OceanSide church of Christ

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Part of the series: THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD
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Theories of Inspiration

Victor M. Eskew




A.   In religious circles, most will affirm that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

1.     This might be comforting.

2.    But, we must be wary.  Individuals mean different things when they talk about inspiration.


B.   In this lesson, we want to do two things.

1.     We will look at some of the “types” of inspiration in which some believe.

2.    We will examine the meaning of Biblical inspiration.




A.   I Thessalonians 5:21-22


Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.  Abstain from all appearance of evil.


1.     Prove:  to test, examine, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not)

2.    When in discussion with others about the inspiration of the Bible two questions must be asked.

a.    Do you believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God?

b.    How do you define Biblical inspiration?


B.   Numerous theories exist:

1.     Natural inspiration

a.    This type of inspiration has nothing to do with God and supernatural power.

b.    This type of inspiration has to do with the qualities of the person who is said to be inspired.

1)     A greater natural ability to write about spiritual things

2)    A greater intelligence in spiritual matters

3)     A heightened state of mind at the time of writing

c.    ANSWER:  If this is all that is involved in inspiration, the writers should have always understood what they were saying or writing, but they did not.  (Example:  Peter)

1)     On the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed that the blessings of the gospel were to all that are afar off (Acts 2:39).  This involved the Gentiles.

2)    Yet, it took several years, a vision from God, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit to convince him to allow the Gentiles to hear and obey the gospel (Acts 10).

2.    Illumination inspiration

a.    God took ordinary men and increased their ability to speak on spiritual things.

b.    ANSWER:  Man was not given the thoughts and the words by God according to this theory.  His abilities were merely increased.  The Bible says that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation (II Pet. 1:20).

3.     Neo-orthodox inspiration

a.    Inspiration is a mystery that cannot be explained. 

b.    However, it “becomes” inspired to the one who reads it as he applies certain truths to his life at certain times.

c.    ANSWER:  This view of inspiration is subjectivism at its best.  Each person can be illuminated in many different directions (I Cor. 1:10).


Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.


4.    Concept or thought inspiration

a.    God gave the major concept to the mind of the inspired man, but left him free to develop those concepts with his own words, education, and style.

b.    ANSWER:  This theory of inspiration accounts for the diversity of the text, but it does not explain the details of the text.

1)     Jesus argued the fact of resurrection based upon the tense of a verb.

a)    Moses recorded God’s words to him at Sinai (Exo. 3:6a).


Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.


b)    Jesus’ use of this text (Matt. 22:31-32).


But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.


-       The arguments centers upon the words “I am.”  The verb “am” is a present tense verb.

-       When God spoke to Moses, He was still the God of the three patriarchs even though they had been dead for years.

-       Their bodies were buried, but their spirits continued to live.

-       By the power of God, their living spirits would one day be reunited with their bodies in resurrection.

2)    Paul made an argument based upon one letter in his epistle to the Galatians (Gal. 3:16).


Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.  He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed which is Christ.



5.    Partial or Dynamic Inpiration

a.    The Bible contains the Word of God.  Certain portions of the Bible are inspired, namely, those relating to salvation.  Other parts are just the words of man and are subject to error (history, science, geography, etc.).

b.    ANSWERS:

1)     Who is going to be the “god” who determines what is inspired and what is not inspired?  Here’s how some answer:  “Under grace, with attention to tradition, interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with intelligence and learning we can learn its overall message.”

2)    Question:  If we cannot trust some parts of the Bible, how can we really trust any of it?

6.    Verbal dictation theory

a.    God spoke every word of the Bible and the writers were merely dictators of what they heard.

b.    ANSWER:  This theory acknowledges that every word is inspired, but fails to account for the differences in style among the writers.  If they dictated from the same Being, only one style would be prevalent through-out, that is, God’s style.




A.   Let us begin this section with some definitions.

1.     Verbal:  word-for-word

2.    Plenary:  full, complete, entire

3.     Infallible:  absolutely trustworthy or sure

4.    Inerrant:  free from errors

5.    NOTE:  This refers to the original documents penned by the inspired writers.  These documents are referred to as manuscripts (MSS).

6.    Psalm 19:7-9


The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:  the testimony of the Lord is sure making wise the simple.  The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart:  the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever:  the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.


a.    Note the words used to describe God’s Word:  perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true and righteous.

b.    In essence, the writer is saying that the Word of God is inspired of God.


B.   The process of inspiration

1.     There were things that man needed to know that where hidden in the mind of God (I Cor. 2:9).


But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which the Lord hath prepared for them that love him.




2.    God revealed them to man by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:10).


But God hath revealed them (the things of v. 10) unto us by his Spirit:  for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.


3.     What the Holy Spirit revealed originated solely with God.  Man did not originate the divine revelation.

a.    The Scriptures do not involve man’s private interpretation (II Pet. 1:20-21).


Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.   For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, buy holy men of God speak as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.


b.    Man did not have to think to reveal the divine message (Matt. 10:19-20).


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.


c.    Nothing that was proclaimed by inspiration had been taught to them by any man (Gal. 1:11-12).


But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after men.  For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.


4.    The Holy Spirit gave the writers the very words to say or write.

a.    Two verses

1)     II Samuel 23:2


The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.


2)    I Corinthians 2:13


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.


b.    The reason this was not dictation is because the Holy Spirit used the inspired man’s education, vocabulary, style, and experiences in the delivery of the message.

c.    The human being wrote the words (Gal. 6:11), but he knew that he had the Spirit of God (I Cor. 2:16).


For who hath the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ.


d.    NOTE:  The Holy Spirit ensured the accuracy of the message from start to finish.

5.    The Holy Spirit guided the inspired writers into “all truth” (John 16:13).  By the close of the first century, God’s revelation to man was “once for all time” delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).




A.   The original documents, the manuscripts, penned by inspired men were flawless.  Every word contained in them was the Word of God.


B.   We, however, are 2000 years removed from those documents.  In fact, not one of those originals still exists.

1.     What you and I possess is called a translation.

2.    Is it accurate?  Is it reliable?  Is it the Word of God?

3.     ANSWER:  Yes, and, we will study more about this in our next lesson on the Word of God.