That supernatural influence exerted on the minds of the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, in virtue of which they unerringly declared his will. Whether what they wrote was previously familiar to their own knowledge, or, as in many cases it must have been, an immediate revelation from heaven; whether his influence in any given case was dictation, suggestion, or superintendence; and however clearly we may trace in their writings the peculiar character, style, mental endowments, and circumstances of each; yet the whole of the Bible was written under the unerring guidance of the Holy Ghost, 2Ti 3:16.
Christ everywhere treats the Old Testament Scripture as infallibly true, and of divine authority-the word of God. To the New Testament writers inspiration was promised, Mt 10:19-20; Joh 14:26; 16:13; and they wrote and prophesied under its direction, 1Co 2:10-13; 14:37; Ga 1:12; 2Pe 1:21; 3:15; Re 1:1,10-19.
that extraordinary or supernatural divine influence vouchsafed to those who wrote the Holy Scriptures, rendering their writings infallible. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (R.V., "Every scripture inspired of God"), 2Ti 3:16. This is true of all the "sacred writings," not in the sense of their being works of genius or of supernatural insight, but as "theopneustic," i.e., "breathed into by God" in such a sense that the writers were supernaturally guided to express exactly what God intended them to express as a revelation of his mind and will. The testimony of the sacred writers themselves abundantly demonstrates this truth; and if they are infallible as teachers of doctrine, then the doctrine of plenary inspiration must be accepted. There are no errors in the Bible as it came from God, none have been proved to exist. Difficulties and phenomena we cannot explain are not errors. All these books of the Old and New Testaments are inspired. We do not say that they contain, but that they are, the Word of God. The gift of inspiration rendered the writers the organs of God, for the infallible communication of his mind and will, in the very manner and words in which it was originally given.
As to the nature of inspiration we have no information. This only we know, it rendered the writers infallible. They were all equally inspired, and are all equally infallible. The inspiration of the sacred writers did not change their characters. They retained all their individual peculiarities as thinkers or writers. (See Bible; Word of God.)
The supernatural action of the Holy Spirit on the mind of the sacred writers whereby the Scriptures were not merely their own but the word of God. Scripture not merely contains but is the word of God. As the whole Godhead was joined to the whole manhood, and became the Incarnate Word, so the written word is at once perfectly divine and perfectly human; infallibly authoritative because it is the word of God, intelligible because in the language of men. If it were not human we should not understand it; if it were not divine it would not be an unerring guide. The term "scriptures" is attached to them exclusively in the word of God itself, as having an authority no other writings have (Joh 5:39; 10:34-36). They are called "the oracles of God" (Ro 3:2), i.e. divine utterances.
If Scripture were not plenarily and verbally sanctioned by God, its practical utility as a sure guide in all questions directly or indirectly affecting doctrine and practice would be materially impaired, for what means would there be of distinguishing the false in it from the true? Inspiration does not divest the writers of their several individualities of style, just as the inspired teachers in the early church were not passive machines in prophesying (1Co 14:32). "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty" (2Co 3:17). Their will became one with God's will; His Spirit acted on their spirit, so that their individuality had free play in the sphere of His inspiration. As to religious truths the collective Scriptures have unity of authorship; as to other matters their authorship is palpably as manifold as the writers. The variety is human, the unity divine. If the four evangelists were mere machines narrating the same events in the same order and words, they would cease to be independent witnesses. Their very discrepancies (only seeming ones) disprove collusion.
The solutions proposed in Harmonies, being necessarily conjectural, may or may not be the true ones; but they at least prove that the differences are not irreconcilable and would be cleared up if we knew all the facts. They test our faith, whether on reasonable evidence we will unreservedly believe His word in spite of some difficulties, designedly permitted for our probation. The slight variations in the Decalogue between Exodus 20 and its repetition Deuteronomy 5, and in Psalm 18 compared with 2 Samuel 22, in Psalm 14 compared with Psalm 53, and in New Testament quotations of Old Testament, (sometimes from Septuagint which varies from Hebrew, sometimes from neither in every word), all prove the Spirit-produced independence of the sacred writers who under divine guidance and sanction presented on different occasions the same substantial truths under different aspects, the one complementing the other.
One or two instances occur where the errors of transcribers cause a real discrepancy (2Ki 8:26, compared with 2Ch 22:2). A perpetual miracle alone could have prevented such very exceptional and palpable copyists' mistakes. But in seeming discrepancies, as between the accounts of the same event in different Gospels, each account presents some fresh aspect of divine truth; none containing the whole, but all together presenting the complete exhibition of the truth. Origen profoundly says: "in revelation as in nature we see a self concealing, self revealing God, who makes Himself known only to those who earnestly seek Him; in both we find stimulants to faith and occasions for unbelief." The assaults of adversaries on seemingly weak points have resulted in the eliciting of beautiful and delicate harmonies unperceived before; the gospel defenses have been proved the more impregnable, and the things meant to injure "have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel."
