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Replay: Scripture and Inspiration

Posted by on Jun 22, 2013 in scripture | 19 comments

Replay: Scripture and Inspiration

Five years ago, I wrote a post called “Scripture and Inspiration.” Why? Well, to be honest, I’m not content with most of the pat answers that I’ve heard related to Scripture and inspiration. In fact, I don’t think most of the things I’ve been taught related to Scripture and inspiration can be backed up by Scripture itself. So, I wrote this post mainly to ask questions. When I first wrote the post, it resulted in a very good and edifying discussion, even among people who disagreed. Hopefully, we’ll find the same kind of discussion this time.

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Scripture and Inspiration

 
Last Sunday evening, I took part in another discussion group meeting. As I mentioned in a previous post, some friends of mine have started a discussion groups that meets about every other week to discuss a particular topic. For this meeting, the topic was “Scripture” – which is a very broad topic. We discussed several aspects of Scripture, but much of the time was spent discussing Scripture and inspiration. The following passage found itself woven through much of our discussion:

All Scripture is breathed out by God (inspired) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

I thought I would list some of the questions that we discussed. If you’d like to take part in this discussion (after the fact), feel free to offer your answers, or other related questions, in the comments.

1) If we accept that “all Scripture is inspired”, does this also mean that “all that is inspired is Scripture”?

2) In Colossians 4:16, Paul says:

And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:16 ESV)

Paul seems to treat the non-existent “letter to the Laodiceans” as being in the same category as the “letter to the Colossians”. Would the “letter to the Laodiceans” be inspired? Should it be considered Scripture?

3) We know (from Scripture) that God communicated many times with people in the past, but that communication was not included in Scripture. Was God’s communication which was not included in Scripture also inspired?

4) Many would say that God continues to communicate with people today, although many would also say that that communication is not the same as Scripture. Would God’s communication with people today be considered inspired?

Primarily, the discussion last Sunday evening helped me think about the terms “inspired” and “Scripture” separately. I think this discussion is going to continue helping me understand the role of Scripture in my life and in the lives of other people.


19 Comments

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  1. 6-22-2013

    Thanks for this post, Alan, it’s interesting and thought provoking. I’ve never thought it through properly, I just sense that I know the difference between inspired and scripture. Amazing how easy it can be to overlook things like that!

    It leads me to add another question to the ones you pose. Were the people who selected the books to be included in the canon inspired in their choices?

    When Paul wrote to Timothy that ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God’ he was referring to the Law, the Prophets and the Wisdom books, the New Testament had not yet been compiled and that very letter of Paul would eventually form part of it. So how do we know that the New Testament books are inspired?

    I’m convinced that many modern writings are indeed inspired, but they will never count as ‘scripture’. And that’s quite amusing because ‘scripture’ just means ‘writings’.

    Suppose one day an archaeologist finds copies of some of the other letters from the early church days – say before 120 AD. Would they count as scripture? Supposing they were more of Paul’s writings, would that make them more inspired than, say, a letter written by Timothy, or Silas, or Apollos?

    Thanks for provoking me into cogitating.

  2. 6-23-2013

    Correct me if I am wrong , but I believe that Paul’s statement about ALL scripture being an inspired work of God through men pointed to the old testament as “all scripture”. I would define scripture as the WILL OF GOD revealed to man to guide him out of the fall back to Himself hence reconciling man to God.
    The apostles did all they could to explain God through the teachings of His Son Jesus ( the LIGHT of God’s Will in “all scripture”). Were the teachings of Jesus through the Apostles inspired ? Yes.
    After the apostles came the church fathers who tried to do the impossible i.e sift through the work of the apostles and their contemporaries into inspired works and “uninspired works”….what they felt was uninspired, they discarded. The question is were the early church fathers divinely inspired in their putting together of the “new” testament? I do not really know, for , till I read through all the books they left out I cannot pass judgment. On my part I believe the church fathers should have LEFT THE SIFTING TO THE INDIVIDUAL believer to make up his own mind.
    Lastly , is the Bible as we see it today divinely inspired ? Yes, because a divinely inspired scripture would not loose its status in A BIG WAY even if some people’s works are left out….afterall they all speak about the same message of God, His Son and Spirit?

  3. 6-23-2013

    God Bless Alan,

    I’ve spent a lot of my time and life on this subject and I would have to say, there are hundreds of answers like Chris Jefferies.

    The TRUTH sets us free–right?

    If you really apply what he said–living the Law free you? Just a question.

    So what does the Word of God say?

