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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Inspiration

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The supernatural action of the Holy Spirit on the mind of the sacred writers whereby the Scriptures were not merely their own but the word of God. Scripture not merely contains but is the word of God. As the whole Godhead was joined to the whole manhood, and became the Incarnate Word, so the written word is at once perfectly divine and perfectly human; infallibly authoritative because it is the word of God, intelligible because in the language of men. If it were not human we should not understand it; if it were not divine it would not be an unerring guide. The term "scriptures" is attached to them exclusively in the word of God itself, as having an authority no other writings have (John 5:39; John 10:34-36). They are called "the oracles of God" (Romans 3:2), i.e. divine utterances.

If Scripture were not plenarily and verbally sanctioned by God, its practical utility as a sure guide in all questions directly or indirectly affecting doctrine and practice would be materially impaired, for what means would there be of distinguishing the false in it from the true? Inspiration does not divest the writers of their several individualities of style, just as the inspired teachers in the early church were not passive machines in prophesying (1 Corinthians 14:32). "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17). Their will became one with God's will; His Spirit acted on their spirit, so that their individuality had free play in the sphere of His inspiration. As to religious truths the collective Scriptures have unity of authorship; as to other matters their authorship is palpably as manifold as the writers. The variety is human, the unity divine. If the four evangelists were mere machines narrating the same events in the same order and words, they would cease to be independent witnesses. Their very discrepancies (only seeming ones) disprove collusion.

The solutions proposed in Harmonies, being necessarily conjectural, may or may not be the true ones; but they at least prove that the differences are not irreconcilable and would be cleared up if we knew all the facts. They test our faith, whether on reasonable evidence we will unreservedly believe His word in spite of some difficulties, designedly permitted for our probation. The slight variations in the Decalogue between Exodus 20 and its repetition Deuteronomy 5, and in Psalm 18 compared with 2 Samuel 22, in Psalm 14 compared with Psalm 53, and in New Testament quotations of Old Testament, (sometimes from Septuagint which varies from Hebrew, sometimes from neither in every word), all prove the Spirit-produced independence of the sacred writers who under divine guidance and sanction presented on different occasions the same substantial truths under different aspects, the one complementing the other.

One or two instances occur where the errors of transcribers cause a real discrepancy (2 Kings 8:26, compared with 2 Chronicles 22:2). A perpetual miracle alone could have prevented such very exceptional and palpable copyists' mistakes. But in seeming discrepancies, as between the accounts of the same event in different Gospels, each account presents some fresh aspect of divine truth; none containing the whole, but all together presenting the complete exhibition of the truth. Origen profoundly says: "in revelation as in nature we see a self concealing, self revealing God, who makes Himself known only to those who earnestly seek Him; in both we find stimulants to faith and occasions for unbelief." The assaults of adversaries on seemingly weak points have resulted in the eliciting of beautiful and delicate harmonies unperceived before; the gospel defenses have been proved the more impregnable, and the things meant to injure "have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel."

When once it is admitted that the New Testament writers were neither fanatics nor enthusiasts, (and infidelity has never yet produced a satisfactory theory to show them to have been either,) their miracles and their divine commission must also be admitted, for they expressly claim these. Thus, Paul (1 Corinthians 14:37), "if any man think himself a prophet, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." And not only the things but the words; (1 Corinthians 2:13) "we speak not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth." The "discerning of spirits" was one of the miraculous gifts in the apostolic churches. His appeal on the ground of miracles (1 Corinthians 2:4) which are taken for granted as notorious rather than asserted, (the incidental mention being a clear mark of truth because it excludes suspicion of design,) and to persons whose miraculous discernment of spirits enabled them to test such claims, is the strongest proof of the divine authority of his writings.

Peter (2 Peter 3:16) classes Paul's epistles with "the other Scriptures"; therefore whatever inspiration is in the latter is in the former also. That inspiration excludes error from Scripture words, so far as these affect doctrine and morals, appears from Psalms 12:6, "the words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." As our Lord promised the disciples His Holy Spirit, to teach them how and what they should say before magistrates (Matthew 10:19-20), much more did the Spirit "abiding" with the church "for ever" (John 14:16) secure for the written word, the only surviving infallible oracle, the inspiration of the manner as well as the matter. So (John 16:13) "the Spirit of truth will guide you into all (the) truth," namely, not truth in general but Christian truth.

Also (John 14:26) "the Holy Spirit shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you." "He shall testify of Me" (John 15:26) "He will show you things to come ... He shall receive of Mine and shall show it unto you" (John 16:13-14). Paul (2 Timothy 3:16) declares that no part of the written word is uninspired, but "ALL" (literally, "every scripture," i.e. every portion) is "profitable" for the ends of a revelation, "doctrine, reproof (conjuting error: the two comprehending speculative divinity; then follows practical), correction (setting one right, 1 Corinthians 10:1-10), instruction (disciplinary training: Deuteronomy 13:5; 1 Corinthians 5:13) in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works"; as it makes him "perfect" it must be perfect itself.

