|Posted on August 19, 2013 at 1:35 PM|
Subject: Is the Bible the Inspired Word of God?
In contrast to the pagan idols gods who have “mouths, but cannot speak” Ps.115:5; “whose devotees cry to them, but they cannot answer” (Is.46:7), the God of the Bible communicates with His people through words also. The very nature of God involves self-expression through speech.” By His special Revelation, thanks to His grace, He gave us the Bible, which is “His Word.” However, objections have raised on whether the Bible is the inspired Word of God of not. If it is the Word of God, what about Satan’s quotations in Gen.3? What about 1 Cor.7: 12 where apostle Paul said: “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord…” Even some Christians are in confusion with regard to the doctrine of the Inspiration of The Bible. A look at some evidences will help us to see in what way the Bible is inspired.
Before the middle of the 19th century, the church was unanimous in its view of inspiration: God gave the actual words of Scripture to its human authors so as to perpetuate unerringly his special self-disclosure. The human author served as God’s instrument, and His tongue was, in words of the psalmist (45:1) which were frequently applied in this sense, ‘the pen of a ready writer’. It goes without saying that the fathers envisaged the whole of the Bible as inspired. It was not a collection of disparate segments, some of divine origin and others of merely human fabrication. At the end of the first century, Clement of Rome wrote to the Corinthian believers with reference to Paul first letter: “To be sure, under the Spirit guidance, he wrote to you about himself and Cephas and Apollos.” Introducing portions of Psalms, Clement said, “For this is how Christ addresses us through the Holy Spirit.” Early in the second century, Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, referred to the Scriptures as “the oracles of the Lord.” Second- century apologist Justin Martyr called the Bible “The very language of God.” He said: “The Prophets are inspired by no other than the Divine Word.” Irenaeus (around 140-202), who has been called “the greatest of all the Christian writers and scholars of the second century,” strongly affirmed the inspiration and authority of the Bible, which he called “The Lord’s Scriptures.” In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa said it was “The voice of the Holy Spirit.” This attitude was fairly widespread, and although some of the fathers elaborated it more than others, their general view was that Scripture was not only exempt from error but contained nothing that was superfluous. ‘There is not one jot or tittle’, declared Origen, ‘written in the Bible which does not accomplish its special work for those capable of using it.’ In similar vein Jerome stated that ‘in the divine Scriptures every word, syllable, accent and point is packed with meaning’; those who slighted the commonplace contents of Philemon were simply failing, through ignorance, to appreciate the power and wisdom they concealed. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Protestant reformers echoed those assertions. However, in the second half of the nineteenth century the pervasiveness of evolutionary ideas and the rise of “higher criticism” in biblical studies led certain theologians to question the historic concept of verbal inspiration. From that point many false theories of inspiration were developed:
Natural Inspiration. This view teaches that there is nothing supernatural about biblical inspiration; the writers of Scripture were simply men of unusual ability who wrote the books of the Bible in the same way that an individual would write any book. The writers were men of unusual religious insight, writing on religious subjects in the same way men like Shakepeare or Schiller wrote literature.
(Objection: It would make the Scripture solely a human product, subject to error).
Universal or mystical inspiration which holds that the Bible writers were inspired in the same way, although to a fuller degree, as Holy Spirit-filled people today are inspired to prepare a message or to preach a sermon.
(This theory would make the Scriptures subject to human limitation and error).
Inspired concept inspiration. This view suggests that only the concepts or ideas of the writers are inspired but not the words. In this view God gave an idea or concept to the writer who then penned the idea in his own words. According to this view there can be errors in Scripture because the choice of words is left to the writer and is not superintended by God. In response, however, it is noted that Jesus (Matthew 5:18) and Paul (1 Thess.2:13) both affirmed verbal inspiration. Pache rightly concludes, “ideas can be conceived of and transmitted only by means of words. If the thought communicated to man is divine and of the nature of a revelation, the form in which it is expressed is of prime significance, it is impossible to dissociate the one from the other.”
Variable inspiration which says that some parts of the Bible are more inspired than other inspired parts and that there are parts of the Bible that are not inspired at all.
(Divine inspiration does not admit degrees; it is absolute—either a text is inspired or it is not).
