Inspiration of the Bible is a unique concept among the world’s holy or wisdom books. But what is it, and why is it so important?
Before I answer those questions, let me ask you a question. “Where do you and your friends go for sound and practical advice about life?”
After all, there are many resources. To illustrate, TED talks, self-help blogs, books, and retreats are plentiful. Not to mention the online or small group support sessions that exist. There is also individual or group psychotherapy available.
In other words, finding answers to life’s challenges is big business. Specifically, a nearly 10-billion-dollar industry! So many people are seeking advice from so many resources.
But have you ever wondered why so many mature Christians are content? Despite challenging situations. For instance, they never seem anxious, angry, or depressed. Furthermore, they are not prideful or jealous. And instead of suffering, they are genuinely kind and forgiving people.
The answer is that they unquestionably put all their trust in Scripture.
You may wonder, “How can they put so much trust in God’s Word?”
Mature Christians trust the Bible because it delivers on its promises.
In other words, it gives you everything you need for life and godliness.
Why can I make that statement so emphatically?
Because the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
How Trusting in the Inspiration of the Bible Impacted Last Centuries Greatest Preacher
Obviously, most people know of Billy Graham and his deep commitment to Christianity. But most people don’t know that he struggled mightily with his faith early in his evangelical career.
Billy’s struggle arose during his friendship with Charles Templeton. Templeton and Graham became friends while serving as evangelists on a Youth for Christ tour in 1946. But by 1948, Templeton shared with Graham that he doubted Scripture’s trustworthiness.
Subsequently, by 1957, Templeton was an avowed agnostic. He consequently wrote “Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith” in 1996.
But the interaction with Templeton planted seeds of doubt in Graham. However, Billy made a different decision than his friend.
Billy writes, “In August of 1949, I was so filled with doubts about everything that when I stood to preach and made a statement, I would say to myself: I wonder if that is the truth. I wonder if I can really say that sincerely. My ministry had gone. “I then took the Bible up into the high Sierra Nevada mountains in California. I opened it and got on my knees. I pled, ‘Father, I cannot understand many things in this Book. I cannot come intellectually all the way, but I accept it by faith to be authoritative, the inspired Word of the living God!”
After that confession, he placed his faith in the inspiration of Scripture. From then on, Graham’s ministry charged ahead. As a result, he never doubted the trustworthiness of the Bible again.
Why did Graham’s trust in the inspiration of the Bible leave him without a doubt?
I. A Definition of Inspiration
“Inspiration of Scripture” may be a new term or concept for you. However, for Christians who love the Bible, it is a foundational belief. It ensures that God has spoken through the more than 40 authors who wrote it.
If the idea of Biblical inspiration is confusing at this point, you are not alone. I will unpack the correct meaning. And I will also show why inspiration makes Scripture the only reliable source of God’s word.
1. In the first place, what we don’t mean by inspiration of the Bible.
To illustrate the distinction, inspiration normally means a sense of exhilaration or motivation. In contrast, Biblical inspiration is different.
2. In the second place, what we do mean by divine inspiration
Basically, understanding the inspiration of the Bible begins with two critical texts. Specifically, the texts are 2 Peter 1:20-21 and 2 Timothy 3:16.
a. 2 Peter 1:20-21
In 2 Peter 1:20–21. Peter writes, “knowing this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (emphasis added).
In this case, Peter is saying that:
- Firstly, inspired Scripture did not originate with human beings but with God!
- Secondly, it came from God, through prophets of God (the Bible authors) to the people of God
- Thirdly, the Holy Spirit moved every author with a message originating from God
b. 2 Timothy 3:16
Moreover, in 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (emphasis added).
