Inspiration of the Bible
1. What are the necessary
presuppositions, as to principles, and matters of fact, which must be
admitted before the possibility of inspiration, or the inspiration of
any particular book can be affirmed?
The existence of a personal God, possessing the attributes of
power, intelligence, and moral excellence in absolute
That in his relation to the universe he is at once immanent and
transcendent. Above all, and freely acting upon all from without.
Within all, and acting through the whole and every part from within in
the exercise of all his perfections, and according to the laws and
modes of action he has established for his creatures, sustaining and
governing them, and all their
His moral government over mankind and other intelligent creatures,
whereby he governs them by truth and motives addressed to their reason
and will, rewards and punishes them according to their moral characters
and actions, and benevolently educates them for their high destiny in
his communion and service.
The fact that mankind instead of advancing along a line of natural
development from a lower to a higher moral condition, have fallen from
their original state and relation, and are now lost in a condition
involving corruption and guilt, and incapable of recovery without
The historical integrity of the Christian Scriptures, their veracity as
history, and the genuineness and authenticity of the several
The truth of Christianity in the sense in which it is set forth in the
All of these necessary presuppositions, the truth of which is involved
in the doctrine that the Scriptures are inspired, fall under one of two
Those which rest upon intuition and the moral spiritual evidences of
divine truth, such as the being and attributes of God, and his
relations to world and to mankind, such as the testimony of
and the moral consciousness of men as sinners justly condemned, and
Those which rest upon matters of fact, depending upon historical and
critical evidence as to the true origin and contents of the sacred
If any of these principles or facts is doubted, the evidence
substantiating them should be sought in their appropriate sources, e.
g., the department of Apologetics--the Theistic argument and Natural
Theology, the evidences of Christianity, the Historic Origin of the
Scriptures, the Canon, and Criticism and Exegesis of the Sacred Text.
STATEMENT OF THE CHURCH DOCTRINE OF INSPIRATION.
2. In what sense and to what extent
has the Church universally held the Bible to be inspired?
That the sacred writers were so influenced by the Holy spirit that
their writings are, as a whole and in every part, God's word to us--an
authoritative revelation to us from God, endorsed by him, and sent to
us as a rule of faith and practice, the original autographs of which
are absolutely infallible when interpreted in the sense intended, and
hence are clothed with absolute divine authority.
3. What is meant by "plenary
A divine influence full and sufficient to secure its end. The end in
this case secured is the perfect infallibility of the Scriptures in
every part, as a record of fact and doctrine both in thought and verbal
expression. So that although they come to us through the
instrumentality of the minds, hearts, imaginations, consciences, and
wills of men, they are nevertheless in the strictest sense the word of
4. What is meant by the phrase "verbal
inspiration," and how can it be proved that the words of the Bible were
It is meant that the divine influence, of whatever kind it may have
been, which accompanied the sacred writers in what they wrote, extends
to their expression of their thoughts in language, as well as to the
thoughts themselves. The effect being that in the original autograph
copies the language expresses the thought God intended to convey with
infallible accuracy, so that the words as well as the thoughts are
God's revelation to us.
That this influence did extend to the words appears:
from the very design of inspiration, which is, not to secure the
infallible correctness of the opinions of the inspired men themselves
(Paul and Peter differed, Gal. 2:11, and sometimes the prophet knew not
what he wrote), but to secure an infallible record of the truth. But a
record consists of
Men think in words, and the more definitely they think the more are
their thoughts immediately associated with an exactly appropriate
verbal expression. Infallibility of thought cannot be secured or
preserved independently of an infallible verbal
The Scriptures affirm this fact, 1 Cor. 2:13; 1 Thess.
The New Testament writers, while quoting from the Old Testament for
purposes of argument, often base their argument upon the very words
used, thus ascribing authority to the word as well as the
thought.--Matt. 22:32, and Ex. 3:6,16; Matt. 22:45, and Psalms 110:l ;
Gal. 3:16, and Gen. 17:7.
5. By what means does the Church hold
that God has effected the result above defined?
