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Biblical inspiration is the quality or state of being moved along or by or under the direction of the Holy Spirit from God.
|2 Timothy 3:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
|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.
|John 14:26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
How Were the Bible Authors Inspired By God, That Is, Given Divine Direction?
Inspired By θεόπνευστος (theopneustos)
The Greek phrase “inspired by God” translates the compound Greek word θεόπνευστος (theopneustos), which literally means, literally, “God-breathed” or “breathed by God.” The Greek phrase here needs to be nuanced so at to not be less than what was meant or go beyond what was meant. The Bible author was under the influence of God, to the extent that he was guided or directed by God but not to the extent of dictation. Christians to a lesser extent are guided by the inspired Word of God if they have an accurate understanding and apply it correctly in their lives. The Bible author was allowed to convey God’s Word within their own writing style but would be controlled or guided to the point that he would not choose words, phrases, sentences that would miscommunicate the wrong message.
Carried Along By φερόμενοι (pheromenoi)
The Greek word φερόμενοι (pheromenoi) literally means to cause the Bible author to be carried along or moved along by the Holy Spirit. It means to guide, to direct, to lead.
Bring to Remembrance ὑπομνήσει (hupomnēsei)
The Greek word ὑπομνήσει (hupomnēsei) literally means to God put in the mind of the Gospel authors. God caused the Gospel authors (Matthew and John, Mark by way of Peter, Luke by Peter, research, and others) to recall in detail what they had formerly experienced.
The apostle Paul says that God spoke “in many ways” to his servants in Old Testament times, prior to Christ coming. (Heb 1:1-2) The Ten Commandment were divinely provided in written form. Scribes, thereafter, would have had to merely copy it into the scrolls used by Moses. (Ex. 31:18; Deut 10:1-5) In some very select cases, the words that would be put into Scripture by a Bible author inspired by God, moved along by the Holy Spirit, would have been transmitted by verbal dictation, literally word for word. This would have likely been the case in situations such as the Mosaic Law that was given to Israel. Jehovah commanded Moses: “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” (Ex 34:27) The prophets who would author Bible books were also frequently given precise messages from God that they were to deliver, and then God put these same words in the mind of the prophetic authors. God caused the prophet (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others) to recall in detail what they had formerly delivered to others, now becoming Scriptures. – 1 Kings 22:14; Jeremiah 1:7; 2:1; 11:1-5; Ezekiel 3:4; 11:5.
There are other ways that the Bible authors, such as dreams and visions. We are told “Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” (Dan. 2:19) “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter.” (Dan. 7:1) Readers might not know that Bible authors were more often given visions while they were awake, fully conscious, giving the author the thoughts of God directly to his mind. “In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” (Eze 1:1) “In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first.” (Dan. 8:1) “And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths.” (Rev. 9:17) Other visions were given to the Bible author when he was in a trance. Even though the author was clearly awake and conscious, he was extremely, deeply absorbed by what he saw, blocking out all else around him. – Ac 10:9-17; 11:5-10; 22:17-21.
Another way Bible authors received the Word of God was through angelic messengers. “For if the word spoken through angels proved reliably certain, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty.” (Heb 2:2) “You who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Ac 7:53) “Why, then, the Law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made; and it was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator.” (Gal. 3:19) The angelic representatives spoke in God’s name. Therefore, the message they delivered could therefore correctly be called “the word of Jehovah.” – Gen 22:11-12, 15-18; Zech. 1:7, 9.
Regardless of how the Bible author received the Word of God, be it, dication, God directly putting words in the minds of the author, perfect recall, dreams, visions, angelic representatives, being led along by the Holy Spirit, it is all being inspired by God or “God-breathed.”
Authors evidenced individuality that is still compatible with the Bible’s being inspired by God.
