scripture doctrine inspired christian revelation spirit bible means scriptures
INSPIRATION is the Latin- equivalent of earl-veva-Tim, and is used to express the fact that holy men of old spice as they were moved by the Spirit of God. The idea is not exclusively Christian or Jewish ; pagans have had their inspired speakers and writers and their ideas of inspiration, and these earlier pagan notions have had their effect on some of the forms which the Christian doctrine has assumed.
The classical languages contain many words and phrases expressive of this idea, e.g. OeoyhOpoL (iEsch., _Aganz. 1150), Ounrvao-rot (Pint., ii. 904 69.; cf. 2 Tim. iii. 15), Oco7rpCorot. (Iliad and Odyssey, passim), ZvOEot (Plato, Phiedr. 244), p,awOucvoc, divine) nuntine afflati, divino spiritu instineti, inspirati, furentes. Artistic powers and poetic talents, gifts of prediction, the warmth of love, and the battle frenzy were all ascribed to the power of the god possessing the man inspired. And these words were taken over into Christian theological writing, and used to describe what Jewish and Christian divines have called inspiration. This transference of terms, which was unavoidable, produced, however, a certain confusion of thought ; for pagans and Christians meant by inspiration two different things, When a pagan described inspiration, he did so by stating the marks of the state into which the inspired person fell when the fit seized him ; a Christian theologian on the other hand was chiefly concerned with the result of inspiration. What the inspired person said or did or commanded was of less moment to the pagan philosopher than the fact that lie was possessed, that he was passive in the hands of the inspiring deity, that he was no longer himself but the god who for the moment dwelt in him and used him as he might an inanimate instrument. But in Christian theology inspiration always has to do with the belief that God has " wholly committed to writing" His revelation, and the psychological character of the state of inspiration is of small account compared with the fact that inspiration, whatever it may be, has for its result that God's revelation has so been committed to writing that men have it permanently, fully, and in an infallibly trustworthy way. In pagan literature 0€67rvevoros is applied primarily to men who have been possessed; in Biblical and ecclesiastical language its primary use is to denote the writings which are the result of inspiration. The words in the mouth of a pagan mean primarily the psychological state, in the mouth of a Christian they mean the characteristics of a book or set of writings.
The doctrine of inspiration in Christian theology contains very little reference to the psychological state of the persons inspired, and when it does enter into such details we may generally trace their presence back to the influence of pagan ideas or words; it has to do with the characteristics of the writings which have been inspired. In short, the problem of inspiration in Christian theology very much comes to this : - In the Bible we have God's revelation wholly committed to writing ; what are we to infer from this about the Bible ? And the varying answers given to this question form the history of the doctrine. Theology distinguishes between revelation, inspiration, and the canon of Scripture. Revelation is the objective approach of God to man, God entering into human life and history for man's salvation; Scripture is the record of this revelation, and inspiration provides that the record is complete and trustworthy ; while the canon of Scripture gives the list of inspired writings.
It does not belong to an historical article like this to describe more minutely the doctrine of inspiration or its basis in Scripture and in the Christian experience; all that can be done here is to state as concisely as possible various answers made to the main problem involved.
Special ibus Lrgibus, § S) ; hut he says that there arc degrees of inspiration, and that all portions of Scripture are not equally inspired, or at least have not the same depth of inspiration. Moses has the first place in the scale of inspired writers ; he i3 tipvrpoctirns, while others are Mtsva-&, Eraipot, tta0nra4 ()twill rat, chompat -yvoiptp.m. ; hut this idea of degrees of inspiration, a conception borrowed from Plato, does not seem to prevent Philo from thinking that the very words of the Old Testament were all inspired of God (1 tt. Mos., 2, § 7). It was also a common opinion among the Rabbins of the early Middle Ages that the inspiration of the Old Testament required that, not merely the thoughts and words of Scripture, but even the vowel points and accents were themselves of divine origin ; but this idea seems to have been compatible with the theory that there were three degrees of inspiration, the highest being the inspiration of the Penta- teuch and the lowest that of the Hagiographa,.
a means of information, and not so much a means of grace. The Scriptures edified because they instructed, and were of importance because they gave information not otherwise attainable ; and so inspiration, whatever else it was, came to be regarded as the means whereby that information was kept correct. It had been always held that the divine agent in inspiration was the Holy Spirit, but the precise function of the Spirit was not clearly defined. The early theologians, when discussing the inspiration of the apostles, forgot the writing in describing the writers, and enlarged on the powers communicated to them by the Spirit of God to guide the church, to work miracles, and to foretell the future. The promise of the Spirit, however, was not confined to the apostles ; all believers were to share in it. Justin Martyr speaks of the miraculous powers of the apostles, and of the spiritual gifts of all Christians, as if the two were the same ; and Tertullian, while he does draw a distinction between the inspiration of the apostles and that common to all believers, declares that the difference is one of degree, the inspiration of believers being only partial inspiration. Out of these conflicting tendencies there emerged in due time a double doctrine of inspiration. The Scriptures were inspired to teach infallible truth, and believers were inspired also with something of the same kind of inspiration to interpret this infallible truth. For though it was not distinctly stated, yet still there were intimations of what was to come. Whenever the Bible is looked on as altogether or even chiefly a' means of knowledge, and not as a means of grace also, the intellectual aspect overcomes or drives into the background the concep- tion of the Bible as a grace-giving power, and there is need of infallible interpretation as well as of infallible delivery of the propositions which convey the knowledge. Iu short, the doctrine was in such a state that at any moment it might crystallize. into a theory that would practically deny to the ordinary believer the saving use of Scripture as a means of grace. The occasion was furnished by Montanism, which revived within the Christian church the old pagan idea of µavea, and applied it not to the original Scriptures but to the infallible interpretation of Scripture. The Montanist prophets claimed to be possessed of the Spirit as the Old Testament prophets had been, but this inspiration they used, not so much to give additional Scriptures, as to give authoritative exposition of the Scriptures already delivered to the church. Theologians rejected the Montanist yavia, denied that passivity and ecstasy were marks of inspiration, but none the less did the real essence of Montanist prophecy find its way into the church, for the result was a double doctrine of inspiration, --the inspiration of Scripture, which insured that the knowledge they communicated was correct, and the official inspiration of the church, which insured that the knowledge infallibly communicated was infallibly understood. This brings us to the scholastic period.