The Church doctrine recognizes the fact that every part of Scripture is
at once a product of God's and of man's agency. The human writers have
produced each his part in the free and natural exercise of his personal
faculties under his historical conditions. God has also so acted
concurrently in and through them that the whole organism of Scripture
and every part thereof is his word to us, infallibly true in the sense
intended and absolutely authoritative
God's agency includes the three following elements:
His PROVIDENTIAL agency in producing the Scriptures. The whole course
of redemption, of which revelation and inspiration are special
functions, was a special providence directing the evolution of a
specially providential history. Here the natural and the supernatural
continually interpenetrate. But as is of necessity the case, the
natural was always the rule and the supernatural the exception; yet as
little subject to accident, and as much the subject of rational design
as the natural itself. Thus God providentially produced the very man
for the precise occasion, with the faculties, qualities, education, and
gracious experience needed for the production of the intended writing,
Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul, or John, genius and character, nature and
grace, peasant, philosopher, or prince, the man, and with him each
subtle personal accident, was providentially prepared at the proper
moment as the necessary instrumental precondition of the work to be
REVELATION of truth not otherwise attainable. Whenever the writer was
not possessed, or could not naturally become possessed, of the
knowledge God intended to communicate, it was supernaturally revealed
to him by vision or language. This revelation was supernatural,
objective to the recipient, and assured to him to be truth of divine
origin by appropriate evidence. This direct revelation applies to a
large element of the sacred Scriptures, such as prophecies of future
events, the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, the promises and
threatenings of God's word, etc., but it applies by no means to all the
INSPIRATION. The writers were the subjects of a plenary divine
influence called inspiration, which acted upon and through their
natural faculties in all they wrote directing them in the choice of
subject and the whole course of thought and verbal expression, so as
while not interfering with the natural exercise of their faculties,
they freely and spontaneously, produced the very writing which God
designed, and which thus possesses the attributes of infallibility and
authority as above
This inspiration differs, therefore, from revelation--(1.) In that it
was a constant experience of the sacred writers in all they wrote and
it affects the equal infallibility of all the elements of the writings
they produced, while, as before said, revelation was supernaturally
vouchsafed only when it was needed. (2.) In that revelation
communicated objectively to the mind of the writer truth otherwise
unknown. While inspiration was a divine influence flowing into the
sacred writer subjectively, communicating nothing, but guiding their
faculties in their natural exercise to the producing an infallible
record of the matters of history, doctrine, prophecy, etc., which God
designed to send through them to his Church.
It differs from spiritual illumination, in that spiritual illumination
is an essential element in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit
common to all true Christians. It never leads to the knowledge of new
truth, but only to the personal discernment of the spiritual beauty and
power of truth already revealed in the Scriptures.
Inspiration is a special influence of the Holy Spirit peculiar to the
prophets and apostles, and attending them only in the exercise of their
functions as accredited teachers. Most of them were the subjects both
of inspiration and spiritual illumination. Some, as Balaam, being
unregenerate were inspired, though destitute of spiritual illumination.
THE PROOF OF THE CHURCH DOCTRINE OF INSPIRATION.
6. From what sources of evidence is
the question as to the nature and extent of the Inspiration of the
Scriptures to be determined?
From the statements of the Scriptures
From the phenomena of Scripture when critically examined.
THE STATEMENTS OF THE SCRIPTURES AS TO THE MATTER OF THEIR OWN
7. How can the propriety of proving
the Inspiration of the Scriptures from their own assertions be
We do not reason in a circle when we rest the truth of the inspiration
of the Scriptures on their own assertions. We come to this question
already believing in their credibility as histories, and in that of
their writers as witnesses of facts, and in the truth of Christianity
and in the divinity of Christ. Whatever Christ affirms of the Old
Testament, and whatever he promises to the Apostles, and whatever they
assert as to the divine influence acting in and through themselves, or
as to the infallibility and authority of their writings, must be true.
