Biblical inspiration

Biblical inspiration
Rembrandt's The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by an Angel.

Biblical inspiration is the doctrine in Christian theology that the authors and editors of the Bible were led or influenced by God with the result that their writings many be designated in some sense the word of God.[1]



The word "inspiration" comes from the Latin noun inspiratio and from the verb inspirare. Inspirare is a compound term resulting from the Latin prefix in (inside, into) and the verb spirare (to breathe). Inspirare meant originally "to blow into", as for example in the sentence of the Roman poet Ovid: "conchae [...] sonanti inspirare iubet"[2] ("he orders to blow into the resonant [...] shell"). In classic Roman times, inspirare had already come to mean "to breathe deeply" and assumed also the figurative sense of "to instill [something] in the heart or in the mind of someone".

In Christian theology, the Latin word inspirare was already used by some Church Fathers in the first centuries to translate the Greek term pnéo. When Jerome translated the Greek text of the Bible into the language of the common people of Latium (the region of central western Italy in which the city of Rome is located), in the passage of the 2 Tim 3.16-17 he translated the Greek theopneustos as divinitus inspirata ("divinely breathed into"). (In English that passage reads: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God [theopneustos], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.")

Theopneustos is rendered in the Vulgate as the Latin divinitus inspirata ("divinely breathed into"), but some modern English translations opt for "God-breathed" (NIV) or "breathed out by God" (ESV) and avoid "inspiration" altogether, since its connotation, unlike its Latin root, leans toward breathing in instead of breathing out.

The Church Fathers often referred to writings other than the documents that formed or would form the biblical canon as "inspired".[3]


The Bible contains many passages in which the authors claim divine inspiration for their message, or report the effects of such inspiration on others. Besides the direct accounts of written revelation, such as Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, the Prophets of the Old Testament frequently claimed that their message was divine by the formula "Thus says the LORD" (for example, 1 Kgs 12:22–24;1 Chr 17:3–4; Jer 35:13; Ezek 2:4; Zech 7:9; etc.). The Second Epistle of Peter claims that "no prophecy of Scripture ... was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1:20–21).

An exception common to all the different views of inspiration is that, although the New Testament Scriptures quote, paraphrase, and refer to other works including other New Testament documents, the Septuagint (the Jewish translation of the Torah into Greek, later books were translated anonymously and later included in the Septuagint), including the Apocrypha, and the Greek writers Aratus, Epimenides, Menander, and perhaps Philo, none of the various views of inspiration teach that these referenced works were also necessarily inspired, though some teach that the use and application of these other materials is inspired, in some sense.

Second Timothy 3:16-17 is cited by many Christians as evidence that "all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable ..." (English Standard Version – see similar language in the King James Version and the New International Version, among others). Others offer an alternative reading for the passage, for example, theologian C. H. Dodd suggests that it "is probably to be rendered" as, "Every inspired scripture is also useful..."[4] A similar translation has been included in the New English Bible, Revised English Bible, and as a footnoted alternative in the New Revised Standard Version. The Latin Vulgate can be so read.[5] Yet others defend the "traditional" interpretation, calling the alternative "probably not the best translation".[6]


Roman Catholic

The Catholic Church holds the Bible as inspired by God, but does not view God as the direct author of the Bible, in the sense that He does not put a 'ready-made' book in the mind of the inspired person.[7]

As summarized by Karl Keating,[8] the Roman Catholic apologetic for the inspiration of scripture first considers the scriptures as a merely historical source, and then it attempts to derive the divinity of Jesus from the information contained therein, illuminated by the tradition of the Catholic Church and by what they consider to be common knowledge about human nature. After offering evidence that Jesus is indeed God, they argue that his Biblical promise to establish a church that will never perish cannot be empty, and that promise, they believe, implies an infallible teaching authority vested in the church. They conclude that this authoritative Church teaches that the Bible's own doctrine of inspiration is in fact the correct one.



Evangelicals see the Bible as a truly human product whose creation was superintended by the Holy Spirit, preserving the authors' works from error without eliminating their specific concerns, situation, or style. This divine involvement, they say, allowed the biblical writer to reveal God's own message to the immediate recipients of the writings and to those who would come later, communicating God's message without corrupting it. Some Evangelicals have sought to characterize the conservative or traditional view as verbal, plenary inspiration in the original manuscripts, by which they mean that every word (not just the overarching ideas or concepts) is meaningfully chosen under the superintendence of God.

Evangelicals acknowledge that there is textual variation between accounts of apparently identical events and speeches, which would seem to have God saying different things. Some of these differences are accounted for as deviations from the autographa that were introduced by copyists, while other cases are considered intentional deviations that were inspired by God for particular purposes (for instance, the Gospel of Matthew was intended to communicate the Gospel to Jews, while the Gospel of Luke was intended to communicate it to non-Jews).

Many Evangelicals consider biblical inerrancy and/or biblical infallibility to be the necessary consequence of the Bible's doctrine of inspiration (see, for example, the Westminster Confession of Faith or the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy), though not all do.


