The Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture
Inspiration of the Bible and Inerrancy
By Ron Jones, D.D., Titus Institute
Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."
This week we begin a four week study on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures.
In this series we are going to answer the question, "Is the Bible inspired by God and therefore inerrant, that is, true in all that it affirms."
Is the Bible inerrant, that is, true and without error in all that it affirms about any subject? Or is the Bible true and without error in most of what it affirms except for some minor historical and scientific errors? Or is the Bible true and without error only in the spiritual truths that it affirms, that is, only what it teaches in regard to faith and practice?
How do we as Christians know whether the Bible is inspired by God and without error?
Do we need to look at every verse of the Bible and every possible error and work through every apparent contradiction and before we can affirm inspiration and inerrancy? No.
Could we do that even if we were committed to it? No.
No, that would be an impossible task. There is so much historical and scientific information we do not know and cannot know that it is impossible to do that.
Then how can we know for sure?
We can know by following what Jesus and his apostles taught about the truthfulness of the Bible. We can know by following Jesus and the apostles and what they taught about the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.
As Henry Virkler wrote, "If Jesus Christ is, as we believe, the Son of God, then His attitude toward Scripture will provide the best answer to the question of inerrancy." (Virkler, Henry A., Hermeneutics, Baker Books, Grands Michigan, 1981, 32),
So in these four weeks, we want to discover what Jesus and the Apostles believed about the truthfulness of the Scriptures as evidenced by what they taught. To me this is the only way we can be sure.
I am talking to you as believers. I am not talking to unbelievers. Don't expect to convince an unbeliever about inerrancy. Writing 66 books by many different authors over fourteen hundred years without error cannot be humanly done. It can only be done by a divine supernatural power, the power of the Holy Spirit himself. If unbelievers do not accept the supernatural in the Bible, they will not accept the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures. We, on the other hand, are followers of Jesus Christ and his apostles and what matters to us is what they taught about the Scriptures and their truthfulness. We believe in the supernatural.
Biblical faith is based on the belief that God did miracles in the history of the world as it is revealed in his Word. Once you accept that God has divine supernatural power and can do anything, inerrancy is easy to accept once we know that Jesus and his apostles taught that truth.
In this series, we are going to look at four points:
W1 The Inspiration of the Bible and Inerrancy
W2 The Truth of the Bible and Inerrancy
W3 The Historical Statements of the Bible and Inerrancy
W4 The Scientific Statements of the Bible and Inerrancy
We are going to base what we learn about these areas on what Jesus and his apostles taught.
This morning we come to W1 The Inspiration of the Bible and Inerrancy
1. All of the Bible is inspired by God and is the Word of God.
Let's look at 2 Timothy 3:16.
This is one of the key Scriptures you need to know that clearly claims that the Bible is inspired by God and therefore the Word of God. It gives the essential identity of the Scriptures.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
In the early 60's AD, Paul was imprisoned in Rome where he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. He was then released and left Rome for a missionary journey. During this trip around 63 AD he wrote Timothy a letter which is 1 Timothy. In 64 AD Paul returned to Rome and was imprisoned again by the Emperor Nero. This time he will not be released, but martyred. From prison, he writes to Timothy a second letter.
In these verses, Paul gives a powerful statement to Timothy of the nature and usefulness of the Scriptures. He desires to remind Timothy of the basis of his ministry and the basis of all that he and the apostles were doing for Christ.
Paul gives two key points: the nature of Scripture and the usefulness of Scripture. We will focus on the first one today.
The nature of Scripture - it is inspired by God, it is the Word of God
Inspiration is an act of God.
v.16 "breathed out by God"
"breathed out by God " four words in English, all one word in the Greek = literally, "God-breathed"It is translated "inspired by God " or "God-breathed " or as ESV "breathed out by God." It means that all Scripture comes from" the breath of God " or the " mouth of God. " It is the basis of the expression, the " Word of God." From the breath or mouth of God comes the Word of God. It means God is the source of Scripture. It is the Word of God. God breathed means that the Scriptures are the breath of God's mouth which is metaphorical in the Scriptures for the Word that comes from his mouth that is living and active and powerful.
Psalm 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
Proverbs 6:19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
Acts 9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest.
The author of the Scriptures is declared by Paul to be God Himself and he "breathed " the words through the mouths and pens of the prophets and writers of the Scriptures by the power of the Holy Spirit so that it is the Word of God.
