The concept of biblical inspiration finds its grounding most clearly in the teaching of the apostle Paul who wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16 KJV). The word translated from the Greek (theopneustos) as inspiration literally means “God-breathed” or “breathed out from God.” Paul is saying the text of Scripture—all Scripture—is the product of the divine, life-giving breath of the Almighty, breathed out through the secret operation of the Holy Spirit by which he produced the Word of God from the word of men.
Even though the doctrine of divine inspiration acknowledges God used human instruments to communicate His truth, the individual authors did not record thoughts of their own. Superintended by the Spirit, each penman was powerfully guided and led to write God’s message, yet without suppressing individual personality and writing style. The Spirit did not reduce each author to mere automatons, forcing their hands to move in a mechanical way, nor did the authors become possessed by God in some manner and lose consciousness of self in order to write. We find clear examples of complete cogency and differing passions in the psalmist, for example, who often invoked divine judgment, calamity, and curses upon his enemies; Paul demonstrated an element of basic human concern for comfort when he implored Timothy to “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas” (2 Tim. 4:13); and James was surely not unfamiliar with a variety of sufferings when he encouraged his readers to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (Jas. 1:2). The books that comprise the Bible clearly show forth differences in emotion, diction, and style. In other words, the human element of the authors can still easily be discerned.
The Holy Spirit in some manner, as mysterious as it remains, moved the writers to record the revelation from God accurately, which resulted in the text truly being the Word of God. Every individual word was inspired under guidance from the Spirit, or “all Scripture,” as Paul says, is not only free of fault and error but also relays a message of supreme value for humanity, because it is in the truest and highest sense God’s creation.
Additional Biblical Testimony to Divine Origin
Approximately 3,800 times the Bible makes the positive claim to be the Word of God. “Thus saith the Lord,” and “The Word of the Lord came unto me” are common expressions used to denote this claim. In addition to the clear testimony from Paul regarding the nature and authority of Scripture, he does not stand alone in this teaching. Second Peter 1:20–21 is an important passage regarding divine origin. “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Peter is here stating that the prophetic testimonies in Scripture come as a result of the guidance of the Spirit. For this reason, his readers are instructed to attend to these words, for it is not merely human words but the very Word of God.
In Acts 1:16 Peter is delivering a sermon in which he says, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David . . . ,” and then proceeds to relate two verses from the Psalms. Here we find Peter affirming the authority of psalmist’s words, as well as the reality that God spoke by the “mouth of David.” David was, in fact, a medium by which God communicated his revelation to mankind. This idea that God uses prophets to voice his Word is also expressed in Acts 3:18, 21, and 4:25.
Finally, it is important to note the Lord’s regard of Scripture. The best way, presumably, to infer Christ’s belief regarding Scripture is the way in which he related to his theological opponents, the religious leaders of his day. “Have you not read?” he repeatedly corrected them, often challenging their misuse and aberrant interpretations of Scripture. Never once did he contradict their view of the nature of Scripture, only how they applied the text. In his discussions and disputes, he recited biblical passages, counting on the words to be the final authority in each instance. During his encounter with Satan in the wilderness, Christ spoke of the supreme authority and permanence of the Bible and later speaking with the religious leaders of his day testified that the “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Elsewhere, he guaranteed, “until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18). Jesus could speak authoritatively on the text of Scripture, because he knew it was the creative work of God—and not merely the words of men—and, as such, would endure.
The uniform testimony throughout the pages of sacred Scripture is that the text itself originated from God, and it was his divine message for humanity. For this reason alone, it is nothing less than the very Word of God and serves unquestionably as the ultimate authority on all matters for the Christian believer. No church, creed, confession, or tradition has authority equal to or greater than the authority of the Bible, for there can be nothing that can rival that which is ultimately God-breathed.