5. Bible Inspiration


The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.” Jeremiah 10:23.

Truly, man needs the help of God, whether it be in meeting the problems of everyday life or in preparing for a home after death. God gives the direction through his word.

Sometimes that word has been in spoken form as when the Old Testament prophets cried out their warnings to the kings of Judah and Israel.

Many times, God has presented his work in writing. The sound of the spoken word of the prophets of old has long since died, but we still have God’s word in written form in those sixty-six books which we know as the scriptures or the Bible.

In fact, since we no longer have prophets to speak to us by word of mouth, the written form is the only way in which God’s word is made known to us today. It is the purpose of this and succeeding lessons to show that these writings are entirely inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.


The Greek word which is translated “inspired of God” 2 Timothy 3:16, literally means “breathed into by God.” Inspiration, then, may be defined as a supernatural influence exerted on teachers of God by the Holy Spirit which enabled them to teach, by speaking or writing, exactly what God wanted taught.

Consequently, the inspired writers of the books of the Bible were not susceptible to error in their writing, and the things which they wrote, whether dealing with historical facts or moral principles, are completely true.

Of course, the writers of the Bible are not to be charged with any copyist’s mistakes which have crept in since the scriptures were originally penned.

There have been some mistakes of this nature by uninspired transcribers and translators, but in proportion to the entire Biblical text, the errors are few and no vital Biblical truth is affected. The students of God’s word may be certain that we have the holy scriptures substantially as they were originally inspired by the Holy Spirit.


There is a difference between inspiration and revelation. All writings that have been divinely revealed have also been inspired, but not all that has been inspired has been revealed.

Revelation concerns the making known to man of truths and facts not previously known, while inspiration has to do with the accurate recording of (1) things revealed and (2) events which the writer observed first hand.

Thus, God revealed the creation story to Moses, and by inspiring him in his writing enabled Moses to accurately record the things he had learned by revelation. Other things Moses knew from personal experience. God did not have to reveal them to Moses, but by inspiration, he guided Moses in his writing so that he truthfully recorded what he had observed.

Paul shows how divine knowledge was imparted to Biblical writers when he says, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:11-12.

The Bible includes quotations from evil men and even the devil himself. Of course, God does not endorse these statements, but they have been included for a purpose and the scripture writers were guided by inspiration to accurately record what these evil individuals said.


More than 3,800 times the Old Testament writers use such expressions as “thus says the Lord.” These authors claim that they wrote the words of God at his command. Consider a few of the passages that teach this.

Yahweh spoke to Moses, the writer of the first five books of the Bible. “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:12. This clearly teaches that Moses was inspired.

Again, 2 Samuel 23:2 declares the inspiration of David, the author of most of the Psalms. “The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue..” Jeremiah records, “Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.” Jeremiah 1:9.

Not only do the Old Testament writers declare their own inspiration, but the New Testament also asserts the inspiration of the Old Testament.

Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

In its primary sense “scripture” means “writing”, but the word is obviously used by Biblical writers to refer to that special group of writings which we know as the Bible. In this passage, Paul is declaring that the Old Testament was given by divine inspiration. Thus if the New Testament is inspired, the Old Testament must also be since the New Testament makes this claim for the Old.

Jesus himself speaks of the inspiration of the Old Testament when he says, “He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’” Matthew 22:43-44. The expression “in spirit” clearly implies that David spoke by inspiration.


It has already been observed that the word “scripture” is used to refer to a special body of writings which was regarded as divinely inspired. Over and over again the word is applied in the New Testament to the Old Testament writings. But it is also applied to the New Testament writings.

For example, Peter speaks of Paul’s letters as “scripture” when he says, “He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:16. The expression “other scriptures” shows that Peter regarded Paul’s writings as on a par with the Old Testament.

Furthermore, Paul writes, “For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,”1  and “The worker deserves his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:18.

The first of these quotations is from the Old Testament; the second is the statement of Jesus recorded in Luke 10:7. Paul calls both of them scripture. And since the New Testament writers considered the scriptures to be inspired, this necessarily included their own writings.

Jesus promised inspiration to the apostles, saying, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:19-20.

Later Jesus promised again, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26.

Notice that this promise includes both revelation and inspiration, he would teach them all things (revelation), and bring all things to their remembrance (inspiration).

In accordance with the promise, the New Testament writers often claim that their messages are the word of God, 1 Peter 1:25 / 1 Thessalonians 2:13 / 1 Corinthians 14:37. These passages should convince us that the New Testament writers believed that they were inspired.


Peter writes, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20-21.

The word “moved” or ‘carried along’ is literally “borne along.” These prophets, as well as all inspired writers, were under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, their words were controlled by the Holy Spirit. Paul states, “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” 1 Corinthians 2:13. We may conclude that the Bible is verbally inspired.

However, inspiration was not mechanical. In inspiring their words, the Holy Spirit did not remove the vocabulary or the personality of the writers. It is evident to any careful student of the Bible that each writer has his own individual style of writing. The human feelings of each personality shine through the inspired words.

J.W. McGarvey gives an illustration to show how the inspired writers were under the complete control of the Spirit of God while at the same time maintaining their own diction and characteristics.

He says, “It would be nearer the truth to compare the whole work of the Spirit to that of driving a well-trained horse. You draw the lines to the right or the left as you see that the horse needs guidance, you check him when he would go too fast, and urge him forward when he would go too slow; but he usually keeps the road and maintains the desired gait and speed of his own accord; still your hand is ever on the lines, and its pressure on the bit is constantly felt, so that you are controlling the horse’s movements when he is going most completely at his own will. Indeed, the horse is all the time going very much at his own will, and yet he is never without the control of the driver.” (J.W. McGarvey, Evidences of Christianity, p. 213)

Any theory which takes away from the complete inspiration of the Bible is at variance with the teachings we have examined. This is true of the idea that inspiration consists only of extraordinary talent such as that possessed by gifted men like Shakespeare. This pulls the Bible down to the human level and denies the miraculous nature of the Spirit’s action.

Another false theory contends that the Bible is not the word of God, but only contains it. Some teach that only in faith and morals were the sacred writers infallible, but that in reciting facts they were subject to error.

This is obviously wrong since by denying the full (or plenary) inspiration of the scriptures each man is at liberty to accept or reject any teaching at his own fancy. Either all of the Bible is inspired or none of it is.

In the lessons which immediately follow we will examine the reasons for believing that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit.


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