Biblical inspiration
Biblical inspiration is the doctrine in Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

 that the authors and editors of the Bible were led or influenced by God with the result that their writings many be designated in some sense the word of God
Word of God
Word of God or God's Word may refer to:*Divine revelation**certain Religious texts**Prophecy**Biblical literalism*Logos as "divine word"** in biblical creation, see Genesis creation narrative**in trinitarianism, see Jesus Christ the Logos...



The word "inspiration" comes from the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 noun inspiratio and from the verb inspirare. Inspirare is a compound term resulting from the Latin prefix in (inside, into) and the verb spirare (to breathe). Inspirare meant originally "to blow into", as for example in the sentence of the Roman poet Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

: "conchae [...] sonanti inspirare iubet" ("he orders to blow into the resonant [...] shell"). In classic Roman times, inspirare had already come to mean "to breathe deeply" and assumed also the figurative sense of "to instill [something] in the heart or in the mind of someone".

In Christian theology, the Latin word inspirare was already used by some Church Fathers in the first centuries to translate the Greek term pnéo. When Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

 translated the Greek text of the Bible into the language of the common people of Latium
Lazio is one of the 20 administrative regions of Italy, situated in the central peninsular section of the country. With about 5.7 million residents and a GDP of more than 170 billion euros, Lazio is the third most populated and the second richest region of Italy...

 (the region of central western Italy in which the city of Rome is located), in the passage of the 2 Tim
Second Epistle to Timothy
The Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy, usually referred to simply as Second Timothy and often written 2 Timothy, is one of the three Pastoral Epistles traditionally attributed to Saint Paul, and is part of the New Testament...

 3.16-17 he translated the Greek theopneustos as divinitus inspirata ("divinely breathed into"). (In English that passage reads: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God [theopneustos], 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.")

Theopneustos is rendered in the Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

 as the Latin divinitus inspirata ("divinely breathed into"), but some modern English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 translations opt for "God-breathed" (NIV) or "breathed out by God" (ESV
English Standard Version
The English Standard Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible. It is a revision of the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version...

) and avoid "inspiration" altogether, since its connotation
A connotation is a commonly understood subjective cultural or emotional association that some word or phrase carries, in addition to the word's or phrase's explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation....

, unlike its Latin root, leans toward breathing in
Inhalation is the movement of air from the external environment, through the air ways, and into the alveoli....

 instead of breathing out
Exhalation is the movement of air out of the bronchial tubes, through the airways, to the external environment during breathing....


The Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

 often referred to writings other than the documents that formed or would form the biblical canon
Biblical canon
A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

 as "inspired".


The Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 contains many passages in which the authors claim divine inspiration for their message, or report the effects of such inspiration on others. Besides the direct accounts of written revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

, such as Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 receiving the Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

, the Prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

s of the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 frequently claimed that their message was divine by the formula "Thus says the LORD" (for example, 1 Kgs 12:22–24;1 Chr 17:3–4; Jer 35:13; Ezek 2:4; Zech 7:9; etc.). The Second Epistle of Peter
Second Epistle of Peter
The Second Epistle of Peter, often referred to as Second Peter and written 2 Peter or in Roman numerals II Peter , is a book of the New Testament of the Bible, traditionally ascribed to Saint Peter, but in modern times NT scholars regard it as pseudepigraphical.It is the first New Testament book...

 claims that "no prophecy of Scripture ... was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1:20–21).

An exception common to all the different views of inspiration is that, although the New Testament Scriptures quote, paraphrase, and refer to other works including other New Testament documents, the Septuagint (the Jewish translation of the Torah into Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, later books were translated anonymously and later included in the Septuagint), including the Apocrypha
The term apocrypha is used with various meanings, including "hidden", "esoteric", "spurious", "of questionable authenticity", ancient Chinese "revealed texts and objects" and "Christian texts that are not canonical"....

, and the Greek writers Aratus
Aratus was a Greek didactic poet. He is best known today for being quoted in the New Testament. His major extant work is his hexameter poem Phaenomena , the first half of which is a verse setting of a lost work of the same name by Eudoxus of Cnidus. It describes the constellations and other...

