Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (God’s Word: Inspiration of Scripture)

Revelation and Inspiration

Definition of Inspiration

Preparation for Inspiration

Proofs of Inspiration

God initiated the disclosure and revelation of himself to mankind (Heb. 1:1). The vehicles varied; sometimes it was through the created order and at other times through visions/dreams or speaking prophets (Heb. 1:1–3). However, the most thorough and understandable self-disclosures were through the written propositions of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:6–16). The written Word of God is unique in that it is the only revelation of God that clearly declares man’s sinfulness and God’s provision of the Savior.

Table 2.1 Symbols for the Bible

Symbol  Reality  Texts  
Jesus Christ  Personification of the Word  John 1:1; Rev. 19:13  
Valuable metals  Incalculable worth  Silver: Ps. 12:6 Gold: Pss. 19:10; 119:127  
Seed  Source of new life  Matt. 13:10–23; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23  
Water  Cleansing from sin  Eph. 5:25–27; Rev. 21:6; 22:17  
Mirror  Self-examination  James 1:22–25  
Food  Nourishment for the soul  Milk: 1 Cor. 3:2; 1 Pet. 2:1–3 Bread: Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4 Meat: 1 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12–14 Honey: Ps. 19:10  
Clothing  A life dressed in truth  Titus 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:1–5  
Lamp  Light for direction  Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23; 2 Pet. 1:19  
Sword  Spiritual weapon  Outwardly: Eph. 6:17 Inwardly: Heb. 4:12  
Plumb line  Benchmark of spiritual reality  Amos 7:8  
Hammer  Powerful judgment  Jer. 23:29  
Fire  Painful judgment  Jer. 5:14; 20:9; 23:29  

The revelation of God was captured in the writings of Scripture by means of inspiration, which has more to do with the process by which God revealed himself than the fact of his self-revelation. Second Timothy 3:16 makes this claim when it states, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” Peter explains the process: “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20–21). By this means, the Word of God was protected from human error in its original record by the ministry of the Holy Spirit (cf. Deut. 18:18; Matt. 1:22). Zechariah describes the process of inspiration most clearly, casting Scripture as “the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets” (Zech. 7:12). This ministry of the Spirit extended to both the part (the words) and the whole in the original writings.

Revelation and Inspiration

By definition and as it relates to revelation, the finite creature and the infinite Creator differ fundamentally. God enjoys infinite and perfect knowledge, while mankind possesses a finite and imperfect knowledge. Indeed, mankind cannot fully know what creation reveals apart from Scripture. Revelation involves God (the Creator) conveying truth about himself to humanity. According to Scripture, this revelation comes in two forms: general revelation (Ps. 19:1–6) and special revelation (Ps. 19:7–14).

GENERAL REVELATION

General revelation is God’s witness of himself through the creation to his creatures. David explains it this way: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). When a person looks up at the sky, the universe itself attests to the fact that it has a Creator—and that he is awesome. The term “glory” literally speaks of God’s weightiness or significance, and that is precisely what looking up at the sky in the day or night reveals. The One who created this universe must be truly amazing and powerful to bring all this into existence. Creation’s witness to the Creator is continuous. As David writes, “Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:2). While it is a limited witness because it is nonverbal, it is nevertheless universally accessible to all:

There is no speech, nor are there words,

whose voice is not heard;

Their voice goes out through all the earth,

and their words to the end of the world.

(Ps. 19:3–4; cf. Acts 14:17; 17:23–31; Rom. 1:18–25; 10:18)

The types of things that can be discerned from general revelation include an appreciation of God’s wisdom and power. The more a person examines either the vastness of space or the finest particles in his molecular structure, the more he is compelled to recognize with wonder and amazement the true greatness of the Creator. It is not unlike looking at a fine painting and appreciating the artist’s genius by admiring everything from the choice of colors to the angle of the brush strokes. Similarly, one can observe countless brush strokes and color choices in creation. The vastness of the ocean, the unfathomable depth of the sea, and the sound and force of each wave as it strikes the shore—all these things and many more speak to the power of God. At the same time, the way the hydrologic cycle works to water the earth and preserve life attests to the goodness of its Creator. That rain falls on the fields of those who love and worship God as well as those who do not reveals the love God has for all his creatures (Matt. 5:45). For believers, God’s providential care in working all things to their good can also be included in the category of his general revelation (Rom. 8:28)—though the doctrine of providence is derived from promises given in special revelation. All these things and many more attest to the greatness of the Creator.

Another form of general revelation complements what can be observed in creation with that which can be observed in man himself: the inherent knowledge of right and wrong and the work of the conscience, which accuses sinners so that they stand condemned before their Creator and Judge. As Paul put it, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Rom. 2:14–15). Creation not only attests to the infinite power and wisdom of its Creator but also works together with the innate understanding that God has placed within man to bring about an awareness of sin and judgment. Solomon affirms that man knows there is more to life than this physical existence. As he explains, God has placed an awareness of eternity within man’s heart (Eccles. 3:11). Everyone begins with an internal comprehension of the fact that though man is finite, there is more to his existence than just this temporal reality.

While general revelation conveys a great deal about the power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, and majesty of the Creator, it is limited to what can be observed by sinful man. The ultimate end of general revelation is that it leaves people without excuse for failing to recognize the nature of their Creator. But it conveys nothing regarding the way by which a fallen human being might gain access to or secure reconciliation with his Creator to escape judgment. That is why God deemed it necessary to also reveal himself directly through special revelation. He did it so that fallen humans would know (1) the fullness of God, (2) how to be redeemed from God’s wrath toward sinners, and (3) how to live and please God.

Several concluding observations can be made from the Bible about general revelation:

       1.    The breadth of content includes only the knowledge of God, not all knowledge unqualified.

       2.    The time span is all time, not just more recent times.

       3.    The witness is to all people, not just to some with scientific training.

       4.    The acquisition is made by human sight and sense, not with scientific equipment or technique.

       5.    The whole corpus of general revelation was available immediately after creation; it did not accumulate with the passing of time and the progressive collection of knowledge.

Therefore, the purpose of general revelation in nature as defined by Scripture should not be broadened or expanded any further than the special revelation of Scripture allows. To do so, would be to do the unthinkable—add to the Scripture without divine authorization. No one can be saved by general revelation (Rom. 10:5–17; 1 Cor. 1:18–2:5).

SPECIAL REVELATION

God uses special revelation when he reveals himself directly and in greater detail. God has done this through (1) direct acts, (2) dreams and visions, (3) Christ’s incarnation, and (4) Scripture. God has revealed himself by direct acts at various times and in varied ways throughout redemptive history (Heb. 1:1). He spoke directly with Adam in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:16–17; 3:9, 11). He addressed the nation of Israel audibly at Sinai (Deut. 5:4). He spoke to Moses personally and confirmed his witness by many powerful signs and wonders (Deut. 34:10–12). God did miracles at key points in redemptive history to confirm his witnesses (Exodus 3–14), including the Father’s vocal confirmation of the Son on three separate occasions (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28).

God also revealed himself directly through dreams and visions. He gave Isaiah a vision of the Son of God in his full preincarnate glory (Isa. 6:1–4). Daniel was given multiple revelatory experiences, including one in direct response to his prayer for the nation of Israel (Dan. 9:20–21). The apostle John saw a vision of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ in full glory on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:10–16). In each case, God revealed himself to a human prophet in order to give him special revelation.

The ultimate manifestation of special revelation is the incarnation of the Son. The Creator God took on himself the limitations of human flesh and dwelt among his creatures (John 1:1–5, 14). While he was not generally recognized for who he truly was (John 1:10–11), he nevertheless revealed the fullness of God’s person to men (John 14:9–10). Jesus is described as the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15) and as the “exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3 NASB). Jesus was a perfect revelation of God to men. He was the exact representation of who God is and what he is like.

An equally authoritative form of special revelation is the Bible. While the incarnate Word is an exact embodiment of the divine Creator, Scripture is likewise a special and divine revelation from God to men (Heb. 1:1). It is a fixed written testimony from the Creator to his creatures. It was composed over a period of more than fifteen hundred years by forty different human authors. But what was composed was more than the words of men. It was the inspired words of God himself. Its superiority to general revelation is attested by David (Ps. 19:7–11). The Scriptures reveal to man the mind of God, the ways of God, the righteousness of God, and the means by which man might please God. It is superior to general revelation because it is specific and verbal. It is a written revelation from God through his apostles and prophets (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4) and is thereby a lasting and forever-settled witness to an unchanging God (2 Sam. 22:31; Ps. 18:30; Prov. 30:5–6; Jer. 26:2).

