A Compendium of Christian Theology

By William Burt Pope, D.D.,

Volume One

Chapter 3



            The Divine Faith



            Old Testament;

            Our Lord;

            the Apostles;












            Modern Theories;

            Assaults and Defense;

The term Divine in the general proposition that the Bible is the Divine Rule of Faith suggests the inspiration and infallible authority of the Sacred Records. Inspiration, distinguished from Revelation as we have employed the term, denotes the specific agency of the Holy Ghost in the creation and construction of Holy Scripture: this is the Biblical conventional use of the word which strictly limits its meaning. The theological treatment of the doctrine requires us to examine, first, the testimony of 'the Bible itself to its own inspiration; secondly, the history of the dogma in the universal Church; and. thirdly, the dogmatic results that may be regarded as fully expressing the truth on this subject.

The distinction between the terms Revelation and Inspiration depends, to a great extent, upon their conventional signification. In the Bible we do not trace the distinction found necessary in dogmatic theology, and so elaborately discussed in treatises on the subject.

There are hints, however, that justify us in assigning to each word its particular province.

1. Scripture uses them interchangeably; or, rather, adopts the same forms of expression to exhibit the methods of both. God by divers portions and in divers manners spake in times past to the fathers in the prophets: 1 this includes at once the revelation of all truth to the minds of the prophets, and the inspiration by which they received and administered that truth. The Voice of God pervades the Old Testament; and in the New it still speaketh in His Son. The divers manners 2 include visions, whether in dream or ecstasy, by the medium of which the Holy Ghost presented, with or without symbols, new forms of truth to the mind, or what is always called the Word of the Lord; and also communications to the waking faculties, conscious of all their own exercises and controlling them. The divers portions cannot well be understood unless we regard them as including the successive stages by which the ancient people were entrusted with the written oracles.

Thus the inspiration and the revelation are one. St. Paul unites them when he says. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 3 a sentence in which all ancient methods are reduced to two, and these are shown to be continued in the New Testament, though no longer so general and characteristic as they formerly had been.

1 Heb.1:1; 2 Heb. 1:2.

2. On the other hand, the Scripture authorizes the conventional phraseology which distinguishes between revelation of truth and inspiration to record it. The Son, in the unity of the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the Revealer. The Spirit, in the unity of the Father and the Son, is the Inspirer. The Son is the living and eternal Word in Whom the eternal ideas of all truth existed, before they were made known; but the Spirit did signify 1 its meaning to the prophets, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 The word Revelation is generally used of THE LORD; 3 the only instance of the use of Inspiration refers it to the Scripture as the result. 4 The disclosure of the mind of God to man is revelation when viewed in relation to the Truth unveiled, and inspiration when viewed in relation to the methods of its impartation and transmission to posterity. And, as revelation must in its highest meaning be limited to the unfolding of the scheme of redemption, so inspiration is limited to that one kind of contact or intercourse between the Holy Spirit and the spirit in man which produced the written Word for all ages and generations.

1 1 Pet. 1:11; 2 2 Pet. 1:21; 3 2 Cor 12:1; 4 2 Tim 3:16.


The Scripture presents the credentials of its own inspiration. Hence, remembering that in things Divine credentials are always first, and are, if necessary, to be sustained by their own evidences, it is not arguing in a circle to receive the witness of the Bible concerning itself: we must study the whole subject with the Book in our hands. The Old Testament yields its testimony in a manner accordant with its preliminary stage of development; but, though only preliminary, that testimony will be found to include every essential element of the doctrine. Christ, the Revealer, gives His supreme attestation to the authority of the ancient Scriptures: such an attestation, considering His claims, was absolutely necessary; it is expressly given, and of course it is sufficient. He has also with equal expressness, though in a different manner, declared by anticipation the plenary Divine authority of the writings of the New Testament. After exhibiting the evidence of this, we shall descend to the Apostles' testimony concerning the inspiration of the Old Testament and their own; and then may be in a position to sum up the evidence of the Holy Oracles concerning themselves as one united whole.


1. The Old Testament does not lay down the distinction between Revelation and Inspiration; but it furnishes the evidence by which the distinction may be established.

Communications of the Divine will were given in various ways to various men, few of whom, comparatively speaking, were educated and commissioned to write the permanent records of that will. The Patriarchs received revelations, and recorded some of them; but their records were not officially made Scripture by themselves. It was the special prerogative of Moses that he was the immediate organ of Jehovah, the Logos-Angel: There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses whom Jehovah knew face to face. 1 Of him it is not recorded that the Spirit made him an instrument: a distinction which was afterwards perverted as we shall see. Of all the inspired agents of Jehovah who testified concerning Christ Moses approached most nearly to the Person Whom he predicted, or rather was brought into closest analogy with Him. After the Uncreated Angel withdrew as the immediate Revealer, phrases are introduced which had not been known before but are used now in great variety. We read of the Spirit of God, 2 or of Jehovah, coming down on men; of the Hand of the Lord 3 moving upon one and another; of the Word of the Lord 4 coming to them.

1 Deu. 34:10; 2 Num. 24:2; 2 1 Sam. 10:6; 3 2 Chro. 15:1; 4 Ezek. 37:14.

2. But, running through all, there is a constant commission to write: from Moses, through Samuel's schools of the prophets, down to the end of the Old Testament. The Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book. 1 A large number of references to writing may be collected in the ancient records: to the men appointed to write by the commandment of the Lord; 2 to God as Himself the Writer, I have written to him the great things of My law; 3 to the manner in which the prophetic records especially were arranged and preserved, and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah; 4 and to the general designation of the whole as Scripture, I will show thee that which is noted in the SCRIPTURE OF TRUTH. 5 It will be seen by a collation of the multitudes of passages of which these are specimens, that the Old Testament gives all the materials for the full doctrine which is presupposed, sanctioned, and unfolded in the New.

1 Exo. 17:14; 2 Num. 33:2; 3 Hos. 8:12; 4 Jer. 36:1-4; 5 Dan. 10:21.


Our Lord's witness to the inspiration of both Testaments is, to those who believe in Him, the sum of all reasoning. Not indeed that it renders the most careful examination of the documents needless; but a steadfast confidence in the Supreme Authority ought to precede, accompany, and follow every consideration of evidence. Certainly His testimony should more than outweigh all the objections which derive their strength from our ignorance. But that is not all. The Savior’s assurances not only confirm the results of inspiration, but throw a clear light upon its nature.

I. In many ways this supreme testimony is given by the Redeemer to the Old Canon as a completed whole.

1. First, by His absolute ascription to its writings of a Divine authority. It was the one thing common to Him and His Jewish opponents that the Scriptures, the same to Him and to them, were admitted to be in all parts the Word and the Writings of God. He asked them: Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 1 but said nothing of adding to or diminishing the holy books. They made tradition and that was their fault; but they are not condemned as making or unmaking Scripture. While sweeping away their enfeebling glosses, and giving His own spiritual interpretation, our Lord expressly declared that the least ordinance and the least commandment in the Old Testament was Divine, and must have its fulfillment. Such is the meaning of one jot or one tittle, 2 as connected with what follows.

1 Mat. 15:3,6; 2 Mat. 5:18 2. He attested the entire Old Testament, secondly, by the terms He was wont to use in speaking of the older oracles. He quotes them as SCRIPTURE generally, and as individual SCRIPTURES. It is written 1 is His answer to the Tempter in the wilderness. Search the Scriptures 2 He said to the Jews and to all men: the solitary instance (taken indicatively) of the commandment: a commandment with promise, They testify of Me. 2 And He began His own prophetic office in the synagogue by proclaiming, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears. 3 The ancient collection of holy documents He distinguishes according to the current division as the law or the prophets: 4 commandment and promise.

In the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me. 5 But He unites them all again as the Scriptures in that last unrecorded exposition of the Old Covenant that He gave to His disciples. He once calls an ancient oracle the Word of God, 6 and adds, the Scripture cannot be broken. 7 With this it is instructive to connect our Lord's saying concerning Himself, My words shall not pass away; 8 which asserts at the end of His ministry the same eternal authority for His own teaching which, at the beginning, He had asserted for the law.

