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Inspiration, Doctrine of.


1. The NT does not use the Gk. word empneo (“inspire”) used by Philo* Judaeus and other classical and Hellenistic authors in reference to an ecstatic and often impersonal relationship bet. a person and a source of “inspiration.” In 2 Ptr 1:21 a verb is used (“Prophecy did not ever come [enechthe] by the will of man, but men moved by [pheromenoi] the Holy Ghost spoke from God”) which occurs 2 Ptr 1:17–18 with reference to the voice heard at the Transfiguration (“Such a voice came [enechtheises] to Him.… This voice … came [enechtheisan] from heaven”). In 2 Ti 3:16 a word (theopneustos, “God-breathed”; see also Theopneustia) is used which echoes the thought of Gn 2:7 (“God … breathed”), suggesting that Scripture may be the product of God's creative work in much the same way as that in which man was made a living being. The Luth. Confessions cite 2 Ti 3:16 only in reference to the effectiveness of the Bible and cite 2 Ptr 1:21 to prove the fact of inspiration.

2. To say that the Bible is the work of the Holy Spirit as Author does not imply suspension or extinction of the personality or individuality of the writers. God's Spirit used each writer with his endowments and his background of grammar, style, knowledge of nature and hist., etc.

3. That the Holy Spirit suggested to the writers the whole content and the words (plenary and verbal inspiration) is est., e.g., by Is 59:21; 1 Co 2:13; Gl 3:16; 1 Th 2:13. Accordingly, inspiration is a special, potent activity of the Holy Spirit which He exercised on those whom He chose as His instruments for writing the Biblical documents.

4. The fact of inspiration is taught in various passages of the OT and NT What is written in the Bible is at times attributed to “the Holy Spirit” or “God,” at other times to persons, e.g., David and Moses (2 Sm 23:1–2; Mt 15:4; 22:43; Mk 7:10; cp. Mt 19:4–5 and Gn 2:24).

5. Inspiration differs from revelation* in the sense that the latter term is used more broadly of all the methods by which God has made Himself known to men, including oral utterances of prophets, whereas the former refers, in its narrow sense, to specific guidance provided by the Holy Spirit to the writers. The word “inspiration” occurs in a broader sense 2 Ti 3:16; there it indicates that the individual books of the Bible are an end-product of God's power at work among His people (Lk 1:1–4; Jos 10:13; 1 Co 15:3), resulting in documents accepted by the ch. as canonical (see Canon, Bible).

6. The relation bet. God as Author and the men whom He used to transmit His Word is expressed in the Nicene Creed (see Ecumenical Creeds, B) by the phrase, “Who spake by the prophets,” which not only exactly summarizes the comparison bet. such texts as I Co 5:9 and 1 Jn 1:4 with that group represented by Mt 2:17 and 24:15, but is found as to its very terms Ro 1:2: “Which He had promised … by His prophets in the holy scriptures.” MHS

1. M. Luther* and Inspiration. Through Luther the Bible was restored as sole authority in the ch. in his 1st lectures on Ps (1513–16) he showed that he held Scripture to be the Word of God, regarding such expressions as “God speaks” and “Scripture speaks” as interchangeable. But as late as 1516 he still surrendered to the fathers and to the ch. his own right to understand and explain Scripture. In controversy with J. Eck,* Luther divorced himself from the authority of councils. By the time of the Diet of Worms* he had concluded that Scripture is far above the authority of the whole human race. Thereafter Scripture remained his sole authority. Though many things in the Bible puzzled and amazed him, he admitted no error in its original MSS At the same time he emphasized the human part in its writing.

2. The Luth. Confessions do not include a separate systematic treatment of inspiration; they take for granted that the Bible is God's Word and the only infallible guide and authority.

a. Early Luth. Dogmaticians. M. Chemnitz* regarded Scripture as the inspired Word of God. N. Selnecker* held that since Scripture is throughout the Word of God, its content throughout is heavenly, divine, and spiritual. He maintained that the real meaning is not in the “dead letter,” but comes through the enlightenment of the Spirit. J. Gerhard* emphasized that Scripture is autopistos (Gk. “trustworthy on its own authority”; it needs no testimony except that of God, its Author) and held that the energy of Scripture which leads us to Christ also convinces us that God is the Author of the Bible.