To fully grasp the qualitative and functional differences between general revelation and special revelation, one need only consider the following three contrasts between the two. First, the agents of general revelation in nature will perish (Isa. 40:8; Matt. 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; 1 Pet. 1:24; 2 Pet. 3:10), but the Word of special revelation will not pass away, because it is forever (Ps. 119:89; Isa. 40:8; Matt. 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; 1 Pet. 1:25). Second, the means of general revelation in nature was cursed and is in bondage to corruption (Gen. 3:1–24; Rom. 8:19–23). It is therefore not the perfect world God originally created (Gen. 1:31). However, the Word of special revelation is inspired by God and thus always perfect and holy (Pss. 19:7–9; 119:140; 2 Tim. 3:16; Rom. 7:12). Third, the scope of general revelation in nature is severely limited compared to the multidimensional expanse of special revelation in Scripture. To enlarge and clarify this line of thinking, additional differences are listed in table 2.2.

Table 2.2 General and Special Revelation in Scripture

General Revelation in Scripture  Special Revelation in Scripture  
Only condemns  Condemns and redeems  
Harmonizes with special revelation but provides no new material  Not only enhances and explains in detail the content of general revelation but also goes significantly beyond that explanation  
In its perceived message needs to be confirmed by Scripture  Is self-authenticating and self-confirming in its claim to be God’s Word  
Needs to be interpreted in light of special revelation  Needs no other revelation to be interpreted since it interprets itself  
Is never equated with Scripture by Scripture  Has no peer  

Definition of Inspiration

VIEWS OF INSPIRATION

Scholars have proposed numerous theories for explaining the divine process of inspiration. We will summarize the main views here.

Dictation Theory of Inspiration. This view suggests that God gave the human authors of the Bible the precise words to write. The process of inspiration simply involved them penning these words verbatim. The human author was merely an instrument God used like a pen to compose his words on the page. Scripture certainly includes instances of divine dictation, such as God’s instructions to Moses in recording the law on Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:27), to Jeremiah addressing the nation in Jerusalem (Jer. 30:2), and to John on the island of Patmos addressing the seven churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14). In each of these cases, God gave the exact words to the human authors by way of dictation. Inspiration in these cases did, in fact, involve writing God’s revelation word for word.

However, if the entire Bible were composed by means of divine dictation, we would expect one style and one consistent vocabulary throughout. It would be a record void of the individuality of the human authors’ language and style. But just the opposite is observed in the texts of Scripture (Deut. 3:23–25; Rom. 9:1–3). The key argument against mechanical dictation is that every book of the Bible exhibits clear evidence of the writer’s personality. Every book has a different character and way of expressing itself. Every author has a different style. God could have exclusively used dictation and given the truth that way. In fact, he really did not have to use men at all. But the writing in the Bible features variations in style. It displays variations in language and vocabulary. From author to author, their distinct personalities shine through. One can even feel the human authors’ emotions as they pour out God’s Word on paper.

Still, the question remains, how could the Bible be the words of men like Peter and Paul and at the same time be God’s words as well? Part of the answer to this complex question is simply because God had made Peter and Paul and the other writers of Scripture into the men that he wanted them to be by forming their very personalities. He controlled their heredity and their environments. He controlled their lives, all the while giving them freedom of choice and will. And when these men were exactly what he wanted them to be, he directed and controlled their free and willing choice of words so that they wrote down the very words of God.

God made them into the kind of men whom he could use to express his truth, and then God literally selected the words out of their lives and their personalities, vocabularies, and emotions. The words were their words, but in reality their lives had been so framed by God that they were God’s words. So it is possible to say that Paul wrote the book of Romans and to also say that God wrote it and to be right on both counts.

Partial or Conceptual Theory of Inspiration. Some theologians, preachers, and other biblical scholars teach conceptual inspiration. In other words, they say that God never gave the writers of the Bible the exact words they would write; rather, God gave them general ideas or impressions, and they put these down in their own words. For example, he planted the concept of love in Paul’s mind, and one day Paul sat down and penned 1 Corinthians 13.

This view of inspiration claims that God suggested a general trend of revelation, but men were left free to say what they wanted, which is why (in the opinion of those who take this position) the Bible contains so many mistakes. This view is a denial of verbal inspiration. It denies that God inspired the very words of Scripture. The conceptual view of inspiration has been popular with neoorthodox theologians, who believe that the Bible contains the Word of God but is not the Word of God.

In this theory, God inspired the ideas within the authors but did not give them these concepts in actual words. Said another way, God conveyed his truth to the writers, but inspiration itself applies not to the words but only to the doctrine conveyed through their writings. This approach allows God to be true in what he conveyed to the human authors, while at the same time leaving room for inadequacies in what was actually written. In this view, God either accommodated himself to the limitations of the human writers or left it to them to convey his truth in their own words, explaining why what the human authors wrote is not necessarily factually accurate.

However, the Scriptures repeatedly make claims to be fully truthful (Ps. 119:43, 160; 2 Tim. 2:15). Jesus himself affirms that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). Furthermore, the Bible never speaks of Scripture’s authority and message as limited to merely the concepts or the ideas generally conveyed by the words on the page. On the contrary, God expresses great concern for his Word and forbids any tampering with his commandments (Deut. 4:2; 12:32). Scripture confirms inspiration at the word level when it says, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5–6). This concern is expressed just as seriously in the final book of the Bible as it is in the Law of Moses (Rev. 22:18–19). A similar injunction in Jeremiah (26:1–2) makes this divine restriction a notable element in all four major sections of written revelation: the Law, the Prophets, the Writings, and the New Testament. God repeats it in every major section, making it emphatic and clear: God’s concern is not just that the concepts are true but also that the words themselves are truly inspired. Divine inspiration occurred at the word level.

Natural Theory of Inspiration. Those who hold to this view argue that the biblical authors found inspiration for their writing of Scripture not from God but from within themselves. In the same way that gifted composers, artists, architects, and authors have been inspired in their great masterpieces, the biblical writers were moved naturally in the writing of Scripture. They were men who gained amazing spiritual insight through their exceptional sensitivity and giftedness. As a result, their writings were of an inspired quality.

The obvious objection to this view is that while it acknowledges the human authorship of Scripture, it negates or ignores the biblical claim of divine authorship (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20–21). This view exalts the human authors of the Bible but denies that God really had anything to do with its authorship. According to this view, God did not write the Bible. Smart and spiritual men did.

Another fatal flaw for this view is that smart, religious men would not write a book that condemns them all. Such men would not write a book that provided salvation only from above. Such men seek to provide their own salvation. All other religions promote the deadly lie that man contributes to salvation by works of morality, charity, or ritual. They do not want to trust solely in the perfect sacrifice made by God’s Son. As a final note, even the noblest of men could never conceive of a personality like Jesus Christ. Even the most gifted minds could not fabricate a character who would surpass any human being who ever lived in wisdom, purity, love, righteousness, and perfection.

The Biblical View: Verbal, Plenary Inspiration. God through his Spirit inspired every word penned by the human authors in each of the sixty-six books of the Bible in the original documents (i.e., the autographs). Inspiration describes the process of divine causation behind the authorship of Scripture. It refers to the direct act of God on the human author that resulted in the creation of perfectly written revelation. It conveys the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit whereby he used the individual personality, language, style, and historical context of each writer to produce divinely authoritative writings. These works were truly the product of both the human author and the Holy Spirit. This fits the word Paul used in 2 Timothy 3:16 (theopneustos). This Greek word itself carries the sense of “God breathing out” the Scriptures through the biblical writers. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (ESV) may even be the most accurate way to translate 2 Timothy 3:16. What is most important here is to recognize that the biblical claim of inspiration is one of divine superintendence. God produced the Scriptures by influencing the human author’s own thoughts. This resulted in divinely authoritative and inerrant words written in the autographs.

THE PROCESS OF INSPIRATION

The actual processes by which the books of the Bible were composed are many and varied. Moses wrote the Pentateuch under the direct supervision of God. At times, God gave him the specific words to write (Ex. 34:27); in other cases, he included his own thoughts (Deut. 3:23–26). David wrote many psalms, which were collected into the book of Psalms. Some were the result of specific events in his life (Psalms 32; 51), while others were drawn from his general life experiences (Psalm 23). Some writers researched their subject prior to writing. Solomon searched out and collected many proverbs (Eccles. 12:9), and then he and others compiled them into what is now the book of Proverbs (Prov. 1:1; 10:1; 25:1).

Matthew and John wrote their Gospels on the basis of their personal experiences with Jesus. Luke was not an eyewitness of the events recorded in his Gospel. He investigated everything thoroughly before writing it out carefully and in order (Luke 1:1–4). This almost certainly included interviewing many of the apostles and other eyewitnesses. Some biblical writers were given special revelation through a dream or vision that resulted in the composition of Scripture. The apostle John received a vision of the risen Lord Jesus while he was in exile on the island of Patmos and was then instructed to write to the seven churches what he was told and what he saw (Rev. 1:9–11).

