All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Biblical inspiration refers to the work of the Holy Spirit by which He produced the words of the entire Bible, using the personality and literary skill of its human authors, so that the resultant written text is God’s authoritative Word to mankind.
Many works of literature, music, and art have been called inspired, meaning that the author was brilliant. The effect of such work on others is inspiring (moving or inspirational). When Christians refer to the Bible as inspired, they really mean something else, although no doubt the authors of Scripture were brilliant and their work is moving indeed. Biblical inspiration involved both the processes by which Scripture was produced and the end product.
“Inspiration” comes from a Latin term meaning “to breathe in,” referring to God’s Spirit at work in the lives of the authors of the Bible. God used a variety of means to reveal Himself to these writers. Moses heard from God directly on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 20:1). The Lord said to Isaiah, “I have put My words in your mouth” (Isaiah 51:16). Daniel and others saw visions from God (Dan. 7:1). Jesus promised His official ambassadors, the apostles, that the Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). One apostle described the process like this: “No prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God” (2 Pet. 1:21). Inspiration also included such ordinary things as historical research. Luke, for example, introduced his Gospel with the note that he had “carefully investigated everything from the very first” (Lk 1:3).
Thus, on one hand, we refer to the inspired writers of Scripture. On the other hand, however, stands the inspired writing itself: Scripture, the end result. One reason for believing this distinction comes from noting the words “inspired by God” in 2 Timothy 3:16 cited above. The term in the original is theopneustos, meaning “breathed out by God.” The Scriptures proceed directly from God’s inner self, just as the expulsion of human breath comes from within one’s body. The Scriptures could not be more divine if they had been dropped down from God’s throne engraved on granite pages. Scriptures are therefore rightly called the Word of God. Careful students of the Bible’s inspiration refer to “verbal, plenary inspiration.” The term “verbal” refers to the very words of the sacred text, for God not only inspired the ideas in the Bible but also the exact words required to express the message. The term “plenary” means full.
Every bit of Scripture is equally inspired. We do not have the luxury of accepting some parts of the Bible as more inspired than others.
Contemporary interpreters of Scripture, therefore, are never inspired in the sense that the original authors were. Yet we certainly may ask that the same Spirit will illumine both the message of Scripture and our own minds to understand the meaning of the inspired text.
REFLECTION: Why believe that the Bible itself (in addition to the Bible writers) is inspired? What is the difference between inspiration and illumination? Have you ever prayed for illumination?
PRAYER: Spirit of God, You worked in the lives of such persons as Moses, Isaiah, and Paul to bring Your very Word to the world. Thank You for the inspired Word, now available to me. I ask for the same Spirit to illumine me this day to understand the divine message. Amen.
written by Kendell Easley