Bible uniquely inspired? Bible the Word of God? Bible divinely inspired? Bible infallible? Bible God-breathed? Divine inspiration of the Bible. Verbal inspiration of the Bible. Bible inspired by God? Verbal Plenary Inspiration.
The Inspiration and Reliability of the Bible
Deep experience with God and the Bible has led Christians to conclude that the Bible is so unique that there is no word in the English language to describe how this amazing book was written. When believers say the Bible is inspired by God, they have to endow the word inspired with a whole new meaning, way beyond how the word is used in any other context. A life coach might inspire (i.e. motivate) a person to achieve something extraordinary but that use of the word is utterly inadequate when it comes to describing the writing of the Bible. Theologians have had to invent that rather clumsy expression, verbal plenary inspiration to mean that the penning of every word of Scripture was carefully guided by God.
On the other hand, few Bible scholars believe that God so took over the writers that they became no more than dictating machines. Especially in the original language, one can see the distinct writing style of each human writer. Nevertheless, the belief is that God partnered with them in a unique way so that the final result was truly of God.
Like many Christian writers, I look to God to guide every word I write, but Christian writers see the Bible as being on an entirely different level of spiritual authority, dependability and durability. Is the Bible truly inspired by God in this unique sense? Can we stake not just our lives but our eternities on the Bible?
You can become a Christian without believing the Bible is the infallible Word of God nor even believing it is uniquely inspired. It greatly affects one’s spiritual development, however, to be forever wondering which parts of the Bible can be trusted. So let’s start with the foundation of each Christian’s faith: Jesus. Let’s just simply look to him as our spiritual leader and see how he regarded the Old Testament. Did he, for example, correct this significant part of Scripture or find errors in it? Did he set himself up as a new spiritual authority who supersedes Scripture? Did he exalt and reverence it? Such questions are carefully explored in a webpage that I will introduce to you. Afterwards we can explore deeper into the inspiration and reliability of the rest of the Bible but this is the logical starting point.
Unless you prefer me to take you on a meaningless fantasy trip, I am forced to keep citing the most ancient, most attested and most historically accurate documents we have about Jesus. There are several criteria one must consider:
* How soon after Jesus’ death the document was written
* The time gap between the writing of the account and the earliest surviving manuscripts
* The number of surviving ancient manuscripts
* The degree of agreement among the ancient manuscripts
* The extent to which geographical, cultural and historical details in the account agree with facts known from other sources
* The reliance upon eyewitnesses and careful investigation of the facts (a rarity in ancient times)
The documents that stand head and shoulders above any other contenders happen to be the ancient library now known as the New Testament. For an example of the care taken, see Luke 1:1-4 For confirmation that these documents are without rival, see F. F. Bruce The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Sixth Edition, 1981, Eerdmans).
To avoid giving an inflated impression of how frequently Jesus did or said various things, I almost always omit citing additional accounts of the same event in other Gospels.
Although in authenticity and dependability, no other source of information about Jesus remotely approaches the diverse writings that now form the New Testament, people feel uncomfortable about relying on these records. The nagging concern is whether all this detailed documentation of Jesus’ life and teaching was somehow doctored. It is not feasible to suppose such doctoring of multiple accounts (all of which we now know were completed close in time to the events they record and accurately preserved since then). But here’s the clincher: who could think of themselves as believers and faithful followers of Jesus – as the writers of these accounts clearly considered themselves to be – while being so ashamed of Jesus as to deliberately mutilate accounts of his teaching?
More disturbing still: it is an insult to God himself for anyone to suppose that these ancient accounts of Jesus’ ministry might have prejudicially removed reference to key aspects of Jesus’ life and teaching. What makes this such an insult is that Jesus, after considerable prayer, handpicked the twelve apostles to personally train as the custodians of his message and the ones who would “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Documented Proof).
If Jesus’ staggering claims are true, such as “No one comes to [God] the Father except through me” (John 14:6), for the record of his message to have been lost or distorted for subsequent generations would be a tragedy beyond belief. Moreover, Jesus declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31).
Since Jesus opted not to leave behind any of his own writings, no responsibility other than Jesus’ own was as critical as that of those he chose to transmit his message to subsequent generations. There is even a sense in which their role was greater than Jesus’ because if they failed it would have rendered Jesus’ life and death a waste. If Jesus got this wrong he is not the eternal Son of God but a fallible human who could neither foresee nor influence the future. This would make him unworthy to be followed as a spiritual leader, much less worshipped.
In reality, Jesus always knew exactly what he was doing. He knew, for example, that Judas would betray him and that Peter and the other disciples would deny him but afterwards be faithful (Documented Proof).
To zero in on the bare facts of Jesus’ teaching and shun Christian interpretation or bias, I will primarily cite the actual recorded words of Jesus and mostly side-step mentioning comments in the Gospels make by the authors. I will also largely avoid mentioning other significant early Christian writings (the rest of the Christian Bible). This voluntary restriction is despite the fact that besides the Gospels themselves, these are the writings of people who were more familiar with Jesus’ life and message than anyone else from whom we can gain information and the ones to whom Jesus entrusted the transmission of his message. (For more see The Unique Value of the Apostle Paul’s Writings to Understanding Jesus.)
Although I have primarily limited myself to the words of Jesus himself, it turns out that there are no obvious contradictions between his actual words and the Jewish Scriptures and the rest of the New Testament.
The webpage I would like you to read first serves two purposes, one of which is to reach people who are not yet Christians and so in it I rarely use the specifically Christian term Old Testament and instead refer to it as the Jewish Bible. Here it is: Jesus’ Use of the Jewish Bible