Home > Christian Authors, church history, doctrines, Israel, quotes > The Divine Unity of Scripture: Adolph Saphir

The Divine Unity of Scripture: Adolph Saphir


I’m almost halfway through Saphir’s “The Divine Unity of Scripture,” one of the free online resources mentioned in this recent post.  The following is just some observations and general  notes concerning this book, which has been great reading.

This work comes from a series of lectures Saphir delivered, around the theme of the unity of scripture, in the late 19th century.  The overall theme is the exalting of scripture, how unique it is in all its ways, unlike any other writings we have, and how unified God’s word is in all its parts, with no conflicts between the Old and New Testament or amongst the many diverse human authors.  In the details, Saphir has a lot to say concerning the canon of scripture, the inspiration of scripture, the history of the writing of scripture, as well as summaries of what each Bible book highlights within the overall revelation from God, and the history of the Jews and the church to the present time (of his writing).

The early chapters remind me of J.C. Ryle’s great quotes about the Bible, affirming the same great truths.  Yet Saphir provides a much longer and more detailed treatment than Ryle provided in his comparatively-brief chapters, in this book about the book.  Like other 19th century authors Ryle and Spurgeon, Saphir frequently mentions the importance of the nation Israel.  Here, Saphir uniquely adds many more observations from his own Hebrew Christian perspective concerning the Jews of biblical as well as modern times.  The Divine Unity of Scripture sometimes reads like an apologetic, too, with Saphir’s responses to the liberal “higher criticism” of the day, refuting their notions of late-date authorship for the Pentateuch.  That particular idea is perhaps dated now, not something discussed that often, though I recall first coming across that idea in the introduction to a Chronicles of Narnia handbook in the early 1990s.  Saphir well responded with great points such as this:

therefore are all those fanciful theories, about the books of Moses having been fabricated after the exile, utterly void of common sense—as will appear still further from the next point. There is no other nation on the face of the earth that could have been induced to preserve books which so pictured their unthankfulness, their constant apostasies, comparing them with the other nations of the world and saying in effect, “You are worse than any other nation—less  loyal to me than the other nations are to their false gods.” If we read the five books of Moses from beginning to end, how they furnish a continuous picture of the wickedness and ingratitude of Israel  — and so with the other historical books …. Had such a record been artificially made, centuries upon centuries after the histories had taken place, it would not have been received. What an extraordinary thing it is that the Jews who killed the prophets and stoned them that were sent unto them, did not dare to touch the written records of their lives and all their testimonies,—nay, they reverenced those records and they looked upon them as the testimony sent to them by the Most High.

One trivial item: Saphir thought all the Bible authors, including Luke, were Jews; this was simply a given assumption without any reasons given for that conclusion.  I’ve come across a few reasons from people today holding to that idea, but mainly they argue from silence, such as what happened in Acts 21:29: if Luke were a Gentile, then why did they (the mob) only mention Trophimus with Paul, and not Luke?  I now concur with S. Lewis Johnson’s view, that Luke was a Gentile, primarily because of SLJ’s observation that Luke’s Greek was a very different style from the Greek used in the rest of the NT, that Luke’s Greek (except for the first two chapters) is the formal style used by the Gentile writers.

I highly recommend this Adolph Saphir work, even after reading only the first half.  Anyone who enjoys reading Christian authors who uplift the Bible and its amazing, timeless truths, will appreciate Saphir’s The Divine Unity of Scripture.

In closing, here is just one of many great quotes from Saphir’s The Divine Unity of Scripture:

The Bible needs no defense. The Bible defends itself; the Bible explains itself. I do not dread the pagans, I do not dread the infidels, I do not dread skeptics. I dread the false, compromising and conciliatory modern teaching in our Churches. That is the only thing that is to be dreaded. Let the Bible only be kept separate. As it is, it needs no defense. The Scripture needs no bulwarks. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and who ever heard of defending a sword? It is the enemy who will advise you to put the sword into the sheath—a beautiful sheath with all kinds of metaphysical and artistic ornamentations. The sword must be unsheathed, for the sword is aggressive.

Oh that we may know the Scripture not merely as the sword of the Spirit; for that sword, although it may inflict pain, is meant for healing. Oh that we may know it as the gentle dew and rain that comes down from heaven and returneth not thither, but prospereth in the things which please God.

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  1. July 23, 2012 at 11:32 am

    A very good critique. Lynda, look forward to your posts. I’m uplifted once again. One thing; re: your ” I now concur with S. Lewis Johnson’s view, that Luke was a Gentile, primarily because of SLJ’s observation that Luke’s Greek was a very different style from the Greek used in the rest of the NT, that Luke’s Greek (except for the first two chapters) is the formal style used by the Gentile writers.”

    I make this comment as a second language teacher. Some second-language speakers/writers of English are just as good, and sometimes surpass very good mother tongue English speakers/writers. So Luke etc etc.

    • July 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      Thanks, bography, for your observations. Yes, Luke was a very gifted man. Though we know relatively little about him, other than his two NT books, he is one of the many human writers of the Bible and one I look forward to meeting!

  2. August 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Umberto Cassuto, chief rabbi of Florence, and later professor of Hebrew in Rome, etc. wrote a great book on refuting the documentary hypothesis. Five star rating. I have a hard copy. You can find the Kindle edition at Amazon for about $10.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Documentary-Hypothesis-ebook/dp/B005XDRDWW

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umberto_Cassuto

    With regard to Saphir’s and SLJ’s views on the (non)Jewishness of Luke, I’ve written more here. http://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/was-luke-of-the-new-testament-not-jewish-jut-because-his-greek-was-good/

  1. August 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm

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