, Epimenides
Epimenides of Knossos was a semi-mythical 6th century BC Greek seer and philosopher-poet. While tending his father's sheep, he is said to have fallen asleep for fifty-seven years in a Cretan cave sacred to Zeus, after which he reportedly awoke with the gift of prophecy...

, Menander
Menander , Greek dramatist, the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy, was the son of well-to-do parents; his father Diopeithes is identified by some with the Athenian general and governor of the Thracian Chersonese known from the speech of Demosthenes De Chersoneso...

, and perhaps Philo
Philo , known also as Philo of Alexandria , Philo Judaeus, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Yedidia, "Philon", and Philo the Jew, was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher born in Alexandria....

, none of the various views of inspiration teach that these referenced works were also necessarily inspired, though some teach that the use and application of these other materials is inspired, in some sense.

Second Timothy 3:16-17 is cited by many Christians as evidence that "all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable ..." (English Standard Version
English Standard Version
The English Standard Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible. It is a revision of the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version...

 – see similar language in the King James Version and the New International Version
New International Version
The New International Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible. Published by Zondervan in the United States and by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK, it has become one of the most popular modern translations in history.-History:...

, among others). Others offer an alternative reading for the passage, for example, theologian C. H. Dodd
C. H. Dodd
Charles Harold Dodd was a Welsh New Testament scholar and influential Protestant theologian.He is known for promoting "realized eschatology", the belief that Jesus' references to the kingdom of God meant a present reality rather than a future apocalypse.-Life:Dodd was born in Wrexham,...

 suggests that it "is probably to be rendered" as, "Every inspired scripture is also useful..." A similar translation has been included in the New English Bible
New English Bible
The New English Bible is a translation of the Bible into modern English directly from the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts . The New Testament was published in 1961...

, Revised English Bible
Revised English Bible
The Revised English Bible is a 1989 English language translation of the Bible and updates the New English Bible, of 1970. As with its predecessor, it is published by the publishing houses of both Oxford University and Cambridge University....

, and as a footnoted alternative in the New Revised Standard Version
New Revised Standard Version
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible is an English translation of the Bible released in 1989 in the USA. It is a thorough revision of the Revised Standard Version .There are three editions of the NRSV:...

. The Latin Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

 can be so read. Yet others defend the "traditional" interpretation, calling the alternative "probably not the best translation".

Roman Catholic

The Catholic Church holds the Bible as inspired by God, but does not view God as the direct author of the Bible, in the sense that He does not put a 'ready-made' book in the mind of the inspired person.

As summarized by Karl Keating
Karl Keating
Karl Keating , a prominent Catholic apologist and author, is the founder and president of Catholic Answers, a lay apostolate of Catholic apologetics and evangelization....

, the Roman Catholic apologetic
Apologetics is the discipline of defending a position through the systematic use of reason. Early Christian writers Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, "speaking in defense") is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of reason. Early Christian writers...

 for the inspiration of scripture first considers the scriptures as a merely historical source, and then it attempts to derive the divinity of Jesus from the information contained therein, illuminated by the tradition of the Catholic Church and by what they consider to be common knowledge
Common knowledge
Common knowledge is knowledge that is known by everyone or nearly everyone, usually with reference to the community in which the term is used. Common knowledge need not concern one specific subject, e.g., science or history. Rather, common knowledge can be about a broad range of subjects, including...

 about human nature
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

. After offering evidence that Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 is indeed God, they argue that his Biblical promise to establish a church that will never perish cannot be empty, and that promise, they believe, implies an infallible teaching authority vested in the church. They conclude that this authoritative Church teaches that the Bible's own doctrine of inspiration is in fact the correct one.


Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 see the Bible as a truly human product whose creation was superintended by the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

, preserving the authors' works from error without eliminating their specific concerns, situation, or style. This divine involvement, they say, allowed the biblical writer to reveal God's own message to the immediate recipients of the writings and to those who would come later, communicating God's message without corrupting it. Some Evangelicals have sought to characterize the conservative or traditional view as verbal, plenary inspiration in the original manuscripts, by which they mean that every word (not just the overarching ideas or concepts) is meaningfully chosen under the superintendence of God.