    Well you’d have to take the Word and study it to find out–right? II Tim.2:15 Ok–so let’s do that–in which most people don’t–they like reading all around the Word but instead of actually studying it and reading it. mmmmm

    Ok II Timothy 3:16-17

    It tells that The Word is God-Breathed.

    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

    “all” Every time all appears, one must ask himself what the word all means because in the Bible the word all is used in one of two ways: it is either all with out exception or all without distinction. all without distinction means everyone in a certain designated class or group. If one wrongly considers the word all he will never rightly understand the Word of God or get its full impact. ok

    John 12:32 To understand this “all”

    read the verse–Is that all without exception or is it all without distinction? The answer is obvious. We know that not everybody in our community is a Christian; therefore, not all without exception have been drawn to Him. All who have believed, all without distinction, are the ones who have been drawn.

    Now in II Timothy 3, where it reads, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,””all scripture” means without any exception form Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.

    Observe carefully, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…”These five words, “given by inspiration of God” are one word in the critical Greek texts. The word is theopneustos. the is composed of two root words: theo and pneustos. Taken in parts, theo is “God” and pneustos is “breathed.” Theipneustos literally means “God-breathed.” “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” equals “all scripture is theopneustos” or “all scripture is God-breathed.”

    Now we ask, does God Breathe? You and I breathe but does God? John 4:24 records that God is a Spirit…The Greek texts delete the article a and simply say, “God is Spirit”furthermore, the Word of god says that a spirit has no flesh or bones.

    So what does “God-breathed” mean?

    God is Spirit so God does not breathe, but we do. Whenever the Bible attributes human characteristics to God, as does this particular scripture in II Timothy, it is called a figure of speech. the figures of speech in the Bile from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 are God’s markings in the Word as to that which He wants emphasized.

    This figure of speech, God breathed is so tremendous that I am taking this time to develop its greatness. Once you understand this, hundreds of scriptures will become very plain to you.

    God is Spirit, yet II Timothy says that all scripture is God-breathed. This figure of speech is called in the Hebrew derech benai adam which translated means “ways of the sons of man,” bringing God down to the level of man. Now the greeks took derech benai adam and translated it anthropopatheia meaning “pathos of man.” The Romans used this figure and called it condescensio in Latin from which is derived our English word “condescension”. Whenever the Word of God attributes human characteristics to God, the figure of speech is called in Greek anthropopatheia and in Latin, condescensio. This is the Holy Spirit’s emphatic making in II Timothy 3:16. The emphasis in not on the word “all” or on the word “scripture.” The emphasis in on the source, God-breathed. God put the emphasis where He wanted it; He maked it by this figure of speech.

    It’s vary interesting to note, so when are we going to stop reading the Word of God our way and start reading or studying the Way God wants us to read it. man o man, this is why there is so much confusion in this world, because people are all the time making the Word–the way “they” want it. anyway back to II Timothy

    The Word declares in II Peter 1:21, that holy men of God spoke. They used their own vocabularies and their own modes of expression. The Gospel of Mark is short and choppy: “and immediately,” “and straightway,” “and forthwith.” These words are used because the writer of the gospel of Mark
    was not a highly-educated man with a flowery vocabulary. But the gospel of John is different. John wrote, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that made.” How Beautiful! Why? Because of John’s style of writing.

    Now what does it mean to be”…moved by the Holy Spirit”? II Timothy 3:16 tells that all Scripture is God-breathed. Here in II Peter 1:21, The Word declares that these men were moved by the Holy Spirit. Whatever is “God-breathed” or to be “inspired of God” is to be “moved by the Holy Spirit.”

    Some people teach that God took the arm of Moses and shoved it around and in this way made Moses write what God wanted written. NO come on, what does the Word say here? It does not say “pushed around by the Holy Spirit” it says, …moved by the Holy Ghost. People are always guessing and offering opinions rather that reading the declared accuracy of God’s Word.

    What is it be be God-breathed and moved by the Holy Spirit? Galatians 1:11-12 contains this record.

    But I certify(guarantee) you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is NOT after man. Thank God for this verse man o man

    II Timothy 3:16 God-breathed
    II Peter 1:21 moved by the Holy Ghost
    Galatians 1:11,12 not after man–meaning revelation

    There is a mathematical axiom involved at this point: “Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” Therefore, God-breathed word = moved by the Holy Spirit = revelation; or God-breathed means to be moved by the Holy Spirit which is revelation. ok

    Another key here is “holy man” of God spoke who received this revelation. Holy Men NOT natural man, which is a body soul man. Born again man is or = body – soul – spirit, therefore this man is complete. Before Christ the spirit was “upon him”, after Christ (available to be born again) the spirit is “in him”. ok

    Every man in the Bible who wrote the Word of God had the spirit from God on him. There is only one author of the Bile and that is God. There are many writers but only one author. God is the author while Moses wrote, Joshua wrote, Paul wrote, David wrote and many others wrote. God being Spirit spoke to the spirit upon the holy men and told them what He wanted said. Then the men of God used their vocabularies in speaking what God had revealed. “For the prophecy (all that is foretold or forthtold) came not…by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (Spirit).”The original, God given Word literally contained no errors or contradictions. Why? Because God was its author. Holy men simply wrote down what God revealed to them. This is how we got the God-breathed Word.

    It truly is tremendous.

    Jim

  4. 6-23-2013

    Chris,

    I think it helps to distinguish between inspiration, Scripture, word of God, and canon. While there is certainly some overlap, there are differences as well. I think some of these questions and comments come from the overlaps and differences being overlooked.

    Franklin,

    Yes, Paul typically refers to what we call the Old Testament as “Scripture.” I think that’s what he had in mind here as well.

    Jim,

    I agree that Scripture is tremendous. I think it would be helpful to distinguish between the word of God and Scripture. While they overlap, they are not the same, even in Scripture.

    When Paul wrote “all Scripture,” I do not think he could have been referring to the New Testament Scriptures (Matthew-Revelation), which had not all been written, and thus could not be “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” at the time that Paul wrote. (However, some of those NT books/letters were certainly in existence, and I think Paul even had access to many of them.)

    Of course, that does not mean those writings are not “profitable” in the same way, it simply means that those books/letters were not part of Paul’s referent.

    Your comment raised a question for me. You said: “Every man in the Bible who wrote the Word of God had the spirit from God on him.” There are people today who have the Spirit of God and who write… What’s the difference between their writings and Scripture? (By the way, I do not think they are the same, but there has to be something more than “having the Spirit” to differentiate, right?)

    -Alan

  5. 6-23-2013

    I love Alan’s thoughtful, learned, yet, easy and gracious way with topics and the people who comment on them.

    Almost as much as I love your choice of the small case “w” for word of God in reference to the Bible!!

  6. 6-23-2013

    Chris,

    Using a lower case “w” is word of God is not a slight. I also use lower case for pronouns referring to God, and I capitalize Bible and Scriptures.

    -Alan

  7. 6-24-2013

    Alan wrote, ‘There are people today who have the Spirit of God and who write… What’s the difference between their writings and Scripture? (By the way, I do not think they are the same, but there has to be something more than “having the Spirit” to differentiate, right?)’

    I know, I know. It’s whether they used a pen or a keyboard – right? :-)

  8. 6-24-2013

    Alan,

    The difference between the Word of God and writings from believers is Revelation. Not saying the writings CANT be revelation, but that’s the difference. Just because I’m born from above or born again doesn’t mean my writings are revelation from God.

    All Scripture came by revelation. II Timothy 3:16

    What grounds do we have to say the NT isn’t dealing with II Timothy?

    And for the record the 4 gospels are part of the OT really. What separates the OT and the NT? The Day of Pentecost.

    Jim

  9. 6-24-2013

    Chris,

    Actually, I would say that today’s writings should not be considered “Scripture,” at least, not in the sense that we call a certain group of writings “Scripture” or “Bible” today.

    Jim,

    First, I hope you understand that I agree that the list of 66 books (Genesis-Revelation) that we call “Scripture” or “Bible” are revelation, God-breathed, inspired. I do not think that any other writings should be included in that list.

    Having said that, however, Paul could not have had that list in mind when he wrote 2 Timothy 3:16 (which does not mention revelation, by the way). So, in order for us to say that the “66 books” are God-breathed (or inspired) and that those “66 books” are Scripture, we have to accept that Paul recognized that other books (besides the ones he had in mind) could be “God-breathed” or “inspired.”

    That then raises a different question: “Which books (beyond the ones that Paul had in mind) should be included as ‘Scripture’?” Different followers of Jesus have answered that question differently at different times and for different reasons. (Interestingly, the “66 books” list is one of the most recent lists to be considered “Scripture.”) And, unfortunately (or fortunately), we cannot use Scripture to prove which books should be included as Scripture – since there is no list.

    So, is Scripture God-breathed (inspired)? Yes. Which writings should be included in the list that we call Scripture, and how do we decide? That’s an answer that we will not find in Scripture.

    -Alan

  10. 6-27-2013

    Hopefully you don’t mind the dialog,

    Learning on my part, what about Luke Chapter I,

    Jim

  11. 6-27-2013

    Jim,

    I love dialog, especially when the people involved what to help others grow/learn while they are growing/learning at the same time.

