The Nature of Divine Inspiration

2 Timothy 3:16,17; Deuteronomy 29:29
       All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
       The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we do all the words of this law.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): While the soul is unestablished in the doctrine of the Divine Inspiration of the Scriptures—their full and verbal inspiration—there can be no firm foundation for faith to rest upon.

E. W. BULLINGER (1837-1913): The inspiration of Holy Scripture, and therefore its Divine authorship and authority, lies at the root and foundation of true Christianity.

JOHN VENN (1759-1813): What is the nature of the inspiration of the Bible?

ROBERT HALDANE (1764-1842): The question of inspiration has been viewed as one of the utmost difficulty; and, accordingly, various theories have been invented to explain it.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): The subject without doubt is a very difficult one. It cannot be followed up without entering on ground which is dark and mysterious to mortal man. It involves the discussion of things which are miraculous, supernatural, above reason, and cannot be fully explained. But the difficulties must not turn us away from any subject in religion…We must not give up the subject of inspiration in despair, because it contains things “hard to be understood.”

B. B. WARFIELD (1851-1921): The doctrine of plenary* inspiration holds that the original documents of the Bible were written by men, who, though permitted the exercise of their own personalities and literary talents, yet wrote under the control and guidance of the Spirit of God, the result being in every word of the original documents a perfect and errorless recording of the exact message which God desired to give to man.

J. C. RYLE: The position I take up is, that while the Bible-writers were not ‘machines,’ as some sneeringly say, they only wrote what God taught them to write. The Holy Ghost put into their minds thoughts and ideas, and then guided their pens in writing and expressing them. Even when they made use of old records, chronicles, pedigrees, and lists of names, as they certainly did, they adopted, used, and compiled them under the direction of the Holy Ghost…I do not admit for a moment that they were mere machines holding pens, and, like type-setters in a printing office, did not understand what they were doing. I abhor the ‘mechanical’ theory of inspiration. I dislike the idea that men like Moses and St. Paul were no better than organ-pipes, employed by the Holy Ghost, or ignorant secretaries or amanuenses, who wrote by dictation what they did not understand. I admit nothing of the kind. In some marvellous manner the Holy Ghost made use of the reason, the memory, the intellect, the style of thought, and the peculiar mental temperament of each writer of the Scriptures. How and in what manner this was done, I can no more explain than I can the union of two natures, God and man, in the Person of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. I only know that there is both a Divine and a human element in the Bible, and that, while the men who wrote it were really and truly men, the book that they wrote and handed down to us is really and truly the Word of God.

HENRY FOSTER (1760-1844): I believe the writers were influenced not only as to matter, but as to words. The original Scriptures are, I believe, the words of the Holy Ghost Himself. This is perfectly consistent with the preservation of the capacities and characteristics of the men themselves. He played on them as instruments. Not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, 1 Corinthians 2:13.

JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): We grant that they used their own abilities of mind and understanding in the choice of words and expressions. So the preacher sought to find out acceptable words, Ecclesiastes 12:10. But the Holy Spirit, who is more intimate into the minds and skill of men than they are themselves, did so guide and operate in them, as that the words they fixed upon were as directly and certainly from Him, as if they had been spoken to them by an audible voice.

J. C. RYLE: The result is, that the Bible is the written Word of God; but I can no more explain the process, than I can explain how the water became wine at Cana―or how a few words from our Lord’s lips raised Lazarus from the dead…Inspiration, therefore, being a miracle, I frankly allow that there are difficulties about it which at present I cannot fully solve. The exact manner, for instance, in which the minds of the inspired writers of Scripture worked when they wrote, I do not pretend to explain. I have no doubt they could not have explained it themselves.

ROBERT HALDANE: It is a subject we cannot comprehend; and in whatever way the effect is produced, it is our duty to believe what the Holy Scriptures assert…The Lord is able to communicate His will in whatever way He pleases, although we cannot trace the manner of His operation.

JOHN DUNCAN (1796-1870): The modus of plenary inspiration is incomprehensible.

J. C. RYLE: Inspiration, in short, is a miracle.

A. W. PINK: What the Bible teaches about its own inspiration is a matter purely of Divine testimony, and our business is simply to receive the testimony and not to speculate about or seek to pry into its modus operandi…The knowledge that the Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit involves definite obligations. Our conception of the authority of the Bible determines our attitude and measures our responsibility. If the Bible is a Divine revelation what follows?

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): It is the Word of God, and not the word of man, and has as real authority to call for obedience, as if God spoke it immediately from heaven.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Our knowledge must be in order to practice, for this is the end of all divine revelation, not to furnish us with curious subjects of speculation and discourse, with which to entertain ourselves and our friends, but that we may do all the words of this law.
*Editor’s Note: The word “plenary” means “unqualified, full, entire, or absolute.” The Bible  is the fully complete, absolute Word of God. Everything that God has to say to man, He has said in His Word, and as such, the Bible requires an obedience to its authority.


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