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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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INSPIRATION . The subject comprises the doctrine of inspiration in the Bible, and the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible, together with what forms the transition from the one to the other, the account given of the prophetic consciousness, and the teaching of the NT about the OT.

1. The agent of inspiration is the Holy Spirit (see p. 360) or Spirit of God, who is active in Creation ( Genesis 1:2 , Psalms 104:30 ), is imparted to man that the dust may become living soul ( Genesis 2:7 ), is the source of exceptional powers of body ( Judges 6:34; Judges 14:6; Judges 14:19 ) or skill ( Exodus 35:31 ); but is pre-eminently manifest in prophecy (wh. see). The NT doctrine of the presence and power of the Spirit of God in the renewed life of the believer is anticipated in the OT, inasmuch as to the Spirit’s operations are attributed wisdom ( Job 32:8 , 1 Kings 3:28 , Deuteronomy 34:9 ), courage ( Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6 ), penitence, moral strength, and purity ( Nehemiah 9:20 , Psalms 51:11 , Isaiah 63:10 , Ezekiel 36:26 , Zechariah 12:10 ). The promise of the Spirit by Christ to His disciples was fulfilled when He Himself after the Resurrection breathed on them, and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost’ ( John 20:22 ), and after His Ascension the Spirit descended on the Church with the outward signs of the wind and fire ( Acts 2:2-3 ). The Christian life as such is an inspired life, but the operation of the Spirit is represented in the NT in two forms; there are the extraordinary gifts (charisms) speaking with tongues, interpreting tongues, prophecy, miracles ( 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 ), all of which St. Paul subordinates to faith, hope, love (ch. 13); and there are the fruits of the Spirit in moral character and religious disposition ( Galatians 5:22-23 ). Intermediate may be regarded the gifts for special functions in the Church, as teaching, governing, exhorting ( Romans 12:7-8 ). The prophetic inspiration is continued ( Romans 12:6 ); but superior is the Apostolic ( 1 Corinthians 12:28 ) (see Apostles).

2. The doctrine of the inspiration of the NT attaches itself to the promise of Christ to His disciples that the Holy Spirit whom the Father would send in His name should teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance all things that He had said to them ( John 14:26 ); and that, when the Spirit of truth had come, He should guide them into all the truth, and should declare to them the things that were to come ( John 16:13 ). These promises cover the contents of Gospels, Epistles, and the Apocalypse. The inspiration of Christ’s own words is affirmed in His claim to be alone in knowing and revealing the Father ( Matthew 11:27 ), and His repeated declaration of His dependence in His doctrine on the Father.

3. Christ recognizes the inspiration of the OT ( Matthew 22:43 ), and the authority of the prophets ( Luke 24:25 ). The word ‘inspire’ is used only in Wis 15:11 ‘Because he was ignorant of him that moulded him, and of him that inspired into him an active soul, and breathed into him a vital spirit.’ The word ‘inspiration’ is used in this general sense in Job 32:8 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘But there is a spirit in man; and the inspiration (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘breath’) of the Almighty giveth them understanding.’ In special reference to the OT we find in 2 Timothy 3:16 (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) ‘every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching,’ etc. While the term is not used, the fact is recognized in 2 Peter 1:21 ‘For no prophecy ever came by the will of man; but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost.’ It must be added, however, that both these passages are in writings the Apostolic authorship of which is questioned by many scholars. But the NT view of the authority of the OT is fully attested in the use made of the OT as trustworthy history, true doctrine, and sure prophecy; and yet the inaccuracy of many of the quotations, as well as the use of the Greek translation, shows that the writers, whether they held a theory of verbal inspiration or not, were not bound by it.

4. Although the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible does not properly fall within the scope of a Bible Dictionary, a brief summary of views held in the Christian Church may be added: ( a ) The Theory of verbal inspiration affirms that each human author was but the mouthpiece of God, and that in every word, therefore, God speaks. But the actual features of the Bible, as studied by reverent and believing scholarship, contradict the theory. ( b ) The theory of degrees of inspiration recognizes suggestion, direction, elevation, and superintendency of the human by the Divine Spirit; but it is questionable whether we can so formally define the process. ( c ) The dynamical theory recognizes the exercise of human faculties in the author, but maintains their illumination, stimulation, and purification by the Spirit of God, in order that in doctrine and ethics the Divine mind and will may be correctly and sufficiently expressed; but this divorces literature from life. ( d ) We may call the view now generally held personal inspiration : by the Spirit of God men are in various degrees enlightened, filled with zeal and devotion, cleansed and strengthened morally, brought into more immediate and intimate communion with God; and this new life, expressed in their writings, is the channel of God’s revelation of Himself to men. In place of stress on the words and the ideas of Scripture, emphasis is now laid on the moral character and religious disposition of the agents of revelation.

Alfred E. Garvie.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Inspiration'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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