In the same vein as Peter, Paul is making several claims:
- Firstly, Paul is speaking of the entire Old Testament (“All Scripture”)
- Secondly, it is the written text that has divine authority
- Thirdly, these writings were literally “God-breathed” or breathed out by God
- Fourthly, the Old Testament did not originate with man, but with God moving on, men called prophets of God
- Furthermore, God, through the Holy Spirit, communicated His word using the authors of the Bible
- Finally, since all Scripture is from God, it has divine authority for faith and practice
It is important to realize, the wrong English term for being “God-breathed” is used. Specifically, “inspiration” is the English word for “breathing in.” Instead, the correct term should be expiration. Expiration means “breathing out” or what is implied in God-breathed.
In short, Biblical inspiration means the Holy Spirit moved human authors to record God-breathed writings.
II. The Old Testament is Inspired
Undoubtedly the Old Testament claims it is God’s inspired word many times in many places.
Firstly, the Old Testament authors used specific phrases hundreds of times. These terms indicated that God inspired them. These expressions include:
- “God said” (Gen. 1:3)
- “says (or declares) the Lord” (Isa. 1:11, 18; Jer. 2:3, 5)
- “the Word of the Lord came” (Jer. 34:1; Ezek. 30:1)
Secondly, God told Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (Deut. 18:18).
Thirdly, David defines God’s inspiration in 2 Samuel 23:2. He said, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue” (emphasis added).
- Both the divine origin and the human instrument of Scripture are mentioned here
- The writings came from God but were mediated through a prophet of God (David)
Fourthly, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth” (Isa. 59:21, emphasis added)
Fifthly, the prophet Zechariah wrote the Old Testament writings were Holy Spirit-inspired (Zech. 7:12).
Sixthly, Jesus confirms the inspiration of the Old Testament.
- As being the very “word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4)
- He used David’s 2 Samuel 23:2 definition when questioning the Pharisees (Matt. 22:43)
Seventhly, Peter speaking in the Spirit (Acts 4:24), declares God’s inspiration of David “by the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:24–25)
Finally, the writer of Hebrews confirms God’s inspiration of David (Hebrews 4:7)
III. The New Testament is Inspired
Several lines of Scriptural evidence prove that the New Testament is inspired.
Firstly, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles “into all truth” (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:12-13)
- Peter at Pentecost confirmed that the apostles had received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33)
- Paul concurred that the Holy Spirit revealed God’s message (Eph 3:5). And he expected his writings to be received as from God (1 Cor 4:1; 2 Cor 5:20; 1 Thes 2:13)
- John’s book of Revelation also claims divine origin (Rev. 1:1–3)
Secondly, the Apostles refer to each other’s writings as Scripture. For example:
- Peter says Paul’s writings are on par with Old Testament “Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15-16)
- Paul cites Luke and Deuteronomy as Scripture (1 Tim. 5:18, cf. Luke 10:7; Deut 25:4; cf. 1 Cor. 9:9)
IV. Inspiration of the Bible is a Mystery
You might wonder, “How does the inspiration of the Bible occur?”
That is an excellent question. But the inspiration of the Bible is largely a mystery.
But what we do know is that:
- God prepared each author with a unique heredity, character, vocabulary, and writing style
- At the appropriate time, the Holy Spirit directed Or, as Peter says, “carried them along”
- In the writing processes, the Holy Spirit used their own style. That included their language, emotions, perspectives, expressions, personality, and literary style (2 Pet. 1:21)
Therefore, each biblical book has two authors, one is God, and the second is human. But it is essential to remember that even though humans were involved God:
- Ultimately oversaw all Scripture
- Is the source of everything the authors wrote (2 Tim 3:16).
- Is responsible for every word (Matt 22:43; 1 Cor 2:13), verb tense (Matt 22:32; Gal 3:16), and the smallest parts of words (Matt 5:17, 18)
Considering the above we refer to “verbal plenary inspiration” of the Bible.