Even the writing process itself was sometimes unique to the authors and the books they composed. Jeremiah dictated the words God gave him to his scribe, Baruch, who did the actual writing (Jer. 36:32). Paul frequently used an amanuensis (i.e., a scribe or secretary of sorts) to write his letters as he dictated them. This is why in several cases Paul ends his letters with a note written in his own hand—to certify that the letter is from him (1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18; 2 Thess. 3:17). His letter to the saints at Rome even includes a greeting from Tertius, who penned it for Paul (Rom. 16:22). On a couple of occasions, Paul wrote the entire letter in his own hand (Gal. 6:11; Philem. 19). Through all these many and varied features of composition, God the Holy Spirit was superintending every word of Scripture.

Peter best defines the inspiration process in 2 Peter 1. In the context of his own imminent martyrdom, he first speaks of the need to hold fast to the truth (2 Pet. 1:12–14). Prior to warning of false teachers, he affirms the reliability of Scripture because it is the product not merely of the human writers but of the Holy Spirit through them. He begins his explanation by referring to his own experience as a witness of Christ’s transfiguration (Mark 9:1–13; 2 Pet. 1:18). On this basis he says, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19). The “word of prophecy” is clearly a reference to Scripture given the way it is expanded in verse 20. The phrase “more fully confirmed” can be understood in two possible ways: confirmatively or comparatively. If taken in a confirmative sense (as a predicative), then it means that the word is even more reliable because of the firsthand experiences Peter and other writers have had. These kinds of signs make “the prophetic word” even more certain and believable. A better choice would be to take this in a comparative sense (as an attributive). While an experience like the one Peter had on the Mount of Transfiguration is an amazing witness to Christ, an even more reliable witness for God is his “prophetic word”—that is, Scripture. The reason is because of the means by which it was composed.

The “prophetic word” (Scripture) is more complete, more permanent, and more authoritative than experience. More specifically, the Word of God is a more reliable revelation of the teachings about the person, atonement, and second coming of Christ than even the genuine firsthand experiences of the apostles themselves.

Peter describes the process of composition this way: “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20–21). The phrase “prophecy of Scripture” identifies “the prophetic word” definitively as the biblical text. The idea of “someone’s own interpretation” means that what the biblical authors wrote was not just their own opinions, ideas, or personal interpretations of the events they saw or messages they penned. What they wrote was not “produced by the will of man.” In other words, human initiative was not behind the creation of the biblical books. Rather, Peter affirms very directly that when the human authors wrote, it was God speaking through them. This is similar to David’s testimony: “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2). It was a miraculous process that directly involved the personal attention and directed power of the Holy Spirit. The expression “carried along” is the same as that used in Acts to describe a ship being moved along by the wind (Acts 27:15, 17). In the writing of Scripture, it was the prophet communicating God’s Word through his pen. It was also the Spirit moving continually to convey God’s Word through the prophet. In the end result, that which was written was fully the words of the human authors in their language and style and from their personal perspectives, but it was under the direct superintendence of God by his Spirit producing on the page the very words of God. The ultimate product is the divine, inspired, inerrant, and authoritative words of God on every page of all sixty-six books of the Bible.

AN EXPLANATION OF INSPIRATION

One of the most significant texts in the entire New Testament regarding the inspiration of Scripture is 2 Timothy 3:16, where Paul affirms both a claim to the inspiration of God primarily in the writings of the Old Testament (and by extension to the New Testament) and an inerrant view of Scripture. Yet because of the significance of this text, almost every word in Paul’s statement has been attacked by skeptics. A few specific decisions determine the entirety of one’s interpretation of this verse.

The first is the expression “all Scripture.” In the original, the feminine singular adjective “all” together with the feminine singular noun “Scripture” can be taken several ways. There can be little doubt that the term translated “Scripture” is actually referring to Scripture. However, interpreters debate the extent of this meaning. Is it a reference to a particular passage of Scripture, as some insist, or is it a reference to the Scripture as a whole, as others affirm? The first view has the advantage of the absence of the definite article to support its case in both instances. If this is the correct view, then Paul is emphasizing the usefulness of “all the individual passages that make up the whole.” However, the second view seems the better option. It is true that “all” usually means “every” when joined to a noun without the article, but this is not an absolute rule. A noun can be definite without the article. This is almost certainly the case here. The word “Scripture” (Gk. graphē) is used on at least two other occasions (Rom. 1:2; 16:26) in a definite way—even without the article. The usage of this word throughout the New Testament seems to confirm that Scripture is used collectively as a proper name for the entirety of the Bible. These considerations make “all Scripture” the preferred view. As a result, Paul’s testimony in this passage is first of all one that concerns the totality of Scripture. Nevertheless, even if the alternative view is embraced, there is little actual difference in emphasizing the “totality” or the “individual parts” as inspired. The point that Paul is unmistakably making is that the whole and the parts of Scripture, without exception, are inspired of God.

The second significant issue to be resolved is probably the most crucial to this discussion. It centers on defining the biblical hapax legomenon commonly translated “inspired by God” (theopneustos), and in particular its meaning in relationship to “all Scripture.” The term itself is a compound word, which is best rendered “breathed out by God.” The idea of inspiration actually comes, as is well attested, from the Vulgate’s rendering of inspirata (Latin for “inspiration”). The word, then, signifies the divine act in the process of writing the biblical text.

Beyond the definition of the term itself, the argument moves to the relationship of the term to the preceding phrase, “all Scripture.” Some see “God-breathed” as an attributive adjective. If this is the case (and it is syntactically possible), then the expression is “all God-breathed Scripture.” This reading, however, implies that some passages of Scripture are not inspired. The correct view is to recognize the structure as a predicative adjective. In this case, the expression reads, like most modern English translations, “all Scripture is God-breathed.” This rendering is supported by the slightly better syntactical evidence in favor of this view, contextual arguments, and many similar biblical claims. Therefore, from Paul’s own testimony to Timothy, all Scripture is God-breathed. As a result, it can be absolutely affirmed that it is profitable to the man of God. Its divine authorship makes it profitable. By extension, then, this same divine authorship demands inerrancy and infallibility. To conclude otherwise is to compromise the integrity of the God who is attributed with the authorship of it—and not just of some parts of Scripture but the whole of it.

Regarding the extent of the expression “all Scripture,” one need look only to Paul’s first letter to Timothy, where he writes, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages’ ” (1 Tim. 5:18 NASB). Paul quotes from both the Law of Moses (Deut. 25:4) and the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10:7), and he attributes the title of Scripture to both. While the main emphasis of the 1 Timothy text is not inspiration, it cannot be missed that Paul uses the term “Scripture” to describe both the Old Testament and Luke’s writing. The implication that one readily draws, then, is that Paul’s statement that “all Scripture is God-breathed” applies the quality of divine authorship to Luke’s writings on an equal level with the Old Testament. This is completely in line with Peter’s description of the process of inspiration and the preauthentication Jesus gave of the New Testament.

OBJECTIONS TO INSPIRATION

It is true that God used fallible men to record Scripture. But at the same time, God produced infallible and inerrant words through them. As a person can draw a straight line with a crooked stick, God produced an inerrant Bible through imperfect men. The most obvious and direct parallel is the incarnation. Scripture records the miraculous conception of the sinless Son of God in the womb of Mary (Matt. 1:18–25; Luke 1:26–38). Mary was a sinner just like every other descendant of Adam, and yet God used her to bring Jesus to earth. The use of fallible and sinful instrumentality in no way limited God’s ability to bring the sinless Savior into the world (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus was fully Mary’s son (Matt. 1:25) and fully God’s Son (John 1:14)—yet untainted by Mary’s sin nature. In the same way, God used human means to compose the Scriptures without compromising the integrity of the revelation.

This is true even though he used various kinds of human effort in the writing process. Whether Moses wrote the very words God told him to write (Ex. 24:4; Lev. 1:1; 4:1; 6:1, 8, 24; Num. 1:1; 2:1) or wrote prophetically from his own experiences, it was all under divine inspiration (Deut. 31:24–29). Luke wrote his two-volume work based on his personal research (Luke 1:1–4; Acts 1:1–3). Matthew and John wrote based on their firsthand experiences and their Spirit-inspired recollection of what was said and done (John 14:26). Paul, at times, authoritatively communicated his own reasoning into the composition of Scripture (1 Cor. 7:25; 14:37). God used human means to compose his inerrant Word. But the Bible is not merely the product of fallible men; it is at one and the same time the very words of the infallible Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20–21).

Preparation for Inspiration

Behind the composition of the sixty-six books of the Bible was a divine superintendence that providentially orchestrated every aspect of its creation. This encompassed everything from the occasion of the writing to the unique personal makeup and experiences of the individual authors themselves. As we consider these factors, we will gain a full appreciation of the magnitude of divine power and wisdom displayed in Scripture.

PREPARATION OF THE WRITINGS

The preparation for the authorship of every book of the Bible obviously includes the historical context in which it was written. Many of these contexts are easily identifiable. The Pentateuch was written by Moses in the immediate context of the exodus and the beginnings of the conquest of the Promised Land. The Psalms were written frequently from the immediate life contexts of the human authors or as an expression of worship derived from some act(s) God did for his people. Ecclesiastes gives an inspired accounting of the spiritual lessons learned by Solomon throughout his life. The prophetic books are laced with historical references that identify the contexts in which they were written and the specific immediate and future issues that they addressed.

