The Bible
"How Did God Provide The Scriptures?"

Douglas Gleason,

C.   How did God Provide the Scriptures?

1.      Introduction to the Doctrine

a)     Lesson Outline

II. Bibliology
      C.  How did God Provide the Scriptures
                  1.  Introduction to the Doctrine
                              a)  Lesson Outline
                              b)  The Problem
                  2.  What the Scriptures Teach
                              a)  The Books of the Law
                              b)  The Books of the Prophets
                              c)  The Historical Books
                              d)  The Books of Poetry and Wisdom
                              e)  Early Christianity and the Book of Acts
                              f)  The Writings of Paul, John, and Peter
                  3.  Systematic Formulation
                              a)  Theories or Modes of Inspiration
                              b)  The Biblical Doctrine of Verbal Plenary Inspiration Defined
                              c)  The Proof of the Doctrine
                  4.  Defense of the Doctrine
                              a)  Early Church Fathers
                              b)  Medieval Scholasticism
                              c)  The Reformers
                              d)  Objections in Latter Protestantism
                              e)  Objections in the Modern Period
                              f)  Objections to Verbal Plenary Inspiration
                  5.  Conclusion

b)     The Problem

In our lesson on Revelation, we discovered that God “spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son,” (Hebrews 1:1-2) about His redemptive purposes.  We discovered that the scriptures were the written record of that which God said.  Chafer eloquently says, “In place of man’s native agnosticism, born of his fallen human limitations, a God-given Revelation is bequeathed to man in a permanent, written form.”[1]  Several questions come to mind.  What process has God given us the scriptures?  How do we know that they are the words of God?  The answer lies in the doctrine of inspiration. 

Theologians use the term inspiration to describe the influence that God exerted over the human authors of scripture, both the Old and New Testaments.  Inspiration has to do with the way the divine message was received by these authors and how accurately they wrote it down.  If one were to survey every book written on the subject in the last one hundred years, he would very quickly see that each author, regardless of his generation, revealed that an irreconcilable conflict raged between those who supported and defended the long accepted biblical doctrine of inspiration and those who did not.  And not surprisingly, this is so because of the supernatural aspect of the doctrine.  Because of man’s sinful nature, this supernatural aspect repels the natural man no matter what his level of learning. 

It is not difficult to see the importance of our having an accurate record of God’s revealed truth for the Scriptures are the foundation of all that we believe.  Neither should it surprise us that there should be opposition from the world to break down the Bible’s own testimony regarding its inspiration.  If the Bible can be discredited, then all it teaches is discredited.

2.      What the Scriptures Teach

“That doctrine of inspiration, which the church has held in all her generations, abides, not because its defenders are able to shout louder than their opponents, nor by virtue of any human defense, but because of the fact that it is embedded within the divine Oracles themselves.”[2]  Let us now look at what the Scriptures say on the subject.

a)     The Books of the Law

In Exodus Chapters 20-24 we see the birth of the written word of God as it unfolds at Sinai.  Moses was in daily communication with God.  It was during this time that he made what lawyers call a contemporaneous record of his conversations.  Moses listened for days and days as God spoke.  “And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD.” (Exodus 24:4)  He wrote the laws and statutes, ordinances and instructions, all that the LORD said to him in a book that came to be called the “Book of the Covenant.”  This book was to take its place in the canon of Scripture as the book of Leviticus. This pattern was to continue between God and Moses for the next 40 years when it is reported “Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete.” (Deuteronomy 31:24-26) 

In the Books of the Law we can see the confluencey of divine and human aspects of inspiration illustrated in Moses’ involvement in the production of Scripture.   He had completed his task of inscripturating the law that God had revealed to him.  The Book of the Law (the Pentateuch) was placed next to the Arc of the Covenant with the other sacred writings.  It had the authority of God because of its divine origin.   For this reason, additions to or subtractions from the Book of the Law were specifically forbidden.  