b. G. Calixtus* held that only doctrinal matter of Scripture is inspired, but writers kept from error also in other matters. Over against this view, A. Calov(ius)* held that the Bible forms a whole: forma revelationis divinae est theopneustia,* per quam revelatio divina est, quod est (“The form of divine revelation is divine inspiration, by which divine revelation is what it is”). He also distinguished bet. the act of the revealing God and the form of the revealed Word. Feeling that Calov had gone too far toward a mechanical theory, J. Musäus* sought to analyze human activity in the act of inspiration and emphasized the divine direction voiced by Calixtus.

c. J. A. Quenstedt's* presentation of inspiration is noteworthy because of the hist. evidence he marshals. He held that Apostolic writing is the same as preaching since both serve the purpose of awakening faith in Christ. He differentiated bet. the need of the whole ch. and the immediate need of the writing. He distinguished an enlightenment (irradiatio) which preceded the impulse (impulsus) to write. Inspiration itself he characterized as the descent of the Holy Spirit to the capabilities of the agent. J. K. Danhauer* distinguished (1) aspiratio (the activity of the penman in obedience to divine will, such as study, comparison of OT, investigations, etc.); (2) postspiratio (the quiet influence of the Holy Spirit on the penman); (3) inspiratio (the culmination of inspiration); (4) respiratio (the working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who read the Word).

d. Later dogmaticians of the classical period concerned themselves with problems given above and developed certain phases of them. One of the important problems which concerned earlier and later dogmaticians was the relation bet. revelation and inspiration.

4. Reformed. Early Ref. writers and confessions adhered to a strict view of inspiration. Many Ref. theologians tried to harmonize reason and revelation. Ref. fundamentalism* emphasized association of inspiration with inerrancy.

5. Roman Catholicism. RCm upholds the inspiration of Scripture. The Council of Trent* held that Scripture and unwritten traditions are the source of all saving truth and rules of conduct (Sess. IV). RC scholars disagree on the meaning of this. The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of Vatican II (see Vatican Councils, 2) states: “8. And so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by a continuous succession of preachers until the end of time.… 9.… Thus, led by the light of the Spirit of truth, these successors can in their preaching preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently, it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed.” Many scholars explain this to mean that Scripture is the only source, and tradition the Spirit-guided explanation, unfolding, and teaching of that source by the ch.

6. Pietism* and rationalism* influenced later conceptions of inspiration. A popular theory in the 1st part of the 20th c. held that the Bible is a human account of divine revelation and hence not without error. Others held that there were degrees of inspiration. Thoughts on inspiration in the middle of the c. ranged from mechanical theories to total rejection of inspiration. Since the 1950s, scholars have emphasized the mystery of Scripture, i. e., the relation of the divine to the human.

7. Lutheranism in America. Constitutions of major Luth. chs. in Am. and that of LCUSA pledge these bodies to Scripture as the Word of God and only infallible guide of doctrine and life. Other syn. statements affirm the inspiration of Scripture:

a. Pittsburgh* Agreement (adopted by the ALC and the ULC 1940): “2. The Bible consists of a number of separate books, written at various times, on various occasions, and for various purposes. Their authors were living, thinking personalities, each endowed by the Creator with an individuality of his own and each having his peculiar style, his own manner of presentation, even at times using such sources of information as were at hand. Nevertheless, by virtue of a unique operation of the Holy Ghost (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21) by which He supplied to the holy writers content and fitting word (2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Cor. 2:12, 13) the separate books of the Bible are related to one another and, taken together, constitute a complete, errorless unbreakable whole, of which Christ is the Center (John 10:35). They are rightly called the Word of God. This unique operation of the Holy Spirit upon the writers is named inspiration. We do not venture to define its mode or manner, but accept it as a fact.”

b. Common* Confession, Part I, V (adopted by LCMS and ALC 1950): “Through the Holy Scriptures, which God caused to be written by men chosen and inspired by Him, God instructs and assures us regarding His will for us. The Holy Scriptures constitute His Word to men, centering in the revelation of Himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ for our salvation. Through the Holy Scriptures God continues to speak to men in all ages until the end of time. He speaks as the infallible and unchanging God, whose message to mankind never changes. Since the Holy Spirit by divine inspiration supplied to the holy writers content and fitting word, therefore we acknowledge the Holy Scriptures in their entirety as the inspired Word of God. His Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that His Word is true, that He will keep all His promises to us, and that our faith in Him is not in vain.

