A Brief Theology Of Inspiration part three

Inspiration NT 2

The Inspiration of The New Testament

In this final article on the inspiration of the Scriptures I intend to consider the testimony of the New Testament to its inspiration and the relationship of 2Timothy 3:16 to the New and Old Testaments.

The Testimony Of The New Testament To Its Inspiration

In the last article we saw that Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide His people into all truth, and that the promise guaranteed that we would have God’s words given to us by the Spirit through the apostolic Christians. Let’s see if the New Testament writers ever acknowledged that to be the case as they wrote.

The apostolic Christians knew that the Holy Spirit was going to be sent to testify of Christ, because Jesus had promised that He would (See John 15:26). This promise also contained within it the understanding that the apostolic Christians would bear witness to Jesus as well. After His resurrection, Jesus again told them that they would bear witness to Him after that the Spirit fell upon them (See Luke 24:44-49;Acts 1:8). The book of Acts gives to us the record of how the early church, being filled with the Spirit, testified to Jesus. I believe that it is a fair statement to say that the evangelists were testifying of Christ as they gave to the church their accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. But what about the rest of the New Testament?

Romans: Paul opens the epistle to the Romans, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: by whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:1–7, AV 1873)

Paul’s statement is that he is writing concerning Jesus Christ. While there is certainly room for someone to dispute this, it is certainly plausible that Paul understood himself to taking part in the work that Christ promised would be done by the Spirit.

1Corinthians: The apostle says, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:12–13, AV 1873)

Here we find Paul saying that his teaching was that of the Holy Spirit. He has no problem stating that the words that he is teaching are of God. Paul explicitly rules out his writing in the fashion of worldly writers, but claims that he is teaching the words which the Holy Spirit teaches, thus claiming Divine sanction for the very words that he wrote.

There are some who contend that Paul claimed that some of his words were not the Word of God, but his own. They do so because Paul said, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:” (1 Corinthians 7:10, AV 1873) (See also 1Corinthians 7:12,25) The context of this passage shows us, however, that Paul was stating that the Lord Himself had given no commandment regarding this issue when He was ministering upon the earth. In fact, Paul later states again that what he is saying is the work of the Spirit of God saying, “and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 7:40, AV 1873) Far from disclaiming inspiration, Paul states that his words are indeed inspired of God.

Concerning this passage Meyer said, “Paul knew from the living voice of tradition what commands Christ had given concerning divorce, Matt. 5:31 f., 19:3–9; Mark 10:2–12; Luke 16:18. Hence ὁ Κύριος, sc.παραγγέλλει, for the authority of Christ lives on in His commands (against Baur, who infers from the present, which is to be supplied here, that Paul means the will of Christ made known to him by inspiration). It is otherwise in 1 Thess. 4:15. As regards the ἐγώ, again, Paul was conscious (ver. 40) that his individuality was under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He distinguishes, therefore, here and in vv. 12, 25, not between his ownand inspiredcommands, but between those which proceeded from his own(God-inspired) subjectivityand those which Christ Himself supplied by His objective word.[1]” In other words, Paul knew and claimed that his words were inspired of God.

John Calvin made a similar statement: “But why is it that Paul speaks of himself as the author of these regulations, while they appear to be somewhat at variance with what he had, a little before, brought forward, as from the Lord? He does not mean that they are from himself in such a way as not to be derived from the Spirit of God; but, as there was nowhere in the law or in the Prophets any definite or explicit. statement on this subject, he anticipates in this way the calumnies of the wicked, in claiming as his own what he was about to state. At the same time, lest all this should be despised as the offspring of man’s brain, we shall find him afterwards declaring, that his statement are not the contrivances of his own understanding. [2]”

2Corinthians: Here Paul once again speaks of himself as being a minister of Gospel who is working under the power, influence, and leadership of the Spirit of God who was promised by Jesus. “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4–6, AV 1873) He later states that he has a God-given authority both in his preaching and his writings: “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: that I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. Let such a one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.” (2 Corinthians 10:8–11, AV 1873) Though he doesn’t explicitly state here that his words are inspired of God, these passages give us reason to believe that Paul saw himself as writing words that were given to him by the Spirit of God.

