Ancestry of the English Bible (I): Inspiration

Mike Willis
Mooresville, Indiana

In studying the history and ancestry of our English Bibles, no better place could be chosen to begin than with the subject of inspiration. Though the word "inspiration" has become virtually a "household word," very few of our members have accurate conceptions of the subject.

The necessity of inspiration was briefly stated by Jimmy Tuten in his booklet How Our New Testament Came to Us (p. 1). He stated that the Bible cannot be relied upon in its statements of facts if it is not inspired as it claims. If the Bible is not inspired, then its testimony bears no more authority than does my own personal philosophy. If all the Bible is not completely inspired, how can one differentiate between error and falsehood? Thus, the subject of inspiration is a vital battleground to our faith.

Inspired Men

A. Jesus promised inspiration. Notice the following passages:

"But when they deliver you up, be not anxious how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you" (Matt. 10: 19-20).

"Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate beforehand how to answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand or to gainsay (Lk. 21:14, 15).

"But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you ... Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things so ever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and be shall declare unto you the things that are to come" (John 14:26; 16:13).

". . . but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:5).

Notice the characteristics of the inspiration promised to these apostles:

1. Both the "how" and the "what" were promised. The "how" promised that the manner of speaking would be of divine origin, while the "what" promised that the thoughts and facts would come from above.

2. The writers were to "settle it in their hearts" not to be anxious what to speak since the Holy Spirit would speak through them.

3. The Holy Spirit would teach all things, bring to their remembrance all that Jesus said to them, and declare things to come.

4. So thoroughly were the apostles to be -under the control of the Holy Spirit, that the figure of speech "baptism" was used to describe the event.

B. Fulfillment of the promises of inspiration. When the day of Pentecost arrived (Acts 2), most, but not all, of the promises regarding inspiration began to he fulfilled. Peter did not write down an outline of what he would speak, but the Holy Spirit gave the information and the manner of speaking. New truth was revealed regarding remission of sins. Thus, the Holy Spirit began to guide in all truth. So completely were the apostles controlled by the Spirit, that none can doubt that their whole being was subject to the Holy Spirit, and thus they were meritorious of the figure of speech "baptism."

On other occasions when before kings and governors, the inspired men were not able to be withstood (see the case of Stephen-Acts 6:5-10).

This same influence which assisted the apostles and prophets orally was also with them when they sat down to pen the epistles and histories of the New Testament.

Passages on Inspiration

A. 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 - "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work."

The word translated "inspired of God" literally means "God-breathed." "What it says of scripture is, not that it is 'breathed into by God' or is the product of Divine 'in breathing' into its human authors, but that it is breathed out by God, 'God-breathed,' the product of the creative breath of God. In a word, what is declared by this fundamental passage is simply that the scriptures are a Divine product, without any indication of how God operated in producing them" (ISBE, Vol. III, p. 1474).

B. 2 Pet. 1:21 - "For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit."

The writers of the Old Testament spake from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. They were "moved" or "borne" by the Holy Spirit. "What is 'borne' is taken up by the 'bearer,' and conveyed by the 'bearer's' power, not its own, to the 'bearer's' goal, not its own. The men who spoke from God are here declared, therefore, to have been taken up by the Holy Spirit and brought by His power to the goal of His choosing. The things which they spoke under this operation of the Spirit were therefore His things, not theirs" QSBE, Vol. III, p. 1475).

C. I Cor. 2:1-16, especially v. 13 - "Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words."

Notice that the very words chosen by the authors were supplied by the Holy Spirit and not just the thoughts as many modernists assert.

With these concepts of the inspiration of our Bibles, we can understand why the Christians of Thessalonica received the epistles and vocal words "not as the word of men but, as it is in truth, the word of God" (I Thess. 2:13).

Thoughts about Inspiration

1. The writer did not lose his style and vocabulary just because he was inspired. The background of the writer greatly influenced his choice of words. Paul referred to his acquaintance with sports (I Cor. 9:24-27). Some writers (such as Paul) were more logically inclined while others were more emotional (Hosea and David). But all were inspired.

2. The writer was not omniscient. The Old Testament writers wrote things they could not understand (1 Pet. 1: 10-12).

3. The writer was not sinless (Peter as shown in Gal. 2:11-14). Though the writer's life was not perfect, his work of inspiration was perfect.

4. Inspiration does not vouch for the truthfulness of all statements which are quoted. The philosophy of Eliphaz (Job 4:7) was not inspired (from God), but it was recorded by inspiration. The statement which Satan used to seduce Eve to violate the will of God was not inspired (actually, it was a lie), though Moses recorded it by inspiration.

What Was Inspired?

The common conception of inspiration errs in answering the above question. No, the King James Version is not the inspired item. The autograph was inspired and it alone! By autograph, I mean the original writing from the hand of the inspired person. Let it be forever noted that though the King James Version is an excellent translation, it was not the object inspired. No translation is inspired or absolutely perfect. The original documents were inspired.

The rest of this series will tell how those inspired autographs have come down to us.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 14, pp. 9-11
February 11, 1971