My brief is to comment on the doctrinal and hermeneutical position advocated in Dr Packer's excellent article, from the point of view of its application to academic study of the New Testament. I shall focus particularly on his concluding section on inerrancy, because it is here that most of the practical problems arise for the conservative student engaging in New Testament exegesis. I shall take Dr Packer's article as read, and not stop to repeat points already made by him.
To turn from Dr Packer's article to the average Gospel commentary is to enter a different world, a world of alleged synoptic contradictions, misunderstandings, myths and legends, a world where 'Jesus said' means 'Here is a helpful thought', a world in which the scholar stands in judgment over the primitive views and historiographical incompetence of the Gospel writers. Coming from the warm security of an all-embracing doctrine of the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the evangelical student finds himself all at sea. Can he survive in these waters? Should he be here at all? And if he should be here, has he any hope of making a positive contribution to biblical studies, or is he ipso facto out of the game because he is a conser-
vative, and so will not play according to the accepted rules?
Let us take as our framework Dr Packer's statement of the exegetical demands of an evangelical hermeneutic: 'First, it binds us to continue using the grammatico-historical method; second, it obliges us to observe the principle of harmony.'
There can be no problems for the evangelical student in the commitment to rigorous exegesis to discover 'what the author really meant', and this will involve the fullest possible use of linguistic, literary, historical, archaeological and other data bearing on that author's environment. The natural meaning of the biblical writer's words in the light of all this comparative material must be the starting-point of any serious study, whether by a conservative or by a radical. And that is what grammatico-historical exegesis means.
In the nature of the case a large part of the comparative material adduced will itself be drawn from biblical literature. In study of the New Testament, the influence of the Old Testament is by far the most significant literary factor to be considered. Echoes of Old Testament language should always be taken seriously, and this conservative students have always been glad to do. So far there is no problem in principle.
But some conservative students are unnecessarily timid about admitting the possible influence of non-canonical writings on the New Testament writers. While it is a fact that clear references to non-canonical books are few in the New Testament, they are undoubtedly present. Jude, in his few verses, quotes explicitly from the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses, and makes clear use of the non-biblical tradition of the imprisonment of the fallen angels awaiting their final punishment, which holds a central place in much of the Enoch literature, and recurs frequently in other late Jewish writing. And anyone who has wrestled with the exegesis of 1 Peter 3:19-20 will have discovered (if he has done his job properly) that the same tradition is the basic prerequisite for understanding that passage, indeed that to try to interpret it without reference to the Book of Enoch is a recipe for chaos, making it a happy hunting-ground for extraneous ideas like purgatory and the harrowing of hell, to which it in fact gives no support. The passage is obscure to modern readers because we are not familiar with a body of tradition which was clearly common ground to Peter and his readers. Read it in the light of those traditions, and it yields a clear and very relevant meaning: the risen Christ is supreme even over those malignant spirits who, even in their imprisonment, are the focus of the world's rebellion against God (and who therefore were behind the persecution which threatened Peter's readers, which is the subject of the wider context of these verses).
Why then do some evangelicals find the New Testament writers' use of non-canonical literature embarrassing? There is no suggestion that this confers canonical status on the book concerned, any more than when Paul quotes from the pagan poets Menander, Aratus and Epimenides (1 Cor. 15:33; Acts 17:28; Tit. 1:12), or when we quote anything from Calvin's Institutes to Winnie the Pooh in the course of a sermon. Grammatico-historical exegesis demands that we allow the biblical writers to speak to us out of their own environment, and that environment includes more than just the Bible itself. It is our business to discover the concepts and traditions which were common ground between the biblical writers and their original readers, but which may be lost or little known to us. Sometimes, as in the case of 'baptism for the dead' in 1 Corinthians 15:29, the clues may have disappeared, and we can only guess. But when the clues are there in Enoch and Jubilees and the Testaments of the Patriarchs, surely there can be no doctrinal problem about using them to the full, thankful that we have these aids to a fuller understanding of what God led Peter to write for our instruction.