Some parts were immediately communicated by God, and are called "apocalypse" or "revelation," as that to John, and to Paul (2 Corinthians 12:1; Romans 16:25). Others, as the historical parts, are matter of human testimony. But inspiration was as much needed to write known facts authoritatively as to communicate new truths; else why should certain facts be selected and others be passed by? Inspired prohibition is as miraculous as inspired utterance. Had the evangelists been left to themselves, they doubtless would have given many details of Jesus' early life which our curiosity would have desired, but which divine wisdom withheld, in order to concentrate all our attention on Christ's ministry and death. The historical parts are quoted by Paul as God's "law," because they have His sanction and contain covert lessons of God's truth and His principles of governing the world and the church (Galatians 4:21).

Considering the vast amount of Mariolatry and idolatry which subsequently sprang up, the hand of God is marked in the absence from the Gospel histories of aught to countenance these errors. Sacred history is like "a dial in which the shadow, as well as the light, informs us" (Trench). The Spirit was needed to qualify the writers for giving what they have given, a condensed yet full and clear portraiture of Messiah, calculated to affect all hearts in every nation, and to sow in them seeds of faith, hope, and love. The minor details, such as Paul's direction to Timothy to "bring his cloth and parchments," and to" drink a little wine for his stomach's sake and his infirmities," are vivid touches which give life and nature to the picture, making us realize the circumstances and personality of the apostle and his disciple, and have their place in the inspired record, as each leaf has in the tree.

The genealogies, as in Genesis 10; Matthew 1, form most important links between the progressive stages in the sacred history, and are anything but dry and profitless to the diligent student. There is a progress in the manifestation of the eternal and unchangeable principles of morality, in the New Testament as compared with the Old Testament God never sanctioned evil, but dealt with the nonage of the world as to revenge, divorce, etc. as its case required, less strictly marking sin than under the clear light, of New Testament. (See REVENGE; DIVORCE.) The mode of God's inspiring the writers it is not essential for us to know; the result is what momentously concerns us, namely, that their writings are our sure guide; for (2 Peter 1:21) "the prophecy of Scripture (the written word of men inspired, as 'prophet' means 1 Corinthians 14:29, not merely a foreteller) came not by the will of man, but holy men spoke as they were moved (literally, borne along, Acts 2:2; rapt out of themselves, yet not losing self control 1 Corinthians 14:32) by the Holy Spirit."

Every word of inspiration is equally the word of God; but there is a progress in the mode of revelation and there are degrees in the importance of the words uttered. With the prophets God spoke in vision, but with Moses "face to face" and "mouth to mouth" (Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:6-8). The highest revelation of all is that of God manifest in the flesh. But, however varied the mode, the result is that all Scripture alike is sanctioned as the word of God. Caiaphas is an instance showing that the words were sanctioned as divinely inspired; while the speaker himself did not know the deep significance of his own words (John 11:50), "he spoke not of himself." So (1 Peter 1:11) the Old Testament prophets "searched what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory, ... unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves but unto us they did minister," etc.

They too knew not the full meaning of their own words. For "no prophecy of Scripture proves to be of private solution" (Greek text of 2 Peter 1:20), i.e. it is not the utterance of the mere individual, and so to be solved or interpreted by him, but of "the Holy Spirit" by whom the writer was "moved"; Scripture is not restricted to the immediate sense in the mind of the individual writer, but has in view "the testimony of Jesus," which is "the spirit of prophecy" in the "holy men moved by the Holy Spirit." The words of one compared with those of another from whom the former may be separated in age and in country often bring forth some truth evidently not contemplated by the writer, but designed by the ONE MIND who inspired, overruled, and sanctioned both. There is throughout the whole a consistently developed scheme, too grand for the mind of anyone writer. Our Lord and His apostles make vital truths hinge on single words. The force of Jesus' three answers, "It is written," to Satan's three temptations lies in single words (Matthew 4). So in Matthew 19:4.

Also He confutes the Sadducees and proves the resurrection of the body from words which otherwise we should scarcely have regarded as proving it (Matthew 22:32), "I am (not I was) the God of Abraham" (namely, the man in his integrity, body, soul, and spirit). The one word My is Christ's proof of His Godhead (Matthew 22:43), "the Lord said unto MY Lord (Psalms 90:1): if David call Him Lord, how is He His Son?" David could not have understood the full force of his own words (Psalm 22) as to the "gall," the "vinegar," the "parting of His garments," and "casting lots for the vesture," and other minute details fulfilled in Messiah. He who, working through means, creates the minute leaf as well as the mighty forest, saith of all His word, "till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law until all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18; "law" means the whole Old Testament, as John (Matthew 10:35) uses "law" of the psalms).

