INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE
There is no subject that is more significant and far-reaching than the subject of "The Inspiration of the Bible." If we reject the inspiration of the Bible we reject the Bible, because it claims to be inspired by God. If we reject the Bible we reject God and His Son. Rejection of the Bible is therefore a rejection of Christ and the salvation that He offers.
If the Bible is not inspired, we cannot know about the nature of God or how to live to please Him. If we reject the inspiration of the Bible, we cannot even know that God would have us live a certain way, or that there are rewards and punishments awaiting us, depending on how we live. There is no religious authority if the Bible is not God's inspired Word. Those who would rob men of their faith in the Bible as God's inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word, rob them of everything that is of essential value!
Our study will first define inspiration as used in the Bible, and then we will notice some false theories of inspiration and then the Bible doctrine of inspiration.
The word "inspiration" appears only two times in the Bible in the King James Version. Job 32:8 says, "But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." II Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"
In Job 32:8, "inspiration" is the rendering of a Hebrew word meaning "to breathe." In 2 Timothy 3:16 the translation "inspiration of God" comes from a compound Greek word that means "God-breathed," or "breathed out of God."
What does Paul mean when he says that the Bible is "God-breathed" or "breathed out of God?" Let the Bible answer this question. In II Peter 1:21 Peter states, "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 Spirit." The prophecy that Peter speaks of refers to the Old Testament scriptures. This prophecy did not come about by the will of man, that is, man did not originate it. How did it originate? Peter says, "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." Vine, in his Word Studies of the Greek New Testament, makes this comment about the word "moved."
We also need to consider that the word "moved" is a present passive participle. What this means is that the prophets were passive instruments in the hand of God, being directed in what they wrote by the Holy Spirit. Inspiration of the scriptures simply means that every word that is in the Bible originated with God. Not one word in the Bible was placed there by the will of man. It was placed there by God through men. God is the actual author of the Bible throughout all its parts, having made use of various men in various ages to write the message he wished to communicate to man. By this means, although fallible men were used as the instruments of writing, they were preserved from error in every respect in everything they wrote. Therefore the Bible is inerrant (free from error), it is infallible (faultless, perfect, unerring, certain, sure, reliable).
FALSE THEORIES OF INSPIRATION
theories are set forth by those who deny what the Bible teaches about its own
inspiration. All these theories, if accepted, will only result in a decrease of
respect for the Bible. And they will lead to a rejection of the Bible as the
authority in our lives.
Some have objected to this by saying that the different writers of the Bible had different styles and used words and expressions peculiar to themselves. If that is so, there is no problem. If God had the power to inspire men to communicate His word, He had the power to choose words and expressions that those men who He was using would have used if they had been the ones originating the words. God may have used words and expressions that the one through whom He was revealing His word would have used, but that does not discount the inspiration of God in any way.
2. The "Bible contains the Word of God." At first, this theory may sound innocent, for indeed, every Bible believer would say that the Bible contains the word of God. However, the aim of those who promote this theory is to deny that all of the Bible is God's Word. In saying that the Bible contains the Word of God, they leave room for it to contain something other than God's Word such as myths, fables, and various human errors. And we must ask if the Bible merely contains God's word along with myths, fables and human error, who is qualified to tell us which parts of the Bible are God's Word and which are the myths, fables, and human errors. And, of course, it is those unbelieving professors and preachers who push these false theories who claim this ability. However, this theory cannot be harmonized with Paul's statement in 2 Timothy 3:16 that says "All scripture is given by the inspiration of God." If all scripture is given by inspiration of God, then that doesn't leave any room for myths, fables, and human error. If all scripture is given by inspiration of God, then all of it is the Word of God! The Bible is not merely a bucket that some of the Word of God was poured in mixed along with errors, myths and such like. If this theory is to be believed, only fallible, biased, subjective men will decide what part of the Bible is God's word and what part is not. And when man takes such responsibility upon himself it is very tempting for him to choose only what he wants to obey and reject what he does not want to obey. For example, the drunkard may reject the Bible's teaching against drunkenness and say that it is not the inspired Word of God. Or the fornicator may reject passages condemning fornication and say that they are not inspired. I don't know about you, but I don't trust mere mortal man to tell me what is God's word and what is not. Jeremiah said in the long ago in Jeremiah 10:23 "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Man simply does not have the wisdom or understanding to make his own way, and that applies to his trying to determine what part of the Bible would be God's Word and what would not. It doesn't matter how many or what type of degrees a man has after his name, he is still not wise enough to tell us that some of the Bible is inspired and some is not and then choose which is which. All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God. It is ALL God's word. It does not merely contain God's Word, ALL of it is God's inspired word.
