All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness… –KJV
All Scripture is inspired by God [Note: Literally, this word means “breathed out by God”] and is useful for teaching [truth], rebuking [wrongdoing], correcting [error] and for providing instruction [i.e., training] on how to live right… –AUV-NT
All that is written in the holy writings comes from the Spirit of God. The holy writings are good for these things: to teach people, to show them when they are wrong, to make them see what is right, to teach them to do what is right. –BWE
If you’ve heard of The Bible or The Holy Bible, you’ve heard the term “inspired,” such as someone describing the Bible as the “inspired Word of God” or “the inerrant Word of God” when referring to the collection of writings we have today that compose The Bible.
Still, for a person that is just beginning to acquaint themselves with the Christian Bible, they’re left wondering what exactly “inspired” means. And, surprisingly, it depends on just who you ask.
For some Christians, “inspired” means that God divinely and supernaturally placed the words of the Bible into the mouths and upon the hands of the men who wrote the Bible, and that it is, therefore, inerrant. No human error has been allowed to creep into the writings, no mistranslations have been made, and that the Bible we have today is the Bible that God insists that we have.
For other Christians, “inspired” means that God placed the thoughts and concepts into the minds of the men who wrote the Bible, but granted a certain extent of leniency by means of expression—meaning that the Bible writers were allowed to express those divine thoughts in their own words, but well within the intended meaning of God wanted to convey.
For still other Christians, “inspired” means that the Bible is a collection of writings that has proven its insightfulness and precious worth as a body of writings with candid advice and laws and regulations far ahead of their time, and of particular benefit to us today in how we live our lives in relation to one another.
To make matters all the more complicated, within each of these groups of Christian believers exists sub-groups in how they handle the Bible, based on their presumptions concerning the Bible’s “inspiration.” These sub-groups then affiliate with others of like opinion, forming groups, churches, and religious organizations so that today we have hundreds and thousands of sects, branches, and belief systems—all centering around The Bible.
The word inspired comes from a translation of the Greek word, theopneustos [θεόπνευστος], which itself is composed of theos [God] and pneō [‘to breathe hard,’ or ‘breeze’] and literally means God-breathed.
Given the ever-increasing abundance of evidence, it is becoming clearer that the Bible is not inerrant as many Christians insist. That is to say that there are errors spread throughout the Bible that are verifiable and documented by Bible scholars and historians. What those errors are falls outside the purpose of this missive, and do not necessarily have to change anything except perhaps one’s perspective on the Bible and its message.
This, of course, is a point that doesn’t set well with Christians who hold to the opposite view: that indeed the Bible is inerrant and that it has been through the power of God Almighty that its message has been preserved down to our day in exactly the way that God wanted us to have it. For those who hold this view, they believe that anything less than that, and the Bible’s worth and power becomes diminished, even undermined. They demand that you show them what part of it is in error, and even if you try, they reject it forthright because accepting the idea that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God somehow undermines their belief system. Not because it will do that, but because they believe that it will. After all, how powerful can God really be if He can’t stop mere mortal men from corrupting and changing His Word, they argue.
There is also the question of how God compelled men to write down His words in a secretarial manner (if God is so powerful, why didn’t He write the Bible Himself, one might counter-argue the “Inerrancy” crowd). Did God use dictation, for example? The “Inerrancy” group would argue Yes, that is exactly what He did. Under compulsion of God’s Holy Spirit, men wrote as they were told to write—thus further supporting the belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.
But this still doesn’t address the issue surrounding documented errors and inconsistencies within the pages of the Bible. Is God, then, inconsistent? Is He prone to forgetfulness and confusing factual bits of information? And what about the variances of Bible versions and translations, where different words are used than in other Bible versions and translations? Which edition or translation is the correct one? For the Bible to be inerrant, only one Bible version or translation can be correct when there are variant versions or translations on the world stage. Do I rely on the King James Version, for example? Or, maybe the Catholic Douay Version? Or perhaps the New King James Version? There are so many Bible editions and translations available to us today, and for every situation. And for every translation, there are children’s Bibles, Bibles for fathers, Bibles for mothers, Bibles for Pastors, Bibles for teenagers, for couples, for the purse, for study, for the fireplace mantle. And for every edition and every translation, there is one available in hundreds of different languages.
