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Inspiration of the Bible

Clarence H. Benson

The inspiration of the Bible is of great importance, for all Christian doctrines are developed from the Bible and rest upon it for authority. The conviction that the eternal God has revealed Himself to man has always been central in the Christian faith. Since man could never have discovered God by himself, Christians have always held that God makes Himself known to man supernaturally. The books that form the canon of the Old and New Testaments as originally written are fully inspired and entirely free from error. These books constitute the written Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

To accept the inspiration of the Bible does not mean that every passage can be explained or understood. There are depths in God’s Book that the mind of man cannot fathom, but far from being indications of weakness or failure, they serve to prove the Bible’s divine origin. If the intelligence of man could master the Bible from beginning to end, it might be justifiable to question its divine origin. God has revealed a sufficient knowledge of His love and grace for believers to have both faith and hope in Him and to be assured that “if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine(John 7:17). If Christians study the Bible, not with prejudice and criticism, but with faith in and love for its Author, they will understand its message.

There is a distinction between revelation and inspiration. Revelation is the record of God’s communication through men. Inspiration is God’s power enabling man to record correctly the truth revealed. The word inspiration, used only twice in the English Bible (Job 32:8; 2 Tim. 3:16), means the“inbreathing” of God into man, so that man spoke or wrote God’s revelation of truth with authority and accuracy (2 Pet. 1:21).

Not everything in the Bible has been directly revealed to men. The Bible contains history in the language of men, even of wicked men, but there is no part that is not inspired. The Spirit so directed and influenced the writers that they were kept from any error of fact or doctrine.

However, inspiration does not mean God has given His approval to every recorded statement. The Bible records the lies of Satan (for example, “Ye shall not surely die”) and the misdeeds of many wicked people, some of whom God used to communicate His message. For example, the book of Job contains the truths of Jehovah, the words of Satan, the speech of Elihu, and the arguments of Job and the three friends. Satan, Job, and his three friends did not speak by inspiration of God. They spoke their own opinions. Inspiration means that no one of them is misrepresented, but that each one spoke the words attributed to him in Scripture. The fact that misdeeds like Saul’s slaughter of the priests, David’s numbering of the people, and Herod’s massacre of the innocents are recorded in the Bible does not imply that God approved of them, but the divine record vouches for the accuracy of these facts.

The Extent of Inspiration

While the fact of inspiration is recognized by most churches, all do not agree on the extent of inspiration. There are various theories of inspiration.

Natural Inspiration

This theory identifies inspiration with a high order of human ability. It denies anything supernatural in the preparation of the Scriptures. It claims that the biblical writers were no more inspired than Milton, Shakespeare, or Mohammed.

However, when David said, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2), he meant something more than human skill. When Isaiah announced, “thus saith the Lord” (e.g., Isa. 43:1), he claimed something higher than a great poet’s eloquence. When Paul said to the Corinthians, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth”

(1 Cor. 2:13), he used language for which no parallel can be found in mere human ability.

When one compares the literature of the great secular authors with that of the Bible, the difference between the two is not one simply of degree, but of kind. The Bible is not only a higher plane of literature, but an environment that is altogether different. If the qualifications of Bible writers were the same as those of great secular writers, there would be nothing to assure the readers that Moses, David, and Paul did not make human errors or teach human views of life. The theory of natural inspiration discredits rather than supports the Word of God.

Mechanical Inspiration

This view ignores human instrumentality in the preparation of the Scriptures and claims that the writers were like robots, as insensible to what they were doing as are piano keys to a musician’s touch. But consider the stern Moses, the poetic David, the lovable John, and the scholarly Paul. Careful study of the Scriptures reveals that God used these writers’ individualities to reach all kinds of people.


Partial Inspiration

The theory of partial inspiration is held by some who have a superficial knowledge of the Bible and who accept scientists’ theories as facts. In the face of apparent discrepancies between scientific theories and Scripture, they conclude that the Bible contains the Word of God, but that much of it is not the Word of God and therefore not necessarily accurate. They can thus accept the theory of evolution and reject as not inspired those portions of Scripture that refute it. If Jonah’s experiences seem incompatible with scientific findings, or statements about the total depravity of human nature and the eternal punishment of the wicked are unacceptable, this theory of partial inspiration provides a convenient escape. But who is to decide what is and what is not inspired? The theory of partial inspiration leaves people in great uncertainty.