The Logic of Faith

(1) The Inspiration of Scripture

Inspiration

To anyone studying the Bible it is of vital importance to know where the ideas in the Bible came from. If they are merely the opinions of ancient clerics then they are of historical interest but there is no need to take them especially seriously today. If, on the other hand, they represent the words of a higher authority, then they provide a guide to life that must not be ignored.

The Bible makes claims for itself. For example:

2 Timothy 316 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

This passage tells us that the Bible is inspired by God. However, to understand this claim it is necessary to decide what is meant by the word inspiration.

The phrase "given by inspiration of God" in this passage translates one word from the original Greek, the word theopneustos. This word only occurs once in the Bible and is not found in Greek literature outside the Bible (apart from later commentaries on this passage). It appears to have been derived from two other words, the word theos, which means "God", and the word pneustos, which means "breathed" (but is related to the word pneuma which means "breath" and also "spirit"). One can thus conclude that the word means that the scriptures were brought about by the action of God's Spirit.

To see the detail of this one needs, however, to look at further passages.


The Evidence of Peter

2 Peter 119-21 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; to which ye do well that ye take heed, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

In this passage Peter is referring to the witnesses available to show that the apostles were teaching a true message. The first witness Peter describes is the apostles who were eyewitnesses of the doings and words of Jesus but this, he tells us, is supported by the certain evidence of the Old Testament Scriptures. He goes on to tell us that these cannot be interpreted haphazardly; they have a definite meaning of their own because they are given by God and not by the will of man. The prophets spoke what was given them by the Holy Spirit. This means that the words of the scriptures are the words of God.

This picture extends not only to the Old Testament and to the words of Jesus. According to the writings of Peter, the New Testament Epistles are also Scripture:

2 Peter 315-16 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him hath written to you; 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, to their own destruction.

This passage refers to the letters of Paul alongside other Biblical writings. It calls these the other scriptures which means that the letters of Paul were also considered scriptures in exactly the same way as the Old Testament.


The Evidence of the Prophets

In the Old Testament prophets often introduce their revelations by words similar to these:

Jeremiah 21-2 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD...

This passage uses the phrase "the word of the LORD came to me, saying..." This phrase tells us that what follows is not the words of the prophet but the words of God. Another phrase also found in the passage above and many other passages is "thus saith the LORD". Again this phrase introduces words that are being described as coming directly from God.

The phrase "saith the LORD" appears 802 times in the Old Testament (413 times in the form "thus saith the LORD") and the phrase "the word of the LORD came to me" occurs 92 times in the Old Testament. The idea that the words of the scripture come directly from God is found throughout the Bible; it is a general description of the way that the Bible was revealed. Indeed, there is an explicit statement by God that this is the way that he reveals himself through prophets:

Deuteronomy 1818 I will raise up to them a Prophet from among their brethren, like thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.

It is important to note that the prophet is to be made to speak all the words that God commands. Indeed God says that he will put his own words in the prophet's mouth. Thus the words spoken (and written) by the prophets as revelations from God were not their own words but the words that God put in their mouth, as the passage states clearly.

This was clearly the experience of the prophets themselves as they wrote. David said, for example:

2 Samuel 232 The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and his word was on my tongue.

and a similar thought is expressed by Samuel in 1 Samuel 2817.

Other passages where it is explicitly stated that the words are God's include:

Exodus 201 And God spoke all these words, saying...

Habakkuk 22 And the LORD answered me, and said...


How God revealed Himself through Prophets

The fact that the prophet spoke God's words is clearly attested in scripture. The mechanism that God used to do this is also described to some extent in the Bible.

There are three places in the Old Testament where the prophet describes his experience in hearing the word of God and proclaiming it to other people.

Balaam

Balaam was a prophet of God, but not an Israelite. He was required by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel as they ended their wanderings in the wilderness after the Exodus and were about to enter the promised land. However, Balaam explained to Balak that he would be unable to do anything as a prophet which had not originated with God.

Numbers 2218 And Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.

The point was that Balaam knew that his prophecies simply repeated messages from God. He could not, by himself, decide what they would contain. In spite of this Balak took him up to a mountain to curse Israel, but no curse came. Instead of a curse, Balaam's words were a blessing. When he was called on to answer for himself, Balaam said the following:

Numbers 2413: If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak.

This describes the way that the prophet received revelation; the words were given him by God and he could not change them.

Jeremiah

Jeremiah was the writer of one of the largest books of the whole Bible. He describes this throughout as "the Word of the LORD God". The following verses are taken from the very start of the book of Jeremiah and are all part of Jeremiah's claim to speak the word of God exactly as God gave it:

Jeremiah 12 To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

This records the claim that the Word of God came to Jeremiah. Thus the words of the prophecy are God's and not the prophet's own.

Jeremiah 14 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,...

This reveals the claim that the following words, at least, are the words of God rather than of the prophet. The passage is saying that these following words are the words of God exactly as God spoke them.

Jeremiah 19 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.

Here we have the claim that the words of the prophecy are words that were placed in the prophet's mouth by God. They are thus words that originated with God and not with the prophet.

Jeremiah 21-2 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD...

The passage here makes the claim that the following words are exactly God's. "Thus saith the LORD" is telling us that the words following are an exact repetition of what God has said to the prophet. Not only that but the words "thus saith the LORD" are part of what the word of God originally said to Jeremiah. Even the witness to the words coming from God was given by God.

Having been given the words of God the prophet was constrained to deliver them to other people without omitting or changing any part of the text. Jeremiah's experience with this is also described in his prophecy:

Jeremiah 208-9 For since I spoke, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach to me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not refrain.

Jeremiah did not want to deliver the words of God. They were unpopular words and Jeremiah was persecuted for them. He therefore attempted to leave them unsaid, but found that he could not do so. The words seem to have burned into his heart so that he could not ignore them or forget them and he was forced to deliver them to the people for whom they were intended.

Amos

Amos described the way that the word of God came irresistibly into his life by an analogy:

Amos 38 The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?

What is being said here is that the words of God were fixed in the prophet's mind and he was then no more able to ignore them than he could fail to be afraid if he met a roaring lion. However, the prophets seem to have heard the words spoken by God rather than to simply have found a strange message in their memories.


Visions and Events

Sometimes the prophets would receive a vision or would see an historical event and be required to describe it rather than to repeat words given by God. Even here, the words were not left to the prophets, but were given by God. An example which illustrates this is the way that Zechariah received his vision and wrote it down:

Zechariah 17-8 Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD to Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.

This is the start of the description of a vision which the prophet saw. However, Zechariah was not left to describe this in his own words. The words that God gave him to write include "I saw by night, and behold...".


Style

One of the objections to the teaching that all the words of the Bible come directly from God is the fact that the style of the words differs from book to book, and sometimes within single books. The objectors claim that if all the words were from God they should all have the same style.

This objection, of course, supposes that one knows the style of writing that God would use in particular circumstances. If one decides that the style is a part of the message, then there is no reason that God should not send different parts of his message in different styles. It is likely that he chose people to be prophets because their natural style fitted in with the message he wished to convey.


Conclusion

From start to finish the books of the Bible make an absolute claim: they are the inspired words of God, and they have been recorded under His control.
 

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