The Bible authors were not merely robots, who put down dictated words, literally word for word. “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” (Rev. 1:1-2) The “God-breathed” revelation was given to him through an angel, which John then conveyed in his own words. Like man things, God allowed humans to use their God’s given minds, and in the case of His Word, in choosing words and expressions (Hab 2:2), he allowed them to use their own style, but he always maintained adequate control and guided them so that the Bible book would be accurate and true. In addition, it would also be according to God’s will and purposes. (Pr 30:5-6) This concept is even conveyed in Scripture itself. “Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.” – See also Lu 1:1-4.
This is why every Bible commentary volume explains to its reader the syle of that particular author, as well as the background of the individual author. The ones chosen to be Bible authors were not only qualified to do so but had qualities and characteristics that moved God to choose them. In some cases, God likely got them ready before having to serve this particular purpose of being a Bible author. Matthew was a tax collector before being chosen as a disciple, so we note that he makes many especially specific references to numbers and money amounts. (Matt. 17:27; 26:15; 27:3) Luke, on the other hand, was a “physician” (Col 4:14), so we find him using unique expressions that show that he had a medical background. – Lu 4:38; 5:12; 16:20.
In many cases where the Bible speaks about the Bible author receiving “the word of Jehovah” (UASV) or things that were said, it is likely that this was given, not word for word, but rather the author was given an image in his mind of God’s purpose. After that, the author would put it in his own words. This can be inferred by the author’s sating he ‘saw’ things rather than his ‘hearing’ what God said or “the word of Jehovah.” – Isaiah 13:1; Micah 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; 2:1-2.
The authors of God’s Word express it that “God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. Jehovah God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward.” (Isa 50:4-5) These authors were ready and submissive to being guided by God. Isaiah was eager to do God’s will and sought to be led. “My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” (Isa 26:9) In the case of Luke, he had specific objectives that he sought to carry out. (Lu 1:1-4) In many cases, Paul was writing to fill a need. (1 Cor. 1:10-11; 5:1; 7:1) God guided these authors so that their words in their style went along with his purpose. (Pr 16:9) These men were chosen because their hearts and minds were already in harmony with God’s will and purposes. In fact, they already ‘had the mind of Christ.’ They were not interested in human wisdom nor in “speak[ing] visions of their own minds,” as was the case with the false prophets, “who follow their own spirit.” – 1 Cor. 2:13-16; Jer 23:16; Eze 13:2-3, 17.
As to the being led along by the Holy Spirit, “there are varieties of activities” that would come upon these Bible authors. (1 Cor 12:6) Much information was already at the fingertips of the authors. In other words, it already existed in manuscript evidence, such as genealogies and specific historical accounts. (Lu 1:3; 3:23-38; Num. 21:14, 15; 1 Kings 14:19, 29; 2 Kings 15:31; 24:5) In the case of using historical records, the Holy Spirit would serve as a protection against inaccurate information being part of the Bible author’s book. Not everything that had been said by other persons that would end up in the Word of God was inspired by God, but the Holy Spirit guided the author to make it part of the Scriptures and to record it accurately. (Gen. 3:4-5; Job 42:3; Matt. 16:21-23) What we end up with is clear evidence of why it is good to heed God’s Word and apply it correctly in our lives, but alternatively, doing or saying what we think, feel, or believe, ignoring God’s Word, or being ignored of God and his message leads to much heartache.
Then, again, there is information in the Bible that is far beyond human abilities to acquire. We can consider what happened before the creation of the heavens and the earth, as well as man. (Gen. 1:1-26) Humans are also oblivious to what happens in the spiritual heavens as well. (Job 1:6-12, etc.) Then. we have prophecies that foretell events that were and are to take place decades, centuries, or millenniums after the prophets penned them. We also have revelations as to what God’s will and purposes are for humanity. Then too, when we think of the wise saying of Solomon, who had much life experience to share, as well as others’ vast knowledge of the Scriptures themselves, not to mention their experience at living by God’s Word, they would still need to be moved along by the Holy Spirit, so that, the information that they conveyed would be “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12.