Especially as all their claims were endorsed by God working with them
by signs and wonders and gifts of the Holy Ghost. It is evident that if
their claims to inspiration and to the infallibility and authority of
their writings are denied, they are consequently charged with fanatical
presumption and gross misrepresentation, and the validity of their
testimony on all points is denied. When plenary inspiration is denied
all Christian faith is undermined.
8. How may the inspiration of the
apostles be fairly inferred from the fact that they wrought miracles?
A miracle is a divine sign ( saymeion ) accrediting the person to whom
the power is delegated as a divinely commissioned agent, Matt. 16:1,4;
Acts 14:3; Heb. 2:4. This divine testimony not only encourages, but
absolutely renders belief obligatory. Where the sign is, God commands
us to believe. But he could not unconditionally command us to believe
any other than unmixed truth infallibly conveyed.
9. How may it be shown that the gift
of Inspiration was promised to the apostles?
Matt. 10:19; Luke 12:12; John 14:26; 15:26,27; 16:13; Matt. 28:19,20;
10. In what several ways did they
claim to have possession of the Spirit?
To have the Spirit in fulfillment of
the promise of Christ. Acts 2:33; 4:8; 13:2-4; 15:28; 21:11; 1 Thess.
11. How was their claim confirmed?
To speak as the prophets of God.--1 Cor. 4:1; 9:17; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1
To speak with plenary authority.--1 Cor. 2:13; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 John
4:6; Gal.1:8,9; 2 Cor. 13:2,3,4. They class their writings on a level
with the Old Testament Scriptures.--2 Pet. 3:16;1 Thess. 5:27; Col.
4:16; Rev. 2:7.--Dr. Hodge.
By their holy, simple, temperate, yet
By the holiness of the doctrine they taught, and its spiritual power,
as attested by its effect upon communities and
By the miracles they wrought.--Heb. 2:4; Acts 14:3; Mark
All these testimonies are accredited to us not only by their own
writings, but also by the uniform testimony of the early Christians,
their contemporaries, and their immediate successors.
12. Show that the writers of the Old Testament claim to be inspired.
Moses claimed that he wrote a part at least of the Pentateuch by divine
command.--Deut. 31:19-22; 34:10; Num. 16:28,29. David claimed it.--2
As a characteristic fact, the Old Testament writers speak not in their
own name, but preface their messages with, "Thus saith the Lord," "The
mouth of the Lord hath spoken it," etc.--Jer. 9:12; 13:13; 30:4; Isa.
8:l; 33:10; Mic. 4:4; Amos 3:1; Deut. 18:21,22; 1 Kings 21:28; 1 Chron.
13. How was their claim confirmed?
Their claim was confirmed to their contemporaries by the miracles they
wrought by the fulfillment of many of their predictions (Num.
16:28,29), by the holiness of their lives. the moral and spiritual
perfection of their doctrine, and the practical adaptation of the
religious system they revealed to the urgent wants of
Their claim is confirmed to us principally--(1.) By the remarkable
fulfillment, in far subsequent ages, of many of their prophecies. (2.)
By the evident relation of the symbolical religion which they
promulgated to the facts and doctrines of Christianity, proving a
divine preadjustment of the type to the antitype. (3.) By the
endorsement of Christ and his apostles.
14. What are the formulas by which
quotations from the Old Testament are introduced into the New, and how
do these forms of expression prove the inspiration of the ancient
"The Holy Ghost saith,"Heb. 3:7. "The Holy Ghost this signifying,"Heb.
9:8. "God saith,"Acts 2:17, and Isa. 44:3; 1 Cor. 9:9,10, and Deut.
25:4. "The Scriptures saith.,"Rom. 4:3; Gal. 4:30. "It is written,"Luke
18:31; 21:22; John 2:17; 20:31. "The Lord by the mouth of his servant
David says,"Acts 4:25, and Ps. 2:1,2. "The Lord limiteth in David a
certain day, saying,"Heb. 4:7; Ps. 95:7. "David in spirit says,"Matt.
22:43, and Ps. 110:1.
