A gracEmail subscriber in Arkansas writes, “I’ve always been taught that the Bible was divinely given word by word (I think this is called verbal inspiration). But some passages just sound like a believer pouring out his heart to others. Could you offer some thoughts on inspiration and the Bible?”
* * *
Just as Jesus was both human and divine, so Scripture is written by men although it is called “the Word of God.” But God used ordinary men to write it, men who usually had no idea that they were writing Scripture. The Bible includes a wide variety of ordinary types of literature, composed under all sorts of ordinary circumstances.
Luke tells us that he carefully researched the facts before writing his Gospel (Lk. 1:1-4). The Psalms express the outpouring of pious hearts, from David and other writers who experienced the full spectrum of human feelings and emotions. The Book of Proverbs contains a collection of wise maxims and aphorisms (1 Kings 4:29-34; Eccl. 12:9-10). The New Testament epistles grew out of daily life. In First Corinthians, for example, Paul answers a list of questions he has received from that church. Scripture writers occasionally quote from other sources, some of which survive and some of which have perished (Num. 21:14; Josh. 10:13; Lk. 1:2-3; Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12; Jude 14-15).
Whatever the occasion or their method of writing, the authors of Scripture were “moved by the Holy Spirit” so that they communicated what God intended (2 Pet. 1:20-21). “Verbal inspiration” means that the Spirit’s influence extended to the words as well as the ideas expressed — not surprisingly, since we normally express ideas through the vehicle of words (1 Cor. 2:12-13). The “inerrancy” of Scripture means that whatever the Bible’s authors intended to communicate is, in the end, absolutely true. The Bible itself does not use the terms “verbal inspiration” or “inerrancy.” Those are theological terms which some Christians use to talk about the Bible.
In neither Testament did the People of God spring from an infallible book, but from the mighty, saving deeds of the Creator-Redeemer God. In the Old Testament, God delivered Israel out of Egyptian bondage by miracles worked through the hand of Moses. In the New Testament, God delivered sinners everywhere from condemnation through the sinless and sacrificial life of Jesus of Nazareth who, though put to death by his enemies, rose to life again on the third day. In both Old and New Testament, the People of God, who had experienced God’s deliverance, declared and explained their faith in various writings which the Synagogue and Church came to regard as Scripture. Ultimately, we love the Scriptures because they point us to Jesus — and because Jesus himself knew and loved the Scriptures.