Divine Inspiration: Verbal Accuracy & Modern Bible Translations

John 17:8; John 6:63; John 12:49
        I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that that I came out from thee, and have believed that thou didst send me.
        The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
       For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say and what I should speak.*

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of the doctrine of the Divine inspiration of Scripture. This is the strategic center of Christian theology, and must be defended at all costs. It is the point at which our Satanic enemy is constantly hurling his hellish battalions. Here it was he made his first attack. In Eden he asked, “Yea, hath God said?” and today he is pursuing the same tactics.

JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): Many men have invented several ways to lessen the authority of the Scriptures, and few are willing to acknowledge an immediate speaking of God unto them therein.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): You will notice that attacks are frequently made as against verbal inspiration. The form chosen is a mere pretext. Verbal inspiration is the verbal form of the assault, but the attack is really aimed at inspiration itself.

WILLIAM ARNOT (1808-1875): Some raise a debate about inspiration, whether every word be inspired, or only some; but there was no such idea in Paul’s mind.

ROBERT HALDANE (1764-1842): Paul does not say the meaning of all Scripture, or the ideas contained in it, but all Scripture—all writing, or all that is written—is given by inspiration of God, 2 Timothy 3:16. We have here a most unequivocal testimony to the inspiration of the words of Scripture, for neither a meaning, nor an idea, can be expressed in writing, except by words. If any writing is inspired, the words of necessity must be inspired, because the words are the writing; for what is a writing, but words written? The thoughts and sentiments are the meaning of the words. To say that a writing is inspired, while the words are uninspired, is a contradiction in terms. The affirmation of Paul, then, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” respects the words as containing the meaning, and not the meaning as containing the words.

J. H. MERLE d’AUBIGNÉ (1794-1872): Not only did the Holy Spirit inspire the sacred writers with doctrines and thoughts; He gave them also the proper expressions, the words they should utter. There are no ideas without words.

C. H. SPURGEON: Those who reject verbal inspiration must in effect condemn the great apostle of the Gentiles, whose teaching is so frequently based upon a [single] word.

ROBERT HALDANE: Of this we have examples, I Corinthians 15:27,28 and Hebrews 2:8, where the interpretation of the passages referred to depends on the word “all”. Again, Galatians 3:16, a most important conclusion is drawn from the use of the word “seed” in the singular, and not in the plural.

A. W. PINK: So, too, the Holy Spirit had to superintend the writing of the very letter of Scripture in order to guarantee its accuracy and inerrancy.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): [Christ said] Verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled, Matthew 5:18. Observe, the care of God concerning His law extends itself even to those things that seem to be of least account in it, the iotas and tittles.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): One jot―which is the least letter in the alphabet. Irenæus calls it a half-letter; and Luther rendereth this text, “not so much as the least letter.”

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): How deeply important is all this, in this day of human tampering with the Word of God!

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Let us be careful, my friends, with these modern translations.

C. H. SPURGEON: We know that the Holy Spirit did not use words at random, and we shall never consent to that liberalism which, in destroying the shell of the language, really kills the life-germ of the meaning.

A. W. PINK: To say that the inspiration of the Scriptures applies to their concepts and not to their words; to declare that one part of Scripture is written with one kind or degree of inspiration and another part with another kind or degree, is not only destitute of any foundation or support in the Scriptures themselves, but is repudiated by every statement in the Bible.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Christ did not say of His thoughts, but of His words, that “they are spirit and life.”*

LORD SHAFTESBURY (1801-1885): Depend upon it, my friends, that there is no security whatever except in standing upon the faith of our fathers, and saying with them that the blessed Book is “God’s Word written,” from the very first syllable down to the very last, and from the last back to the first.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): All is alike inspired. Every chapter, and verse, and word, is from God.

ROBERT HALDANE: Such, then, is the perfection of the Bible, for the writing of which, the most complete inspiration was absolutely indispensable, in order that it should be entirely the word and the work of God—in thought—in meaning—in style—in expression—in every part—in the strictest sense, the word or voice of God to man. Each part is necessary in its place to complete the whole—and if any one part were wanting, however inconsiderable it may appear, that absolute perfection, that complete adaptation to the end proposed, which belongs to the Book of God, would be destroyed. Christians ought to beware of giving up in the smallest degree the inspiration of the Bible.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: O how important it is that we should keep our eye on these various translations and versions!

JOHN ROBINSON (1575-1625): That translation is most exact, which agrees best with the original, word for word, so far as the idiom, or propriety of the language will bear.
*Editor’s Note: Our three opening Bible texts demonstrate the supreme importance that our Lord Jesus Christ placed upon the particular words that He spoke. This verbal word accuracy is extremely important to Bible translation. The King James Version of the Bible was translated using the principle of “formal equivalence,” meaning that each Greek or Hebrew word in the original manuscripts is represented with an English word, as far as the language allows. The KJV is God-centered and its focus is that the very words themselves are God’s words. But some modern English translations, such as the New International Version, use a translation principle called “dynamic equivalence,” meaning that “concepts” or “ideas” are what is important. The NIV is man-centered and its focus is on man’s understanding of God’s “ideas,” rather than upon specific words. Let the reader judge which translation principle best corresponds with our Lord’s viewpoint, and therefore, which translation is the most accurate.


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