THE subject of the Inspiration of the Bible is one which has been much . to our own Charles Hodge and Henry B. Smith, the one of whom asserts that the Bible. Archibald Hodge and Benjamin Warfield published this article together in The Presbyterian Review 6 (April ). It quickly drew notice for its scholarly and. It seemed fitting then to highlight this little gem from the modern grand-daddies of the doctrine of Inspiration, Archibald Hodge and B.B. Warfield.

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THE word Hovge, as applied to the Holy Scriptures, has gradually acquired a specific technical meaning, independent of its etymology.

At first this word, in the sense of God-breathed, was used to express the entire agency of God in producing that divine element which distinguishes Scripture from all other writings. It was used in a sense comprehensive of supernatural revelation, while the immense range of waefield and gracious divine activities concerned in the genesis of the Word of God in human language was practically overlooked. But Christian scholars have come to see that this divine element, which penetrates and glorifies Scripture at every point, has entered and become incorporated with it in various ways, natural, supernatural, and gracious, through long courses of providential leading, as well as by direct suggestion, inspiratoin the spontaneous action of the souls of the sacred writers, as well as by controlling influence from without.

It is important that distinguishable ideas should be connoted by distinct terms, and that the terms themselves should be fixed in a definite sense. Thus we have come to distinguish sharply between Revelation, which is the frequent, and Inspiration, which is the constant attribute of all the thoughts and statements of Scripture, and between the problem of the genesis of Scripture on the one hand, which includes historic processes and the concurrence of natural and supernatural forces, and must account for all the phenomena of Scripture; and the mere fact of Inspiration on the other hand, or the superintendence by God of the writers in the entire process of their writing, which accounts for nothing hodgee but the absolute infallibility of the record in which the warfiele, once generated, appears in the original autograph.

Nispiration superintendence attended the entire process of the genesis of Scripture, and particularly the process of the final composition of the record.

It interfered with no spontaneous warfielf agencies, which were, in themselves, producing results conformable to the mind of the Holy Spirit. On occasion it summoned all needed divine influences and suggestions, and it sealed the entire record, and all its elements, however generated with the imprimatur of God, sending it to us as His Word.

The history of theology is full of parallel instances, in which terms of the highest import have come to be accepted in a more fixed sarfield narrow sense than they bore at first, either in Scriptural or early ecclesiastical usage, and with only a remote relation to their etymology; as, for instance, Regeneration, Sacrament, etc.

From this definition of the term it is evident knspiration, instead of being in inspiratipn order of thought, the first religious truth which we embrace, upon which, subsequently, the entire fabric of true religion rests, it is the last and crowning attribute of those sacred hodve from which we derive our religious knowledge.

Hence it follows that, while the Inspiration of the Scriptures is true, and being true is a principle fundamental to the adequate interpretation of Scripture, it nevertheless is not in the first instance a inspiratjon fundamental to the truth of the Christian religion. In dealing with sceptics it is not proper to begin with the evidence which immediately establishes Inspiration, but we aarfield first establish Theism, then the historical credibility of the Scriptures, and then the divine origin of Christianity.

Nor should we ever allow it to be believed that the truth of Christianity depends upon any doctrine of inspiration whatever. Revelation horge in large part before the record of it, and the Christian Church before the New Testament Scriptures. Inspiration can have no meaning if Christianity is not true, but Christianity would be true and divine, and, being so, would stand, even if God had not been pleased to give us, in addition to His revelation of saving truth, an infallible record of that revelation absolutely errorless, by means of Inspiration.

But the whole genius of Christianity, all of its essential nispiration most characteristic doctrines, wardield the immanence of God in all His creatures, and His concurrence with them in all their spontaneous activities.

In Him, as an active, intelligent Spirit, we all live and move and have our being. He governs all His creatures and all their actions, working in men even to will, and spontaneously to do His good pleasure. The currents, thus, of the divine activities do not only flow around us, conditioning or controlling our action from without, but they none the less flow within the inner current of our personal lives confluent with our spontaneous self-movements, and contributing to the effects whatever properties God may see fit that they shall have.