But there is also a need for caution here. A New Testament writer's thought is not confined to the background from which he wrote. Peter does not simply echo the tradition of the fallen angels, but uses it and transforms it into a vehicle for pro claiming the victory of Christ. It is the context in his own writing which is the key to his meaning, once the concepts he uses have been identified. Here the principle of harmony comes into play: we may not so interpret one passage that it makes the author contradict himself, or breaks the flow of his thought. Our primary datum is the New Testament context; the elucidation of the cultural and historical background should illuminate the terms and concepts employed, but can never alone determine the exegesis of the passage.
Take Paul's reference to the 'rock that followed them' (1 Cor. 10:4). A study of this theme in Jewish literature will soon uncover a fascinating body of tradition about this rock, or rather 'rock-
shaped well, like a kind of beehive', which rolled along with the Israelites as they wandered through the desert, providing them with water to drink, irrigating the ground, and on one occasion taking the offensive against their enemies by flooding the Arnon canyon to drown them, and coming rolling up out of the valley carrying 'skulls, arms and legs innumerable', until eventually it rolled into the Lake of Galilee, where it may still be seen under the water, 'the size of an oven'. Clearly Paul was familiar at least with the idea of a mobile rock/well, even if not with the bizarre details of the later midrash, and found in this ever-present source of supply and help an apt illustration of Christ. Whether he regarded the tradition as historical fact is debatable, but he cited it not for its historical value, but for its spiritual significance: pneumatikës here probably indicates that he interpreted the tradition typologically. To try to confine Paul's thought to the traditional material from which he drew his illustration would be to do violence to his expressed intention in making the allusion. It is referred to not for itself, but for its illustrative value; the focus of his thought is Christ.
Grammatico-historical exegesis demands, then, that we discover all we can of the background to the expressions and concepts used by the New Testament writers, but forbids us to interpret them as merely echoing the ideas of their non-Christian contemporaries. They are using these non-Christian ideas as vehicles to express a radically new message, and it is in the light of this new proclamation that their use of contemporary language must be interpreted. In this process, there is no doctrinal stumbling-block for the evangelical. He, of all people, has the strongest incentive to get his exegesis right.
A question might be raised here about the evangelical insistence, mentioned by Dr Packer, that 'the Scriptures are clear, and interpret themselves from within'. Does not all this talk of Enoch and midrash put the true understanding of Scripture beyond the grasp of all but the specialist biblical scholar? Have we not been looking at passages of Scripture which are anything but clear to the ordinary Bible reader? In a sense this is true. It is the business of the biblical scholar to throw light on such difficult passages, and the whole church should be the wiser if he does his job well. Without his help the ordinary Christian, and indeed many a preacher, will continue to make mistakes in exegesis through lack of awareness of the cultural context of the biblical writer. But while a failure to understand I Peter 3:19-20, or an instinctive aversion to the non-canonical allusions of Jude, may rob the Christian of some wholesome, even exciting, biblical teaching, it will not block his way to heaven. If the obscure passages of Scripture are viewed with a due sense of proportion, the sort of difficulties we have been considering are seen to be not sufficiently central to the message of Scripture to cause us to question the belief that 'God's people will always know enough to lead them to heaven, starting from where they are'.
This is a crucial part of grammatico-historical exegesis. Until we know what was the aim of the biblical writer in compiling a given passage, we are likely to misinterpret his meaning. It is as dangerous to interpret metaphorical language literally as it is to evaporate a historical narrative into symbolism. And the criteria for determining the writer's aim are not necessarily the exegetical conventions of our particular theological group, but a careful study of the writing itself in the light of the literary and historical conventions of the time. Not that the biblical writers need necessarily have been bound by the canons of Graeco-Roman historiography or of inter-testamental Jewish literature; but if we conclude that they have broken with the literary norms of their time, it must be on the evidence of their own writings, not of our twentieth-century conventions.
What was the point, for instance, of Matthew's passage about the coin in the fish's mouth (17:24-27)? To record a miracle of Jesus, most of us would answer. But look at the passage. No miracle is explicitly recorded as having actually happened. The passage is about Jesus' attitude to the payment of the temple tax, with the fish coming in incidentally at the end. An exegesis which regards this passage as primarily a miracle-story is wide of the mark; it is a discussion of a practical question of significance for the church in its relations with Judaism, and embodying principles of lasting importance for the Christian vis-a-vis the society to which he belongs. Whether the coin was found in the fish's mouth at all is debatable, for similar stories of treasure from a fish in both pagan and Jewish literature suggest that this was a popular story motif, to which Jesus may have been playfully alluding, rather than giving a solemn command.
