Summary: An examination of how the Bible explains what is means that the Scriptures are inspired.
What Do You Mean The Bible Is Inspired?
In 2 Timothy 3:16, the Apostle Paul makes the statement that “All Scripture is inspired by God.” What exactly does Paul mean by that statement?
Paul is stating the fundamental truth about the source of all Scripture. Scripture comes from God. The phrase “inspired by God” is a translation of the one Greek word - theopneustos - which literally means that Scripture is ‘God-breathed’.
This word is not used anywhere else in the Bible. However, the literal meaning of the word brings to mind the creation of man, back in Genesis 2:7, when it says that “God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Paul seems to be saying that Scripture is as much the product of God, or as much to be traced to Him as life itself.
But, we might ask, are not the Scriptures written by man? Do we not know that the Bible is made-up of books written by 40 different authors? How is it that it was written by men but is a product of God?
Let’s turn to 2 Peter 1:21 for greater understanding. Peter says, “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
Here, Peter is speaking of prophecy or a Divine message. He says two important things.
First, no prophecy or Divine message was ever made by an act of human will. At no time was the message instigated, initiated or prompted by the desire or will of the messenger. The product was not of the human will.
The second truth is that prophecy or the Divine message came as the messenger was “moved by the Holy Spirit.” The word ‘moved’ is very important here. The Greek word is phero. It means ‘to be borne along or carried along.’
We get a better understanding of its meaning as we see it used, in Acts 27:14-17, to describe Paul’s ship being driven along by the winds of a strong storm: “But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; and when the ship was caught in it, and could not face the wind, we gave way to it, and let ourselves be driven along. And running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. And after they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor, and so let themselves be driven along.”
Paul’s ship was not steered by the sailors but by the winds. The ship was not guided by the will and skills of the captain but by was guided along or driven along by the storm. The ship’s crew were completely passive.
Thus, Peter is telling us that prophecy or the Divine message was not initiated nor invented nor under the control of the will of the messenger. In stead, the Spirit of God guided the faculties of the messenger. The bringing forth of a Divine message was not an act of human will but of the will of God. The messenger was passive, speaking or writing only what the Spirit moved them to say or write. Thus, the message came from God rather than man.
Let’s dig just a bit deeper. To what extent did the Spirit guide the message? Did the Spirit provide the basic concepts or ideas and then the messenger expressed those concepts and ideas according to their own manner of expression and vocabulary? Or did the Spirit totally dictate every part of the message, even selecting each and every word?
The answers to those questions are provided, by the inspired Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:11-13:
“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit Who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”
I would have us note from this passage that Paul says that the Spirit of God conveys to the inspired messenger the thoughts of God. He goes on to say that the messenger does not speak words taught by human intellect or wisdom but words taught by the Spirit. Inspiration is the combining of God’s spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. Or, to say it differently, inspiration is when the Spirit of God conveys God’s thoughts by selecting the appropriate spiritual words that best express those thoughts and places them in the mind of the human messenger.