When once it is admitted that the New Testament writers were neither fanatics nor enthusiasts, (and infidelity has never yet produced a satisfactory theory to show them to have been either,) their miracles and their divine commission must also be admitted, for they expressly claim these. Thus, Paul (1Co 14:37), "if any man think himself a prophet, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." And not only the things but the words; (1Co 2:13) "we speak not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth." The "discerning of spirits" was one of the miraculous gifts in the apostolic churches. His appeal on the ground of miracles (1Co 2:4) which are taken for granted as notorious rather than asserted, (the incidental mention being a clear mark of truth because it excludes suspicion of design,) and to persons whose miraculous discernment of spirits enabled them to test such claims, is the strongest proof of the divine authority of his writings.
Peter (2Pe 3:16) classes Paul's epistles with "the other Scriptures"; therefore whatever inspiration is in the latter is in the former also. That inspiration excludes error from Scripture words, so far as these affect doctrine and morals, appears from Ps 12:6, "the words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." As our Lord promised the disciples His Holy Spirit, to teach them how and what they should say before magistrates (Mt 10:19-20), much more did the Spirit "abiding" with the church "for ever" (Joh 14:16) secure for the written word, the only surviving infallible oracle, the inspiration of the manner as well as the matter. So (Joh 16:13) "the Spirit of truth will guide you into all (the) truth," namely, not truth in general but Christian truth.
Also (Joh 14:26) "the Holy Spirit shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you." "He shall testify of Me" (Joh 15:26) "He will show you things to come ... He shall receive of Mine and shall show it unto you" (Joh 16:13-14). Paul (2Ti 3:16) declares that no part of the written word is uninspired, but "ALL" (literally, "every scripture," i.e. every portion) is "profitable" for the ends of a revelation, "doctrine, reproof (conjuting error: the two comprehending speculative divinity; then follows practical), correction (setting one right, 1Co 10:1-10), instruction (disciplinary training: De 13:5; 1Co 5:13) in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works"; as it makes him "perfect" it must be perfect itself.
Some parts were immediately communicated by God, and are called "apocalypse" or "revelation," as that to John, and to Paul (2Co 12:1; Ro 16:25). Others, as the historical parts, are matter of human testimony. But inspiration was as much needed to write known facts authoritatively as to communicate new truths; else why should certain facts be selected and others be passed by? Inspired prohibition is as miraculous as inspired utterance. Had the evangelists been left to themselves, they doubtless would have given many details of Jesus' early life which our curiosity would have desired, but which divine wisdom withheld, in order to concentrate all our attention on Christ's ministry and death. The historical parts are quoted by Paul as God's "law," because they have His sanction and contain covert lessons of God's truth and His principles of governing the world and the church (Ga 4:21).
Considering the vast amount of Mariolatry and idolatry which subsequently sprang up, the hand of God is marked in the absence from the Gospel histories of aught to countenance these errors. Sacred history is like "a dial in which the shadow, as well as the light, informs us" (Trench). The Spirit was needed to qualify the writers for giving what they have given, a condensed yet full and clear portraiture of Messiah, calculated to affect all hearts in every nation, and to sow in them seeds of faith, hope, and love. The minor details, such as Paul's direction to Timothy to "bring his cloth and parchments," and to" drink a little wine for his stomach's sake and his infirmities," are vivid touches which give life and nature to the picture, making us realize the circumstances and personality of the apostle and his disciple, and have their place in the inspired record, as each leaf has in the
The subject comprises the doctrine of inspiration in the Bible, and the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible, together with what forms the transition from the one to the other, the account given of the prophetic consciousness, and the teaching of the NT about the OT.
1. The agent of inspiration is the Holy Spirit (see p. 360) or Spirit of God, who is active in Creation (Ge 1:2; Ps 104:30), is imparted to man that the dust may become living soul (Ge 2:7), is the source of exceptional powers of body (Jg 6:34; 14:6,19) or skill (Ex 35:31); but is pre-eminently manifest in prophecy (wh. see). The NT doctrine of the presence and power of the Spirit of God in the renewed life of the believer is anticipated in the OT, inasmuch as to the Spirit's operations are attributed wisdom (Job 32:8; 1Ki 3:28; De 34:9), courage (Jg 13:25; 14:6), penitence, moral strength, and purity (Ne 9:20; Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10; Eze 36:26; Zec 12:10). The promise of the Spirit by Christ to His disciples was fulfilled when He Himself after the Resurrection breathed on them, and said, 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost' (Joh 20:22), and after His Ascension the Spirit descended on the Church with the outward signs of the wind and fire (Ac 2:2-3). The Christian life as such is an inspired life, but the operation of the Spirit is represented in the NT in two forms; there are the extraordinary gifts (charisms)
Though this word occurs in the Bible but once in reference to the scriptures, yet the one statement in which it is found is important and full of deep meaning: "Every scripture is divinely inspired literally, 'God-breathed', and is profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, fully fitted to every good work." 2Ti 3:16-17. This places all scripture on one basis as to inspiration, whether it be historical, doctrinal, or prophetic. We learn by this passage that not simply the persons who wrote were inspired, but the writings themselves are divinely inspired. Cf. 2Pe 1:21.