It really can get confusing for anyone that is trying to just find the right Bible, and yet find the one that closest resembles the Bible in its most accurate form.
That’s because the Bible we have today has come down to us through the process of copying by manual labor from still older copies. Today, we have no extant copy of the Bible whatsoever. They have all disintegrated through the onslaught of time and elements.
Even among the oldest manuscripts that we have, we still have to rely upon someone else to translate the words into a form that we can understand—because we simply do not possess the skills to read Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, nor Greek. We entrust that responsibility to Bible scholars, of course. Often, those Bible scholars have their own doctrinal views which then, in turn, color the translation process—sometimes this is helped by the formation of a Bible committee that handles the translation process, sometimes it is hindered by the same. Either way, we take a given translation at its face value because we, quite frankly, have little choice. And as a result of that, we subsequently base our beliefs on the Bible that we read and study and commit to memory, without given a moment’s thought to the fact that our thoughts and conclusions are inevitably shaped for us by the hands of the translator—all the while we are thinking that we are arriving at our own conclusions through our own careful study of the Bible and prayerful meditation.
It’s for this reason, really, that many people have adopted the view that the Bible, while a wise and insightful book, is still just a book, written by men. And since there is no verifiable way to know that the Bible we have is the Bible that is of the original thought and text, we have to accept the fact that the Bible is anything but the inspired Word of God—much less the inerrant Word of God.
Another facet of the debate is this: the Bible that we have today was decided by a movement called Catholicism, which sought to shut down and destroy all so-called heretical or heterodoxical groups in the early centuries of Christianity’s history. They did this by means ranging from commissioning the destruction of allegedly “unorthodox” manuscripts to the brutal slaying of groups and peoples who stood against the imposed catholicism of Christianity.
Even so, it took Catholicism three centuries to finally agree on the canon of the Bible that we have today, and the battle was not without blood and loss of lives. The majority of Christian believers lend little thought to the reality behind the compilation of the present-day Bible canon. For them, they think this was always the Bible, that even early Christians had copies of it just like the one we have today.
Protestantism, even after its break from Catholicism, brought with it the Bible canon that Catholicism had decided upon, with very minor changes along the process. They didn’t have any interest in dispensing with the Bible that Catholicism was using—just certain of the doctrines and practices of Catholicism.
Bible historians today, however, have at their fingertips an ever-growing array of early Christian writings that are not included in our modern-day Bible. Most Christians refer to these extra-biblical works as Apocrypha. All of these writings are viewed with deep-seated suspicion—and why not; after all, we’ve relied upon our modern-day Bible’s canon for every belief that we have, for the past 17 centuries or so, regardless of our religious affiliation.
For Bible scholars and historians, however, these manuscripts have been an earth-shattering discovery as they continue to provide an insight into the development of early Christianity and the beliefs that were held. Contrary to the orthodoxical claim that Christianity has always held to a singular, orthodox set of beliefs, the evidence shows exactly the opposite. There was a diversity undreamt of among early Christians, both in beliefs and in practices. Were it not for these few remaining precious manuscripts, we might otherwise be compelled to believe that orthodoxy was the order of the day, even in early Christianity.
And who decided what was orthodox, after all? Why, if Christianity was united in agreement to a set of beliefs from the beginning, would orthodoxy need to be established? Why, if orthodoxy was the reality, were there so many allegedly “heretical” writings in so many Christian congregations throughout the reach of Christianity that were being studied and hailed as inspired by congregants and church leaders?
The answer is that in order to secure power and authority over the Christian congregations, certain church leaders decided to institute Christianity in accordance with those teachings and views that would give them sway over Christians. Anything that disagreed with their teachings and views was, in effect, unorthodox—therefore heretical and therefore to be destroyed. And if anyone defended opposing views or unapproved scriptures, then they, too, were to be destroyed.