1 Mat. 4:7; 2 John 5:39; 3 Luke 4:21; 4 Mat. 5:17; 5 Luke 24:44,45; 6 Luke 24:27; 7 John 10:35; 8 Mat. 24:35 3.

The Redeemer never fails to refer to the old Scripture as one testimony, given by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, concerning Himself. How then doth David in Spirit call Him Lord? 1 This is the one instance in which the Spirit's inspiration is directly referred to, and it is a special prophecy concerning David's Lord, uttered by David himself, as a solitary exception to his usual style, and quoted exceptionally by our Savior: in fact, it may be said that the entire Old Testament was represented; it CALLETH HIM LORD. Hence the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy: 2 this is a dictum which may also be inverted: the Spirit in the whole company of the prophets is the testimony of Jesus. For all the ancient seers both saw and spoke under the influence of the Spirit of Christ which was in them.3

1 Mat. 22:43; 2 Rev. 19:10; 3 1 Pet. 1:11.

4. Thus the Savior’s witness to the Old Testament is simply perfect in every element that Christian faith can demand. He began and ended His earthly life by declaring its Divine authority and the necessity of its most minute fulfillment. He gave His testimony, not in accommodation to a current notion of the times, but as the Revealer of all truth. And the force of this is specially strengthened by the fact that He sanctions the whole body of holy writers as One who is above them all. What He said of the Baptist was still more applicable to Himself: He is much more than a Prophet. 1 He does not speak, however, as Himself inspired. Though a Prophet, and endued with the Spirit from on high, He never claims for Himself a limited and specific inspiration of the Holy Ghost: in this eternally separated from all the Spirit's agents. As the Son of God incarnate He re-utters the entire Old Testament as His own ancient oracles made new; they as it were died in Him to their transitory meaning, and rose with Him to be the power of an endless life. 1 Luke 7:26.

II. It is of the utmost importance to ask in what sense the Redeemer assures to us a continuation of these authoritative oracles in His own New Testament. We may boldly say that the Great Fulfillment necessarily implied a continuation of Scripture, both as Word and as Writing.

1. Generally, our Lord testified, My words shall not pass away, 1 which is an echo of the sublimest assertions of the Old Testament concerning the Divine oracle. All His sayings on every subject, whether recorded or not, were the words of God. Concerning the whole sum of His teaching He could bear witness, I have given them Thy word. 2 This being so, can we suppose that such a deposit would die with those who first received it? Their Master made provision that His words should, so far as they were to abide, be preserved in their memory. The promise indeed is very comprehensive, embracing all that the Lord had said. On the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples were bidden to hear Him, 3 and that in the presence of Moses and Elijah. In strict harmony with this is the fact that at the close of His ministry Jesus, more expressly than ever before, made His own sayings the sum of Scripture. It is remarkable that He does not impress upon His disciples the solemn importance of remembering the Scriptures of the Old Testament. It was His own word, — all things whatsoever I have commanded you, 4 —that He left as a legacy. Surely what He said of the sacramental cup may be applied in another way: this is the New Testament IN MY WORDS. The teaching of the Lord was the new Bible; and we feel instinctively how true is the phrase of St. Paul: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. 5 The word of Christ is no other than the word of God.

1 Mat. 24:35; 2 John 17:14; 3 Luke 9:35; 4 Mat. 28:20; 5 Col. 3:16.

2. He has also, both directly and indirectly, guaranteed to us new Scriptural writings.

Though the Divine decorum forbade His leaving anything from His own hand, He did not reverse the ancient law that revelation should be gradually developed in the volume of a book. As Moses was commanded to write the beginning, 1 so St. John was commanded to write the end, of that volume, 2 to finish it as it had been begun. To be more particular: the new Scripture is prepared for and produced by the same Spirit of inspiration Who gave the old records. 3 Precisely the same law of procedure which we have seen in the creation of the earlier documents we see governing the Savior’s arrangements for the later. It is as plain as if He had said: By My Spirit I give you new Scriptures. But this He did not declare: all grows out of His words without His saying so. Reserving revelation for Himself, He assigned inspiration to the Holy Ghost, though without giving Him the name of Inspirer; and so described His influence as to make it precisely like that which rested on the ancient writers. In old time, it was said to Moses: Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say; 4 and to Jeremiah: Behold 1 have put My words in thy mouth, and Say not, I am a child. 5 Here a special inspiration for special need is promised, over and above the general inspiration for office.

Compare the words of our Lord to His Apostles, promising the very same special influence: The Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say. 6 It is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. 7 These are promises in the Synoptists; St. John adds the final and supplementary threefold assurance: the same Spirit will bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you; 8 further, He will show you the things to come; 9 and, generally, He will guide you into all truth. 10 Connecting this special assurance with the Old Testament, the Lord afterwards said, I send the Promise of My Father upon you: 11 as if it were a new function of the Ancient Inspirer that He would impress on their minds. When that promise was fulfilled, they were, like Jeremiah, children no longer, but men in understanding. Now with reference to the three departments of the promise in St. John, the fulfillment required, and therefore included, writing. Let this be carefully considered with regard to each. These are written that ye might believe, 12 for the first. Write the things which thou hast seen, 13 for the second. And the Apostolical Epistles, containing the development of the truth in its manifold applications, is the fulfillment of the third.

1 Ex..17:14; 2 Rev. 1:19; 3 John 20:31; 4 Exo. 4:12; 5 Isa. 59:21; 6 Jer. 1:7,9; 7 Luke 12:12; 8 Mark 13:11; 9 John 19:26; 10 John 16:13; 11 Luke 24:49; 12 John 20:31; 13 Rev. 1:19.

3. From all this we may assuredly gather that the Mediator of the New Covenant purposed to add another volume to the Scriptures of truth: without plainly saying so, any more than in Genesis He foreannounced the entire Old Testament. The facts declare this without any express declaration. The New Testament is constructed before our eyes exactly as the Old was. The same laws and methods continue in the new economy that were observed in the old. There is the same direct personal teaching, and the Apostles see the Oracle face to face as Moses saw Him. There are the same dreams and ecstasies; and there is the same overruling direction of the Holy Ghost in the compilation of documents.

This only great difference exists, that the final truth is communicated by the perfectly revealed Son through the perfectly revealed Spirit; and therefore long times and seasons are in the swift consummation needless. All was accomplished in a single age. The Preparations occupied many centuries; the Fulfillment glorified one.


The Apostolic testimony, both to the fact and to the nature of Inspiration, is most ample: the full development of this as of other doctrines is committed to the Apostles.

I. As to the Scriptures generally, or particular Scriptures of the Old Testament, their tribute is explicit and clear.

1. St. Peter, as Preacher and Writer, is perhaps the preeminent witness: in the Acts, to the Jews; in his Epistles, to the Church of Jews and Gentiles; in both, to future generations.

On the eve of Pentecost he gives what may be called a classical text: édei pleerootheénai teén grafeén heén proeípen tó Pneúma tó Hágion diá stómatos Davíd. 1 This is the Pentecostal witness once for all: in a form more complete than anywhere else, as it were a general definition. The Holy Ghost spake; 2 using the mouth of David an instrument, also that of Joel; and the result was Scripture in one particular expression of it: whether as uttered or as written it is identical. Nor is St. Stephen less clear: he says that Moses received lógia zoónta, living oracles; doúnai heemín, 3 to transmit to posterity, here again the spoken and the written oracles being identical. St. Peter's Epistles contain important evidence. No prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretationidías epilúseoos,4 referring to the prophet's own knowledge—but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost. As to the Biblical writings in particular, there is much weight in his expression, the other Scriptures, 5 when viewed on all sides. A shorter phrase in the first Epistle adds to the words and the writings of the prophets the element of their authority if any man speak, speaking as if the oracles of God, 6 which are supposed to be the standard of all truth in doctrine and in ethics.

1 Acts 1:16; 2 Acts 1:16; 3 Acts 7:38; 4 2 Pet. 1:20,21; 5 2 Pet. 3:16; 6 1 Pet. 4:11.

2. The Epistle to the Hebrews furnishes the most ample series of testimonies to be found in the New Testament. The force of these is to be felt only by an examination of the texture of the whole composition, which literally regards the ancient Scriptures as oracles spoken by the Holy Ghost, and preserved for the Christian Church in a book to be quoted from as infallible. It is remarkable that the same expression is throughout used to indicate the testimony of the Spirit and that of the writer whom He employs: The Holy Ghost 1 testifieth the terms of the great covenant in Jeremiah; and One in a certain place testified, 2 meaning the Psalmist. While in this document God absolutely is the Revealer, and the Son the supreme medium of revelation, the Spirit is specially connected with the written Scripture. It may be added, that the first principles of the oracles 3 are represented as the same in the Old Testament and in the New: the rudiments which these Christians needed to be taught again were the principles of the doctrine of Christ; 4 and, as these had been taught in the Christian writings, these writings were also THE DIVINE ORACLES.

