Inspiration and the Bible

Inspiration is “the Holy Spirit’s superintending [i.e. direction] 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 original autographs.”1  Inspiration is necessary to guarantee that what God chose to reveal to man was accurately recorded by man.  There are five key aspects to inspiration: 1) the divine author, 2) the human author, 3) the result of the divine/human authorship, 4) the extent of inspiration to the selection of words, and 5) the relationship to the original manuscripts.

Inspiration involves divine authorship.  The term inspiration (theopneustos) literally means God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).   It comes from two Greek terms theos and pneuma.  The term pneuma is the same term translated as Spirit.  God did not breathe on the text to make it inspired, but rather, breathed, the Scriptures, out of His mouth.

Inspiration involves human authorship.  However, inspiration applies only to the words, not the persons. In other words, God communicated His words to human authors, who in turn wrote down what was spoken.  These men were not supernatural or inspired.  Scripture was not the by-product of their logic or reasoning (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21).

Rather than producing the Scriptures on their own, the human authors were moved (phérō) by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).  This means that they were lead, directed, or carried along by the Holy Spirit.  This is what is known as the superintending  of the Holy Spirit.  Though God communicated His Word to man, it was not merely dictation.  These holy men were not passive instruments or secretaries.  While God spoke to them, He allowed their personalities and vocabularies to express His Words.  This can be seen in the various writing styles of the sixty-six books of the Bible.  For example: John’s writings reflect the style of a fisherman — simple and straightforward; Luke’s writings reflect the style of a doctor — sophisticated and detailed;  Paul’s writings reflect the style of a lawyer — philosophical and difficult.

Since the Holy Sprit superintended the human authorship, God’s Word was recorded without error in the original autographs.  Autographs refer to the original writings.  While there are no known original documents in existence, we do have apographs or copies of the originals.  It is important to understand that inspiration only applies to the original writings or autographs.

The inspiration of Scripture is best understood as verbal-plenary inspiration.  By verbal, it is meant that each and every word of Scripture is breathed out by God.  In other words, God communicated not by thought or ideas but accurately and precisely through words.  Jesus alluded to the importance of inspired words when He stated that the very letters of the words were inspired (Matthew 5:18).

The jot is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet.  The tittle is the smallest stroke of a Hebrew letter which distinguishes between two similar letters (i.e. the stroke that differentiates between an O and a Q).  Verbal inspiration applies not only to the words themselves, but to the letters and parts of letters.  As well, many of Jesus’ debates or arguments with the religious establishment hinged on the particular use of certain words (Matthew 22:43-44; John 8:58; 10:34).

If God only breathed out ideas or thoughts, then Jesus’ arguments on the basis of words would be rendered void.

By plenary, it is meant that all Scripture, in all its parts, are equally from God.  There is no part of Scripture that is more inspired than another part.  The Law is just as inspired as the Gospels, the Psalms are just as inspired as the Epistles.   By teaching of Himself from the three parts of the Old Testament (i.e. Law, Prophets, and Psalms) Jesus affirmed that they were equally inspired (Luke 24:44-45).

As well, the term ‘all’ (pás) refers to the whole as well as each and every part.  Thus, Paul’s use of the term all (pás) in the statement “all Scripture…” (2 Timothy 3:16) demonstrates the fact that Scripture in its whole and in its parts is equally inspired.   If only certain parts of Scripture are inspired, which parts are?  If some portions of Scripture are more inspired than others, are the more inspired, more trustworthy?

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  1.  Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), p. 160.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

Revelation and the Bible

The Bible is a revelation or uncovering of God and His ways to man. Revelation can be defined as, “the act of God whereby He discloses Himself or communicates truth to the mind, whereby He makes manifest to his creatures that which could not be known in any other way.” (1) Revelation signifies “God’s disclosure of Himself through creation, history, the conscience of man and Scripture. It is given in both event and word.(2)

God has chosen to reveal Himself through two avenues: General Revelation and Special Revelation. General Revelation is available to all mankind. It reveals certain truths about God. As well, it points man to God and thus sufficient to condemn man. There are three types of general revelation: nature, providence, and conscience.

Nature reveals God’s glory and existence (Psalm 19:1-6).  Nature also reveals Gods’ omnipotence and right to judge (Romans 1:18-21).  Providence reveals God’s benevolence to all mankind (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:15-17).  Providence also reveals that God raises up and removes rulers (Daniel 2:21).  Conscience reveals that God has placed His law in the hearts of all people (Romans 2:14-15).  General Revelation cannot provide salvation to man; that is the role of Special Revelation.

Special Revelation then is that revelation that reveals truths about God that could not be known through General Revelation. Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, God implored a number of ways to communicate His mind to man. He used dreams (Genesis 20:3, 6; 31:11–13, 24:40–41; Joel 2:28), (3) visions (Isaiah 1:1; 6:1; Ezekiel 1:3), (4) theophanies (Genesis 16:7-14; Exodus 3:2; 2 Samuels 24:16; Zechariah 1:12), (5) angels (Daniel 9:20-21; Luke 2:10-11; Revelation 1:1) prophets (2 Samuel 23:2; Zechariah 1:1). The final means of Special Revelation is Jesus, the Living Word, and Scripture, the Written Word. Jesus reveals what God the Father is like (John 1:18; 5:36-37).  The Scripture reveals all that God has chosen to disclose to man (Galatians 1:11-12; 2 Peter 1:21).

Is God just in condemning those who only have General Revelation, but not Special Revelation? Absolutely, God is just. In fact, if the person was convicted of their need for God through General Revelation, God would provide the Special Revelation (Acts 10:3-6).

The Special Revelation of God through the Scriptures was progressive. God did not reveal all of Himself or His will in one moment. Rather, He revealed it to mankind, over a period of time. “Since God’s redemptive acts were progressive, preparing the way for Christ who should come in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4) the accompanying truths that were progressively revealed show in most cases a progressive development. That is, God graciously unfolded both His redemption and His revelation in ways corresponding to man’s capacities to receive them.” (6)

For example, God did not reveal everything about His redemptive plan through Jesus at once. God revealed to Adam and Eve that the Savior would come through the seed of the woman but not which woman (Genesis 3:15).  God revealed the means of Jesus’ death to David (Psalm 22:1, 7-9, 16-19).  God revealed to Micah, where Jesus would be born (Micah 5:2).

Progressive Revelation does not mean that older revelation is irrelevant or less scriptural than newer revelation, since all Scripture is given by God. “The Bible is to be regarded as a holistic book in which the Old Testament helps us understand the New Testament and the New Testament sheds significant light on the Old Testament.” (7)

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  1. Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, revised by Vernon D. Doerksen (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 7.
  2. C. M. Horne, “Revelation” in Merrill C. Tenney, ed., Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 5:86.
  3. Dreams were more suitable for individuals who have little or no spiritual discernment (i.e. Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar). In the case of dreams the individual was in a passive state (i.e. sleep) and their personality is rendered inert.
  4. Visions were more suitable for the spiritually mature (i.e. prophets). In the case of visions, the individual was actively involved (i.e. acting, moving, talking, interacting) with the object of the vision.
  5. Theophanies are physical manifestations of God (typically Jesus, prior to the incarnation).
  6. J. Barton Paynes, Theology of the Older Testament, (Zondervan Publishing House, 1962), p. 18.
  7. R. C. Sproul, Can I Trust the Bible?, vol. 2, The Crucial Questions Series (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2009), p. 17.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016