b)     The Books of the Prophets

As with Moses, God continued to reveal His word, apart from the law, to the prophets and they continued to write it down.  God commanded Isaiah to, "Take for yourself a large tablet and write on it in ordinary letters: Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey. (Isaiah 8:1)  He said to Jeremiah, "Take a scroll and write on it all the words which I have spoken to you concerning Israel, and concerning Judah, and concerning all the nations, from the day I first spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day.” (Jeremiah 36:2)  Notice that in this instance, God didn’t say, “Jeremiah, take a memo.”  He was to use his memory, his skills as a writer, as a prophet, and write the words of God from the first day He spoke to the last.  In obedience to the LORD, Jeremiah set up an elaborate procedure to be sure that he got it right.[3]  Micah said, ” On the other hand I am filled with power with the Spirit of the LORD—and with justice and courage to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin.”  (Micah 3:8)

c)      The Historical Books

Freeman said,

“The religion and history of Israel are fundamentally prophetic.  Israel’s religion was grounded in a revelation through historical events, rather than in metaphysical speculation or philosophical reasoning.  Hence the Word of God consists in just this; it is the prophetic testimony to what God has said and done, and what He will yet do in history.”[4]

As God continued to speak, his servants continued to write.  Joshua recorded the substance of the covenant established at Shechem[5] made at the end of his life in the book of the Law.  Likewise, Samuel, after explaining to Israel what would be required of them if they persisted in their demand for a king, made a scroll and deposited it before the LORD.[6]  Nehemiah calls the Book of the Law, the words of Moses and of God.[7]  In these examples we see the interaction of God and the writers.  He spoke, they wrote. 

d)     The Books of Poetry and Wisdom

The incomparable excellence of Scripture, stemming from its divine origin, is seen over and over again in the Psalms.  The poets use such terms as flawless, perfect, without blemish, trustworthy, true, radiant, dependable, and altogether right.[8]  We can see the humanity of Scripture in the Book of Job, which records the misguided judgments of Job’s three friends.  Here, inspiration extends to the accurate recording of false counsel.

e)     Early Christianity and the Book of Acts

In the synoptic gospels, we see that Jesus firmly held to the verbal inspiration and authority of the Old Testament as the Word of God.  Matthew records Jesus as saying; "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)  In this declaration, He is saying that the very words of the law are Gods words.  Jesus uses the phrase the Law and the prophets to mean all of the Old Testament.[9]

f)   The Writings of Paul, John, and Peter

Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, makes the classic statement about the inspiration of the Scriptures; “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)  He simply and clearly states that all Scripture is inspired. The word Inspired comes from the Greek term theopneustos, or ‘God-breathed.’ He doesn’t discuss the process of inspiration, only its result.  Because Scripture is, God-breathed, it has inestimable value to men and women everywhere and in every age.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul characterizes the process as “combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)

John teaches the divine inspiration and authority of the Scriptures in several passages.  As with the Synoptic Gospel writers, he quotes Jesus as saying, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me.” (John 5:39)  In this statement He equates the writings of Moses with the Scriptures, and then calls them the Father’s word.[10]  In another place He calls the law of the Jews, in other words the entire Old Testament, the “Word of God.”[11]  In this same passage he quotes Jesus as saying that the Scripture “cannot be broken.”  This is Jesus’ way of describing the authority of Scripture.  The book of Revelation makes its own unmistakable claim to be inspired in God’s command to John to “write what you have seen.”[12]

Peter said, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:29-21)  In this we have the other classic passage on the doctrine of inspiration.  Peter equates the entire Old Testament with prophecy of Scripture.

3.      Systematic Formulation

a)     Theories or Modes of Inspiration

Throughout church history, there have been many theories proposed to explain inspiration.  These so-called theories of inspiration are the attempts men of varying faith have made to frame a relationship between the divine and human authorships of scripture.  According to Thiessen, these men have confused the result of inspiration with the mode of inspiration.  “The mode is the method which God employed in inspiration, while the result denotes the outcome of inspiration.”[13]  Thus the intuition, conceptual, degrees, dynamic, and dictation theories are all more properly classified as the modes of inspiration.   