1 Heb. 10:15; 2 Heb. 2:6; 3 Heb. 5:12; 4 Heb. 6:1.

3. St. Paul also, both as Preacher and Writer, lives and moves in the ancient Scriptures.

He quotes them constantly, and always as containing the Voice and the Writings of God.

His manner of introducing individual texts shows plainly the importance he attached to the very words used by the Holy Ghost. For instance: He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed, which is Christ. 1 He uses a wide variety of epithets, such as The Prophetic Scriptures, 2 Holy Scriptures, 3 Sacred Writings, 4 and Scripture given by inspiration of God. The last two contain his final testimony to Timothy; and they together declare that the Hallowed or Sacred writings applied by faith in Christ impart saving wisdom; and that all Scripture is Divinely inspired. The term Theópneustos, as a predicate of grafeé, has given the theological word Inspiration its Scriptural ground, sanctioning also the extension of the term to the writings as well as the words and the persons of the inspired men. St. Peter's great testimony signalizes the impulse of the Spirit on the minds of the prophets: they were ferómenoi, led or borne along. St. Paul supplements this by making emphatic the result in the written Word in its widest extent, embracing much more than the word of prophecy. The former leans rather to the revelation, the latter to the inspiration, of the ancient documents; but both include the collected oracles, and their saving power to the believing recipient. Together, they condense into two short sentences the entire Biblical doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture: that is, primarily though not only, of Old-Testament Scripture.

1 Gal. 3:16; 2 Rom. 16:26; 3 Rom. 1:2; 4 2 Tim. 3:15,16.

II. It is most important to collect the Apostles' testimony to their own inspiration. But it must be remembered that, though always conscious of the Spirit's special influence, they would only on defensive occasions be likely to refer to it. In fact, the service of the Gospel required them on very many occasions to abstain from urging their highest claim.

1. St. John is the Apostle who gives the faintest expression to the specific gift of inspiration, while he is, perhaps, the most earnest in the assertion of the authority that resulted from it. Yet in the Apocalypse he says that he was, when he received his prophetic communications, in the Spirit, 1 the very term applied by our Lord to the inspiration of David: no prophet was ever more effectually moved by the Holy Ghost 2 than he. He speaks of those sayings as faithful and true 3 which he wrote to the churches by commandment of the Lord, as if they were his own: and the fearful words that end this book, if not the Bible, declare its inviolable Divine authority. In his First Epistle he seems to make the unction from the Holy One 4 a privilege of all Christians; but a close examination will give reason to think that he referred primarily to the Apostolic chrísma, or anointing, which was also a chárisma, or gift, not limited to himself, and therefore not made prominent as his own, but his in the unity of the whole Apostolate. Supposing, however, that the anointing is spoken of as belonging to all regenerate believers, we fall back upon the tone of superhuman authority which is impressed upon this document, as upon the two lesser Epistles accompanying it.

1 Rev. 1:10; 2 2 Pet. 1:21; 3 Rev. 22:6; 4 1 John 2:20.

2. St. Peter speaks of the writings of St. Paul as co-ordinate, on the same level, with the other Scripture: 1 a slight hint of an understood and current way of thinking has the force of a strong argument. It must be remembered that he had just before been referring to his reason for writing a second Epistle: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment, through your Apostles, of the Lord and Savior. 2 Hence there can be no question that he placed the apostolical company by the side of the prophetic; and that he regarded himself, as well as his beloved brother Paul, as representatives, in their writings and words, of the supreme authority of the common Master. For it is well known that Words and Writings are in Scripture often used interchangeably. In their ministry, applying his own language, we have the word of prophecy made more sure. 3 The day has dawned.

1 2 Pet. 3:16; 2 2 Pet. 3:1,2; 3 2 Pet. 1:19.

3. As to St. Paul himself, there can be no question of his claiming the authority of inspiration. Not being numbered with those who had companied with the Lord and received His great promise on the eve of the Passion, it was necessary that he should dwell more on the prerogatives of his irregular investiture. He speaks specially for himself, though as the representative of all, when he claims so often to wield, both in presence and by letters, the very authority of Christ. His reference to matters not given of commandment 1 must not be misunderstood. He does not mean that he wrote merely on his own authority; but that in these particular cases he could not and did not appeal to any distinct and specific utterance of Christ. Yet it is observable that he is never more peremptory than in giving the decisions which are not settled by the precedents of the Supreme Master Himself. St. Paul does not separate between his personal life and character as a man 2 and: his official relation to the churches; though he distinguishes between Christ revealed IN him, 3 and the new Faith revealed UNTO him, 4 and the Gospel fully known BY him; 5 these three filling up the whole compass of his new life. He ascribes his revelations to Christ as the Revealer, 6 but to inspiration the words used which the Spirit teacheth. 7 In short, had he been present in the paschal upper room, he could not more abundantly have asserted his possession of the privileges of the Apostolic company. His letters were to be read in the churches as the very Word of the Lord, and for his least counsels he can say, I think that I also have the Spirit of God: 8 a style of speaking sometimes regarded as meaning no more than the common Christian privilege, but never in the New Testament so used. The Apostle's habitual thought was molded by the Old Testament, where such language is reserved for the organs of inspiration; for instance, the spiritual man of the prophet is literally the man of the Spirit.8

1 1 Cor. 7:6,12; 2 Rom. 3:5; 3 Gal. 1:16; 4 Eph. 3:3; 5 2 Tim. 4:17; 6 1 Cor. 2:13; 7 1 Cor 2:40; 8 Hos. 9:7.

4. The two historical Evangelists, and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who shared not directly the great promise given to the Apostles, shared it indirectly. St. Mark and St. Luke had for their special province those subjects concerning which the promise was given by the Savior, and under the direction of St. Peter and St. Paul. No writings bear more undeniably the signs of an Apostle 1 than, these: and St. Luke's especially are most essential to the living organism of the New Testament. But the consideration of their contributions belongs to the study of the Canon.

1 2 Cor. 12:12.

5. To sum up all. The writers of the New Testament form a body of men, united in the unfolding of Christian doctrine, who always deliver their message as from God their Savior by His Holy Spirit. They do not often assert their inspiration: but it is everywhere implied by themselves and supposed to be understood by their hearers and readers. In this they occupy precisely the same position as their predecessors in the Old Testament. Like them, they stand before the people of God with infallible teaching from which there is no appeal; like them, they occasionally declare themselves, when their authority is resisted, to be organs of the Spirit. In a word, they simply take the place in the New Temple of the prophets in the Old: continuing their office and ministration by a commission the credentials of which were known and read of all men.


Dogmatic Theology has a clear account to give of Inspiration. The Scriptures, fairly compared and interpreted, declare it to be that special influence of the Holy Ghost on the minds of holy men. Selected for the purpose, which qualified them to communicate, from age to age, an infallible record of Divine truth concerning the redeeming will of God.

This is the conventional meaning attached to the term both in earlier and later Christian times. Save with this meaning the word inspiration becomes comparatively vague and valueless. Here we have to consider the Inspiring Spirit; then the Inspired Organs; and lastly the Scriptures of Inspiration.


The Holy Ghost, in the Mediatorial Trinity, is, and is alone, the Author of inspiration.

This is His personal honor, and implies perfection in His work.

To the ground of this office in the Absolute Trinity we cannot penetrate any more than we can penetrate to the ground of the revealing function of the Word; enough, that as the Revealing Son is the Eternal Word, so the Inspiring Spirit, eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son, is the supreme and sole medium of communication to the spirit of man. Whatever the Son is to the creature the Spirit COMMUNICATES. In the Mediatorial Trinity the Holy Ghost presides over the impartation of truth. This may be illustrated by His relation to the Person of the Revealer generally, and particularly by the terms employed in the phraseology of Scripture on the subject.

1. It is true, throughout the entire economy of redemption, that the Spirit reveals the Son as the Son reveals the Father. The preparations for Christ in the former times, whether in natural or in supernatural revelation, were under His control; and especially the latter.

The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy; 1 and it was the Spirit of Christ which was in them 2 that signified through the prophets that future redemption which is the sum of revealed truth. The New Testament fully discloses both the Revealer and His interpreting Spirit: the One as much as the Other. As all truth comes through the Son Who revealeth what He hath heard of My Father, 3 so the inspiration of the Spirit has always made man capable of receiving the revelation. The Holy Ghost fulfils Christ's Divine word: He shall not speak of Himself. 4 And, precisely as the work of Christ was fully made known when He appeared among men, so the office of the Spirit as the Inspirer of the permanent records of that work was fully known only after His Pentecostal coming.

