I add some comments to those of another blogger over on my Participatory Bible Study blog. This passages speaks to our understanding of what inspiration and god-breathed actually mean in practice.
I’ve been connecting one’s understanding of inspiration and extended reading of the Bible for some time. In my view, we have tended to focus on inerrancy and simultaneously on the bits and pieces of scripture. A broader view of inspiration can go well with a broader view of scripture. This is not universal. Many advocates of inerrancy also view scripture broadly while many who oppose it tend to ignore what it says. The stereotypes tend not to work!
I’ve used these ideas in teaching and in publishing. I started a Bible study series, co-authored a book on how to study the Bible, and wrote a book on inspiration, for which this web site is named. Then as a publisher, I published another book, From Inspiration to Understanding: Reading the Bible Seriously and Faithfully. That book could serve as the big brother to mine, even though it was written later. If it had been written earlier, it could have provided many footnotes for my own book.
In addition, I’ve written a few pamphlets, available in PDF format for downloading. You can print as many as you need free of charge.
- I Want to Study the Bible
- What Is the Word of God?
- What Is Biblical Criticism?
- Seven Barriers to Hearing the Word
There are a few more listed on this page.
Finally, I’ve had the idea of seeing the whole of scripture emphasized to me when editing a recent book, Creation in Scripture by Herold Weiss. What Dr. Weiss has done is look beyond Genesis in forming a scriptural doctrine of creation. It’s easy to say that one ought to go beyond Genesis, but the argument tends to stay in the first couple of chapters of Genesis even so. It’s interesting to see the broader commentary of scripture shape up.
Joel Watts has started a discussion on the nature of inspiration, comparing the breathing of the Spirit into the text of scripture with the coming of the Holy Spirit into the church and the individual.
Thus far he has gotten little discussion, and he think his ideas deserve some further discussion. This reminds me of a couple of paragraphs I wrote for my book When People Speak for God (which this web site supports):
. . . 2 Timothy 3:16 provides us with the word “theopneustos” or “God-breathed” which has been made to carry a great deal of freight. But when God breathed into Adam he didn’t make him inerrant, he made him alive. What exactly is the content of a text that is God-breathed? But this issue applies much more to verbal inspiration. The evidence against verbal inspiration is very strong in the text and the history itself. There are certainly words that are attributed to God, but there are also words that are clearly not attributed to God. The synoptic problem presents us with clear evidence that the gospel writers copied from one another, that there are different sources in the Pentateuch, Samuel, and Kings, just as examples (237, 238).
The breathing of the Holy Spirit finds its roots, I believe, in this earlier breath of God and thus both provide an excellent analogy for the breathing of scripture. Theopneustos itself requires more definition; it doesn’t provide an adequate definition for inspiration in and of itself.
Scot McKnight has a post asking this question, starting from a book he’s read. This is a few days old, but that just adds more discussion in the comments!
Just in case anyone wonders, my position–the position I argue for in my book–is that God still speaks today. In fact, my aim in the book was to provide a coherent and simple theology for understanding how God speaks at any time and place.