by Thomas F. Eaves
“I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God” sounds like a statement a New Testament Christian would make, or one which would come from a Bible-believing individual. Before we can really understand what the spokesman intends we must know what he means by the word “inspired”.
The theories of inspiration are numerous. As Dr. Lemoine Lewis stated:
“Theories of inspiration are legion. The watch-words of some are natural inspiration, degrees of inspiration, partial inspiration, inspired concepts, universal Christian inspiration, verbal `dictation’, verbal inspiration, plenary inspiration, etc.”<1>
Some hold that the Bible is inspired in the sense that it possesses the marks of literary genius in the same way as the writings of Browning, Keats, or Shakespeare. As in reference to other great works of literature the historical, literary, and traditional qualities are alluded to.
Another popular concept is that the scripture enjoyed some supernatural guidance, therefore the Bible contains the Word of God. Acknowledging that the Bible contains the Word of God, man must remove the “shell” (myths, traditions, etc.) to get to the kernel of truth. In reality man with his intelligence places himself in as superior position to the writers of the Bible and becomes his own god. In most cases the shell which is to be removed, to get to the truth, consists of the miracles, virgin birth, resurrection of the dead, and other events which do not follow human logic. Thus man can include or exclude according to his own subjective desires. From these two concepts of inspiration the Bible is reduced to a “human production.”
On the basis of the difference of style, sentence structure, arrangement, and vocabulary of the writers of the books of the Bible, some have suggested the theory of “thought inspiration.” This theory maintains that God gave the writers the idea and they communicated these thoughts by words they chose from their own vocabularies. This has led men to view the Bible as the work of untrained and uneducated fishermen. One difficulty with this concept is that it overlooks the fact that it is impossible to engage in thought without the use of words. This view also attacks the accuracy of the Bible. Concerning this theory, Guy N. Woods has written:
“Furthermore, the view raises serious questions regarding the integrity and accuracy of the message itself. We are solely dependent on words which the writers penned for the thoughts which they expressed. If they were dependent on their fallible, human judgment in the selection of these words, in any instance in which their judgment was in error. it is not possible to discover what the Holy Spirit really intended. One wrong word might obscure, or strike out, a truth essential to our salvation.”<2>
If the theory of thought inspiration is true then man cannot reach the point of faith in Christ Jesus because, “belief cometh of hearing, and hearing. by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Difference in sentence structure and vocabulary was the natural result of the Holy Spirit using men as instruments to reveal the will of God. On one occasion Jesus stated that it was easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. The accounts in Matt. 19:24, Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25 are substantially the same. Matthew and Mark use the Greek word [rafidos] for needle whereas Luke uses the Greek word [belonas]. All three passages are correct; all teach the same thing but there is a difference in the word, needle. The Holy Spirit chose [belonas] from the physicians’ vocabulary and [rafidos] from Matthew’s and Mark’s vocabulary.
As the Holy Spirit used God’s men to communicate his will to his creatures, we should also take under consideration, in addition to vocabulary differences, the audience to whom the messages were being revealed, and the purpose of the writings. When we consider these facts the differences of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are understandably different — there is no need to invent a “theory of inspiration” which reduces the Bible to the level of human wisdom.
The Bible Is Inspired by God
“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 Tim. 3:16-17, KJV).
“Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, ASV).
Of the terms translated, “all Scripture” and “every Scripture” Vincent states, “all Scripture ([pasa grafa]). Better, every Scripture, that is every passage of Scripture.”<3> Defining [pasa] and its use in this passage Arndt and Gingrich state:
“Emphasizing the individual members of the class denoted by the noun every, each, scarcely different in meaning from the plural `all’.”<4>
The Greek text ([pasa grafa theopneustos]) simply states, every Scripture God breathed. The scripture in total (each passage) is the product of the creative breath of God, the Bible is a divine product. In this passage [theopneustos] is asserted, not explained.
Meanwhile it is of consequence for us to say, and it is of consequence that it be understood, that this miraculous operation of the Holy Ghost had not the sacred writers themselves for its object — for these were only his instruments, and were soon to pass away; but that its object were the holy books themselves, which were destined to reveal from age to age, to the Church, the counsels of God, and which were never to pass away.<5>
The Apostle Peter teaches us further that no prophecy was borne (or brought forth by the will of man) but men spoke being moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21).