It is not explicitly stated that Peter carried out the proposal. Our decision on this question (which is in any case peripheral to the main point of the passage) will be made not on the basis of a traditional exegesis, but on the estimate of Matthew's (and Jesus') sense of humour or sober literalism to which a study of the Gospel leads us. It is a literary, not a theological question, and our judgment here will not affect our view of the inerrancy of Scripture, as neither interpretation casts any doubt on what the passage actually says.
But the trouble begins when our literary judgments seem to lead us away from the literal meaning of the author's words. Here the question of inerrancy begins to arise. And it arises not primarily from the clashes between New Testament statements and external sources (as in the case of the Lucan census), but from apparent disagreements between the New Testament writers themselves. The student comes up against this difficulty most forcibly in the study of the Gospels, and here most of the problems arise in the area of chronology. Events are recorded in apparently chronological order, with connecting words like 'then' and 'immediately', and yet the order of those same events varies between the Gospels. Most scholars therefore conclude either that one or more of the evangelists has 'got it wrong', or that the order was not meant to be strictly chronological, despite the superficially chronological appearance of the narrative. The former conclusion is clearly incompatible with a belief in inerrancy; but is the latter any less objectionable?
This brings us back to the question of the writer's intention. And the question of what sort of arrangement a Gospel was intended to have is the proper province of grammatico-historical exegesis. It will be decided not by our modern canons of historiography, but by a study of the literary conventions of the time, and most important, by a study of the actual nature of the Gospels themselves and their relation with each other. If such a study leads us to the conclusion that the aim of the writer was to present his material in a logical order, to which strict chronology might on occasion take second place, so that 'then' need not always imply an exact chronological sequence, then there is no obvious ground for postulating 'error' in cases where the order of events differs between the Gospels.
A few examples will clarify the point.
To begin with a relatively simple case, Matthew and Luke record the three temptations of Jesus in a different order. Evangelicals have never had any difficulty in accepting that there is a literary or theological motive behind the variation in order, and few have found the 'chronological discrepancy' here a problem for a belief in inerrancy.
But where the evangelists differ over the order in which separate events occurred, the problem of inerrancy looms larger. Take the order of events after Jesus' entry to Jerusalem. Matthew apparently regards the cleansing of the temple as happening immediately on Jesus' arrival in the city, after which He went out to spend the night at Bethany (21:10-12, 17). Mark, however, tells us that the cleansing of the temple was the next day, after the night spent at Bethany (11:11-12, 15). So far there is no unharmonisable discrepancy: Matthew has omitted to mention a twenty-four hour delay which he did not consider significant; he does not actually say that the cleansing happened the same day. It is quite in character for Matthew to omit 'irrelevant' details which occur in Mark. But the situation is complicated by the fig-tree episode. According to Mark, Jesus cursed the tree on His way into the city after the night spent at Bethany and before the cleansing, but it was not discovered to have withered, and the lesson drawn out, until the next morning (11: 12-14, 20ff.); according to Matthew the cursing, the withering and the lessons drawn from them all occurred together on the morning after the cleansing (21:18ff.). A strict chronological harmonisation here seems impossible. Either it happened all at once, as Matthew's repeated parachrëma emphasises, or in two stages a day apart, as Mark unambiguously records it. Here it does not look as if Matthew is tidying up the narrative by recording a two-stage incident all in the same paragraph and passing over the day's delay in silence, as he did over the delay between the entry and the cleansing. He explicitly stresses the immediacy of the result of Jesus' curse, and the disciples' surprise at it. So here Matthew apparently subordinates strict chronological order to the homiletic aim of stressing the lesson of the fig-tree episode in terms of the dramatic effect of faith (or, of course, depending on your view of Synoptic origins, that Mark has for some unknown reason separated two stages of an event which in fact occurred all at once).
