Inspiration, inscripturation

by Doug Mason 22 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    The apostle Paul stated at 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired of God.” The phrase “inspired of God” translates the compound Greek word theo’pneustos, meaning, literally, “God-breathed” or “breathed by God.” This is the only occurrence of this Greek term in the Scriptures. …

    Absolute inerrancy is therefore to be attributed to the written Word of God. This is true of the original writings, none of which are known to exist today. The copies of those original writings and the translations made in many languages cannot lay claim to absolute accuracy. …

    In a number of cases the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures evidently made use of the Greek Septuagint translation when quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures. At times the rendering of the Septuagint, as quoted by them, differs somewhat from the reading of the Hebrew Scriptures as now known (most translations today being based on the Hebrew Masoretic text dating back to about the tenth century C.E.). …

    In a few cases the quotations made by Paul and others differ from both the Hebrew and Greek texts as found in available manuscripts. …

    Showing his full faith in the inerrancy of the Sacred Writings, Jesus said [Joh 10:34, 35; Mt 5:18; 22:29 - 32 ; Mr 12:24; Mt 26:54; Mr 14:27, 49 cited]. These statements, of course, apply to the pre-Christian Hebrew Scriptures.

    (The above statements come from: Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, pages 1202ff, article “Inspiration”)


    To cope with the concept that only the original writings were "inspired" but that copies and translations are not, Christian theologians have invented the word "inscripturation":

    "Thus, theologians have always said that [“inscripturation”] is an action of God (described in II Peter 1:21) which He carried out only in the giving of the original autographs, and it applies neither to copies or translations. This is what Christians have always believed. The Bible says nothing of any “re-inspiration”, a second direct act by God of immediate inspiration, in copies or translations. … A copy, unlike the inscripturated original, can contain errors. … II Peter 1:21 tells us that the Holy Spirit moved holy men to write the Scriptures. It says nothing about copies." ( ).

    I cover the subject in my Study at:


  • CalebInFloroda

    In reality the idea of Scriptures being "inspired" is only borrowed from the phraseology of 2 Timothy. When the canonization process was invented, the idea that any of the Scriptures were "inspired" as now understood was foreign to Judaism and Christianity.

    The very first suggestion that this "inspiration" meant a source of theological revelation came neither from Jews or the early Church, but from the gnostic teacher Basilides. By the second century, the Church had already developed a liturgical calendar and had begun celebrating the Eucharist preceded by a series of readings based on the yearly synagogue liturgy. Instead of two readings (one from the Torah and one from the Tanakh with the chanting of a Psalm in between) as done by Jews, the Christians added the "memoirs of the apostles" as a third reading, to use the phrase coined by Justin Martyr.

    From these "memoirs," Basilides created a series of "proof-text" arguments in support of Gnosticism. The Gnostics held that hidden knowledge came from studying written revelations, and Basilides held that Matthew, Luke, John, and some of the Pauline epistles were thus "inspired" as Gnostics believed.

    But it would be the bishop-turned heretic, Marcion of Sinope, who would take Basilides arguments and turn them into the means to create a "canon," or rule for declaring that the writings themselves consisted of a revelation. Up to this point the only revelations believed upon by Jews and Christians were the theophanies to the Patriarchs and the Great Theophany at Mt. Sinai, the oracles to the Hebrew prophets, and (for Christians) the Epiphany in Jesus Christ. The written Scriptures themselves were not equal to these revelations of G-d.

    But Marcion saw things differently. Setting up ways for determining "inspiration," Marcion created the "rule" (in Greek, the word for "rule" is "canon") to create a library of texts from which to promote salvation via "gnosis" of study of the written texts. His rule or canon rejected the Hebrew Bible entirely, and by 130 CE had a collection of canonized texts that included an edited version of Luke and some of Paul's letters from which Marcion had removed any information of Jesus' suffering or any suggestion of the Incarnation.

    After Marcion's excommunication, the Church decided to look further into the claims of Basilides and Marcion. However, instead of seeing the written works as primary revelations in and of themselves or equal to the theophanies of old, Church leaders saw in the texts an additional form of revelation to add to the deposit that already existed.

    "Inscripturation" would be a late invention following the Reformation, however. When the early Church began to speak of a canon of Scripture assembled by its own authority, it searched not for the earliest texts but sought to consider the liturgical collection of "memoirs" read prior to the Eucharist. What was received was not as important as what was in use because the texts that became part of public prayer were seen as written under the influence of Holy Spirit more so than those that were merely popular and read privately outside liturgical settings.

    In unison with Eusebius, Athansius would give the first complete official sanction of the 27 books of the New Testament in his famous Easter Letter of 367, stating: "Let no one add to or take anything from them." His decision would be ratified in Hippo Regius in 393 and Carthage in 397 before finally receiving recognitio from the pope in 405. It was not the originals that were considered the most authoritative but the forms each book took by the time the canon was closed in 367 that marked the end of any fluidity. Up to that point any redactions made were considered part of the "inspiration" process by the same Church authority.

