Inspiration of Scripture
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction…

The word Inspiration itself is evidently a figure. It may be illustrated by another word. "Inspiration" is a breathing into: "influence" is a flowing into: neither word is self-explanatory; the former, like the latter, may clearly admit of degrees and modifications. The word Inspiration occurs twice in the English Version of the Bible. "But there is a spirit πνεῦμα in man: and the inspiration πνοὴ of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8). "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God θεόπνευστος, and is profitable for doctrine," etc. (ver. 16). In the one passage instruction is the chief thought, in the other edification. The word occurs twice also in the Prayer-book. "Grant to us Thy humble servants that by Thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good," etc. (Collect for the fifth Sunday after Easter). "Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee," etc. (Collect in the Communion service). In both these sanctification is the end in view. Definition is still wanting. In several passages of the Epistles (as, for example, Romans 15:4, and 2 Peter 1:20, 21) strong terms are employed to describe the objects and uses of Old Testament Scripture as a whole, and its source in the agency of the Holy Spirit. Nothing can be more inclusive than St. Paul's ὅσα προεγράφη, nothing more emphatic than St. Peter's ἐλάλησαν ἀπὸ Θεοῦ. Yet definition is still wanting alike of the word and of the thing. Theories of Inspiration have been many, but it is not in conjecture or in reasoning that our idea of it should be sought. The only true view of Inspiration will be that which is the net result of a lifelong study of Scripture itself, with all freedom in registering its phenomena, and all candour in pondering the question, "What saith it concerning itself?" It is easy to see (and the Church of the present day is honest in avowing it) that the real truth must lie somewhere between two extremes — the extreme of verbal inspiration on the one side, and the extreme of a merely human composition on the other.


1. Its utter unlikeness to all God's dealings in nature and grace. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom" — freedom, not bondage; freedom, not rigidity.

2. The language of the New Testament as to the difference between "letter" and "spirit," between γράμμα and πνεῦμα — the deadness of the one, the power of the other. As soon as Inspiration itself is tied to the clause and the sentence, to the precise shape and form of the utterance, and the black and white page of the written or printed book, it too is turned from the πονὴ into the χειρόγραφον, and has lost the very φορὰ of the Spirit which made it a προφητεία (2 Peter 1:21).

3. Such passages, for example, as the opening verses of St. Luke's Gospel, which speak only of diligent research and a thoughtful judgment as his guides in composing; or St. Paul's expressions in the seventh chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, as to his speaking not always with authority, but sometimes in the tone of suggestion and advice; or again, St. Peter's remarks upon the Epistles of St. Paul, which in the same breath he describes, by clear implication, as "scriptures," and yet characterises with a freedom which would be irreverent and almost impertinent if each line of those "scriptures" had been verbally inspired.

4. The observation of differences of style and method between one Scripture writer and another; the employment, for example, by one of irony and sarcasm, by another of no weapons but those of simple persuasion.

5. The fearful importance attached to each reading and each rendering of each verse and clause of Scripture, if one was, and another was not; the very word dictated or the very thought breathed from heaven.

6. Also the utter grotesqueness of such an idea as the revelation of science, whether astronomy, geology, or ethnology — which yet there would have been if, where such objects are involved, the phrases and the sentences had been literally and verbally inspired of God; implying an anticipation, perhaps by many centuries, of discoveries for which God had made provision in His other gift of reason, and which it would have been contrary to all His dealings thus to forestall. "Man's extremity is God's opportunity"; that which lie had given faculties for finding out in time, He would not interpose, before the time came, to precipitate.

7. The terrible risk to mankind of pinning down the faith to statements utterly indifferent to spiritual profiting, which yet, if philosophically accurate, must for whole ages bear the appearance of error. And who shall guarantee the Bible, even if accurately written up to the science of the nineteenth century, from being condemned by the science of the twentieth?

II. If such are the confusions and contradictions of the one extreme, THE OTHER EXTREME IS YET MORE PERILOUS. The practical elimination (now so common)of the Divine element in' Scripture is fatal in every sense to its inspiration.

1. It reduces Scripture to the level (at best) of works of human genius; and, when this is done, makes the question, for each book, a comparative one, in which some books would be exposed to a disparaging judgment.

2. It sends us back to human reasoning, which is on many topics (such, for example, as immortality, forgiveness, and spiritual grace) human guessing, for all our information on things of gravest concern.

3. It contradicts(1) express declarations of the New Testament Scriptures as to the Divine authority of the Old, as well as(2) express assertion of Divine illumination, promised and experienced, in the blew Testament writers themselves.

4. It does violence to the continuous doctrine of the Church of all ages, which has from the very first been express and peremptory in its view of the Divinity of the Scripture.

5. It leaves us practically destitute, even of a revelation. Because, though there might be a revelation without an inspiration (that is, a gospel of Christ, brought into the world by Him, and by Him communicated to His apostles, and by them to after ages, without a separate inspiration of the writers of its records), yet, as a matter of fact, it is by Scripture that we test our revelation, and that which shakes the authority of Scripture shakes the certainty of the revelation which Scripture enshrines.

III. BETWEEN THESE TWO EXTREMES LIES SOMEWHERE THE VERY TRUTH ITSELF ABOUT INSPIRATION. It would be arbitrary to define it so precisely as to unchristianise those who cannot see with us. That there is both a human and also a Divine element in the Bible is quite certain. Some things we may say with confidence.

1. Inspiration left the writer free to use his own phraseology, even his mode of illustrating and arguing.

2. It did not level the characteristic features of different minds, life one could imagine the Epistle to the Galatians written by St. John, or the Epistle of St. James written by St. Paul.

3. It did not supersede the necessity of diligence in investigating facts, nor the possibility of discrepancies in recording them; though it is more than probable that most or all of these would be reconciled if we knew all.

4. While it left the man free in the exercise of all that was distinctive in his nature, education, and habits of thought, it communicated nevertheless an elevation of tone, an earnestness of purpose, a force and fire of holy influence, quite apart and different from that observable in common men.

5. It communicated knowledge to the man of things otherwise indiscoverable, and also to the writer of things which it was the will of God to say by him to the hearer or reader.


1. Let us think what would have become of the παραφήκη itself, under whichever or whatever dispensation, if it had been left to depend upon oral transmission.

2. Let us give weight to the passages (some of them quoted above) which assert Inspiration in the strongest possible terms.

3. Most of all, let us live so much in the study of Scripture, as to acquire that reverent and devout conception of it which is ever deepest and strongest in those who best know it. A Christian man able to treat the Bible slightingly would be a contradiction in terms.

(Dean Vaughan.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

WEB: Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,

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