Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Scripture: Inspiration and Preservation, Part 2

I am going to continue discussing the issue of the inspiration and preservation of the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15). As stated earlier, entire books have been written on this issue, and it is not meant to be exhaustive by any means. However, it will cover the basics, and, hopefully, encourage you to further study and strengthen your faith in the Word of God, especially, in a day in which fewer and fewer seem to believe it.

Last time, we defined revelation as a disclosure of information that could not have been known otherwise. Also, the two types of revelation which include general and special. Both speak of situations in which God is revealing Himself to some extent. Today, we are going to tackle the subject of inspiration. Obviously, one can have a revelation without it necessarily resulting in an inspiration, but one cannot have an inspiration without first having received a revelation. The word “inspired” literally means “God-breathed” or as Erickson puts it, “breathed into by the Holy Spirit”  It is seen in 2 Timothy 3:16 where it says that “All Scripture is inspired by God.” The inspiration spoken of here is more than just that of an artist or a musician being inspired to create something. Instead, it is a unique event in which God speaks words to man and man in turn, writes those words down.

When speaking of these words as contained in the Bible, Peter said in 2 Peter 1:16-21 that the Bible is the “prophetic word made more sure”. In the context of that statement, Peter had just stated that even though he and the others who were him had seen Christ transfigured before them on the mountain (Matthew 17:2-5); their testimony was not to be compared to the testimony of the Bible itself. In other words, the Bible, by its own claim to inspiration, is always the superior witness.

There are several views as to inspiration. First, there is the natural view which totally denies any supernatural element in the process. Those who hold this view merely see the Bible as a great work of art on the level of Shakespeare or any other great artist. A second view is that of partial inspiration which believes that while not all of the Scriptures are inspired, some are. The third view is what is called conceptual inspiration. In this view, it’s not necessarily the words themselves that are inspired, but the concept behind those words, i.e., the overall message. A fourth view is what some would call encounter inspiration. In other words, the Bible “becomes” inspired to each individual reader as they “encounter” perceived truth. 

And finally, there is what is called plenary verbal inspiration. This is the correct view. It implies that not only is the message of the Bible inspired, but the very words of that message are inspired. The word “verbal” actually means “by means of words” or “word for word”. Jesus said in Luke 16:17 "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.” That same language is found in Matthew 5:18 where it says, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” The word for “letter” in this verse is the Hebrew word iota and the word for “stroke” is the Hebrew word keraia as in Luke 16:17. The iota, or jot as it is sometimes called, refers to the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the word keraia refers to the small appendage that differentiates two similar letters in the Hebrew alphabet. In our English language, it would almost be the equivalent of what we would call the dotting of an “I” and the crossing of a “T”.

Now, some would argue that verbal inspiration of necessity requires dictation. Grudem is quick to point out that even though the words in the Bible are indeed God’s words, we are talking more about the “result” than the actual words themselves.  He further points out that God actually used a “wide variety of processes” to bring about the desired “result”. However, that is not to say that no dictation is to be found in Scripture. It is obvious from the text at times that the author did indeed pen the words verbatim as they were spoken to him. For example in Revelation 2:1 it says, "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:” It’s obvious from the text that the Apostle John was told emphatically to write exactly what the angel said to write. In the end, it means that God made sure that the human personalities and the individual writing styles of each were under the oversite of God and He directed each of them to write exactly what He wanted them to write. Finally, that brings us to the “plenary”. The word means “full” or “all”. In other words, when the words “plenary verbal inspiration” are all added together; they mean “all words God-breathed.”

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