The dictation theory which holds that every word of Scripture was dictated by God and that the Bible writers recorded these words as a stenographer would do.
(The authors were not mere automatons. In the Greek manuscript there is a big difference in style between the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Luke. John wrote in a simple style with a limited vocabulary whereas Luke wrote with an expanded vocabulary and a more sophisticated style. If the dictation theory were true, the style of the books of the Bible should be uniform.)
Spiritual Illumination. The illumination view suggests that some Christians may have spiritual insight that although similar to other Christians is greater in degree. In this view any devout Christian, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, can be the author of inspired Scripture. Adherents to this view suggest it is not the writings that are inspired, rather it is the writers who are inspired. Schleiermacher taught this view on the continent Coleridge propounded it in England.’
Partial or Dynamic Inspiration. The partial inspiration theory teaches that the parts of the Bible related to matters of faith and practice are inspired whereas matters related to history, science, chronology, or other non-faith matters may be in error.
Neo-orthodox opinion. The neo-orthodox view emphasizes that the Bible is not to be exactly equated with the Word of God because God does not speak in mere propositions. God does not reveal mere facts about Himself; He reveals Himself. The Bible is not the substance of the Word of God, but rather the witness to the Word of God. it becomes the Word of God as the reader encounters Christ in his own subjective experience. Moreover, the Bible is enshrouded in myth necessitating a demythologizing of the Bible to discover what actually took place. The historicity of the events is unimportant. For example, whether or not Christ actually rose from the dead in time and space is unimportant to the neo-orthodox adherent. The important thing is the experiential encounter that is possible even though the Bible is tainted with factual errors. In this view the authority is the subjective experience of the individual rather than the Scriptures themselves.
(The Bible is the objective and authoritative Word of God whether or not a person responds to it. (John 8:47; 12:48).
In my view none of these theories is right. It is important to note that inspiration is the way in which God gave His Word to us through human authors, but we need to admit that how He did it is a matter not fully understood. We accept the inspiration of the Bible just as a fact, because the Bible is the Word of God, and God cannot err.
Inspiration may be defined as the Holy Spirit’s superintending over the writers so that while writing according to their own styles and personalities, the result was God’s Word written—authoritative, trustworthy, and free from error in the error in the original autographs.
Some definitions by prominent evangelical theologians are as follows.
Benjamin B. Warfield: “Inspiration is, therefore, usually defined as a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given divine trustworthiness.”
Edward J. Young: “Inspiration is a superintendence of God the Holy Spirit over the writers of the Scriptures, as a result of which these Scriptures possess Divine authority and trustworthiness and, possessing such Divine authority and trustworthiness, are free from error.”
Charles C. Ryrie: “Inspiration is…God’s superintendence of the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs.”
There are several important elements that belong in a proper definition of inspiration: (1) the divine element—God the Holy Spirit superintended the writers, ensuring the accuracy of the writing; (2) the human element—human authors wrote according to their individual styles and personalities; (3) the result of the divine-human authorship is the recording of God’s truth without error; (4) inspiration relates to the original manuscripts.
‘Article VI’ from the nineteen articles of the Chicago Statement on biblical inerrancy, reads as follow: ‘We affirm that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration. We deny that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.’
What does the Bible say about Itself?
The presupposition that God’s will is made known in the form of valid truths is central to the authority of the Bible. For evangelical orthodoxy, if God’s revelation to chosen prophets and apostles is to be considered meaningful and true, it must be given not merely in isolated concepts capable of diverse meanings, but in sentences or propositions. A proposition—that is, a subject, predicate, and connecting verb --constitutes the minimal logical unit of intelligible communication. The Old Testament prophetic formula “thus saith the Lord” characteristically introduced propositionally disclosed truth. Jesus Christ employed the distinctive formula “But I say unto you” to introduce logically formed sentences that He represented as the veritable Word or doctrine of God.
