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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 by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
for no prophecy was ever produced – The Greek word (ποτὲ pote) has the sense of ever, at any time, at some time or any time. The reference here is particularly to the recorded prophecies in the Old Testament. What was true of them, however, is true of all prophecy, that it is not by the will of man. The word “prophecy” here is without the article, meaning prophecy in general – all that is prophetic in the Old Testament; or, in a more general sense still, all that the prophets taught, whether relating to future events or not.
By the will of man – It was not of human origin; not discovered by the human mind. The word “will,” here seems to be used in the sense of “prompting” or “suggestion;” men did not speak by their own suggestion, but as truth was brought to them by God.
But men of God – Holy men commissioned by God, or employed by him as his messengers to mankind.
Carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke – Compare 2 Tim. 3:16. The Greek phrase here (ὑπὸ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου φερόμενος hupo Pneumatos Hagiou pheromenos) means “borne along, moved, influenced” by the Holy Spirit. The idea is, that in what they spoke they were “carried along” by an influence from above. They moved in the case only as they were moved; they spoke only as the influence of the Holy Spirit was upon them. They were no more self-moved than a vessel at sea is that is impelled by the wind; and as the progress made by the vessel is to be measured by the impulse bearing upon it, so the statements made by the prophets are to be traced to the impulse which bore upon their minds. They were not, indeed, in all respects like such a vessel, but only in regard to the fact that all they said as prophets were to be traced to the foreign influence that bore upon their minds.
There could not be, therefore, a more decided declaration than this is proof that the prophets were inspired. If the authority of Peter is admitted, his positive and explicit assertion settles the question. if this be so, also, then the point with reference to which he makes this observation is abundantly confirmed, that the prophecies demand our earnest attention, and that we should give all the heed to them which we would to a light or lamp when traveling in a dangerous way, and in a dark night. In a still more general sense, the remark here made may also be applied to the whole of the Scriptures. We are in a dark world. We see few things clearly; and all around us, on a thousand questions, there is the obscurity of midnight. By nature, there is nothing to cast light on those questions, and we are perplexed, bewildered, embarrassed. The Bible is given to us to shed light on our way.
It is the only light which we have respecting the future, and though it does not give all the information which we might desire in regard to what is to come, yet it gives us sufficient light to guide us to heaven. It teaches us what it is necessary to know about God, about our duty, and about the way of salvation, in order to conduct us safely; and no one who has committed himself to its direction has been suffered to wander finally away from the paths of salvation. It is, therefore, a duty to attend to the instructions which the Bible imparts, and to commit ourselves to its holy guidance in our journey to a better world: for soon, if we are faithful to its teachings, the light of eternity will dawn upon us, and there, amidst its cloudless splendor, we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known; then we shall “need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God shall give us light, and we shall reign forever and ever.” Compare Revelation 21:22-24; 22:5.
Questions to Consider
We will use the book of Romans as our example. We know that Paul was the author who gave us the inspired content of Romans, Tertius was the secretary who recorded Romans, and Phoebe was likely the one who carried the letter to Rome or else accompanied the one who did. Thus, we have at least three persons: the author, the secretary (scribe), and the carrier.
What is Inspiration?
Inspiration is a “theological concept encompassing phenomena in which human action, skill, or utterance is immediately and extraordinarily supplied by the Spirit of God. Although various terms are employed in the Bible, the basic meaning is best served by Gk. theopneustos “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16), meaning “breathed forth by God” rather than “breathed into by God” (Warfield).” (Myers 1987, 524) Verbal plenary inspiration holds that “every word of Scripture was God-breathed.” A significant role was played by the human writers. Their individual backgrounds, personal traits, and literary styles were authentically theirs but had been providentially prepared by God for use as his instrument in producing Scripture. “The Scriptures had not been dictated, but the result was as if they had been (A. A. Hodge, B. B. Warfield).” (Myers 1987, 525)
Were both Paul and Tertius inspired, or just Paul?
Only Paul and other Old and New Testament authors were inspired. First, as was stated above, Verbal plenary inspiration holds that “every word of Scripture was God-breathed.” God did not, generally speaking, dictate the books of the Bible word by word to the Bible authors as if they were dictating machines.