Galatians: In the book of Galatians Paul insists that he did not learn the gospel from men, but received it by revelation from Christ. He then speaks of the fact that the apostles gave him the “right hand of fellowship,” thus acknowledging that Paul was sent of God as they were. Though there is no mention of inspiration in this epistle, we can see that once again Paul sets forth an understanding that his preaching and teaching was of the same source as that of the other apostles, which source was the Spirit of God.

Ephesians: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” (Ephesians 3:8–13, AV 1873) Note that Paul sees himself as one whose apostleship is to bear witness of Christ (John 15:26) to the world. He also recognizes that the work he is doing for/in the world is also for the Ephesians. All of this is a gift from God to Paul that he might perform this ministry. He also recognizes that his work is to make known the revelation of Christ. These things demonstrate Paul’s understanding that his words are of the Spirit of God, because he is making known the revelation of Christ, teaching truth as an apostle, and testifying of Jesus. In fact, he later states that he is testifying “in the Lord” (Ephesians 4:17), meaning that he is not simply speaking in self.

Let us then note that Paul quotes both Deuteronomy and Luke and calls them both Scripture. “For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” (1 Timothy 5:18, AV 1873) Paul, we see, considers Luke’s gospel account to be the inspired Word of God just as Deuteronomy is.

Furthermore, Peter implies that the words of the apostles were of the same authority as the words of the Old Testament prophets (2Peter 3:1-2) and states that Paul’s writings were Scripture, thus attributing to them the same source and authority that we have already seen that the Old Testament Scriptures have as the inspired Word of God (2Peter 3:15-16).

Then we find John testifies of Christ as an eyewitness (1John 1:1-4) of Christ. He goes farther than that and states that his words are the very testimony of God. “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5:8–11, AV 1873) John states that the Spirit bears witness in the earth, and the what he writes is the witness which God gave of Christ. This means that John was convinced that his words were the words of God, testified through him by the Spirit.

Revelation: The last book in the New Testament begins by stating that it is “TheRevelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” (Revelation 1:1–2, AV 1873) John states what he is writing is the revelation of Jesus Christ, and that this revelation would tell us of things to come. When we recall John 15:26;16:12-17 we can see that John no doubt understood that what he was writing was the work of the Spirit of God. Not only so, but John stated that God gave this revelation to Jesus, who sent it to John. As he closed the book, John stated that what he was writing was the words of the Spirit of God. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17, AV 1873) Then he clearly states that the Revelation is of the same authority as the  Old Testament Scriptures by saying, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18–19, AV 1873) This echoes Deuteronomy 4:2. Finally, John closes and repeats that the Revelation is the Word of Jesus (Revelation 22:20).

Given By Inspiration Of God

In 2Timothy 3:16 Paul tells us that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The literal meaning of “given by inspiration of God” is “God-breathed.” When we speak we breathe. “Given by inspiration of God” is Paul’s way of saying that Scripture is God’s Word. WilliamHendriksen,inhiscommentaryon2Timothy,said,“ThewordGod-breathed,occurringonlyhereindicatesthat“allscripture” owesitsoriginandcontentstothedivinebreath,theSpiritofGod.ThehumanauthorswerepowerfullyguidedanddirectedbytheHolySpirit.Asaresult,whattheywroteisnotonlywithouterrorbutofsupremevalueforman.ItisallthatGodwantedittobe.[3]”

I am certain that Paul was speaking of all of the Old Testament, but I am also convinced that he had the New Testament in mind as well. B.B. Warfield, speaking about the canon of Scripture said, “In the apprehension, therefore, of the earliest churches, the ‘Scriptures’ were not a closedbut an increasing‘canon. Such they had been from the beginning, as they gradually grew in number from Moses to Malachi; and such they were to continue as long as there should remain among the churches ‘men of God who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’ We say that this immediate placing of the new books—given the church under the seal of apostolic authority—among the Scriptures already established as such, was inevitable. It is also historically evinced from the very beginning. Thus the apostle Peter, writing in A.D. 68, speaks of Paul’s numerous letters not in contrast with the Scriptures, but as among the Scriptures and in contrast with “the otherScriptures” (2 Pet. 3:16)—that is, of course, those of the Old Testament.[4]”

Looking back over the course of this article we see that Paul recognized Luke’s gospel as being Scripture. If we are correct in assuming that Luke did indeed follow Matthew and Mark, Paul probably knew of them as well. Having seen that Paul understood his own writings to be the inspired Word of God, we can reasonably assume that he was referring to them as well.