The Bible is authoritative because it is divinely authorized; in its own terms, “all scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3: 16). According to this passage, the whole Old Testament (or any element of it) is divinely inspired. Extension of the same claim to the New Testament is not expressly stated, though it is more than merely implied. The New Testament contains indications that its content was to be viewed, and was in fact viewed, as no less authoritative than the Old Testament. Paul’s writings are catalogued with “other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15—16). Under the heading of Scripture, I Timothy 5:18 cites Luke 10:7 alongside Deuteronomy 25:4 (cf. 1 Corin-thians 9:9). The book of Revelation, moreover, claims divine origin (1:1-3) and employs the term prophecy in the Old Testament meaning (22:9-10, 18). The apostles did not distinguish their spoken and written teaching, but expressly declared their inspired proclamation to be the Word of God (1 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
How Did Christ View the Scriptures?
For Jesus the authority of the Scriptures rested on His conviction that God was their ultimate Author, even though human authors were involved. Responding to a question related to mar¬riage and divorce, Jesus quoted words that were written by the author of Genesis. But these words were ultimately God’s words, for Jesus stated, “He who created them. . . said” (Matt.19:4-5).
Several times Jesus referred to Scripture as the product of prophecy, which the Old Testa¬ment stated was God’s speech through human instruments. For example, in Mark 7:6 Jesus introduced His quotation of Isaiah 29:13 by saying, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy?’ The “abom¬ination of desolation,” Jesus said, was “spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (Matt. 24:15). That is, Daniel was the means through whom God spoke this prophecy. Often Jesus simply introduced quotations from Scripture with such words as “Moses said” (Mark 7:10). Other times Jesus noted that some Old Testament statements were spoken directly by God, thus affirming their absolute divine authority.
Jesus also taught that the writings that were yet to form the New Testament would be inspired by the Holy Spirit. Speaking to His disciples who would be the apostles of the early church, He promised that the Holy Spirit would “bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). Then He said, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.. . and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you” (16: 12-14). While these promises of the Spirit’s teaching can be applied in a derivative sense to the illuminating work of the Spirit in believers’ lives, their real import, as D. A. Carson explains, is “not to explain how readers at the end of the first century may be taught by the Spirit, but to explain to readers at the end of the first century how the first witnesses, the first disciples, came to an accurate and full understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ?”
According to Jesus, the writings of Scripture are more than generally reliable. They are the veritable Words of God, unable to be broken. He not only taught that they were verbally inspired, He taught that “until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt.5:18; cf. Luke 16:17; John 10:35; 13:18; 17:12).
Theologians like Karl Barth have argued that the doctrine of divine inspiration is nothing more than “biblical Docetism.” Just as in the ancient heresies the true nature of the Son of God was compromised by those who deified the humanity of Jesus, so the doctrine of divine inspiration deifies the writers of the Bible. After all, they say, the Bible was written by humans; to suggest that the writings are infallible, then, implies that the authors themselves were divine. The Bible errs, according to Barth, simply because of its human involvement: errare humanum est (“to err is human”). But the Scriptures teach that its authors did not write wholly by their own instigation; rather, they were supervised by the Holy Spirit, who enabled and preserved them from their human tendency to err: “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 Pet. 1:21).
Barth, and others, agree that the Bible is the Word of God (Verbum Dei), but they say that it is subject to error. Their formula may justly be summarized as follows:
‘The Bible is the Word of God, which errs.’
There is an insurmountable problem right there. If the Bible is God’s Word, it cannot err, because God cannot err. If the Bible errs, then it cannot be the Word of God. God and error… God and falsehood.. . can never be reconciled with each other.
I think one of the problems for some with the doctrine of a verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture, lies in the fact that the words: verbal, plenary and inspiration are misunderstood.
Plenary inspiration does not require that every statement in the Bible is necessarily true. The mistaken view of Job’s friend (Job 42:7-9), the falsehoods told by Peter (Mark 14:66-72), and the letters of heathen kings (Ezra 4:7-24), although quote in Scriptures, were not Spirit-inspired. Whether they are actually true or false must be discovered by reference to the context. However, the recording of such words by the writers of Scripture was, subject to the Spirit’s inspiration; God wanted them to be part of His revelation.
Verbal inspiration—the word verbal conveys that the Holy Spirit so influenced the writers of Scripture that their words are to be taken in the fullest sense as the Spirit’s words (Rom.1:2).