The Intuition Theory
According to the Intuition theory, the writers of Scripture had a superior insight into moral and religious truth. 

The Conceptual Theory

The Conceptual theory says that the ideas (concepts) contained in Scripture were inspired rather than the words.  Since the thoughts were controlled by God in inspiration the words are merely incidental. 

The Degrees of Inspiration Theory

Others have proposed that certain parts of the Bible are more inspired than others.  This makes them more reliable and authoritative.  This is the Degrees of Inspiration theory.  More important are the two remaining theories that I want to briefly discuss, the Dynamic and Dictation theories. 

The Dynamic Theory
The Dynamic theory says that God supplied the enabling needed for the trustworthy transmission of the truth.  This made the writers of Scripture infallible in matters of faith and practice.  It seeks to differentiate between redemptive and non-redemptive truth so that things of a religious or redemptive nature are inspired and infallible while those that are non-redemptive or secular, if you will, are not inspired.  To illustrate, the Bible speaks of the work of Christ on the cross to save men from their sins.  This is redemptive in nature and therefore, inspired.  It also speaks of the creation of the universe.  This is not redemptive in nature and is not inspired.  It could then be erroneous as to the facts regarding human origins. 

The fundamental problem with this view is how does one determine what is religious and non-religious, redemptive or non-redemptive truth?  There is no objective way that one can do so. When the truth of Scripture becomes subjective then what is inspired to one man is not to another.

Marcus Dods, no friend to the biblical doctrine of verbal inspiration, none-the-less has a good analysis of the failings of the dynamic theory.  He said:

“It does not explain, or even attempt to explain, how writers should be possessed of supernatural knowledge while inditing (sic) one sentence and be dropped to a much lower level in the next.  It does not give us the psychology of that state of mind which can infallibly pronounce on matters of doctrine, while it is all astray on the simpler facts of history.  It makes no attempt to analyze the relation subsisting between the Divine mind and the human, which produces such results.”[14]

This theory must be rejected for these reasons.

The Dictation Theory
The Dictation theory says that the writers of holy writ were nothing more than the pen in the hand of God.  They were not people whose individualities were used in the act of inspiration.  So according to this view, the literary style that is seen throughout the Scriptures is that of the Holy Spirit.  It completely ignores the differences in style that is seen between Moses and David, Peter and Paul, James and Matthew, and any other writer.  Some have said that the Holy Spirit adopted the style of the individual writer, but this is no answer.  This theory too must fail.

b)     The Biblical Doctrine of Verbal Plenary Inspiration Defined

We have briefly investigated various theories of inspiration.  In point of fact, the Bible presents no theory regarding its own inspiration.  It unequivocally states what the true doctrine is.  “To reaffirm: The question is not what meneven great scholarsthink is a workable theory as to the manner in which the Bible was written; it is what the Bible declares concerning itself.” [15]  Here’s what the Bible says about its own inspiration.  “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”[16]  The Biblical doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration principally stems from this scripture.

Before I discuss the doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration several terms need to be defined.  The term verbal means that the Holy Spirit guided the writers in the choice of words used.  I hasten to add that human authorship was respected to the extent that the writer’s style and his personality were both preserved but without the introduction of error into the record of revelation.  Plenary comes from Paul’s statement that all scripture is inspired.  Every word, every clause, every phrase, every sentence, every book…all of Scripture is equally inspired.  The last term that needs to be defined at this point is inspired.  While more will be said later, I’d like to point out that inspire is a poor rendering of the Greek term theopneustos.  A literal rendering would be God breathed.  The truth of Biblical inspiration involves the latent sense of breathing out not breathing in as the English term suggests.

