The Bible’s Inspiration

Inspiration is a divine action that creates an identity between a human word and a divine word.

The term “inspired” is found only once in the English Bible, in 2 Timothy 3:16. In that passage it translates a Greek term that, etymologically, means “breathed out by God.” The idea would probably be better expressed as “expired” rather than “inspired.” To breathe out words is to speak them. So to say that a prophecy or a book (as in 2 Timothy 3:16) is “inspired” means that it is God’s very speech, that the words in question are the word of God.

Although the Bible does not use the terms “inspired” or “inspiration” very often, it refers in other language to many words, given to human speakers and writers by God, that function as divine utterances. Scripture refers in this way to the original document of the Ten Commandments, to the words of true prophets, to the speech of Jesus, and to the preaching and writing of the apostles.

In modern language, we often use “inspired” to refer to something far less. Today, we use the term to refer to any kind of poetic or elevated language or to any kind of felicitous expression. Unfortunately, some have used this diminished meaning of inspiration to define the concept of prophetic and biblical inspiration. Such a weakened notion of biblical inspiration inevitably reduces also the nature of biblical authority and of Scripture’s truth. But if we accept the Bible as an inspired text in the sense of 2 Timothy 3:16, we must infer that it is always truthful and has ultimate authority over all aspects of our lives.


Key Verses

2 Ti 3:15–17; 2 Pe 1:19–21; Dt 18:18–19; Je 1:4–12; Jn 5:45–47; Mt 24:35; Mk 8:38; Lk 1:20; Jn 1:1–14; Jn 5:24; Jn 6:63–68; Mt 10:19–20; Jn 14:26; Jn 15:26–27; Jn 16:13; Col 4:16; 2 Th 3:14–15; 1 Co 14:37–38; 1 Co 2:12–13

Additional Verses

Ex 32:16; Mt 5:18; Jn 10:34–36; Ac 1:16; Ac 4:25; Ro 5:14; Ga 3:16; 2 Pe 1:19–21

 Frame, J. (2018). The Bible’s Inspiration. In M. Ward, J. Parks, B. Ellis, & T. Hains (Eds.), Lexham Survey of Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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