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

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Don Stewart

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.

The Bible emphasizes that God gave His word in various ways.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe (Hebrews 1:1,2).

Sometimes The Writers Did Not Recognize 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

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed (Luke 1:1-4).

Sometimes They Understood And Recognized They Were Writing God's Words

The Bible also gives examples where the writers were conscious that they were recording divinely inspired words as well as understanding what they were saying. Paul, for example, realized that he was writing divinely authoritative truths.

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).

At Times They Recognized What They Were Writing But Did Not Understand It

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

As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, "My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?" He said, "Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time" (Daniel 12:8,9).

We note that Daniel was specifically told that the understanding of these events will not be until the time of the end.

An Example Of Neither Understanding Nor Recognizing

In a few instances the statements of Scripture were not understood by those giving them nor were recognized as part of Scripture.

And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." Now this he did not say on his own authority, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation (John 11:49-51).


Divine inspiration deals with the words, not the people. It is not the people who were divinely inspired, but rather their words were accurately recorded. 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 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.


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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