Having briefly defined the key terms of the doctrine, let’s define the doctrine.  Cook offers a very good definition when he says, “Verbal Plenary Inspiration means that God so directed the human authors of Scripture, that without destroying their individuality, personal interest, or literary style, His complete thought toward men was recorded without error in the words of the original manuscripts.”[17]

Implicit in this definition is the concept of the dual authorship of Scripture.  The theological term is confluencey.  The Bible is in all aspects the Word of God having divine authority and infallible truth while at the same time, truly the product of men.  In the Scriptures we see all the evidences of human authorship, apart from error, that can be seen in any other book that has been written.  Lewis and Demarest say, “The human side of Scripture is reflected not only in different styles of writing, but in the biblical writers’ use of secular archival records, prophetic annals, collections of poetry, and the like.”[18]  This inspiration, this confluent authorship, extends to every part of Scripture.  It includes the language and ideas expressed by the authors.  Another point remains to be emphasized.  Only the original manuscripts (autographs) are inspired.  God did not inspire the various copyists, publishers, or translators. He inspired the original authors.

c)      Proof of the Doctrine

The proof of the doctrine lies along two lines, the character of God and the character of Scripture.  We’ll discuss each in turn.  The first line, looks to God’s character for support.  God is good.  Since He is good, He provides for the needs of His creation.  This is especially seen in His providential care of humans.  While we will cover the providence of God in later articles, we can make a few observations.  God has ordered nature to benefit the lives of mankind.  He has sent the rain, the sun, ordered the seasons, created an abundant supply of food, all for our good.  He orders the things in our lives for our good.  So we can expect that if God takes care of our physical needs, He will take care of our spiritual needs.  W. G. T. Shedd said it is “natural to suppose that a prophet or an apostle who has received directly from God a profound and mysterious truth inaccessible to the human intellect will not be left to his own unassisted powers in imparting what he has received.” [19] Why would God speak to mankind and not ensure that the message was accurate and complete?  The very character of Scripture in its continuity, its authority, verifies this line of reasoning.

Second, we look to the claims of Scripture regarding its inspiration.  That it claims to speak the words of God is manifest throughout the Bible.[20]  More significantly it asserts that it is inspired.  In 2 Timothy 3:16 we have one such passage, in 2 Peter 1:20, 21 we have another.  We will consider these passages at length.

In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul said, “All (pasa) Scripture (graphe) is inspired (theopneustos) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”  A more literal translation of “inspired” would be, “God-breathed”.  We see here two aspects to Scripture, one that describes the character of scripture, it is God-breathed and the other that declares its value, it is profitable for building the character of a man.  For our purposes here there are three Greek terms from the Scripture above that we need to look at: All (pasa), Scripture (graphe), and God-breathed (theopneustos). 

All (pasa)

Thayer defines pasa as “I.   Adjectivally, and   1. with anarthrous nouns;    a. any, every one (namely of the class denoted by the noun annexed to pas) b. any and every, of every kind c. the whole (all, Lat. Totus): so before proper names of countries, cities, nations; before collective terms, [pasa graphe].”[21]  When Paul says all he means all of it…every line, every phrase, every word, every book, the whole…is inspired.

Scriptures (graphe)

Normally, graphe simply means writing.  However, in the New Testament, its use has been considerably narrowed.  According to the Moulton and Gordon Concordance of the Greek New Testament, graphe is used in the New Testament some fifty-one times.  In every instance it is used in connection with the Bible and is properly translated “Scripture.”  When used in its plural form it refers to the Old Testament.[22] In the singular, as here, it may be used collectively for the body of sacred writings, or as a reference to a specific passage.[23]  In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul, speaking of the Old Testament uses the Greek words hiera grammata, Holy writings.  In verse 16 he uses graphe and joins it to pasa.  “This would strongly suggest that he has more than the Old Testament in mind in verse 16.”[24]

 God-breathed (theopneustos)
Theopneustos is a compound word made up of Theos, meaning “God”, pneuo, meaning “I breathe”, and an adjectival ending tos. As we have said, a fair translation is “God-breathed.”

The other important passage that we’ll look at is 2 Peter 1:21 where Peter says, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  In this verse Peter looks at inspiration from a different angle than the one that Paul did.  While Paul looked to the result Peter looked at the process.

