What Does Biblical Inspiration Mean, Really? (Part 5)


Part 4

The scriptures themselves claim that they are not inspired in the modern sense

People like to quote the verses that were discussed in the previous posts, but rarely are the ones that say the opposite ever pointed out. Let’s look at some here.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:12 that a command he gives is “not from the Lord.” What if there are other such parts in Paul’s writings, without him explicitly qualifying it as such as he does here? Or are we going to argue that it is inspired anyways? That God made Paul write that what God was making Paul write wasn’t from God but merely from Paul? Paul being inspired without knowing it, even believing the opposite? God being a tricksy little fellow? Personally, such solutions sound ad hoc and far fetched to me, and I don’t see any other way around it.

“…the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has’” (Job 42:7). Here God says that there are things written about him in the scriptures (what Eliphaz said) that are not true. Some might respond, “but since it says which part is not true, we know that part isn’t true, and the rest of the scriptures are.” Things are not so simple, however. For example, one thing Eliphaz says about God is, “Is not God high in the heavens?” Is he wrong about this? Most would say no. So which things that Eliphaz said about God are true and which are false? There is no obvious way of determining; you have to look at the things he said case by case. I would say so for the rest of the scriptures as well.

“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie” (Jeremiah 8:8). Again we have God himself saying that what is recorded in the scriptures is mistaken. Apparently the scribes changed up some laws when they transcribed the Torah.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person…” (Matthew 5:38-39; Jesus is directly quoting Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21). Here Jesus gives ways of living that are opposite to that of the Law. “You have heard it said…But I tell you…” In essence, Jesus is saying that he did not say that part of the Law and is now telling them what he really thinks (as opposed to what they thought he, that is God, was saying). After all, if the Law was perfect (which it would be if it was given by Jesus), Jesus would have no need to correct it and show a better way.

This raises the question: was the Law really given by God? An answer of “no” is what Paul seems to imply in Galatians 3:19-20. “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.” Even if the original was given by God, what if the human and angelic elements modified it in the process of transmission and transcription?

Jesus seems to imply this in Mark 10:2-5. “Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.'” Jesus makes it sound very much like Moses was not only the writer but also the author of this commandment. “Moses permitted [it],” not God.

I understand that alternate ways of looking at these passages exist, but as I pointed out in the previous two posts, so do there for the verses popularly quoted in support of the modern sense of inspiration. At any rate, it is not immediately obvious which view the scriptures take. Further, they don’t necessarily have to take one or the other; they may take neither or both. To think that they must take one or the other we must assume that the scriptures, which are a collection of writings of varying genres by different authors from a wide-spanning time period, is unified in its message. To derive that it is unified in its message, however, we would have to assume that the scriptures are inspired (unless you want to believe that all the authors had the exact same theology).

It’s very persistent, this circular reasoning. :]

Part 6

3 thoughts on “What Does Biblical Inspiration Mean, Really? (Part 5)

  1. Pingback: What Does Biblical Inspiration Mean, Really? (Part 4) | Supernatural Gospel

  2. Pingback: What Does Biblical Inspiration Mean, Really? (Part 6) | Supernatural Gospel

  3. Pingback: The Law, Morality, and Knowledge of Good and Evil | Supernatural Gospel

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