- Verbal means that every word in the Bible is God-breathed (Deut. 18:18; Psa. 19:14; Zech. 7:12; Matt. 4:4). The words are inspired not the ideas
- Plenary means that all parts of the Bible are equally God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16)
- Verbal plenary inspiration applies to the original documents (autographa)
V. The Implications for the Inspiration of the Bible
Since God inspired the Bible, it will have divine characteristics. And being God-breathed, there are implications. And these implications set Scripture apart from all other human-made “holy” books.
The Bible is:
- God’s Word (Matt. 4:4) carrying his divine authority (John 10:34–35)
- The final authority for faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Pet 1:3)
- To be exalted above all human teaching (Matt. 15:3–6)
- Inerrant means without any errors. Inerrancy applies only to the original documents (“autographa”) (Matthew 22:29; John 17:17)
- Infallible, meaning it is entirely reliable, dependable, and unfailing. And this applies to every area it addresses (Matt 22:29; John 10:35; cf. Isa. 55:11; Rom. 3:2)
- Holy, sacred, and exalted (2 Tim. 3:15)
- Able to tell us how to be saved and live a godlike life (Rom. 1:16; 1 Peter 1:23).
- Indestructible (Ps. 119:89; Isa. 40:8) and imperishable (Matt. 5:17-18)
- Indefatigable and enduring (1 Peter 1:23)
- “Living and active (Heb. 4:12; cf. Jer. 23:29; 2 Cor. 10:4) called the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17)
- Historically reliable regarding historical events. These events include Noah (Matthew 24:37-39), Jonah (Matthew 12:40), Moses (John 3:14), and David (Matthew 22:43-44)
- Scientifically accurate in everything it discusses. For example, God is the creator of the universe, first life, and first humans (Matt 19:4-5)
In summary, both the Old Testament and New Testament are “the spoken words of God” (Rom. 3:2). Or, to state it differently, “when Scripture speaks, God speaks” (1 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 3:7; 10:15).
And fortunately, we know with near-perfect accuracy the content of the original texts. Therefore, we can trust that the Bible is the ultimate authority in essential areas of our lives. These include all matters of salvation, faith, and living our lives as Christians (Luke 16:31; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Pet 1:3, 20-21).
VI. Proof that the Bible is Inspired
We can prove the inspiration of the Bible through:
- The unity of the Biblical message
- Fulfilled prophecies in Jesus from the Old Testament
- Manuscript evidence
- Extrabiblical writings and archeology
1. Unity of the Bible proves inspiration.
One supporting line of evidence for the Bible’s divine origin is the unity of its message. This unity exists despite the diversity of time, authors, places, languages, and genres.
The Bible’s unity is seen in the singular unfolding drama. This problem is humankind’s sin. And the only solution is salvation through Christ (Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10)
- Jesus is anticipated in the Old Testament (Luke 24:27) and realized in the New Testament (Matt. 5:17–18)
- This unity can only be explained because there is ultimately only one author, God. In other words, God is the ultimate author who inspired human writers
2. Fulfilled prophecy proves inspiration of the Bible
Old Testament prophecies about Jesus prove Biblical inspiration. There are at least 191 Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. Each was fulfilled in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth.
The possibility of Jesus fulfilling more than 191 Old Testament prophecies is impossible. And it proves their divine origin.
- The probability that Jesus fulfilled just 48 prophecies is in 1 in 10157
- For reference, anything greater than 1050 is considered statistically impossible!
- Another way to think of the enormity of 10157 is to compare it to the 1079 elemental particles in the universe!
