Inspiration of Scripture
What do you think about God “breathing” or “inspiring” Scripture? Historically Christians have held to the inspiration of Scripture and the Holy Spirit being the one who influences people in this process. Does He influence the author upon writing? Does He influence only when He reveals things to people? Is it another way? I’d like to highlight two things concerning inspiration in this article. The first is that inspiration may not have happened when the author wrote, but before when the Holy Spirit gave revelation. The second is that the Scriptures contain life giving content from the breath of God. Here are my thoughts on the inspiration of Scripture.
Inspiration? God Breathed?
“It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 6:63 NRSV
So what does “inspired” or “God breathed” mean? While the literal understanding of God breathing is pretty self explanatory, inspiration is not. Inspiration is an old English word which means to breathe. They’re the same thing, but the term inspiration is more common in English usage. So what does breath have to do with the Scriptures? Well, in Genesis it is recorded that when God created the body of Adam He breathed into him the breath of life and then Adam began to live. In the culture and language of both the Old and New Testament writers spirit meant life or soul. In both Greek and Hebrew “spirit” and “breath” are not two different words, but rather they are actually the same word. Inspiration can then be understood as life giving. Paul’s usage of “God breathed” in 2 Timothy in relation to Scripture indicates that the contents of Scripture find its influence from God Himself and that the teachings of Scripture lead to life. The saying used by Paul here is that God’s life giving agent is found in the teachings of Scripture. The authors of Scripture often record that following God’s ways lead to life. Jesus also is recorded as saying that God’s words are life. Its likely because of this connection that Christians have early on referred to the Scriptures as God’s word.
The Content; The Holy Teachings
“He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3 NRSV
I think Inspiration has to do with the original contents of the Scripture as they were originally given to the Prophet and Apostle. The Holy Spirit’s influence then pertains to the psalms, prophecies, acts of God and other such content which was then recorded in Scripture. This understanding differs from the theory that the Holy Spirit influenced the author at the time of writing because it affirms that Holy Spirit gave influence to the original revelators such as the Prophets whom He came upon. I don’t believe the ancients who went before us would have made a differentiation between the teachings as originally given with the Scripture which records them. Nor would they have questioned the accuracy of the written content of the historical experience. Paul’s use of “God breathed” in 2 Timothy is connected with the purpose of Scripture. It is to instruct and to change the reader into living a righteous life. These are God’s ways as was said in the last paragraph. The teachings prepare Christians to do the deeds which God wants of us and by doing them we find life. The Scriptures then acts as a life giving agent to those who apply its teaching. Because of this it as though the ink and script have been blown into by the very life giving breathe of God.
The Origin of the Prophecies
“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:20-21 NRSV
2 Peter 1:21 is often a verse that is used to help better understand the way inspiration of Scripture works, although it does not contain the word inspiration, but rather the concept in other words. Peter writes to the Church that the Holy Spirit came upon those of old who spoke the prophecies. Some make the mistake that Peter meant that the Holy Spirit made men write instead of speak. I think this should be interpreted as the Holy Spirit giving them the revelations and prophecies to speak. The Holy Spirit is also promised by Jesus to give the Apostles words to speak, instead of words to write. Now is it possible the Spirit did both? Sure, but this verse can’t be used to unilaterally support the view in question. I suggest that my theory of the ancients which says that they probably did not question the accuracy of what was recorded concerning the prophecy should be applied to us as well. Today it is often those trying to prove a strict inerrancy position, which this author does not recommend, that want to be dogmatic on a position which says that Holy Spirit inspired upon writing as the main way of inspiration. The religious teachings of the Prophets and Apostles are true and they were given inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but probably not upon writing, at the very least they were not only.
The inspiration of Scripture is something that Christians have historically held to. How different Christian traditions define this is another story. I suggest that we consider a position that points to the Holy Spirit influencing the original person from whom the contents of Scripture come from. This would be psalmists in their psalms, the teachers in their teaching, and the prophets in their prophecy. While I don’t think we should totally rule out inspiration upon writing we do need to be careful when trying to prove this from passages of Scripture. The teachings of Scripture are God’s ways. Following them will lead us to life. Just as the first man was breathed into and began to live so it happens to us in our fallen, fleshly nature when we read and apply His written breath.