3. The "thought inspiration" theory. This theory states that God did not inspire the words of the Bible, but simply inspired or gave the thought to man and he wrote it down in his own words. No Bible believer would deny that the general thoughts and ideas in the Bible are inspired. But again, this theory, like the "Bible contains the Word of God" theory does not harmonize with clear statements like 2 Timothy 3:16 and many other passages. Paul said that ALL scripture is given by the inspiration of God. Not just "general thoughts or ideas," but ALL and that would include the very words of the Bible! Paul declares in I Corinthians 2:13, "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." Paul here teaches that when he spoke by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that he spoke in words. The Holy Spirit did not just give the thought and then allow Paul to express it in his own words. He gave him the very words! Paul did not speak in words that his own wisdom taught, but in words which the Holy Spirit taught. What statement could be plainer to those who would accept the Bible? Again, in Mark 13 beginning with verse 9 Jesus told the apostles, "But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit." Notice that Jesus told the apostles that they did not need to think beforehand about what they would speak when they were delivered up before councils, because the Holy Spirit would be the one speaking through them. When the apostles preached the gospel, they did not proclaim their own words, but it was the Holy Spirit speaking through them. This is verbal inspiration. The Bible does not teach "thought inspiration" rather it teaches word or verbal inspiration. The Holy Spirit gave the very words to the apostles.
4. "Partial inspiration." This theory came about because many self-proclaimed theologists do not believe the Bible to be in harmony with science, geography, history and other such subjects. In this view, only the "religious" teachings of the Bible can be attributed to inspiration. It is believed by so-called Theistic evolutionists because they believe that the theory of evolution is confirmed by facts (which of course, it is not) and that those "facts" are not in harmony with what the Bible teaches. Of course, this theory again ignores and denies the inflexible claim of 2 Timothy 3:16 that ALL Scripture, including its statements on every subject, is inspired of God.
There are other variations of these false theories of inspiration, but these are the most commonly believed. Every one of these theories denies the authority of the Scriptures and leads to a complete disrespect for the Bible. They come from self-proclaimed theologians who claim to be scholars as well as men of religion. As a result of these claims many, if not most, people accept them without question. Let us not be gullible enough to accept such theories and have our faith in the Bible undermined. And let us remember that all theories about inspiration that deny, ignore, or in any way contradict what the Bible teaches about itself must be rejected and exposed for the blasphemous doctrines that they are.
These theories were formulated by men because of a basic desire to go their own way. It amounts to their being able to accept what they want to accept and call that God's inspired Word, and to reject what they want to reject and say that they reject it because it is not inspired. The only thing we have as evidence for either their acceptance or rejection is their own subjective thoughts and feelings about the matter. All these false theories arose out of the various schools of Biblical criticism and were created to nullify and circumvent the Bible doctrine of plenary and verbal inspiration.
THE BIBLE DOCTRINE OF INSPIRATION
We have already given attention to the phrase "inspiration of God" in 2 Timothy 3:16. We defined this phrase to mean "God-breathed." We saw that this simply means that every word that is in the Bible was put in there by God. God revealed His word through men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, or as Peter said in 2 Peter 1: 21, who "were moved by the Holy Spirit."
But let us turn our attention to other key words in 2 Timothy 3:16. Notice Paul does not say, part of the scriptures were given by inspiration, neither does he say "some of," "much of," or "most of." But he uses the word ALL. This refers to every part, the whole, or entirety of that which constitutes "Scripture." Another key word in this passage is "Scripture." This word is used throughout the New Testament. In 2 Timothy 3:16 the word Scripture refers to every inspired word of God. Yes, it refers to the Old Testament, but it also refers to all of the New Testament. Did you know that the apostles knew they were writing inspired scripture when they wrote? How do we know? Second Peter 3:15 and 16. "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." Notice that Peter refers to Paul's writings as "scripture." The people he refers to here were wresting or twisting the writings of Paul as they also did the "other scriptures." Peter, by using the word "other," shows that he considered Paul's writings to be scripture. The idea that the men through whom God revealed the New Testament did not know they were writing inspired scripture is false and contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible. So, while the primary application of "inspiration of God" applies to the Old Testament, the very fact that the New Testament is scripture means that the phrase would equally apply to it.