In this incident it is only a difference of twenty-four hours that is involved. Much more striking is the divergence between John and the Synoptic Gospels over the date of the cleansing of the temple. Here the whole length of Jesus' ministry separates the two dates. Again, as in the case above, the evangelical's instinct, rightly, is to try to harmonise the chronology. Did Jesus perhaps cleanse the temple twice? In principle there is no
objection to this suggestion, and many cases of 'duplicate narratives' are in fact best explained as accounts of originally separate but comparable incidents, which have naturally come to be told in increasingly similar words as the stories have been passed down. This is the best explanation, for instance, of the feedings of the 5,000 and the 4,000, or of the various anointing stories, or, probably, of the two miraculous catches of fish in such different historical circumstances. It is a poor historian, whether evangelical or not, who immediately accuses his sources of error and distortion, on the assumption that similar incidents do not happen, rather than weighing up what is the most realistic explanation of the accounts as they stand.
But some events are in the nature of the case not likely to be repeated, and the cleansing of the temple looks like one of these, a public dramatic gesture, a stark demonstration of Jesus' Messianic claim, after which His relations with the Jewish establishment could never be the same again. Nor does any of the evangelists hint that there was a second such incident; it is just that they locate it differently in the development of Jesus' ministry. Which is the more probable stage for it to occur is an open question, though I find it hard to envisage such a public and provocative demonstration right at the beginning of the ministry, when for most of His ministry Jesus was so reluctant to make an open claim to be the Messiah; to my mind it fits naturally with the equally public and irrevocable gesture of Jesus' donkeyride into Jerusalem, in the frame work of the final confrontation with the establishment. If so, it is hard to see any way of accounting for its place in John except by saying that he placed it at the beginning as a fitting declaration of who Jesus was (like the immediately preceding incident at Cana, in which Jesus 'manifested His glory'), rather than because it actually happened then; in other words, that in this instance chronological precision took second place to a thematic arrangement designed to effect John's declared purpose in writing, 'that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ'.
No doubt many refinements ought to be made to these very bald summaries of a few problem areas, but I hope enough has been said to illustrate the point that a study of the Gospel texts themselves indicates that chronology was not always the governing factor in the arrangement of the material. (I am not suggesting, of course, that they never arranged their material chronologically, and that all attempts to draw up a chronology of New Testament events are futile. Harmonisation must always be our first aim, in chronology as in other areas of discrepancy, and in very many cases it can be done quite satisfactorily. I am merely pointing out that there are some cases where it does not seem to work.) If that is so, then our understanding of inerrancy in this connection must surely be governed by the intention with which the Gospels were written. A non-chronological arrangement is only an 'error' where the aim was to present a strictly chronological account. We should not put to the biblical text questions it was not designed to answer, and then chide it for getting them wrong.
I am not suggesting that this is an 'Open Sesame' to all the problems of the Bible, even in the area of chronology alone. But our commitment to a rigorous application of the grammatico-historical method demands that we determine first what sort of writing we are dealing with, and what its author's aim was in composing it, and it will in fact be found that many of the 'errors' and 'discrepancies' which plague the conservative when he takes up critical study of the Bible are due to our arrogant attempt to impose our modern canons of historiography on the biblical writers, rather than listening to them in the context of their own cultural and literary conventions. In other words, many of the difficulties which make the evangelical student worry about the validity of the claim of inerrancy are in fact created by ourselves, by our failure to practise sufficiently carefully the grammatico-historical exegesis to which our evangelical hermeneutic itself binds us. Of course there will still be problems, to some of which there is no ready answer, but there is no need to multiply them by misdirected exegesis!
The examples already discussed have raised the question of harmonisation in different ways. What I have said about the last two examples might be taken to suggest a hostility to harmonisation as such, so let me repeat that even the secular historian, dealing with ancient (or even modern) sources, has a duty to look first for realistic ways of harmonising apparent discrepancies (including the possibility that his interpretation of the text was mistaken) before he considers the possibility that one or more of his sources may be either mistaken or deliberately misleading. Clearly the biblical scholar, if he regards the biblical texts as God-given, is all the more obliged to look for harmony, and should recoil instinctively from the suggestion that God's word is either mistaken or misleading. There is nothing obscurantist in this attitude; it is the necessary corollary of his dual commitment as a historian and as a Christian.
The proper indulgence of the harmonising instinct, however, must be controlled by at least two cautionary considerations.