1 Rev. 19:10; 2 1 Pet. 1:11; 3 John 15:15; 4 John 16:13.

2. The phraseology of Scripture has been seen to be faithful to this truth. There is a gradual unfolding of it from the beginning. The Spirit is dimly, though less and less dimly, alluded to in the Old Testament as the Inspirer: in the songs of the neutral ground between the Old and the New Testaments He is more clearly spoken of: until after Pentecost He becomes the representative of all the revelations of the Holy Trinity. This principle must regulate our interpretation of certain passages that might seem to speak otherwise: that is, with less distinctive reference to the Holy Ghost as the Inspirer. God is said to have spoken or done what is spoken or done by each Person in the Trinity: a canon this of great importance generally. It was the Lord, the God of Israel, who wrought redemption for His people; 1 but the Son was the Redeemer. God sent His Son: 2 but St.

John's testimony goes on that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 3 So it is said that God spake unto the fathers in the prophets; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 4 The Scripture is God-inspired, Theópneustos, 5 but only the Spirit is the Inspiring God.

1 Luke 1:68; 2 1 John 4:10,14; 3 Heb. 1:1; 4 2 Pet. 1:21; 5 2 Pet. 3:16.

3. Hence special honor is due and should be paid to the Holy Ghost in His office and province: He is the God of Scripture. In this domain He is supreme; according to the Nicene Confession, which introduces this Divine work into the highest act of worship: WHO SPAKE BY THE PROPHETS. It is therefore not to be wondered at or condemned that we pay also a certain homage to the Scriptures as His finished work. What is wrongly charged upon this submission as Bibliolatry is a becoming sentiment of reverence for the Spirit in His word. Of Him also it may be said, His work is perfect, 1 despite any supposed appearances to the contrary. As creation and providence and redemption are finished and complete severally, so also is the organization of the Scripture: perhaps all the more perfect because of some things which we in our ignorance count imperfection.

1 Deu. 32:4.


The men chosen of the Holy Ghost to be the organs of inspiration were by Him sanctified through the truth for their office; their faculties were prepared by His influence for the special province of inspiration assigned to them individually; and He superintended and controlled the exercise of those faculties for the accomplishment of His own end in the construction of Scripture.

1. St. Peter, referring to the prophetic Word, says of the prophets: men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost. 1 It may be affirmed of all the instruments used for this high function that they were under the common sanctifying inspiration or influence of the Spirit. It is true that revelations were given—that is, disclosures of truth, and visions of the future—both in the Old Testament and in the New to men who were raised up to this end, but were personally unsanctified: but Balaam and Caiaphas, though they received a transitory inspiration, were not employed to perpetuate or hand down their predictions.

They were used for a purpose, and their enforced ministry was taken up, like Pharaoh's, into the Divine plan. Similarly, certain writings, not themselves written by inspired men, are incorporated into the fabric of Scripture. These were all exceptions to the general rule, that only those who are in harmony with truth and under its sanctifying influence received its higher revelations.

1 2 Pet. 1:21.

2. But the Spirit used His instruments as men: their sanctity, or special consecration to their task, was the sanctification of their natural endowments, acquisitions, and study.

They were not passive in the writing of Scripture, even to that degree in which they were passive in receiving revelation. They wrote, sometimes after long interval, what they had received; and always according to the characteristics of their individual genius, style of thoughts, and diction. But their faculties were raised, invigorated, and strengthened to their highest pitch. What has been termed the DYNAMICAL theory of inspiration, — namely, that its influence acted upon and through the faculties of the inspired person, —is proved to be true by all the phenomena of the several books. From the record of the most transcendent visions down to the simplest private letter, the writer in Scripture is true to himself. No individual author in the classical literature of Greece or Rome differs more from every other than every writer in Scripture differs from his fellow. Chronicler from Chronicler, Prophet from Prophet, Evangelist from Evangelist, Apostle from Apostle.

3. Inspiration proper is then the specific influence on the mind, after these pre-requisites are provided for. And, although no distinctions in degree are alluded to in Scripture, the evidence may be found there that the one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will, 1 regulated His inspiring influence by the need.

1 1 Cor. 12:11.

(1.) There are some portions of the Holy Writings in which pure revelation and inspiration coincide; where the inspiring Spirit would suggest the truth, and also the words in which to clothe it; in fact, use His instruments almost mechanically to subserve His purpose. It may not be easy to distinguish in every case the results of the VERBAL inspiration; and the fact that the autographs of the Bible have disappeared proves that the Holy Ghost has allowed nothing vital to depend on such a distinction. The most sacred words of our Lord are reproduced with slight variations by those to whose remembrance they were recalled; but we observe that His promise ran: He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, pánta há, whatsoever I have said unto you. 1 The fluctuation of the expressions used by the several reporters does not invalidate the assumption that in much of Scripture there is the inspiration of SUGGESTION, especially of the things and sometimes of the very words.

1 John 14:26.

(2.) Many parts of the Bible, especially of the New Testament, are the logical development and formal arrangement of doctrine. St. Paul in his Epistles reasons from the Old Testament in assertion and defense of New-Testament truth; just as he and the other preachers of the Gospel proved from Scripture that Jesus was Christ. It is most obvious that in the conduct of his argument he uses his faculties according to the discipline of his youth. But he himself tells us that he also used words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, 1 and enjoyed that special inspiration of the Spirit which was promised by our Lord: He will guide you into all truth, hodeegeései, 2 He shall guide you in the way of reflection, argument, and sound exposition. All the Apostles received for the Church and the world what the Two received on the morning of the resurrection, and the Eleven afterwards: Then opened He their under standing, that they might understand the Scriptures. 3

1 1 Cor. 2:13; 2 John 16:13; 3 Luke 24:45.

(3.) A large portion of Scripture is testimony to fact, of various kinds; and no theory of inspiration of witnesses can be accepted which should destroy their independent character as witnesses. They were inspired or moved to deliver their independent and faithful testimony. Sometimes they have to register facts, or supposed facts, which they gather from public records; sometimes to record traditions, legends, current opinions, or uninspired predictions handed down by tradition: in these cases they are only witnesses of what they found. Sometimes they have to narrate events in which they had taken part to a greater or less extent: in this case they are directed to chronicle the result of their own investigations, each according to his own lights. Occasionally they are concurrent witnesses of transactions which they observed from different points of view: under such circumstances there is no previous harmonizing of the testimonies, but each gives his own faithful witness, according to his Divinely aided remembrance, the Divine aid, however, not necessarily rectifying the original defect or incompleteness of observation.

Hence arise certain differences of presentation which the free Spirit has permitted: differences which are just enough to show that the witnesses are sent to give their evidence as independent, never enough to betray the supreme cause of truth.

(4.) Once more, much of the Scripture is the result of what would be called among men editorial arrangement. This extends over a considerable portion of the Old Testament, and is what St. Luke, for instance, in the New claims for his own function. Now the presiding and controlling influence of the Spirit was as much needed for this as for any other department of the economy of revelation; but His inspiration was of a different character.

He taught His instruments to distinguish in Hebrew literature what was His own and what was not; He superintended the arrangement of the Psalms; He taught the Evangelists to sift the oral traditions which were rich with the deposits and memorials of the Sacred Life; and, generally, He watched over and directed the construction of organic Holy Writ as one great body of Literature, in many human respects like all other literature, but Divinely distinguished from every other.


The Scriptures themselves may be said to be inspired as containing the permanent mind of the Spirit, and being the organ of His abiding and living influence. Hence this attribute in many ways distinguishes them from all other literature, sacred and secular.


The names given to the collection of Books confirm all that has been said of them: whether those names are found in the Bible itself, or are the reverent invention of later times. The writers themselves use the very highest appellatives; and never refer to the contents of the volume as a whole, or to any the least fragment of it, without some expression of deep reverence. This habit was not confined to the Jews, ancient or modern, whose well-known reverence approached superstition: it is shared by the disciples whom their Lord forbade to call any man master on earth, who had brought them a new law, and most certainly would not have suffered them to give such titles to any but the writings of God. In this, too, they had His example. They are the SACRED WRITINGS, tá hierá grámmata, 1 Thus St. Paul speaks of the Old Testament, and in a connection which shows that the things which Timothy received through faith in Christ Jesus were of equal authority, and therefore that the New was to be included. Scripture everywhere, they are in this closing page HOLY SCRIPTURE: The Writings pre-eminently, which refer not to the passing phenomena of time, but to the things of eternity. This is the only title they receive as a whole. They are the WORD OF GOD, however, in the estimation of Christians, as enshrining the Evangelical record of the work of Christ which liveth and abideth for ever; 2 so, as containing the compendium of all the distinct revelations which are called individually the Words of God; and finally as suggesting, what indeed they do not express, the close connection between the inspired Word and the Word Incarnate. It is in some cases difficult to decide exegetically whether the term Logos 3 refers to the Eternal Word or to the word spoken.

