There’s been quite a few posts here lately about the nature and authority of the Bible—and for good reason. As Christians, we are to be people of the book. Men, women and children who observe and obey God’s Word, who love it and long to know the God who reveals Himself through it.
There’s an important question that comes up when we start trying to understand the nature of Scripture, and that is: What do we mean when we say that the Bible is inspired? Do we mean the same thing as when we say that a great song, book or movie was inspired? Or is there something else going on that we need to wrap our minds around?
My goal in this post is relatively simple: I want to provide you with a ground-level understanding of the doctrine of inspiration that will help you as we continue on in this series looking at the nature of Scripture and its implications.
“Verbal Plena—what now?”
The doctrine of inspiration has to do with the origins of Scripture—where it came from and how it came to be. Theologians like to refer to it with a fancy term: “verbal plenary inspiration.” (I dare you to say that three times fast.) Despite being a painfully vague term (not to mention being a bit of a tongue twister), the concept behind it is pretty simple. In a nutshell, the term means is that every word of Scripture is inspired by God and written down by human authors. Inspiration in this view is not limited merely to ideas but to exact words—indeed, every “iota” and “dot” as Jesus says in Matt. 5:18. Every word is there because God intended it to be so.
But let’s break this term down in a little more detail:
Verbal. This term addresses subject. And the subject being defined is the words of Scripture. Simple enough, right? Let’s move to the next point.
Plenary addresses scope or extent. In other words, all the words of Scripture are equally inspired, from the most incredible description of a battle or miracle to the most detailed instruction about how the Israelites were to dress. There aren’t some parts that are more or less inspired than others.
Inspiration addresses method of transmission. God guided the human authors of Scripture—“carried them along by the Holy Spirit,” as Peter wrote—using their unique perspectives, writing styles and experiences to record the exact message He desired to be expressed to humanity.
Clear as mud? Alright, let’s look quickly at the Scriptural support for such a notion.
Where does the Bible Talk about Inspiration?
Biblically, the two passages that deal most directly with this idea are found in the epistles of Paul and Peter:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…” (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).
“…no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (1 Pet. 20-21, emphasis added). [Read more...]