The word “inspire” and its derivatives seem to have come into Middle English from the French, and have been employed from the first (early in the fourteenth century) in a considerable number of significations, physical and metaphorical, secular and religious. The derivatives have been multiplied and their applications extended during the procession of the years, until they have acquired a very wide and varied used. Underlying all their used, however, is the constant implication of an influence from without, producing in its object movement and effects beyond its native, or at least its ordinary powers. The noun “inspiration,” although already in use in he fourteenth century, seems not to occur in any but a theological sense until late in the sixteenth century. The specifically theological sense of all these terms is governed, by their usage in Latin Theology; and this rests ultimately on their employment in the Latin Bible. In the Vulgate the verb inspiro (Gen.2:7; 2 Tim.3:16) and the noun inspiratio (2 Sam.22:16; Job 32:8) both occur more than one time in diverse applications. In the development of a theological nomenclature, however, they have acquired a technical sense with reference to the biblical writers or the Biblical books. The biblical books are inspired as the divinely determined products of inspired men; the biblical writers are inspired as breathed into by the Holy Spirit, so that the product of their activities transcends human powers and becomes divinely authoritative. Inspiration is, therefore, usually defined as a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given divine trustworthiness.
(In 2 Tim.3:16, the Greek word in this verse—theopneustos—does not mean “inspired of God.” Or even mean “given by inspiration of God.” The Greek term has, however, nothing to say of inspiring or of inspiration: it speaks only of a “spiring” or “spiration.” What it says of Scripture is, not that it is “breathed into by God” or the product of the Divine “inbreathing” into its human authors, but that it is breathed out by God, “God- breathed,” the product of the creative breath of God. In a word, what is declared by this fundamental passage is simply that the Scriptures are a Divine product, without any indication of how God has operated in producing them. No term could have been chosen, however, which would have more emphatically asserted the Divine production of Scripture than that which the apostle Paul has employed here. The “breath of God” is in Scripture just the symbol of His Almighty power, the bearer of His creative word. God’s breath is the irresistible outflow of His Power. When the apostle declares ‘all Scripture” is “God-breathed,” he asserts with as much energy as he could employ that Scripture is the product of a specifically Divine operation.
In the Old Testament, Hebrew words for “breath” are frequently translated “spirit” in English versions (e.g. Gen1:2; 6:3: Judges 3:10; 6:34). God’s breath is an expression for His Spirit going forth in creative power. That creative power is the source of those special human activities and skills required by God for the fulfillment of His purposes (Ex.35:30-35).
Also significantly throughout the Old Testament is an association of “Spirit” and “Word,” the distinction between the two being comparable to that between God’s “breath” and “voice.” The voice is the articulate expression of a thought, whereas the breath is the force through which words are made actual.
Does the Bible have error?
The original text of the Bible does not teach any error. The logic of the Bible’s errorlessness is straightforward: (1) God cannot err (Titus 1:2; Heb.6:18) (2) The Bible is God’s Word (John 10:34-35); (3) therefore the Bible cannot contain error. Since the Scriptures are breathed out by God (2 Tim.3:16-17) and God cannot breathe falsehood, it follows that the Bible cannot contain any falsehood. Few are mistakenly misunderstood some statements of the Bible. The speeches of Job’s comforters contain error. Inspiration guaran¬tees the accurate recording of these speeches, not the truthfulness of the contents of the speech. There is a difference between what is recited and what is asserted, between the fact that something was said and the truthfulness of what was said. Whatsoever Scripture “asserts as true and free from error is to be received as such.”. To the statement of the apostle Paul “But to the rest I say, not the Lord” 1 Cor. 7:12). What it means is that The Lord has given commands concerning divorce (Matt. 5: 31f.; 19:3—9); now Paul speaks with the authority given him. He is not drawing a line between the authoritative commands of Christ and his own. Rather, he himself is claiming inspiration and the authority to set forth doctrine and practice (cf. 1 Cor. 7:12, 25). He has “the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 7:40). It is Biblically erroneous, heretic, to think that there is degrees in inspiration. The Words pronounced by Jesus are no more inspired than what the apostles, prophets, sacred writers have said or written. The whole Bible is the inspired Word of God (2 Tim.3:15-16).
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6. Ryrie, Charles, Basic Theology, Moody Press Publishers, Chicago, 1999.
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