Another passage that sets forth the doctrine of the inspiration of the scriptures is 2 Peter 1:19-21. "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 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 Spirit." Notice first the phrase "prophecy of the scripture" in verse 20. Prophecy sometimes included foretelling the future, but its most essential meaning is of one person speaking for another. To refer to "prophecy of the scripture" is to declare that it is a message whose messengers have spoken it not from and for themselves, but from and for another. And so this refers to the word of those teachers who spoke for God. Then notice the phrase "is of any private interpretation." The word "interpretation" according to Vine in his Word Studies Of The Greek New Testament, means "to loose, solve, explain, denotes a solution, explanation, it literally means a release" (Vine: page 268). What this means is that the writers of Scripture did not put their own construction upon the God-breathed words they wrote -- it was not a private explanation or releasing. No part of scripture came from within man nor from man's imagination, reasoning, or interpretation. All Scripture, rather than coming from men, came from God, who spoke through men. Notice the phrase "were moved by the Holy Spirit." These holy men of God spake as they were "moved," "carried" or "borne along" by the Holy Spirit. In this we have the explanation of the source of the "prophecy of scripture," and how fallible men could produce an infallible book!
Perhaps the plainest of all Scriptures on verbal inspiration is 1 Corinthians 2. Paul, in this context, is defending the gospel he preached, and in doing so, he teaches us how the gospel was revealed to him. I Corinthians 2:1 says, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God." What did Paul declare unto them? "The testimony of God. This refers to the word of God, the gospel. Look at verse 2, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." This again shows what Paul declared to them. It was the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Verses 3-5. "And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." Notice in verse 4 that Paul mentions "words." His speech and preaching was not with enticing "words" of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. This indicates verbal inspiration. Verses 6-9. "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known [it], they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Now, notice verse 10-13, "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 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 Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." Paul spoke wisdom among them, but not the wisdom of the world, it was the wisdom of God. It was a mystery because it had not yet been revealed. But God revealed it to them. How? "By His Spirit." This refers to the Holy Spirit. It refers to inspiration. Man cannot and could not know the things of God apart from His revealing them to him through the Spirit. But how did the Spirit reveal the things of God? He did it through the apostle Paul by speaking in the words which the Holy Spirit taught. This is verbal inspiration. The Holy Spirit revealed God's will through words given to the apostle Paul. That word we now have in the New Testament. Paul said in Ephesians 3:3-5, "How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;" Paul said the mystery was made known to him by revelation. And the revelation came to the apostles and prophets by the Spirit. It was the Spirit that revealed the mystery to Paul. And Paul said that when he wrote down the mystery in the few words that was revealed to him by the Spirit, then the Ephesians would understand his knowledge, or, in other words they would have the same knowledge that Paul had. Now the revelation was made known to Paul by the Spirit (directly), but it was made known to the Ephesians by "words" written to the Ephesians. That's how we come to a knowledge of God's will today. We read the words written by men who received revelation directly from the Holy Spirit. And when we read those words, we come to a knowledge of God's will. The Holy Spirit does not reveal God's will to us directly any more than He revealed God's will to the Ephesians concerning the mystery directly. We receive the revelation not like Paul did, but like the Ephesians did -- through reading God's written Word. And Paul and other inspired men received those words from the Holy Spirit. God did not just give them the thought or idea and then let them put it in their own words, but he gave them the very words.
APOSTLES KNEW THEY WERE
We have learned that the New Testament writers were conscious that their writings were not merely their own opinions, but the words and commands God gave them to deliver to the people. Paul was conscious of the authority of his letters and was not only conscious of their authority but of the source of that authority -- he was speaking for God, the Word of God. He knew that the word he spoke was not from man, but as he said in 1 Corinthians 2:13, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." He again stated to the Corinthians the authority behind his words: I Corinthians 14:37, "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." The things that the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians were not his own words, they were "the commandments of the Lord."
The same is affirmed in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." Notice, the message Paul preached (and wrote) was not the "word of men," but "in truth, the word of God." No wonder he did not hesitate to write passages like 2 Thessalonians 3:6 which says, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." Paul issued a firm command, but on the authority of Jesus Christ, not on his own authority. This shows that he realized that he was writing by inspiration and that the very words he wrote were inspired.