- It is inconceivable that Jesus fulfilled 191 Old Testament prophecies by chance
- In other words, Old Testament prophecies come from an eternal God
3. Manuscript evidence proves the Bible’s inspiration
There is no contest between the New Testament versus all other classical literature. The New Testament boasts more manuscripts, earlier manuscripts, and better-supported manuscripts.
a. Original books were written soon after the events
Specifically, all New Testament books were written soon (20-60 years) after Jesus’ resurrection. They are all first-century documents. This means:
- The time frame is too short for legend development
- Nine authors wrote the 27 books of the New Testament. They were all either eyewitnesses or supervised by eyewitnesses
- All the disciples who wrote or supervised the writing of the books, except John, were martyred
- Over 500 people witnessed the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor. 15:6). Most of whom were still alive at the time of writings to confirm the truthfulness
b. Available copies are early
New Testament manuscript copies date to soon after the originals. Regarding the manuscripts, there are:
- 88 undisputed manuscripts dating 25-150 years after the initial writing
- 5686 handwritten Greek manuscripts (2nd [?1st]-15th century). By comparison, there are less than a dozen from most other books of the ancient world
- 10,000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts
- At least 9300 different (Ethiopic, Slavic, Armenian, etc.) early versions
- 36,289 quotations from 2nd and 3rd-century early church fathers. These include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian. The sheer number constitutes the entire New Testament except for 11 verses!
- Approximately 40 early Christian creeds are embedded in various New Testament books. For example, 1 Corinthians 15 is a creed dating back to within 3-7 years after Jesus’ resurrection
c. Accuracy of New Testament Transmission
The New Testament has been transmitted with 99.5% accuracy (better than any ancient text). The 0.5%:
- Does not affect any major doctrine
- Is not missing text but too much text!
- Represent scribal notes subsequently incorporated into the text
d. Summary of Manuscript evidence
This New Testament is the best-attested text of any ancient writing in the world. More and earlier manuscripts provide trustworthy testimony. They also enable accurate reconstruction of the original documents. The thousands of copies offer a nearly perfect reconstruction of the originals.
5. Extrabiblical writings and archeology prove the inspiration of the Bible
a. Extrabiblical writings from secular and Jewish sources confirm the New Testament
There are at least seventeen non-Christian writings within 20-150 years after the resurrection. They record more than fifty details about Jesus. Including his life, teachings, death, and resurrection. They also provide details concerning the earliest church.
The writers of these sources were not friends of Christianity. They included:
- Ancient historians Tacitus, Suetonius, and Thallus.
- Jewish sources Josephus and the Babylonian Talmud
- Roman government official Pliny the Younger
- Roman Caesars Trajan and Hadrian
- Greek historian and satirist Lucian
- Syrian Mara Bar-Serapion
- Several nonorthodox, Gnostic writings speak about Jesus in a more theological manner
b. Archeological findings
Archeology has confirmed more than 140 eyewitness details and 30-plus references. These come from just the four Gospels and Acts. This evidence establishes the historicity of the New Testament beyond a reasonable doubt.
VII. Inspiration of the Bible is the “Foundation of all Foundational Christian Beliefs.
You could reasonably ask, “Do I have to believe in the inspiration of the Bible to be saved?
The honest answer is “No.” You can be saved without believing in the inspiration of Scripture.
But consider this argument:
- The Bible is foundational for all the essential doctrines for salvation
- If the Bible isn’t inspired, we cannot trust these doctrines are true
- Biblical inspiration gives us a sure foundation for these essential doctrines
In short, Biblical inspiration is “foundational for all foundational doctrines.”
What’s your next step?
If God inspired the Bible, that means it is the Word of God. This reality means you have a decision.
- Either you reject God and his inspired Word
- Or you place your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior
Becoming a Christian allows you to read, study, and memorize the Bible to become closer to God. If you are not a Christian, you will not have the Holy Spirit living inside you. But if you do, God will illuminate Scripture in ways you cannot imagine.
This article is the last in the series on the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.
Why not review the previous articles, podcasts, and videos, including:
- 14 Essential Doctrines of Christianity Clearly Explained
- The Trinity
- Deity of Jesus
- Substitutionary Atonement
- Jesus Resurrection
- Jesus Ascension
- Jesus Second Coming
These will help you grasp the fundamental doctrines shared by all Christians.
Binmin Podcast Ep. 20: Inspiration | Putting the Fun in…
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