Having considered these things, it is safe to say that, when Paul spoke of Scripture being given by inspiration of God, he had the New Testament Scriptures in mind as well as the Old Testament Scriptures.

Concluding Thoughts

This series of articles is a series about the inerrancy of Scripture. Being given by inspiration of God, Scripture is God’s Word. God is true and cannot lie (Numbers 23:19;Deuteronomy 32:4;Titus 1:1-2;Hebrews 6:17). We can conclude that the Scriptures, being the inspired Word of God, are true and without error.

 

 

[1]Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to the Corinthians, Volume 1, ed. William P. Dickson, trans. D. Douglas Bannerman, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 201 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1879).

[2]John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, 1 Co 7:10 (Galaxie Software, 2002; 2002).

[3]WilliamHendriksenandSimonJ.Kistemaker,vol.4,NewTestamentCommentary:ExpositionofthePastoralEpistles,NewTestamentCommentary,302(GrandRapids:BakerBookHouse,1953-2001).

[4]Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Volume 1: Revelation and Inspiration, 452 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2008).

A Brief Theology Of Inspiration part two

Inspiration NT 1

The Inspiration of The New Testament

 

Is the New Testament given by inspiration of God? That is the question, is it not? Is God the source of the New Testament Scriptures? Is the New Testament the Word of God? If we let the New Testament speak for itself, we shall find that it presents to us a clear picture of its being the inspired Word of God.

The Promise of God’s Word By The Spirit Through His People

As God’s people think about the Word of God these days, there is often a critical factor that is overlooked. That critical factor is the promise that Jesus made to His church concerning the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised at least three different times that He would send the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit would provide the church with the true words of God.

First of all, we find Jesus making this promise specifically to the apostles. This promise is in regard to their being brought to judgment for their testimony of Christ. Jesus said, “And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (Luke 12:11–12, AV 1873) The apostles were instructed not to premeditate their answers, because the Holy Spirit would instruct them in their speech. Matthew’s record gives us a little more information saying, “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:19–20, AV 1873) In other words, the promise of Jesus is that the Holy Spirit would speak through the apostles the words of God. Though the apostle’s minds and mouths would be used, the words that would come out of their mouths would have God as their source.

Charles Hodge, teaching on the inspiration of the Scriptures, referred to these words of Christ saying, “If the Scriptures of the old economy were given by inspiration of God, much more were those writings which were penned under the dispensation of the Spirit. Besides, the inspiration of the Apostles is proved, (1.) From the fact that Christ promised them the Holy Spirit, who should bring all things to their remembrance, and render them infallible in teaching. It is not you, He said, that speak, but the Spirit of my Father speaketh in you. He that heareth you heareth me. He forbade them to enter upon their office as teachers until they were endued with power from on high. (2.) This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit descended upon the Apostles as a mighty rushing wind, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance (dabat eloqui, as the Vulgate more literally renders the words). From this moment they were new men, with new views, with new spirit, and with new power and authority. The change was sudden. It was not a development. It was something altogether supernatural; as when God said, Let there be light, and there was light. Nothing can be more unreasonable than to ascribe this sudden transformation of the Apostles … to mere natural causes. Their Jewish prejudices had resisted all the instructions and influence of Christ for three years, but gave way in a moment when the Spirit came upon them from on high. (3.) After the day of Pentecost the Apostles claimed to be the infallible organs of God in all their teachings. They required men to receive what they taught not as the word of man but as the word of God (1 Thess. 2:13); they declared, as Paul does (1 Cor. 14:37), that the things which they wrote were the commandments of the Lord. They made the salvation of men to depend on faith in the doctrines which they taught. Paul pronounces anathema even an angel from heaven who should preach any other gospel than that which he had taught. (Gal. 1:8.) John says that whoever did not receive the testimony which he bore concerning Christ, made God a liar, because John’s testimony was God’s testimony. (1 John 5:10.) “He that knoweth God, heareth us; he that is not of God, heareth not us.” (1 John 4:6.) This assertion of infallibility, this claim for the divine authority of their teaching, is characteristic of the whole Bible. The sacred writers all, and everywhere, disclaim personal authority; they never rest the obligation to faith in their teachings, on their own knowledge or wisdom; they never rest it on the truth of what they taught as manifest to reason or as capable of being proved by argument. They speak as messengers, as witnesses, as organs. They declare that what they said God said, and, therefore, on his authority it was to be received and obeyed.[1]” Hodge’s understanding was that the Holy Spirit was going to give God’s words to the apostles, who would then speak them. In conjunction with other New Testament passages, he has given to us an understanding that those who wrote the New Testament documents understood that they were writing under the influence of the Spirit of God who was giving them the words of God.