The context around this verse is very important.  Peter tells his readers (verses 12-15) that they knew the Lord and that the truth was present in them.  In spite of this he was going to remind them of certain things because his death was immanent and he didn’t want them to forget.  Peter went on to say (verses 16-19) that he didn’t make up stories about the power and coming of Jesus Christ.  He was, after all, an eyewitness of all that Jesus did and said. On the Mount of Transfiguration, he heard the voice of God along with James and John.[25]

Peter then says and astounding thing, “And so we have the prophetic word made more sure.” Now what did he mean by this?  Eyewitnesses certified the power and coming of Jesus Christ.  But, we possess something even more certain than eyewitness reports.  We have the prophetic word.  “The term prophetic (propheta) in verse 20 is not to be understood in its more restrictive sense of foretelling the future but in its primary sense of telling forth the counsels of God.”[26]  In the Scriptures, the prophetic word is more authoritative than even eyewitness accounts.

Now, in the verse in question, verse 21, we see that “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  In the first place, Peter says that Scripture did not have the human imagination as its source.  It was a revelation of the mind of God.  “This important truth of the divine origin of the Scriptures (that what is contained in them is the mind of God and not of man) is to be known and owned by all who will give heed to the sure word of prophecy.”[27]  Second, the process is described as men being ‘moved’ (Greek phero) by the Holy Spirit.  Phero is the influence of the Holy Spirit upon the writers of Scripture.  It suggests the effect of the wind on the sails of a boat.  The boat is borne along by the wind.  “While phero indicates the divine control of the human authors, it allows in its breadth of expression for an indefinite variety of ways in which the end shall be attained.”[28]

We now see the whole of the doctrine.  In Paul’s use of theopneustos we see the origin of Scripture in the breath of God and in Peter’s use of phero we see the process in the work of the Holy Spirit in men.

4.      Defense of the Doctrine

a)     Early Church Fathers

The early Fathers stressed the divine side of Scripture.  Justin Martyr used a wonderful analogy when describing the process of inspiration.   God moved upon the writers of Scripture much like a ‘musician played the harp or a lyre’.  Similarly Athenagoras likened the biblical writer to ‘a stringed instrument on which the Holy Ghost played the divine harmonies of life’.  Tertullian called individual Old Testament texts ‘the commandments of God’ and the canon as the ‘Scripture of the Holy Ghost’.  From Irenaeus, in the west, to Jerome in the north, to Gregory of Nazianzus, in the east, to Clement of Alexandria in the south, each espoused the verbal inspiration and veracity of the Scriptures.  This was without doubt the belief of the church at large.

b)     Medieval Scholasticism

Thomas Aquinas followed the early Fathers’ view.  To him the Scriptures represented incontrovertible authority.  However, despite Rome’s formal statements on inspiration and infallibility (as held by Aquinas) these doctrines were steadily eroded by the actions of the church.  In the early Middle Ages (ca 900-1200) the Roman Church had frequently combated what it deemed heretical teachings.  As a result of these battles, the doctrine of the Magisterium of the church[29] was developed.  According to this doctrine and its companion doctrine of apostolic succession,[30] apostolic authority to teach and interpret Scripture was passed on to the hierarchy of the church. 

The Church taught (and continues to do so) that the Magisterium was in effect and actuality, the living transmission of the Gospel.  This living transmission was to be called Tradition.  This “[Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.  It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their teaching.”[31]

The Council of Trent (1546) declared that Scripture and church tradition were given by the Holy Spirit to the authors Scripture.[32] Inspired Scripture and church tradition were placed by the Roman Church on an equal footing. 

c)      The Reformers

Martin Luther, speaking of the treatment of Scriptures by Rome, said that it “makes out of them what they like, as if they were a nose of wax, to be pulled about at will.”[33]  He held the historic view that the scriptures were verbally inspired by God.  According to Luther, if the Scriptures are from the Holy Spirit, they possess God’s authority.  He declared time and again, when debating with his detractors over a point of doctrine, Sola Scriptura,” (Latin, the Scriptures alone) for they are the inspired Word of God. 

