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More Thoughts on Verbal Inspiration

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs


religion, articles, christianity

Because of the importance of how the Bible was communicated by deity to humanity, it is necessary to continue our discussion on inspiration. There is a move afoot to denominationalize the church, and this entails changing the doctrine and practice of the church. To accomplish this, change agents often attack the authority undergirding the teaching of the Bible about the church. They are not reluctant to do this. A beginning point is to deny the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures (The Peaceable Kingdom, Osburn, p. 57).

If the Bible is not inspired in its words, then the words of the Bible may be followed or ignored depending upon our prejudice and emotions. If the Bible teaches that its very words are God given, it follows that it is perfect and powerful. If the words are not inspired, it is questionable and we may follow what we like and waive the rest. If verbally inspired, it is inerrant and should be faithfully followed.

Anytime a Bible writer mentions how information came to him from God he always declares that it was given to him in words, or the equivalent of words. In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, and which he signified by his angel to his servant John, it is undeniable that Jesus dictated some of the words.

Consider the seven letters to the seven churches recorded in Revelation 2:1 through 3:22. Jesus indisputably gave the words of the letters to his servant to be sent to the churches. It is also true that John saw some of the revelation, which is the equivalent of receiving words (Rev. 1:19).

The Bible says that the Lord sometimes made his will known by visions. Words are the signs and symbols of ideas. Inspired dreams are also signs and symbols of ideas. They amount to the same thing. Every inspired writer who tells us how the message came to him says it was revealed in signs and symbols of ideas- whether words or visions. It still amounts to verbal inspiration.

The Holy Spirit spoke words to Philip in Acts 8:29; an angel of the Lord told Philip what to do in Acts 8:26. An angel of God spoke words to Cornelius (Acts 10:4­6). The Spirit spoke to Peter and told him what to do about the visitors sent from Cornelius (Acts 10:19­20). Peter saw a vision and heard words to inform him that man must not make common what God has made dean (Acts 10:11­16).

It is difficult to see how God could make us accountable for following the words of the New Covenant, if it is not inspired in its words (John 12:48).

Jesus told his disciples:

But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you (Matt. 10:17­20).

In Exodus 4:12 Jehovah told Moses "I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say." God put words into the mouth of Balaam (Num. 23:16).

It is true that some statements in the Bible did not come from God, but it also true that they were spoken and God revealed that fact to men through the use of words. God did not authorize Satan to lie to Eve. Adam and his wife did not record the conversation with the serpent in the garden. Moses recorded it about 2,500 years after it took place. God must have told Moses what the serpent said and what Eve said and what Adam said. In giving the law to Moses at Sinai, God spoke words (Ex. 20:1).

Jesus promised the apostles a speaking, teaching Spirit (John 16:13). Paul told Timothy, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly." Vine says the word here translated "speaketh" means to "relate in words of systematic or set discourse." He says the word translated "expressly" means "distinctly." Paul is saying the Holy Spirit distinctly spoke these words.

Jesus used the tense of a word to prove a point about the resurrection (Matt. 22:32). Paul argued that the singular case of a particular word pointed to Jesus (Gal.3:16). Peter said that prophecy came not by the will of man, but "holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1:22). Paul wrote, "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:11­12).

I repeat, when inspired writers of the Bible told us how they got their message they always affirmed that it came to them in the signs and symbols of ideas-by words or visions. The words of David are credited to the Holy Spirit (Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16). God spoke words by "the mouth of ... David" (Acts 4:24­25). They were God's words channeled through a human agent.

We call upon anyone who disagrees with this view-that God gave the very words in which the Bible was written-to give a statement from any Bible writer who claims to have received his revelation in some other way. We have shown that many Bible writers claim they received their message either by express language or by pictorial representation. It was done by graphics, which were used to make the communication plain. Where does any Bible writer ever say that the message came to him without medium-out of thin air. No one ever claimed to receive a word from God by osmosis, except for charlatans.

It is worth our space to reprint, and your time to reread, the insightful words of John W. McGarvey on this subject. His 1904 essay is inserted for your convenience immediately following this editorial.

An objection sometimes raised by those who reject the verbal inspiration of the Bible is that each writer has a distinct vocabulary and literary style. The writing of Isaiah is peculiar to him. Paul's manner of expressing himself is not like that of Peter. Sydney Collett, in his book All About the Bible, suggested that if all the writers had used the same nomenclature of language a critic would have surely accused one person of having written all of it instead of it being written by about 40 different men over 1500 years.

The writers did use different words and each wrote in his own manner, distinguishing one from another. This does not prevent God from having controlled the selection of words, either by giving the exact words to be used, or revealing the message by a vision, or otherwise supervising and controlling the writing process so as to give a precise revelation in precise language.

The Lord is God and his ability is unquestioned, or should be. He who made a universe in six literal days has no limits, except self­imposed restrictions, or limitations made necessary in the nature of things and in the nature of God. God is able to look into the spirit and mind of his creature and select from that person's vocabulary and literary style the very words to be used in making his will known. Anyone who denies this must show that it would violate a promise of deity or contradict his nature or the fitness of things for him to do so.

It is inconceivable that a mere mortal could produce a book like the Bible. It was written over a millennium and a half by four score writers and yet is in perfect agreement. Scripture has been examined microscopically and critically by the world's brightest scholars for 2,000 years. No contradictions were discovered, except for the errors of human copyists, and they are precious few. A book copied and recopied thousands of times and still all the copies are in amazing agreement. No other book has had this kind of treatment. No other book has undergone the derogatory scrutiny and finicky attention given to the Bible and still it stands as a monument to consistency. There is no other book like it. It answers our questions, relieves our fears, and inspires our hopes. We hold up the Bible as a lamp "beside the open grave" and its light shows us "the glory gilding Jordan's wave." It is durable and adequate and makes the child of God perfect in the sight of God (2 Tim. 3:16­17).

The writers of the Bible were from every walk of life. Some, like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Luke and Paul were well educated. Some were common folk - herdsmen, fishermen, publican and plowmen. Still, the Bible blends together in perfect unity. The first hearers of the gospel were astounded and confounded, saying, "Behold, are not all these that speak Galilaeans?" They were amazed that fishermen could do what they did and say what they said and accomplish what they accomplished.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath Got chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:27­31).

Fishermen wrote the books of first and second Peter, first, second, and third John, the gospel of John, and the book of Revelation. I defy anyone to find an uneducated fisherman today who could produce such monumental, helpful, and enduring works. They did not speak from themselves.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4).

There you have it. The Holy Spirit gave them utterance - told them what to say.

Let the man or woman who wants to argue with Luke stand up.


Published April 1996