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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From All About the Bible, 1930’s
It is perhaps needless to say that the Bible was not actually written by the hand of God.
On two occasions—and on two only (excluding the writing on Belshazzar’s wall) —we read of the Deity writing; once in the Old Testament and once in the New; but on each occasion the writing was twofold. In the one case it was in connection with the giving of the law; in the other, in connection with an act of special grace on the part of the Lord Jesus: e.g. the Ten Commandments on the tables of stone given to Moses were, we are told, "written with the finger of God" Ex.31:18 & 32:16—see also Ex. 34:1); and in John 8:6 & 8 we read how twice over "Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground."
But such is the heart of man, that both of those writings were quickly obliterated. The tables of stone were dashed in pieces at the feet of idolatrous Israel; while the record on the Temple floor—whatever it may have been—was soon trampled upon by Pharisees and Scribes.
And although there may be a far deeper significance in these two remarkable facts than we yet see, it is possible that they may have been recorded as a solemn prophetic testimony against the treatment which the Word of God—both the Old and New Testaments—was likely to receive at the hands of man, who as the history has shown, breaks God’s laws and tramples upon the gospel of His grace.
It pleased God, however, that His messages of law and grace, instead of being actually written by His own hand, should be communicated to man through the intermediary of His servants, whom he specially fitted for the sacred task. This fitting of the writers of the Bible is what is known as Inspiration.
IT is, however, somewhat remarkable that, while the spirit of inspiration breathes on every page, and illumines every word of the scriptures, as we shall hope to show, the actual word "inspiration" only occurs twice in the whole Bible—see Job 32:8 & 2 Tim. 3:16.
As to the divine method of inspiration—i.e. the manner in which God communicated His thoughts and words to the writers of the Scriptures—there is really very little indeed to help us.
Let it, however, at once be said we do not believe that it partook of the nature of mechanical dictation, nor have we ever met any who viewed inspiration in that light. Such a theory is absolutely impossible, for it is perfectly clear that the writers of whom anything at all is known, not only maintained, but strikingly betrayed, their own undoubted individuality.
The stern character of Moses, the poetic nature of David, the love of John, etc., are clearly stamped upon their particular writings. SO that, instead of these men being turned into mere machines, as critics unwarrantably charge us with suggesting, their several individualities were evidently made use of by God the Holy Spirit in inspiring them to write His Book, which was intended to be read by "all sorts and conditions of men."
What then have the writers themselves to say on this subject of inspiration? Here are a few specimens:
In the case of Moses we are told that "God spake the words of the Lord" (Ex. 10:1); and in repeating them to the children of Israel he was able to say, "These are the words which the Lord hath commanded" (Ex. 35:1).
David said, "The spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue" (2 Sam. 23:2 ).
Isaiah said, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken" (Isa 1:2).
Jeremiah said, "Then the word of the LORD came unto me (Jer 1:4).
Ezekiel saw visions of God and wrote, "The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel " (Ezek 1:3).
Daniel tells us he received his message in visions (Dan. 7:1), and from the lips of Gabriel (Dan. 9:21).
Amos says he wrote "the words...which he saw concerning Israel," etc. (Amos 1:1).
John says what he writes is "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him" (Rev. 1:1).
Now it will be observed that, although prophets and apostles have made it perfectly clear that their messages were absolutely and wholly from God— i.e. they were written under inspiration—yet none of the writers tell us just how the operation took place. Indeed, the probability is that they did not always know themselves; when Jeremiah was first inspired he seemed for the moment quite unconscious of the fact, so that God had actually to tell him— "Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth" (Jer. 1:9).
The fact is, this is one of those "secret things which belong unto the Lord our God" (Deut. 39:29); and hence any attempt to define the exact nature or method of inspiration can only engender fruitless discussion, which must end in confusion. What we are told is that "holy men spake as they were moved—carried or borne along—by the Holy Ghost (2 Pet. 1:21).
So much has been written and said against verbal inspiration, that it is no wonder that those who have their faith somewhat shaken. Let us, therefore, now test this subject; it will bear examination, and the mere study of it will, I hope, prove both instructive and profitable.
Now, I have noticed that all, or nearly all, of those who deny verbal inspiration, argue that it is a matter of little or no importance. One writer, referring to dates and figures which he assumes to be contradictory, because he has apparently not studied them sufficient care, actually dares to say, "The Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible knew that these little details of genealogies and battles, and such like, in the history of Israel, were not a whit more important to us than similar details in the history of England!"¹
Quite apart from irreverence of such a gratuitous assertion as to what the Holy Spirit knew any one who has studied the works of God in nature knows that if there is one thing that appeals to mind and heart more than another, it is the marvelous care bestowed by the Almighty upon the minuest details; and closer the examination the more this is apparent.
For instance, while the point of the finest steel needle ever made by man, looked at under a microscope, appears as coarse as a rusty poker, the sting of a common wasp, God’s handiwork, is so marvelously constructed that when examined under the strongest glass, it is impossible to detect the slightest roughness or irregularity in it. "His work is perfect" (Deut. 32:4).
If, therefore, perfection is carried into such amazing detail in a short-lived insect, surely we should shrink from so blasphemous a thought that the same Almighty Creator has been careless and indifferent about the details of His Word, which He has magnified above His name (Ps. 88:2), which is to endure for ever (1 Pet. 1:25), and upon which the hope myriad of souls is based.
