What it Means to Say the Bible is ‘Inspired’

In the clearest way possible, to say the Word of God is inspired is to say it is top down revelation, from God to us.

There is only one place where the word ‘inspired’ or ‘inspiration’ is used in the English Bible, and it’s in 2 Tim. 3:16 which says, ‘All Scripture is inspired (literally – God breathed) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.’ This verse teaches a basic truth which gives us a basic definition of the doctrine of inspiration: all Scripture comes from the very breath of God, such that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments come to us directly from heaven.

Now, when we speak of inspiration what’s in view is the manner in which God superintended or oversaw the writing of Scripture, so naturally when the writing of Scripture is in view the work of the Holy Spirit comes into view as well. 2 Peter 1:20-21 describes this saying, ‘…no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was never produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’ Men spoke from God as the Holy Spirit carried them along. This is how God brought about the writing of the Bible.

At this point many people misunderstand the doctrine of inspiration by saying God merely dictated to men and men then in response wrote down what they heard, like a secretary takes down a letter from their boss. This view is sometimes referred to as the ‘dictation view.’ This is a misunderstanding because the Bible doesn’t tell us how God carried these men by the Spirit to write, the Bible simply tells us He did.

Another reason we reject the dictation theory is because when we encounter the Scriptures we find distinct differences in the Biblical authors. For example, the writing style of the apostle John was very basic, using a common children’s level Greek whereas Peter used a higher level of Greek that’s more complex and intricate. We see Mark using a specific vocabulary that none of the other authors use, and we see Paul writing long sentences in Greek while others write shorter sentences. This is all to say that we can clearly see the personality of each author coming through in their own writing.

So God did indeed carry these men along by the Spirit to give us the Scripture but He did it in such a manner where each author’s own and unique personality was not lost in the process. This doesn’t exactly tell how God did this, but it does imply that there was more involved than mere dictation.

In this manner Matt Slick comments, ‘Because the Bible is inspired, its words are unbreakable (John 10:34-36), eternal (Matt. 24:35), trustworthy (Psalm 119:160), and able to pierce the heart of man (Heb. 4:12). Additionally, the inspired Word of God will not go forth without accomplishing what God wishes it to (Isaiah 55:11).’

There are many ways the Church historical has spoken of the inspiration of the Scripture using words like concursive, dynamic, organic, or even dictation.  Though these words can be helpful to learn what happened in the act of inspiration, the best two words we have to describe are these: verbal and plenary. Verbal means the Holy Spirit inspired every single word the authors wrote, while plenary means ‘full.’ These two words taken together give us the deepest and truest meaning of inspiration. The whole Bible – every Word – is inspired by God, for our good.

The massive implication here is simple: because God has given us His inspired Word, we devote our lives to the study of it. To do so is to know God, to not do so is to waste our life.

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