rather than in propositions, that if the Bible was altogether a communication of doctrinal truth there was much in the Scriptures which had not at first sight that appearance. The long histories, the tables of genealogy, did not contain doctrinal statements, or give rules of holy living. Were these portions inspired'? The question does not require to be raised if we believe that inspiration implies simply that God has fully committed His revelation to writing, and that revelation is above all things God entering into human life and history for the salvation of His people ; for then the whole course of the history, with all the facts as well as the doctrines, contains the revelation. But if we take revelation to be only the delivery of doctrines, the question arises and disturbs our theory of inspiration. The fathers solved every difficulty here by appealing to allegorical interpretation, for allegory will turn the driest statistical details into a moral or doctrinal code ; but the Schoolrnen were too dryly logical to be quite content with this explanation. They accepted the allegorical senses of Scripture, but many of them held, like Thomas Aquinas (Samna ii. 2, qu. 1, art. 6 ; qu. 2, art. 2), that there were two kinds of inspiration in Scripture, the direct, which is to be found where doctrinal and moral truths are directly taught, and the indirect, which appears in historical passages, whence the doctrinal and moral can only be indirectly evolved by the use of allegorical interpretation. Many different opinions, however, were held about the details of the doctrine. Gregory the Great called the writers of Scripture the calami of the Holy Spirit, to denote how entirely the Bible was the work of God; while Agobard of Lyons asserted that the inspiration of Scripture did not exclude the presence of grammatical errors, Thomas Aquinas was content to say simply that God is the author of Scripture (Summa 1, qu. 1, art. 10) ; but elsewhere he discusses at some length the psychological aspects of the inspiration of the prophets.
and it became more closely allied with the written Scriptures, and paid less attention to the writers. It taught that Scripture as a whole, and the parts of Scripture looked at as parts of the one whole, were designed to be a means of grace, to awaken a new life in God's people, through the work of the Spirit, and thus the doctrine of inspiration was at once brought into connexion with and yet clearly separated from the spiritual illumination shared by all believers. It is allied because both the inspiration of Scripture and the enlightening work of the Spirit in the hearts of believers are parts of the plan of God whereby by His means of grace through the work of the Spirit He gathers believers into His kingdom ; it is quite distinct, for by it God wholly commits his revelation to writing, and so makes the Scripture able to appeal with the very power of God to the hearts and consciences of men. In this way the doctrine of inspiration was advanced a stage beyond what it had before reached, and indeed was raised to a higher platform. It was now seen that inspiration secured that the Scriptures should be instinct with God's power for salvation, as well as full of the knowledge which God has pleased to communicate to man. And thus in the hands of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli the doctrine of inspiration had for its correlative the doctrine of the Testimonium Spiritus Sancti ; the two doctrines supported and explained each other. The second raised the first out of the region of mechanical dictation, the first prevented the second degenerating into a mystical enthusiasm. The Reformers were content to leave the doctrine of inspiration without much further definition, but they took the full advantage of the spiritual form of the doctrine to use great freedom with the letter of Scripture. Their successors acted otherwise.
show discrepancies which cannot be explained on the theory of wilful or involuntary mistakes of copyists.
The Socinians and certain Arminians, such as Episcopins, who started with the idea that the Bible is simply a communication of knowledge, and so revived the mediaeval idea, also resuscitated the scholastic doctrine of partial inspiration. They did not admit the allegorical method of interpretation, and were therefore compelled to reject the " indirect inspiration " of Thomas Aquinas; but they held that inspiration was only required to communicate knowledge which the writer could not otherwise obtain, and they usually assorted that only the doctrinal parts of the Bible were inspired while the historical were not. Calixtus in the Lutheran Church held a somewhat similar opinion.
See Sonntag, Doctrine Inspirationis ejUSTUC ratio, Heidelberg, 1810 ; Hagenbach, History of Doctrines ; Baur, Vorlesungen iibcr die Christliche Dogmengcsehichte ; Sella', History of throe Creeds of Christendom ; Bannerman, htsviration ; Gaussen, ThApncustie; Lee, The Inspiration of the Holy Bible, &c. (T. H. L.)