A survey of the New Testament books reveals the same. The Gospel of Luke is the only one of the four that specifically identifies its author. Nevertheless, all four clearly present the person and work of Jesus as a demonstration that he is the Christ. They also direct the reader to the conclusion that salvation is available through faith in him and his work on the cross. Luke alone indicates that he writes not as an eyewitness personally but on the basis of careful research that he has done to compose his two-volume work (Luke 1:1–4; Acts 1:1–3). Nevertheless, it is clear, based on the content in all four Gospels, that they are derived from the same historical events.

Every New Testament epistle stems from a specific historical context that prompted the human author to write it. Romans was written by Paul as an introduction of himself and his gospel ministry to the saints in Rome—in part because he sought their future assistance on his way to Spain (Rom. 1:11–13; 15:22–25). Paul wrote both Corinthian epistles as a result of numerous issues that surfaced within the church at Corinth. The Pastorals (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were addressed to ministry companions of Paul. Each was written from a distinct life and ministry situation, and all three letters give specific instructions related to the handling of affairs in the ministries of Ephesus and Crete. Even the book of Revelation was written from the context of John’s exile (Revelation 1) and the historical contexts immediately present in the mid-AD 90s in the seven churches addressed by Christ (Revelation 2–3).

Each of these historical settings was used by God to provide the context from which his divinely inspired Word was penned. The providential arrangement of all the persons, problems, praises, personalities, cultures, governments, and social and secular challenges—and all the rest—collectively work together to provide the divinely intended context from which each book of the Bible was written.

PREPARATION OF THE WRITERS

Beyond orchestrating the events of history, which set the context for the writing of the biblical books, God also prepared the authors themselves. As an illustration of this, consider the book of Psalms. They are some of the most emotional, inspirational, and worshipful portions of the Bible. They vividly describe everything from exclamations of praise to desperate pleas for deliverance. They are explicitly and implicitly written out of many and varied historical contexts. Some are written from tragic or life-threatening circumstances. Others were penned specifically to set the proper attitude for God’s people as they ascended to Jerusalem to participate in worship. All of them are laced with real human emotion and thought, rising from real-life experiences.

A great many of the psalms were penned by David—the sweet psalmist of Israel. So when he says that the Spirit of the Lord spoke by him and that God’s own word was on his tongue when he penned his psalms, it reveals that the process of inspiration involved more than simply giving him the words to write (2 Sam. 23:2). They were, in fact, the very words of God that were on David’s tongue and were produced by David’s pen when he wrote. At the same time, these words were the product of God’s Spirit through the human instrument, David. God used that instrument with all the elements of his personality, language, experiences, feelings, emotions, and style.

So, for instance, in Psalm 23, David’s own words are being articulated. When he describes the loving care of the Lord as his Shepherd in the opening verses as the One who “makes me lie down in green pastures,” both David’s own faith and God’s inspired words are being expressed at the same time (Ps. 23:2). When David switches to the second person and addresses God directly, saying, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4), these are still David’s own words, yet they are also the words of God’s Spirit producing this inspired scripture. The process of inspiration at no point in time violates the personality, language, or style of the human author. Indeed, it includes all these elements as well as the immediate historical context in which the text was written. God prepared the human authors to be used as his instruments for the composition of his own Word.

God providentially prepared each human author to be the precise instrument he needed to be in order to pen the book (or books) he wrote. It begins with God’s creation of man in his image. This provided man the innate ability to think and communicate with God in a way that makes divine revelation possible and comprehensible. God can communicate with man because he made man in such a way as to facilitate verbal interaction and rational thought. This preparation extended to each author’s ancestry and life experiences—immediate and remote.

God’s providence extended to a writer’s remote ancestors. The personal heritage of many biblical writers is frequently evident in the texts of Scripture. It is probable that every biblical writer with the exception of Luke was a Jew. Some were of priestly descent. Others had royal ancestry. All were chosen for their divinely ordained ministries long before their entrance into the world (Jer. 1:5; Gal. 1:15). This shows that God’s selection of the human authors was no last-minute emergency. God guided even all of the prophets’ ancestors to be exactly who he wanted them to be. He did this so he could convey his inspired Word through their unique heritages.

This providential preparation brought each writer a unique perspective that included almost every area of life. Each writer was conditioned by factors related to his place and time. Each had a distinctive heredity, environment, education, and upbringing, as well as distinctive interests, experiences, and even personal relationships. Every writer had his own unique vocabulary and style of writing influenced by all these varied factors.

Beyond these contextual experiences is the direct work of God. He was providentially preparing and preserving the biblical writers to become his people and his prophets through the normal course of life. God provided the material necessities of life for the prophet so that he could live and grow to maturity. He preserved each of them from any disqualifying evil prior to their calling. He restrained those who might have otherwise destroyed them. In his perfect time, he called them to the ministry he had ordained for them. And he did all this after having orchestrated each of the circumstances of their individual lives to draw them to himself. God worked all things together for their good, even their penning of inspired Scripture (Rom. 8:28), so that he could use them for that very purpose. Warfield expressed it accurately, explaining that God’s preparation of the human authors was “physical, intellectual, spiritual, which must have attended them throughout their whole lives, and, indeed, must have had its beginning in their remote ancestors, and the effect of which was to bring the right men to the right places at the right times, with the right endowments, impulses, acquirements, to write just the books which were designed for them.”

An excellent example of this entire process is Moses and the authoring of the Pentateuch. Moses was born of the tribe of Levi to parents in bondage in Egypt. However, it was the edict of Pharaoh himself prior to Moses’s birth that led to his unique upbringing and education. In order to preserve Moses’s life as an infant, his mother was forced to subtly deliver him into the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter to be raised as her son. This turn of events resulted in Moses receiving the highest and finest training Egypt had to offer for the first forty years of his life (Acts 7:22). Yet he also knew his own ancestry. He observed firsthand the suffering and injustice that Pharaoh brought on his people. This compelled him to take matters into his own hands, but Moses’s efforts ended in his flight from Egypt, which in turn led him to spend his next forty years as a shepherd (Exodus 1–2).

It is at this point that God’s preparation of Moses becomes apparent. In Exodus 3, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. He called on Moses to be the instrument by which he would deliver his people from bondage in Egypt. However, Moses himself was humbled to the point that he was unconvinced that he was the man for the job. The first eighty years of Moses’s life had indeed taught him one thing: he was not able to do this work in his own strength. God fully prepared him for his calling. However, Moses did not deliver God’s people from bondage; God did. Yet he used a human instrument that had been fully prepared for this task over eighty years. The next forty years of Moses’s life and ministry are recounted in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They are a record of divine accomplishment through human instrumentality. God was never dependent on Moses to accomplish his intentions, which is clearly evidenced by God banning Moses from entering the Promised Land because of his sin (Num. 27:12–14). God did not need Moses to fulfill his good purposes; he was, however, completely able to use a fallible and even sinful human prophet to accomplish that perfect plan.

The same holds true for Moses’s authorship of the Pentateuch. The extensive formal education and training Moses received as a result of growing up in Pharaoh’s house is readily apparent in the authorship of the Torah. The five books of the Law are formally composed as detailed legal documents and historical records. It is possible that Moses composed Genesis partially on the basis of records to which he would have had access during his studies in Egypt. It is also possible that Moses’s training included exposure to other ancient Near Eastern treaties and legal codes that to some degree influenced his composition of the judicial sections of the Law. At the same time, Moses had a recurrent experience of direct access to God during the time when he wrote the Pentateuch. As a result, he did not ultimately depend on external sources. The first five books of the Bible are the work of God and Moses at one and the same time. The emotions Moses relates show them to be very much his words (e.g., Deut. 1:37; 3:23–26), yet those words also flawlessly convey through the pen of Moses the very words of God.

The evidences of this dual authorship are manifold and readily apparent throughout the Bible. Scripture clearly highlights the uniqueness of each author. Moses was educated in Egypt. Paul received rabbinic training on the highest level as a student of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and was even versed in the Greek philosophies of the Stoics and Epicureans. Luke was a physician (Col. 4:14). David was a shepherd, soldier, and king. Solomon was raised a prince and lived as a king. Daniel was trained as a statesman. Peter and John were fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector. James and Jude were the sons of a carpenter. Each writer had a unique heritage, upbringing, and background. Each is a composite of the life experiences God providentially took him through. And all these factors worked together to shape these men into the very instruments God intended them to be in order to produce divinely authoritative writings. This uniqueness is evidenced in every book of the Bible. For example, each of the four Gospels contains similar accounts and content, yet each reflects the unique perspective and content choices of its author—under the superintending influence of the Holy Spirit. There are no contradictions between the human and divine authors.