1 2 Tim. 3:15; 2 1 Pet. 1:23; 3 Heb. 4:12,13.


1. Its plenary inspiration makes Holy Scripture the absolute and final authority, allsufficient as the supreme Standard of Faith, Directory of Morals, and Charter of Privileges to the Church of God. Of course, the Book of Divine revelations cannot contain anything untrue; but its infallibility is by itself especially connected with religious truth. It constitutes, as will be hereafter seen, the absolute Canon or Book of Faith. It is comparatively silent as to human science; it has its own laws of grammar and rhetoric; it quotes traditions and admits records as testimony without pledging itself to their exactness. It does not profess to be Divine in any such sense as should remove it from human literature: a Bible of that kind would be something very different from what we have. It is, after all, a Divine-human collection of documents: the precise relation of the human to the Divine is a problem which has engaged much attention, and has not yet been, though it may yet be, adequately solved. But in the domain of religious truth, and the kingdom of God among men, its claim to authority and sufficiency is absolute.

2. The evidence of the inspiration of the Scriptures belongs rather to the historical review which will follow. It is sufficient to say here that it is found in its own testimony, confirmed by its effects. Here once more we must needs argue in what seems to be a circle. In fact, there are no evidences to be brought to the question from without: only credentials from within. The Book may be said to be inspired. St. Paul uses that expression, not of the writers, but of what they write; and points to its profitable uses for the proof. His words, already quoted, may be quoted again as the last authoritative assertion on the subject which the Scriptures themselves contain. Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.1 This was St. Paul's final testimony, one of his Faithful Sayings: uttered when all his own writings were in the world, concerning which St. Peter used the same term grafás, classing them with the other Scriptures.2 When he thus spoke to Timothy, he was himself giving him instruction which the older Scriptures could not give: hence the New Testament is included with the Old in the general declaration. The power of the holy oracles in the souls of all who study them has mostly been recognized as its supreme credential. The Holy Ghost lives in the Word: and His testimony to that Word, as the organ of His grace, is irresistible to the believer. To the unbeliever as such the inspiration of the Bible cannot be proved.

1 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 2 Pet. 3:16.


The subject of Inspiration occupies a large place in the history of religious thought and ecclesiastical polemics; which is not to be wondered at, considering the vast issues at stake. On the question whether God has given to His people an authoritative revelation of His will hangs every interest of truth, assurance, and certitude of faith. If the Bible is what our doctrine of inspiration asserts it to be, many great questions of controversy among the Churches are, or ought to be, at once settled by it. This gives harmony where all else is confusion. But the doctrine has been and is impugned: and we must consider well the attacks upon a position so vital. Hence a general view of its development is very important in the settlement of the doctrine. In order to make the survey complete, it is well to consider the universal tradition of mankind, the judgment of the Jewish Church, the ecclesiastical dogmas in Christendom, and the present state of opinion and controversy as to the nature and effect of inspiration.


In common with every doctrine of the Faith, this one had its distorted shadow in the heathen world; but the distinction we establish between Revelation and Inspiration is not here to be expected. Generally, a sentence of Cicero may speak for all: Vetus opinio est, jam usque ab heroicis duct a temporibus, eaque et populi Romani et OMNIUM GENTIUM firmata consensu, versari quandam inter homines divinationem. More particularly, the manteis or Prophets, announcing their frenzied oracles; the Poets, feigning or not feigning a special influence on their minds; and the Lawgivers, of whom Numa is only a representative, correspond, in a certain sense, to the Prophecy, to the Hagiographa or Psalms, and to the Law, of the Jewish doctrine of inspiration. In a certain sense only, however: for heathenism knew nothing, nor pretended to know anything, of a great system of supernatural truth revealed to the minds of men.


The JEWISH CHURCH, before the Old-Testament Canon closed, had an absolute faith in the inspiration of Moses and the Prophets, and the authors of the other Holy Writings. They inherited a large miscellaneous literature, but carefully distinguished and held sacred that portion which was given them directly from above; and that distinction guided, as will be hereafter seen, the settlement of the Canon. The Judaism of the Interval retained, with scarcely perceptible diminution of intensity, the same faith. The apocrypha] authors assert the essential difference between human and Divine writings. In the book which Baruch wrote in Babylon. God is appealed to in these terms: As Thou spakest by Thy servant Moses in the day when Thou didst command him to write Thy law. Tobit also instructs his son to depart out of Nineveh, because that those things which the prophet Jonas spake shall surely come to pass. In Ecclesiasticus we read of many prophets by name, and of Isaiah who saw by an excellent Spirit what was to come to pass at the last, and he comforted them that mourned in Sion. 1 Jonathan, seeking the friendship of the Lacedemonians, professes nevertheless not to need it, for that we have the holy books of Scripture in our hands to comfort us. The book of Ecclesiasticus in its occasional high prophetic tone seems to claim inspiration; but its claim was never admitted; and it prays indeed for the restoration of lost prophecy, from the cessation of which events were dated: raise up prophets that have been in Thy Name; 2 as we read also in Maccabees, So there was a great affliction in Israel, the like whereof was not since the time that a prophet was not seen among them. Philo, an Alexandrian Jew, betrays the influence of Greek thought; but he has a high theory of inspiration, and declares that the prophets are Divine Interpreters, God making use of them as organs to manifest His will, suggesting what they must say. Josephus represents the purer Palestinian belief: "It is implanted in every Jew from the hour of his birth to esteem these writings as the ordinances of God, and to stand by them; in defense of them, if need be, cheerfully to die." He, like Philo, includes the historical books among the records of inspiration; and assigns an equal value to all inspired utterances. With later Judaism we need not much concern ourselves. It has lost its authority as a witness, in consequence of its opposition to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity Whom Christianity has honored as the Inspirer. Moses Maimonides, in the twelfth century, was the first to devise three stages of inspiration: the MOSAIC, without dream, fearless, face to face, constant, in which none shared the prerogative of Moses; the PROPHETIC, in which the pure truth was simply unveiled; and that of the KETHUBIM, or Hagiographa, given by the Holy Spirit disclosing part of the truth in dreams or otherwise.

Maimonides is the master genius of modern orthodox Judaism: "A Mose ad Mosem non surrexit sicut Moses" is a saying that expresses its method of rejecting the Prophet greater than Moses. But, apart from these philosophical notions of modern Judaism, the residuary and obsolete Jewish Church—if it may be so called—has always been faithful to its original and high doctrine of inspiration.

1 Ecc. 48:24; 2 Ecc. 36:15.


In the Christian Church the dogma has had an important process of development, or rather of variations in theological opinion.


1. The Patristic age furnishes no definition of inspiration, but a very high doctrine was maintained. The Apostolical Fathers quote the Old Testament exactly as the Apostles do: with the same reverent trust, and also with the same freedom. Clemens Romanus, the first uninspired Christian writer, assigns to the Scriptures of both Testaments the fullest inspiration; they are "the true sayings of the Holy Ghost." Polycarp quotes the Apostles' words as being words of Scripture; and St. Paul in particular is by more than one said to write as theopneustos, or divinitus inspiratus. Generally these earliest authorities make the Two Testaments One Scripture. The Apologists unanimously teach, or rather exhibit, almost a mechanical idea of it; some of them, however, limiting its range to religious truth. They adopt the figure of the Lyre on which the Holy Ghost discoursed. Justin Martyr used this figure in what may be regarded as the first theological definition: Oute thuses oute anthrospins ennoia could men know such great and heavenly things, but by a gift, doron, coming down on them . . .phktron, osper organo kith apas tinos ho luras chomenon. Tertullian, who invented many theological terms, first used that of INSPIRATIO. The early Fathers generally and as a body maintained the same high view: Origen, erring on many other points, held on this the highest theory. Chrysostom and Augustine make the prophets the Mouth and the Hand of God: the latter speaks of the venerabilem stylum Sanctae Scripturae. The NICENE CREED includes the Apostles when it confesses to the Holy Ghost WHO SPAKE BY THE PROPHETS; this was the witness of the early and undivided Church to the inspiration of the Old Testament through the agency of the Personal Spirit, TO LALHSON DIA TON PROTHTON. In harmony with this the Holy Ghost was called THE PROPHETIC SPIRIT: Pneuma te to prophtikon sebometha kai proskunouhen.

