To anyone studying the Bible it is of vital importance to
know where the ideas in the Bible came from. If they are
merely the opinions of ancient clerics then they are of
historical interest but there is no need to take them
especially seriously today. If, on the other hand, they
represent the words of a higher authority, then they provide
a guide to life that must not be ignored.
The Bible makes claims for itself. For example:
2 Timothy 316
All scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness:
This passage tells us that the Bible is inspired by God.
However, to understand this claim it is necessary to decide
what is meant by the word inspiration.
The phrase "given by inspiration of God" in this
passage translates one word from the original Greek, the
word theopneustos. This
word only occurs once in the Bible and is not found in Greek
literature outside the Bible (apart from later commentaries
on this passage). It appears to have been derived from two
other words, the word theos,
which means "God", and the word
pneustos, which means "breathed" (but
is related to the word pneuma
which means "breath" and also "spirit"). One
can thus conclude that the word means that the scriptures
were brought about by the action of God's Spirit.
To see the detail of this one needs, however, to look at
2 Peter 119-21
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; to
which ye do well that ye take heed, as to a light that
shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day
star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no
prophecy of the scripture is of any private
interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the
will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were
moved by the Holy Spirit.
In this passage Peter is referring to the witnesses
available to show that the apostles were teaching a true
message. The first witness Peter describes is the apostles
who were eyewitnesses of the doings and words of Jesus but
this, he tells us, is supported by the certain
evidence of the Old Testament Scriptures. He goes on to tell
us that these cannot be interpreted haphazardly; they have a
definite meaning of their own because they are given by God
and not by the will of man. The prophets spoke what was
given them by the Holy Spirit. This means that the words
of the scriptures are the words of God.
This picture extends not only to the Old Testament and to
the words of Jesus. According to the writings of Peter, the
New Testament Epistles are also Scripture:
2 Peter 315-16
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is
salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according
to the wisdom given to him hath written to you; As also in
all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in
which are some things hard to be understood, which they
that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the
other scriptures, to their own destruction.
This passage refers to the letters of Paul alongside
other Biblical writings. It calls these the other
scriptures which means that the letters of Paul were also
considered scriptures in exactly the same way as the Old
In the Old Testament prophets often introduce their
revelations by words similar to these:
Moreover the word of the LORD came to me,
saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying,
Thus saith the LORD...
This passage uses the phrase "the word of the LORD
came to me, saying..." This phrase tells us that what
follows is not the words of the prophet but the words of
God. Another phrase also found in the passage above and many
other passages is "thus saith the LORD". Again this
phrase introduces words that are being described as coming
directly from God.
The phrase "saith the LORD" appears
802 times in the Old Testament
(413 times in the form "thus
saith the LORD") and the phrase "the word of the LORD
came to me" occurs 92 times
in the Old Testament. The idea that the words of the
scripture come directly from God is found throughout the
Bible; it is a general description of the way that the Bible
was revealed. Indeed, there is an explicit statement by God
that this is the way that he reveals himself through
I will raise up to them a Prophet from among their
brethren, like thee, and will put my words in his mouth;
and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.
It is important to note that the prophet is to be made to
speak all the words that God commands. Indeed God says that
he will put his own words in the prophet's mouth.
Thus the words spoken (and written) by the prophets as
revelations from God were not their own words but the words
that God put in their mouth, as the passage states clearly.
This was clearly the experience of the prophets
themselves as they wrote. David said, for example:
2 Samuel 232
The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and his word was on
and a similar thought is expressed by Samuel in
1 Samuel 2817.
Other passages where it is explicitly stated that the
words are God's include:
And God spoke all these words, saying...
And the LORD answered me, and said...
The fact that the prophet spoke God's words is clearly
attested in scripture. The mechanism that God used to do
this is also described to some extent in the Bible.
There are three places in the Old Testament where the
prophet describes his experience in hearing the word of God
and proclaiming it to other people.
Balaam was a prophet of God, but not an Israelite. He was
required by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the children of
Israel as they ended their wanderings in the wilderness
after the Exodus and were about to enter the promised land.
However, Balaam explained to Balak that he would be unable
to do anything as a prophet which had not originated with
And Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, If
Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold,
I could not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to
do less or more.
The point was that Balaam knew that his prophecies simply
repeated messages from God. He could not, by himself, decide
what they would contain. In spite of this Balak took him up
to a mountain to curse Israel, but no curse came. Instead of
a curse, Balaam's words were a blessing. When he was called
on to answer for himself, Balaam said the following:
If Balak would give me his house full of silver and
gold, I could not go beyond the commandment of the LORD,
to do either good or bad of my own mind; but what the
LORD saith, that will I speak.
This describes the way that the prophet received
revelation; the words were given him by God and he could
not change them.
Jeremiah was the writer of one of the largest books of
the whole Bible. He describes this throughout as "the
Word of the LORD God". The following verses are taken
from the very start of the book of Jeremiah and are all part
of Jeremiah's claim to speak the word of God exactly as
God gave it:
To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of
Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth
year of his reign.
This records the claim that the Word of God came to
Jeremiah. Thus the words of the prophecy are God's
and not the prophet's own.
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,...
This reveals the claim that the following words, at
least, are the words of God rather than of the prophet. The
passage is saying that these following words are the words
of God exactly as God spoke them.
Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth.
And the LORD said to me, Behold, I have put my words in
Here we have the claim that the words of the prophecy are
words that were placed in the prophet's mouth by God.
They are thus words that originated with God and not with
Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Go
and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith
The passage here makes the claim that the following words
are exactly God's. "Thus saith the LORD" is telling
us that the words following are an exact repetition of what
God has said to the prophet. Not only that but the words
"thus saith the LORD" are part of what the word of God
originally said to Jeremiah. Even the witness to the words
coming from God was given by God.
Having been given the words of God the prophet was
constrained to deliver them to other people without omitting
or changing any part of the text. Jeremiah's experience with
this is also described in his prophecy:
For since I spoke, I cried out, I cried violence and
spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach to
me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make
mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his
word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my
bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could
Jeremiah did not want to deliver the words of God. They
were unpopular words and Jeremiah was persecuted for them.
He therefore attempted to leave them unsaid, but found that
he could not do so. The words seem to have burned into his
heart so that he could not ignore them or forget them and he
was forced to deliver them to the people for whom they were
Amos described the way that the word of God came
irresistibly into his life by an analogy:
Amos 38 The
lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath
spoken, who can but prophesy?
What is being said here is that the words of God were
fixed in the prophet's mind and he was then no more able to
ignore them than he could fail to be afraid if he met a
roaring lion. However, the prophets seem to have heard
the words spoken by God rather than to simply have found a
strange message in their memories.
Visions and Events
Sometimes the prophets would receive a vision or would
see an historical event and be required to describe it
rather than to repeat words given by God. Even here, the
words were not left to the prophets, but were given by God.
An example which illustrates this is the way that Zechariah
received his vision and wrote it down:
Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month,
which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius,
came the word of the LORD to Zechariah, the son of
Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, I saw by
night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he
stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and
behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.
This is the start of the description of a vision which
the prophet saw. However, Zechariah was not left to describe
this in his own words. The words that God gave him to write
include "I saw by night, and behold...".
One of the objections to the teaching that all the words
of the Bible come directly from God is the fact that the
style of the words differs from book to book, and sometimes
within single books. The objectors claim that if all the
words were from God they should all have the same style.
This objection, of course, supposes that one knows the
style of writing that God would use in particular
circumstances. If one decides that the style is a part of
the message, then there is no reason that God should not
send different parts of his message in different styles. It
is likely that he chose people to be prophets because their
natural style fitted in with the message he wished to
From start to finish the books of the Bible make an
absolute claim: they are the inspired words of God, and they
have been recorded under His control.