It is a most happy coincidence that the celebration of Karl Barth’s seventieth birthday should have seen the completion of the translation of the second part of Volume I of his Dogmatics. The English-speaking world has had to wait almost twenty years for this continuation of the series, although it is hoped that the other volumes on the doctrines of God, Creation, Reconciliation and Redemption can now follow in fairly regular sequence. But the importance of the initial volume has not diminished, for it is here in his Prolegomena that Barth lays the foundation with his doctrine of the Word of God. In particular, the second part volume treats in some detail of Holy Scripture, and contains a full and balanced statement of Barth’s maturer doctrine of the Bible. It is with this specific topic that we are to deal in the present discussion.

Setting of Barth’s Exposition

First, we must note the general setting of Barth’s doctrine of Scripture within his general treatment of the divine Word. It follows the long chapter on the revelation of God as a work of the Trinity, and precedes a concluding chapter on the proclamation of the Church. In other words, as the Word written, Scripture is preceded by the Word revealed and followed by the Word preached. The chapter on Scripture (I, 2, pp. 457–695 E.T.) is itself divided into three main sections, each of which has two sub-sections. The doctrine of inspiration is handled in the first section, “The Word of God for the Church,” under the more detailed headings “Scripture as a Witness to divine Revelation” and “Scripture as the Word of God.” The other sections are devoted to questions of authority and freedom, and although they ...

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