All these agents and all these methods are so perfectly adjusted in the plan of God that not one interferes with any other, and all are so adjusted and controlled as that each works perfectly, according to the law of its own nature, jnspiration yet all together infallibly bring about the result God designs.

In this case that design is a record without error of the facts and doctrines He had commissioned His servants to teach. Of the manner in which God may inform and direct a free intelligence without violating its laws, we have a familiar analogy in nature in the relation of instinct to free intelligence. Intelligence is personal, and wrfield self-consciousness and liberty. Instinct is impersonal, unconscious, and not free.

Hodge and Warfield: Our View of Inspiration Reflects Our View of God | Reformedish

Both exist alike in man, with whom intelligence predominates, and in the higher animals, with whom instinct predominates. And in nature we can trace this all the way from the instinct of the bee, which works mechanically, to the magic play of the aesthetic instincts which largely constitute the genius of a great artist.

We are not absurdly attempting to draw a parallel between natural instinct and supernatural inspiration. But the illustration is good simply to show that as a matter of fact, God does prompt from within the spontaneous activities of His intelligent creatures, leading them by unerring means to ends imperfectly discerned by themselves; and that this activity of God, as in instinct or otherwise, does not in anywise reveal itself, either in consciousness, or in the character of the action to which it prompts, as interfering with the personal attributes or the free rational activities of the creature.

We allude here to this wide, and as yet imperfectly explored subject, only for the purpose of distinctly setting apart the various problems it presents, and isolating the specific point of Inspiration, with which we, as well as the Church in general, are more particularly interested.


All parties of believers admit that this genesis of Holy Scripture was the result of the co-operation, in various ways, of the agency of men and of the agency of God. The human agency, both in the histories out of which the Scriptures sprang, and in their immediate composition and inscription, is everywhere apparent, and gives substance and form to the entire collection of writings. It is not merely in the matter of verbal expression or literary composition that the personal idiosyncrasies of each author are freely manifested by the untrammelled play of all his faculties, but the very substance of what they write is evidently for the most part the product of their own mental and spiritual activities.

This is true except in that comparatively small element of the whole body of sacred writing, in which the human authors simply report the word of God objectively communicated, or as in some of the prophecies they wrote by Divine dictation. As the general characteristic of all their work, each writer was put to that special part of the general work for which he alone was adapted by his original endowments, education, special information, and providential position.

Each drew from the stores of his own original information, from the contributions of other men, and from all other natural sources.

Each sought knowledge, like all other authors, from the use of his own natural faculties of thought and feeling, of intuition and of logical inference, of memory and imagination, and of religious experience. Each gave wargield of his own special limitations of knowledge and mental power and of his personal defects, as well as of his powers.

The divine agency, although originating in a different source, yet emerges into the effect very much through the same channels. The Scriptures have been generated, as the Plan of Redemption has been wrafield, through an historic process.

From the beginning God has dealt with man in the concrete, by self-manifestations and transactions. The revelation proceeds from facts to ideas, and has been gradually unfolded, as the preparation for the execution of the work of redemption has advanced through its successive stages.

The general Providence unfolding this plan has always been divine, yet has also been largely natural in its method while specially directed to its ends, and at the same time surcharged along portions of its line, especially at the beginning and at great crises with the supernatural, as a cloud is surcharged with electricity. There were divine voices, appearances, covenants, supernatural communications and interventions; the introduction of new institutions, and their growth under special providential conditions.

The prophet of Warfiels was sent with special revelations and authority at particular junctures to gather and interpret the lessons of the past, and to add to them lessons springing out of the providential conditions of the present.

The Scriptures were generated through sixteen centuries of this divinely regulated concurrence of God and man, of the natural and the supernatural, of reason and revelation, of providence and grace.