On the whole, the Patristic Church was faithful to the doctrine which the last of the early Fathers, Gregory the Great, represented when he said: "It is needless to ask what writer wrote, as the Holy Ghost was the only author: it is superfluous to inquire with what pen an author writes." An appeal to the words of the Old or the New Testament, of either or of both, was an end of all controversy in those days as it is in our own.

2. Withal there were, as might be expected, the germs of later freedom and indeed laxity.

The Montanist heresy, which assumed a series of Pentecosts and administrations of the inspiring Spirit, was wholly rejected; but it has had its modern representatives. The Alexandrian doctors, generally sound, here and there allude to an inspiration common to the prophecies of heathenism and Scriptural prophecies. Tertullian sometimes spoke, as others have spoken since, of an inspiration of all edifying books. Origen and Augustine seem to have admitted that some portions of the Bible were given without inspiration, or by inspiration of a limited degree, some authors, even more than they, laid stress upon the subjective or human element. And this was carried in the Antiochene school, represented by Theodore of Mopsuestia, to an extreme: the writers were mirrors reflecting according to their polish. Theodore was condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council for surrendering certain books of the Old Testament and of the New. But, like Luther, who followed him in this, he held a high doctrine as to the inspiration of what he accepted; though, like Luther, applying a subjective canon of his own to determine what ought to be Scripture or what ought to be excluded.


In the Mediaeval Church, the doctrine of inspiration was obscured by the gradual elevation of Tradition into a co-ordinate rank: in fact, the notion of two inspirations—that of the Spirit in the Bible, and of the Spirit in the Church — was gradually established.

But the theory did not otherwise suffer: the words of Scripture were still regarded as having a normal authority of their own. Fredegisus of Tours (804) even laid down a most rigorous mechanical statement on the subject. But he was-opposed by freer theories, which in the rationalist treatment of Abelard and the subtile disquisitions of Thomas Aquinas anticipated later distinctions of the Spirit's inspiring influence. The-Mystics, who in this age were mostly Pantheistic in their tendencies, gave up any definite doctrine of inspiration, making it common to all saints in their intuition of Divine things; and they thus provoked in some of the precursors of the Reformation a recoil to the most rigid possible views. Meanwhile the coordination of oral tradition steadily advanced, until it was formulated at the Council of Trent thus: Sanctus Synodus, hoc sibi perpetuo ante oculos proponens, ut sublatis erroribus puritas ipsa evangelii in ecclesia conservetur, perspiciensque hanc veritatem et disciplinam contineri in libris scriptis et sine scripto traditionibus, quae ex ipsius Christi ore ab Apostolis acceptae, aut ab ipsis Apostolis S. S.

dictante, quasi per manus traditae ad nos usque pervenerunt. orthodoxorum patrum exempla secuta omnes libros tam V. quam N. T., cum utriusque unus Deus sit auctor, necnon traditiones ipsas, tum ad fidem quum ad mores pertinentes, tan-quam vel ore tenus a Christo vel a S. S. dictatas et continua successione in Ecclesia Catholica conservatas, PARA PIETATIS AFFECTO AC REVERENTIA suscipit et veneratur. Si quis autem traditiones praedictas sciens et prudens contemserit, anathema sit.


The Reformation began in earnest the discussion of the dogma, as bound up with its cardinal principle, of the sufficiency of Scripture for all things pertaining to human salvation.

1. Its leaders were lax in their first decisions. Luther insisted on a material inspiration, as to doctrine, and a formal, as to the manner, which was of less importance: he subjected the books of the New Testament to the criterion of his own judgment as to their Evangelical character, and rejected, for instance, the Epistle of St. James. Calvin went also very far in the admission of the human peculiarities. Hence, their Romish opponents found in this laxity a strong argument in favor of Tradition. The Formularies of the two branches of the Reformation varied. The Augsburg Confession is content with the absolute regulative authority of Scripture: "Regulam autem habemus, ut verbum Dei condat articulos fidei." The Reformed Confessions were stronger: the "Formula Consensus Helvetici" says: "Hebraicus codex V. T., tum quoad consonas, tum quoad vocalia, sive puncta ipsa sive punctorum saltem potestatem, et tum quoad res tum quoad verba, Theopneustos." This was directed against Luther, who asserted that wood, hay, and stubble might be in the prophets, though the substance was there that could not be burned. The Anglican Articles are like the Lutheran more negative, the Westminster Confession more rigid. But the dogmatic divines of the new Churches tended gradually to the very highest rigor, as expressed in the Helvetic Formulary: thus Buxtorf maintained, irrationally, that the very vowel points of the Hebrew were inspired. In harmony with this, they asserted that the TESTIMONIUM SPIRITUS SANCTI was the sole ground of assurance as to the Divine authority of Scripture, while the Affectiones Scripture vindicated it to human faith and commended it to human acceptance: two incontrovertible truths, which, however, needed not the mechanical or Rabbinical doctrine.

2. The recoil from this extreme was to be expected. The reaction commenced with the early ARMINIAN divines, who reserved the direct action of the Spirit for matters of faith, leaving historical research and memory to do their part. Thus Grotius says: A Spiritu Sancto dictari historias non opus fuit; satis fuit scriptorem memoria valere, aut diligentia in describendis veterum commentariis. The later Lutherans introduced grades of inspiration: Calixtus, those of Revelation and Assistance; Pfaff, those of Revelation, Direction as to dogma, and Permission as to all else. Witsius, however, in Holland, revived and maintained the more rigid view. The Jesuits, in the sixteenth century, introduced a convenient theory of POSTSPIRATIO, which should retrospectively elevate such books as the Maccabees into Scripture. This was protested against by the University of Louvain (1588), and left undecided by Sixtus V. The Romish Church has never gone beyond Perrone, one of its living representatives: " Diximus saltem QUOAD RES ET SENTENTIAS, quia cum noluerit Ecclesia definire, seu dirimere quaestionem inter scholasticos agitatam, utrum preterea Deus verba ipsa dictaverit, nexumque verborum et periodorum, ideo ne controversiam domesticam cum ecclesiae doctrina temere permisceremus, coarctavimus propositionis sensum ad rei substantiam, sine qua vera Inspiratio Divina neque est neque intelligi quidem potest." Meanwhile modern Mysticism has made the Internal Light co-ordinate with inspiration, just as Romanism has made Tradition. The highest Mystics, of all communions, rose sublimely above the written Word. The Pietists, however, such as Arndt, Spener, and the Bengel School, paid full honor to the written Scripture, maintaining, however, the supremacy of the Living Spirit.

The Quakers in their formularies—for they have them—give ambiguous statements: Barclay supposes that the Scripture only guides the Christian's internal standard. The early Socinians believed in inspiration: without the specific Personal Inspirer, though as a specific influence. The Racovian Catechism indicates traces of the truth from which modern Unitarianism has declined, as it has receded from many of the other higher doctrines of Socinianism.


1. Most orthodox churches have more recently endeavored to maintain a doctrine of Plenary inspiration in harmony with the notion of different DEGREES. Rejecting the terms MECHANICAL and VERBAL, as both inconsistent with the human element, they have sometimes used DYNAMICAL, as indicating that the inspiring influence was not so much UPON as IN and THROUGH the writers; the result, however, being the infallible Rule of Faith delivered by the instrumentality of men acted upon according to the laws of their own nature. This has required the distinction of SUGGESTION, the direct revelation of things otherwise unknown; ELEVATION, providing for the due preparation of the instruments; and SUPERINTENDENT, as guarding the processes from the intrusion of error.

The second of these is by many, naturally enough, thought superfluous. The Inspiration is PLENARY, as making the Holy Spirit responsible for the truth of all the matter; but not VERBAL, as if He dictated the very words, which in some cases are lost with the autographs of Scripture. Those who reject all such theories of distinction are wont to attribute them to the influence of Maimonides: but unjustly, for they are held by some of the most eminent and orthodox writers on the subject in all churches; and in some form must be accepted by every dispassionate student as nowhere contradicted by Scripture.

2. This view of the co-ordination of the Divine and Human undoubtedly lies at the foundation of the true doctrine; but its dogmatic definition is difficult and as dangerous as difficult.