(i) Harmony must be sought in terms of the biblical writer's intention, as determined by careful grammatico-historical exegesis. This is the point already sufficiently laboured above. It is perverse to look for a chronological harmony of accounts which were apparently not intended to be chronologically organised, or to look for a literal agreement of figurative language. We should be sure that the discrepancy is real, not the product of shallow exegesis, before we start to harmonise.
(ii) We must beware of such an exclusive concern for harmonisation that we fail to notice the distinctive emphases of the biblical writers.
For example, did the centurion send his Jewish friends to ask Jesus to heal his servant (so Lk. 7:1-10), or did he come himself (so Mt. 8:5-13)? A classic way of harmonising here is that represented by J. N. Geldenhuys' commentary on Luke: both are true, in that first he sent his friends, then he came himself; Luke has recorded the first scene, and Matthew the second. Presumably if this method is pushed to its logical conclusion the whole dialogue was repeated practically verbatim. But apart from this improbability, the method introduces a new problem, by making a man declare that he is unworthy to approach Jesus in person, only to do just that immediately afterwards. Is this the most realistic way to explain the two accounts? Does Luke's narrative really read as if he could envisage the centurion meeting Jesus in person?
A more careful exegesis of the two accounts reveals that each has a rather different purpose in presenting the story. Matthew lays the emphasis heavily on the faith of the centurion, and the significance of such faith in a Gentile. Luke, while also stressing the man's faith, is more interested in his character, particularly his humility, than in his nationality. Here is a more promising explanation of the discrepancy about the friends. To Luke their presence is important in emphasising the centurion's humility and diffidence; to Matthew they are irrelevant, even, by their being Jewish, diverting attention from the main point of the story, the response of the Gentile to Jesus. So Matthew has done what he often does elsewhere (as mentioned above): he has left out a detail irrelevant to his purpose, in order to concentrate on what was for him the main point of the story. This is no ground for accusing Matthew of falsification or error in suggesting that the two met face to face; his omission of the means of the centurion's approach to Jesus is a valid literary device to highlight the message of the incident as he sees it (on the principle, common in biblical and contemporary literature, that a messenger or servant represents the one who sent him to the point of virtual identity).
A too hasty, mechanical harmonisation in this case would run the risk of missing the whole point of the incident, by ignoring the distinctive theological contribution of the two evangelists in their recording of it. Unless we believe that the evangelists were mere mindless collectors of stories and sayings, we must beware lest an exclusive desire for harmonisation robs us of the very messages which they wrote their Gospels to put across. If God has given us a story in two different forms, each with a special theological emphasis, it ill becomes us to try to reduce them to a common denominator. Besides, this example reminds us that a proper attention to the writers' purpose will sometimes direct us to a much more plausible harmonisation than a mechanical fitting together of the component parts is likely to produce.
Similar principles apply to the differing form in which the Gospels record the sayings of Jesus. Here, as in the case of 'duplicate narratives' mentioned above, it is often the most realistic explanation that Jesus said similar things on more than one occasion; there is nothing improbable in such a supposition, as anyone who does much public speaking knows from his own experience. I find it very hard, for instance, to believe that the blessings and woes of Luke 6:20-26 and the beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12 are variants of one original discourse, nor can I see any reason why they should be thought to be so. The desire to make them say the same thing is perhaps one of the reasons why we are not faced as often as we should be by the stark anti-materialism of the Lucan passage; it is spiritualised into poverty 'in spirit', and the whole uncomfortable point is conveniently lost. Jesus said 'you poor', and there is no reason in context to doubt that He meant what He said. To harmonise what was originally distinct is in this case disastrous.
On the other hand, it is clear to anyone who has made even a little use of a Gospel synopsis that the evangelists, for all their undoubted concern to preserve the content of Jesus' sayings intact, were quite prepared to vary the wording of a saying they had received in order to emphasise the message which they found in it, and that thus
varying forms of the same saying do occur. Whether a particular variation is to be explained as reflecting separate original sayings, or adaptation of the wording of one original saying by the evangelists or those from whom they received the tradition, cannot be decided by rule of thumb. Either is entirely possible, and only careful exegesis can decide which is the more probable explanation in any given case.