All writings are composed of words, and if these writings are inspired, the words are inspired. This is what is commonly called 'verbal inspiration.' Other passages speak of the importance of 'words:' Peter said, "To whom shall we go? thou hast the words (??????) of eternal life," Joh 6:68: and we find those words in the Gospels. When it was a question of Gentiles being brought into blessing without being circumcised, James in his address appealed to the 'words' of the prophets. Ac 15:15. Paul in writing to the Corinthian saints said, "Which things also we speak, not in the 'words' (?????) which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." 1Co 2:13. The Holy Spirit taught Paul what words to use. The whole of scripture forms the word of God, and both in the O.T. and in the N.T. we read of 'the words of God.' 1Ch 25:5; Ezr 9:4; Ps 107:11; Joh 3:34; 8:47; Re 17:17. Neither must His word be added to, or taken from. De 4:2; 12:32; Re 22:18-19.
The above passages should carry conviction to simple souls that every scripture is God-inspired. As nothing less than this is worthy of God, so nothing less than this would meet the need of man. Amid the many uncertain things around him he needs words upon which his faith can be based, and in the inspired scriptures he has them. The Lord Jesus said, "The words (??????) that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." Joh 6:63. He had the words of eternal life; and, through the grace of God, many a soul has found them to be such, and has no more doubt of the plenary inspiration of scripture than of the existence of God Himself.
It may be noted that scripture records the sayings of wicked men, and of Satan himself. It need scarcely be said that it is not the sayings but the records of them that are inspired. Paul also, when writing on the question of marriage, makes a distinction between what he wrote as his judgement, and what he wrote as commandments of the Lord. "I speak this by permission," he says; and again, "I give my judgement." 1Co 7:6,10,12,25. He was inspired to record his spiritual judgement and to point out that it was not a command.
Some have a difficulty as to what has been called the human element in inspiration. If the words of scripture are inspired, it has been asked, how is it that the style of the writer is so manifest? John's style, for instance, being clearly distinguishable from that of Paul. The simple answer is that it is as if one used, so to speak, different kinds of pens to write with. God made the mind of man as well as his body, and was surely able to use the mind of each of the writers He employed, and yet cause him to write exactly what He wished. God took possession of the mind of man to declare His own purposes with regard to man.
Further, it has been asserted that the doctrine of verbal inspiration is valueless, because of diversities in the Greek manuscripts, which in some places prevent any one from determining what are the words God caused to be written. But this does not in any way touch the question of inspiration, which is, that the words written were inspired by God. Whether we have a correct copy is quite another question. The variations in the Greek manuscripts do not affect any one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, and only in a few places are the words doubtful.
Another objection to the value of verbal inspiration is that most persons read scripture in a translation, the words of which cannot, it is alleged, be said to be inspired. But if the translation conveys exactly the same meaning as in the original, the words can be said to be inspired: for instance, the words 'God is love,' may surely be said to be the same as ? ???? ????? ?????, or Deus caritas est, Dieu est amour, or Dio ? carit?, to those who can read them. It may be that the translations from which the above are taken cannot in all places be said to be the same as the Greek; but this only shows the great importance of each having a correct translation in his vernacular tongue. And it must not be forgotten that the Lord Himself and those who wrote the New Testament often quoted the Septuagint, which is a translation from the Hebrew; and they quoted it as scripture.
Nothing can exceed the importance of having true thoughts of the inspiration of scripture. As no human author would allow his amanuensis to write what he did not mean, so surely what is called the word of God is God's own production, though given through the instrumentality of man. Though there were many writers, separated by thousands of years, there is a divine unity in the whole, showing plainly that one and only one could have been its Author. That One can only have been the Almighty
Dr. Knapp given as the definition of inspiration, "an extra-ordinary divine agency upon teachers while giving instruction, whether oral or written, by which they were taught what and how they should write or speak." Without deciding on any of the various theories of inspiration, the general doctrine of Christians is that the Bible is so inspired by God that it is the infallible guide of men, and is perfectly trustworthy in all its parts, as given by God.
INSPIRATION, the conveying of certain extraordinary and supernatural notices or thoughts into the soul; or it denotes any supernatural influence of God upon the mind of a rational creature, whereby he is formed to a degree of intellectual improvement, to which he could not have attained in his present circumstances in a natural way. In the first and highest sense, the prophets, evangelists, and Apostles are said to have spoken and written by divine inspiration. This inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures is so expressly attested by our Lord and his Apostles, that among those who receive them as a divine revelation the only question relates to the inspiration of the New Testament. On this subject it has been well observed: