Christians believe that the Holy Bible was written by men supernaturally inspired; that it is truth without any mixture of error for its matter; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the age, the only complete and final revelation of the will of God to man; the true center of Christian union and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.
By the "The Holy Bible" we mean that collection of sixty-six books from Genesis to Revelation which, as originally written, does not only contain and convey the Word of God but IS the very Word of God.
By "inspiration," we mean that the books of the Bible were written by holy men of old, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, in such a definite way that their writings were supernaturally and verbally inspired and free from error, as no other writings have ever been or ever will be inspired.
The Meaning of "Inspired"
Evangelical Christians have a high view of the Bible and recognize it as the "inspired" Word of God. The term "inspiration" is based on the Greek word theopneustos which communicates the idea of God "breathing out" His Word (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible teaches that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (1 Peter 1:21). Our understanding of inspiration is that the Holy Spirit guided human authors so that what they wrote in Scripture is accurate and without error.Although the individual books of the Bible bear the marks of the personalities of the human authors, God so moved these writers that the very words of Scripture are those "which the Holy Ghost teacheth" (1 Cor. 2:13). Because God is the ultimate author of all Scripture, all Scripture is completely accurate and reliable.The writer to the Hebrews began his epistle by reminding his readers that God "at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets" (Heb. 1:1). Some of the ways God spoke included dreams (Dan. 7:1), visions (Ezek. 1:1), an audible voice (Lev. 1:1), object lessons (Jer. 19:1-15), dictation (Rev. 2:1-3:22), eyewitness reports (1 John 1:13), and historical research (Luke 1:1-4). But even though different methods were used to reveal different parts of Scripture, every verse is as inspired as every other verse.
God's Word Reveals Its Own Author
The divine inspiration of the Scriptures is best recognized by reading the Scriptures. Just as the character of an author tends to come through in his or her writing, so the character of God is reflected on every page of Scripture. Both God and His Book, the Bible, may be described as holy (Isa. 6:3; Ps. 119:3), true (John 17:3, 17), just (1 John 1:9; Ps. 119:149), powerful (Nah. 1:2; Heb. 4:12), and eternal (Ps. 90:2; Matt. 24:35). In fact, every attribute of God is reflected to some degree in the pages of Scripture.When New Testament writers described the Scriptures as inspired, they were most often speaking of the Old Testament. Still, there is some evidence that they quickly recognized the inspiration of the New Testament as it was being written. Peter commented on the epistles of Paul in a way that suggests he viewed them as inspired as "the rest of the Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:16). Paul quoted both Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 as Scripture which supported a particular principle he was teaching (1 Tim. 5:18). Some Bible teachers believe John 21:24 was written by the elders of the church at Ephesus to attest to their confidence in the authenticity and inspiration of the fourth gospel.
God Chose His Word Carefully
When we say the Scriptures are inspired, we mean that every word of the original autographs of Scripture is the very word God chose to use. The Scriptures were originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and have since been translated into hundreds of other languages. Most Bible translators have a high regard for the Scriptures and do their best to accurately translate the Word of God into the language of the people. As we read these translations, we are reading the Word of God and should respond accordingly.
1. Definition of Literal Interpretation
The Literal (sometimes called the Grammatical-Historical) Method of interpretation explains the original sense of the Bible according to the normal and customary usage of its language.The literal method is often held up for ridicule and written off as too foolish to be taken seriously.The word "literal" is often taken to mean "that which is non-figurative." Interpreters often improperly set the literal over against the figurative. This is a serious misapprehension of the method.Everyone agrees that great literature properly uses both figurative and non-figurative language. Figures of speech are the legitimate, charming ornaments of language. They help to liven writing and conversation. Like all great literature, the Bible contains both figurative and non-figurative language. For instance, Christ describes Himself as the light of the world (John 8:12). Figurative language helps make God's Word linguistically more interesting.The presence of figures in Scripture, however, does not contradict literal interpretation. Since literal interpretation properly accepts that which is normal and customary in language, and figurative language is certainly normal and customary, literal interpreters are not hindered by that which is figurative.Although the Scriptures contain figurative language, the interpreter must be careful not to identify as a figure that which is actual. This is true especially of prophecy. The statement, Pray for the peace of Jerusalem . . . (Psalm 122:6), is a request concerning the earthly city of Jerusalem, not figurative of praying for the Christian church.The literal method of interpretation is concerned with interpretation, not with application. The interpreter is primarily interested in what the Bible says; then he makes practical applications based on what has been literally interpreted. To base interpretations of the Bible on applications is erroneous and will end in chaos.
