I hold in my hands a Bible. I claim that the Bible that I hold in my hand is the Word of God. It was written over the course of 1500 years by 40+ human authors in three different languages. Now although it was penned by human authors, to be the Word of God, God must have had a part it. In fact, to call it God’s Word, He somehow had to get human authors to write His words. How did He do that?
Also, if He did that, which I believe He did, how can we be sure that the text that we have today is the same Word that He gave the human authors 3500 to almost 2000 years ago? How did God preserve His Word?
And if He preserved His Word, then how do we have so many different translations? There are over twenty major, popular English translations. If we leave English, we see that the Bible as a whole has been translated into 2,798 languages; the New Testament has been translated into 1,275 languages; and part of the Bible has been translated into 1,005 languages. That is a grand total of 5,078 languages. So out of 6,877 languages that are known to exist in the world, we have the Bible in some shape or form in 5,078 of them. That’s about 74%, which is awesome, but it makes us continue to ask, “Are these different translations really the Word of God? And how can we know?”
Well those are the three major questions that we want to try to answer throughout this study. We may answer one question a week and wrap this up in three weeks, or we might spend a lot of time at certain points. That’s up to you. So let’s start tonight with question number one.
How did God deal with human authors to give us His very Word?
Now when we talk about God dealing with human authors, we use the word “inspiration.” We say that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. But when we talk about inspiration, we are going to need to address several questions.
1) Should our basis be the Bible’s teaching about itself or the characteristics which the Bible itself displays?
2) Does inspiration apply to some portions of Scripture but not others or to Scripture as a whole as well as every part of it?
3) Does inspiration apply only to ideas/concepts in Scripture or does it apply to the very words themselves?
4) How is verbal inspiration different from mechanical dictation?
5) Is inspiration attributed to the biblical writer or to the biblical writing?
6) Is Scripture in any way human in authorship?
So as we walk through this first section of our study, we are going to answer those questions.
Where did the idea of inspiration come from?
Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” The King James says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” The Holman and the New American Standard say, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” The idea of inspiration comes from the Greek word theópneustos which translates literally as “breathed out.” So God breathed and out of His mouth came Scripture, which was previously nonexistent. That is the basis of the idea of inspiration. In some way, shape, or form God gave us His Word. But just how did He do that?
There have been seven models given to explain how this worked:
1) Illumination Model: God granted insight into His truth; men recorded it.
2) Intuition Model: From time to time natural religious insight was heightened to discover “divine truth.”
3) Existential Model: At the “moment of meaning,” the Bible becomes the Word of God to the individual
4) Demythologizing Model: The Bible becomes revelation when the proper demythologized interpretation is found.
5) Mechanical Dictation Model: Every word was dictated by God.
6) Dynamic Inspiration Model: God gave the thought or idea; the writer put it in his own words.
7) Plenary Verbal Inspiration Model: God directed the expressions of the writer’s thoughts without disturbing the free exercise of the writers’ personalities.
Now out of those seven, our only choices are the last three. So let’s just remove the first four. Out of the three that are left, the best choice is the Plenary Verbal Inspiration Model. Why? Let’s look a little deeper into this model.
First of all, we need to define the terms. “Plenary” refers to Scripture as a whole as well as every part of it. So by adding the term, we are saying that we believe that all of Scripture is inspired. More than that, “verbal” refers to the very words themselves. So when we say “plenary verbal,” we are including every single part and word of Scripture, as well as Scripture in its entirety. There is nothing left out!
This is the best solution because of 2 Timothy 3:16, which says, “All Scripture…” In the Greek it is pasa graphē. Literally, it means Scripture as a whole and every part of it. Isn’t that what we just said about the Plenary Verbal Inspiration Model? Yes, and that is why it is the best model of the three that are actually available for us to believe.
Now that we have seen that God’s inspiration applies to Scripture as a whole and every part of it, we need to look at how He dealt with the human authors. For this, we need to look at 2 Peter 1:21, which says, “…men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The King James says, “…holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The Holman says, “…moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God.” The New American Standard says, “…men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” This verse explains how God directed the expressions of the writer’s thoughts without disturbing the free exercise of their personalities. So let’s look at this verse in more detail.
First of all, we need to understand that this is talking about Scripture. If we go back to verse twenty, we see that Peter is talking about Scripture. That means, that in verse twenty-one, he is telling us how we got the Bible. Now let’s notice what he says.
First, he says that “men spoke.” This shows that there is some involvement or authorship of humans relating to Scripture. But how did men speak? They spoke “from God.” So far, we have men giving us God’s Word. But how exactly did they do it? Remember, our three possible models are Mechanical Dictation, Dynamic Inspiration, and Plenary Verbal Inspiration. So did God dictate the words? Did He just give them the thoughts and let them express them in their own words? Did He direct their thoughts without disturbing their personalities?
To get a better understanding of what took place so that we can answer that question let’s look at what “carried along” means. Simply put, it is being led while controlled. What that means is that God let the human authors remain true to their personalities (i.e., Peter-uneducated fisherman; Paul-educated lawyer; David-shepherd) but controlled what they said in order that what was written would be God’s words. Therefore, the Bible is both divine and human in authorship. Humans wrote God’s words.
So we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. However, we do not stop there. We continue that statement and say that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Inerrant simply means that the Bible does not contain errors. In saying this, we must understand that there are six views that can be held with regard to inerrancy.
1) Absolute Inerrancy: The Bible, which includes rather detailed treatment of matters both scientific and historical, is fully true.
2) Full Inerrancy: The Bible is completely true, and while the Bible does not primarily aim to give scientific and historical data, such scientific and historical assertions as it does make are fully true.
3) Limited Inerrancy: The Bible is inerrant in its salvific doctrinal references.
4) Inerrancy of Purpose: The Bible inerrantly accomplishes its purpose (i.e., to bring people into personal fellowship with Christ).
5) Accommodated Revelation: The Bible came through human channels, and thus participates in the shortcomings of human nature.
6) Inerrancy is an irrelevant issue.
Out of those six, I will narrow it down to two for you. If we hold to the Plenary Verbal Inspiration Model, then we can only accept either Absolute or Full Inerrancy. So a proper view of inspiration will lead to a proper view of inerrancy.
Let me show this to you in the form of a deductive argument:
Premise A: All the words in the Bible are God’s Words (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).
Premise B: God cannot lie or speak falsely (Titus 1:2).
Conclusion: All the words of Scripture are completely true and without error in any part.
This leads us to complete our above statement. Not only is the Bible the inspired and inerrant Word of God, it is only infallible, meaning that it is incapable of containing errors. So this logical deduction proves that if one truly believes that the Bible is “breathed out” by God, they will naturally believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible.
Now I told you that I align myself with the Plenary Verbal Inspiration Model. What about the two views of inerrancy? Which one is better or more biblical? I lean towards Full Inerrancy. Here’s why. Absolute Inerrancy says that the Bible specifically seeks to inform people about scientific and historical matters. I do not agree with that statement. I believe that the Bible specifically points people to Jesus Christ. However, it does provide scientific and historical information, and when it does, as Full Inerrancy states, I believe that it is fully true. The difference is that Full Inerrancy does not say that the Bible intends to inform people about scientific and historical matters specifically; instead, it just deals with them in seeking to accomplish its purpose. Both views hold that the Bible is completely and totally inerrant.
So the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. But two questions still remain: Do we have the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God today? If yes, how do we explain the different translations that we have?