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What needs to be qualified is the terms that are often thrown around.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 All Scripture is inspired by God [theopneustos] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be fully competent, equipped for every good work.
What does this mean? The phrase “inspired by God” (Gr., theopneustos) literally means, “Breathed out by God.” A related Greek word, pneuma, means “wind,” “breath,” life, “Spirit.” Since pneuma can also mean “breath,” the process of “breathing out” can rightly be said to be the work of the Holy Spirit inspiring the Scriptures. The result is that the originals were accurate, fully inerrant and authoritative. Thus the Holy Spirit moved human writers so that the result can truthfully be called the Word of God, not the word of man.
2 Peter 1:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
21 for no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men carried along [pherō] by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
The Greek verb (pherō) rendered “carried along” here means the Holy Spirit caused the Bible authors to follow a certain course or direction when they were penning their books. This means that these authors were given what to say at times and at others they were moved to not choose the wrong working as they had the freedom to use their own writing style. Their human imperfections were not allowed to impact the text.
The Greek word here translated “carried along” (phero) is used in another form at Acts 27:15, 17, which describes a ship that was driven along by the wind. So the Holy Spirit, by analogy, ‘navigated the course’ of the Bible writers. While the Spirit did not give them each word by dictation, it certainly kept the writers from inserting any information that did not convey the will and purpose of God.
Dr. Don Wilkins (senior Translator NASB) Exactly how the Spirit guided the writers is a mystery, and the words “thus says the Lord” in prophecy most likely do introduce a dictated message. However, those familiar with Greek can easily see stylistic differences between the NT writers which seem to reflect different personalities, and rule out verbatim dictation from a single source.
The Bible authors were inspired by God [theopneustos], carried along [pherō] by Holy Spirit.
The copyists that followed were not inspired by God [theopneustos], carried along [pherō] by the Holy Spirit, for we have hundreds of thousands of variants in our 5,800 original language manuscripts of the New Testament.
The translators that followed were not inspired by God [theopneustos], carried along [pherō] by the Holy Spirit, for we have Bible translations that have hundreds of errors (KJV) and modern-day translations that are based on imperfect human interpretation (dynamic equivalent): NIV, TEV, NLT, CEV, and so on. We have literal translations that are the best, but still contain some theological biases in their translation choices.
The textual scholars who followed were not inspired by God [theopneustos], carried along [pherō] by Holy Spirit, for we have critical texts always being refined by new evidence not being “carried along” by Holy Spirit.
The hermeneutic/exegetical Bible scholars that followed were not inspired by God [theopneustos], carried along [pherō] by Holy Spirit, for we have multiple methods of biblical interpretation that has led to many different views of all doctrinal positions. For example, there four main views on hell, there are three views on foreknowledge, three views on atonement, two main views on salvation, six views on sanctification, and four views on baptism just to mention a few. There are two main methods of interpretation. There is the liberal historical-critical method that is subjective, meaning that it is based on personal feelings and opinions, dependent on the Bible scholar’s mind on his perception. The vast majority of hermeneutical and exegetical scholars hold to this method. The conservative method is the historical-grammatical interpretation, which is an objective approach, meaning that it is not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.
The Christian reader and interpreter of Scripture not inspired by God [theopneustos], carried along [pherō] by Holy Spirit, for we have 41,000 different denominations, all teach differently. Even within one denomination, the Baptist church, there are sixty-six different Baptist denominations. Moreover, there are two billion Christians, who all believe differently.
Dr. Robert Stein’s book, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible (pp. 11-13):
Tuesday night arrived. Dan and Charlene had invited several of their neighbors to a Bible study, and now they were wondering if anyone would come. Several people had agreed to come, but others had not committed themselves. At 8:00 P.M., beyond all their wildest hopes, everyone who had been invited arrived. After some introductions and neighborhood chit-chat, they all sat down in the living room. Dan explained that he and his wife would like to read through a book of the Bible and discuss the material with the group. He suggested that the book be a Gospel, and, since Mark was the shortest, he recommended it. Everyone agreed, although several said a bit nervously that they really did not know much about the Bible. Dan reassured them that this was all right, for no one present was a “theologian,” and they would work together in trying to understand the Bible.
They then went around the room reading Mark 1:1–15 verse by verse. Because of some of the different translations used (the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version, the King James Version, and the Living Bible), Dan sought to reassure all present that although the wording of the various translations might be different, they all meant the same thing. After they finished reading the passage, each person was to think of a brief summary to describe what the passage meant. After thinking for a few minutes, they began to share their thoughts.
