Speaking of the inspired word of God

It seems to me that some people here think that in order to take issue with certain conceptions of inerrancy and biblicism, you also need to pretty much throw out the entire historical Christian doctrine of inspiration as well. Granted many inerrancy supporters have made a huge deal out of affirming verbal plenary inspiration, which I think is a pretty big step beyond what the church has traditionally intended when it affirms that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and often comes close to some kind of divine dictation. But that is not even close to what many many Christians mean when they say they believe the Bible is inspired.

I really appreciate this nice compilation of scholar’s thoughts on the topic that Michael Bird put together on a dynamic view of inspiration. I think it strikes the proper balance between recognizing the human part of the process (the role of language, culture, and cognition) but also maintains the high view that Scripture is God’s word to the church. I also appreciate the acknowledgement that inspiration needs to encompass not just the putting of pen to paper (quill to papyrus?) in some hypothetical original autograph, but also the process of compiling, redacting, transmitting, canonizing, and translating which brings us to the Bibles we read today.


A very interesting read, I have gotten done recently reading “Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief.” by John H. Walton and it has changed my view of the Old and New Testament and how they are related to each other and the revelation Yahweh gave the prophets and the apostles. The Bible is “inspired” from my understanding because it was God at the source of what was written. Human authors wrote down the stuff with their own biases, theology and social-cultural understanding and God worked with them along the way with their mindset.


My problem with using “inspiration” for the Bible is that it is far too weak even rejecting all the ideas of inerrancy or the Bible being perspicuous. I consider the notion that the Bible is the only book inspired by God to be utterly absurd. I think the inspiration of God pours down upon us in a torrent. So my immediate response to the claim that the Bible is inspired by God is… big deal! Just one book among many millions?

Word of God? better. But if not inerrant, what does this mean. It means God has the proprietary rights and nobody should be altering it as they see fit. It means it is unlikely that any of us could do better. Though I suppose that means even the errors serve a purpose such as telling us to stop getting so lost in the details that we fail to see the forest for the trees.

Authoritative? Yes. But authoritative for what? For the proper beliefs of Christianity, of course.


Inspiration is only used once in the New Testament, so it is a difficult word to define.

Some like to imagine the compound word can defined by its two root words, but that is not reliable. A butterfly is not a fly made of butter.

The early church leaders never used inspiration as a criterion for canonicity, and they considered many non-canonical writings to be inspired. I will post something on that topic in a subsequent post.

“It will have been noticed that in the preceding discussion concerning criteria used by early Christians in discerning the limits of the canon, nothing was said concerning inspiration. Though this silence may at first sight seem to be strange, the reason for it arises from the circumstance that, while the Fathers certainly agreed that the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments were inspired, they did not seem to have regarded inspiration as the ground of the Bible’s uniqueness. That is, the inspiration they ascribe to the Scriptures was only one facet of the inspiring activity of the Holy Spirit in many aspects of the Church’s life.7 For example, while Clement of Rome
speaks of the sacred Scriptures (here referring to the Old Testament) as ‘true and given through the Holy Spirit’ (lxiii. 2), the author of the Epistle to Diognetus writes for his own part to his correspondent: ‘If you do not offend this grace, you will learn what the Word (λόγος) talks about through those through whom he wishes to talk, when he pleases. For whatever we have been moved painstakingly to utter by the will of the Word that commands us, it is out of love for the things revealed to us that we come to share them with you’ (xi. 7–8). Among the writings of Eusebius there is a sermon attributed to the Emperor Constantine; whether or not this attribution is correct, the preacher clearly does not consider inspiration to be confined only to the Scriptures. He begins his sermon with the prayer, ‘May the mighty inspiration of the Father and of his Son … be with me in speaking these things’ (Orat. Const. 2).
“Not only do early ecclesiastical writers view themselves to be, in some degree at least, inspired, but also others affirm, in a rather broad sense, the inspiration of their predecessors, if not their contemporaries. In a letter that Augustine addressed to Jerome, the bishop of Hippo goes so far as to say (Epist. lxxxii. 2) not only that Jerome has been favoured with the divine grace, but also that he writes under the dictation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritu Sancto)—which may seem to be rather strong hyperbole applied to the often irascible Jerome. That Gregory the Great enjoyed the reputation of being inspired is easier to understand than is the case of Jerome, and Gregory’s biographer, Paul the Deacon, describes how the Holy Spirit, ‘under the form of a dove whiter than snow’, would explain to him the mysteries of Scripture (Vita S. Gregorii, 28)…

The same impression is conveyed when we examine patristic usage of the designation ‘non-inspired’. While the Fathers again and again use the concept of inspiration in reference to the Scriptures, they seldom describe non-Scriptural writings as non-inspired. When, in fact, such a distinction is made, the designation ‘non-inspired’ is found to be applied to false and heretical writings, not to orthodox products of the Church’s life. In other words, the concept of inspiration was not used in the early Church as a basis of designation between canonical and non-canonical orthodox Christian writings.
In short, the Scriptures, according to the early Fathers, are indeed inspired, but that is not the reason they are authoritative. They are authoritative, and hence canonical, because they are the extant literary deposit of the direct and indirect apostolic witness on which the later witness of the Church depends.”