(1.) The least error here leads to an annihilation of the essential distinction between the action of the Spirit of God on Apostles and Prophets and His general influence in purifying the regenerate faculties for the apprehension of truth. The notion of an analogy between this unity of Divine and human and the Divine and human nature in Christ is liable to the same errors which have beset the doctrine of our Lord's own Person. The Divine element has been and is still by many carried to an extreme in the view of inspiration that makes the human faculties absolutely passive: the Eutychian perversion, so to speak, according to which there is no humanity or human agency left. This has been sufficiently referred to, and is indeed self-convicted. But the reaction is more important in its consequences: the Nestorian perversion, on the other hand, which assigns to the human element such a distinctness and such an ascendancy as leaves no room for a distinct, inspiring influence of the Holy Ghost.

(2.) Schleiermacher has given the tone to much modern English thought on this and other subjects. Coleridge, Morell, Maurice, and others regard the inspiring energy as only the impartation of clear intuitions of spiritual truth by extraordinary means: namely, the raising of the faculties of the mind to a higher potency of what all good men possess.

Their notion makes inspiration simply a sympathy with the revealing mind of Christ, the Apostles having had it only in a higher degree than ourselves. The apostrophe of Moses, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them! 1 loses its meaning. There is on this assumption no special prerogative of inspiration: all believers are inspired according to the measure of their union with the Lord. If the mechanical theory swallowed up the men in the Inspirer this loses the Inspirer in the men: both errors are equally to be avoided.

1 Num. 11:29.

(3.) Again, great numbers of orthodox theologians follow Rothe, Martensen, and others, in regarding each writer as contributing his independent portion of what is perfect truth only when the aggregate is received. However much this principle may be condemned in the form it commonly assumes, there is in it much truth. The Bible is one organic whole.

Truth is in every part; the whole truth, however, is only in the complete Bible. The writers of the Old Testament were inspired in anticipation of the New; and the writers of the New Testament were inspired to supplement the Old. The Synoptic Evangelists do not give the full mind of the Spirit as to the Person of Christ; but St. John's presentation of it requires theirs as a background. So, descending into details, every writer in the New Testament adds some fruit of inspiration which is not found in any other. There is hardly a recorded event in the Lord's life which is not transmitted by the Holy Ghost with various shades of difference in the several Evangelists, and to be understood fully only when the different recorders are collected. But it is obvious that all this touches the results of inspiration, and not inspiration itself.

(4.) There is a strong disposition to unite two things which are incompatible: the belief in an Inspiring Spirit responsible for all spiritual truth with the hypothesis that the human element is liable to all the common infirmities of human composition. When the analogy of our Lord's one Person in two natures is pressed into the service of this theory, it ought not to be forgotten that the human nature of our Lord was sinless and incapable of sin. If its upholders allow that the human element in the Bible is unsusceptible of real error, however affected by infirmity, their doctrine may be made safe, and, if safe, it is deeply interesting and instructive. But that is not generally the view of those to whom we refer.

They would indeed limit the possible incorrectness of our present form of Scripture to things entirely unconnected with faith; and account for it in various ways. Some of these methods are consistent with the dignity of the Word of God: they are such as have been hinted at already. Others are vain and needless devices, and surrender the principle of inspiration to vagueness and uncertainty.


Modern assaults on the inspiration of Scripture are of two kinds: they either deny its possibility on abstract grounds, as they deny the possibility of revelation generally, or they seek to resist the evidences of its inspiration as a concrete book.


1. Spinoza, in the seventeenth century, united the two methods of attack. He rejected, on Pantheistic principles, the idea of any independent action of God, and was the first in later times to accumulate objections against the dogma derived from the text itself. He has not been followed by many in his extreme Pantheism; but Deism in England, and Rationalism or Illuminism in Germany and France, joined with Pantheistic philosophy in refusing to admit any Divine inspiration which should supplement the religion of nature as based on the intuitional consciousness of the human mind and its inherent perception of truth. But the defense of revelation generally is the defense of the method of imparting it. The possibility of inspiration consistently denied by Pantheism is inconsistently denied by Deism; for, with the assumption of a personal God Who is not transcendent but reveals Himself, all their arguments fall. Apart, however, from such denials of revelation generally, this specific doctrine is philosophically opposed by many on psychological grounds. The views of Schleiermacher, and many who echo him, have already been referred to as introducing a false notion of the doctrine. They do in fact really lead to a denial of it altogether. It is thought that religious knowledge, like all knowledge, is only the intuitional consciousness gazing upon realities; and, therefore, that it is unphilosophical to distinguish between the inspiration of the writers of Scripture and the general Christian consciousness. But this notion undermines the foundations of a supernatural disclosure of the mind of God to man. Some seek to make a compromise.

They think, with Coleridge, that in old time God did super-naturally communicate to men knowledge by the Law and the Prophets; but that in these latter and freer days He makes common His revelations through the grace of enlightenment given to all. Hence, so far as the Christian revelation is concerned, there is no infallible authority beyond the testimonies of fallible consciousness. The more thoroughly the objections to a specific influence on the mind from without are considered, the more baseless will they appear.

One human spirit can influence, and, as it were, inspire another. But here we have to do with the Creator of the human spirit, "Who can not only move upon it but lodge His truth within it. There is literally no philosophical argument of any value against the Christian doctrine of a special inspiring influence of the Holy Ghost.


From very early times the industry of skepticism has been busy with the internal inconsistencies of Scripture, of which a very formidable list has been made out. Infidels early learned to use this weapon: it did not escape them that the Biblical library abounds, literally abounds, with the materials for their task; the enemies of the Bible they have thought to find in its own household. But it will be seen by the student who gives the records of revelation the advantage of being supposed consistent, unless positive proof of inconsistency is found, that there are only such difficulties in the Scriptures as might be expected in such a book, written as it was written, and for the disciplinary, educational purpose which it has in view. Very much is done in the way of answering objections thus urged by simply analyzing them. Such an analysis, however, to be of any value must be complete; and the examination it requires belongs to the departments of Biblical Introduction and Hermeneutics. All that is possible in our dogmatic system is to indicate some general principles that must be remembered in conducting it, and to point out the bearing of the question on our present doctrine.

1. Many discrepancies are, or at least may be, the result of copying and translation. We have not the Originals; there is not a solitary autograph of Prophet or Apostle extant; and many errors of transcription may be admitted, and indeed must be admitted, by every candid student of the text: the inspiring Spirit has watched over the vicissitudes incident to the transmission of human literature without superseding them. The consideration of this question, however, belongs to Biblical Criticism. It is enough here to say, that there are few portions of Holy Scripture of which we can be sure that they lie before us precisely as they left the hand of the first writers. The process of copying the Hebrew of the Old Testament was peculiarly liable to danger: from the similarity of the letters, generally, and specifically from the ancient habit of representing numbers by letters of the alphabet, the difference between units and hundreds and thousands being marked by the addition of points to the units. This is a fact generally conceded. Dr. Kennicott says, " That the Jewish transcribers did frequently express the Bible numbers in the original by single letters is well known to the learned." And Winer: "In expressing numbers, the Jews, in the period after the Captivity, employed the letters of the alphabet, as is evident from the inscriptions of the so-called Samaritan coins; and it is not improbable that the Old Hebrews did the same, just as the Greeks, who derived their alphabet from the Phoenicians, from the earliest ages expressed their numbers by letters. From the confounding of similarly shaped letters when used for numerals, and from the subsequent writing out the same in words, can be explained satisfactorily in part the enormous sums in the Old-Testament books, and the contradictions in their statement of numbers; yet caution is necessary here." A very large number of the contradictory historical statements detected by comparing the Chronicles with the Kings, and Ezra with Nehemiah, and the Genealogical Tables one with another, may fairly be thus explained. Nor should any weight be attached to these, though numbered by hundreds: each of them must be carefully sifted, and the result will generally be satisfactory. When it is not so, we are bound to believe that errors have crept in through the operation of causes that we cannot now trace. For instance, we read in one account that the molten sea contained two thousand baths; 1 in another, and it received and held three thousand baths. 2 Now here we have an instance that may stand for many. Either 2, 2000, has been confounded with 3, 3000—the more probable solution—or the words received and held suggest that it was capable of containing the larger number. This is the first example that occurs: nothing but want of space prevents reference to many others. In this case we need not absolutely resort to a corruption of the text; but there are others in which there is no other hypothesis open. When we read seven hundred horsemen in one account 3 and seven thousand horsemen 4 in another, we must suppose that shaanaah, has been miswritten for eleph, an easy mistake. In multitudes of texts we must accept such errors; steadfastly believing, however, that they are thus to be accounted for. And that, because we are equally bound to believe that the Scriptures of the Old Testament which St. Paul calls the Oracles of God 5 were originally written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The New Testament has not been shielded from the errors of transcription: mistakes sometimes arising from carelessness, sometimes from design, but in neither case obviated by any continuous miracle. In the New Testament we have some early manuscripts that supply a standard of judgment; but it cannot be absolutely asserted that there are not errors now appearing even in all of them; and one or two seeming misstatements in historical allusion may be among the number. Here the only question that concerns us is, not how to reconcile inspiration with error in the Bible, but inspiration with a Bible liable to corruption in the text. That is a question not hard of solution. It is enough to the believer to accept the fact, and to admit all its consequences into his theory of inspiration. The holy men who wrote these books were inspired; but their inspiration left no protective virtue in these documents themselves. All we can say is, that it has not pleased God to bind up His eternal truth absolutely and inseparably for good and evil with documents that perish in the using. The truth of the Bible is not staked upon the truth of every sentence that may be found in our copies of it. Meanwhile, it may be affirmed, on the other hand, that so far as concerns that Word of God which liveth and abideth forever, 6 no corruptions of the written text have been suffered to interfere with its perfect presentation. Not one of all the multitude of various readings in the margins of both Testaments affects in the slightest degree the foundation of the doctrine on which man's salvation depends.