But even where the latter explanation is adopted, we should not regard the difference in wording as an 'error', nor need the evangelical be embarrassed by it. As Leon Morris has written, 'We must not impose an inerrancy of our own making on the Bible, but rather accept the kind of inerrancy that it teaches. And this is an inerrancy which is compatible with variant reports of the words used on a given occasion. The evangelical's belief in the inspiration of the writings will assure him that the different wording is not a mistake, but is intended to bring out a different facet of the message of Jesus. The principle of harmony forbids us to interpret one version of a saying as contradicting another, but it in no way inhibits us from exploring the different nuances which the evangelists bring out. Indeed the evangelical, with his doctrine of inspiration, should be in the forefront of those who try by a careful study of the wording of a Gospel to bring out the particular emphases of each inspired writer. In other words, he has every reason to welcome redaction-criticism as an exegetical tool, however much he may deplore the critical assumptions which have motivated some of its best-known practitioners.
So harmonisation must not be sought mechanically, in such a way as to obscure the different emphases of the biblical writers. But this is really no more than to say that harmonisation must be sought under the guidance of grammatico-historical exegesis, and not in defiance of it. The two methodological commitments isolated by Dr Packer as involved in an evangelical hermeneutic are not in conflict with each other, but are complementary. And they are the principles which should guide any careful historian in his approach to ancient sources. The difference for the evangelical is that he is committed to the most patient and exacting application of these principles, and will not lightly give up and admit defeat in his search for a real harmony in that which God has caused to be written.
To return, then, to our original question: does the evangelical's commitment to a high view of Scripture, which entails inerrancy, automatically exclude him from the use of the critical methods which are the rules of the game of academic biblical study? In fact just the opposite is the case: he has, if anything, a stronger incentive than any one else to work hard and critically at his exegesis, for he believes that what he is interpreting is the word of God, and therefore should spare no pains in discovering what it really means. If anyone is obliged to practise the most rigorous grammatico-historical exegesis, without taking short cuts or fudging the issue, it is the evangelical. His doctrinal position obliges him to do the very thing the pundits demand, to study the text of Scripture critically in the light of all available knowledge relevant to it. He can, and should, have a real positive contribution to make to responsible exegesis, which is what academic biblical study is, or should be, all about.
In the process he will find that he will come into confrontation with many fanciful theories and sceptical presuppositions which he is unable to accept. If his study is sufficiently thorough, it will provide him with ample reason to question, on solid academic grounds, the validity of many commonly held positions. He will soon come to suspect that if anyone is not playing according to the rules it is not necessarily he, but those scholars, often widely respected, who covertly import into the study of the Bible modern anti-supernatural presuppositions, and evolve blinkered critical procedures which make New Testament studies the laughing-stock of scholars working in related historical and literary disciplines. If his involvement in academic biblical study enables him to restore some critical sanity to an ingrown discipline, be will deserve the thanks of all serious students of the Bible, evangelical or not.
In biblical studies, as in so many areas of study (and of life), it is the half-hearted who get hurt. The evangelical scholar who is not afraid to get fully involved with critical study of the Bible is soon in a position to see that it is not the rules of the game which discourage an evangelical commitment, but a one-sided interpretation of the rules, which he has every right to challenge, on the basis of the grammatico-historical method itself. The rules need to be properly observed, but it is the players, not the spectators, who are likely to be in a position to enforce them.
 This exegesis is worked out in detail in my contribution to the forthcoming symposium on New Testament Interpretation, ed. I. Howard Marshall.
 Midrash Rabbah on Numbers 1:2; 19:25-26. The tradition is found earlier in a less elaborate rorm in the Targums (both Onkelos and the Palestinian Targums), in Pseudo-Philo. and in the Tosefta.
 Herodotus III. 41-42 (the ring of Polycrates); Shabbath 119a; Genesis Rabbab 11:4, as cited by Strack-Bitlerbeck I, 614 (cf. Pesikta Rabbati 23:6).
 London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1950.
 For a detailed exegesis of this passage see again my contribution to the forthcoming symposium on New Testament Interpretation, ed. I. Howard Marshall.
 This subject is discussed at length in my article on 'The Authenticity of the Sayings of Jesus' in History, criticism and Faith, ed. C. Brown, forthcoming from Inter-Varsity Press.
 The Churchman, 81 (1967), 36. The quotation is from a useful article on 'Biblical Authority and the Concept of Inerrancy' which followed Dr. Packer's article reprinted above.