Biblical Studies/Christianity/Christian Theology/Inspiration

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Inspiration establishes that the Bible is a divine product. In other words, Scripture is divinely inspired in that God actively worked through the process and had his hand in the outcome of what Scripture would say. Inspired Scripture is simply written revelation. "Scripture is not only man's word, but also, and equally God's word, spoken through man's lips or written with man's pen" (J.I. Packer, The Origin of the Bible, p. 31).

The term comes from Latin and English translations of the Greek word theopneustos in 2 Timothy 3:16. The KJV renders it "inspiration", while the RSV uses "inspired of God". However, the word literally means "God-breathed".

Important passages in the Bible[edit]

2 Peter 1:19-21 (ESV)

  • And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)

  • All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

Four things inspiration is not[edit]

1) The idea is not of mechanical dictation, or automatic writing, or any process which involved the suspending of the action of the human writer's mind. Such concepts of inspiration are found in the Talmud, Philo, and the Fathers, but not in the Bible. The divine direction and control under which the biblical authors wrote was not a physical or psychological force, and it did not detract from but rather heightened the freedom, spontaneity, and creativeness of their writing.

2) The fact that in inspiration God did not obliterate the personality, style, outlook, and cultural conditioning of his penmen does not mean that his control of them was imperfect, or that they inevitably distorted the truth they had been given to convey in the process of writing it down. B.B. Warfield gently mocks the notion that, when God wanted Paul's letters written,

He was reduced to the necessity of going down to earth and painfully scrutinizing the men He found there, seeking anxiously for the one who, on the whole, promised best for His purpose; and then violently forcing the material He wished expressed through him, against his natural bent, and with as little loss from his recalcitrant characteristics as possible. Of course, nothing of the sort took place. If God wished to give His people a series of letters like Paul's, He prepared a Paul to write them, and the Paul He brought to the task was a Paul who spontaneously would write just such letters (The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible). 3) Inspiredness is not a quality attaching to corruptions that intrude in the course of the transmission of the text, but only to the text as originally produced by the inspired writers. The acknowledgement of biblical inspiration thus makes more urgent the task of meticulous textual criticism, in order to eliminate such corruptions and ascertain what the original text was.

4) The inspiredness of the biblical writing is not to be equated with the inspiredness of great literature, not even when (as is often true) the biblical writing is in fact great literature. The biblical idea of inspiration relates not to the literary quality of what is written, but to its character as divine revelation in writing.

The above four points are taken from J.I. Packer's "The Origin of the Bible", p. 35-36