Inspiration: Introduction and Definition

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2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)
The term “inspiration” like “Trinity” is not a biblical word but does summarize some important facets of biblical truth.
The theological idea of inspiration presupposes a personal God with a mind and a sovereign will.
The Christian’s conviction regarding the inspiration of the Bible is based upon the Bible’s own testimony or in other words, it is based upon on explicit assertions.
J. Hampton Keathley III writes “As special revelation is God’s communication to man of the truth he must know in order to be properly related to God, so inspiration deals with the preservation of that revelation so that what was received from God was accurately transmitted to others beyond the original recipient. In revelation we have the vertical reception of God’s truth while in inspiration we have the horizontal communication of that revelation accurately to others. The question is how can we be sure the Bible is God’s revelation to man and not merely the product of human ingenuity or merely human opinion? If what God revealed has not been accurately recorded, then that record is subject to question. The doctrine of inspiration answers that question and guarantees the accuracy of the Bible as God’s special revelation.”[1]
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines the word “inspiration”as “a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him to receive and communicate sacred revelation, the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions.”
They state that the word “inspire” means “to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration.”
Therefore, the doctrine of inspiration contends that, God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human authors of Scripture, that without destroying their individuality, their literary style, their personal interests, and their vocabulary, God’s complete and connected thought towards man was recorded with perfect accuracy in the original languages of Scripture.
2 Timothy 3:16 Each and every portion of Scripture does possess, as an eternal spiritual truth the characteristic of being God-breathed. Consequently, it does possess, as an eternal spiritual truth the characteristic of being useful for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for training which is related to righteousness. 17 The purpose of which is that the person belonging to God (the Father) would possess the characteristic of being competent, specifically, by equipping for every kind of action which is divine good in quality and character. (Pastor’s translation)
The original languages of Scripture contain the very words of God, and therefore, bear the authority of divine authorship.
H. Lindsell writes “Inspiration carries with it the divine authority of God so that Scripture is binding upon the mind, heart and conscience as the only rule of faith and practice for the believer. In its authority, Scripture stands above men, creeds and the Church itself. All of them are subject to Scripture and any authority that any one of them many exert is valid insofar as it can be supported from Scripture.”[2]
Consequently, there are three reasonable suppositions: (1) Since God is a Person, perfect, eternal, infinite and just, He will always have a message to give and He will always reveal it so it could be understood by any believer. (2) The divine record and revelation will be given in accurate terms: accuracy and inerrancy (3) the text of this record will be preserved in its purity by God Himself and will therefore be indestructible. God sees to that. Thus, one can say that the Bible in its original languages is the exact record, the mind and will of God.
Inspiration guarantees: (1) the accuracy of Satan’s lies and the way that they were phrased. (2) The way people committed their sins. (3) Anything that is not related to the plan of God and outside the plan of God is recorded for a purpose and for a reason.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy with Exposition states “1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself. 2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms: obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises. 3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning. 4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives. 5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.”
Ryrie defines inspiration as “God’s superintendence of the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs. Several features of the definition are worth emphasizing: (1) God superintended but did not dictate the material. (2) He used human authors and their own individual styles. (3) Nevertheless, the product was, in its original manuscripts, without error.”[3]
The definitions of inspiration presented above speak both of God’s action, by His Spirit, in the human author and of the nature of the resulting text.
Therefore, the Scripture states that “no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation; indeed, prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20–21).
Furthermore the Scriptures teach that not only are the human authors of Scripture “carried along by the Holy Spirit,” but the resulting Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and notice that these passages teach that it is Scripture that is so described, not the human author.
If we choose to use the word “inspired” instead of “God-breathed,” then we can say that it is the text that is inspired, not the human authors.
Now, if we use the term “inspire” to the fact that the human authors were “carried along by the Holy Spirit,” then the authors of Scripture were in fact inspired.
Therefore, our definition of inspiration is designed to capture both the work of the Holy Spirit through the human author and the resulting status of the text of Scripture and it is important to understand that there is nothing in this definition that requires a particular mode of inspiration.
The Scriptures reveal that inspiration may operate through a vision, a trance-like dream, and hearing voices but we must also keep in mind that there is nothing in the definition that requires such phenomena.
In fact, the Scriptures also reveal that it is not clear that all of the biblical writers were always self-consciously aware that what they were writing was canonical Scripture.
So the term “inspiration” is really not much more than a convenient label to attach to the process whereby God has brought about the existence of the Scriptures: verbal revelation and historical witness, words of human beings and words of God, the truth that God chose to communicate and the particular forms of individual human authors.
Enns writes “There are several important elements that belong in a proper definition of inspiration: (1) the divine element—God the Holy Spirit superintended the writers, ensuring the accuracy of the writing; (2) the human element—human authors wrote according to their individual styles and personalities; (3) the result of the divine‑human authorship is the recording of God’s truth without error; (4) inspiration extends to the selection of words by the writers; (5) inspiration relates to the original manuscripts.”[4]
[1] Bibliology: The Doctrine of the Written Word, page 14; Biblical Studies Press 1997. [2] Tenney, Merrill C. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in Five Volumes. page 288; Regency Reference Library, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1975. [3] Ryrie, C. C. (1972). A survey of Bible doctrine. Chicago: Moody Press. [4] Enns, p. 160.
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