All these unique social, cultural, historical, emotional, experiential, educational, and practical distinctives are reflected in the language and style of each human author’s work. At the same time, a consistent divine influence overshadows the books of Scripture, indicating that in the penning of these sixty-six books God used human prophets to compose his own divinely authoritative writings. These preparatory elements to inspiration necessarily affirm that Scripture is a completely providential and miraculous work, an inerrant written revelation produced by God.

Proofs of Inspiration

OLD TESTAMENT PROOFS OF INSPIRATION

The nature of inspiration requires that the process of verifying the Bible’s inspiration be equally divine. These self-attesting proofs are manifold throughout the Scriptures.

The Old Testament Is Identified as the Words of God. The Scripture affirms thousands of times that its words are the very words of God. Numerous times the text specifically states, “God said” (e.g., Ex. 17:14; 19:3, 6–7; 20:1; 24:4; 34:27). Ezra called the Old Testament “the words of the God of Israel” (Ezra 9:4; cf. 10:3). In the 176 verses of Psalm 119, twenty-four times it calls Scripture the “word(s) of the Lord,” and 175 times it exalts the Word of God using several different synonyms. The prophets identified even their written messages as the word of the Lord with statements like “hear the word(s) of the Lord” (1 Kings 22:19; 2 Kings 20:16) and similar expressions. From beginning to end, the Old Testament claims in its entirety to be the Word of God. Most theologians refer to this characteristic of all Scripture (i.e., every word) as plenary inspiration.

The Old Testament Records Direct Speech by God. The opening Genesis narrative affirms that God created by direct verbal statements. He simply expressed his will for something to exist, and it came into being from nothing (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24). There are divine directives that authoritatively convey God’s expectations of his creatures (Gen. 1:26, 28–29; 2:16–17). There are divine judgments rendered that record God’s evaluation of acts committed by his creatures and reveal the consequences that will follow (Gen. 3:13–19). There are also a number of conversations recorded in the Old Testament between God and select individuals. God called Abram from the land of Ur and spoke directly to him on multiple occasions about the details of the covenant he made with him (Gen. 12:1–3; 15:1–21). The call of Moses is a detailed account of the conversation God had with him explaining his role in delivering Israel from bondage in Egypt (Ex. 3:1–4:23). Immediately following the death of Moses, God spoke directly with Joshua, instructing him about his role in conquering the Promised Land (Josh. 1:8–9). The Old Testament records many direct statements or conversations God had with his prophets (1 Kings 14:5). Some of these revelations are verbal (1 Sam. 3:21). Others are in visions or dreams (1 Kings 3:5). All are a record of divine speech.

The Old Testament Records Prophetic Speech from God. Beginning with Moses (Ex. 3:15), God’s prophets were recognized as authoritative messengers from God speaking directly on his behalf. Their authority was such that what they said on God’s behalf was viewed as God himself speaking. Moses was told to go directly to Pharaoh and address him on God’s behalf by saying, “Thus says the Lord” (Ex. 4:22). That pattern is followed throughout the Old Testament by God’s prophets (see Joshua, Josh. 7:13; 24:2, 27; Gideon, Judg. 6:7–18; Samuel, 1 Sam. 2:27; 10:18; 15:2; Nathan, 2 Sam. 12:7, 11; and many others, 1 Kings 11:31; 12:24; 13:1–2; 13:21; 14:3–7). When a prophet speaks for God, the typical decree formula used is “thus says the Lord,” and it can even include the prophet speaking for God in the first person (e.g., 1 Kings 20:13). The standard concluding formula is “declares the Lord,” coupled with the repeated use of first-person statements to demonstrate that what the prophet said, God was saying through him (Ezek. 20:1–45).

In the same way that God gave Moses the very words he wanted spoken or written, he enabled other prophets to speak on his behalf (Ex. 4:11–12). David recognized that God was speaking through him when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2). It was the very fact that prophets spoke directly for God that necessitated God giving instructions on how to distinguish between true and false prophets (Deut. 12:32; 13:1–5; 18:15–22).

The Old Testament Records Dictated Speech from God. There are several accounts in the Old Testament that were written down as God’s own words at his instruction (Ex. 34:27). At the end of his life, Moses was commanded to write down in the final book of the Law all the words that the Lord had commanded him (Deut. 31:24–26). At other times, God simply instructed him to write down what happened (Ex. 17:14). Both forms are equally authoritative and divinely inspired in their composition. In the case of Jeremiah, he was instructed to write all the words God spoke to him (Jer. 30:1–4). When David penned his psalms, he knew it was God speaking through him, yet the Davidic psalms are clearly the result of David’s own thoughts, words, and emotions. Regardless of the actual process of composition, what was written was considered to be God’s own words conveyed through his human prophet. What the prophet wrote, God revealed.

NEW TESTAMENT PROOFS OF INSPIRATION

The New Testament gives a clear and consistent witness to the inspiration of the Old Testament, whose writings are thought of as God’s speech. Matthew says that the words penned by Isaiah regarding the Messiah were spoken by God through the prophet (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22–23). A comparison with his additional citations shows that, from Matthew’s perspective, what the prophets wrote was equivalent to God speaking (see Matt. 2:15, 17–18; 4:14–16). This divine inspiration of David by the Spirit carries down to the individual word level (Ps. 110:1; Matt. 22:44–45; cf. Acts 2:29–31). Even the minor details cited in the Old Testament prophetic texts are seen as fulfilled in Christ (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:5).

Historical narratives in the Old Testament are universally treated as factual accounts by New Testament writers, including both major miraculous events (the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7; and the global flood, Heb. 11:7; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5), and minor details (David eating the showbread, Matt. 12:3–4). Stephen’s speech recorded in Acts 7 demonstrates a clear affirmation of the historicity of the Old Testament Scriptures from Abram to that day. Jesus based the entirety of the case for his work of redemption on the testimony of the Old Testament from the Law of Moses to the Prophets and Psalms (Luke 24:25–27, 44–47). The universal practice of the New Testament writers follows precisely this practice from the record of their preaching in Acts to the inspired texts they wrote that make up the New Testament. Based on the practices of Jesus (recorded in the Gospels), the preaching of the apostles (recorded in Acts), and the writings of the New Testament (in the Epistles), there can be no doubt that for Christ and his apostles, the thirty-nine books of the (modern-day English) Old Testament were (1) inspired by God and (2) the full extent of the Scriptures up to that time.

The New Testament also gives a clear witness to itself as the Word of God. It presents several accounts of direct speech from God, including God attesting audibly to Christ at his baptism (Matt. 3:16–17; Luke 3:22) and the transfiguration (Matt. 17:5–7; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). John records God’s affirmation of his Son’s faithfulness in a public setting even though most were unable to discern it as more than thunder or an angel speaking to him (John 12:27–30). Luke recounts the direct speech of the risen Lord Jesus to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3–7). While his companions did not see the Lord, they did hear the voice. Immediately after this, he records the way the Lord spoke to Ananias in a vision instructing him how to receive Saul as a disciple (Acts 9:10–16). Jesus also appears in a glorious vision to John and through him addresses the seven churches in Asia Minor, giving John specific commendations and condemnations directly related to each individual church (Revelation 1–3). Additionally, the New Testament equates Jesus’s words even before his ascension with God’s words (Luke 5:1; John 3:34; 6:63, 68). This same authority and enablement was granted on special occasions to the apostles (Acts 4:29–31)—so much so that Paul declares that Christ is speaking through him when he addresses the churches (2 Cor. 13:2–3).

CHRIST’S VIEW OF THE SCRIPTURES

For a Christian, there can be no better witness to a correct understanding of the character, nature, and authority of Scripture than Christ himself. His view must be the believer’s view. As one works through the many references Jesus makes to Scripture, a clear perspective emerges. Jesus used Scripture in all matters of doctrine and practice. He based his own identity and mission on it. He defined it personally as truth. All this confirms that Jesus understood the Scriptures to be the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God in both Testaments. It can be shown from Scripture that Jesus (1) affirmed the Old Testament as Scripture (by affirming its authority, inspiration, and historicity) and (2) preauthenticated the New Testament as Scripture.

Jesus Affirmed the Authority of the Old Testament. In his every use of the Scriptures, Jesus declared the authority and veracity of the Old Testament.

Jesus appealed to the authority of the Old Testament against Satan (Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13). When challenged to turn stones into bread, Jesus responded by saying, “Man shall not live on bread alone,” quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. When Satan referenced Psalm 91 and the promise of divine preservation for the one who trusts in God, Jesus answered with the command from Deuteronomy 6:16 not to put God to the test. In the end, Jesus dismissed Satan, saying, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’ ” (Matt. 4:10, quoting Deut. 6:13; 10:20). In each case, Jesus’s appeal to the Old Testament is presented as the final word on the subject because it is the authoritative Word of God.

