There are sixty-six books contained in the Bible, written by over forty different authors. While each of these books is attributed to the work of individuals, something more was at work than their personal intellect. Unseen, as they labored alone from a human perspective, was the hand of God directing the penning of their expressions. What was produced is without equal in the world. The final product is not a letter from one person to another. The writers of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit to deliver God’s personal message to all of mankind.
How did He do it?
The way that God inspired these authors has been the subject of much debate. This is understandable in light of the fact that we are in possession of finite minds. No matter how hard we might try, it is impossible for any one of us to get far enough outside of the box to fully grasp the supernatural greatness of our infinite God, the creator all things.
There are a number of theories of inspiration for the Scriptures. What position one stands on determines the foundation that individual will operate from in their own interpretation of the Bible. For that reason, we are investigating these theories.
Verbal, Full Inspiration: The orthodox view of the inspiration of the Scriptures is that while the various author’s personal circumstances, opinions, culture, fears, and more are expressed in their writing, God superintended their work to produce the exact words He intended. As such, the writing produced is infallible and completely accurate. It is without error. Certainly, the false statements made by some are recorded. They are easily recognized as such. An example is Genesis 3:4, when the web of Satan’s deception was spun in Eden. The claim of inspiration does not apply to the translations now in use but only to the original documents. This is why Bible scholars have gone to great lengths to compare the text of the translations we have today against the intent of the oldest fragments in existence. Comparing the vast treasure of fragmentary evidence, Bible scholars can with a great level of accuracy determine what the original manuscripts said.
Dictation: A second theory says that the human authors were nothing more than the pen in God’s hand, that He dictated word-for-word the texts they produced. This however would not account for the great variety of styles, sophistication, vocabulary, and imagery in evidence throughout the Bible. An example of this is Romans 9:1-3 where the cry of Paul’s heart is poured out to God for the salvation of his kinsmen, the Jews. The Bible was produced by a supernatural duality that is beyond our ability to comprehend.
Concept: Some have contended that instead of each and every word coming directly from the mind of God to the text produced by the hand of men, God placed within the mind of the author an overall thought or concept. In essence, God communicated the big idea. The human author took the idea and gave it shape and substance. Of course, this undermines the authority of all of Scripture. The Bible contradicts this idea. Look up the following passages and record what they say about the way the words themselves were inspired:
1 Cor. 2:1
There are several other theories expressed about to what extent the Scriptures are inspired writings. Partial inspiration says that some portions of Scripture are more inspired than others. Some are not inspired at all. Neo-orthodoxy claims that God speaks through the Scriptures written by men to become truth for each individual reader. In this view the reader is free to determine “what is truth?”. The last theory is called natural inspiration. In essence this simply says that the Bible is on the same level as all other writings.
All of the theories with the exception of verbal – full inspiration take a progressively lower view of the level of God’s supernatural inspiration of every jot and title contained in His Word. The writers of the New Testament were aware of the fact that they were guided and directed by God Himself in their work. Peter made a claim in regard to the writings of Paul that confirms this.
… “just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” – 1 Peter 3:15b & 16
All manner of attempts to undermine the authority and inerrancy of the Bible have occurred. Its detractors have passed on into relative obscurity. God’s Word stands forever.
We have just completed the first video in a series on the life of Christ called Messiah Jesus. It deals with some of the issues related to this blog entry. Enjoy!
On a final note, Disciple Daily has just finished publishing an eBook written by Pastor Steve Troxel, founder of Shepherds’ Support. This is a small booklet titled The Revelation to Remember. Steve and I have led groups together to Israel, Greece, and Turkey. On these trips, I have heard Steve do a short presentation on the book of Revelation where he gives a short memory tag to each chapter. Last year I encouraged Steve to write it out and publish it. Now it is done and available to you free of charge. We hope you enjoy it!