2 Thessalonians 3:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 The greeting is by my hand, Paul’s, which is a sign in every letter; this is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
An appended note to every letter with his signature “distinguishing mark” is like a boss signing a letter that he dictated to a secretary. It is unthinkable that Paul would sign or make a distinguishing mark on anything without reading through it and make any necessary corrections. This supposes that Paul looked over all of his letters, which would also suppose that the scribe could not have been inspired because if he were, then there would have been no mistakes in the document, which means it would not have been needed to be looked over let alone corrected. So again, there would have been no need for Paul to check the work of an inspired secretary. If Tertius had been inspired, the moment he set the pen down, Paul would have had no need to look the text over. There is no need to read into silence and suggest that the secretary was inspired. While the secretary was certainly engaged in his work being that they were coworkers and traveling companions,
However, in some cases, information was transmitted by verbal dictation, word for word. For example, when God delivered the large body of laws and statutes of his covenant with Israel, Jehovah instructed Moses: “Write for yourself these words.” (Ex 34:27, LEB) In another example, the prophets were often given specific messages to deliver. (1 Ki 22:14; Jer. 1:7; 2:1; 11:1-5; Eze. 3:4; 11:5) More importantly, the Bible authors did dictate what they received under inspiration to their secretaries, i.e., amanuenses/scribes.
Jeremiah 36:4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of Jehovah that he had spoken to him.
If Paul alone was inspired, how does the imperfection of Tertius affect inerrancy?
First, we should state that just because Paul used Tertius, Peter used Silvanus, or Jeremiah used Baruch, to pen the Word of God, they did not thereby detract from or weaken the authority of God’s Word or the inerrancy of Scripture. The dictation that Paul gave Tertius was the result of divine inspiration as he, Paul, was moved along by the Holy Spirit. Tertius merely recorded Paul’s dictation, word by word. Whether Tertius was a professional scribe or had the skills of a semi-professional scribe, he must have made at least a few slips of the pen. Afterward, however, Paul would have reviewed the document with Tertius, correcting any errors before publishing the official, authoritative text.
 In the strictest sense, a professional scribe is one who was specifically trained in that vocation and was paid for his services.
The NT authors themselves penned or dictated a one-time, single and only version of their texts, unedited and uncorrected under the inspiration the Holy Spirit. However, we would pause to ponder Paul dictating the book of Romans to Tertius. Tertius was not inspired, so is he capable in his human imperfection to go without making one singly scribal error for 7,000+ words? Are we removing the Holy Spirit in any way if Paul scratches out a few words that Tertius got wrong and wrote the correct word above it? Or is it the slippery slope to consider this possibility. If we hold fast to an absolute sense of “I believe that the NT authors themselves penned or dictated a one-time, single and only version of their texts, unedited and uncorrected under the inspiration the Holy Spirit;” then, we have to answer those kinds of question. We have to raise them ourselves, by writing, “some might ask, how is it …” Peter addresses what our critics will say, “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account.” – 1 Peter 3:15.
Thus, we can qualify (or clarify) what was said above to include that Paul would edit a dictated letter as was described, as the amanuensis (i.e. Tertius) was not inspired. In the process, Paul would not change his original dictation, and the outcome would be a single document, corrected as necessary. We would also say that Paul might not make the actual corrections but might direct the amanuensis to do that as Paul watched. We wouldn’t go beyond this, though, i.e. such as postulating a fresh copy made from the original before publication, etc.
What about Phoebe, what role did the carrier have in the process?
Those used by New Testament authors to deliver the Word of God to people or congregations would have been some of Paul’s most trusted, competent coworkers. Certainly, in the case of congregations contacting Paul with questions and concerns, to which Paul responded with an inspired letter, the carrier would be made aware of those questions and concerns. Paul would have spoken to the carrier at length about these matters, going over what he meant by what he wrote. This would have provided the carrier sufficient knowledge, in case the person or congregation had any question that the carrier could address. This process is not indicated within the Scriptures; but are we to believe God and Paul for that matter would send a simple carrier who was left in the dark as to what he was carrying, and that no congregational leader would have follow-up questions, which God would have foreseen? Hardly.
by Albert Barnes & Edward D. Andrews
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