Jesus appealed to the authority of the Old Testament to resolve all matters of faith and practice. When his disciples were charged with breaking the Sabbath, Jesus referred to principles derived from the Mosaic law, quoting from 1 Samuel 21:6 as the biblical justification for their actions (Matt. 12:1–8). When asked about divorce, Jesus responded by saying, “Have you not read?” and then appealed to both Genesis 2:23–24 and Deuteronomy 24:1–4 in giving his answer (Matt. 19:3–9). In both cases, he used the Scripture not only to affirm the principle in question but also to confirm the divine authority inherent in the Old Testament text itself. When Jesus cleansed the temple for the second time at the end of his earthly ministry (Matt. 21:12–13), he built a composite argument from two Old Testament passages to justify his actions and condemn the nation (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11). Jesus so repeatedly cited the Old Testament using expressions like “Have you not read?” that he thereby affirmed not only his agreement with it but also his recognition of its divine authority. In all these cases (and many more), Jesus never once corrected either a factual error or a practical instruction; Jesus viewed the Old Testament as the factually accurate and divinely authoritative Word of God.

Jesus appealed to the authority of the Old Testament to testify to his identity. When the religious leaders challenged his act of healing on the Sabbath, he claimed equality with God (John 5:17–18). He then brought forth several proofs of his claims. He began by mentioning the witness of John the Baptist (5:33–35) but moved beyond it in this context because it was not in itself a divine witness. He then provided three divine witnesses to his person: (1) the testimony of his works (5:36); (2) the testimony of his heavenly Father (5:37–38); and (3) the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures, specifically the books of Moses (5:39–47). In this way, Jesus said that what Moses wrote is equal to what God has said. It is just as much a divine witness as the words of God spoken audibly from heaven or the miraculous acts of God done on earth. In fact, at the conclusion of Jesus’s teaching about the rich man and Lazarus, he defined the testimony of the Old Testament as superior testimony to that of miracles—even the miracle of resurrection (Luke 16:27–31).

Jesus personally submitted to the authority of the Old Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, he stated that he had come not to abolish the Law or the Prophets (i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures) but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17). He went on to say that any violation of the Scriptures or instructing of others to do likewise would have eternal consequences (Matt. 5:18–19). Jesus even went so far as to define the Golden Rule as the essential point of the Scriptures (Matt. 7:12). When he finished speaking, those who heard recognized that his instruction was different from the scribes. He taught as one having authority (Matt. 7:28–29). Jesus spoke with the divine authority inherent in his person as God in human flesh, and at the same time, he consistently confirmed and conformed to the authority of the Scriptures. Even in his own witness to his identity, he submitted himself to the principles and mandates in the Old Testament Scriptures. So in John 5:31 he said, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.” Jesus was not denying the veracity of his own testimony (see John 8:14–20) but was submitting to the Old Testament call for two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6; 19:15).

Jesus maintained the same view of the Old Testament Scriptures before and after his resurrection. Luke records two occasions in which Jesus met with his disciples immediately after the resurrection. The first was with two disciples on the road that leads from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35). The second was back in Jerusalem in a room where many of the disciples had gathered (Luke 24:36–47). In both cases, Jesus demonstrated the same convictions about both the authority of the Scriptures and the necessity of their fulfillment. On the first occasion, he confirmed the necessity of all the things written in the Old Testament concerning himself coming to pass—just as they did in his death, burial, and resurrection (Luke 24:26–27). On the second, he declared not only this but also that his followers’ future ministry of bearing witness to him and his work was also based on the Old Testament Scriptures (Luke 24:44–47). Jesus’s view of the Old Testament, its inspiration, inerrancy, and authority has not changed as a result of his glorification. This very fact goes a long way toward refuting the errant theories of accommodation.

Jesus Affirmed the Inspiration of the Old Testament. In Jesus’s view, the authority of the Old Testament rested on its nature as the inspired Word of God.

Jesus affirmed the divine and human authorship of the Bible. He repeatedly recognized the men who wrote the Old Testament. He spoke directly of Moses (John 5:45–47), David (Luke 20:42), Isaiah (Matt. 13:14), and even Daniel (Matt. 24:15–16) as authors of the texts he referenced. At the same time, he attributed their writings not only to them solely but also to the work of the Holy Spirit as the divine author. Jesus identified both David and the Holy Spirit as the author of Psalm 110 (Mark 12:36). He interchangeably referred to portions of the Old Testament as the words of God and the work of human writers like Moses and Isaiah (Matt. 15:1–11). When the whole of Christ’s use of the Old Testament is compared, it is clear that there is no difference in his perspective between “God says,” “the Scripture says,” or “David himself, in the Holy Spirit, says.” By citing both the human and divine authors of Scripture, Jesus confirmed what David said himself—“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2).

Jesus affirmed the veracity of the Bible. The Old Testament itself contains more than 3,800 direct claims that what is written consists of the actual words of God. It also makes several universal claims concerning its truthfulness (Pss. 19:7, 9; 119:43, 160; 138:2; Prov. 30:5). The test given to identify a false prophet was directly tied to the truthfulness of his claims and whether his words were in complete conformity with the existing content of Scripture (Deut. 13:1–5; 18:20–22). So if what a prophet said failed to come true, he was a false prophet. If the miracle he foretold occurred but his words were contrary to Scripture, he was still to be rejected as a false prophet. According to the Old Testament, what the Scriptures say is true and of absolute lasting integrity and authority.

Jesus’s testimony to the truthfulness of the Old Testament is identical to the Old Testament’s own testimony. He considered the Scripture to be God’s very words and commandments. As such, it was to be recognized as fully authoritative (Matt. 15:3–9). His rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees in this same passage aligns with the testimony of the Old Testament, which identified those who denied this belief as false—hence Jesus’s labeling of them as “blind guides” (Matt. 15:14).

By saying, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17), Jesus personally identified Scripture as objective truth. This is perfectly in keeping with the testimony of Psalm 119:160, for the testimonies of both the Lord and the Old Testament are in perfect agreement. This absolute integrity, coupled with the appeal to the authority of the Old Testament by both Jesus and the New Testament writers alike, supports the fact that Jesus considered the Old Testament the inspired Word of God. As such, he considered it to be not just truthful but truth itself. He called God’s Word “truth” (John 17:17). He treated every Old Testament testimony as a statement of fact. This included even the most miraculous events. Jesus treated the Old Testament as the true and truthful Word of God.

Jesus affirmed the verbal and plenary inspiration of the Bible. As mentioned above, the terms verbal and plenary refer, respectively, to every word and to all the words of Scripture. So a belief in verbal and plenary inspiration speaks of an assent to the fact that every single word in Scripture and the whole of it are inspired by God. That Jesus held to this view is evidenced in two ways. First, he quoted from or alluded to many of the books of the Old Testament in numerous ways and contexts. He quoted from all five books of Moses and the works of additional prophets. He made at least eight direct references to the Psalms. He mentioned in some way every major division of the Hebrew Bible (the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings). Even after his resurrection, he referred to the whole of the Old Testament as a divinely inspired and authoritative testimony to his own life and ministry (Luke 24:27). Second, Jesus based arguments of no less significance than the defense of his deity on individual words, phrases, and letters in the Old Testament text. This use of the Old Testament by the Lord demonstrates his affirmation of the divine, verbal inspiration of the Scripture.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:17–18 that not one letter or even the stroke of a pen that distinguishes between letters shall pass away until all the Scripture is fulfilled. Surely, no higher view of the finest details of Scripture could be expressed than this. There are more examples worth observing.

At the Feast of Dedication, Jesus asserted his deity by claiming equality with the Father (John 10:22–30). The Jews responded by picking up stones to hurl at him because of his perceived blasphemous statement. In John 10:34–35, Jesus defended his claim by directing his opponents’ attention to what would seem to be an obscure phrase in Psalm 82:6. The weight of his argument is based on a single word in the text: “gods.” He says, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10:34–36). Christ used three different terms in these two verses to describe Psalm 82. He referred to it as “Law,” “the word of God,” and “the Scripture.” The synonymous terminology demonstrates an affirmation of the plenary inspiration of the text. When he said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35), he was declaring its seamless unity, echoing Matthew 5:18, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” In this case Jesus based his whole point on a single word: “gods.” If God can use that word to describe unjust judges who will be condemned by him, can he not also use it for his eternal Son? Jesus Christ presented an argument for his deity from this one word in the Old Testament, showing that Jesus viewed the inerrancy of the smallest details of the Old Testament to be of serious significance.

When challenged by the Sadducees on the subject of the resurrection of the dead, Jesus based the whole of his rebuttal on the tense of a verb (Matt. 22:32). The Sadducees came to Jesus in an attempt to stump him by presenting an extreme case on a fine point of the Old Testament law having to do with the obligation of a brother to marry the widowed and childless wife of a brother. Their question was even more ridiculous than their illustration, for they asked whose wife she would be in the resurrection. But Jesus responded not only by affirming the authority and veracity of God’s commandment through Moses but also by identifying that their error was their failure to understand Scripture. He said, “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:31–32). He meant that those patriarchs are alive, since even after their death God declares, “I am” their God, not “I was” their God. Again, the expression “Have you not read?” is an appeal to the authority of the Exodus 3:6 passage he quotes. Moreover, the argument here is for a doctrine no less significant than the resurrection—and it is based on the sense derived from the implied copula (or linking verb) of the nominal clause in the Hebrew text. “I am” is a literal and exact understanding of the Hebrew construction.