John Calvin, too, followed the traditional teaching of the early church Fathers.  To him, the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, came from the mouth of God.  He, with Luther, has often been accused of advocating the “dictation” theory of interpretation because he referred to the writers as clerks, amanuenses, organs and instruments.  “It should be noted acknowledged that…Calvin used the term “dictation” in [his] writings, but [he did] not use it in the psychological sense of describing the modus operandi (Latin, method of procedure) of the Holy Spirit but rather as meaning that the writers wrote word for word what God intended.”[34]  This was his way of saying that God was in sovereign control of the process of writing Scripture.  Because God is the ultimate author, Scripture is then infallible and inerrant. 

d)     Objections in Latter Protestantism

Edward Herbert, the father of English Deism, rejected special revelation, holding instead to a natural religion based upon human reason.  The Bible is therefore, a mere human book and is inspired only in the sense that the literary talents of the authors were somehow enhanced in moments of special creativity.  

Johan Semler, representative of German rationalism, rejected inspiration out of hand. 

Horace Bushnell likewise rejected the classical doctrine of inspiration.  He argued that God inspired the Biblical writers in the same general way that He inspires all persons in the work they do.

e)     Objections in the Modern Period

Karl Barth has stated that the Biblical authors wrote accounts of their revelatory encounters with God.  One should therefore avoid equating the Bible with the Word of God. 

Heinrich Brunner asserted that the Bible was merely an errant human word about Christ, the divine Word.  When a person encountered Christ through reading the Bible, at that moment the Bible became the Word of God. 

Vatican II (1962) Catholicism limits the truth and authority of Scripture to those that pertain to salvation.  Modern Conservatives hold the historic view of inspiration.

f)       Objections to Verbal Plenary Inspiration

The Circular Reasoning Objection

This objection says that proving verbal plenary inspiration by scriptural reference is arguing in a circle. 

Several responses may be made.  First, everyone has the right to speak for himself.  His testimony should not be automatically judged as completely improper.  Second, some things about a person may never be known unless that person speaks about them.  Both of these points are equally true about the assertions of Scripture.  If God didn’t speak we could not know.  He said that He spoke and the infallible record is the Scriptures.  If the Scriptures didn’t say so, we could not otherwise know this fact.  I must further point out that inspiration is not based in fanciful assertions.  The claim of inspiration is supported by the historical facts reported by credible witnesses.  The Bible presents credible histories.  The writers were credible witnesses to those histories.  They were further endorsed by the Holy Spirit through signs and wonders and the working of miracles again in the clear sight of credible men.

The Accommodation Objection

Some say that Jesus did not teach this doctrine or that He was merely accommodating Himself to the apostles who did hold this view.  In essence, He really didn’t believe what the Scriptures clearly taught so He thought it better to mislead His disciples and follow the prevalent teaching of the day.  However, this is completely contrary to the facts.  It is an historical fact that Jesus had a confrontation with Satan.  Matthew records the incident. 

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, `MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'"  (Matthew 4:1-4)

This was the first of three separate temptations placed before Jesus by Satan.  In all three He responded in the same manner, it is written.  Jesus appealed to Scripture and to its details.  If He this objection were true, He would have agreed with Satan.  He would never have rejected the temptation on the basis of the verbal inspiration and authority of Scripture.  The Biblical record reinforces this point.  Over and over again when Christ met the challenges of those in opposition to Him He reverted to this argument, it is written.  Because He was the Logos, the living Word, (John 1:1, 18) He spoke with authority.  After His resurrection He met two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  What did they say of this encounter?  "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" [35]  It is ludicrous to think that He would mislead people concerning His views on the inspiration and authority of Scripture.