2. Principles of Literal Interpretation
a. General Principles
(1) The Bible is God's infallible, inerrantly inspired Word. There are no mistakes in the Bible. God has included everything in the Bible that He wants you to know and everything that is necessary for you to know concerning salvation and your Christian life.(2) The Holy Spirit teaches Spirit filled Christians (John 14:26). Any believer who will ask the author of the Bible to be his personal teacher will experience astonishing insights into God's Word.
b. Specific Principles
(1) Interpret the Bible in light of clarity.Difficult and apparently ambiguous verses should always be understood in the clear light of the many verses that are perfectly clear.(2) Interpret the Bible in light of its historical background.(a) Study the personal circumstances of the writer. (Example:John on Patmos writing Revelation)(b) Study the culture and customs of the country at the time of its writing. (E.g. -- to understand the book of Ruth it is important to study the customs concerning widows, redemption of property, etc., as explained in Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 25.)(c) Study the Bible in light of the actual historical situation and events that were taking place at the time of the story. (E.g. -- in studying the Gospels it is important to realize that the entire land of Palestine and all of the Jews were being governed and oppressed by the Roman Empire at that time.)(3) Interpret the Bible according to the purpose and plan of each book.Each book has its own specific purpose designated by the Holy Spirit (e.g., I John was written to Christians -- I John 5:13).(4) Interpret the Bible according to the context of the verse.This includes the verses immediately preceding and immediately following the verse you are studying. One phrase states . . . there is no God (Psalm 14:1), but if you read the total passage it would read The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. So always study the context of a verse, word, or topic to find the truth in the setting which God intended.(5) Interpret the Bible always according to the correct meaning of words.(6) Interpret the Bible according to all of the parallel passages which deal with the subject and according to the message of the entire Bible.
The Revelation of God in Scripture
After Jesus rose from the dead, "then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:45-47). The records of history tell us of the death of Christ, but only the Bible tells us it was for our salvation. "Christ died [history] for our sins [revelation]" (1 Cor. 15:3).
The Bible reveals the Person of God
God has revealed his existence in general ways to all men through nature, conscience, and history. But God has used the special revelation of Scripture and Christ to reveal his Person. Men cannot arrive at the right ideas about God by themselves. The only ideas that are correct about God are those that he has revealed about himself. His names (titles), his attributes, and his plan can only be found in this Book.
Revelation is foundational to all doctrine
The Bible says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine" (2 Tim. 3:16). Doctrine is simply the teaching of God concerning a particular subject. If God did not reveal (teach) anything on a particular subject, there would be no doctrine.
Revelation is foundational to the Christian life
"All scripture . . . is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect [mature], thoroughly furnished unto all good work" (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).The Bible is the Christian's "how to" manual on how to please God. "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to "all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Josh. 1:8).
The Bible is a Supernatural Message
The total message of the Bible is a supernatural one which only God could reveal to his spokesmen. They recorded the activities and conversations of God at times and places where no man was present to observe. That which was otherwise hidden from man and known only by God was revealed or shown by God to them. Yet, some read the Bible and miss this principle.The Bible teaches that its message came from God and the source of its words are from God. Those who deny the revelation and inspiration of the Bible claim that God gave only an impression or an experience. They deny verbal inspiration, but a close study of the following authors reveals their attitude toward being a divine instrument for communicating the message to men.