Thus these Old Testament writings are what God saith, what God saith by
David, etc., and are quoted as the authoritative basis for conclusive
argumentation; therefore they must have been inspired.
15. How may the Inspiration of the Old
Testament writers be proved by the express declarations of the New
Luke 1:70; Heb. 1:1; 2 Tim. 3:16;1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1:21.
16. What is the argument on this
subject drawn from the manner in which Christ and his apostles argue
from the Old Testament as of final authority?
Christ constantly quotes the Old Testament, Matt. 21:13; 22:43. He
declares that it cannot be falsified, John 7:23; 10:35; that the whole
law must be fulfilled, Matt. 5:18; and all things also foretold
concerning himself "in Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms,"Luke 24:44.
The apostles habitually quote the Old Testament in the same manner,
"That it might be fulfilled which was written," is with them a
characteristic formula, Matt. 1:22; 2:15,17,23; John 12:38; 15:25; etc.
They all appeal to the words of Scripture as of final authority. This
certainly proves infallibility.
THE PHENOMENA OF SCRIPTURE CONSIDERED AS EVIDENCE OF THE NATURE AND
EXTENT OF ITS INSPIRATION.
17. What evidence do the Phenomena of
the Scriptures afford as to nature and extent of the human causes
conspiring to produce them?
Every part of Scripture alike bears evidence of a human origin. the
writers of all the books were men, and the process of composition
through which they originated was characteristically human. The
personal characteristics of thought and feeling of these writers have
acted spontaneously in their literary activity, and have given
character to their writings in a manner precisely similar to the effect
of character upon writing in the case of other men. They wrote from
human impulses, on special occasions, with definite design. Each views
his subject from an individual standpoint. They gather their material
from all sources--personal experience and observation, ancient
documents, and contemporary testimony. They arrange their material with
reference to their special purpose, and draw inferences from principles
and facts according to the more or less logical habits of their own
minds. Their emotions and imaginations are spontaneously exercised, and
follow as co-factors with their reasoning into their compositions. The
limitations of their personal knowledge and general mental condition,
and the defects of their habits of thought and style, are as obvious in
their writings as any other personal characteristics. They use the
language and idiom proper to their nation and class. They adopt the
usus loquendi of terms current among their people, without committing
themselves to the philosophical ideas in which the usage originated.
Their mental habits and methods were those of their nation and
generation. They were for the most part Orientals, and hence their
writings abound with metaphor and symbol; and although always reliable
in statement as far as required for their purpose they never aimed at
the definiteness of enumeration, or chronological or circumstantial
narration, which characterizes the statistics of modern western
nations. Like all purely literary men of every age, they describe the
order and the facts of nature according to their appearances, and not
as related to their abstract law or cause.
Some of these facts have, by many careless thinkers, been supposed to
be inconsistent with the asserted fact of divine guidance. But it is
evident, upon reflection, that if God is to reveal himself at all, it
must be under all the limits of human modes of thought and speech. And
if he inspires human agents to communicate his revelation in writing,
he must use them in a manner consistent with their nature as rational
and spontaneous agents. And it is evident that all the distinctions
between the different degrees of perfection in human knowledge, and
elegance in human dialect and style, are nothing when viewed in the
light of the common relations of man to God. He obviously could as well
reveal himself through a peasant as through a philosopher; and all the
better when the personal characteristics of the peasant were
providentially and graciously preadjusted to the special end designed.
18. What evidence do the Phenomena of
the Scriptures afford as to the nature and extent of the divine agency
exercised in their production?
Every part of Scripture affords moral and spiritual evidence of its
divine origin. This is, of course, more conspicuous in some portions
than in others. There are transcendent truths revealed, a perfect
morality, an unveiling of the absolute perfections of the Godhead, a
foresight of future events, a heart searching and rein-trying knowledge
of the secrets of the human soul, a light informing the reason and an
authority binding the conscience, a practical grasp of all the springs
of human experience and life, all of which can only have originated in
a divine source. These are characteristics of a large portion of the
Scriptures, and of the Scriptures alone in all literature, and together
with the accompanying witness of the Holy Ghost, these are practically
the evidences upon which the faith of a majority of believers rests.