Next we find that Jesus also made a more general promise of the Holy Spirit being given to His people and residing within them. “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:15–27, AV 1873) The promise of the Comforter, as given here, is the promise of the very presence of God within the believer. He lives within us and is to us the love of the Father and Son as well as the manifestation of the Father and the Son within us. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and as such will show us the truth of our Father and His Son Jesus.

Didymus the blind, an ancient teacher from the late fourth century said, “The Holy Spirit then, Who cometh in the name of the Son from the Father, shall teach them, who are established in the faith of Christ, all things; all things which are spiritual, both the understanding of truth, and the sacrament of wisdom. But He will teach not like those who have acquired an art or knowledge by study and industry, but as being the very art, doctrine, knowledge itself. As being this Himself, the Spirit of truth will impart the knowledge of divine things to the mind.[2]” Thus we find that the promise here is that the Holy Spirit’s teaching would be the very words of Jesus. Jesus’ promise was that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things as well as reminding them of Jesus’ words.

Was this promise just for the apostles, or do we profit from it as well as they? It is my conviction that this promise profits the people of God today. The profit is that He dwells within the believer and gives Him assurance, peace, and understanding of the Word of God that He gave to us through the apostles. John Calvin stated essentially the same thing when he said, “The Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you. It is indeed a punishment threatened by Isaiah against unbelievers, that the Word of God shall be to themas a book that is sealed, (Isaiah 29:11) but in this manner, also, the Lord frequently humbles his people. We ought, therefore, to wait patiently and mildly for the time of revelation, and must not, on that account, reject the word. When Christ testifies that it is the peculiar office of the Holy Spirit to teach the apostles what they had already learned from his mouth, it follows that the outward preaching will be vain and useless, if it be not accompanied by the teaching of the Spirit. God has therefore two ways of teaching; for, first, he sounds in our ears by the mouth of men; and, secondly, he addresses us inwardly by his Spirit; and he does this either at the same moment, or at different times, as he thinks fit.

But observe what are all these things which he promises that the Spirit will teach. He will suggest, he says, or bring to your remembrance, all that I have said. Hence it follows, that he will not be a builder of new revelations. By this single word we may refute all the inventions which Satan has brought into the Church from the beginning, under the pretense of the Spirit. Mahomet and the Pope agree in holding this as a principle of their religion, that Scripture does not contain a perfection of doctrine, but that something loftier has been revealed by the Spirit. From the same point the Anabaptists and Libertines, in our own time, have drawn their absurd notions. But the spirit that introduces any doctrine or invention apart from the Gospel is a deceiving spirit, and not the Spirit of Christ.[3]”

Calvin understood that God’s Word was given to us in written form, thus he brought in Isaiah’s prophecy. He also knew that the gospel as preached by Jesus and the apostles was of the same origin and authority as the Old Testament Scriptures, being inspired by God. For this reason Calvin tells us that the Spirit will guide us into the same truths. In other words, the Spirit will give us a written record of Christ and His gospel just as we have the written Word of God in the Old Testament.

We find the same understanding of this passage in the ESV Study Bible: “That he will teach the disciples all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to youis an important promise regarding the disciples’ future role in writing the words of Scripture; see also 16:13–15. Jesus’ promise here is specifically to these disciples (who would become the apostles after Pentecost), though there is of course a broader teaching and guiding ministry of the Holy Spirit generally in the lives of believers, as is taught elsewhere in Scripture (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:16, 18).[4]”

We can conclude that this promise is of profit to the believer today, because he has the gift of Scripture through the Spirit of God, and he has the Spirit within him to help him understand the Divinely given Scriptures.