Out of this religious “cleansing” of “heresy” comes our modern-day Bible.
One can’t help but wonder about the determination of Catholicism to institute a specific set of beliefs within Christianity, all the while insisting that their actions were authorized by the Bible, which itself was the inerrant, inspired Word of God Himself, and how that determination continues to impact modern-day Christianity in how it views the Bible more as an object of worship than a Testament to humankind’s long relationship with his Creator.
That’s quite a statement to claim, I admit, and yet I believe it to be the case. Countless Christians have worshipped the Bible itself, albeit without the kneeling before it. They certainly have been more than a little than willing to offer up sacrifices in its behalf down through the ages, have they not? All in the “name of God” in order to claim authority for their viciousness and mercilessness.
Did the same God that inspired the Bible also inspire His followers to commit such atrocious acts of ferocity in order to defend it? If the Bible is inerrantly inspired, and the Bible’s believers are inspired by the Bible, are they not inerrantly inspired by an inerrant inspiration?
I suspect that in asking these questions, there will be those who readily try to argue the difference between the Bible’s inerrant inspiration and the inspiration we get by means of the Bible.
As may be obvious to the reader at this point, I personally do not argue for the inerrancy of the Bible. I happen to agree with the findings of noted and world-renowned Bible scholars and historians that there are problems, errors, and inconsistencies within the pages of our modern-day Bible that belie the Inerrant doctrine.
Be that as it may, the question remains: Is the Bible inspired? And if so, how? In other words, what does it mean when Paul wrote the words cited at the beginning of this missive?
In explaining what I personally believe, I do not mean to imply or suggest that my understanding is the only correct way of explaining inspiration. However, it is what I personally believe and can defend through reason.
Have you ever, on a warm spring day, ever felt an absolute compulsion to go through your house and clean? Or heard a piece of music that moved you to such emotion! Or stood out in a field of wild flowers on a summer day, a slight breeze brushing against your skin and the sheer silence of Creation holding you in absolute awe? Or heard about someone’s personal struggle and been inspired by their story?
Without diminishing the sheer immensity of what it means to be inspired by God, these are but a very few examples of inspiration. Inspiration is something that takes place within us that motivates us to action. If we are not inspired, we are listless and without direction—even depressed. Inspiration is that wondrous thing which words fail to properly convey. It can only be felt. Experienced.
In that sense, then, the Bible writers bore witness about their belief and faith towards God, and thoughtfully and painstakingly wrote down a testimony for descendants and all who would come after them. If not for that inspiration from God, we simply would not have the Bible.
It didn’t require God to dictate what should be written about Him or His intentions toward His children, that is to say humankind. He didn’t need to. When any one of us stands in awe of God, when we are inspired by His might and power and grace, we are motivated to action, whether that action is through the artist’s brush against canvass, a musician’s deft touch of a musical instrument, a mother’s loving caress of her child, a father’s reassuring embrace, or the right word from a treasured friend at the moment we most need it.
Contrary to what some might argue, these moments are no less inspired of God than when the Bible writers composed the Scriptures. They are simply different facets of said inspiration.
Even so, just as the Bible writers occasionally got facts mixed up or misquoted from some other writer, their inspiration was no less true. They wrote from the heart and yet from a place much deeper than conscious reasoning could ever allow. They were moved to action and that action was written testimony. And in spite of mixed up facts or misquotations, what they wrote is no less vital, no less a light unto our path. It simply confirms their humanness and God’s willingness to inspire anyone who simply allows themselves to be inspired.
It is this humanness that tends to trip up most Christians however. There is a tendency to elevate the Bible writers to a place of neo-worship, without it blatantly becoming obvious. We fall under the conviction that because they wrote the Bible, that they are somehow more special, more approved in the eyes of God—and therefore we must treat them so. We stand in awe of them, and consider ourselves to some degree to be lesser vessels of God by comparison.
