Thursday, February 25, 2010

B. B. Warfield on why the Bible is not the 'inspired' Word of God

Evangelicals often refer to the Bible as the "inspired Word of God". The "inspired" bit is derived from the AV translation of 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God". The same wording us used in the NKJV. But the translation is inaccurate and misleading. As B. B. Warfield points out in his essay The Biblical Idea of Inspiration, the word rendered "inspiration", (theopneustos in the Greek) does not in fact mean that Scripture was inspired by God.
"The Greek term has, however, nothing to say of inspiring or of inspiration: it speaks only of "spiring" or "spiration". What is says of Scripture is, not that it is "breathed into by God" or is the product of the Divine "inbreathing" into its human authors, but that it is breathed out by God, "God-breathed", the product of the creative breath of God.... When Paul declares, then, that "every scripture", or "all scripture" is the product of the Divine breath, "is God-breathed", he asserts with as much energy as he could employ that Scripture is the product of a specifically Divine operation." (The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, P&R, p. 133).
For this reason A. T. B. McGowan proposes that we speak of the "divine spiration" rather than the inspiration of Scripture. (The Divine Spiration of Scripture: Challenging evangelical perspectives, 2007, IVP/Apollos - see review article here). I agree that "spiration" is a more appropriate designation of Scripture than "inspiration". Also "inspired" is often taken to mean a work of genius such as in Shakespeare's "inspired" play, Hamlet. Scripture is far more than a literary classic. It is God's own Spirit-given Word. But "spiration" it is a slightly unwieldy term and I can't see catching on outside the world of academic theology. Better I think to say with the NIV and that all Scripture is "God-breathed" or "breathed out by God", ESV.
Some preachers are in the habit of introducing the reading of Scripture in public worship by saying, "This is the inspired Word of God". If we are going to use such a formula, far better to say, "This is the Word that God has breathed out".

5 comments:

Jonathan Hunt said...

Oh boy. You just said the AV is inaccurate.

The reformed mafia are coming for you...

Exiled Preacher said...

The truly Reformed are always Reforming, Semper Reformanda.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

"Spirated" means spiralled or twisted, which I don't think is what you want to say about the Bible. The proper term would be expiration.

Phil Walker said...

Dr. E, I think talking about 'the expiration of Scripture' would be rather prone to misunderstanding. Mind you, we'd get Borg and Crossan on-side very rapidly.

Exiled Preacher said...

"Spirated" was BBW's word not mine. As Phil points out "expiring" would be far worse. Scripture is God's living and active Word, not a dead letter!