Excerpt From
The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance
Bruce M Metzger

‎The Canon of the New Testament
‎Religion & Spirituality · 1997

This material may be protected by copyright.

You say:

And then:

How can you argue we don’t know what inspiration means in the NT but we do know what it means in the early Patristics writings that were in Greek? Can’t have it both ways.

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I said it is difficult to define. Do you disagree?

And I said the word is found in the writings of the early church leaders. And their use provides insight. Do you disagree?

Rather than objecting to my honest description of the situation, what do you think about the topic?

Yes. I believe John 14:26 tells us how inspiration works.

It is my belief that the Holy Spirit makes sure the texts that we ended up with contain the message that needed to be conveyed to us.

Sorry but I still don’t see how you can get insight from the Early Church Fathers but not from the NT.

I will say I do agree with you that inspiration was not the primary factor in selecting which writings were initially used. It was based on the authority of the author.


Dear Bill,
If we go back to the early church, in the first and second century, we find out how the various names used in John to describe inspiration were presented.

The Spirit of Truth (Jn 14:17 15:26, 16:13) “he shall testify of me” and “he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

The Comforter (Jn 14:16,26 15:26, 16:7) “he shall teach you all things”

The early Christian communities were led by people through whom which The Spirit of Truth or The Comforter could speak. “he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak:” Yes, they were mediums. The Spirt of Truth spoke to the communities through them, teaching them about Jesus and reminding them of what Jesus taught. We have examples of this in the letters from Paul, not all of these messages were recorded.

Another important function that the community leader performed was to channel The Comforter, helping the people to deal with the issues in they personal lives - providing comfort for these hunted Christians. These early Christians had a close relationship with the Spiritual World of God. This is why John taught them how to recognize The Comforter and The Spirit of Truth. (1 John 4). If a church leader started teaching about politics or other earthly power, they knew it was not a Holy Spirit speaking.

Unfortunately, by the fourth century the majority of these church leaders fell victim to the lust for power and no longer channeled the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26 was a direct comment by Jesus to the Apostles at the last supper. Extending it to all the writers of the New Testament, even the anonymous ones, and to every word they wrote, even the ones they claim to be personal opinion, seems a philosophy and hope more than a revelation of scripture.

Extending it to believers today is an evened longer leap, but it is one I have seen done.

On your first paragraph, you seem to have misread my posts or drawn a spurious conclusion from them. All I wrote was that the writings of the early church leaders and their us of the word translated inspiration is helpful in understanding the word inspiration in the Bible, where it is only used once.

No one, certainly not me, said insight is not available from the NT.

No disagreement here.

Why limit this comment when we don’t limit others. Or should we not be doing as commanded in Matthew 28:19-20?

I explained my sense of inspiration above and I never said every word was necessarily inspired.

So what exactly do you think inspiration means based on this understanding? You have never said.

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Don’t we limit it? Is every single Christian on earth commanded to go to to all nations and make disciples? Have you?

Yes. Ethne are people groups, not places on a map. Christians can stay in their “Jerusalem” (Acts 1:8) and disciple the nations though, not everyone needs to go to the ends of the earth.


That accords well with my perspective (which of course is biblical, it goes without saying… tongue in cheek :slightly_smiling_face:):

I disagree we are all—everyone—called to go to go to all nations, or to all of the world, as the body of Christ has many members with different talents and missions.

These commands were given to the 11. And they did spread out. Tradition has Thomas going to India. Others to Armenia.

Mark 16:14-18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Commissions the Disciples

14 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.[a] 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news[b] to the whole creation. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes in their hands,[c] and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

And, as mentioned before, not all believers are led into “all truth.” That was a promise to the Apostles. If we were led into all truth, there would not be so many denominations and theology forums would have no disagreements.

And the Apostles were led into the startling (to them and other Jews) truth that the church was open to the Gentiles without the obligation to keep the law of Moses. It did take Peter having a vision three times then a spontaneous outpouring of charismatic gifts to convince them.

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That brings up a related point. Are current days tongues and interpretation and prophetic utterances the result of inspiration?

You are misreading the command. The commission to make disciples applies to all believers. It is not limited to a single ethnic group. (Remember the gospel for the Gentiles was a mind-blowing thing back in the day.) It’s a corporate command to take that disciple-making to all nations, obviously every individual is not going to make disciples from every nation. But every believer should be making disciples from at least one people group. The Evangelistic nature of Christianity is not limited to the Great Commission or the work of the apostles. I’m not going to debate this if you argue it is, I’m just going to chalk it up to one more area you are completely out of step with the historic Christian faith and seem to be inventing your own on the fly.

It is not that I am misreading the command, it is that you are misreading or misinterpreting my posts.

My comments were directly related to the topic of whether we all should go to different nations as missionaries. You seem to have read into my comments something that was never there.

My point is that some are called to stay where they are, and this Commission was given to the 11.

By the way, you are quick to insult based on your misreadings and misinterpretations. This is not proper or gracious.