But another characteristic of the Scriptures, taken in connection with
the foregoing, proves incontestably their divine origin as a whole and
in every part. The sacred Scriptures are an organism, that is a whole
composed of many parts, the parts all differing in matter, form, and
structure from each other, like the several members of the human body,
yet each adjusted to each other and to the whole, through the most
intricate and delicate correlations mediating a common end. Scripture
is the record and interpretation of redemption. Redemption is a work
which God has prepared and wrought out by many actions in succession
through an historical process occupying centuries. A supernatural
providence has flowed forward evolving a system of divine
interventions, accompanied and interpreted by a supernaturally informed
and guided order of prophets. Each writer has his own special and
temporary occasion, theme, and audience. And yet each contributed to
build up the common organism, as the providential history has advanced,
each special writing beyond its temporary purpose taking permanent
place as a member of the whole, the gospel fulfilling the law, antitype
has answered to type and fulfillment to prophecy, history has been
interpreted by doctrine, and doctrine has given law to duty and to
life. The more minutely the contents of each book are studied in the
light of its special purpose, the more wonderfully various and exact
will its articulations in the general system and ordered structure of
the whole be discovered to be. This is the highest conceivable evidence
of design, which in the present case is the proof of a divine
supernatural influence comprehending the whole, and reaching to every
part, through sixteen centuries, sixty-six distinct writings, and about
forty cooperating human agents. Thus the divine agency in the genesis
of every part of Scripture is as clearly and certainly determined as it
is in the older genesis of the heavens and the earth.
19. What is the objection to this
doctrine drawn from the free manner in which the New Testament writers
quote those of the Old Testament, and the answer to that objection?
In a majority of instances the New Testament writers quote those of the
Old Testament with perfect verbal accuracy. Sometimes they quote the
Septuagint version, when it conforms to the Hebrew; at others they
substitute a new version; and at other times again they adhere to the
Septuagint, when it differs from the Hebrew. In a number of instances,
which however are comparatively few, their quotations from the Old
Testament are made very freely, and in apparent accommodation of the
Rationalistic interpreters have argued from this last class of
quotations that it is impossible that both the Old Testament writer
quoted from, and the New Testament writer quoting, could have been the
subjects of plenary inspiration, because, say they, if the ipsissima
verba were infallible in the first instance, an infallible writer would
have transferred them unchanged. But surely if a human author may quote
himself freely, changing the expression, and giving a new turn to his
thought in order to adapt it the more perspicuously to his present
purpose, the Holy Spirit may take the same liberty with his own. The
same Spirit that rendered the Old Testament writers infallible in
writing only pure truth, in the very form that suited his purpose then,
has rendered the New Testament writers infallible in so using the old
materials, that while they elicit a new sense, they teach only the
truth, the very truth moreover contemplated in the mind of God from the
beginning, and they teach it with divine authority.--See Fairbairn's
"Herm. Manual," Part 3. Each instance of such quotation should be
examined in detail, as Dr. Fairbairn has done.
20. What objection to the doctrine of
Plenary Inspiration is drawn from the alleged fact that "Discrepancies"
exist in the Scriptural Text? and how is this objection to be answered?
It is objected that the sacred text contains numerous statements which
are inconsistent with other statements made in some part of Scripture
itself, or with some certainly ascertained facts of history or of
It is obvious that such a state of facts, even if it could be proved to
exist, would not, in opposition to the abundant positive evidence above
adduced, avail to disprove the claim that the Scriptures are to some
extent and in some degree the product of divine inspiration. The force
of the objection would depend essentially upon the number and character
of the instances of discrepancy actually proved to exist, and would
bear not upon the fact of Inspiration, but upon its nature and degree
The fact of the actual existence of any such "discrepancies," it is
evident, can be determined only by the careful examination of each
alleged case separately. This examination belongs to the departments of
Biblical Criticism and Exegesis. The following considerations, however,
are evidently well-grounded, and sufficient to allay all apprehension
on the subject.