Finally, Jesus silenced the last of his critics when he responded to the Pharisees by asking a question on the proper understanding of one word in Psalm 110:1. Matthew describes it this way:

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet” ’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matt. 22:41–45)

Jesus makes a profound theological statement in this text regarding his deity. He was born as a son in David’s line, which means that the only way David can call his son “Lord” is if his son is also superior to him. His son can only be superior if he is also God. Jesus based the entirety of his argument on the word “Lord.” David can call his son “Lord” because his son by human birth is none other than the Lord, the incarnate Son of God. Again, a single word serves as a key part of the basis for a doctrine as significant as the deity of Christ.

Jesus attested to the verbal inspiration of the Old Testament when he rebuked the Pharisees on a different occasion with these words: “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void” (Luke 16:17). While the point here is that Scripture will be fulfilled to the letter, that does not negate the fact that it is correspondingly essential for it to be accurate and reliable down to the letter. This is similarly reflected in the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus said that every letter is perfectly preserved in heaven and will come to pass (Matt. 5:17–18). Not only did Jesus view the smallest portion of the text as inspired, he also considered every letter to be essential. He claimed that even the smallest part is eternal. The implications for historicity are massive. If Jesus attested to this degree of accuracy, reliability, and integrity in the Old Testament, then the Bible must be regarded as inspired, inerrant, and eternally true—down to the last word. In the end, Jesus’s use of the Old Testament demonstrates an absolute confidence in the verbal and plenary inspiration of the Scriptures—in the whole, in its parts, and including every letter.

Jesus affirmed the necessity of the fulfillment of Scripture. He repeatedly attested to the necessity of fulfilling personally all that the Old Testament Scriptures said about him and his ministry (Matt. 26:31; Mark 9:12–13; 14:27, 49; Luke 20:17; 24:25–27, 44–46; John 5:39; 12:14; 13:18; 17:12). In the context of his betrayal, he cited Zechariah 13:7, stating that his own disciples would all fall away because Scripture said that this would happen (Matt. 26:31). This citation met with great objections by the disciples. Yet Jesus still affirmed the necessity of it because every Scripture would be fulfilled. Even as he hung on the cross, Jesus deliberately fulfilled the Scriptures to the letter (John 19:28–30). John goes so far as to state that during his life the disciples failed to notice how Scripture was being fulfilled. However, after Christ had risen, he and the rest of the apostles remembered what was written in the Old Testament and saw how Jesus had done exactly what the Scriptures said that he would (John 12:14–16). Jesus believed that every word of Scripture had to be fulfilled. That is precisely what the apostles testified concerning what took place in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Affirmed the Historicity of the Old Testament. In addition to affirming the authority and inspiration of the Old Testament, Jesus declared his confidence in the veracity of the historical accounts contained within it.

Jesus affirmed the historicity of persons in the Old Testament. In every reference he made to the people mentioned in the Old Testament, Jesus treated them as real persons. When discussing the topic of divorce, Jesus confirmed the historical facts not only of the creation account but also of Adam and Eve. Furthermore, he built his case for the doctrine of marriage on the historic veracity of Genesis (Matt. 19:4–5). He demonstrated a firm confidence in the factuality of the Genesis 4 narrative, including not only Abel’s existence but also his murder (Matt. 23:35). He affirmed the factuality of the historical records of numerous Old Testament persons, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11; 22:32; Luke 13:28; John 8:56); Lot and his wife (Luke 17:28, 32); Moses (John 3:14; 5:45; 7:19); David (Matt. 12:3; 22:43–45); Solomon (Matt. 6:29; Luke 11:31); the queen of Sheba (Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:31); Elijah and the widow in Sidon (Luke 4:25–26); Elisha and Naaman (Luke 4:27); Jonah (Matt. 12:39–41; Luke 11:29–32); Zechariah (Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51); and Daniel (Matt. 24:15). Jesus spoke of all these individuals as real historical persons, treating the details the Scriptures record about them as historical facts. From Adam and Noah to Jonah and Daniel, Jesus attested without hesitation to the historicity not just of the persons themselves but also of the events concerning them recorded throughout the Old Testament. That Jesus commonly referred to these individuals to make an important doctrinal point clearly shows that he accepted the historical accuracy of these texts.

Jesus affirmed the historicity of places and events in the Old Testament. Jesus referred to the Old Testament accounts frequently in his teachings. He used these references at times to prove a point. At other times, he used them as illustrations or confirmations of his teaching. In every case, he spoke of them as real places and real events. Remarkably, he commonly cited those accounts most characterized by miraculous events. He attested to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by God as recorded in Genesis 19 (Matt. 11:20–24). He confirmed Jonah’s days inside the great fish (Matt. 12:40) and Nineveh’s repentance (Luke 11:30–32). He affirmed a literal, global flood in the days of Noah (Matt. 24:38–39). He was convinced that God supernaturally provided manna from heaven for Israel when they wandered in the wilderness for forty years (John 6:49). Jesus did not refer to these events simply in passing; he used these very narratives to lay the foundation for doctrines as eternally significant as his resurrection. For example, he related the factuality of his resurrection to the historical veracity of Jonah 1:17 and its account of Jonah’s time in the great fish (Matt. 12:38–42). Jesus taught that the Scripture was not only inspired by God but also, as a necessary corollary, historically accurate.

Jesus affirmed the historicity of even the authorship of the Old Testament. On a number of occasions, Jesus cited the human author of Old Testament books by name. This demonstrates his confidence in the historicity of the human authorship of these works, thereby defying later higher-critical claims to the contrary. For example, Christ attributed the authorship of the Pentateuch to Moses (Matt. 8:4; Mark 12:26; John 5:45–46), even positing in John 5 that the writings of Moses testified to himself—Jesus directly linked his claims about himself to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. In addition, Jesus affirmed that David wrote Psalm 110 (Matt. 22:43–44), that Isaiah wrote the book of Isaiah (Matt. 13:14–15), and that Daniel wrote the book of Daniel (Matt. 24:15). Based on his use of the Old Testament, Christ clearly considered it to be a historically accurate record composed by divinely inspired men who produced divinely authoritative writings.

Jesus Preauthenticated the New Testament as Scripture. Whereas Jesus affirmed the authority, inspiration, and historicity of the Old Testament that had already been received, he preauthenticated the writings that would be written and collected after his ascension to make up the New Testament.

Jesus claimed that his words were the Father’s words. Christ himself repeatedly declared that when he spoke, his words were the very words the Father had given him to speak. He set his words on an equal plane with both the spoken words of God and the Scriptures themselves. On that basis, it can be said that the apostolic record of his words is a divinely authoritative message from God. As Jesus put it,

“I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” (John 8:26–28)

According to Jesus, his crucifixion would prove the veracity of both his personal identity as the Son of Man and the divine source of his message to the world (cf. John 12:49–50).

In the upper room, Jesus informed his disciples that his words were part of the works of the Father and that they not only revealed the Father to men but also verified the unity of the Father and Son to them: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (John 14:10). Finally, according to Christ’s prayer on the night on which he was betrayed, it was the disciples’ reception of his words from the Father that distinguished the eleven from both Judas and the rest of the unbelieving world. Jesus prayed, “Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me” (John 17:7–8). Clearly, the words that Jesus gave to his disciples originated in God the Father, who granted the eleven an understanding of the true nature and mission of Jesus Christ (see John 17:14, 17).

Jesus was a prophet “like unto” Moses but far greater than Moses. God spoke to Moses face-to-face and revealed himself to him (Ex. 33:11; Deut. 34:10). Jesus Christ is the incarnate Word, and as such is himself the revelation of God. His words were the Father’s words directly. Seeing Jesus was seeing the Father. But Jesus promised more to his disciples than just their memories of the divine revelation that he was and that he had given to them; he promised that they would be granted additional revelation by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus promised the apostles additional revelation. From the time of Peter’s confession (Matt. 16:16), Jesus prepared his disciples for his departure. In the final hours of his life on earth, he gathered his disciples into the upper room to prepare them for the crucifixion. He had told them about it on many prior occasions—yet without their comprehension. Even on the final night, his disciples failed to either grasp or accept his testimony concerning the events that were about to transpire (John 13:12–38). Nevertheless, he proceeded to prepare them for their future ministry by making three significant promises.

First, he promised them that the Spirit would help them accurately recall his words: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit of God would grant a special twofold blessing to the eleven: (1) He would teach them all things. The implication from the context seems to be that he would instruct them concerning the things that Jesus himself had taught them, so that they would come to an understanding of them. (2) He would remind them accurately of all that Jesus said. This is the promise of a flawless remembrance of Jesus’s words for these eleven men. As such, this is a preauthentication of the veracity and inspiration of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark (based on Peter’s testimony), and John.

