“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God . . .” (2 Tim.3:16).

Our word “inspiration” has been translated from the Greek word theopneustos which means God-breathed, out-breathed, rather than in-breathed, by God. God did not breathe into existing literature or people. He didn’t inspire John or Paul, but rather he breathed out the Scriptures.

I. The Human Element

“Since the Bible is written by human beings, it must be treated as any other human communication in determining the meaning intended by the writer.” (Basic Principle 1 - McQuilkin)

What evidence is there that the Bible was written by human beings?

  1. The Scriptures point to human authorship. Mark 12:9: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.”
  2. The author sometimes stated his purpose in writing: 1 John 5:13.
  3. Research was undertaken: Luke 1:1-4.
  4. Life’s experiences are revealed: Psalms, Hosea, Jonah.
  5. The writing styles vary. This is evident even in translation.

II. The Divine Element

“Since Scripture is God-breathed and true in all its parts, the unity of its teachings must be sought, and its supernatural elements recognized and understood.” (Basic Principle 2 - McQuilkin)

  1. Some Scripture was written by the finger of God: Exodus 32:16.
  2. The Scriptures include the revelation of that which was otherwise unknowable by man: 1 Peter 1:10-12.
  3. Detailed predictions were given centuries ahead of the time of fulfillment. In Psalm 22, the sufferings of the Messiah are described: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (See Matthew 27:46)
  4. Words and visions were given by God. Isaiah 8:1: “Moreover the Lord said to me, ‘Take a large scroll . . .’”
  5. We have the evidence of God’s providential preparation of the nation of Israel and of individuals: Moses, the prophets, Paul.

III. The Extent of Inspiration

1. Verbal

The original manuscripts were inspired by God. Even the very words of the original were given by divine inspiration. Jesus said to the Devil: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt.4:4).

Note also: Exod.4:12; Jer.1:9; Ezek.2:7; Matt.5:18; 1 Cor.2:13; Gal.3:16.

2. Complete

Inspiration extends to all parts of the Bible: all books, all chapters, and all verses, although divisions are often manmade.

3. Inspiration covers:

  1. revelation - a direct communication from God to man
  2. the selection of documents, records etc.
  3. an accurate record of history and teaching.

4. Unity of the Scriptures

The author is the Holy Spirit. There is one theme. Everything fits together.

5. Progressive revelation

Truth is clearest in the New Testament. What may be obscure and incomplete in the Old Testament is revealed more fully as God’s redemptive plan unfolds throughout man’s history.

IV. Inadequate Theories of Inspiration

1. Genius

The idea that Paul, the apostle, was “inspired” like Shakespeare to write is wrong. There is no basis of comparison between Shakespeare’s plays and Paul’s writings. Paul was moved by the Holy Spirit to write what God wanted the people to hear.

2. Degrees of Inspiration

The Gospel of John is not more inspired than Ecclesiastes. All Scriptures are fully authorized by God although they differ in the purpose for which they were inspired and in their application.

3. Inspired Concepts

Some say that the ideas were divine, but men were left to express them in their own way. If this were true, we would not be able to depend on the infallibility of the Scriptures.

4. Partial Inspiration

Some say that the Bible contains the Word of God, not that it is the Word of God. They sit in judgment of the Bible and decide what is inspired. We need to let the Bible judge us.

5. Verbal Dictation

The writers of Scripture were not mere machines to whom God dictated what should be written down. God used the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen. The process is a mystery to us, but God does many things that we cannot understand with our limited human minds.

Jesus Christ gave a very high position to Scripture. He read the Scripture in the synagogues and quoted from the Old Testament frequently. He pointed out that the Scripture was authoritative and could not be broken (John 10:34-38).

V. Misunderstanding regarding Inspiration:

  • In normal speech, we use round numbers (army of 100,000 men). So does the Bible. Inspiration does not mean exact precision.
    • Num 11:21 But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot
  • Today we have standardized grammar & spelling. This was not true in ancient times.
    • The Kings sometimes have their names spelt differently in different books.
  • Sometimes we report a falsehood that someone has said. The Bible reports false accounts and does not claim them to be true.
    • Psa 10:4 In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
  • Today we use the figure of speech called a hyperbole, so does the Bible
    • e.g. Rom 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
  • We normally use descriptive language, not scientific precision
    • Gen 15:12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram.
  • When we tell a story, we select the most important parts to tell. If several people describe the same even, they will probably select different events.
    • e.g. the gospel writers
  • We summarize
    • Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is longer than Luke’s
  • Nowadays we expect a narrative account to be in chronological order. In ancient times, material would often be arranged topically or to highlight some aspect of history.
    • e.g. the book of Judges is not in chronological order.
  • Nowadays when we include a quotation, we expect it to be an exact quote. In ancient time, it was acceptable to interpret the quotation as you quote it.
    • We still do this when we are speaking, “Helen said she didn’t like the picture very much.”
    • e.g. quotations of the O.T. in the New
      • John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
      • It is not a direct quotation, but put together from several passages such as:
      • Isa 44:3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

VI. Alleged Errors

Alleged Error #1:

2 Samuel 10:18 1 Chronicles 19:18
But the Arameans fled before Israel, and David killed 700 charioteers of the Arameans and 40,000 horsemen and struck down Shobach the commander of their army, and he died there.The Arameans fled before Israel, and David killed of the Arameans 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers, and put to death Shophach the commander of the army.

Solution: The occasional tiny error in copying the text

Alleged Error #2:

Matthew 27:5 Acts 1:18
“So Judas threw the silver coins into the temple and left. Then he went out and hanged himself.” (later the chief priests used the money to buy the field)“Now this man Judas acquired a field with the reward of his unjust deed, and falling headfirst he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.”

Solution: Faulty Assumption

Two writers can include different details of the same event for their own purposes. Judas could have hanged himself and then fallen. Peter was emphasizing the fulfillment of prophecy through the death of Judas, while this was not a concern of Matthew.

Alleged Error #3

Matthew 26:34 Mark 14:30
“Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’” “And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny me three times.’”

Solution: Faulty Assumption

One writer can be more detailed than another.

Alleged Error #4

The Bible claims that the moon is a light. But we know that the moon simply reflects light, but is not a light itself.
Isaiah 13:10 “For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light;
the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light.”

Solution: Over-emphasis on scientific preciseness does not take into account normal human language (i.e., language that speaks from the perspective of the subject).

Alleged Error #5

Proverbs 12:21 Lk. 16:19–22
“The righteous do not encounter any harm, but the wicked are filled with calamity.” The rich man and Lazarus: The unrighteous rich man is unharmed, while the righteous poor man is experiencing calamity.

Solution: Faulty understanding concerning the nature of a proverb. A proverb is a general truth that does not necessarily apply in every situation. Here is a misunderstanding of the ultimate end of both men. The poor man, Lazarus, was the one who ultimately experienced peace, while the rich man experienced calamity after death.

Credit: Much of this page makes use of material from Sheila Evans and also “The Theology Program” at