Systematic Theology Study Helps:

Table of Contents

III. The Inspiration of the Bible (This deals with the recording of revelation)

A. The Occurrence and Meaning of the term "inspiration"

1. Only occurrence in the New Testament and key verse: 2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness...

2. Meaning

a. The phrase "inspired by God" is a translation of one Greek word meaning "God-breathed".

b. The English word "inspired" is a transliteration of the Latin which translates this Greek word with "inspirata" meaning "to breathe into".

c. However, the idea is not that God beathed into Scripture his breath, but that he breathed out his Word (through men).

d. The doctrine probably should be termed the doctrine of "spiration" not "inspiration".

B. A Statement and Explanation of the doctrine

1. Statements
a. This is "that inexplicable power which the divine Spirit put forth of old on the authors of Holy Scripture, in order to their guidance even in the employment of the words they used and to preserve them alike from all error and from all omission." (L. Gaussen)

b. This is that work of the Holy Spirit in guiding human authors to compose and record through their personalities God's selected message without error in the words of the original documents.

2. Explanation (Process and product)

a. The process or mode (how God did it) - dual authorship (Acts 1:16; 4:25)
1. the use of terms
a. When the process of inspiration is emphasized, you will see terms like "mechanical dictation", "conceptual" or "organic" used by various schools of thought.
b. When the product is emphasized you will see terms like "plenary" and "verbal".

2. by the "guidance" of the Holy Spirit

a. The key verse on the process is 2 Peter 1:21
For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along ("moved") by the Holy Spirit.

1. the word "moved" literally means "to carry".
2. the same word is translated "driven along" in Acts 27:15.
3. 2 Peter 1:21 is the only reference explaining how God did this, but this too is very limited.
4. It should be noted that 2 Peter 1:21 relates only to the Old Testament.

b. Some other related verses are John 14:26 and John 16:13

1. These verses only imply help for writing Scripture
2. Only three of these spoken to here went on to write Scripture.

3. by the work of human authors

a. They were not passive instruments
1. They were not like "pens in the hand of God"
2. They were not like "blank tape in a tape recorder"

b. The Spirit used their personalities, individualities and backgrounds:

1. because the writing styles are different
2. because grammar and vocabulary are different
3. because the thought patterns and sentence structures are different

c. Some used an amenuensis (ie, secretary)

1. The example of Paul (Romans 16:22; compare Galatians 6:11)

2. Historical background on the use of secretaries

a. They were needed because of illiteracy and because a lack of writing materials.
b. An experienced secretary was counted on to fill out the contents of a letter and then the "writer" signed it.

3. A possible problem: Did Paul give this freedom to his secretary?

a. If so, Paul's style is usually still seen throughout his letters. (ie, "Pauline" style)
b. If so, Paul still signed his letters (cf 1 Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17) and probably proof-read them.
c. If so, God (still) controlled the whole process.

d. sources of information (in such writings)

1. Direct revelation (cf 1 Corinthians 11:23)
2. Personal experience (Acts 16:20; 20:5 - "we")
3. Eye-witness accounts (Luke 1:2,3)
4. Oral tradition (1 Timothy 3:16)
5. Other written sources:
a. Geneaologies (1 Chronicles 1-9; Matthew 1)
b. Old Testament Scriptures (eg, Matthew 1:23)
c. Synoptic Gospels (evidence writtens sources)
d. Histories (cf 1 Chronicles 29:29; Luke 1:1, 3)
e. Apocryphal literature (Jude 14, 15 - Judes references the "Book of Enoch")
f. The writings of unbelievers (Titus 1:12 - Paul quotes the poet Emimenades' "Hymn to Zeus by Calimacus")

4. Conclusions (regarding Guidance)

a. The best word to describe the process of inspiration or how God did this is "guidance".
1. The Spirit probably reminded them of things (eg, John 14:26)
2. The Spirit undoubtedly guided in the selection of information and words (Luke 1:3)
3. The Spirit revealed new things (John 16:13)
4. The Spirit did not put the writers into a trance, for the writings indicate that they were fully conscious as they wrote.

b. Some words and portions were dictated. (cf Exodus 21:1; 34:27)

c. Differences in writing style is against the mechanical dictation theory as a whole, since that would result in only one style.

d. The use of research and written sources is not contrary to divine inspiration.

e. The Bible is both the word and work of man and the word and work of God. (compare Matthew 15:4 with Mark 7:10 and John 12:39-41 with Acts 28:25-27)

f. The illumination (understanding) of the writers was not guaranteed. (cf Daniel 12:8-9; 1 Peter 1:10-12)

C. The Product or Result of Inspiration (Were the writers inspired? Or were the writings inspired? Or were they both inspired?)

1. Its Extent
a. Inspiration extends only to Scripture (and not other writings) - 2 Timothy 3:16
1. Occurrence and meaning of the term "scripture"
a. The word "scripture" literally means "a writing" [greek: graphai]
b. Paul is referring to the Old testament in 2 Timothy 3:16 (compare v.15)
c. The word "scripture" in the New testament is always a reference to Old Testament writings.
1. the word occurs at least 51 times in the New Testament
2. By New testament times, the Old Testament was canonized.
3. The word "scripture" was a technical term in Jesus' day for the 22 books of the Old Testament.