Evangelicals acknowledge that there is textual variation between accounts of apparently identical events and speeches, which would seem to have God saying different things. Some of these differences are accounted for as deviations from the autographa that were introduced by copyists, while other cases are considered intentional deviations that were inspired by God for particular purposes (for instance, the Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 was intended to communicate the Gospel to Jews, while the Gospel of Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

 was intended to communicate it to non-Jews).

Many Evangelicals consider biblical inerrancy
Biblical inerrancy
Biblical inerrancy is the doctrinal position that the Bible is accurate and totally free of error, that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact." Some equate inerrancy with infallibility; others do not.Conservative Christians generally believe that...

 and/or biblical infallibility
Biblical infallibility
Biblical infallibility is the belief that what the Bible says regarding matters of faith and Christian practice is wholly useful and true. It is the "belief that the Bible is completely trustworthy as a guide to salvation and the life of faith and will not fail to accomplish its purpose...

 to be the necessary consequence of the Bible's doctrine of inspiration (see, for example, the Westminster Confession of Faith
Westminster Confession of Faith
The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith, in the Calvinist theological tradition. Although drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly, largely of the Church of England, it became and remains the 'subordinate standard' of doctrine in the Church of Scotland, and has been...

 or the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy
Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was formulated in October 1978 by more than 200 evangelical leaders at a conference sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, held in Chicago. The statement was designed to defend the position of Biblical inerrancy against a perceived...

), though not all do.

At times this view has been criticized as tending toward a dictation theory
Verbal dictation
Verbal dictation describes a theory about how the Holy Spirit was involved with the people who first physically indited the Bible. According to this theory, the human role was a purely mechanical one: their individuality was by-passed whilst they wrote, and neither did their cultural background...

 of inspiration, where God speaks and a human records his words. C. H. Dodd wrote:

The theory which is commonly described as that of "verbal inspiration" is fairly precise. It maintains that the entire corpus of Scripture consists of writings every word of which (presumably in the original autographs, forever inaccessible to us) was directly "dictated" by the Deity… They consequently convey absolute truth with no trace of error or relativity… No attempt will be made here to formulate an alternative definition of inspiration… That I believe to be a false method. There is indeed no question about the original implications of the term: for primitive religious thought the "inspired" person was under the control of a supernatural influence which inhibited the use of his normal faculties.

The Evangelical position has been criticized as being circular
Begging the question
Begging the question is a type of logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proven is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise....

 by non-Christians and as well as Christians such as Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 and Orthodox authors, who accept the doctrine but reject the Protestant arguments in favor of it. These critics claim that the Bible can only be used to prove doctrines of biblical inspiration if the doctrine is assumed to begin with. Some defenders of the evangelical doctrine such as B. B. Warfield and Charles Hodge
Charles Hodge
Charles Hodge was the principal of Princeton Theological Seminary between 1851 and 1878. A Presbyterian theologian, he was a leading exponent of historical Calvinism in America during the 19th century. He was deeply rooted in the Scottish philosophy of Common Sense Realism...

, however, moved away from such circular arguments and "committed themselves to the legitimacy of external verification" to inductively
Inductive reasoning
Inductive reasoning, also known as induction or inductive logic, is a kind of reasoning that constructs or evaluates propositions that are abstractions of observations. It is commonly construed as a form of reasoning that makes generalizations based on individual instances...

 prove the doctrine, though they placed some restrictions on the evidences that could be considered. Others such as Cornelius Van Til
Cornelius Van Til
Cornelius Van Til , born in Grootegast, the Netherlands, was a Christian philosopher, Reformed theologian, and presuppositional apologist.-Biography:...

, Gordon Clark
Gordon Clark
Gordon Haddon Clark was an American philosopher and Calvinist theologian. He was a primary advocate for the idea of presuppositional apologetics and was chairman of the Philosophy Department at Butler University for 28 years...

, and John Frame
John Frame
John M. Frame is an American philosopher and Calvinist theologian especially noted for his work in epistemology and presuppositional apologetics, systematic theology, and ethics...

 have accepted circularity as inevitable in the ultimate presuppositions of any system and seek instead to prove the validity of their position by transcendental arguments
Transcendence (philosophy)
In philosophy, the adjective transcendental and the noun transcendence convey the basic ground concept from the word's literal meaning , of climbing or going beyond, albeit with varying connotations in its different historical and cultural stages...

 related to consistency.

