Shelby G. Floyd


The Bible claims to be the inspired word of God. No more important theme can be considered than the study concerning the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. Our attitude toward the word of God will determine our attitude toward the authority and commands of the Bible. If one believes in divine revelation and verbal inspiration, then one will have reverence and respect for the authority and commands of the Bible. But on the other hand, if one has doubts and criticisms of verbal inspiration, then this automatically would cause one to question and criticize Biblical authority, and the commands of the Bible. This subject definitely is of vast importance, and demands our keenest attention.

The apostle Paul expressed the proper attitude which all men should hold toward the Holy Scriptures. Paul believed that what he taught the churches was the inspired word of God. When he wrote the church at Thessalonica, he thanked God without ceasing because they had received his teaching as the word of God. “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Paul’s teaching then was the word of God because Paul was inspired of God.

The Bible unequivocally claims to be the inspired word of God. However, the word inspiration conveys different ideas to different men. Modernists will tell one that the Bible is inspired, but they mean by this that the Bible is inspired only in the sense that it gives evidence of literary genius, such as, the writings of Milton, Shakespeare and Browning, and others who were truly outstanding men of literature. Let us then define the term inspiration as it is used in the Bible.


In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul said: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The origin, etymology, definition and usage of the word inspiration are as follows:

“(Old French inspiration; LL. inspiratio (-onis), inspiration from L. inspiratus, pp. of inspirare, to blow or breathe into or upon, to inspire.) 6. in theology, a divine influence upon human beings resulting in writing, as of the Scriptures, or in action, as of a saint, plenary inspiration; in theology, inspiration that is perfect in the utterance of the inspired word, verbal inspiration; in theology, inspiration that attaches to the very words used in voicing the inspired message” (Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English, page 950).

One will observe that the term inspiration is used in various ways, but in connection with theology, it refers to the supernatural guidance of God over the very words of his messengers. This is the sense in which we shall use the term in this lesson. In 2 Timothy 3: 16, the word inspiration translates the Greek term “theopneustos,” which simply means God breathed. Or as Thayer, the noted Greek lexicographer stated, “Inspired by God” (Thayer, p. 287).

Expanded Definitions
Several outstanding formal definitions of the term inspiration have been given by men. Let us notice just a few of these. Gaussen has defined inspiration as,

“That inexplicable power which the Divine Spirit formerly exercised over the authors of the Holy Scriptures to guide them even in the employment of the words they were to use, and to preserve them from all error, as well as from every omission.” 1

Hodge defines inspiration as,

“An influence of the Holy Spirit on the minds of certain select men, which rendered them the organs of God for the infallible communication of His mind and will. They were in such a sense the organs of God that what they said, God said.” 2

Concerning this term Warfield said, “Inspiration is that extraordinary, supernatural influence (or, passively the result of it,) exerted by the Holy Spirit on the writers of our Sacred Books, by which their words were rendered also the words of God, and, therefore, perfectly infallible.” 3 Warfield further says, “The Biblical books are called inspired as the Divinely determined products of inspired men; the Biblical writers are called inspired as breathed into by the Holy Spirit, so that the product of their activities transcends human powers and becomes Divinely authoritative. Inspiration is, therefore, usually defined as a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given Divine trustworthiness.”4

Thomas B. Warren has given this fine statement concerning the inspiration of the Bible,

“Then the conclusion (that the Bible is inspired and authoritative) should be accepted by all men. Truly, the Bible is the inspired and authoritative revelation of the one true God to man. It is our contention that every book of the Bible, that every chapter in every book, that every paragraph in every chapter, that every sentence in every paragraph, that every word in every sentence, that every syllable throughout all of the Bible (original autographs) were inspired of God.”5

The Bible is the product of forty men, living over a period of 1600 years. They spoke different languages, lived in different countries, and were familiar with different cultures; and yet, when all their writings were brought together, and compiled into one book, which we call the Holy Bible, there is absolute unity and harmony upon the great theme which interests all mankind, that is, redemption from sin. Could it have been otherwise, apart from divine inspiration?

Could, forty men, living in different countries, speaking different languages, and over a period of 1600 years all make a part for a great machine? And when those parts would be brought together that machine would be put together perfectly, and work in harmony to create a useful product? Obviously, such could not be done unless men were miraculously guided in their plans.

Could forty different men, living in different countries, speaking different languages, and living over a period of 1600 years, each one write a musical composition, and when all those musical compositions would later be gathered together, it would all unite into one grand symphony? Obviously, such could not be done. Neither could forty men have written the Bible unless they were guided by divine inspiration. But this is exactly what the writers of the Old Testament, as well as the writers of the New Testament, claim for themselves.


Let us notice just a few examples. God called Moses to deliver his people out of Egyptian bondage, after he was fully qualified by education and training.

Moses Was Inspired
But Moses made excuses like many people do today, when God asks them to do something. Moses replied that he was not an eloquent man, or a man of words. He stated, “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” The Lord replied to his excuses by saying, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say” (Exodus 4: 11-12). Obviously when the Lord promised to be with Moses mouth, and teach him what to say, this indicates that Moses would receive divine revelation and verbal inspiration. It can mean nothing else.

David Was Inspired
David has been called the royal bard of Israel, a man truly after God’s own heart. Among the very last words that David, King of Israel, spoke were words claiming divine inspiration for his writings:

“Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:1-2).

Again, these words obviously mean that David was guided by the Holy Spirit, and that his words were the words of God.

Jeremiah Was Inspired
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, was commanded of God to go and to speak to his people, and to warn them of the error of their ways. But Jeremiah felt like he was a child, and therefore, not qualified to do God’s bidding:

“But the LORD said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD. Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth” (Jeremiah 1:7-9 NKJV).

Since the Lord promised to put his word in Jeremiah’s mouth, then obviously the words which are credited to Jeremiah are the words of God, and not merely the words of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was verbally inspired in his pronouncements to the people of Israel.

Nehemiah Was Inspired
In the book of Nehemiah, we have two verses which affirm verbal inspiration for the writers of the Old Testament. Nehemiah claimed that God gave his good Spirit in order to instruct his people (Nehemiah 9: 20). Then later in the chapter, Nehemiah said, “For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples” (Nehemiah 9: 30).

The word prophet means not only a foreteller, but a forth-teller—one who speaks for God. The words of the prophets were the words of God because God had testified against the people by his Spirit which was in the prophets. Therefore, the words of the prophets were the words of the Holy Spirit who guided and superintended their speech and their writing. The writers of the Old Testament obviously claimed for themselves divine inspiration.

Copyright © 2008 2017 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142

1. S. R. L. Gaussen, Theopneusty, or the Plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures, p. 45.

2. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 154.

3. B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, p. 420.

4. Ibid., p. 131.

5. The Spiritual Sword, January, 1970, p. 3.

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