The Church has never held the verbal infallibility of our translations,
nor the perfect accuracy of the copies of the original Hebrew and Greek
Scriptures now possessed by us. These copies confessedly contain many
"discrepancies" resulting from frequent transcription. It is,
nevertheless, the unanimous testimony of Christian scholars, that while
these variations embarrass the interpretation of many details, they
neither involve the loss nor abate the evidence of a single essential
fact or doctrine of Christianity. And it is moreover reassuring to know
that believing criticism, by the discovery and collation of more
ancient and accurate copies, is constantly advancing the Church to the
possession of a more perfect text of the original Scriptures than she
has enjoyed since the apostolic
The Church has asserted absolute infallibility only of the original
autograph copies of the Scriptures as they came from the hands of their
inspired writers. And even of these she has not asserted infinite
knowledge, but only absolute infallibility in stating the matters
designed to be asserted. A "discrepancy," therefore, in the sense in
which the new critics affirm and the Church denies its existence, is a
form of statement existing in the original text of the Hebrew and Greek
Scriptures evidently designed to assert as true that which is in plain
irreconcilable contradiction to other statements existing in some other
portions of the same original text of Scripture, or to some other
certainly ascertained element of human knowledge. A "discrepancy"
fulfilling in every particular this definition must be proved to exist,
or the Church's doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration remains
It is beyond question, that, in the light of all that the Scriptures
themselves assert or disclose as to the nature and the extent of the
divine influence controlling their genesis, and as to their authority
over man's conscience and life as the voice of God, the existence of
any such "discrepancies" as above defined is a violent improbability.
Those who assert the existence of one or more of them must bring them
out, and prove to the community of competent judges, that all the
elements of the above definition meet in each alleged instance, not
merely probably, but beyond the possibility of doubt. The burden of
proof rests exclusively on
But observe that this is for them a very difficult task to perform, one
in any instance indeed hardly possible. For to make good their point
against the vast presumptions opposed to it, they must prove over and
over again in the case of each alleged discrepancy each of the
following points:(1.) That the alleged discrepant statement certainly
occurred in the veritable autograph copy of the inspired writing
containing it. (2.) That their interpretation of the statement, which
occasions the discrepancy, is the only possible one, the one it was
certainly intended to bear. The difficulty of this will be apprehended
when we estimate the inherent obscurity of ancient narratives,
unchronological, and fragmentary, with a background and surroundings of
almost unrelieved darkness. This condition of things which so often
puzzles the interpreter, and prevents the apologist from proving the
harmony of the narrative, with equal force baffles all the ingenious
efforts of the rationalistic critic to demonstrate the "discrepancy."
Yet this he must do, or the presumption will remain that it does not
exist. (3.) He must also prove that the facts of science or of history,
or the Scriptural statements, with which the statement in question is
asserted to be inconsistent, are real fact or real parts of the
autograph text of canonical Scripture, and that the sense in which they
are found to be inconsistent with the statement in question is the only
sense they can rationally bear. (4.) When the reality of the opposing
facts or statements is determined, and their true interpretation is
ascertained, then it must, in conclusion, be shown not only that they
appear inconsistent, nor merely that their reconciliation is impossible
in our present state of knowledge, but that they are in themselves
essentially incapable of being
Finally it is sufficient for the present purpose, to point to the fact
that no single case of "discrepancy," as above defined, has been so
proved to exist as to secure the recognition of the community of
believing scholars. Difficulties in interpretation and apparently
irreconcilable statements exist, but no "discrepancy" has been proved.
Advancing knowledge removes some difficulties and discovers others. It
is in the highest degree probable that perfect knowledge would remove
21. Explain the meaning of such passages as 1 Cor. 7:6 and l2 and 40,
Rom. 3:5 and 6:19, and Gal. 3:15, and show their perfect consistency
with the fact of the plenary inspiration of the whole Bible.
