to evaluating redaction criticism as a literary tool could usefully be duplicated with respect to more recent literary tools that hold majority attention today, including narrative criticism, reader response criticism, and so forth. The other essay, “Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: The Possibility of Systematic Theology” was, when it was written, unbelievable to those who do not think one God actually stands behind the rich diversity of biblical books, and it will be equally unbelievable to similar readers now. For those who do hold to historic confessionalism, however, it is important to reflect constantly on the possible relationships between exegesis and systematic constructions. There is little in that essay I would change today, but in the light of more recent developments it is the merest introduction. Introductions are still needed, of course, so I have included it here. If the Lord gives me enough birthdays, I would like to write more on this topic. Some readers may want to go on to read I. Howard Marshall, Beyond the Bible: Moving from Scripture to Theology, including the appended interaction by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Further, considerable attention has been paid in recent years to “theological hermeneutics,” a notoriously slippery category that deserves careful and evenhanded exploration. Meanwhile my essay may help some to establish a few basic moorings.

The fifth essay, “Is the Doctrine of Claritas Scripturae Still Relevant Today?” was included in the Festschrift for Gerhard Maier, Dein Wort ist die WahrheitBeitrage zu einer schriftgemasen Theologie (1997). The impact of so-called postmodern epistemology, especially in its more extreme forms, raised questions as to whether the historic Protestant stance on the perspicuity of Scripture (claritas scripturae) was still defensible. My more recent book, Christ and Culture Revisited (2008), pursues some of the same epistemological questions a little more deeply.

The review section of this book is made up of two longish review articles, each probing three books on Scripture, plus an additional three individual reviews, treating a total of nine books. These reviews are more detailed than book reviews normally are, and the reason for including them here is that some students and others are helped by listening in on a debate. In other words, to the relatively uninitiated, a new book on a topic such as the doctrine of Scripture can sound wonderfully incisive and even prophetic, but probing reviews often put its contribution (or otherwise!) into perspective and foster critical engagement.

Discussion about the nature of Scripture continues apace. Readers interested in a recent survey of developments might find helpful an essay by Robert W. Yarbrough (in the 34, no. 1 issue of Themelios, published online at Of the numerous books on Scripture written within the last five years, the best is that of Timothy Ward, Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God (2009). I am currently working, with about thirty-five others, on a two-volume set to be published by Eerdmans in 2012. Tentatively titled The Scripture Project, the set aims to work through fundamental biblical, theological, historical, and philosophical issues related to the doctrine of Scripture. I would like to think of this current collection as constituting steps along the way in this broader enterprise toward a robust confessionalism on this topic. …

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