All Scripture is the Word of God.
v.16 "Scripture "Notice Paul says, " Scripture. " It is singular. " Scripture " means " writing " and refers to the revelation of God in written form. It is in the singular and refers to all the books of the Bible as one whole revelation. It also reveals that God's intent was never to depend solely on verbal revelation by the prophets to hand down his word from generation to generation. His plan was to have his revelation written down so it could be read and understood from an objective written document. God's revelation was given to be written down and preserved throughout history just as we have it today.Revelation is God revealing his word to the prophets and apostles and inspiration is God using the Holy Spirit to work in their lives to write it down accurately so that the written word is from God.
Revelation is God revealing his word to the prophets and apostles and inspiration is God using the Holy Spirit to work in their lives to speak and write that revelation down accurately so that both their spoken word and written word is from God.
v. 16 "All" means "all the words" or "every word of the Scriptures"
"All Scripture" refers to the Scriptures as one unit. This refers not to just the words of Scripture that deal with the spiritual truths, but the historical and geographical parts as well from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. If you have ever heard the expression the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture. This is the plenary aspect. All of the Bible is inspired, not just part of it. "Verbal plenary inspiration" means "verbal" the words of Scripture, "plenary" all the words of Scripture are inspired by God and are thus the Word of God.
Inspiration is accomplished by the Spirit of God.
2 Peter 1:20-21 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 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.
v.20 "Prophecy of Scripture" - here he is talking specifically about the words of the prophets spoken to Israel and then written down in the O.T. This is not only predictions, but all the words of the prophets. Thus, it refers to the whole OT, for even Moses was considered a prophet (one who spoke for God).
"of one's own interpretation" Here, "interpretation" means "the expounding of God's word as a prophet based on the prophet's personal understanding of"
Prophecy is not dependent on the personal understanding of the prophet to speak; it is not of human origin.
v.21"never came by the will of man" - the prophets did not decide they were going to have a prophecy from God.
v.21 "but holy men of God spoke" - men who were holy, i.e. set apart for this purpose to speak for God,
Notice, "men spoke" and then Peter says earlier "prophecy of Scripture" it was written down.
By the way, there was no real distinction in the ancient societies of the Old and New Testaments between the spoken word and the written word because the common people only received the written word by it being spoken to them. Most people knew the Scriptures because it was read to them out loud.
v.21"as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" - "carried along" or "moved," the word is used with reference to ships that are carried along on a certain course by the wind (Acts 27:15,17).
The Holy Spirit moved in the minds and hearts of these men to give the revelation of God first in the words of their mouths then in the words they wrote. The prophecies in this context are the written prophecies handed down in the O.T. So "All Scripture is inspired by God" means that God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, guided the human authors so that what they wrote down was the very Word of God. Revelation is what God reveals to man.
Inspiration is the process where the Holy Spirit guides the writers to write down the revelation so that it is exactly what God wants. Because the Bible is inspired by God; all of it is the revelation of God. It is not dictation. Although some parts are quotes of God's actual words. The Holy Spirit worked within the individual personalities of the writers to write what he wanted. We know this because we know that the books the authors wrote are the Word of God and we observe that they show individual styles as the Holy Spirit guided them.That is why there are differences in style in the Scriptures - God never use human beings as robots always as human beings. So this is a basic definition of inspiration. And this is exactly what the Bible writers claim about themselves.Not only do they claim it about what they themselves were writing, but also about what other Scripture writers wrote.
Now what writings are referred to?
First, "Scripture" refers to the Old Testament writings.
This is in the context.
2 Timothy 3:14-15 v.14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, v.15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
So Paul clearly calls the "sacred writings/the OT" the Word of God. Where did Paul get this from? He originally got it from the OT itself.
The Inspiration of the Old Testament
1) The Old Testament prophets claimed to speak the Word of God.
3,808 times claims such as "Thus says the Lord" or the Word of the Lord came" occur.
2 Samuel 23:1-2 1 Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel: 2 "The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue. 3 The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me."
David was well aware of the fact that God spoke to him and through him.
Jeremiah 1:1-5 1 The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2 to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. 4 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
God spoke to me and has commanded me to speak those words to you Isaiah 1:1, 10-11 Hosea 1:1 Joel 1:1 Amos 1:1 Jonah 1:1
There is no defense of their claims; they expect to be believed. Nor do we have to defend their claims. The Holy Spirit opens people's hearts to believe their claims.