1 1 Kings 7:26; 2 2 Chro. 4:5; 3 2 Sam. 8:4; 4 1 Chro. 18:4; 5 Rom. 3:2; 6 1 Pet. 1:23.

2. Many of the arguments urged against the inspiration of Scripture are really directed against a false or exaggerated notion of its verbal character, and consequently fall away before a freer theory. That many words and sentences were given or suggested to the writers cannot be doubted by anyone who considers the solemn importance of some of the leading terms of Scripture. But to assert that every word was put into the mind of every writer on every subject is to lay on our doctrine a burden too heavy to be borne. It is hard to suppose that the very words in that case would not have been protected forever.

And such inspiration would have been too mechanical to harmonies with the obvious and undeniable range given to the human faculties. But the chief point is that this notion furnishes ground of opposition which it is difficult to resist. Very many instances occur in the Gospels of variation in the reports of our Lord's words, on the most solemn occasions, which in no case affect their sacred spirit and eternal meaning, but are absolutely incompatible with verbal inspiration. Our Lord could not have spoken the several exact words placed in His lips: what they severally mean He did speak. To take only one example, and that of the highest possible solemnity, we read the following accounts.

Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is shed for (peri) many, for remission of sins. 1 Again: This is My blood of the covenant, which is shed for (uper) many. 2 Again: This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for (uper) you. 3 Once more: This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as oft as ye drink, in remembrance of Me. 4 Not to speak of variations in the historical scenery of the first institution of the Lord's Supper, transpositions, derangements, and omissions, there is evidence here that much is left to the human instrument, and that the thing signified is alone supreme. But there is no evidence in this, or in the multitude of cases of which this is an example, against the fact of the plenary inspiration and absolute authority of the records. The three recorders and St. Paul—who here supplements the Evangelists even as he supplemented the Apostolic company—issued their authoritative accounts from the selfsame Spirit, dividing to each severally as He would.

1 Mat. 26:28; 2 Mark 14:24; 3 Luke 22:21; 4 1 Cor. 11:25.

3. Objections urged against the inspiration of Scripture on the ground of its science, its religious doctrine, its miraculous element, its ethics, and generally its inconsistency with itself or with the preconceived notions of men, are on the whole easily met. The Holy Ghost never delivers to man as science what science contradicts: to human science as such the Bible does not profess to contribute anything. Strong in our conviction that this book, or library of books, is the record of that Providential government for the sake of which the world exists, we may be sure that it will not be contradicted in fundamental points by anything that the records of nature, or the authentic annals of history, will disclose. There are unsearchable mysteries in the field of science as there are in the field of revelation: it is our wisdom to submit to them in both, waiting for the final reconciliation. But on this subject enough has been said elsewhere. As to the long array of doctrinal objections, they are literally not to be heard as against inspiration. The teaching of the Bible, as a whole, is absolutely self-consistent, supposing the idea of development to be introduced: admitting that idea, the gradual evolution of truth as to God and as to man, and as to the Incarnation uniting God and man, is precisely at all points worthy of the controlling Spirit, and such as only the controlling Spirit could have conducted. Particular instances of discord, as for instance between St. Paul and St. James, are in every single case such as a superficial glance discovers and a deeper meditation explains. There is much more force in the allegation that the ethical principles of the Scripture are not equable and uniform. But here also nothing but a calm investigation will do justice to all the elements of the question. Everywhere in the composition of the Bible the human element largely remains. As men are used as witnesses giving their testimony according to their best lights—true as testimony, but stating what the Spirit may use other witnesses to supplement—so human passions enter without receiving Divine approval.

The human documents and human compositions are sometimes quoted, without express Divine approval of their spirit or confirmation of their statements. There are many anomalies and difficulties which will never be cleared up, it may be, because we have lost the key to their solution: certain it is, that many of the stumbling-blocks of modern criticism gave no trouble to the early Church, better informed than we are. It is equally certain that many supposed flaws in the Bible which are regarded as negativing its plenary inspiration disappear before profound investigation; and that many of them are flaws only when regarded in the light of a false theory of the doctrine. Men of God in both economies have all their faults described; and sometimes those faults are taken up into the order of Providence; but in no solitary instance is there any doubt about the fact that the Holy God loveth righteousness. Everyone allows that the Scriptures, as a whole, have one end, the establishment of holiness in man: then this admission should bar the possibility of misinterpreting passages that might seem to look the other way. That there are minor collisions in the ethics is certain; but we must remember that in every such case there is a reason given. But the heaviest impeachment leaves all else behind and attacks the conduct of God Himself in His dealing with sinful men. Now this is a question of Theodicy and not of inspiration. The Bible does reveal a wrath of God displayed in most mysterious ways in the present world; and foretells its display in the world to come. We see enough around to make us hesitate about refusing acceptance to the strange events recorded in Scripture, where miracle is one of the present powers of the world. But, in any case, they are no argument against the inspiration of Holy Writ as such: what force these apparent anomalies in the Divine conduct have is on the side of Atheism.

4. It must always be remembered that the Bible is a book adapted to man's probationary estate. Our probation is conducted in a world of the mysteries of which we know but little. The world of revelation has also its unsolved secrets. We know, indeed, much about the fabric of Scripture; but there is much concealed from us. The Holy Ghost never defines inspiration as applied to the whole body of Scripture. We have to construct our theory from the facts; and our theory must take those indisputable facts as it finds them.

As a whole, the Bible shines upon the spirit of man as the sun in the firmament: not less clear, not less self-evidencing. The difficulties are for the trial of our faith, our diligence, our humility; and for the exercise of our souls in dependence, not upon the letter but upon the spirit. As Bishop Butler says: "We are wholly ignorant what degree of new knowledge it were to be expected God would give mankind by revelation, upon supposition of His affording one, or how far, or in what way, He would interpose miraculously to qualify them, to whom He should originally make the revelation, for communicating the knowledge given by it; and to secure its being transmitted to posterity." 5. Lastly, there is a high ground to be taken by a believer in the Christian revelation, that is by one who trusts in Jesus, which being taken must not be left for a moment. To this we have referred again and again: it is the conclusion of the whole matter. He came up out of the Old Testament with the Old Testament in His hand: and made the voices of Moses and the ancient prophets His own voice. Long after the representatives of the old economy vanished on the Mount, leaving Him alone Whom all must hear, He expressly summed up their testimony as borne to Himself from first to last: beginning at Moses and at all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. 1 He made no exception, and no reservation. The framework of our living Savior is the Holy Bible: He is set in it. The believer in Christ, the eternal Oracle of God, receives the Scriptures from His hands as clothed with a Divine authority; if it were not so, if the Divine unction failed to descend upon any part of them, He would have told us.

He has no doubt; he must have no doubt, that the inspiring Spirit has deposited in the Church a true testimony of the history of redemption. Whilst the attack and the defense are going on, it is his wisdom to wait in tranquil confidence. He must not take alarm, and capitulate. He must not abandon the outworks, nor intrench himself in the supposed Bible within the Bible, in the supposed Spirit in the letter. He must not do this, because the Christian revelation is bound up with its Two Testaments; and he may be sure that the Holy Ghost will support him and honor him in his fidelity to the Records of his Faith.

1 Luke 24:27.