The Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures

Any discussion on the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must include both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Paul declares that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). He probably had in mind the Old Testament writings – “because that unto them [the Jews] were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2), but it is certain that various New Testament writings were in circulation at that time and were viewed as inspired and authoritative, for as Peter remarks concerning Paul’s letters, “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Both the plenary and verbal inspiration of the Word of God is in view by the apostles, and it is such inspiration that Christians accept. Plenary Inspiration means that every book, chapter, and verse of the Bible comes directly from God. Verbal Inspiration explains that both the text and the themes contained in Scripture are divinely inspired by God.

The word “inspired” (theopneustos – a technical term for the Holy Spirit’s supernatural guidance of those men who received special revelation to write) actually comes from two Greek words “theos” (God), and “pneo” (to breathe). Therefore, the Scriptural use of the word means “God-breathed”. The Scriptures originated with God. He is the Author, man is simply a secondary author. Man’s part was to transmit what he had received from God. God is an intelligent Being and capable of communicating with man. Through this we can understand that the Bible is the very Word of God from His own mouth. “God-breathed” is an important way of looking at the Bible, for just as man exhales his own breathe (not someone else’s or someone for him) so too God speaks His own words in Scripture. For this reason we can say that the Bible is the product of God.

Such inspiration means that the Scriptures are faithful, trustworthy, and without error or contradiction, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19-21). Any supposed error must lie with man’s faulty understanding of the text. In all doctrines, teachings, history, and revelations God’s Word is inerrant and infallible, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

The Old Testament writers were conscious of the fact that they were speaking or writing God’s Word, “The spirit of the LORD spake by me, and His word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). Throughout the Scriptures we find the expression “Thus saith the Lord” as the prophet or man of God begins to address his listeners with a word from Heaven. His inspiration to speak or write came from God through visions, dreams, angelic visitations or by audible words. Such a communication from God guarantees the absolute truthfulness of what is declared or written; this is the idea behind divine inspiration.

The Lord Jesus Christ believed that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God even to the smallest written detail, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). He quoted from such Biblical characters as Moses, David and Isaiah, “And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44). Jesus also made it plain that His own words were received from His Father so therefore are absolute truth, “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise … I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgement is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true … My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me … I have many things to say and to judge of you: but He that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him” (John 5:19, 30-31; 7:16; 8:26). He spoke of the fact that the Holy Spirit would inspire others in the revelation of the truth, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come … And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you … But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 16:13; 14:16-17; 15:26-27).

This inspiration does not come through a man’s personal thoughts or intelligence. Though the writers seem to have been free to use their own style, culture, and personality, they were in fact moved upon by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God implanted the words or the desire to write in their hearts and minds. At times the man may have decided to record certain events, as is the case with Moses in Exodus 24:12; 31:8; 32:16, yet even this is through the direct inspiration of God. The topic, words, and reasons for writing began in the mind and will of God before He gradually passed them down to His human authors. It should be noted that this is nothing like the automatic writing practised in the occult or spiritism. This is the reason why we can claim that what these men of God wrote is free from error and contradiction, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16); “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21); “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).

It was God’s will to communicate His wisdom and truth to mankind, since left by himself it is impossible for man to find the truth. Without God’s direct intervention we would never have His word in spoken or written form. There are no other writings that have ever been inspired by God in the same way as the Holy Bible. We may say that God inspired John Bunyan to write The Pilgrim’s Progress, but such inspiration would lay solely with the topic rather than the very words themselves. It would be heretical even to suggest that such a work was God’s authorative or inspired Word.

The Holy Scriptures alone are inspired by God for they are the direct word from His throne. It alone has the power (through the power of God’s Spirit) to inspire our hearts to salvation, faith, prayer, and worship. By such inspiration the Scriptures can guide us in both faith and practice.