“Your Word Is Truth”
The Role of God’s Spirit in Bible Writing
LITERARY works of real merit are the product of considerable effort. Widely recognized as a literary masterpiece, the Bible was likewise not produced without effort on the part of its writers. Indicative of this are the words of Ecclesiastes 12:9, 10: “[The congregator] pondered and made a thorough search, that he might arrange many proverbs in order. The congregator sought to find the delightful words and the writing of correct words of truth.”
However, unlike other literary works, the Bible is not primarily the product of human effort. The writers allowed themselves to be guided by God’s spirit, yes, were eager to know its leading. One of these writers, the prophet Isaiah, stated: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has given me the tongue of the taught ones, that I may know how to answer the tired one with a word. He awakens morning by morning; he awakens my ear to hear like the taught ones. The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has opened my ear, and I, for my part, was not rebellious. I did not turn in the opposite direction.”—Isa. 50:4, 5.
Nevertheless, the Bible writers themselves often had specific goals in mind. The physician Luke, in writing his Gospel, wanted to present an accurate record in logical order, verifying the certainty of what the man Theophilus had been taught orally about Jesus Christ. (Luke 1:3, 4) Letters written by Paul, Peter, John and others were framed to fill the needs of those to whom they were addressed. For example, in his first letter to the Corinthians (1Co 1:10-13), the apostle Paul discussed the need for unity. This was because he had received reports that dissension existed in their congregation.
Being responsive to the leading of God’s spirit, the Bible writers were able to present just the right information, information that was always in harmony with God’s purpose. On at least one occasion the operation of God’s spirit resulted in the setting forth of material entirely different from that originally intended by the writer. The disciple Jude originally planned to write about the salvation that spirit-anointed Christians hold in common. However, circumstances that had developed in the Christian congregation indicated that other information was urgently needed. Immoral, animalistic men had slipped in among Christians and were ‘turning the undeserved kindness of God into an excuse for loose conduct.’ Hence, directed by God’s spirit, Jude provided exhortation to aid fellow believers to cope successfully with corruptive influences inside the congregation.—Jude 3, 4.
A considerable portion of the information that became part of the inspired Bible record was readily accessible to its writers. At times the writers were themselves eyewitnesses of the events mentioned in their accounts. They also drew on already existing writings, including genealogies and historical records. Among the historical records were “the book of the Wars of Jehovah,” “the book of Jashar,” “the Book of the Kings of Israel,” “the account of the affairs of the days of King David” and “the Book of the Kings of Judah and of Israel.”—Num. 21:14; Josh. 10:13; 1 Chron. 9:1; 27:24; 2 Chron. 16:11.
When Bible writers recorded information from other records or narrated events that they had personally witnessed, what part did God’s spirit play? It prevented inaccuracy or error from getting into the Divine Record. God’s spirit also guided the selection of material to be included. As the inspired apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Now these things went on befalling them [the Israelites] as examples, and they were written for a warning to us [Christians] upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Cor. 10:11.
These words of Paul show that the historical information contained in the Scriptures is there for a purpose. We are told that the Israelites fell victim to idolatry, fornication and murmuring. Since they were Jehovah’s covenant people, this demonstrated that it was possible also for Christians to become involved in similar wrongdoing. Of course, Jehovah God did not act as an invisible Dramatist and “stage” these happenings, causing the Israelites to sin. No, by means of his spirit he saw to it that this information became part of the inspired record so that his servants in the future could profit from the warning examples. Realizing that it is possible even for God’s covenant people to become guilty of serious transgressions, Christians could better appreciate the need to exercise care in preserving fine conduct. This adds force to the inspired admonition: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Cor. 10:12.
Besides the historical information, the Bible contains wise sayings and counsel. Much of this the writers themselves could have learned from personal experience in life and even more from their study and application of the parts of the Scriptures available to them. Nonetheless, the guidance of God’s spirit was needed so that the writers expressed thoughts that reflected, not human reasoning, but divine wisdom.
A case in point is the apostle Paul’s counsel on marriage and singleness. Paul wrote: “To the others I say, yes, I, not the Lord . . .” Again: “Now concerning virgins I have no command from the Lord, but I give my opinion.” And finally, regarding a widowed woman, he states: “She is happier if she remains as she is, according to my opinion. I certainly think I also have God’s spirit.” (1 Cor. 7:12, 25, 40) Evidently Paul meant that he could quote no direct teaching by the Lord Jesus Christ on certain points. Hence Paul gave his personal opinion. However, since this letter forms part of the Sacred Scriptures, his opinion was an inspired one.
Confirming the inspiration of Paul’s letters, the spirit-filled apostle Peter classified them with the rest of the Scriptures, saying: “Our beloved brother Paul according to the wisdom given him also wrote you, speaking about these things as he does also in all his letters. In them, however, are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unsteady are twisting, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”—2 Pet. 3:15, 16.
There was, of course, much that it would have been impossible for humans to learn without the supernatural operation of God’s spirit. This included the information concerning the prehuman history of the earth, events that occurred in the invisible heavens, prophecies, and revelations of God’s purposes.
So, while human effort was definitely involved in Bible writing, the most important role was played by God’s spirit. It revealed information that could not have been acquired through human research. Additionally, God’s spirit guided men in such a way that accurate, beneficial material was recorded.