There are times that Paul said things that were not taken from anything that Jesus had taught. “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.” (1 Corinthians 7:12-15) The first thing to notice is Paul saying, I am inspired by God, so I can say this and the Lord (Jesus), did not touch on this, but I am. Let us take a look at the context and historical setting. Paul says, “Now concerning[a] the betrothed,[b] I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” (1 Cor. 7:25) “Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” (1Co 7:40) Paul’s point is clear, he too is inspired and moved along by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s direction was “God-breathed” and so was Scripture, having the same authority as the rest of those Scriptures. – 2 Peter 3:15-16.
Some Mistaken Notions Below
“Textual criticism has also recognized that even original authors may have revised their work, and these works have gone through editions.” Stanley E. Porter (p. 35) How We Got the New Testament
“When I speak of the original text, I am referring to the ‘published’ text— that is, the text in its final edited form as released for circulation in the Christian community.” Philip W. Comfort (p. 19), The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1992),
HOW do you edit the Holy Spirit? If the author was moved along by the Holy Spirit and all original Scripture is inspired, why the need for editing?
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 of the Holy Spirit.
However, I 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 single 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 “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 questions. We have to raise them ourselves, by writing, “some might ask, how is it …” Peter said, “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account.” (1 Pet. 3:15)
We need to be willing to modify (or clarify) what we said above to include our qualification 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 don’t go beyond this, though, i.e. such as postulating a fresh copy made from the original before publication, etc.
Questions to Consider
We have been using the book of Romans as our example, so we will continue with it. 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.
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.
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.
WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE?
Many have asked by email and social media,
“In studying the modern Bible translations, I have come across some verses that are left out but that are in my King James Version or even my New King James Version, such as Matthew 18:11; 23:14; Luke 17:36. I have gotten conflicting opinions on social media. Can you please clear this up for me?”
You have likely noticed something similar or have seen this type of discussion on Social media. The importance of the answer is clear, as the book of Revelation warns: if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Rev. 22:19) Clearly, if anyone removes any part of the true, genuine original, inspired, fully inerrant Word of God, it will mean they lose their eternal life. Why did I word it this way? Because the book of Revelation also warns, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.” – Revelation 22:18.
What if Luke told us in his true, genuine original, inspired, fully inerrant Word of God in authoring the Gospel of Luke?
8 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ Γέγραπται Κύριον τὸν θεόν σουπροσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις.
TRANSLATION: Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” (Luke 4:8a)
Now, what if later copyists took liberties with the text and added the following,
8 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν Ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου, Σατανᾶ Γέγραπται Κύριον τὸν θεόν σουπροσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις.
TRANSLATION: And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” (Luke 4:8a)
Who All Is Accountable, Really?
Now, if a later copyist working on the Gospel of Luke knowingly added those words intentionally, he is facing the wrath of Revelation 22:18 for adding to the Word of God.
In addition, if a textual scholar in creating our critical text that Bible translators use in making our translations retains those words, knowing a copyist had added them centuries after Luke authored his original Gospel, he too will suffer the wrath of Revelation 22:18 for adding to the Word of God.
Additionally, if a translator or translation committee in making his translation from the critical text that Bible translators use in making our translations retains those words, knowing a copyist had added them centuries after Luke authored his original Gospel, he too will suffer the wrath of Revelation 22:18 for adding to the Word of God.
Furthermore, if a publisher has the translator or translation committee in making his translation from the critical text that Bible translators use in making our translations retains those words, knowing a copyist had added them centuries after Luke authored his original Gospel, he too will suffer the wrath of Revelation 22:18 for adding to the Word of God.
Finally, if a Bible reader has a preferred Bible translation that they preach from wherein the publisher had the translator or translation committee in making his translation from the critical text that Bible translators use in making our translations retains those words, knowing a copyist had added them centuries after Luke authored his original Gospel, he too will suffer the wrath of Revelation 22:18 for adding to the Word of God.