Thus God predetermined all the matter and form of the several books largely by the formation and training of the several authors, as an organist determines the character of his music as much when he builds his organ and when he tunes his pipes, as when he plays his keys. Each writer also is put providentially at the very point of view in the general progress of revelation to which his part assigns him. He inherits all the contributions of the past. He insiration brought into place and set to work at definite providential junctures, the occasion affording him object and motive, giving form to the writing God appoints him to execute.

The Bible, moreover, being a work of the Spirit for spiritual ends, each writer was prepared precisely for hodg part in the work by the hodgd dealings of the Holy Spirit with his soul. Spiritual illumination is very different from either revelation or inspiration, and yet it had under the providence of God a large share in the genesis of Scripture, contributing to it a portion of that divine element which makes it the Word of God.

The Psalms are divinely inspired records of the religious experience of their writers, and are by God himself authoritatively set forth as typical and exemplary for all men for ever. Paul and John and Peter largely drew upon the resources, and followed the lines of their own personal religious experience in the intuitional or the logical development of their doctrine, and their experience had, of inspiratino, been previously divinely determined for that very purpose.

And in determining their religious experience, God so far forth determined their contributions to Scripture. And He furnished each of the sacred writers, in addition to that which came to him through natural channels, all the knowledge needed for his appointed task, either by vision, suggestion, dictation, or elevation of faculty, or otherwise, according to His will.

The natural knowledge came from all sources, as traditions, documents, testimonies, personal observations, and recollections; by means also of intuitions, logical processes of thought, feeling, experience, etc.

The supernatural knowledge became confluent with the natural in a manner which violated no law of reason or of freedom. This last element is what we call Inspiration. In all this process, except in a small element of prophecy, it is evident that as the sacred writers were free and active in their thinking and in the expression of their thoughts, so they were conscious of what they were doing, of what their words meant, and of the design of their utterance.

While we have restricted the word Inspiration to a narrower sphere than that in which it has been used by many in the past, nevertheless we are certain that the above statement of the divine origin and infallibility of Scripture accurately expresses the faith of the Christian Church from the first. Still several points remain to be more particularly considered, concerning which, some difference of opinion at present prevails. This word, which has often been made the occasion of strife, is in itself indefinite, and its use contributes nothing, either to the precision or the emphasis of the definition.

There ought not to be on any side any hesitancy to affirm this of the books of the Bible. The objection to the application of this predicate to Inspiration is urged upon three distinct grounds:. We believe that the great majority of those who object to the affirmation that Inspiration is verbal, are impelled thereto by a feeling, more or less definite, that the phrase implies that Inspiration is, in its essence, a process of verbal dictation, or that, at least in some way, the revelation of the thought, or the inspiration of the writer, was by means of the control which God exercised over his words.

At the present time the advocates of the strictest doctrine of Inspiration, in insisting that it is verbal, do not mean that in any way the thoughts were inspired by means of the words, but simply that the divine superintendence, which we call Inspiration, extended to the verbal expression of the thoughts of the scred writers, as well as to the thoughts themselves, and that, hence, the Bible considered as a record, an utterance in words of a divine revelation, is the Word of God to us.


Hence, in all the affirmations of Scripture of every kind, there is no more error in the words of the original autographs than in the thoughts they were chosen to express.

The thoughts and words are both alike human, and, therefore, subject to human limitations, but the divine superintendence and guarantee extends to the one as much as the other. This view gives up the whole matter of the immediate divine authorship of the Bible as the Word of God, and its infallibility and authority as a rule of faith and practice.

This class of objectors are, of course, self-consistent in rejecting verbal inspiration in any sense. But this view is not consistent either with the claims of Scripture, the consiousness of Christians, or the historic doctrine of the Church.

There are others who maintain that the Scriptures have been certainly inspired so far forth as to constitute them in all their parts, and, as a whole, an infallible and divinely authoritative rule of faith and practice, and yet hold that, while the thoughts of the sacred writers concerning doctrine and duty were inspired and errorless, their language was of purely human suggestion, and more or less accurate. The question as to whether the elements of Scripture relating to the course of nature and to the events of history are without error, will be considered below; it is sufficient to say under the present head, that it is self-evident that, just as far as the thoughts of Scripture, relating to any element or topic whatsoever, are inspired, the words in which those thoughts are expressed must be inspired also.

