Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.

Every Christian in the measure in which he has become a new creature in Christ is a prophet, because he knows by the enlightening of God's Spirit “ what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God ” (Romans xii. 2). An occasional state of divine possession in the other religions becomes in the prophets of Israel a permanent endowment for a few select agents of God's revelation; but when that revelation is consummated in Christ, inspiration becomes the universal privilege of all believers.

While there is much superstition in the view of inspiration found in many religions, and much imposture in the claims to the possession of it, yet it would be illogical to conclude that this feature of religion is altogether human error and not at all divine truth. Man's knowledge of God is conditional, and therefore limited by his knowledge of the world and himself, and has accordingly the same imperfection. The reality of a divine communion and communication with man is not to be denied because its nature has been imperfectly apprehended. We must estimate the worth of inspiration by the higher and not the lower stages, by the vision of an Isaiah or the consecration of a Paul; but at the same time we must be prepared to recognize its lowly beginnings.

In dealing with the inspiration of the Bible, to which the use of the term has in the Christian Church been largely restricted, it is important to remember that inspiration is primarily personal; and that it assumes varied forms and allows varying degrees. Other- religions besides Christianity possess their sacred scriptures. The value attached to the Sibylline writings in Rome has already been mentioned. In Greece, Homer and Hesiod were csteemed as authoritative exponents of the mythology; a distinction was made between the poet's own words and the divine element, and what was offensive to reason, conscience or taste was explained allegorically. Hinduism distinguishes two classes of sacred writings, the S'ruti (hearing), which were believed to have been heard by inspired men from a divine source, and were endowed with supernatural powers, and the Smrili (recollection) derived from tradition. While the poets of the Rig-Veda, the oldest of the holy writings, do not claim inspiration, it is ascribed to them in the highest degree. Some of the Hindu sects-Vaishnavist and Saivist-regard some of the later writings, as also divine revelation. In Zoroastrianism, the books of the Zend-Avesla were conceived by later generations at least as having been eternally formed by Ormuzd, and revealed at the creation to his prophet Zoroaster, who, however, guarded the communication carefully in his mind until a very much later date in the world's history. Ormuzd drove Ahriman back to hell by reciting one of the holy hymns. Buddhism has its Tripilaka (three baskets), and the reading, reciting and copying of the sacred scriptures is one of the surest means of acquiring merit. But as it ignores the gods, and places Buddha far above them, it does not claim divine inspiration for its writings. Buddha himself enlightens, but every man must save himself by walking in the true way which has been shown to him. Confucianism has its literature of absolute authority on manners, morals, rites and politics, but its claim does not rest on inspiration. These writings are revered as preserving the beliefs and customs of former ages, which are believed to have been more familiar than the present with the Way of Heaven. 'For the Koran very extravagant claims are made by orthodox Islam. Although Mahomet at first feared that his call to be a prophet was a deception of evil spirits, and wished to take his own life, yet afterwards he uttered his decisions on most trivial matters as divine oracles. God preserves the original text of the Koran in Heaven, and blots out what He wills and leaves what He wills. By the angel Gabriel God communicated this book word for word to the prophet, so that the Koran is a faithful copy of the heavenly book. The angels in heaven read the Koran. While the orthodox theology asserted. the eternity of the Koran, the Mo'tazilite school denied this for the rmson that the spoken sounds and the written signs in which alone a revelation could be given must have come to be lUfUlll€» As Islam was not altogether independent of Christianity and Judaism, this doctrine of the Karan was probably intended as a reply to the claims of Jews and Christians for their holy writings.

The Pentateuch was accepted as authoritative law by the Jewish Church in 444 B.C. About two centuries later the Prophets (including the histories as well as the prophetic writings proper) were also acknowledged as sacred scriptures, although of inferior authority to the Law. In the century before the Christian era the Writings, including Psalms and Proverbs, were included in the Canon. Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism disagreed about the recognition of the books now known as the Apocrypha. The writers of the New Testament use the Old Testament as holy scriptures, as an authoritative declaration of the mind and will of God; but the inaccuracy of many of the quotations, together with the use of the Greek translation as well as the original Hebrew, forbid our ascribing to them any theory of verbal inspiration. By the middle of the 2nd century the four Gospels were probably accepted as trustworthy records of the life of Jesus. The Epistles were accepted as authoritative in virtue of apostolic authorship., By the end of the 3rd century the use and approval of the churches had established the present canon.

The doctrine of the inspiration of these writings in the Jewish and Christian Church now claims attention. Inspiration is first of all ascribed to persons to account for abnormal states, or exceptional powers and gifts; in this doctrine it is transferred to Writings, and its effects in securing for these inerrancy, authority, &c., are discussed with little regard for the psychic state of the writers.

The New Testament affirms the inspiration of the Old Testament. Jesus introduced a quotation from the IIOth Psalm with the words “ David himself by the Holy Spirit said ” (Mark xii. 36), and in appealing to the law against tradition He used the phrase “ God said ” (Matt. xv. 4). The author of the first Gospel describes a prediction as that “ which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet ” (Matt. i. 22), and so Peter refers to “ the scripture which the Holy Spirit spake before by the mouth of David ” (Acts i; 16). For Paul as for Peter the utterances of the Old Testament are “the oracles of God ” (Romans iii. 2; I Peter iv. 11). The final appeal is to what is written. God spoke in the prophets (Romans ix. 25; Hebrews i. 1). The use of 0e61r1/euerros in regard to the Scriptures in 2 Timothy 16 has already been noted. The Spirit of Christ is said to have been in the prophets (1 Peter i. rr); and it is anirmed that “ no prophecy ever came by the will of man; but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter i. 2I).- The constant use of the Old Testament in the New confirms this doctrine of inspiration. Contemporary Jewish thought was in agreement with this View of the Old Testament. Philo describes Moses as “ that purest mind which received at once the gift of legislation and of prophecy with divinely inspired wisdom ” (De congr. erud. c. 24). Josephus again and again expresses his deep reverence for the holy Scriptures, and his belief that the authors wrote under the influence of the Spirit of God. According to Weber the doctrine of the Talmud is that “ the holy scripture came td be through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and has its origin in God Himself, who speaks in it.” But the nature of this inspiration must be more closely defined, and hence have arisen a number of theories of inspiration.

The first theory is that of mechanical dictation, or verbal inspiration. The writers of the books of the Bible were God's pens rather than His penmen; every word was given them by God. Their faculties were suppressed that God alone might be active in them. This conception is found in Plato, “ God has

given the art of divination, not to the wisdom, but to the foolishness of man. No man, when in his wits, attains prophetic truth and inspiration; but when he receives the inspired word, either his intelligence is enthralled in sleep, or he is demented by some distemper or possession ” (T imaeus, 71). Philo declares that “ the understanding that dwells in us is ousted on the arrival of the Divine Spirit, but is restored to its own dwelling when that Spirit departs, for it is unlawful that mortal dwell with immortal” (Quia rar. div. haercs, c. 55). Athenagoras adopted this View