It falls outside the purpose of this missive to explore why we are given to such thinking, but suffice it to say that the long, sad history of orthodoxical, catholocismistic religion is one of convincing us that we are insignificant by comparison to the church fathers as well as the believers of antiquity. It was only by diminishing us that religious leaders are able to elevate themselves over us. Today, that is still the case, unfortunately.
The apostle Paul, who wrote the words cited at the beginning of this missive, spoke on another occasion of the “body of Christ” when he was addressing the Christians at Corinth. Those believers, too, struggled with knowing their preciousness with their heavenly Father.
For just as the body is one but has many members, and all the members of that body, although being many, are one body, so also is the Christ. 13 For truly by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink one spirit.
14 For the body, indeed, is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot should say: “Because I am not a hand, I am no part of the body,” it is not for this reason no part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say: “Because I am not an eye, I am no part of the body,” it is not for this reason no part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the [sense of] hearing be? If it were all hearing, where would the smelling be? 18 But now God has set the members in the body, each one of them, just as he pleased.
19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now they are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand: “I have no need of you”; or, again, the head [cannot say] to the feet: “I have no need of YOU.” 22 But much rather is it the case that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary, 23 and the parts of the body which we think to be less honorable, these we surround with more abundant honor, and so our unseemly parts have the more abundant comeliness, 24 whereas our comely parts do not need anything. Nevertheless, God compounded the body, giving honor more abundant to the part which had a lack, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it; or if a member is glorified, all the other members rejoice with it.
27 Now YOU are Christ’s body, and members individually. –1 Corinthians 12:12-27, NWT
Any one of us could have experienced the inspiration to compose what would eventually become Scripture for all subsequent believers. However, the fact that we aren’t does not diminish our own moments of inspiration, nor make the actual writers of the Bible more inspired. We all serve our respective roles as members of the Body of Christ and as the Congregation of God.
This, too, is something that the Bible writers often tried to convey when they wrote the Bible. The Bible is inclusive, meaning that only in a few places is there ever moments where the writer does not consider himself a part of his audience and write to “us” rather than to “you and you and you and you.” This, too, makes the Bible a unique work among writings of antiquity.
It’s also a candid work. It does not gloss over the failings of God’s worshipers. Ever. Their successes and their failures are documented faithfully. By means of this candor, we are borne witness that we are not alone in our failures, struggles, and tendency toward not listening to our God. But we likewise are given these records by way of a warning example, so that we are well-informed as to how it will turn out for us if we do not correct our path.
Further, we are given exceeding hope towards the time when all of these things which hinder us, bind us, stumble us, and kill us will all be done away with and once again we will be in a relationship with our Creator akin to that enjoyed by the first man and woman, before the Fall.
None of this would be possible, were it not for the inspiration that drove some to write the accounts, others to endure them, still others to preach them, and still others to pick up the mantles of those fallen along the way.
There can be no question that the Bible is inspired. Not only by the belief and faith that certain men had in our heavenly Father, but in our own willingness to believe them in their faith, and in turn convey those beliefs and faith to still others. But the expression of that faith is as diverse as Creation itself, and we have only a wise and loving Creator to thank for the freedom to express our faith in unique and fulfilling ways—not by means of dictation or acts of compulsion, but out of conviction that we believe, have faith, and ultimately, hope towards the promises He has made toward us.
The obvious question when you see this site is: Why?
Why would anyone want to put together yet another Bible commentary? After all, there already are so many of them, most from Bible historians and experts far more qualified than the likes of me could ever aspire to.
The answer, surprisingly, is just as simple: because I can and because I should.
The majority of Christian believers are more than content to go and warm a pew or chair and be preached to. They’re content with being told what they should and should not believe, what they can do and not do, what activities they should and should not participate in. This deference of personal responsibility has been the way of Christians for centuries as church and religious leaders insisted that the general populace simply could not be trusted to understand God’s Word correctly. And this in spite of the fact that the Bible itself has managed to infiltrate nearly every home, hovel, and hotel since the dawn of the printing press.