God Chose to Reveal Himself
The reason we have a Bible at all is because God has chosen to reveal certain truths about Himself to us. The Bible is God's self-revelation of Himself to His people. The word "revelation" refers to the act of God which gave people knowledge about Himself and His creation, including knowledge which they could not have otherwise known. Moses reminded the people of Israel, "the secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deut. 29:29).
What is Revelation?
Our understanding of revelation implies several things.
First, revelation is an act of God, "for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21).
Second, God gives this revelation about Himself to people (1 Cor. 10:6; Rom. 1:19).
Third, revelation involves the communication of truth we could not otherwise know apart from God. The apostle Paul described his ability to write Scripture in the context of the Holy Spirit revealing a mystery which was hidden to previous generations (Eph. 3:3-5).
Fourth, the revelation which God has given us in Scripture is both partial and complete. It is partial in the sense that God did reveal some things to the apostles which He chose not to include in Scripture (Rev. 10:4; 2 Cor. 12:4). It is complete in the sense that nothing should be added or removed from the Scriptures (Rev. 22:18).
God reveals Himself to us in different ways. He reveals Himself in a general way through history (1 Cor. 10:1-6), our conscience (Rom. 2:14-16), and nature (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-21).He also reveals Himself in a fuller way in the Bible (Deut. 29:29; 2 Peter 1:20-21) and through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 18).
The Bible is His Purpose
God reveals His Word for a purpose. In fact, several things are accomplished through the Scriptures. Scriptures reveal our sin (Rom. 3:9-20). They reveal Christ (John 5:39; Rev. 1:1). They reveal how we can obtain eternal life (John 20:31; 1 John 5:13). Scriptures also reveal God's expectations in our life (2 Tim. 3:17). Further, Scriptures reveal the keys to both wisdom (Prov. 1:2, 5; Ps. 19:7) and spiritual victory (Ps. 119:9-11; Eph. 6:16-17).
Bible Writers Who Claimed Inspiration
Moses did not attempt to hide his source in recording Scripture but readily acknowledged the fact of revelation. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deut. 29:29).At his trial, Stephen recognized that the writings of Moses were the revelation of God by the Holy Spirit. After highlighting some of what Moses taught in relation to Christ, Stephen said, "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye" (Acts 7:51). Resisting the words of Moses is here equated with resisting the Holy Spirit. That which Moses recorded was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit.
Another major contributor to the Old Testament, David, had a special relationship with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "For David himself said by the Holy Ghost" (Mark 12:36). This introduction to an Old Testament quote demonstrated the method of inspiration in Scripture. It recognizes that David was used of God to record Scripture. In doing so, God permitted David the full use of his faculties and personality so that it is accurate to say, "David himself said" at the same time he spoke "by the Holy Ghost." An understanding of inspiration must recognize that both are true without affecting a compromise upon the other. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1:21).In his desire to be right with God, David once prayed, "Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me" (Ps. 51:11). As he recorded the Psalms, he was recording what the Holy Spirit had revealed to him in his walk with God. The New Testament church recognized, "Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David..." (Acts 4:24, 25). This powerful verse shows that the people of the New Testament recognized that the Creator also spoke through human authors by inspiration.
As we read the writings of the major and minor prophets we cannot help but be impressed with their reliance upon God for their message. Again and again we read, "Thus saith the Lord." Isaiah said, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound" (Isa. 61:1).God told Jeremiah, "Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth" (Jer. 1:9). Ezekiel began his prophecy acknowledging, "I saw visions of God" (Ezek. 1: 1). Even the minor prophets acknowledged the work of God. "This is the word of the Lord... not by' might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6). The prophets gave abundant witness to speaking God's Word.
Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would reveal himself to them so they could record the Word of God. "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come" (John 16:13).It is interesting in the light of this promise to see how one of these disciples began the final book of the Bible. "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant, John" (Rev. 1:1). It should also be noted that John "was in the Spirit on the Lord's day" (Rev. 1:10) when he received this revelation and at least seven times in the Revelation Jesus says, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).This promise, fulfilled in the ministry of John, was also fulfilled in, the ministries of Peter and Matthew as they recorded what the Holy Spirit revealed to them for eternity.
The apostle Paul acknowledged that God had given him a special revelation. He spoke of "my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest" (Rom. 16:25, 26). Concerning his revelation, the apostle stated in another place, "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:10).The Holy Spirit had a ministry in the life If Paul where the message of God wa revealed to him to teach it to others (1 Cor. 2:12, 13). Very quickly in the early church, the epistles of Paul were collected and studied as equal to the Old Testament Scripture (2 Pet. 3:15, 16). Those that read the Scriptures recognize that Paul's writings were accepted on the same level a Moses and the writers of the Old Testament.
Proofs of Biblical Inspirations
The proofs that the Bible is the inspired Word of God are seen in the Bible itself and in the influence it has had. Since every book communicates in part the nature of its author, the Bible and God share a common character in many respects. That the Bible is understandable in spite of the depth of its simplicity is another mark of the hand of God in this Book. Finally, the influence of the Bible in the lives of its readers demonstrates the work of God himself in human lives.
The Character of the Bible
Since an author's personality is reflected in his journalism, the character of God is reflected in the Book he wrote. A closer look at the Scriptures will demonstrate that many of those attributes ascribed to God are also true of the Bible. The holiness of God is prevalent in the Scriptures themselves.It has always seemed appropriate to call it the "Holy Bible." God is a comforting God, and his Word is a source of comfort and encouragement to the reader. Both God and the Bible are eternal and life-giving. The following chart illustrates the revelation of these and other attributes of God and the Bible.
The Understandable Nature of the Bible
Only God could write a Book like this one. Though the Bible is the result of men who worked within cultural limitations, it is not limited to a particular culture. Men in China find the truths of this Book just as applicable to their lives as men in Africa and America.With the exception of the names of various individuals, which would be strange to anyone of a different background than that of the context, most of the Bible can be understood by a school child.Some studies place the Bible at a sixth-grade readability level. Despite its simplicity, it has a depth of teaching that men have spent a lifetime trying to learn. God inspired this Book realizing it would be a tool for his servants.Few of those servants would be well educated by the world's standards (1 Cor. 1:26-31), so God had to remove as many barriers as possible for them to use his Word. Yet at the same time, the well-educated man is challenged by its profound truth and expression.No matter what a person's background, he has a responsibility to learn more of the Bible and perfect his skills in studying and using it. Paul advised Timothy, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).
The influence of the Bible
The Bible can have a definite positive influence on the life-style of its readers, even though some have misapplied its truths and entered into grave error. Actually the Bible's influence begins at our conversion.Paul rejoiced that the Romans had "obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine which was delivered unto [them]" (Rom. 6:17). The things a person must know to be saved are found in the Bible. Peter observed that we are "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (1 Pet. 1:23).The life-style of a Christian ought to be different from that of the unsaved. This is accomplished in four phases, according to 2 Timothy 3:16. Phase one involves building a doctrinal base. Our lives are a result of what we believe.Phase two involves being reproved by the Bible. Reproof means we are shown what we are doing is wrong. If God convicts us of something we are doing, it is important that we obey his instructions. Phase three is correction. It should be easier to do the right thing than to stop the wrong. Whenever the Bible tells us something is wrong, it will also tell us what is right.The final phase is instruction in righteousness, which means building a life-style that naturally avoids the failures of our former life-style. While the Christian does not always have a transformed lifestyle overnight, every Christian has the power to make progress in his life.For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God [prophets] spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (II Peter 1:21).