Finally we come to the passage which speaks even more clearly regarding the Spirit, the apostles, and the Scriptures. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:12–15, AV 1873) Jesus’ promise is that the Spirit will guide us into all truth. The apostles had not received all truth at that point. There were some things that they had not yet become able understand. Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide them into all truth, because He would speak the words of Jesus. These words of Jesus are to be found in the apostolic writings which we call the New Testament. Notice, too, that Jesus promised that the Spirit would show us things to come. Not only do we see that fulfilled in the Revelation, but we find that the New Testament writings are permeated with prophecy of the future. We have good reason to conclude that the New Testament is the Word of God given to us by the Holy Spirit.

Henry Alford stated concerning this passage, “As the directfulfilment to the Apostlesof the leading into the whole truth was the unfolding before them those truths which they have delivered down to us in their Epistles,—so, though scattered traces of the fulfilment of this partof the promise are found in the Acts and those Epistles, its complete fulfilment was the giving of the Apocalypse, in which τὰ ἐρχόμεναare distinctly the subject of the Spirit’s revelation, and with which His directtestimony closes: see Rev. 1:1; 22:6, 20. [5]” “This is in connexion with ver. 12—and sets forth that the Spirit guiding intotruth is in fact the Son declaringthe truth, for He shall shew forth the glory of Christ, by revealing the matters of Christ,—the riches of the Father’s love in Him (ver. 15). [6]” Alford seems to have understood that Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit giving to us God’s Word in the New Testament.

There could be given a multitude of quotations from various scholars, preachers, and commentators in support of this view. Let it suffice me to say that Jesus promised to the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them, remind them, and teach them that they might be used of God to give us His words in the New Testament Scriptures. As John MacArthur said, when commenting on Jesus’ words in this passage, “This verse, like 14:26, points to the supernatural revelation of all truth by which God has revealed Himself in Christ (vv. 14, 15), particularly. This is the subject of the inspired NT writings. [7]” In other words, The New Testament is the inspired Word of God which presents to us the truth of the revelation of God in Christ.

 

 

 

 

[1]Charles Hodge, vol. 1, Systematic Theology, 160-61 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[2]Saint Thomas Aquinas and John Henry Newman, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Volume 4: St. John, 471 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).

[3]John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Jn 14:25 (Galaxie Software, 2002; 2002).

[4]Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible, 2053 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).

[5]Henry Alford, Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, Jn 16:13 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2010).

[6]Henry Alford, Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, Jn 16:14 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2010).

[7]John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible : New American Standard Bible., Jn 16:13 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006).

A Brief Theology of Inspiration part one

inspiration OT

A Brief Theology of Inspiration

In previous articles we saw that Jesus and the apostles viewed the Old Testament Scriptures as the authoritative Word of God. It is my aim in the next few articles to consider the doctrine of inspiration. As we do so, we shall briefly look back over the Old Testament testimony, the New Testament testimony to the Old Testament Scriptures, the meaning of “given by inspiration of God,” and the New Testament testimony to its own inspiration.

The Inspiration of The Old Testament

There Old Testament does not present us with an explicit statement of its inspiration. That should not discourage us, however, because there is an abundance of testimony to the inspiration of the Old Testament to be found within its pages.

One noticeable thing is that there were times that we find God commanding men to write things down for posterity. For example, when Israel fought against Amalek and conquered them, YHWH told Moses to write a memorial of the battle in a book so that it would be remembered. “And the Lordsaid unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:14, AV 1873) We also see that God spoke the words of the law, and then Moses wrote them down (Exodus 20:1;24:4). Not only so, but later those records which Moses wrote down were spoken of as being written with the finger of God (Exodus 31:18;32:15-16;34:1-4,27-28). Instead of thinking that God actually has physical fingers with which He writes, I believe we should understand this as God speaking the words and Moses recording them as He spoke. The end result was that Moses, as the finger of God, wrote God’s words. Commenting on the phrase “written with the finger of God,” John MacArthur says it is “A figurative way of attributing the law to God.[1]” We could certainly say along with others that “The phrase ‘finger of God’ is best understood as an anthropomorphism, that is, a metaphor comparing some aspect of God with the traits of a human being. The phrase does not assert that the Lord God possesses a human body; it affirms that God, and not Moses, was ultimately responsible for the creation of the text inscribed on the stones (cp. 24:12; 32:16; Dt 4:13; 5:22; 9:10). The wording suggests that the means by which the words were recorded was supernatural, but does not indicate the exact method God chose to inscribe them.[2]” If we do subscribe to a miraculous recording of the law instead of Moses writing them, we still have a document that is the very Word of God.

