The Inspiration of the Bible
Temple Terrace, Florida
For centuries the book called the Bible has been in circulation. It has been translated into hundreds of tongues and dialects. It is read and studied, memorized and preached, discussed and debated, revered and despised. Regardless of one's personal evaluation of the Bible, it is here and continues to influence thousands of lives in lands far and near. How was this book produced?
The Bible is either the product of the intellect of man or else it came from God. If God had nothing to do with the origin of the Bible, it is strictly a human literary work. If the Bible reflects no greater wisdom than human ingenuity could devise, we must credit it to either good men or bad men. It is absolutely incredible that wicked men could invent a Being so infinitely pure and good as God, or truth so sublime as that which Jesus taught, or a book to exert such wholesome and transforming influence as the Bible wields. On the other hand, honest and good men would not write a work that is fraudulent and then trick innocent souls into thinking' that it is of divine origin. If how did it come?
The Bible Claims For Itself Divine Inspiration
Paul wrote to Timothy, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness . . . ." (2 Tim. 3:16). This passage(1) teaches that all scripture is God-breathed.
Peter wrote, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." The prophets did not speak or write out of their own impulse to give their human interpretation of things."For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1:20,21). This is an assertion that the prophets of old who wrote scripture were moved by God's Spirit, not their own wills. Speaking as moved by the Holy Spirit is inspiration.
The apostles claimed to speak and write under supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit. John testified that Jesus promised them that the Spirit would guide them into "all truth" (John 16:13). On Pentecost they spoke "as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4). Paul affirmed, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Cor. 2:12). Paul commended the Thessalonians for receiving the apostolic word "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God" (1 Thess. 2:13). The apostles taught both by word (orally) and by epistle (writing) (2 Thess. 2:15).
Legally, a man may testify in court in his own behalf. When we allow the Bible to speak for itself, it points to inspiration of God as its true origin.
Not wishing to bore the reader with technical theological definitions, I want to explain inspiration in three simple steps. Please study these three points carefully!
1. God is the cause of inspiration. No prophecy of the scripture "came from private interpretation" (2 Pet. 1:20, H. T. Anderson's translation). "In other words, God moved and the prophet mouthed these truths; God revealed and man recorded His word."(2) Similarly, God gave the Spirit to Christ's apostles that they might know His mind. God is the prime mover in inspiration.
2. Men of God are the agents, of inspiration. God spoke .to the fathers by the prophets (Heb. 1:1); "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1:21). God spoke by means of men. He spoke to the prophets and through the prophets. David said, for example, "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue" (2 Sam. 23:2). Jeremiah wrote, "And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth" (Jer. 1:9).
3. God's word in human language is the result of inspiration. The total process of inspiration includes both the speaker and his speech, the writer and his writings. When the prophets and apostles spoke or wrote as inspired of God, the word of God was produced in human language. When the Hebrew writer quoted from Psa. 95:7,8, he credited the quotation to the Holy Spirit (Heb. 3:7,8). What the apostles taught by inspiration was labeled "the word of God" (Acts 4:31). Since all scripture is given by inspiration of God, the Bible is the word of God.
God caused inspiration, holy men of God were the agents of inspiration, and the word of God in human language is the product of inspiration.
Extent of Inspiration
Some people think the Bible contains the word of God, but they flatly reject certain parts of it. This view invariably takes away the authority of the Bible and exalts human wisdom. It denies that all scripture is inspired of God and makes the mind of man the final court of appeal. Man sits in judgment on the Bible to accept the part that he wants and to reject the remainder as myth.
It is a popular view that the Spirit inspired the thoughts but not the words of the holy men who penned scripture. As one preacher put it, "Some people say they believe the Bible is inspired in the sense, but not in the sentence. . ."(3) Such a view leaves us with a serious problem. Since words are the vehicles that convey thoughts, if God did no more in inspiration than to give the thoughts, how do we know that the men who received those thoughts selected the right words to convey them? "Words are the clothes of concepts, and 'naked notions' are nonentities when one is giving ex pression to his thoughts."(4)
Paul made it clear that the Holy Spirit taught the words that he and the other apostles used. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor. 2:12, 13). Jesus told the apostles not to be anxious how or what they would speak, "for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you" (Matt. 10:20).
The Holy Spirit exercised miraculous influence over both the words and the thoughts of the writers of the Bible. The God-breathed words fully expressed the thoughts which God wanted to convey to the mind of man. He chose words to fit the personality(5) and style of each writer-words in the language and according to the culture of the people to whom His will was being revealed. Inspiration did not exclude factual information. Paul quoted a heathen poet (Acts 17:28). Luke had investigated before writing (Lk. 1:1-3). Inspiration did not exclude personal references. Paul often sent his warm personal regards to his brethren through his epistles. And inspiration did not exclude different literary approaches-some books of the Bible are historical, some poetical, some biographical, etc.
Importance of Inspiration
Certain questions about the mode of inspiration may remain unanswered, but one thing is certain-the Holy Spirit inspired holy men to convey in words intelligible to man the will of God. It is because the Bible is a God-breathed book that it is authoritative and inerrant. Its divine inspiration puts the Bible in a unique position; there is no other book comparable to it in all the world
Man's whole attitude toward the Bible turns on whether or not he accepts its divine inspiration. The true Christian molds his life by the scriptures because of his strong belief that the scriptures are in fact the word of God.
Truth Magazine XXI: 30, pp. 467-469
1. The following translations agree with the KJV rendition rather than the ASV: Anderson, Moffatt, Riverside N.T., Goodspped, Centenary N.T., Charles B. Williams, Knox, Wuest, Phillips, Beck, Jerusalem Bible, Young, Berry's Interliner, Hendricksen, Amplified N.T., RSV, NASB. "Scripture is given by inspiration," not "Scripture inspired of God is" etc. "Scripture" is used in technical sense of "Holy Writings" - a specific body of writings.
2. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), p. 28.
3. Foy E. Wallace, Jr., God's Prophetic Word (Lufkin: Roy E. Cogdill Pub. Co., 1946), p. 4.
4. Geisler and Nix, op cit., pp. 45, 46.
5. The Spirit . . . did not suppress the personality of the human writer, but raised it to a higher level of activity (John 14:26)." William Hendricksen, N.T. Commentary, I & II Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976, p. 302)