Having just completed my series called The Bible on the Bible, I am left with an interesting problem. The issue I was trying to address with that series was twofold. 1)Does the Bible claim to be inspired by God itself and 2) What kind of inspiration does the Bible claim if any? My results were mixed as I discovered that the Bible does claim direct inspiration from God in parts, some form of inspired history and at times certain parts of the Bible claim inspiration for themselves. The problem is not all of the Bible has this and there are large parts that are left with no say about inspiration one way or the other. The other problem is that the Bible makes no claim at all as to how it is inspired so that is why there are so many theories about how this happens. The study however was not a complete wash however.
The one thing that I could take away from the study is that inspiration cannot be divorced from humans. The fact that writer’s of Scripture had some or just as much influence on what they wrote as God is particularly apparent in places like Moses’ divorce Law and Paul’s instructions on virgins. The fact is that while the jury might be out on the Bible’s inspiration as far as how God and man came together to give us God’s Word, it is painfully obvious that man is involved. This allowed me to discard two theories of inspiration.
1) Dictation Theory – There is really no internal evidence that God dictated every word of the Bible in a mechanical fashion. If this were so personal opinions of the authors would not have gotten in the writings and there would be the feeling that the Bible despite its many authors would have a similar style of writing which is not present. It would also not have moments where the Bible’s standards and rules are changed over time. If God wanted to dictate terms then he could just do so once and be done with it. It also seems like if this theory were true God wouldn’t have just done it to inspire the first time, he would have maintained it so there are no textual variants in the Scriptures that scholars have to pour through. God could continue to dictate when new translation are produced as an example.
2) Verbal Plenary Theory – This theory basically states in some mysterious way God inspired the writers and 1) Got exactly what he wanted in Scripture and 2) the authors still maintained their personalities and styles. The goal is to maintain the best element of Dictation and Limited (I will deal with this in a moment) Theories but the real force is directed in that the Bible contains the exact words God wanted so the Bible is inerrant. The real problem is textually his cannot be maintained and has many of the same problem as Dictation Theory for this reason. It has an additional problem because of the claim of Biblical inerrancy as well which cannot be maintained given the textual variants found in scripture and the fact you lose something in translation every time.
Both of these views have a high degree of theological presumption the chief being the idea of God controlling the minutia of each persons life which is debatable given the Bible’s contents that also point to freewill and choice being a part of every person. The other thing I can say and I hope I don’t offend my fellow protestants but they really both smack of trying to bolster the idea of Sola Scriptoria (Scripture Alone) as a Protestant concept. I have a feeling that Scripture Alone was the horse that pulled the cart of these two theories. There is definitely a bias here.
The other theory I could discard was Limited Theory. This theory fails because it is pretty clear that the Bible’s history and Bible’s doctrinal and spiritual claims are interlinked and not just in small ways. If the Exodus and Mt. Sinai are not real events the Law of Moses is fiction and if Jesus did not rise form the dead, then Christianity is fiction. Unfortunately for Limited Theory, the Bible absolutely weaves history and spirituality together very tightly.
This still leaves me with four theories or coming up with my own. It is for this reason I turn to the next step which is to delve deeper into the process of canonization of the Scripture. This is a little different in that I am looking at the history of how the Bible became the Bible. My hope is to view how people came up with the idea that certain books were inspired by God and found their way into the canon of Scripture. In the end, I want to look at each book of the Bible and how it got there. It might also be interesting to discuss the ones that didn’t make it as a follow-up.
Next week it begins.
Blessings and Cheers!