This is a big topic, and there are many, many understandings of what it might mean for the canon of Scripture to be “inspired” by God. I want to let you know straight away my own understanding of inspiration. It is but one of many interpretations, but it is central to why I am probing what authors came to think about God, His Son and His Holy Spirit.
Scriptural inspiration is not:
- God bypassing the writer’s brain and directly moving his hand across the page (inspired texts but uninspired authors)
- Affirming ideas and thoughts that go against what the author generally believes
- At all the same thing as prophecy
- Something that we have the authority to apply to the text.
Scriptural inspiration is:
- In line with the author’s opinions
- Over time understood and tested to be authoritative
- Fully incarnated, beginning in the author’s inspired mind and inspired beliefs
- Invested with original and binding meaning and intention
- Most fully (and best) understood in light of original context, occasion and genre
So while we Christians believe that these first century authors were writing down “God-inspired truth” to shape followers of Jesus for all ages to come, this process necessarily started with their own generation. It is vital to this paper that we grasp this approach to inspiration. This view is not always shared, but these principles match a view in the scholarly world, that Paul, the gospel writers, James, Jude, and so on, were very intentional in their writings and that it is dangerous to attempt to separate what they thought and believed from what they wrote (i.e. uninspired minds but inspired texts).