    I’m not sure what you’re asking about Luke chapter 1. Could you ask in a different way?

    -Alan

  12. 6-30-2013

    OK,

    God Bless and Thanks,

    Have you ever broke down Luke 1:1 through 1:5?

    This is a section of the Word that’s talking about the written Word.

    Getting into the greek and context and to whom it is written to and where the words were used before and understanding the foundation of the greek words, well its quite cool what it’s talking about.

    Luke is talking about the Word and other writings.

    In proceeding as a workman, there is basic information which must be kept in mind, the first of which is that no translation or version of the Bible may properly be called the Word of God.

    Why? Because it’s a version.

    Anyway, Luke 1:1-4 talks about the Rev. he received from God and other writings others wrote about.

    I don’t have time right now but I’ll send you my work on this, getting down to all and I mean all the greek and understanding this part of the Word of God. Why, because this section effects the Book of Acts as well.

    Jim

  13. 7-1-2013

    Jim,

    I’m familiar with Luke 1:1-5. The only mention of “word” in that passage is “ministers of the word” in Luke 1:2. This only refers to “the written word” if we assume that’s how Luke is using the term “word.” However, that is not specified in the passage itself. Instead, we only know that some who are “ministers of the word” wrote down accounts of Jesus’ life. To me, the phrase “ministers of the word” here is very similar to phrases like “ministers of the gospel” which Paul uses occasionally.

    I don’t see where Luke talks about “the revelation he received from God” in that passage. We might assume that, but we can’t build an understanding of the Scriptures (from Scripture) by assuming a meaning or referent. Otherwise, any other assumption is just as valid as ours.

    -Alan

  14. 7-7-2013

    Well I guess we have some learning to do then, cool, check this information out. This will bless you Alan,

    Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1 have something in common, and there’s a great connection involved, after all it’s the same writer.

    “Theophilus” means beloved of God, and as a figure of speech it refers categorically to all of God’s born-again believers who love Him and desire to live the Word, rather then to just an individual with that name. Using a figure of speech, God put special emphasis on the purpose and intent of this revelation, which is to bless His beloved ones.

    The only other time the Word uses the term “Theophilus” is in the opening verses of the Gospel of Luke. This correlation, along with many others, show that the beloved physician Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.

    There is a tremendous reason of Luke’s reference to “the first treatise” in Acts 1:1. The opening four verses of that first treatise, the Gospel of Luke, describe the precision and exactness with which it was written. God emphasizes the precision of Acts in a unique manner by this direct correlation to the standards laid out in Luke 1:1-4.

    In Luke 1:1, “forasmuch as” can also be translated “since”. “Taken in hand” is a phrase that indicates a previous lack of success. Other narratives failed. This does not refer to the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, and John, which are also God-breathed revelations. But even in Luke’s time, other writers attempted sense-knowledge narratives regarding the life of Jesus Christ. These were fictitious or “apocryphal” records filled with ludicrous stories, and some are still in circulation today. Here the Word states, for the learning of the believers, that many had unsuccessfully attempted by sense-knowledge histories and guesswork to do what God inspired Luke to set forth in written narrative form. That holds true for the Book of Acts in contrast to counterfeit accounts written and spoken to distract people from the truth God intends them to know. Here God got involved and gave the revelation to a faithful man who wrote it correctly.

    “To set forth in order” means to draw up. “Declaration” means narrative. In the Aramaic Peshitta text the word “believed is persuaded. This revelation is addressed to those who want to know that they know and be fully persuaded. The same holds true for Acts. These revelations are to be recognized not simply as sense-knowledge histories but as sections of God’s unalterable Word addressed to His beloved, and thus they are to be believed fully and applied with commitment. To sum up verse 1:”since many have attempted unsuccessfully to draw up a narrative of those things of which we are most surely and fully persuaded.”

    Luke 1:2 Even as they delivered (freely intrusted) them unto us which from the beginning (of Jesus Christ’s life, and later the beginning of his ministry) were eyewitnesses (autoptai), and ministers of the word.

