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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Is the Bible the Authoritative Word of God?

Don Stewart :: Did the Biblical Writers Always Understand That They Were Recording the Word of God?

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Question 16

Did the Biblical Writers Always Understand That They Were Recording the Word of God?

As we look at the various ways in which divine inspiration occurred, we will find that the writers did not always know that they were recording Holy Scripture.

This is consistent with what the Bible says about itself. Scripture emphasizes that God gave His Word to humanity in a number of various ways. The writer to the Hebrews says that God has spoken to humanity in various parts and at various times. He wrote:

After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2 NET)

God was certainly not limited in the way in which He revealed Himself to humanity.

The Authors of Scripture Had Different Experiences

A number of observations need to be made. They are as follows:

  1. Sometimes the Writers Did Not Recognize That They Were Writing Scripture

    Sometimes the writers understood what they were writing, but did not recognize their words as being divine. For example, in his prologue, Luke informs us that his work was a result of careful historical investigation. He wrote:

    Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4 NASB)

    At that time, he did not realize that the words he was writing would become Scripture. God certainly knew this and thus divinely supervised Luke’s writings.

  2. Sometimes They Understood and Recognized That They Were Writing God’s Words

    At times, the writers were conscious that they were recording divinely inspired words. Paul, for example, realized that there was authority behind his words. He wrote:

    We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NRSV)

    Paul understood that his message was divine and he also understood what his divinely inspired words meant.

  3. At Times, They Recognized What They Were Writing, but Did Not Understand What They Wrote

    There were other times that the writers did not know the meaning of their words even though they realized that they were divinely inspired of God. After receiving prophetic messages from God, the prophet Daniel asked what they meant:

    I heard, but I did not understand. So I said, “Sir, what will happen after all these things?” He said, “Go, Daniel. For these matters are closed and sealed until the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:8-9 NET)

    Here we have a biblical writer not understanding the meaning of the divine revelation that he received. He knew the message was divinely given, but he was not certain what it meant.

    We also should note that Daniel was specifically told that the understanding of these events will not be until the time of the end. Yet, Daniel faithfully recorded the words.

  4. An Example of Neither Understanding Nor Recognizing He Was Speaking God’s Truth: Caiaphas

    In one instance, the statement was not understood by the one who gave it; neither did he understand that it would be recorded in Scripture. We read about this episode in John’s gospel. It says the following about what took place:

    And one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, “How can you be so stupid? Why should the whole nation be destroyed? Let this one man die for the people.” This prophecy that Jesus should die for the entire nation came from Caiaphas in his position as high priest. He didn’t think of it himself; he was inspired to say it. (John 11:49-51 NLT)

    Caiaphas did not realize that the Spirit of God divinely inspired him to say these words about Jesus; neither did he have any idea that his words would be recorded in Scripture.

Conclusion: God’s Word Was Given with or Without the Understanding of the Human Instrument

From the totality of Scripture we find that the Word of God was given to humanity with the understanding of humans who wrote it, as well as without their understanding. God worked in both ways. The emphasis in Scripture is always upon the finished product; the writings, not the writers. The writings are what is important.

Summary - Question 16
Did the Biblical Writers Always Understand That They Were Recording the Word of God?

Divine inspiration deals with the words, not the people who wrote them. Consequently, we find examples in Scripture of people not understanding what their authoritative words meant. For example, Luke understood what he was writing, but did not appreciate at the time that his words were divinely inspired.

On the other hand, the Apostle Paul understood what he was writing as well as recognizing that it was divinely authoritative. Daniel recognized that he was recording God’s Word, but did not understand the meaning of some of the things he recorded. In the case of Caiaphas, he did not even realize that he was speaking divine truth, neither did he understand all that it meant.

We conclude that the doctrine of divine inspiration does not necessitate the people always understanding what they wrote or said. Scripture emphasizes the end result; the writings, not the writers. The writings are what God divinely inspired.

What about the Morally Repugnant Stories That Are Recorded in the Bible? ← Prior Section
What Was Jesus’ View of the Old Testament? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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