NOTE: These people lived at different times and different locations and yet they each claim to speak direct revelation from God,
2) The Old Testament prophets were commanded by God to write down the Word of God they spoke.
Exodus 34:27 And the Lord said to Moses, "Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."
"words" not just the ideas or concepts.
Jeremiah 30:1-4 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. 3 For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it." 4 These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah.
God had always intended for his revelation to be written down and preserved for the following generations. And that all those writings would form the revelation of God. Notice: It says "words." God did not just inspire the ideas or concepts and let the authors write it down in their own words without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
3) The OT prophets recognized previous OT prophets as speaking and writing the Word of God.
Joshua 1:7-8 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
The Law of Moses has now become a book by the time of Moses' death; the Book of the Law. It was customary for the last chapter to deal with the death of the author and to be written by his disciple. In this case, Joshua.
Daniel 9:2 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.Daniel had books, an Old Testament, not yet completed.Notice: It is not oral tradition of divine revelation, but the written Word of God,
Amos 3:7 For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.
The people of Israel including the prophets themselves believed that the earlier prophets spoke and wrote divine revelation from God.
What about the New Testament writers? What did they feel about the Old Testament?
4) Jesus and the apostles claimed that the OT was the Word of God.
Mark 7:9-13 9 And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' 11 But you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, 'Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God), 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do."
Jesus quoted the book of Exodus which is the written record of what Moses said and he called it the Word (logos) of God. Jesus is contrasting what the Lord says in the OT v. what the Pharisees and teachers of Israel had added later.
"the commands of God" v. "the traditions of men" "the commands of God" = "Moses said" "the traditions of men" = "you say"
In the parallel verse in Matthew 15:14, Matthew writes "God commanded"
Exodus 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you."
Exodus 21:17 "Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death."Notice, that Jesus calls what was written down in the book of Exodus, the Word of God. This is very significant.
Let's go back to 2 Timothy 3:16
So all Scripture refers to the Old Testament which had been written and completed long before Timothy was born.
Does it also refer to the N.T. - the writings of the apostles and their associates as they were in the process of being written and completed at that time?
The answer is yes.
Paul and the other apostles knew they were preaching and teaching the Word of God which would include when they preached and taught through the written word.
Paul believed he was preaching and writing the Word of God.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
1 Thessalonians 5:27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
Colossians 4:16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
Paul quoted Luke's gospel as Scripture in his first letter to Timothy. 1 Timothy was probably written around 64 AD. The first three gospels were written between 60 and 64 AD.
1 Timothy 5:18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages."
v. 18 "For the Scripture says" "You shall not muzzle an ox... is a quote from Deut.25:4 of the O.T.
"The laborer deserves his wages" is an exact word for word quote of Jesus himself in Luke 10:7.
Both are called by Paul Scripture which shows that already as the N.T. was being formed it was being considered Scripture inspired by God.As the NT was being written down, already the apostle Paul was calling it Scripture. There was a recognition by the apostles that what was being written down was equal with the OT Scriptures. Notice, both Paul's quote from Deuteronomy and his quote from Luke are equal.So when Paul writes at the end of his life, he is already talking about the NT as equal with the OT as it was being formed by the apostles and their close associates. When Paul wrote 2 Timothy in around 66 A.D. and used the term "All Scripture" he had already referred to Luke's gospel as Scripture in 1 Timothy.
2 Peter 3:15-16 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
2 Peter was written in the mid 60's before Peter's death at the hands of Nero. By the time it was written, Paul's early letters, which are all of them except the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were well-known and circulating all over the Mediterranean world.
Peter calls Paul's letters Scripture.
All the books in the NT were written by an apostle or a close associate of an apostle and that is why they were included in the NT.
Also, look back at 2 Timothy 3:16-17.The "man of God" refers to the Christian. Paul is talking to Timothy who is ministering to Christians. The Scripture could not be useful to the Christian for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness with the OT alone. It is not enough revelation for the believer in Jesus Christ. It must also include N.T.
The inspiration of Scripture is a concept that comes from Jesus and the apostles. It is not something later. Next week we will see that the concept of the inerrancy of Scripture also comes from Jesus and the apostles.
So the first proposition which we learned today is All of the Bible is the Word of God. Next week we will see the second proposition that All the Word of God is truth.