Now, some might say, you are taking the knowing accountability intent too far and the accountability is with the copyist who added the words centuries after the original if he knowingly did so. Yes, that sounds good but let’s look at it from another angle. Suppose a child grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness and he loved his life and he really liked the New World Translation they use. Suppose that the child as an adult discovers the truth about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the inaccuracies of the New World Translation. However, because this is all he has known and he likes the lifestyle and does not want to lose his family and friends, he just decides God will not fault him for teaching things from a faulty Bible translation that he knows to be wrong. In his mind, the only people to suffer God’s wrath will be the New World Translation committee and the governing body that controls the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now, this is no different than the child that grew up using the King James Version and has become is King James Version Onlyist because he loves the Bible and he does not want to be disowned or ostracized for bringing a modern translation to church.
Keep this in mind if any words, verse, or verses were added by copyists intentionally or unintentionally to the true, genuine original, inspired, fully inerrant Word of God, and later copyists, textual scholars or translators set things back to the true, genuine original, inspired, fully inerrant Word of God, this is not adding to or removing from the Word of God. In other words, the original wording of Luke 4:8a is “And Jesus answered him.” Then, a later copyist added “And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan!‘” Then, later textual scholars and translators removed “Get behind Me, Satan!” This put things back to the original. These later translators are not guilty of Revelation 22:19, ‘taking away from the words of’ God. Only the copyist who added knowingly and intentionally, the textual scholar who retained knowingly and intentionally, the Bible translation committee who translated knowingly, the “Christian” publisher who intentionally published knowingly and intentionally, and the “Christians” who have preached knowingly and intentionally are guilty of Revelation 22:18, that is, adding to the Word of God.
Let us see how all of this happened. Many words, whole verses, and even many verses have been altered by copyists and intentionally and unintentionally over a 1,400 year period.
Many things did belong in the Bible that were intentionally or unintentionally removed and many things do not belong in the Bible that were intentionally or unintentionally removed. This is true even if early translations may have included some things. It can be a little disheartening to discover that a Bible translation that has been cherished for over 400-years has retained certain words, phrases, and even whole verses that were not in the true, genuine original, inspired, fully inerrant Word of God.
Before taking a deep dive into these things, be assured that we have critical texts translators use today that are mirror-like reflections of the true, genuine original, inspired, fully inerrant Word of God. In addition, we have many good and very good semi-literal and literal translations. There are no secular writings, like Tacitus, Thucydides or Herodotus, that come even close.
We now have 5,898* Greek New Testament manuscripts, some 66 that date to the first two centuries after the death of the apostle John. These give us a 99.99% certainty of what was originally written. The earlier manuscripts and the more trusted ones help us in determining what has been added later, allowing the honest worker to remove these words, expressions and verses, interpolations, from our modern translations.
* While at present here in 2020, there are 5,898 manuscripts. There are 140 listed Papyrus manuscripts, 323 Majuscule manuscripts, 2,951 Minuscule manuscripts, and 2,484 Lectionary manuscripts, bringing the total cataloged manuscripts to 5,898 manuscripts. However, you cannot simply total the number of cataloged manuscripts because, for example, P11/14 are the same manuscript but with different catalog numbers. The same is true of P33/5, P4/64/67, P49/65 and P77/103. Now this alone would bring our 140 listed papyrus manuscripts down to 134. ‘Then, we turn to one example from our majuscule manuscripts where clear 0110, 0124, 0178, 0179, 0180, 0190, 0191, 0193, 0194, and 0202 are said to be part of 070. A minuscule manuscript was listed with five separate catalog numbers for 2306, which then have the letters a through e. Thus, we have the following GA numbers: 2306 for 2306a, and 2831- 2834 for 2306b-2306e.’ – (Hixon 2019, 53-4) The problem is much worse when we consider that there are 323 Majuscule manuscripts and then far worse still with a listed 2,951 Minuscule and 2,484 Lectionaries. Nevertheless, those who estimate a total of 5,300 (Jacob W. Peterson, Myths and Mistakes, p. 63) 5,500 manuscripts (Dr. Ed Gravely / ehrmanproject.com/), 5,800 manuscripts (Porter 2013, 23), it is still a truckload of evidence far and above the dismal number of ancient secular author books.
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