Focusing on the written form
Focusing on some further quality of the literature.
Τὰ λόγια του̂ θεου̂, “the oracles of God.” This expression, occurring in
̔Η πολαιά διαθήκη (“the old covenant,”
The Jews employed the terms “the law and the prophets” and “the law and the prophets and the writings” to designate the whole OT. The “writings” are the other Scriptures which are not sufficiently homogeneous for a single title and the third general term was sometimes omitted, so that the OT was known by its two major types of lit. In the NT there are frequent references to “the law and the prophets” (
Stressing the written form.
In terms suggestive of a living voice.
What of passages where no subject is expressed or clearly implied in the context? Such passages are very frequent, esp. in the Pauline epistles (
In terms of fulfillment.
The Eng. “to be fulfilled” is usually a tr. of πληρωθη̂ναι or τελειωθη̂ναι or one of their compounds. Such lang. occurs widely in the NT but most frequently in Matthew and in John. It shows the unity of the Biblical revelation in terms of prophecy and fulfillment, of type and antitype. John also saw this same principle in operation in relation to the words of Jesus (
The use of the terminology considered above is striking testimony to the belief of the NT writers in the OT as a divinely-inspired and authoritative book. This belief can be indicated without the use of such terms, of course, and the, which contains no NT quotation with quotation formula, nevertheless shows the most complete dependence upon the OT at every point. It is noteworthy also that the NT writers show some tendency to extend their own technical lang. to the utterances and writings of inspired persons under the New Covenant.
The inspiration of Scripture
The term “inspiration.”
Inspiration as applied to Scripture has been well defined as “a supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon divinely chosen men in consequence of which their writings become trustworthy and authoritative” (C. F. H. Henry, “Inspiration,” BDT , 286). The word θεόπνευστος, G2535, “given by inspiration of God” (KJV), is found only once and means “God-breathed,” i.e. “breathed out by God” (
The relation of inspiration to revelation.
These are closely related without being identical. Revelation is concerned with God’s disclosure of truth to men, while inspiration is its communication in verbal form. The term “inspiration” may be properly applied to the spoken as well as to the written Word, as in the Spirit-given utterances of the OT prophets before these were given written form, but spoken and written communication is alike verbal. For revelation to have permanent form it needs to be communicated in writing and thus inspiration is its servant. This does not mean that Scripture is simply the record of revelation (although it is this) for it possesses revelation status in its own right, as one sees from NT quotations of OT passages as “the word of God” (e.g.
The inspiration of the OT
The OT phenomenon of inspiration.
Many of the OT channels of revelation exhibit a clear consciousness of their inspiration. Particularly is this true of the line of prophets from Moses onward. In the light of
An important quality of the word of the inspired man is its divine and objective character. This does not mean that the Word of God included anything from the prophet’s experience—in the case of men like David, Jeremiah, and Hosea, it is clear that it often did—but that it was never simply their own thought and word but always the thought and Word of God. The prophet Nathan was able to distinguish between his own thought and the Word of God (
This discussion of inspiration in the OT has been concerned chiefly with prophecy, because in the prophets inspiration is conscious. Other writers, such as historians and poets, do not disclose such a consciousness explicitly. Inspiration is not, however, to be equated with the declaration of it nor even with the consciousness of it. There is other testimony to the inspiration of other OT writers.
Christ’s testimony to OT inspiration.
The testimony of the NT writers.
The importance of this phenomenon is that it discloses a psychological fact of great significance for the estimate of Paul’s concept of OT Scripture. A partial parallel from the lips of the Lord may be found in
The inspiration of the NT
Apostles and NT prophets as men of the Spirit.
Of even greater importance than the prophets, however, were the apostles.
Their consciousness of inspiration.
Once again, one needs to remember that a writer’s failure to refer to his being inspired is no indication that it is lacking, just as the claim to inspiration does not furnish logical proof of it. Paul was conscious that his word was accepted as the Word of God by the Thessalonians through faith (
The character of Biblical inspiration
The Spirit as the ultimate Author of all that is rightly called “Scripture.”