But what will my reader think when I tell him that the same writer, quoted above, says on the very next page, referring to these supposed discrepancies, "Perhaps they could be reconciled if we knew all the facts"? Then why does he go out of his way to shake men’s faith in the Bible, by attributing inaccuracy to its records, when he acknowledges that he does not know all the facts, and is, therefore, not competent to sit in judgement upon the Book whose Divine Author did know all the facts?
On the other hand, however, those who hold that the Bible is verbally inspired, reverently recognised that this question lies at the very foundation of our faith. And "if the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps. 11:3).
For the moment, however, the argument stands thus. If the Bible is verbally inspired there should be—there can be —no errors in it; for God could not make a mistake. If, on the other hand, it is not fully and verbally inspired, then the assumption is that some parts are from God, while other parts are purely human; in these latter parts we should naturally expect to find errors.
In regards to the first proposition, it should never be forgotten that, in spite of all the critics have said, no error or contradiction of any kind has ever been proven to have existed in the Scriptures as originally given by God.
And as the second proposition, we naturally ask, how much of the Bible is inspired, and how much uninspired? How are we to know? Who will come forward and draw the line between the divine and the human? Surely the thoughtful mind will recognize here the hand of the Evil One; for, while this would encourage some to play fast and loose with the Book by striking out unpalatable passages as uninspired, it would also tend to draw others towards Rome, whose priests are all too ready to act as interpreters to bewildered souls.
Now, quite apart from the direct claims which the Scriptures make to verbal inspiration and to which we shall refer later, it is remarkable how the Holy Spirit in the New Testament gives indirect, but unanswerable, testimony to the verbal inspiration of the Bible by laying stress, not only upon the word that was used in the Old Testament, but, even upon the tense and a mere letter.
The following passages will illustrate this fact without any further quotation:
Heb. 12:27. The writer of this epistle, quoting from Hag. 2:6, elaborates an important argument concerning the future judgement from the simple words, "Yet once more."
Luke 20:37. Here the Lord Jesus proves to the Sadducees the doctrine of the Resurrection by reminding them of the tense used by God when He spoke to Moses, centuries after the patriarch had been dead—that He did not say "I was the God of Abraham. Isaac, and Jacob," but "I am."
Gal. 3:16. Here the Holy Spirit, writing by the apostle Paul, proves the necessity of simple faith in Christ apart from the works of the Law, by calling attention to a single letter "s" in the Old Testament— "He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to they seed, which is Christ."
Moreover, it should be remembered that the Holy Spirit has distinctly stated, in 2 Tim. 3:16, that Scripture is given, not only for reproof, but also for "correction." Now let me ask the reader, how could an incorrect book be expected to correct us? and, yet this is only one of many such problems raised by those who deny verbal inspiration.
Words Inspired, not Thoughts Merely
Then, again there are those who tell us that it was the thoughts that God inspired, not the words—leaving the writer of Scripture free to clothe those divine thoughts in their own words; so that it is, alas! not uncommon to be told from our pulpits that the Bible contains the Word of God, but is not such in its essence.
Now the remarkable thing about this is, that it is exactly the reverse of the truth. If the testimony of Scripture is to be believed, God always gave the words, but He did not always give the thoughts!
This is made perfectly clear by the following passages, viz.—1 Pet. 1:10, 11: "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow."
Here we get the distinct statement that when the prophets wrote of Christ they actually had to study the prophecies of Christ which they themselves wrote, and even then did not fully understand them— inasmuch as they were not ministering to themselves, but unto us (1 Pet. 1:12).
Again, Dan. 12:8 & 9: "And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end."
Here we find Daniel writing words given him by divine inspiration which he could not understand!
Moreover, what could the psalmist have understood about the parting of the garments (Ps. 22:18), or the piercing of the hands and feet (Ps. 22:16)? Now, consider the remarkable detail of these predictions, and then imagine the awful blunders that must have occurred, had the wording of such mysterious prophecies been left to the writer’s choice—especially when we remember that death by crucifixion was not a Jewish practice at all, but Roman, and in its earliest form was not accomplished by piercing the hands and feet, but by tying with ropes.
There are no less than 333 prophecies in the Old Testament which centre in the person of the Messiah—every one of which, relating to His earthly life, has been fulfilled to the letter. But what a shameful exhibition of Human ignorance would have been revealed, had any one of these prophecies not been compassed by verbal inspiration!
Or take the account of the Creation. If Moses had been left to write those early chapters of Genesis in his own words, instead of the existing account—marvelous alike for its brevity,comprehensiveness, and scientific accuracy, what a mass of hopeless confusion would have been the result! as witness the Chaldean Legend for example.
Or, again, if John had been left to write in his own words the account of the things which must be hereafter, who could profitably have studied those mysterious visions?
Every one knows that, according to the forecasts of some uninspired prophets, the late King Edward ought to have died in 1902; and the world should have come to an end about half a dozen times during the last thirty years!
There was one man—Balaam—who, while under inspiration, made repeated attempts to speak his own words for the sake of reward (Jude 11), but found it an absolute impossibility (Josh. 24:10), and had to make this remarkable confession: "Have I now any power at all to say anything? The word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak" (Num. 22:38).