“We therefore recognize the Holy Scriptures as God's inerrant Word, and this Word of God alone shall establish articles of faith (cf. Smalcald Articles, Part II, Art. II). We pledge ourselves to teach all things taught in the Holy Scriptures, and nothing but that which is taught us by God in the Holy Scriptures.”

c. Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod (adopted 1932): “We teach that the Holy Scriptures differ from all other books in the world in that they are the Word of God. They are the Word of God because the holy men of God who wrote the Scriptures wrote only that which the Holy Ghost communicated to them by inspiration, 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21. We teach also that the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is not a so-called 'theological deduction,' but that it is taught by direct statements of the Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3:16; John 10:35; Rom. 3:2; 1 Cor. 2:13. Since the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, it goes without saying that they contain no errors or contradictions, but that they are in all their parts and words the infallible truth, also in those parts which treat of historical, geographical, and other secular matters, John 10:35.…

“We reject the doctrine, which under the name of science has gained wide popularity in the Church of our day, that Holy Scripture is not in all its parts the Word of God, but in part the Word of God and in part the word of man and hence does, or at least might, contain errors.” EL

See also Buxtorf.

J. M. Reu, Luther and the Scriptures (Columbus, Ohio, 1944); T. E. W. Engelder, Scripture Cannot Be Broken (St. Louis, 1944) and “Haec Dixit Dominus,” CTM, XVIII (July 1947), 484–499, (August 1947), 561–572, reprint. ([St. Louis], n. d.) with tr. of Lat. and Ger. quotations; P. E. Kretzmann, “The Christocentric Theory of Inspiration,”; CTM, XV (Mar. 1944), 187–192; W. Dallmann, Why Do I Believe the Bible Is God's Word? 5th print. (St. Louis, 1943); W. Arndt, “Die Lehre von der Inspiration nach 1 Petr. 1, 10–12,” CTM, V (March 1934), 192–198; W. W. F. Albrecht, “Holy Scripture the Word of God,” The Abiding Word, II, ed. T. Laetsch (St. Louis, 1947), 1–34; C. Eberhard, “Geography of the Bible in Relation to Inspiration,” CTM, XV (November 1944), 736–747; J. A. Dell, “The Word of God,” What Lutherans Are Thinking, ed. E. C. Fendt (Columbus, Ohio, 1947), pp. 26–47; P. Schumm, “The Clearness and Sufficiency of Scripture,” The Abiding Word, I, ed. T. Laetsch (St. Louis, 1946), 58–66; W. Elert, Morphologie des Luthertums, I, improved print. (Munich, 1952), 157–176, tr. W. Hansen, The Structure of Lutheranism, I (St. Louis, 1962), 179–191; W. Walther, Das Erbe der Reformation im Kampfe der Gegenwart, I: Der Glaube an das Wort Gottes (Leipzig, 1903); W. Rohnert, Die Inspiration der heiligen Schrift und ihre Bestreiter (Leipzig, 1889); The Infallible Word: A Symposium by the mems. of the faculty of Westminster Theol. Sem. (Philadelphia, 1946); R. R. Caemmerer, A. C. Piepkorn, M. H. Franzmann, W. R. Roehrs, “Essays on the Inspiration of Scripture,” CTM, XXV (October 1954), 738–753; R. Preus, The Inspiration of Scripture, 2d ed. (London, 1957); B. Baepler, “Scripture and Tradition in the Council of Trent,” CTM, XXXI (June 1960), 341–362; Faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, “A Statement on the Form and Function of the Holy Scriptures,” CTM, XXXI (October 1960), 626–627; K. Rahner, Inspiration in the Bible, tr. C. H. Henkey (New York, 1961); P. Lengsfeld, Überlieferung: Tradition und Schrift in der evangelischen und katholischen Theologie der Gegenwart (Paderborn, 1960); D. M. Beegle, The Inspiration of Scripture (Philadelphia, 1963); B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, ed. S. G. Craig (Philadelphia, 1948); H. W. Robinson, Inspiration and Revelation in the Old Testament (Oxford, 1946); Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations: A Study Document on Revelation, Inspiration, [and] Inerrancy, pub. by LCMS ([St. Louis], n. d.). See also documentation under related articles, e.g., Dogmatics; Reformed Confessions.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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