Modernist Christianity

The Modernist (Liberal Christianity
Liberal Christianity
Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century and onward...

) and Progressive Christianity
Progressive Christianity
Progressive Christianity is the name given to a movement within contemporary Christianity characterized by willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity with a strong emphasis on social justice or care for the poor and the oppressed and environmental stewardship of the Earth...

 view typically rejects the idea that the Bible is divinely inspired in a unique way. Some advocates of higher criticism who espouse this view even go so far as to regard the Bible as purely a product of human invention. However, most form critics
Form criticism
Form criticism is a method of biblical criticism that classifies units of scripture by literary pattern and that attempts to trace each type to its period of oral transmission. Form criticism seeks to determine a unit's original form and the historical context of the literary tradition. Hermann...

, such as Rudolf Bultmann
Rudolf Bultmann
Rudolf Karl Bultmann was a German theologian of Lutheran background, who was for three decades professor of New Testament studies at the University of Marburg...

 and Walter Brueggemann
Walter Brueggemann
Walter Brueggemann is an American Protestant Old Testament scholar and theologian.-Life:The son of a minister of the German Evangelical Synod of North America, he was ordained in the United Church of Christ. Brueggemann received an A.B. from Elmhurst College , a B.D. from Eden Theological...

, still regard the Bible as a sacred text, just not a text that communicates the unaltered word of God. They see it instead as true, divinely inspired theology mixed with foreign elements that can sometimes be inconsistent with the overarching messages found in Scripture and that have discernible roots in history, mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

, or ancient cultural/cultic practices. As such, form critics attempt to separate the kernel of inspired truth from the husk that contains it, doing so through various exegetical methods.


The Neo-orthodox
Neo-orthodoxy, in Europe also known as theology of crisis and dialectical theology,is an approach to theology in Protestantism that was developed in the aftermath of the First World War...

 doctrine of inspiration is summarized by saying that the Bible is "the word of God" but not "the words of God". It is only when one reads the text that it becomes the word of God to him or her. This view is a reaction to the Modernist doctrine, which, Neo-orthodox proponents argue, eroded the value and significance of the Christian faith, and simultaneously a rejection of the idea of textual inerrancy. Karl Barth
Karl Barth
Karl Barth was a Swiss Reformed theologian whom critics hold to be among the most important Christian thinkers of the 20th century; Pope Pius XII described him as the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas...

 and Emil Brunner
Emil Brunner
Heinrich Emil Brunner was a Swiss Protestant theologian. Along with Karl Barth , he is commonly associated with neo-orthodoxy or the dialectical theology movement....

 were primary advocates of this approach.

See also

  • Biblical canon
    Biblical canon
    A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

  • John Calvin's view of Scripture
    John Calvin's view of Scripture
    The doctrine of Scripture plays a vital role in the writings of John Calvin. John Calvin's view of Scripture can be found mainly in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.-Necessity:Calvin viewed Scripture as necessary in two ways....

  • Revelation
    In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

  • General revelation
    General revelation
    General revelation is a term used by theologians which refers to a universal aspect of God, of God's knowledge and of spiritual matters, discovered through natural means, such as observation of nature , philosophy and reasoning, human conscience or providence or providential history...

  • Progressive revelation (Christian)
    Progressive revelation (Christian)
    Progressive revelation in Christianity is the concept that the sections of the Bible that were written later contain a fuller revelation of God compared to the earlier sections. For instance, the theologian Charles Hodge wrote,...

  • Supernatural revelation
    Supernatural revelation
    Supernatural revelation refers to a communication between a living human being and a deity or other supernatural entity, e.g. an angel. Many religions not only accept supernatural revelations, but base their fundamental beliefs on such revelations...

  • Thought inspiration
    Thought inspiration
    Thought inspiration is a form of divine inspiration in which revelation takes place in the mind of the writer, as opposed to verbal inspiration, in which the word of God is communicated directly to the writer...

External links

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