    “From the beginning” is most appropriate to the gospel of Luke among the gospels because only Luke records the actual birth of Jesus Christ. By comparison, Matthew records some of the circumstances surrounding it, and also the visit of the Magi, which was about a year and three months later. Luke’s is also the Gospel to record the beginning of Jesus Christ’s public ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth, in Luke, chapter 4. This is the dual significance of the phrase “from the beginning.”

    the word “were” in Luke 1:2 should be translated “became”. The word in the Greek texts for “eyewitnesses” is the source of the English word “autopsy”. Luke was a physician (colossians 4:14) and in the Gospel of Luke and in Acts the use of medical terminology is an interesting study, because the revelation came in terms of this man’s understanding. This word “autopsy” has been degraded from its great Biblical usage in Luke 1:2. To do an autopsy today means to examine a dead body to determine the cause of death. But an eyewitness of God’s Word is involved in living history, studying the causes for life more than abundant. From a more positive point of view, in medical parlance an autopsy is also the “final word,” showing the final solution as to why something happened, and in that sense some of the depth of “eyewitnesses” in Luke 1;2 can be recognized.

    The word “ministers” represents the plural form of the Greek word huperetes, which means “one who lovingly and rightfully humbles himself to the authority of another.” This is what one does as a minister of the Word.

    Luke 1:3

    “It seemed good” means “I supposed it desirable.” Then the Word goes on to say, “having had perfect understanding of all things.” this phrase requires consideration. What secular historian world ever claim to have “perfect understanding” of his subject? Luke must have had a perfect source of information in order to make such a statement. “Perfect” is the Greek word akribos, which can be translated “divine,” “exact,” “precise,” or “accurate.” It is related to akris, a word used in Greek literature of climbing to the very “peak” or “summit” of a mountain. Every foothold and handhold must be taken with exact precision and forethought in climbing to the pinnacle, and that is the exactness connoted in akribos.

    As the Gospel of Luke is exact and precise, so also is Luke’s second treatise, Acts. Both were written with divinely exact and perfect understanding of the subject. “Having had… understanding” means “having followed up and traced accurately in minute detail” according to what God by revelation showed him to record.

    “All things” in Luke 1:3 does not mean all without exception. No one could record “ALL” of it. All things in Luke 1:3 means all things with distinction.

    Anyway that enough right now.

    jim

  15. 7-7-2013

    Jim,

    The information that you provided is available in standard NT intro books. I might quibble with a meaning or definition here or there, but for the most part I agree with what you’ve said. There are also strong connections between Luke/Acts and general historical writings of that time, although there are some differences as well. Also, I tend to believe that Theophilus was an individual.

    All that said, though, I don’t think you responded to what I said. In a previous comment, you said, “Anyway, Luke 1:1-4 talks about the Rev. he received from God and other writings others wrote about.” Again, in Luke 1:1-4, Luke does not mention a revelation that he received from God. Instead, he actually says that “eyewitnesses” delivered the “narratives” to him. I do believe that God inspired Luke to write both Luke and Acts, but that’s not what Luke 1:1-4 says, because that’s not what Luke wanted to communicate at that point. (It would have been easy for Luke to tell Theophilus that he wrote “the revelation I received from God.”)

    -Alan

  16. 7-7-2013

    ok thanks,

    God Bless,

    Jim

  17. 7-7-2013

    Thinking about the Word and how it communicates–“Theophilus”

    Luke 1:3 is the only place in the Word of God besides Acts 1:1 where the name “Theophilus” is used. Logically, this could not refer only to one person, for then God would be a respecter of persons. Other books are addressed to individuals, like Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, but the truths therein carry a much wider purpose and application to others in similar capacities in the Body of Believers.

    But anyway, I believe by way of the scriptures (the Bible) we have the Word of God and it is perfect. I believe by way of inspiration of God (God inspires) believers to write truths down to teach others, BUT its not the Word of God. Question? What can we trust? The Word or believers writings about the Word? The Word is perfect, the believers writings may not be perfect.

    This is why I get into the Greek and Hebrew to understand the perfect Logic available to us, all we have to do is keep digging it, until it makes since. I’ve been working some scriptures for about 15years to understand it, not what “I” think, BUT to understand “IT”. The Word of God. I’m tired of reading and studying all around the Word of God — NOW I’m studying the Word of God. People make up things all the time, and it’s crazy. Wow

    God Bless

    Jim

  18. 7-12-2013

    Jim,

    I agree that both Luke and Acts have broader application than just to their original recipient “Theophilus.” Your example of Philemon is a perfect example though, since he is only mentioned once in Scripture, and that is in the letter that is addressed to him. So, there is no reason to conclude that “Theophilus” is a code word for all believers.

    I agree with what you said about the difference between Scriptures and inspiration. Many can write inspired texts, but that does not make those texts Scripture. (Like I said earlier, I prefer the term “Scripture” since the phrase “word of God” can refer to many different things including Scripture.)

    -Alan

  19. 7-13-2013

    ok,

    Thanks, God Bless

    Jim