Christ's argument, "if He called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, say ye of Him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God?" rests on the one word "gods" being applied to rulers, as types of the Son of God, therefore still more applicable to the Antitype Himself. Our Lord makes it a fundamental principle "the Scripture cannot be broken," even as to one word (John 10:35). So also Paul shows unhesitating confidence in the divine authority of special words, as "seed" not "seeds" (Galatians 3:16), "all" (Hebrews 2:8), "brethren" (Hebrews 2:11), "today," and "My rest" (Hebrews 4:1-11). To crown all, Revelation (Revelation 22:19) at its close declares, "if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life."

Often it is a single verse that, by the same Spirit as inspired the word, has breathed new life into the sinner. The diligent student too is often struck by the unexpected light which one expression on examination affords, as in some masterpiece of art a single touch can impart life and meaning to the whole. Verbal inspiration does not require that every saying reported in Scripture should be a literal transcript of the speaker's words, but that it should be substantially a true statement, and such a one as the Spirit of God sanctions for the ends of the revelation. Moreover, in recording wicked men's sayings or doings, Scripture does not sanction but simply records them. So in the case of merely human utterances. In 1 Corinthians 7:5-6, Paul distinguishes his words "by permission" from those of commandment; and in 1 Corinthians 7:25-38 he gives his "judgment" as one faithful, but as having on the point "no commandment of the Lord."

Here his inspiration appears in his expressly declining to command as divinely authoritative a certain course as an apostle, and merely advising it as a Christian friend. How important it was to make this distinction appears from the subsequent error of the church in imposing vows of perpetual celibacy. So in 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 (1 Corinthians 7:10) he says on a particular case, "I, not the Lord," whereas he had on the main point said, "not I, but the Lord." Every word employed By the sacred writer in all cases is sanctioned as suited in its place for the Holy Spirit's purpose. Various readings in manuscripts do not invalidate verbal inspiration. It is the original Scriptures whose words have inspired authority, not the subsequent copies or versions. The words of the Decalogue were written by the finger of God, though the manuscripts transmitting them to us contain variations.

Like other gifts of God, this may be lost in whole or part by man's carelessness. Yet a remarkable providence has watched over Scripture, keeping the Jews from mutilating the Old Testament and the Roman and Greek Catholics from mutilating the New Testament though witnessing against themselves, (See CANON.) Moreover God has preserved by human means a multitude of manuscripts, patristic quotations, and ancient versions, enabling us to restore the original text almost perfectly for all practical purposes. The range of doubt remaining is confined within narrow limits. Exemption from all transcriptional errors would have needed a perpetual miracle, which is not God's mode of dealing with us. While some passages affecting vital doctrines are on examination rejected as not in the original, the doctrines themselves stand firm as ever, because they rest on the agreeing testimony of the whole of God's word; in other passages the orthodox truths are confirmed more fully by restoring the original text.

Irenaeus (Adv. Haeres., 2:47) says, "in the mauy voiced tones of Scripture expressions there is one symphonious melody"; Origen (Hom. 39), "as among plants there is not one without its peculiar virtue ... so the spiritual botanist will find there is nothing, in all that is written, superfluous." The prophets preface their prophecies with "thus saith the Lord," "the burden (weighty utterance) of the word of the Lord" (Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; Malachi 1:1). The apostles declare of them, "the Scripture must needs have been fulfilled which the Holy Spirit by the mouth of David spoke," "God showed by the mouth of all His prophets that," etc. (Acts 1:16; Acts 3:18; Acts 3:21; Acts 4:25). They rest the truth of the Holy Spirit's outpouring, Christ's resurrection, and the mystery of the admission of the Gentiles to be fellow heirs in the gospel, on the Old Testament as infallible (Acts 2:16; Acts 2:25-33; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 16:26).

If then the Old Testament prophets were infallible, much more the apostles in their New Testament Scriptures; as these and even the least in the gospel kingdom rank above those (Matthew 11:11; Ephesians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Paul received the gospel which he preached, by extraordinary revelation; therefore he claims for it divine authority (Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:3). His word is "the word of God" which "he speaks in Christ," also "Christ speaking in Him" (2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 13:3). Just as Haggai was "the Lord's messenger in the Lord's message" (2 Corinthians 1:13), i.e. in vested with His commission; and Nehemiah 9:30, "by Thy Spirit in Thy prophets"; and David (2 Samuel 23:2), "the Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was in my tongue."


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Inspiration'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/i/inspiration.html. 1949.

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