This same consciousness of authority and of Divine inspiration is clearly seen in Peter's statement in 2 Peter 3:2: "That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:" Peter here put the words of the apostles on equal footing, not only with the prophets of old, but with the words of the Lord. When Jude exhorted the brethren to ". . . Contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints," in Jude 3, he touched on at least three points relating to inspiration: One, "the faith" refers to the whole body of New Testament teaching, the Gospel, and it was not thought up nor invented by mere men. Rather, it was "delivered to the saints." Two, "the faith" was "once delivered to the saints." This means that once the body of scripture called "the faith" was completed, there would be no more. Like the Old Testament, "the faith" (the New Testament) would be confined only to those documents thus delivered. And three, "the faith" was to be defended and protected with great force. This was so because of its priceless worth due both to its origin and to its contents, not being produced by the saints, but being delivered to the saints by the Lord through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
There is one more passage we want to notice. At the end of the New Testament we find these words recorded in Revelation 22:18-19, "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." It's obvious that these words apply primarily to the book of Revelation itself, but who can deny that this principle must be true of all inspired scripture? This warning is a powerful and positive declaration that this book is not the message of man, but of God! Why else would such severe warnings be given not to tamper with a single word? Verbal inspiration is implied in this passage! Friends, all the books of the Bible are inspired of God, just as the book of Revelation is. They all, in one way or another, promise punishment to those who would dare tamper with a single word of the inspired text so as to change its teaching. Like the book of Revelation, the actual words of all the Bible were given by God and must be preserved unchanged throughout.
Not only does the New Testament claim verbal inspiration for itself, this is also true of the Old Testament. God told Isaiah in Isaiah 51:16, "And I have put my words in thy mouth." Jeremiah explained the source of his message like this: Jeremiah 1:9, "Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth." Likewise Ezekiel declared: Ezekiel 3:4, "And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them." Notice that God did not tell these men that He put His concepts or ideas or principles in their mouth. No, He put the very words in their mouth. That's verbal inspiration. These affirmations are representative of all of the 39 Old Testament books. The expressions such as, "Thus saith the Lord," occur in the Old Testament no less than 3,808 times. These all show that the words of the Old Testament did not originate with man but with God. In Hebrews 1:1 the writer affirms: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets..." God spoke by the prophets or through the prophets during the Old Testament age. And when He spoke he gave them the very words to write down.
JESUS' VIEW OF THE SCRIPTURES
What our Lord taught and believed about inspiration is critical. If He expressed doubt concerning the inspiration of the Old Testament scriptures or if He openly taught that they were a collection of uninspired documents which had evolved to their present state, and included myths, fables, historical errors and such like, we would be forced to sit up and take notice. In fact, if this were the case, we could not believe in Him without likewise rejecting the Old Testament claim of inspiration. Further, if He had known the Old Testament to be uninspired, but accommodated Himself to the belief of the day which held that the books were from God, He would Himself have been dishonest and a deceiver of others. Such a man could not be the Son of God. However, if He, as the sinless Son of God, always treated the Old Testament scriptures in all of its parts with reverence and respect, obeyed them Himself, and upheld their authority as the Word of God, then we cannot believe in Him without the fullest belief in the inspiration and authenticity of those Scriptures.
What did Jesus teach concerning the Old Testament Scriptures? We may summarize by saying that every word He spoke in reference to them was intended to credit them to God and to assign to them the authority of God. In the temptations of our Lord as recorded in Matthew 4, Jesus used the Old Testament Scriptures to defeat Satan. Three times Jesus appealed to the Old Testament Scriptures for authority. This shows Jesus' attitude toward the Old Testament Scriptures. He quotes from the book of Deuteronomy and by this shows His acceptance of it as an inspired book. In Mark 7:6 He quotes from Isaiah the prophet; in Luke 19:46 he quotes from Jeremiah. In all of these passages the implication is that which is written in these passages carries Divine and final authority.
Another significant statement of Christ concerning the Old Testament is found in the early part of the Sermon on the mount. In Matthew 5:17-19 Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Note that He identified the entire Old Testament by the phrase "Law and Prophets." Then concerning them, He said His purpose was not to destroy, but to fulfill them. This statement at the same time shows His love, respect, and even protective attitude toward them, and His acknowledgment that they contained predictive statements about Himself and His coming into the world. Further, He expressed His unrestrained confidence in every part of them, not only in every single word or letter, but even down to the parts of the individual letters in the words. A "jot" and "tittle" were parts of Hebrew letters. Further, He proclaimed the absolute authority of the Old Testament (until such a time as He would fulfill it) by pronouncing a curse upon anyone who would presume to break even the "least" of its commandments or teach others to do so, and a blessing on those who would do and teach them. This indicates that Jesus considered "the Law and the Prophets" as inspired of God.
Statements of our Lord could be multiplied which place absolute confidence in the Old Testament as being the very Word of God. But this is enough to show His attitude toward these scriptures. What all this shows is that both the Old and New Testaments are inspired of God, just as Paul stated in 2 Timothy 3:16, "ALL scripture is given by the inspiration of God." (See also, "The All-Sufficiency of the Bible")