The Doctrine of Inspiration - Part 3
So far we have covered several areas related to the history of the making of the Bible. These include:
- The history of writing itself. This topic is important because it proves the existence of writing in Old Testament times.
- The history of book making. The three significant advances in this area that included the codex form, the printing press and the internet.
- How the Old Testament was formed. This history is significant because it is what Jesus and the Apostles used to state their case concerning the Messiah and His coming (Acts 18:28).
- Finally, how the New Testament books were collected and organized, and what criteria was used to determine which books would be included in the accepted canon. We also looked at the translation of the New Testament into various languages over the centuries and how these were made.
By the year 367 AD the entire Bible, as it now is organized, was accepted as the authoritative Word of God. No additions or changes have been made since then, and whether people agree or not on the contents, there is no disagreement (except for Muslims, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses who say the Bible was corrupted, and that they have a new revelation) that the 66 books contained in this volume make up the Bible and has done so for about 1600 years.
Our last question is this, "Why do we believe that this book is inspired by God?" We believe and can show that it is an old book and a book recorded by certain people, but how do we know that it is a book given to us by God Himself? There are six different "proofs" that indicate that this book is inspired.
The Bible Claims to be Inspired
The Old Testament takes this idea of divine inspiration for granted since it continually describes dialogue between God and man. The New Testament, however, states the idea in different ways:
19But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
- Matthew 10:19-20
Jesus told His Apostles that the content of what they would say would come from God. This counters the idea that the Bible is simply the product of human thought.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
- John 14:26
This passage speaks to the "how" the Apostles spoke from God: they were directed by the Holy Spirit. The Apostles recorded the teachings and actions of Jesus over a three-year period without error or contradiction; this was done with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Inspiration is a miraculous thing and John records that the Holy Spirit is the One that made this miracle happen, like He did for other miracles.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
- II Timothy 3:16
Paul, the Apostle, says that all of scripture is inspired. Some try to eliminate the creation account in Genesis or the accounts of miracles because of modern scientific skepticism, but the Bible says that it is fully inspired, not partially so.
20But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
- II Peter 1:20-21
The Bible says of itself that its writing was never man's idea or written by his impulses or intelligence. God chose which men to write and selected what they would write.
The Bible says that it is not only a book about religion written by pious men, but the very communication between God and man. A person can choose not to believe that the Bible is inspired, but no one can deny that this is what the Bible says about itself.
When considering the idea of inspiration, the question is often asked, "How did God inspire people to write the Bible?" There are several theories about exactly how God moved men to write the scriptures.
This theory says that God dictated, word for word, everything that is in the Bible. Man was unconscious of God's knowledge and simply wrote down the words exactly as they were given to him by God.
The problem with this idea is that there are different styles and qualities of writing among the various authors. For example, Isaiah is more poetic than Mark, and Luke's Greek is more polished than Peter's. If God dictated the Bible word per word, it would seem that each book would be equal in its composition, style and language.
This theory proposes that God provided the general ideas and principles, and the writers interpreted these in their own words. This theory says that it is the thought or the general concept that is important and if some things seem contradictory or difficult, the mistakes belong to the human writers.
Of course if we admit errors in the details (years, locations, events, etc.), how can we have confidence in the general concepts? God does not do things halfway. He does not make mistakes in general principles or in details. An inspired work is perfect from beginning to end in general as well as in specific details. It is hard to trust a work that acknowledges mistakes.
This theory says that God revealed the true knowledge to the patriarchs, prophets, Apostles and other Bible writers, and they wrote this information down under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The reason that each book has a different style and polish is the same reason that a particular song may have a different style and polish depending on what instrument it is played upon, a harp or a kazoo. The reason that pictures of the same object look different usually depends on the materials you use to reproduce it (oils, watercolors, crayons, pencil, photograph, poem, etc.).
This is why Peter, the rough fisherman from Galilee, writes a simple straightforward account of what happened to Jesus through his secretary Mark. This is why Luke or Paul, the educated men, weave intricate, detailed histories of their lives and teaching in a dozen letters.
11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
- I Corinthians 2:11-13
In this passage Paul is talking about the inspiration process experienced by those who were used by God to record His word.
The Holy Spirit guarded the Apostles and others from error, but allowed them to write in their own language, in their own style, and with their own conscious personalities. However, the mind, the ideas, the concepts, the commands, the details and the theology came from God.
When we say the Bible is inspired, here is what is meant:
- The purpose, ideas, knowledge, direction, commands, teachings and visions all come from God.
- The decision as to who would write what, when and where it was written came from God.
- The ability to remember, to describe accurately, to include all information necessary was given by God to men through the Holy Spirit in a miraculous way.
- The men who actually recorded the Bible wrote according to the language, education and style that they possessed as human beings in the era and place where they lived.
The Bible says that it is from God, but the fact that it claims this is not proof that it does. However, it is a first step that points us in that direction. The fact that the Bible itself says that it is an inspired book establishes the criteria by which we are to judge it.
The next set of proofs support this basic contention to a point where a person can look at the evidence and conclude that the Bible is indeed from God and not merely a human production.
- What does the New Testament state regarding its inspiration?
- Summarize the inspiration theories presented in the text and state what theory appeals to you most and why.
- How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?