Christian beliefs; biblical inerrancy
Did the Holy Spirit inspire the Bible's
|"With regard to the Bible, inspiration denotes the doctrine that the human authors and editors of canonical scripture were led or influenced by the Deity with the result that their writings many be designated in some sense the word of God." 1|
Inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible are two closely related concepts:
Historically, Christians have generally believed the entire Bible to be inerrant -- free of error -- in the books' original, autograph versions. However, the entire Bible was written by a group of very human authors. The only way in which fallible humans could have written so much inerrant text would have been for them to have been inspired by God. Given biblical inerrancy, one can assume that God must have overseen the creation of the Bible's text in some way, and pro-actively prevented the authors from committing any error.
Fundamentalists and other Evangelicals Christians still follow the traditional belief. Liberal Christians have generally abandoned belief in both inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible. Instead, they analyze the Bible as a historical document using techniques of "higher criticism."
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is recorded as referring to scripture as being fixed -- presumably because it comes from God:
John 10:35 "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken..." (KJV)
The Book of Acts refers to God speaking through the mouth of David:
Acts 4:24-25: "...Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?"
Paul describes the process of inspiration by the Holy Spirit in one of his Epistles:
1 Corinthians 2:9-13: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: ...Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (KJV)
Paul refers to the Hebrew Scriptures as the "word of God," not of men:
1 Thessalonians 2:13: "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."
A key proof text used by conservative Christians to support their belief in inspiration is in one of the Pastoral Epistles. It states that all of the Scriptures are "theopneustos" in the original Greek -- "breathed out by God:"
2 Timothy 3:16: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (KJV).
A second popular verse which supports the concept of inspiration is in one of the General Epistles:
2 Peter 1:20-21: "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. (KJV)"
The 2 Timothy verse was written circa 64 CE by Paul, according to most conservative Christians or circa 100 to 150 CE by an unknown author, according to most liberal theologians. The 2 Peter verse was written circa 67 CE by Peter, according to most conservative Christians or circa 125 to 150 CE by an unknown author, according to most liberal theologians. The remaining citations listed above were also composed in the first century or the first half of the second century. All were written centuries before the canon of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) was officially established. Still, the word "scripture" in these passages is now generally interpreted by conservative Christians to refer to the entire Bible -- Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Scriptures combined.
Various Christian groups have different beliefs concerning the mechanism by which inspiration took place:
The famous Hellenistic Jewish theologian and philosopher, Philo
of Alexandria, referred to the Hebrew Scriptures as: "sacred books", "sacred word", and of "most holy
Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-95 CE) is believed to have been the first to use the word "inspiration" (in Greek: epipnoia) to refer to the Hebrew Scriptures. 7 According to New Advent:
"He speaks of twenty-two books which the Jews with good reason consider Divine...The belief of the Jews in the inspiration of the Scriptures did not diminish from the time in which they were dispersed throughout the world, without temple, without altar, without priests; on the contrary this faith increased so much that it took the place of everything else." 7
Liberal Christians generally reject the concepts of biblical inerrancy and inspiration. They view the Bible as a collection of books written by religious, military, and political leaders whose purpose was promote their own beliefs or the beliefs of their faith group. They see concepts in the Bible that violate contemporary religious and secular ethics. Examples are mass murders and genocides; oppression of women; acceptance of human slavery; torture of prisoners, murder of non-combatants, rape, execution of religious and sexual minorities; polygyny, owning of concubines, burning some prostitutes alive; executing brides who were not virgins, etc. They feel that there is so much material in the Bible that is obviously opposed to the will of God, that the concept of inspiration is untenable.
At least three proofs have been offered to prove that the Bible could not have been written by humans without the direct inspiration of God. Needless to say, none have been accepted by religious liberals or secularists:
|Prophecy: Various modern-day writers have
counted many hundreds of prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old
Testament) alone. Conservative Christians generally state that all of the 200
or so prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures that foretold the life
of Jesus Christ came true; they had a 100% accuracy. Hundreds of other
prophecies not related to Jesus have already come true. This could not
have happened unless the authors of the Bible were inspired by God. But at lest
one skeptic believes that not one "real" prediction has
true. He has very stringent rules for what defines a "real"
prophecy. He points out that the Jesus life story was written after
the Hebrew Scriptures were completed. Thus, the writers of the Christian
Scriptures could easily have created non-existent events in Jesus' life to
match the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures. 11|
|Bible codes: A research team at Hebrew University in Jerusalem,
headed by Eliyahu Rips used a Equidistant Letter Sequence
(ELS) analysis method to search for hidden Bible codes
in the Book of Genesis. They found many names, birth dates
and death dates imbedded in Genesis of famous Jews who lived millennia
after the book was written. Other researchers examined the entire
Pentateuch and found descriptions of recent world events and predictions
in our future. At first, it appeared as if the codes were a positive
proof of biblical inspiration. This belief is still being circulated as such
"proof." 10 What isn't being reported widely is that
other researchers have found similar secret hidden codes in Moby Dick and
long pieces of text. |
|Archaeological data: In his book "The new evidence that demands
a verdict," Josh McDowell quotes a number of archaeologists who
maintain that biblical accounts are in total agreement with the
McDowell and others make the point that it is inconceivable that a book covering
thousands of years of history could be this free of error unless it was written
under the inspiration of God. However, religious liberals and secularists
agree with the opposite conclusions of a growing group of biblical
archaeologists like Philip Davies who wrote:
It is doubtful whether religious conservatives and liberals will reach a consensus over the inspiration of the Bible soon.
|Bible.org maintains a theology program (TTP) which explains various historical beliefs from a conservative Protestant perspective. One free video is Session 6 - Inspiration of Scripture. See: http://www.bible.org/|
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