From these passages it is evidently clear that the Bible does not contain the Word of God, it is the Word of God. If the writers wrote of the time before the creation of the heavens and earth, or of the future beyond the second coming of Jesus Christ, or the deep things of God, or made reference to uninspired writings or sayings of men, or speak of some person or event which is not revealed in any other place, it is always God who speaks.
The Bible was given to man that, “the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Not only may man be furnished completely unto every good work, but the Bible is complete and is all man needs for his preparation for life with the eternal Father. “Seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3).
How Did Inspiration Work?
Through Moses God said, “I will raise up a prophet, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” (Deut. 18:18-19). The Apostle Peter in Acts 3:22-23 speaks of the fulfillment of this prophecy in Jesus Christ.
As he commissioned the twelve apostles to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:6) he told them that when they were delivered up that they were not to be anxious how or what they were to speak because the Spirit of the Father would speak in them (Matt. 10:20).
Preparing the apostles for the time he would leave them Jesus promised not to leave them desolate but would send them another Comforter, i.e., the Holy Spirit (John 14:16; John 14:26; John 16:13). The purpose of this Comforter was to guide the apostles in their work:
- To teach them all things (John 14:26).
- To bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had said to them (John 14:26).
- To guide them into all truth (John 16:13).
- To declare unto them all things which were to come (John 16:13).
The Holy Spirit (Comforter) came upon the apostles on the first Pentecost following the ascension of Jesus. This event is recorded in Acts 2.
Paul, who was also called Saul, the persecutor of Christians (Acts 9) became Paul the apostle (Acts 9; Acts 22). Paul was one who was born out of due season (1 Cor. 15:8) to take God’s message of salvation to the Gentiles. The apostle Peter acknowledged Paul’s authority as an apostle (2 Pet. 3:16). Paul, the apostle, healed the sick (Acts 28:8), cast out demons (Acts 16:18), raised the dead (Acts 20:10-11) and wrote and spoke by the guidance of the Spirit of God.
1. 1 Cor. 14:37, “If a man thinketh himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord.”
2. 1 Cor. 2:12-13, “But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth: combining spiritual things with spiritual words.”
The things that Paul wrote were not “Pauline Theology,” but they were given by God through the Holy Spirit to Paul who taught and wrote for our instruction and guidance (1 Tim. 4:1). The same thing is true as far as the other apostles and penmen of the Bible.
The Bible is God’s will revealed by God to man.
Marks of Inspiration
The Bible, consisting of 66 books, reveals the will of God for man in all ages and is without error. It reveals the origin of man, what God expects of him while he lives on earth, his final destiny, and is in harmony with every phase of life.
A. The Bible is in agreement with secular history.
For many years critics scoffed at the prophet Isaiah because of his “mistake.” In Isa. 20:1 this great prophet spoke of Sargon the king of Assyria. For many years this was the only reference in extant literature where Sargon’s name was mentioned, and because of this it was said that Isaiah was in error. However, in 1843 Paul Botta, the French consular agent at Mosul, unearthed evidence which established Sargon in secular history as king of the Assyrians. At Korsabad Mr. Botta discovered the palace of Sargon II. Sargon had made his capital successively at Ashur, Calah, Nineveh, and finally at Khorsabad. His palace at the latter city was built in the closing years of his reign, and the walls were adorned with texts describing the events of his reign. Isaiah was correct, and now secular history acknowledges this fact.
In the New Testament it has been claimed that the writer of Acts was in error when he designated Sergius Paulus as proconsul of Cyprus (Acts 13:7). The critics claimed that Cyprus was governed by a propraetor. As we turn to the writers of history for that period, Dio Cassius (Roman History) and Strabo (The Geography of Strabo) we learn that there were two periods of Cyprus’ history: first, it was an imperial province governed by a propraetor, and later in 22 B.C. it was made a senatorial province governed by a proconsul. Therefore, the historians support Luke in his statement that Cyprus was ruled by a proconsul, for it was between 40-50 A.D. when Paul made his first missionary journey. If we accept secular history as being true we must also accept Biblical history for they are in agreement. It is not intellectually honest to accept history and reject the Bible.
