Is the Bible Inspired?

2 Timothy 3:16 has a phrase in Greek: pasa graphe theopneustos which may be rendered literally: ’All Scripture (is) god-breathed.’ Other renderings are: "Every scripture [is] God-breathed" (RHM); "Every Scripture is God-inspired" (TCN); "All scripture is divinely inspired" (GDS); "Every holy Writing which comes from God ... " (BAS); "Every Scripture inspired of God." (ASV) There is a subtle difference to these renderings: some asserting all scripture is inspired; or, every scripture inspired of God. Some hold to the former and include the phrase "all scripture" to be essentially those traditional 66 books which have been passed down through the centuries. Others qualify both "scripture" and the word "inspired" in varying degrees so that there is wide range of which parts of the Bible and which verses or phrases are considered "inspired" by such liberal interpreters.

The later have lists of hundreds, if not thousands, of verses in which they see misspellings, contradictions, poor grammar, or inaccuracies between the Christian Greek Bible and the Jewish Hebrew Scriptures. A recent one observed on the Internet among a subscription discussion group of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses was the charge that Stephen erred in his defense before the Jewish court by stating ‘ ... the tomb Abraham had bought .... from the sons of Hamor’ (Acts 7:16) and the accounts in Genesis which identify someone else as well as attributing this purchase to Jacob or Joseph. We found half dozen of the most vocal in this particular "chat" room, including a professor, seemed very inclined to a liberal approach to the words ‘scripture" and "inspired."

What did Paul himself have in mind when he used the Greek word graphe, normally translated "scripture" though it may also refer to "writing"? Did Paul, and Jesus as well, understand something in particular when they used the word "scripture"? First, we note in the exact context of Paul’s use of this phrase "god-breathed scripture" he has reminded Timothy: ‘ ... from an infant you have known the Holy Writings ... ‘ (2 Timothy 3:15) Is it fair to state that when Paul goes on to mention the "god-breathed writings" he means the same was what Timothy, as a Jew, was raised on? Paul has already referenced at least two texts from these "holy writings" at 2 Timothy 2:19 -- Numbers 16:3, 26 and Isaiah 26:13. Would it then be fair that Paul himself would have included the Books of Numbers and Isaiah?

In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy he calls "scripture" a reference to the Book of Deuteronomy as well as a phrase out of the Gospel of Luke. (1 Timothy 5:17-19) In just these two letters alone we seem embolden to state Paul considered three books of the Jewish Bible and one from the Christian Bible to be part of "god-breathed scripture."

A word-search examination of just the word "scripture" alone shows Jesus and some of his disciples listing these books as part of such "scripture" --- Exodus, Leviticus, First Kings, Psalms, Jonah, Daniel, and Zechariah. Now, Peter himself adds to such a list of "scripture" by including "all of Paul’s letters." (2 Peter 3:15) And, Jude, possibly with reference to his use of the word "Scriptures" in verse 4, later quotes Peter! (Ju18) If to this list of specifically mentioned "scripture" we are to include those quotations and allusions which strongly infer the same thing, the list grows to incorporate almost all of the Jewish Bible canon.

Many of these allusions are extremely subtle and will be missed unless one has a good knowledge of the Jewish Greek Septuagint. For example, John 5:28, 29 has the Nazarene referring to Isaiah 26:19 in the phrase "those in the memorial tombs" and to Daniel 12:2 in the latter part in verse 29. Would it be fair to state then that the Nazarene viewed Isaiah and Daniel to be part of the "god-breathed scripture"? The Nazarene seems to refer to the Jewish Bible canon when he and his disciples use the phrase "Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" as inspired prophecy. (Luke 24:27, 45)

We found the criticism of Stephen’s speech to be interesting. The first Christian martyr is delivering a thorough outline of Israel’s history as part of his defense. He faces the sure possibility of execution and yet these critical persons find fault with the angelic disciple! Nothing in the account states the speech of Stephen itself is inspired and therefore "inerrant." Certainly, either Luke or another later Christian editor could have corrected the "error" if they thought it to be an inaccuracy, or they left "the error" as it is because Luke was only reporting the speech perhaps from a court record or Paul’s memory as an eyewitness.

Here we will not go into the details of harmonizing the words of Stephen with the Books of Genesis and Joshua. We have done this directly by the Internet. However, what kind of person criticizes what must have been the immensely emotional self-defense of the first Christian martyr? And then picks at such a questionable case asserting someone is claiming the speech itself was "god-breathed"?

The Dictionary of New Testament Theology gives this commentary: "In about 70 cases we have an introductory formula, which is then followed by a Bible citation giving proof. ... Sometimes Scripture is quoted in a way which is tantamount to quoting God himself. ... The adj. theopneustos (v. 16) means lit. ‘God-breathed’. It does not imply any particular mode of inspiration, such as some form of divine dictation. Nor does it imply the suspension of the normal cognitive faculties of the human authors. On the other hand, it does imply something quite different from poetic inspiration. It is wrong to omit the divine element from the term implied by theo-, as the NEB does in rendering the phrase ‘every inspired scripture’. The expression clearly does not imply that some Scriptures are inspired, whilst others are not. The sacred scriptures are all expressive of the mind of God; but they are so with a view to their practical outworking in life." (Volume 3, pages 488-492)

Paul argues for the "superiority (or, advantage) of the Jew" to include the fact ‘they were entrusted with the scriptures of God.’ (Romans 3:1 ASV, MOF) Apparently every one of the 66 books of the Bible were the production of a Jewish scribe or editor. It is the belief of the Nazarene Saints these are "god-breathed scripture" and the miracle lies in the fact there are so few discrepancies and that it was preserved throughout three thousand years to our own day.

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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