The Contradiction Objection

While those who oppose the doctrine concede that the Scriptures teach its own inspiration, they say, however, Scripture does not teach its own inerrancy.  The argument goes like this.  There are apparent errors (called phenomena of scripture) in the Bible, therefore, it doesn’t teach its own inerrancy.  This objection assumes these apparent discrepancies are determinative.  It would be better to seek honest answers to these phenomenal problems.  An extended quotation is in order.  Thiessen has outlined these problems as follows:

In Science and History.  The Bible is not a textbook on either science or history; but if it is verbally inspired, then we expect it to speak truthfully whenever it touches on either of these subjects.

In Miracle and Prophecy.  The record of the miracles of Christ is so organically interwoven with the record of the rest of His life that it is impossible to eliminate the former without at the same time destroying the latter.  If one believes in the resurrection of Christ, then there remains no…hindrance to the acceptance of all the other miracles.

In Quoting and Interpreting the Old Testament.  Most of our difficulties here will vanish if we remember that: sometimes the New Testament writers merely express their ideas in words borrowed from an Old Testament passage; …sometimes they point out a typical element in a passage that has not been generally recognized as typical; …sometimes they give credit to an earlier prophecy when they really quote from a later form of it; …sometimes they combine two quotations into one and assign the whole to the more prominent author.

In Morals and Religion.  Practically all of the so-called errors in morals and religion are found in the Old Testament.  But all of these difficulties disappear if we bear in mind the following facts: …the sinful acts of men may be recorded, but they are never sanctioned, …some evil acts appear to be sanctioned, but it is really the good intention or accompanying virtue that is recognized and not the evil act itself; …some things were permitted in pre-Christian times as relatively, not absolutely, right.[36]

The No Real Value Theory

It is said that since inspiration applies to the original manuscripts it as no real value since we don’t have them.  This objection implies that the manuscripts that we have are full of errors.  Scholars specializing in textual criticism assure us that we have a remarkably pure text.  Westcott and Hort say that only about one one-thousandth of the text is in doubt.  Further, this infinitesimal variation does not affect any basic doctrine. [37] Concerning the statements of Westcott and Hort, Geisler and Nix say, “only one-eighth of all the variants had any weight, as most of them are merely mechanical matters such as spelling or style.  Of the whole, then, only about one-sixtieth rise above ‘trivialities,’ or can in any sense be called ‘substantial variations.’  Mathematically this would compute to a text that is 98.33 percent pure.” [38]  For all intents and purposes, we have in the Scriptures the content of the original manuscripts.  This is what one would expect if they were the inspired.

5.      Conclusion

W. H. Griffith Thomas wrote:

The essential purpose of revelation is life: the gift of the life of God to the life of man.  Its practical character is stamped on every part.  The “chief end of revelation” is not philosophy, though it has a philosophy profound and worthy.  It is not doctrine, though it has its experiences precious and lasting.  It is not even morality, though it has its ethic unique and powerful.  Christianity has all these, but is far more than them all.  It is the religion of redemption, including salvation from sin, equipment for holiness, and provision for life to be lived in fellowship with God for His glory.  The “chief end” of revelation is the union [communion] of God and man, and in that union [communion] the fulfillment of all God’s purposes for the world.  The elements of sonship, worship, stewardship, fellowship, heirship, practically sum up the purpose of Divine revelation as it concerns man’s lifea life in which he receives God’s grace, realizes God’s will, reproduces God’s character, renders God service, and rejoices in God’s presence in the Kingdom of grace below and the Kingdom of glory above.[39]

Inspiration is the guarantee of God that we have His revelation that produces all the Thomas speaks about.  They are the standard that forms the basis for all that we believe.  They are the light that guides us to God, establishes the rules of our lives.  If that standard is found to be one that is not from God, or is erroneous about what God wants for us, we of all men are to be pitied.  But thanks be to God, He has given us an inspired and authoritative record of His truth.