After the tablets containing the law were broken by Moses, he was instructed to write them again. The command to Moses was, “Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.” (Exodus 34:27, AV 1873) We see that Moses was given specific words to write as he recorded the covenant that YHWH was making with Israel. Those words were the words of God, though written by Moses. JFB comments on this verse saying, “Write thou these words—that is, the ceremonial and judicial injunctions comprehended above (Ex 34:11–26); while the rewriting of the ten commandments on the newly prepared slabs was done by God Himself.[3]” Their thoughts were that God re-wrote the tablets of the law and commanded Moses to write some additional words regarding the covenant with YHWH. This does seem to be what happened, as Moses later said, “At that time the Lordsaid unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark. And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand. And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the Lordspake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the Lordgave them unto me.” (Deuteronomy 10:1–4, AV 1873)

At the end of Moses’ life he wrote even more and commanded Israel to keep it in the ark of God along with the tablets of the law: “And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,” (Deuteronomy 31:9–10, AV 1873).  Later he was commanded to write more concerning Israel and their covenant with God (Deuteronomy 31:16-27).   John Calvin commented on this passage and said, “Since the two Tables were enclosed in the Ark of the Covenant, a place at the side was assigned to the interpretation, so that they might have no doubt but that it proceeded from the same Divine Author…[4]” His understanding of this passage was that the Word of God as given to/through Moses was more than the ten commandments, but included the rest of Moses’ writings. It is instructive to note the context here, because Moses told Israel to keep all of the commandments which he had given them regarding the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 31:1-5). This leads us to the reasonable conclusion that  all of Moses’ writings were indeed the Word of God. When he concluded his writings he commanded the elders of Israel to put them in the ark of the covenant along with the law of God (Deuteronomy 31:24-26), thus signifying that they were equal to the ten commandments in their authority and origins. We have good reason to conclude that Moses’ writings were the inspired words of God.

Time and space do not permit us to exhaustively survey the Old Testament for testimonies to its inspiration, but we do find numerous instances in which other Old Testament writers and prophets declared that they were presenting the very words of God. David understood that he recorded some of the words of God (2Samuel 23:1-2). He also acknowledged the inspiration of the five books of Moses saying, “He hath remembered his covenant for ever, The word which he commanded to a thousand generations. Which covenant he made with Abraham, And his oath unto Isaac; And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, And to Israel for an everlasting covenant: Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, The lot of your inheritance: When they were but a few men in number; Yea, very few, and strangers in it.” (Psalm 105:8–12, AV 1873) David speaks of the Genesis account of God’s promise to Abraham as being God’s Word, as well as the promises to Isaac and Jacob. All of these things, and the law, are listed as part of God’s covenant with Israel. God’s covenant is His word of promise to Israel to be their God, and they His people. We can conclude from this that David recognized the Pentateuch as the Word of God. In Isaiah chapters six and eight we find Isaiah given commandments to speak God’s Word and to write God’s Word. Jeremiah was commanded to speak God’s words which God would put in his mouth (Jeremiah 1:1-10), and later spoke of those same words burning within him (Jeremiah 20:9). We also have record of Jeremiah being commanded to write God’s Word in a book: “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Thus speaketh the LordGod of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.” (Jeremiah 30:1–2, AV 1873) We find again in Jeremiah 36:1-2 that he is commanded to write God’s words in a book. This book was destroyed by king Jehoiakim, yet Jeremiah was commanded to write the words of God once again (Jeremiah 36:27-30). Ezekiel, too, was given a command to write God’s words (Ezekiel 43:10-11). So, too, was Hakkuk commanded to write the vision that he had seen (Habakkuk 2:1-2). If we couple this with the multiple instances in which we read of God’s words coming to people, men speaking the words of YHWH to Israel, and the many times that “thus saith the LORD” is cited, we find that the Old Testament certainly claims to be the inspired Word of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible.Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006.

[2]Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, 136 (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007).

[3]Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Ex 34:27–28 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[4]John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Dt 31:14 (Galaxie Software, 2002; 2002).