The words of the LORD are pure words. —Psalm 12:6a

Our Beliefs: Inspiration

This is the first in a series of posts detailing each of our beliefs about the Bible expressed on the Our Beliefs page.

[We believe that] the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments are scripture, words given by inspiration of God.

What is inspiration? #

When it comes to the doctrine of inspiration, the verse that usually comes to mind is 2 Timothy 3:16:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 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, throughly furnished unto all good works.

However, this verse doesn’t actually tell us what inspiration is, only that all scripture is given by inspiration of God. To find the answer to that question, we have to look to the rest of the Bible. When we do this, we find that the term inspire is only used in one other passage: Job 32.

Job 32:1 ¶ So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.
2 Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.
3 Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.
4 Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he.
5 When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled.
6 ¶ And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion.
7 I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.
8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
9 Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.
10 Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I also will shew mine opinion.

We can glean two things from the use of “inspiration” in verse 8. First, inspiration is of a spiritual nature, for it is said, “but there is a spirit in man.” Secondly, we are told what inspiration does; “the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.”

Elihu is in this verse appealing to two reasons why his elders should now hear what he has to say. First, there is a spirit in man. He goes on to say that “great men are not always wise.” His reasoning is that he has a spirit within himself just as they do, and so he is just as capable of possessing wisdom, although it may be supposed that he is less likely to be wise because he is younger.

The second portion of Elihu’s argument is based on the fact that it is not only his own spirit with which he can answer them. The Almighty can inspire a man, giving him understanding that he does not otherwise have. The implication is that one who is so “inspired” can draw upon God’s understanding.

Thus, “inspiration” means exactly what it looks like: in-spir-ation. The indwelling of a spirit. When a spirit is in something, that thing is inspired with it. Our bodies are thus always in life inspired with our own spirit. But God may also inspire us with his Spirit. In this way God could give his scriptures through men, but by his Spirit within them, so that the scripture was not given by the man’s spirit, but by inspiration of God.

All Scripture is Given By Inspiration #

2 Timothy 3:16 is very clear: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” This means that all scripture is not from man, but “the inspiration of the Almighty [gave] them understanding” (Job 32:8). It is not the spirits of men who originated the words in scripture, but it is God’s Spirit that spoke them.

The Bible is thus not the words of men, but the words of God. And repeatedly, it claims to be recording the words of God (“And God spake all these words…” Exodus 20:1).

In 2 Samuel 23, the last words of David are recorded, where he testifies to the inspiration of the LORD:

2 Samuel 23:1 Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,
2 The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.

The Spirit of the LORD spoke by David, through the inspiration of his body, and it is God that spoke the words that came from his tongue.

And so it is for all the scriptures. The phrase “saith the Lord” is used in the Bible over 850 times. “God said” is used more than 35 times, “the LORD said” 219 times.

The Bible is exceedingly clear, in that it not only makes these claims to be recording the very words of God, but affirms them in other locations. In 2 Chronicles 35, king Josiah makes clear affirmation that the Law of Moses was the word of God:

2 Chronicles 35:6 So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.

Another example is found in 2 Chronicles 36, which affirms the inspiration of Jeremiah in chapters 25:8-12 of his eponymous book:

2 Chronicles 36:20-21 And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.

Note also the precision of scripture. It says that the word of the LORD came by the hand of Moses, but by the mouth of Jeremiah. And so it is; for Moses wrote all the words which the Lord gave him; but Jeremiah spoke the words he was given, and Baruch recorded (Jeremiah 36:4). The Spirit of God thus used different parts of the bodies of men to give us his words. Sometimes the writer’s hand, at other times the mouth of a prophet.

Other passages testify to the inspiration of Jeremiah as well (Daniel 9:2).

In addition to these specific cross-references of inspiration, the Bible also clearly affirms the inspiration of scripture generally:

2 Peter 1:19-21 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

From this we can see that the Bible clearly claims to be the words of God, given by inspiration of his Spirit. All scripture is given by inspiration of God; the men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

If the Bible makes this claim falsely, it is neither trustworthy nor authoritative. Before we can be supposed to believe any other part of the book, we must first accept its claims of original inspiration. If we cannot believe these claims, there is no reason to examine the Bible any further; rather, it must be regarded as a fraud. If, however, we accept this claim to original inspiration, we must accept as finally authoritative all that God inspired his prophets to record.

This raises the question, however, as to how that original inspiration relates to the extant manuscripts—mere copies of the original “autographs”. We will examine that next time, in part 2 of this series.


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