For the most part, people seem to believe that they cannot understand the Bible on their own. For them, it seems just too easy, and thus too far-fetched. And rather than make a determine effort to do just that: study the Bible and try to grasp its contents, they defer to self-proclaimed experts, church leaders, and religious hierarchies. That way, the work is done for them and they just have to comply. And if they are faced with something they don’t agree with or don’t like, they change churches or religious affiliations until they find another one more to their liking and comfort level.
It is a tragic statement to Christianity that the vast majority of believing individuals believe on the basis of what someone else told them they should believe rather than on establishing those Truths independently through study and research.
Of course, churches and religious groups and organizations like to argue that if everyone studied the Bible for themselves, everyone would believe differently from everyone else and chaos would ensue. But what seems to escape the notice of most Christians who buy into this age-old deception is that it is an argument borne of self-interest. In other words, the religious leaders argue this because they’d be “out of a job” if people did study the Bible for themselves, independently. Suddenly, everyone would have direct access to their Creator and Heavenly Father, without having to go through mortal men first. Suddenly, everyone would have direct access to their Saviour and King, Jesus the Christ, without having to go through those same mortal men acting as “intercessors,” “spokesmen,” and “mediators.”
What, then, about the argument that if everyone studied the Bible by themselves, then there would be as many different beliefs as there are believers? That everyone would believe someone different from everyone else.
First, is the alternative any better? Have and insist that everyone believe the exact same things about the Bible as the church’s or group’s leader does as a condition to being approved before God? Before the congregation itself? What about when (not if, but when) the leader or leaders of the church or group is found to be in error? It stands to reason that there is a calculable risk that the person discovering the error will end up being ostracized or even cut off from association because they brought attention to the error and did not wait on God to enlighten the church or group’s leaders first. Sadly, this is the case in several Christian groups even today. And it’s always been a part of the long, sad history of Christianity for as far back as Christianity has existed. Strangely, emphasis is placed more on uniformity of beliefs as determined by leadership to portray unity than unity of purpose and direction. When this happens, no longer is God’s holy spirit entrusted with congregational harmony and love; rather, it is through the institution of enforceable rules and belief system as determined by the religion’s leaders.
Another argument, primarily raised by Christian groups who place a high emphasis on unity through beliefs as determined by its leadership, is that there can, after all, only be one true religion. They then are only too eager to show others a list of carefully-selected beliefs that they hold, replete with Bible proofs. These are usually selected so as to at the same time demonstrate the failure of any other Christian groups in holding to said beliefs—since “they” don’t believe or practice these things and “we” do, that proves that “we” are the one “true” religion. At least that’s how the argument goes. I’ll be talking more about that in a separate entry.
Second, the Christian arrangement is self-governing. It does not require a lone leader or group or committee of leaders to enforce rules and beliefs. When it does, then something is wrong. The Christian arrangement was never intended to centralize authority to a single man or group of men. That was its sheer brilliance, after all: to dispense with that sort of arrangement and bring every man, woman, and child into a direct, personal relationship with their Heavenly Father. Until the Day when that is a reality, we have a single intercessor: Jesus the Christ, who acts as High Priest, King, and Judge. This, too, I will be addressing in a separate entry.
Third, we are all expected to not only know what we personally believe, but why we believe it. We should be able to explain it to others, and then be willing to listen to others who, in turn, explain their reasons for believing to us. By doing so, we sharpen one another and refine one another in a way that is in keeping with the entire purpose of Christianity. As such, this Commentary is strictly for my own sake. It is a public declaration of what I know, what I believe, and the reasons thereof. It is not meant to be and cannot be the final word. In fact, it is my utmost conviction that every believer should go through the Christian Bible, personally, and make a written commentary of their own. The majority of Christians would, I am very certain, be surprised at what they find compared to what they believe, and likewise, how little they know about the Bible and the record therein. In turn, doing so will ignite a desire within every person doing so to want to know more, to better understand. Further, they’ll feel an inexplicable compulsion to talk to others, with others, in a way that perhaps they never have. This is the power behind the Bible.
And it is a good thing.