At times this view has been criticized as tending toward a dictation theory of inspiration,[9] where God speaks and a human records his words. C. H. Dodd wrote:

The theory which is commonly described as that of "verbal inspiration" is fairly precise. It maintains that the entire corpus of Scripture consists of writings every word of which (presumably in the original autographs, forever inaccessible to us) was directly "dictated" by the Deity… They consequently convey absolute truth with no trace of error or relativity… No attempt will be made here to formulate an alternative definition of inspiration… That I believe to be a false method. There is indeed no question about the original implications of the term: for primitive religious thought the "inspired" person was under the control of a supernatural influence which inhibited the use of his normal faculties.[9]

The Evangelical position has been criticized as being circular by non-Christians and as well as Christians such as Catholic and Orthodox authors, who accept the doctrine but reject the Protestant arguments in favor of it. These critics claim that the Bible can only be used to prove doctrines of biblical inspiration if the doctrine is assumed to begin with.[8] Some defenders of the evangelical doctrine such as B. B. Warfield and Charles Hodge, however, moved away from such circular arguments and "committed themselves to the legitimacy of external verification" to inductively prove the doctrine, though they placed some restrictions on the evidences that could be considered.[10] Others such as Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark, and John Frame have accepted circularity as inevitable in the ultimate presuppositions of any system and seek instead to prove the validity of their position by transcendental arguments related to consistency.

Modernist Christianity

The Modernist (Liberal Christianity) and Progressive Christianity view typically rejects the idea that the Bible is divinely inspired in a unique way. Some advocates of higher criticism who espouse this view even go so far as to regard the Bible as purely a product of human invention. However, most form critics, such as Rudolf Bultmann and Walter Brueggemann, still regard the Bible as a sacred text, just not a text that communicates the unaltered word of God. They see it instead as true, divinely inspired theology mixed with foreign elements that can sometimes be inconsistent with the overarching messages found in Scripture and that have discernible roots in history, mythology, or ancient cultural/cultic practices. As such, form critics attempt to separate the kernel of inspired truth from the husk that contains it, doing so through various exegetical methods.


The Neo-orthodox doctrine of inspiration is summarized by saying that the Bible is "the word of God" but not "the words of God". It is only when one reads the text that it becomes the word of God to him or her. This view is a reaction to the Modernist doctrine, which, Neo-orthodox proponents argue, eroded the value and significance of the Christian faith, and simultaneously a rejection of the idea of textual inerrancy. Karl Barth and Emil Brunner were primary advocates of this approach.

See also


  1. ^ "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." B.M. Metzger & M.D. Coogan, "The Oxford Companion to the Bible," Oxford University Press, New York, NY, (1993), Pages 302 to 304
  2. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 1, 334.
  3. ^ Metzger, Bruce (1987). The Canon of the New Testament : its origin, development, and significance. New York: Oxford University. ISBN 978-0198261803. [page needed]
  4. ^ Dodd, Charles Harold (1978). The Authority of the Bible. London: Collins. p. 25. ISBN 0-00-625195-1. 
  5. ^ The Douay-Rheims Bible, relying on the Vulgate, has "All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach ...". See the comment in the New Jerusalem Bible study edition- footnote 'e', page 1967 Darton Longman Todd 1985. ISBN 0-232-52077-1, but with the caution "less probably".
  6. ^ Daniel B. Wallace (1996). Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. pp. 313–314. ISBN 0-310-21895-0. 
  7. ^ Durand, Alfred (1910). "Inspiration of the Bible". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved November 15, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Proving Inspiration, Catholic Answers
  9. ^ a b Dodd, Charles Harold (1978). The Authority of the Bible. London: Collins. ISBN 0-00-625195-1. [page needed]
  10. ^ Coleman, Richard J. (1975-01). "Biblical Inerrancy: Are We Going Anywhere?". Theology Today 31 (4). OCLC 60620600. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 


Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать реферат

Look at other dictionaries:

  • biblical inspiration —    See inspiration …   Glossary of theological terms

  • Inspiration of the Bible — • Covered in four sections, I. Belief in Inspired books; II. Nature of Inspiration; III. Extent of Inspiration; IV. Protestant Views on the Inspiration of the Bible Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Inspiration of the Bible      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Biblical Exegesis —     Biblical Exegesis     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Biblical Exegesis     Exegesis is the branch of theology which investigates and expresses the true sense of Sacred Scripture.     The exegete does not inquire which books constitute Sacred… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Biblical theology — is a discipline within Christian theology which studies the Bible from the perspective of understanding the progressive history of God revealing God s self to humanity following the Fall and throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. It… …   Wikipedia

  • Inspiration — may refer to: * Artistic inspiration, sudden creativity in artistic production * Revelation, an uncovering or disclosure of something hidden via communication from the divine * Biblical inspiration, the doctrine in Judeo Christian theology… …   Wikipedia

  • biblical literature — Introduction       four bodies of written works: the Old Testament writings according to the Hebrew canon; intertestamental works, including the Old Testament Apocrypha; the New Testament writings; and the New Testament Apocrypha.       The Old… …   Universalium

  • Inspiration of Ellen White — Seventh day Adventists believe church co founder Ellen G. White was inspired by God as a prophet , understood today as a manifestation of the New Testament [Spiritual gift| [spiritual] gift] of prophecy . Her inspiration (compare: Biblical… …   Wikipedia

  • Inspiration of Ellen G. White — This article is about the nature of Ellen White s inspiration. For her biography and heritage, see Ellen G. White. Part of a series on Seventh day Adventism …   Wikipedia

  • inspiration of the Bible —    Most Protestants affirm that the Bible is authoritative in religious matters and not a book like any other, but they differ as to its nature and the manner in which it was inspired. The most popular traditional Protestant approach is to… …   Encyclopedia of Protestantism

  • Inspiration — Unter Inspiration (von lat.: inspiratio = Beseelung, Einhauchen von „spiritus“ = Leben, Seele, Geist) versteht man allgemeinsprachlich eine Eingebung, etwa einen unerwarteten Einfall oder einen Ausgangspunkt künstlerischer Kreativität.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”