B. The Bible agrees with the facts of science.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) first announced that there are only five manifestations of the unknowable in existence — time, force, action, space, and matter — and that all else is based on these fundamentals. This was hailed as a great announcement, but God three thousand years before this had his servant Moses to write the same truth. It was written in the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Note, in the beginning, time; God, force; created, action; the heavens, space; and the earth, matter. Thus, Moses put all five scientific fundamentals in the first verse of Genesis and they are in the same order as announced by Herbert Spencer.
Geography is a comparatively modern science. Not many years ago the maps of much of the world were mostly blank and the mistakes in geography books had to be corrected every generation. The Bible was written before the modern science of geography was ever heard Of and though it abounds in geographic references, it is correct in every instance. No one has to revise it and bring it up to date. It was free from error from the beginning because the Architect of the universe is the Author of the Bible. When the Bible says, “They went up to Jerusalem” it is literally uphill. When we read, “down to Jericho” we may know that it is downhill. The cities, plains, deserts, mountains and towns mentioned in the Bible have been found exactly where the Bible locates them. If the Bible were a human production it would be filled with geographical errors. Since there are no such errors we conclude that it is a superhuman product.
C. The fulfillment of Biblical prophecy is irrefutable.
In determining the credibility of a prophet, God’s people were told, “when a prophet speaketh in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah hath not spoken: the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously, thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22). No doubt the crowning glory of the Bible is the fulfillment of its prophecies. For example there are many prophecies concerning Jesus the Christ. His birth was prophesied by Isaiah (Isa. 9:6) and Jeremiah (Jer. 23:5-6) and the New Testament writers as well as non-Christian writers (Josephus, Suetonius, etc.) bear witness of the Christ, and the fulfillment of this prophecy. Other prophecies and their fulfillment concerning Christ are found in Micah 5:2; Matt. 2:6 (his birthplace); Gen. 12:1-3; Gen. 49:10; Heb. 7:14 (his lineage); Isa. 53:9; Luke 23:4; Matt. 27:24 (his character); Isa. 53:5; Matt. 26:67 (the abuse he would suffer); Isa. 53:9-10 and Ps. 68:18 spoke of the resurrection and ascension which were fulfilled according to Luke 2 4 and Acts 1.
Truly this Book bears the marks of inspiration – it is God-breathed!
Man’s Responsibility to the Inspired Word of God
Although it is maintained in some circles that the Bible is inspired when man recognizes it as being inspired of God, we have learned from our study that it is “God-breathed” regardless of man’s attitude toward it. Since the Bible is God given to mankind, man has a definite responsibility to it.
James tell us, “Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:22). The apostle Peter instructs us that we purify our souls in our obedience to the truth (1 Pet. 1:22). Not only are we to respect the inspired Word in becoming a child of God (Acts 2:41-47), but we must live according to its directions in every phase of our lives. The Bible is just as authoritative in governing the marriage relationship as it is in directing a sinner into the kingdom of God. We cannot fail to obey the God breathed instructions if we desire to please our Creator (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).
The words of God direct our lives on earth and will be the standard of judgment when we give an accounting of our activities on earth (John 12:48).
The inspired Word will abide!
Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
When looking in, I saw upon the floor,
Old hammers worn with beating years of time.
How many anvils have you had, said I,
To wear and batter all these hammers so?
Just one, said he; then said with twinkling eye,
The anvil wears the hammer out, you know.
And so thought I, the anvil of God’s Word
For ages skeptics blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed — the hammers gone!
<1> Frank Pack, “The Inspiration of the Scripture,” The Bible Today, Abilene Christian College Lectures, 1966.
<2> Guy N. Woods, The Case for Verbal Inspiration (Lambert Book House), p. 11.
<3> Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans), Vol. IV, p. 317.
<4> Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon on the New Testament and Other Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), p. 636.
<5> L. Gaussen, The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications), p. 24.