One more quote is in order.  Matthew Henry wrote:  “The divinity of the scriptures must be known and acknowledged in the first place, before men can profitably use them, before they can give good heed to them.  To call off our minds from all other writings, and apply them in a peculiar manner to these as the only certain and infallible rule, necessarily requires our being fully persuaded that these are divinely inspired, and contain what is truly the mind and will of God.”[40]


[1] L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1993), Volume 1, p. 61
[2] Chafer, op. cit., p. 64
[3] Jeremiah 36:1-6
[4] Hobart Freeman, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets, (Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1968) p. 11 cf. endnote 38 below.
[5] Joshua 24:25,26
[6] 1 Samuel 10:25
[7] Nehemiah 8:1,8
[8] Psalm 18:30; 19:7-10;119:7,39,89,120,129,142
[9] This is seen in Matthew 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16
[10] John 5:45-47
[11] John 10:34-36
[12] Revelation 1:19
[13] H. C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1949) p. 105
[14] Marcus Dods, The Bible: Its Origin and Nature, (Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1912), p. 122
[15] Chafer, op. cit., Volume 1 p. 63
[16] 2 Timothy 3:16,17
[17] Cook, op. cit., Volume 1 p. 36
[18] Lewis and Demarest, op. cit., Volume 1, p. 139
[19] William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, cited by Cook, op. cit., Volume 1 p. 37
[20] Cf. Ex 17:14; 34:27; Numbers 33:2; Isaiah 8:1, 30:8, Hosea 4:1-6; 6:1-4; Micah 1:3-6
[21] Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1978), p. 491
[22] Cf. Luke 24:44-45
[23] Cf. John 10:35; Galatians 3:22; 2 Peter 1:20; Luke 4:21; Acts1:16; James 4:5
[24] Cook, op. cit., Volume 1 p. 38
[25] Cf., Luke 9:28-36
[26] Cook, op. cit., Volume 1 p. 39.  For further information on this point, see Hobart Freeman, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets, (Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1968).  Freeman says it “is not the biblical view to suppose that prophecy is to be limited to the disclosure of the future.  ‘That which is given by the Spirit to the prophet can refer to the past and to the present as well as to the future.’  The prophets themselves were inspired preachers.  To their contemporaries they were, in a real sense, the moral and ethical preachers of spiritual religion (emphasis his).  The prophets boldly rebuked vice, denounced political corruption, oppression, idolatry and moral degeneracy.  They were preachers of righteousness, reformers, and revivalists of spiritual religion, as well as prophets of future judgment or blessing.” (p. 14)
[27] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1991), Volume 6, p. 841
[28] Chafer, op. cit., Volume 1 p. 81.
[29] Fr. William G. Most explains the Roman Catholic Church teaching regarding the Magisterium.  He says, “By the Magisterium [of the church] we mean the teaching office of the church.  It consists of the Pope and Bishops.  Christ promised to protect the teaching of the Church (Luke 10:16).  Now of course the promise of Christ cannot fail: hence when the Church presents some doctrine as definitive or final, it comes under this protection, it cannot be in error; in other words, it is infallible.  ‘The task of authoritatively interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on [Scripture or Tradition], has been entrusted exclusively to the living Magisterium of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.’”  Most, Fr. William G., The Magisterium or Teaching Authority of the Church, 1990, The Catholic Church, [Online]. (2002)
[30]  Regarding apostolic succession, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: (77) “In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors.  They gave them their own position of teaching authority.”  Indeed, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.” Christus Rex et Redemptor Mundi, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2002, [Online]. (2002)    
[31] ibid., para. 81
[32] Council of Trent, Session IV, April 1546
[33] Cited by Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest, Integrative Theology, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996), Part 1, p.132
[34] W. Robert Cook, Systematic Theology in Outline Form, (Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, OR), Volume 1, p. 36
[35] Luke 24:32
[36] Thiessen, op. cit., p. 112-115
[37] B. F. Westcott, F. J. A. Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek, (Macmillan Co., New York, NY, 1881), Volume II p. 2
[38] Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, (Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1968), p. 365
[39] W. H. Griffith Thomas, cited by Lewis and Demarest, op. cit., Volume 1 p.122
[40] Matthew Henry, op. cit., Volume 6 p. 841