The Inspiration of the Bible
Nobody just reads the Bible and says I think this book is inspired. It's not just a logical deduction. The Bible actually says this about itself in different places. Doesn't it seem natural that an inspired book would claim this about itself? The Old Testament takes this idea for granted since it continually describes dialogue between God and man. The New Testament 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 them that the content of what they would say would come from God. This counters the idea that the Bible is only "man" talking. The Bible doesn't say this about itself - so if it's only man then Jesus and the Apostles were liars.
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 verse speaks to "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. The idea of inspiration is that it is a miraculous thing and John records that the Holy Spirit made this miracle happen - like He did others.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
- II Timothy 3:16
All of the 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 that the Bible was never man's idea or written by his impulse or intelligence. God chose which men to write and selected what they would write.
So the Bible says that it is not just 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, "How does God inspire people to write the Bible?"
There are several theories about exactly "how" God moved men to write the Scriptures:
1. Dictation Theory
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 was given to him by God. The problem with this is that there are different styles and quality of writing between each author. For example:
- Isaiah is more poetic than Mark.
- Luke's Greek is more polished than Peter's.
If God dictated word per word, it would seem that each book would be equal in its composition, style and language.
2. Thought Theory
This theory proposes that God gave the general ideas and principles and the writers interpreted these in their own words. This theory says that it's the thought or general concept that's 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 doesn't do things halfway. He doesn't make mistakes in general principles or in details. An inspired work is perfect from beginning to end; in general as well as specifics.
3. Verbal Inspiration
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 what instrument you play it on - a harp or a kazoo. The reason that pictures of the same object look different depending on the materials you use to reproduce it.
- Oils - Pencils
- Water color - Photograph
- Crayons - Poem
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 a 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
Paul is talking about the inspiration process experienced by those who are 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 with their own conscious personalities; however, the mind, the ideas, the concepts, the commands, the details, the theology comes from God.
So when we say the Bible is inspired, here's 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 written comes from God.
- The ability to remember, to describe accurately, to include all information necessary was given by God to men through the Holy Spirit.
- The men who actually recorded and collected it wrote according to the language, education and style that they possessed as human beings.
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 the direction of believing that it is. The fact that the Bible itself says that it is an inspired book establishes the criteria by which we are to judge it.
In the meantime we are to continue encouraging men and women to be saved by the blood of Christ. If the message is inspired then we are foolish to ignore God's clear warnings that those who reject Christ, refuse to respond to Him in obedience by repentance and baptism are lost forever.
Those who have accepted the faith have come to believe more and more each day as they study and put the Bible into practice in their lives, that Scriptures are from God because they have come to know Him and love Him through His Spirit and inspired word.
Those who have disbelieved have succeeded in putting off Christ and Christian living - but no one in history has successfully refuted the claim that the Bible is God's word.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.
- Isaiah 40:8