Every element of Scripture, whether doctrine or history, of which God has guaranteed the infallibility, must be infallible in its verbal expression. No matter how in other respects generated, the Scriptures are a product of human thought, and every process of human thought involves language.

Thoughts are wedded to words as necessarily as soul to body. Without it the mysteries unveiled before the eyes of the seer would be confused shadows; with it they are made clear lessons for human life. Besides this, the Scriptures are a record of divine revelations, and, as such, consist of words, and as far as the record is inspired at all, and as far as it is in any element infallible, its inspiration must reach to its words.

Infallible thought must be definite thought, and definite thought implies words. But if God could have rendered the thoughts of the apostles regarding doctrine and duty infallibly correct without words, and then left them to convey it to us in their own language, we should be left to precisely that amount of certainty for the foundation of our faith as is guaranteed by the natural competency of the human authors, and neither more nor less.

There would be no divine guarantee whatever. The human medium would everywhere interpose its fallibility between God and us. Besides, most believers admit that some of the prophetical parts of Scripture were verbally dictated. It was, moreover, promised that the apostles should speak as the Spirit gave them utterance. It is evident, therefore, that it is not clearness of thought which inclines any of the advocates of a hoodge inspiration of the Holy Scriptures to deny that it extends to the words.


Whatever discrepancies or other human limitations may attach to the sacred record, the line of inspired or not inspired, of infallible or fallible can never rationally be drawn between the thoughts and the words of Warfisld. It is asked again: In what way, and to what extent, is the doctrine of Inspiration dependent upon the supposed results of modern criticism, as to the dates, authors, sources, and modes of composition of the several books?

To us the following answer appears to be well founded, and to set the limits within which the Church doctrine of inspiration is in equilibrium with the results of modern criticism inspirationn and certainly:. The doctrine of Inspiration, in its essence and, consequently, in all its forms, presupposes a supernatural revelation and a supernatural providential guidance, entering into and determining the genesis of Scripture from the beginning.

Every naturalistic theory, therefore, of the evolution of Scripture, however disguised, is necessarily opposed to any true version of the Catholic doctrine of Inspiration. It is, also, a well-known matter of fact that Christ himself is the ultimate witness on whose testimony the Scriptures, as well as their doctrinal contents, rest. We receive the Old Testament just as Christ handed it to us, and on His authority. And we receive as belonging to the New Testament all, and only those books which an apostolically instructed age testifies to have been produced by the apostles or their companions, i.

Inspiration: Archibald A. Hodge, Benjamin B. Warfield: : Books

On the other hand, the defenders of the strictest doctrine of Inspiration should cheerfully acknowledge that theories as to the authors, dates, sources, and insiration of composition of the several books, which are not plainly inconsistent with the testimony of Christ or His Apostles as to the Old Testament, or with the apostolic origin of the books of the New Testament, or with the absolute truthfulness of any of the affirmations of these books so authenticated, cannot in the least invalidate the evidence or pervert the meaning of the hocge doctrine of Inspiration.

The real point at issue between the more strict and the more lax views of Inspiration maintained by believing scholars remains to be stated. It is claimed and admitted equally on both sides that the great design and effect of Inspiration is to render the sacred Scriptures in all their parts a divinely infallible and authoritative rule of faith and practice; and hence that in all their elements of thought and expression concerned in the great purpose warfiele conveying to men a revelation of spiritual doctrine or duty, the Scriptures are absolutely infallible.

But if this be so, it is argued by the more liberal school of Christian scholars, that this admitted fact is not inconsistent with other facts which they claim are matters of their personal observation; to wit, that in certain elements of Scripture which are purely incidental to their great end of teaching spiritual truth, such as history, natural history, ethnology, archaeology, geography, natural science, and philosophy, they, like all the best human writings of their age, are, while for the most part reliable, yet limited by inaccuracies and discrepancies.