The Bible is not merely human lit., and all that is rightly called “Scripture” is God-breathed (
All Scripture of full and equal inspiration.
The statement of
This passage gives justification for the use of the term “plenary” (“full”) in reference to Scripture and the rejection of the concept of degrees of inspiration. Revelation certainly admits of degree, for a disclosure of truth may be small or great; but a book either is Godbreathed or it is not. Scripture passages may even differ in their value, but they do not differ in their inspiration, and so must all find a place in the Word of God.
The control of the writers by the Spirit.
The Spirit’s use of the individuality of the writers.
Inspiration did not override or suppress the individuality of any particular writer but employed it. The Word of God came into existence through many different human channels and the evidence of stylistic variation bears testimony to the reality of the human factor. This is true even of the OT prophets where the form in which the word was often received—in a vision or dream—testifies most strongly to the objectivity of it. It is even more evident in writings like the epistles. Paul’s letters, for example, show signs of his own individuality. A great deal of research went into the production of a book like the gospel of Luke (
The “verbal” character of inspiration.
On the other hand, one must not fall into the opposite error of imagining that the words of Scripture have importance apart from the meaning which they convey. It is the sense which is all-important, and it is for this reason that the inspired writers of the NT sometimes employed a free rendering of some OT passages when it could bring out more forcibly the point which they were making. The matter would be a problem only if the sense of the original passage were violated. This raises the whole question of the use of the OT by the NT writers, which belongs to the subject of interpretation.
Inspiration as a finished work.
Inspiration, which is a completed work of the Spirit, is not to be confused with illumination, which is continuous. Between the original inspired MSS and ourselves lie one or two processes. If the original languages are known to the reader the only process is the transmission of the text. The science of textual criticism of the Bible is a very refined and exact one, and the study of it shows that the text, although not preserved completely from the normal processes of corruption which affect all transmission, has been wonderfully protected so that the message disclosed in Scripture has been available to each successive generation. Translators have a duty to reverence the wording of the original and to seek to convey in another lang. the thought of the Heb. and Gr. The extensive use of the LXX (a Gr. VS of the OT) by the NT writers shows that tr. is legitimate and it may be laid down that a tr. may be—indeed must be—treated as the Word of God insofar as it conveys faithfully the thought of the original.
Inspiration and the difficulties of Scripture.
The Christian receives God’s Word on His own testimony. This does not mean, of course, that the reverent reader of Scripture encounters no problems. Difficulties in Scripture are a spur to seek divine enlightenment and to diligent study. They are not a call to abandon a high doctrine of Scripture. The scientist’s conviction of the unity of the universe is not overturned when he encounters problems. Likewise, the Christian’s conviction of the unity of Scripture is not surrendered in the face of Biblical difficulties. It is sometimes maintained that the doctrine of Scripture should be based on all the phenomena of Scripture, including its difficulties. It is questionable whether this is practicable, for the evaluation and harmonization of all the phenomena is considerably more than a lifetime’s work. Moreover, the Bible itself contains clear statements concerning its own inspiration. It is on these that the doctrine of inspiration should be based. The acceptance of Scripture as divinely-given on this basis implants the conviction of its unity, and the problems can now be approached, and progressively solved, in the light of this.
The authority of Scripture
Its relation to inspiration.
The inspiration and the authority of Scripture are distinguishable but inseparable. Matters of religion are of such great importance that merely human authority is insufficient. It is not the human authors as such who give the Bible its authority, but its divine Author. It is because it originates from Him that its message is to be received and trusted. Accordingly, inspiration is rightly discussed before authority, and there can be no stable doctrine of Biblical authority where there is no stable doctrine of inspiration.
The authority of the OT
Its recognition within the OT period.
The law was obviously intended for posterity and not just for the generation to which it was first given, and evidence is not wanting that this is true of the prophetic revelations also (
Its recognition by Christ.
Jesus treated the OT as authoritative even for His own life. The whole point of the temptation narratives (
The Lord assumed the reliability of even small details in the OT. He referred to many events the historicity of which is called into question by many today: the marriage of Adam and Eve (
Its recognition by the NT writers.
The authority of the NT
The nature of apostleship.