"I speak as a man," is a phrase occurring frequently, and its sense is
determined by the context. In Romans 3:5, it signifies that Paul was,
for argument's sake, using the language common to men; it was the Jews'
opinion, not his own. In Rom. 6:19, it signifies "in a manner adapted
to human comprehension," and in Gal. 3:15, it signifies, "I use an
illustration drawn from human affairs," etc.
"I speak this by permission, not of commandment."--1 Cor. 7:6, refers
to verse 2. Marriage was always permitted, but under certain
"And unto the married I command, yet not I but the Lord.""But to the
rest speak:I, not the Lord."--1 Cor. 7:10and 12. Reference is here made
to what the "Lord," that is Christ, taught in person while on earth.
The distinction is made between what Christ taught while on earth, and
what Paul teaches. As Paul puts his word here on an equal basis of
authority with Christ's word, it of course implies that Paul claims an
inspiration which makes his word equal to that of Christ in
infallibility and authority.
"And I think also that I have the Spirit of God."--1 Cor. 7:40. "I
think ( dokw ) I have, is only, agreeably to Greek usage, an urbane way
of saying, I have (cf. Gal. 2:6, 1 Cor. 12:22). Paul was in no doubt of
his being an organ of the Holy Ghost." Hodge, "Comm. on First
DEFECTIVE STATEMENT OF THE
22. State what is meant by theological
writers by the inspiration "of superintendence,""of elevation,""of
direction," and "of suggestion."
Certain writers on this subject, confounding the distinction between
inspiration and revelation, and using the former term to express the
whole divine influence of which the sacred writers were the subjects,
first, in knowing the truth, second, in writing it, necessarily
distinguish between different degrees of inspiration in order to
accommodate their theory to the facts of the case. Because, first, some
of the contents of Scripture evidently might be known without
supernatural aid, while much more as evidently could not; second, the
different writers exercised their natural faculties, and carried their
individual peculiarities of thought, feeling, and manner into their
By the "inspiration of superintendence," these writers meant precisely
what we have above given as the definition of inspiration. By the
"inspiration of elevation," they meant that divine influence which
exalted their natural faculties to a degree of energy otherwise
By the "inspiration of direction," they meant that divine influence
which guided the writers in the selection and disposition of their
By the "inspiration of suggestion," they meant that divine influence
which directly suggested to their minds new and otherwise unattainable
23. What objections may be fairly made
to these distinctions?
These distinctions spring from a prior failure to distinguish between
revelation the frequent, and inspiration the constant, phenomenon
presented by Scripture; the one furnishing the material when not
otherwise attainable, the other guiding the writer at every point, (1)
in securing the infallible truth of all he writes; and (2) in the
selection and distribution of his
It is injurious to distinguish between different degrees of
inspiration, as if the several portions of the Scriptures were in
different degrees God's word, while in truth the whole is equally and
FALSE DOCTRINES OF INSPIRATION.
24. What Principles necessarily lead
to the denial of any super-Inspiration?
All philosophical principles or tendencies of thought which exclude the
distinction between the natural and the supernatural necessarily lead
to the denial of Inspiration in the sense affirmed by the Church. These
are, for example, all Pantheistic, Materialistic, and Naturalistic
principles, and of course Rationalistic principles in all their forms.
25. In what several forms has the
doctrine of a Partial Inspiration of the Scriptures been held?
It has been maintained that certain books were the subjects of plenary
inspiration, while others were produced with only a natural
providential and gracious assistance of God. S. T. Coleridge admitted
the plenary inspiration of "the law and the prophets, no jot or tittle
of which can pass unfulfilled," while he denied it of the rest of the
Many have admitted that the moral and spiritual elements of the
Scriptures, and their doctrines as far as these relate to the nature
and purposes of God not otherwise ascertainable, are products of
inspiration, but deny it of the historical and biographical elements,
and of all its allusions to scientific facts or laws.
Others admit that the inspiration of the writers controlled their
thoughts, but deny that it extended to its verbal expression.
