Sunday, September 4, 2011

Inspiration of the Bible

The concept of the inspiration of the Bible has been the source of much debate in modern times. Recently, I have been doing a small study of this subject. Specifically, I have looked at what the Scriptures say about their own nature and the resulting implications for Biblical inspiration.

I'll start with one of the most obvious verses, 2 Timothy 3:16, in which Paul says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" I have read that some other translations render this verse as "all scripture is God-breathed." This idea could be reminiscent of God breathing into Adam the breath of life in Genesis 2:7. Peter also weighs in on this subject: "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." (2 Peter 1:21). Peter is clearly referring to the Old Testament here. Also, Paul's reference to "all scripture" is usually interpreted to mean just the Old Testament, since the New Testament had yet to be compiled at the time of his writing.

So, what is the evidence for the inspiration of the New Testament? I have a few examples to consider. Speaking to Timothy again, Paul writes, "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward." (1 Timothy 5:18). Here the apostle mentions two references that he refers to as scripture. The first is from Deuteronomy 25:4. However, the second is from the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, namely Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7. Now, let's return to Peter, who speaks of his brother Paul. "As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16). The idea I want to pull out of this verse is that Peter identifies the writings of Paul as scripture. Moreover, the apostle John claims at the conclusion of Revelation that any man who takes away from the book forfeits his eternal life (22:19). This claim could only be valid if John believed he was writing scripture.

Just these few examples would account for the inspiration of the majority of the New Testament. However, Paul appears to claim in 1 Corinthians 7 that not all of his writings are inspired. In verse 10 he writes, "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord..." By contrast, he writes in verse 12, "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord..." Does this contradict the point I made in the previous paragraph? Allow me to explain why I think the answer is no. Here is more of the passage under discussion:

And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
(1 Corinthians 7:10-13)

When Paul refers to what the Lord commands, he is talking about teachings that Jesus gave during His ministry. Christ repeatedly spoke against divorce; see, for example, Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18. On the other hand, when we get to verse 12, Paul is discussing an idea that Jesus did not directly address. So, when Paul says that he is speaking instead of the Lord, he is simply distinguishing between something that came straight from Christ's mouth and something he was inspired to write. After all, later in the same letter, Paul asserts, "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." (14:37). Furthermore, the apostle indicates elsewhere, "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11-12).

Another interesting concept that I looked at what the Bible says about the relationship between God and the scriptures. In particular, there are some thought-provoking ideas presented by some New Testament verses that make Old Testament references. In Psalm 16, which is a "Michtam of David," the king writes, "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." (v. 10). In one of his evangelistic sermons, Paul quotes a number of Old Testament prophecies, including this psalm. "Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." (Acts 13:35). The antecedent of "he" in this verse is God (see v. 33). Psalm 16 was actually writted down by David, but Paul says it was spoken by God. Similarly, the believers in Jerusalem quote Psalm 2:1 when they pray, "Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?" (Acts 4:25)
There are other examples that seem to directly associate the scriptures with God. In Exodus 9:16, the Lord explains to Moses and Aaron the message they are to bring to Pharoah from Him. Paul references the incident in this way: "For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth." (Romans 9:17). So, what scripture says is equated with what God says. Even more striking is the reference to God's promise (Genesis 12:3) made in Galatians 3:8. "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." Did you know the scripture preached? I hadn't noticed that before. This seems to indicate the scriptures are like a living thing. Given these examples, it would be a hard thing to separate the scriptures from God.

This study has been informative for me. Not only are concepts like atheism and agnosticism prevalent in our society, but even many segments of the professing church commonly assail the inspiration of the Bible. Consequently, the Bible becomes increasingly irrelevant as a standard of Christian living. It is my prayer that we believers who are opposed to this trend are prepard to defend the authority of the scriptures. "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12).

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