The Lord evidently regarded the selection of the original apostolic band as a matter of great moment, for He prepared for it by an extended time of prayer (
The Apostle Paul often associated another Christian or Christians with him in the writing of an epistle, but it is noteworthy that for such a person he never used the term “apostle” (
The nature of apostolic tradition.
The apostles were completely at one as transmitters of authoritative teaching from Jesus Himself (
Apostolicity and the authority of the NT.
There is no suggestion in the NT that one is to look to successors of the apostles for authoritative teaching. The apostolic office would seem, in a personal sense, to have been a temporary one, although it is a permanent gift of Christ to the Church because of the inscripturation of the apostolic testimony in the writings of the NT. It is only through the NT that their teaching is now available so that men may believe on Him through their word (
The Canon of the NT lies outside the scope of this article, but it should be noted that, according to the NT itself, there were other inspired persons in NT days besides the apostles, i.e., the prophets. The test of prophetic utterance was apostolic truth. The harmony between the non-apostolic writings of the NT and those that are clearly apostolic can be shown. The NT as a whole presents a marvelous unity of teaching, which is the perfect complement to the earlier inspired books collected together in the OT.
The use of Scripture
The practical ends for which Scripture was given.
It is highly significant that one of the most important Biblical passages exhibiting the Biblical doctrine of inspiration links this most intimately with the practical use of Scripture. “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (
The instructional function of Scripture is never merely intellectual but practical. Its aim is to produce not merely knowledge but wisdom and personal application. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (
Scripture and spiritual illumination.
The interpretation of Scripture
The importance of interpretation.
If the Bible is an inspired and authoritative revelation of God, then it is of great importance that it be properly understood. It is possible for a man to twist the Scriptures to his own destruction (
The divine interpreter.
The purpose of Scripture.
The interpretation of any book must, of course, be related to its purpose, and the purpose of Scripture is frankly practical. It is given so that the people of God may be perfected in the life of godliness. The classic evangelical position is that when the Bible touches on matters of history, science, etc., it does so in conformity to truth, but in popular, non-technical language. There is a considerable amount of history in the Bible, but matters of science are usually touched upon only incidentally. It is right to maintain the inerrancy of Scripture in such matters, for it is “God-breathed” and the product of the Spirit of truth, but it is wrong to lose sight of the fact that the great purpose of the Bible is to teach men the things of God. All else is incidental to, and ministers to, this end.
Scripture as self-interpreting.
The multiple authorship of Scripture shows itself in great variety of style, vocabulary, and emphasis. Beneath this variety is a basic unity of doctrine. Modern studies of the κήρυγμα, G3060, (“the thing proclaimed”) in the NT have tended to underline the oneness of the preachers and writers of the Early Church in the Gospel they declare in their preaching and assume in their writing. Similar studies of the OT can show that it finds its unity in the revelation of an all-sovereign righteous God who has redeemed His people Israel from Egypt and brought them into the land of promise. Moreover, the oneness of the two Testaments is the constant presupposition of the writers of the NT. This unity is, of course, the product of the inspiring work of the Holy Spirit, the ultimate Author of Scripture. This means that a true interpretation of Scripture will demonstrate the harmony of the Bible with itself, not in any artificial or strained manner, but by seeking to do justice both to the natural sense of each passage and the unity of the whole. This does not mean that the interpreter comes to the text with a ready-made system of dogmatics, but it does mean that he keeps always in mind the fact that behind all the human authors is the divine Spirit, for this is what the Bible itself claims. It is important to remember also that the Bible contains many examples of interpretation, for the NT writers themselves interpret the OT, and the principles they apply have the authority of their inspiration behind them. Here is the Holy Spirit’s own guide in the understanding of Holy Writ.
The grammatico-historical principle.
The theological principle.
F. W. Farrar, History of Interpretation (1886); L. Gaussen, Theopneustia: The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures (1888); J. Orr, Revelation and Inspiration (1910); J. R. Harris, Testimonies (Vol., I 1916; Vol. II, 1920); C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments (1936); B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (1948); L. Berkhof, Principles of ΤΑ ΛΟΓΙΑ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ in