“Your Word Is Truth”
Divine Inspiration—Did It Rule Out the Human Element?
SECOND Timothy 2Ti 3:16 declares: “All Scripture is inspired of God.” God’s holy spirit or active force served as the means or agency for this inspiration. As the apostle Peter explained: “Men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21) Acknowledging the operation of God’s spirit upon him, King David said: “The spirit of Jehovah it was that spoke by me, and his word was upon my tongue.”—2 Sam. 23:2.
But does this mean that the men used to write the Holy Scriptures simply recorded dictated material? Other than the actual writing itself, was no effort required on their part in expressing God’s message? Did their being inspired completely rule out personal warmth and individuality of expression?
Some parts of the Bible did involve just recording divinely supplied information. Included are the Ten Commandments and all the other laws and statutes of God’s covenant with Israel. In connection with these laws, the prophet Moses was instructed: “Write down for yourself these words.”—Ex. 34:27.
Similarly, other prophets at times received specific messages to deliver. On one occasion the prophet Jeremiah was told: “You must call out in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘This is what Jehovah has said: “I well remember, on your part, the loving-kindness of your youth, the love during your being engaged to marry, your walking after me in the wilderness, in a land not sown with seed. Israel was something holy to Jehovah, the first yield to Him.”’” (Jer. 2:2, 3) This message and others were later recorded, forming part of the inspired Scriptures.
On many occasions angels were used to transmit divine messages. In the case of these messages it was likewise a matter of simply recording the information conveyed. However, sometimes mention is made of the effect the angelic visit had on the beholder. Concerning Mary’s reaction to the angel Gabriel’s visit, the physician Luke wrote: “She was deeply disturbed at the saying and began to reason out what sort of greeting this might be.” (Luke 1:29) Thus Luke had to use his own words in describing Mary’s reaction.
Information was commonly revealed to Bible writers through dreams, visions or trances. Dreams evidently superimposed a picture of God’s message or purpose on the mind of the sleeping person. In the case of visions God’s thoughts were pictorially impressed upon the conscious mind. Some of these visions were received when the person had fallen into a trance. Though conscious, the individual apparently was so absorbed by the vision received during the trance as to be oblivious to all else around him.
When information was conveyed by means of dreams, visions or trances, the writer had to put forth effort to describe in meaningful terms what he had seen. A case in point is the book of Revelation. The information was presented to the apostle John through God’s angel “in signs,” and John was told: “What you see write in a scroll.” (Rev. 1:1, 11) Likewise the prophet Habakkuk was directed: “Write down the vision, and set it out plainly upon tablets.” (Hab. 2:2) Hence John, Habakkuk and others apparently had to use their mental faculties in selecting words and expressions to describe the visions they saw.
But, in all cases, Jehovah God, by means of his spirit, exercised sufficient control and guidance over the writers so that the end product was accurate and also suited his purpose. As Proverbs 30:5 says: “Every saying of God is refined.”
A considerable portion of the Bible deals with historical events, aspects common to human experience and things derived from the experience of individuals, families, tribes and nations. These sections were often the product of much personal research on the part of the writer. Regarding his efforts, the physician Luke remarks: “I have traced all things from the start with accuracy, to write them in logical order.”—Luke 1:3.
Then, too, real effort was required in expressing the thoughts in a delightful manner. Noted the wise writer of Ecclesiastes, evidently the congregator King Solomon: “He 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.”—Eccl. 12:9, 10.
The fact that considerable personal effort was involved doubtless accounts for the different styles of writing apparent in the Bible. At times the personal background of the writer is notably reflected in the account. The natural qualifications of the writers may even have been a factor in God’s selection of them for their particular assignment. Then, too, Jehovah God may have prepared these men earlier to serve his purpose.
Examples might be cited to illustrate individuality of expression. Matthew, a former tax collector, made numerous particularly specific references to numbers and money values. (Matt. 17:27; 26:15; 27:3) And the physician Luke’s expressions reflect a medical background.
Not only did such individuality in expression add refreshing variety, but it also served a purpose. For example, doubtless because of his medical background, Luke presents helpful details concerning Jesus’ miracles. We learn that Jesus was able to heal, not just individuals with ordinary cases of leprosy and other ills, but a woman afflicted with a “high fever” and a man “full of leprosy.”—Luke 4:38; 5:12.
Even in recording what is stated to be the “word of Jehovah” or a certain “pronouncement,” individuality of expression may also have been involved. Rather than being transmitted word for word, the “word” or message was perhaps conveyed by giving the writer a mental picture of God’s purpose, one that the writer would thereafter be able to express in his own words. This may be indicated by the writers’ speaking at times of ‘seeing’ (rather than ‘hearing’) the “pronouncement” or “word of Jehovah.”—Isa. 13:1; Mic. 1:1; Hab. 1:1; 2:1, 2.
Thus divine inspiration did not rule out the human element. This quality gives the message of the Bible a warm appeal and delightful variety. The record pulsates with emotion. The writers were often personally involved or in some way affected by what they committed to writing. Hence, life is portrayed with a personal touch and as it actually is—its fears, disappointments, sorrows and joys. The Holy Scriptures deal with real people, enabling us to identify ourselves with them, including the writer. Like us, the people mentioned in the Bible made mistakes and experienced trials and afflictions. Yet many of them manifested unshakable faith in their Creator and a deep love for him. We can therefore draw encouragement from their fine example. And God’s dealings with them give us assurance of his interest in us as humans. How grateful we can be to Jehovah God for this meaningful record!