2. Certain portions of the New testament were also classified as "scripture".

a. Paul's Epistles in 2 Peter 3:15-16
b. Luke 10:7 and Matthew 10:10 in Timothy 5:18
1. Paul seems to term Luke or Matthew as "scripture" along with Deuteronomy.
2. A possible problem would be whether Matthew or Luke are written yet

c. Since we don't have a verse calling the New testament "scripture", we argue from its similarity and unity with the Old Testament, as well as from its inspiration.

b. Inspiration extends to All Scripture (Plenary Inspiration)

1. The word "plenary" means "full" or "entire".

2. This indicates that inspiration extends to every portion or part, not just certain portions.

3. The "all scripture" of 2 Timothy 3:16 could be translated "every scripture". (greek pas without the article)

4. The Scriptures are a unit/whole (John 10:35)

a. Jesus is arguing here (John 10:35) for the unity as well as the authority of Scripture.
b. This verse helps support plenary inspiration because if one verse is inspired, all are due to their being a unit.

5. The translation problem of 2 Timothy 3:16:

a. There is no verb here in the Greek.
b. The problem is where to put the "is".
c. The possibilities are:
1. after "scripture" ["All scripture is inspired..."]
- (as in the AV, RSV, NASB, NIV, Confraternity, Jerusalem, Berkeley, and New King James Bibles)
2. after "God" ["All scripture inspired by God is profitable..."]
- (as in the Douay, ASV, NEB) -
Note: reading #2 allows that not all scripture is inspired, but only that which is "inspired by God".

c. Inspiration extends to Every Word of Scripture (Verbal Inspiration)

1. Key verses: Matthew 5:18 and Galatians 3:16
a. Even the smallest letters are important (Matthew 5:18)
1. a "jot" or "smallest letter" is an iota (or smallest letter) in the Greek alphabet.
2. a "tittle" or "stroke" means "little horn"
a. This might refer to a Hebrew yodh, the smallest letter in Hebrew.
b. This might refer to the difference between a Hebrew "D" and an "R" (the former has an additional, small stroke)

3. Although Jesus is not teaching on inspiration here, still for his reference to be meaningful, there would have had to have been exact words (with these meanings) to begin with.

b. Even plurals are important (Gapatians 3:16)

2. Inspiration of concepts without inspiration of words leaves us in uncertainty, since we would never be sure whether such concepts were expressed correctly/accurately.

3. Some ramifications (Why verbal inspiration is important)

a. Jesus stated that we should live by the very words of Scripture (Matthew 4:14)
b. Our daily decisions and actions constantly depend upon the meaning and application of individual words in Scripture
1. Like the "not(s)" (1 John 2:1,15; Romans 12:2)
2. Like the "everything(s)" (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Like the "all(s)" (1 Peter 5:7; Romans 3:23)
Like the word "daily" (Luke 29:7)

c. For Bible study, we should use a translation that is as literally accurate as possible.

d. Inspiration extends to the original manuscripts

1. Only the autographs (originals) were inspired and they no longer exist (cf 2 Peter 1:21)

2. No Greek text or English translation or version is "inspired".

a. But by applying the laws of textual criticism to the existing Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, we can see that there is a virtual reproduction of the originals.
b. No major doctrine is affected by any uncertain readings.
c. Every Christian should determine which is the best translation or version, and then accept it word for word as the inspired Word of God.

e. Inspiration extends to Inerrancy

1. The meaning of Inerrancy
a. Not contrary to fact but true to fact
b. This means that the Bible is a record of things as they actually were, and a true account of those things about which it speaks.
c. The Bible contains the truths of God but is all true
d. The term "inerrancy" is very close to the term "infallibility"
1. Inerrancy usually relates to the accuracy of its contents
2. Infallibility seems to relate more to the authority or trustworthiness of its contents.

2. The expectation of inerrancy

a. because of the character of God
1. God had the ability to keep the writers from error.
2. God had the knowledge of the facts to prevent error.
3. God is holy in character, demanding perfection.

b. because of the need of man
1. unbelivers need a reliable word about the way to salvation
2. belivers need a certain word about how to live godly in this life

3. What inerrancy does not demand

1. Proper grammar
- Eg, in John 16:13,14 the pronoun "he" does not agree with its antecedent in gender

2. identical wording in parallel passages
a. Like the "Good Teacher" passages in Mark 10, Luke 18 and Matthew
b. The superscription on the cross (Compare Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19)
c. Chronological groupings of events (cf Matthew 8-9)
1. Matthew groups 10 miracles together here which have other events between them.
2. Matthew's purpose was probably to demonstrate Christ's power and his right to make the statements in Matthew 5-7.
3. Only if Matthew had said that he would give a chronological account, and then didn;t. would there be a problem.

d. Exact quoting of the Old Testament in the New Testament
1. Like Matthew 1:23's quote of Isaiah 7:14 where he quotes the Septuagint but changes it, probably to meet his purpose.
2. The Holy Spirit has a right to use and interpret the Old testament as he wills because he authored it.

e. Use of scientific language (cf Job 26:11; Revelation 7:1)
f. Use of up-to-date language (cf Isaiah 2:4)

4. Our approach to supposed historical and scientific inaccuracies and contradictions

a. Give time an opportunity to resolve them.
b. Consider them as difficulties or apparent contradictions but not "errors"
c. Realize that all of these could be solved with enough information
d. Realize that the authors were governed by their own purposes, cultures and times.

f. Inspiration extends to Equality

1. There are no degrees of inspiration but all portions of Scripture are equally inspired.

2. No writer was more guided by the Holy Spirit than another

3. No portion of Scripture is more the Word of God than another

4. There are degrees of profit (from reading) but no degrees of inspiration.

2. Its Profit (2 Timothy 3:16)

a. Areas of Profit
1. For "teaching" (this is a general term)
2. For "reproof" (literally to prove wrong)
3. For "correction" (literally to "set straight again"; this is retoration to correct spiritual alignment)
4. For "training" (child training or "discipline")

b. Action of Profit
1. The action is progressive (continuous and increasing)
2. The action is complete
3. The action is life-changing

3. Its Purpose (2 Timothy 3:16) - The Equipping of Christians for Service

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