    The idea that the texts in their most basic form are responses from the Protestant era. Unsettled with the paradox of "Sola Scriptura" being based upon a canon settled by Papal and other Catholic authority, some Protestants developed a theory that rejected the idea that any authority but that of the popular church moved by the Spirit had anything to do with settling the canon. This would introduce the theory of inerrancy and claims that the earliest writings (before any "catholic" liturgy employed them) of the New Testament texts consisted of word-for-word dictation from a "God-breathed" process. Anything after that was heretically introduced and soiled the written Word, they claimed.

    The idea of "Inscripturation" is held only by a minority that rejects critical and source reconstruction study of the Scriptures, limited to conservative Fundamentalist movements. It is viewed as incompatible with the historical development of the canon, inconsistent with the textual evidence, and intellectually dishonest by the majority of Biblical scholars and exegetes today.

  • Sabin
    Yeah! I don't really know what your talking about but it looks good. I`m sorry I`m just not that educated.
  • John Aquila
    John Aquila

    Caleb, how long do you think it will take the Western world to realize that the Bible we have today is not a direct word for word unerring message from God? Another 100 years? I mean we are at a point in history where communication of ideas is so easy to disseminate.

    Doug, love all your studies, great job.

  • kepler
    Great summaries and commentaries!
  • CalebInFloroda


    Actualy the majority of scholars in both Judaism and Christianity recognize this.

    The problem is that the Conservative movement, though a minority, makes for great news, much attention, and has even convinced many atheists that their religious views are the mainstream and only ones.

    This has unfortunately created a self-feeding monster. The polarizing of the West into Conservative and Liberal sides leave room for little more than extremes in personal views. The idiotic views of many Conservatives appears to support the stand taken by critical thinkers that no one really cares what the truth is anymore. Conservatives have their illusion and illusions are easy to prove false to a thinking mind, so why consider what is actually in between? It doesn't fit in with Conservatism and only creates a problematic paradox for many who want the Bible to be a collection of stupidity.

    Until this drastic field of polarizing opposites ceases to exist, Western society will care little about the actual facts. Most people are only concerned with what they can find to support their personal convictions and tear down the beliefs of the other guy. The idea that the text of Scripture is a complex product is disturbing to the Fundamentalist and is hard to argue against by those who would rather argue against the Fundamentalist's description.

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    First, let me say that I do not believe that the Bible in any of its forms is the "Word of God". The intention of my initial post was to show that the WTS says that only the initial writing was "inspired of God" and these writings are no longer available, and that the WTS says that the Bible we now have is not inspired. I also wanted to indicate that the NT writers quoted from the range of sources, many of which are not available today.

    I did not mention that the NT writers quoted from sources that are today considered to be apocryphal (1 Enoch, etc., etc., etc.).

    In my desire to keep focused, I did not mention "canon" -- that is, the list(s) of writings which are considered sacred scripture. There is no list of universally accepted books. The idea of a Canon was initiated by Christians, likely motivated by moving from scrolls to the codex format. The Christians took several centuries to set upon a canon, with only the Catholic Church voting on the matter in the 15th century. Protestants have never taken a vote on the canon, accepting it by Tradition.

    The formation of a canon by the Jews is shrouded in mystery. It certainly evolved during the centuries of the Common Era (CE). Canonisation is a Christian idea.

    There is any number of canons, as demonstrated, with one example, through the Tanakh and the Protestant versions. (See also the Catholic version, Orthodox versions, plus many others).

    Many theologians speculate that the canon should be revisited, while at the same time acknowledging that each community operates from a "canon within a canon". We can see this in the limited range of passages considered by the WTS, SDA, etc., etc.

    An interesting book by an evangelical Christian is: "A High View of Scripture?" by Craig D. Allert.


  • John Aquila
    John Aquila

    Until this drastic field of polarizing opposites ceases to exist, Western society will care little about the actual facts.

    That's just sad.

    Doug Mason

    Many theologians speculate that the canon should be revisited,

    Not in my lifetime.

  • CalebInFloroda


    My introduction of information regarding the history of canonization was merely to supplement what you had written. I hope you did not surmise any inference that you held deep convictions one way or the other regarding Scripture from my comments because nothing of the sort was intended.

    The idea of canonization is so closely tied to the text of 2 Timothy and its use by the Gnostics, that I added the information. As a professional philologist I thought it would be complementary to your already fine research that you had done.

  • Vidiot

    John Aquila - " long do you think it will take the Western world to realize that the Bible we have today is not a direct word for word unerring message from God? Another 100 years?"

    Most of the Western World already does.

    It's really just a few (albeit vocal) die-hards who still can't bring themselves to accept it.

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