Second, Jesus promised that they would testify concerning him and that their testimony would come by way of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26–27). Two observations pertinent to this discussion emerge from this text: (1) The disciples’ testimony concerning Christ would be based both on their eyewitness account of Christ and on revelation from the Spirit of truth. The significance of the dual aspect of this testimony is that though it would be a testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ and a testimony from the Holy Spirit, it would still bear the marks of their own eyewitness experience. (2) It would be a truthful testimony. Jesus specifically emphasized the truthfulness of this testimony by describing the Helper in this context as the “Spirit of truth.” Therefore, though the testimony of the eleven would be their own testimony, it would also be the inspired testimony of the Holy Spirit of truth.

Third, Jesus promised them that they would receive additional revelation beyond what he had personally entrusted to them. As he stated to his disciples in the upper room,

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12–14)

There are three key observations to make from this text. First, Jesus indicated that he personally had more revelation to give them but was prevented from dispensing it because of their inability to receive it at that time. Surely, this includes the whole New Testament—even the book of Revelation, since he refers to “things that are to come” in verse 13. Second, he again says that the source of this revelation will be the Spirit of truth. The emphasis on truth cannot be missed. By preauthenticating the New Testament, Jesus showed that it would be characterized by the same truthfulness that characterizes the One who would inspire it. Finally, like the Old Testament, the New Testament will glorify the Son. Jesus viewed the Old Testament as a flawless revelation of himself and his work even after his resurrection. The New Testament would glorify the person and work of the Son in a way greater than the Old Testament Scriptures. It would be an equally authoritative, inspired, and inerrant revelation from God but would complete the divine message of Scripture. It would be, as the Old Testament was, the word of the Trinity (John 16:14–15). So Jesus preauthenticated the New Testament as the verbal, plenary, divinely inspired, and authoritative Word of God.

Jesus gave additional revelation personally. The New Testament has one other testimony concerning Jesus Christ that is relevant to this discussion. The Apocalypse or Revelation of Jesus Christ is so titled because it is the writing of the apostle John concerning the revelation he received directly from Christ himself near the end of the first century. Though this is certainly the testimony of John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit concerning the things that are to come (i.e., directly in line with the promise of John 16:13), it is no less the testimony of Jesus himself (John 16:12, 14–15).

Jesus had more to say personally to his disciples, and it seems very reasonable to conclude that he viewed his personal message to John in the last book of the New Testament as a portion of the additional revelation he promised. This can be seen from Revelation 1:10–18 where John identifies the source of this revelation as the One who was dead and is now living, which can only be the Lord Jesus himself. That means the revelation included the rest of the book that he gave to John: his personal message to each of the seven churches (Revelation 2–3) and the additional revelation concerning the future outpouring of God’s wrath (Revelation 4–18), the culmination of redemptive history in the second coming (Revelation 19), the establishment of the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20), and the final establishment of the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21–22).

The New Testament Writers Affirmed Christ’s View. The testimony of the New Testament writers to their own writings affirms Jesus’s preauthentication of the New Testament. This is readily apparent when one examines both what they said about the Old Testament and how they used it. A few key texts will likewise demonstrate that they considered their writings to be Scripture, in complete keeping with Jesus’s preauthentication.

The New Testament writers recognized the authority of the Old Testament. Paul founded his gospel on the Old Testament Scriptures. He wrote to the saints in Corinth saying, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). The Scripture Paul refers to is the Old Testament. In this way, he asserts that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ were a fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. What the Old Testament says is to be taken as revelation from God. This is further supported by Luke’s assessment of the Bereans. He described them as “more noble” than the Thessalonians because they too received the Word with eagerness when Paul preached it to them. However, they also checked what he preached to them against the Old Testament Scriptures daily to verify that what he told them matched the teachings of the Old Testament (Acts 17:10–11). This is especially relevant to this discussion about the New Testament, since Paul praised the Thessalonians for receiving his message for what it really was—the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13). This shows that the New Testament writers recognized the authority of the Old Testament as the Word of God and that they believed that their message was equally from God and in conformity with the Old Testament Scriptures.

The New Testament writers recognized the Old Testament as the Word of God. Paul described the Old Testament as “the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2), a phrase that identifies the Scriptures as messages directly from God. The apostles themselves declared that the Old Testament had to be fulfilled in all points (Acts 1:16; 2:15–16; 3:18; 4:8–12), and all the New Testament writers consistently followed this practice. The Gospels and Epistles include numerous Old Testament citations as the basis for the gospel. Beyond this, the biblical authors repeatedly referred to the teachings of Jesus or the Old Testament Scriptures, establishing them as grounds for New Testament doctrines or practices and demonstrating that they affirmed a view of the Old Testament and its authority that was consistent with the view of Jesus.

Every writer of the New Testament demonstrated a reverence for the Old Testament Scriptures. At times, they quoted from the Old Testament, saying, “Scripture says.” At other times, they attributed what the Scriptures said to God. This lack of distinction makes it clear that the New Testament writers saw no real distinction between what God says and what Scripture says. Those two ideas were essentially synonymous. So when the New Testament writers say, “Scripture says,” it is equally appropriate to understand them as saying, “God says,” no matter who the human author was. For example, in Romans 9:17, Paul describes God’s message to Pharaoh as Scripture speaking. The actual text of Exodus 9:16, though, makes it evident that God himself spoke. God says, the Scripture says, or a biblical writer says are all equivalent to God says.

The New Testament writers recognized their own writings as Scripture. Matthew, Peter, and John were all eyewitnesses of the risen Lord Jesus. They were included among Christ’s chosen apostles from the beginning. Their writings give an inspired account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and they frequently base their testimony on citations or references to the Old Testament Scriptures. While these Gospels omit any direct claims to inspiration, Christ’s preauthentication promises, coupled with his selection of these men as apostles, attest to their authority. In fact, it was the apostolic office and the gift of prophecy that conveyed divine authority to New Testament writers and apostles, much as was the case with Old Testament prophets. Paul, for example, confirmed that his preaching was from God (1 Thess. 2:13), and he also declared his own writings to be the commands of God. He adamantly admonished the Corinthians, saying, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized” (1 Cor. 14:37–38). It was not simply Paul who declared his letters authoritative; Peter also recognized Paul’s letters as inspired Scripture when he wrote, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15–16). Peter not only identified Paul’s letters as inspired of God but also asserted that the New Testament would be composed by more than just the original apostles.

What about the New Testament writers who were not apostles? Some New Testament prophets (believers who had the gift of prophecy) only spoke, but others wrote Scripture. Just as some apostles did not write Scripture, so some prophets did not as well. As Paul explains, the mystery of the gospel “has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:5). Luke says that there were prophets in Jerusalem who went down to Antioch, such as Agabus, who foretold by the Spirit the famine that was about to take place (Acts 11:27–28). That the famine came true shows that the gift of prophecy was active. Acts 13:1 identifies the leadership of the church as prophets and teachers and included in its list Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul (i.e., the apostle Paul). While the text is unclear on whether all of them or only select individuals among them had the gift of prophecy, it was a plurality.

Paul also equated Luke’s writings with Scripture when he wrote, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages’ ” (1 Tim. 5:18). Paul here attributes the title of Scripture to both Deuteronomy (by quoting Deut. 25:4) and Luke’s Gospel (by quoting Luke 10:7). While the main emphasis of the text is not inspiration, it cannot be missed that Paul uses the term “Scripture” to speak of both the Old Testament and Luke’s writing. The clear implication is that Paul’s statement applies the quality of divine authorship to Luke’s writings on an equal level with the Old Testament. This is completely in line with Jesus’s preauthentication of the New Testament. It merely expands it to include a nonapostolic writer, much like Peter expanded it with Paul.

Along with Paul and Luke can be added Mark, James, the author of Hebrews, and Jude to the list of nonapostolic, inspired New Testament writers. Each of these men was associated very closely with Christ and his apostles. Mark was a companion of Paul on his early journeys (Acts 12:25; 13:5). While Mark’s failure resulted in the breakup of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:37–39), Paul himself attested to Mark’s later maturity and spiritual progress (2 Tim. 4:11). Mark’s Gospel was closely affiliated with the preaching of Peter, but its composition was the result of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the gift of prophecy. The same can be said of the epistles of James and Jude. James was recognized as a pillar in the early church (Gal. 2:9), and he was the chief spokesman for the church in Jerusalem during the council in Acts 15. He and Jude were both half brothers of Jesus writing Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by way of the gift of prophecy. The same holds true for the author of Hebrews. Though the identity of this author remains unknown, the gift of prophecy through the Holy Spirit was the means by which it was composed. The twenty-seven books of the New Testament self-attest to the fact of their inspiration.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R., eds. (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (pp. 70–100). Crossway.