English Bible Translations Part 01 - The Inspiration of the Bible

Part 1 - The Inspiration of the Bible

The "inspiration" of the Bible refers to the truth that the Holy Spirit superintended the human writers of Scripture so that they recorded God’s revelation with perfect accuracy. Through the Spirit’s operation, their words are actually God’s own words. Peter describes how God guided the writers along, providing them with truth and keeping them from error: "Because no prophecy ever originated through a human decision. Instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21 English Standard Version). While allowing the human authors’ personalities and viewpoints and literary talents to shine through, the divine Author nevertheless exerted an overarching control that extended to the choice of individual words.

The term "inspiration" comes from Paul’s words to Timothy in the King James Version: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Borrowing from this verse, Bible students have traditionally used "inspiration" to describe the perfect recording of God’s Word. Technically, however, inspiration describes breath moving in. The term expiration (literally, "breathing out") more accurately describes what happened, as the ESV rendering makes clear: "All Scripture is breathed out by God." "Breathed out by God" corresponds exactly to the Greek word theopneustos—"God-breathed." The words of Scripture, although penned by men, came "out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

It helps to distinguish inspiration from revelation. Revelation describes the origin and giving of truth, while inspiration describes the receiving and recording of truth. Because God has spoken perfect truth (revelation), and because He controlled the perfect recording of this truth (inspiration), two logical consequences follow. First, the Bible must be inerrant—without error of any kind (Psalm 19:7-8; John 10:35). Second, the Bible must be infallible—it cannot fail, mislead, or disappoint (Isaiah 55:11; 2 Timothy 3:17).

The Lord Jesus taught that inspiration extends to every letter of every word in Scripture: "For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18 KJV). A "jot" is the smallest letter of the alphabet—yod in Hebrew, iota in Greek. A "tittle" is a small penstroke that distinguishes similar Hebrew letters from each other. Thus, according to Christ, inspiration extends even to parts of letters.

From this, we can conclude that inspiration must apply to every single nuance in the text, and not just to broad concepts and general impressions. The Lord Jesus taught this also. In Matthew 22:31-32, for instance, Christ’s argument rests on the tense of the verb "am"—God used a present tense in Exodus 3:6 when speaking to Moses about men long dead, proving that they still existed. Similarly, Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:16 hinges on the singular number of the noun "seed" in Genesis 12:7. Thus the Holy Spirit built significance into even the finest points of Biblical grammar.