Sally was the first to speak. “What this passage means to me is that everyone needs to be baptized, and I believe that it should be by immersion.” John responded, “That’s not what I think it means. I think it means that everyone needs to be baptized by the Holy Spirit.” Ralph said somewhat timidly, “I am not exactly sure what I should be doing. Should I try to understand what Jesus and John the Baptist meant, or what the passage means to me?” Dan told him that what was important was what the passage meant to him. Encouraged by this, Ralph replied, “Well, what it means to me is that when you really want to meet God you need to go out in the wilderness just as John the Baptist and Jesus did. Life is too busy and hectic. You have to get away and commune with nature. I have a friend who says that to experience God you have to go out in the woods and get in tune with the rocks.”
It was Cory who brought the discussion to an abrupt halt. “The Holy Spirit has shown me,” he said, “that this passage means that when a person is baptized in the name of Jesus the Holy Spirit will descend upon him like a dove. This is what is called the baptism of the Spirit.” Jan replied meekly, “I don’t think that’s what the meaning is.” Cory, however, reassured her that since the Holy Spirit had given him that meaning it must be correct. Jan did not respond to Cory, but it was obvious she did not agree with what he had said. Dan was uncomfortable about the way things were going and sought to resolve the situation. So he said, “Maybe what we are experiencing is an indication of the richness of the Bible. It can mean so many things!”
But does a text of the Bible mean many things? Can a text mean different, even contradictory things? Is there any control over the meaning of biblical texts? Is interpretation controlled by means of individual revelation given by the Holy Spirit? Do the words and grammar control the meaning of the text? If so, what text are we talking about? Is it a particular English translation such as the King James Version or the New International Version? Why not the New Revised Standard Version or the Living Bible? Or why not a German translation such as the Luther Bible? Or should it be the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts that best reflect what the original authors, such as Isaiah, Paul, and Luke, wrote? And what about the original authors? How are they related to the meaning of the text?
It is obvious that we cannot read the Bible for long before the question arises as to what the Bible “means” and who or what determines that meaning. Neither can we read the Bible without possessing some purpose in reading. In other words, using more technical terminology, everyone who reads the Bible does so with a “hermeneutical” theory in mind. The issue is not whether one has such a theory but whether one’s “hermeneutics” is clear or unclear, adequate or inadequate, correct or incorrect.
So, for the copyists, translators, textual scholars, hermeneutic exegetical Bible scholars, and Bible readers and interpreters, a good term could be guided. I would say they are not miraculously inspired by God [theopneustos], carried along [pherō]” by Holy Spirit like the Bible authors but guided in that they are in the image of God, possessing the very brain/intelligence that God gave us. The copies, critical texts, translations are based on the human that works on them and his relationship with God, his love for God, and how faithful the person is going to be to God as he carries out his work. This is the human spirit and by extension the Holy Spirit.
Another major factor is what evidence one has available. The translators of the KJV did not have the 5,800 manuscripts that we have today, the critical text that we have, so they did the best that they could with what they had. Even so, there are clearly biases that moved the translators and King James, for in some cases they did not retain the words that Tyndale used (e.g., agape as “charity” instead of “love,” ecclesia as “church” instead of “congregation,” “priest” instead of “elder,” and “do penance,” instead of “repent.”) but chose to allow their human weaknesses to creep into the translation.
No interpreter is infallible. The only infallibility or inerrancy belonged to the original manuscripts. Each Christian has the right to interpret God’s Word, to discover what it means, but this does not guarantee that they will come away with the correct meaning. The Holy Spirit will guide us into and through the truth, by way of our working on behalf of our prayers, to have the correct understanding. Our working in harmony with the Holy Spirit means that we buy out the time for a personal study program, not to mention the time to prepare properly and carefully for our Christian meetings. In these studies, do not expect that the Holy Spirit is going to miraculously give us some flash of understanding, but rather understanding will come to us as we set aside our personal biases, worldviews, human imperfections, presuppositions, preunderstanding, opening our mental disposition to the Spirit’s leading as we study.
The work of the Holy Spirit is inseparably and uniquely linked to the words and ideas of God’s inspired and inerrant Word. We see the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as Christians taking the words and ideas of Scripture into our mind and drawing spiritual strength from them. The Spirit moves persons toward salvation, but the Spirit does that, in the same way, any person moves another, by persuasion with words and ideas. The Holy Spirit transforms a person, empowering him through the Word of God, to put on the “new person” required of true Christians
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