In one, or in all of these senses, different men have held that the
Scriptures are only "partially" inspired. All such deny that they "ARE
the word of God," as affirmed by the Scriptures themselves and by all
the historical Churches, and admit merely that they "contain the word
26. State the doctrine of Gracious
Coleridge, in his "Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit," Letter 7.,
holds that the Scriptures, except the Law and the Prophets, were
produced by their writers assisted by "the highest degree of that grace
and communion with the Spirit which the Church under all circumstances,
and every regenerate member of the Church of Christ, is permitted to
hope and instructed to pray for." This is the doctrine of Maurice
("Theological Essays," p. 339) and virtually that of Morell
("Philosophy of Religion," p. 186) and of the Quakers. These admit an
objective supernatural revelation, and that this is contained in the
Scriptures, which are highly useful, and in such a sense an
authoritative standard of faith and practice; that no pretended
revelation which is inconsistent with Scripture can be true, and that
they are a judge in all controversies between Christians. Nevertheless
they hold that the Scriptures are only "a secondary rule, subordinate
to the Spirit from whom they have all their excellency," which Spirit
illumines every man in the world, and reveals to him either with, or
without the Scriptures, if they are unknown, all the knowledge of God
and of his will which are necessary for his salvation and guidance, on
condition of his rendering a constant obedience to that light as thus
graciously communicated to him and to all men. "Barclay's Apology,
Theses Theological," Propositions 1., 2., and 3.
"Decrees of Council of Trent,"
Sess. 4. "Which
gospel . . . our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated
with his own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by his apostles
to every creature, . . . and seeing clearly that this truth and
discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten
tradition, which received by the apostles from the mouth of Christ
himself, or from the apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating,
have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to
hand:the Synod following the example of the orthodox Fathers, receives
and venerates with an equal affection of piety and reverence, all the
books both of the Old and of the New Testament--seeing God is the
author of both--as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining
to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own
word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic
Church by a continuous succession."
"Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican
Council," 1870, Sess. 3., Ch. 2.
"Further this supernatural revelation, according to the universal
belief of the Church, declared by the sacred Synod of Trent, is
contained in the written books and unwritten traditions which have come
down to us, having been received by the apostles from the mouth of
Christ himself, or from the apostles themselves, by the dictation of
the Holy Spirit, have been transmitted as it were from hand to hand.
And these books of the Old and New Testament are to be received as
sacred and canonical, in their integrity, with all their parts as they
are enumerated in the decree of the said Council, and are contained in
the ancient Edition of the Vulgate. These the Church holds to be sacred
and canonical, not because having been carefully composed by mere human
industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely
because they contain revelation with no admixture of error, but
because, having been written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they
have God for their author, and have been delivered as such to the
LUTHERAN.--"Formula Concordia Epitome."
1. "We believe, confess, and
teach that the only rule and norm, according to which all dogmas and
all doctors ought to be esteemed and judged, is no other whatever than
the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testament, as
it is written, Ps. 119:105, and Gal. 1:8."
Confession," Ch. 1. Concerning Holy
Scripture, "We believe and confess, that the canonical Scriptures of
the holy prophets and apostles of each Testament are the true word of
God, and that they possess sufficient authority from themselves alone
and not from man. For God himself spoke to the fathers, to the prophets
and to the apostles, and continues to speak to us through the Holy
"The Belgic Confession," Art.
3. "We confess that this word of God was
not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but that holy men of God
spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, as the apostle Peter saith.
And that afterwards God, from a special care which he has for us and
our salvation, commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles, to
commit his revealed word to writing, and he himself wrote with his own
finger the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy
and divine Scriptures."
"Westminster Confession of Faith," Chap.
1. "Therefore it pleased the
Lord, at sundry times and in divers manners, to reveal himself and to
declare his will unto his Church; and afterwards, for the better
preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure
establishment and comfort of the Church against the Corruption of the
flesh and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same
wholly unto writing.""The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it
ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of
any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the Author
thereof; and therefore it is to be received because it is the word of
From: Chapter 4: The Inspiration
of the Bible, Outlines Of
Theology by A. A. Hodge