Word of God vs. Eyewitness Accounts

October 2, 2010

Christian groups, like Evangelicals, Southern Baptists, and others, accept the Bible as the literal Word of God. This view is often summed up as:

“God said it, I believe it, that settles it”.

In other words, any passage in the Bible should be taken as if the words proceeded directly from God’s mouth. They don’t all agree on how words from God got written into the Bible. Some theorize that God dictated the text word-for-word to the various authors of the Bible and the authors faithfully recorded the words.

Other theories, like Verbal, Plenary Inspiration, are a bit more nebulous in that no one is really willing to say exactly what they mean by “inspiration”. Nevertheless, this theory also holds that every word in the Bible proceeds (somehow) directly from God. The Christian Faith website presents a succinct summary this belief.

These same Christian groups claim that the Gospels are first-hand eyewitness accounts. They believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are reporting their own first-hand, eyewitness accounts of their encounters with Jesus. They are reporting what they’ve seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. Since eyewitness accounts virtually always vary from person to person, the accounts in the different Gospels are different as we should expect. These accounts, though different and at times conflicting, are nevertheless compelling evidence of the historicity and the nature of Jesus. You and I should believe that Jesus is the Son of God based in part on these eyewitness accounts.

An eyewitness account by its very definition cannot be the Word of God.

If the words in the eyewitness accounts come from God, then the words are not the evangelist’s own eyewitness account. If the words are the evangelists own personal account, then the words are not God’s words. The two claims are incompatible: either all words in the Bible are from God (and there are no eyewitness accounts from the Evangelists), or the Bible contains eyewitness accounts which are not God’s words.

Of course it is also possible that words in the Bible do not come from God and that the Gospels are not eyewitness accounts. Those two claims are perfectly compatible.

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What do we mean when we say the New Testament is inspired?

March 2, 2010

saron mahari asks in Start a New Thread:

what do we mean when we say the new testament is inspired?

I personally find this to be a fascinating question, especially when directed at the non-errant crowd. The problem the non-errants have when claiming that the Bible is the “inspired Word of God” is their claim that the Bible’s divine inspiration is verbal, plenary inspiration – that is, they claim that every word in the Bible came directly from God. That leaves them in the unenviable position of explaining how there could be errors in the Bible, whether the errors were in the Hebrew and Greek autographs, or whether the errors crept in during transmission (an important concern because all humanity has are the copies).

But it’s not at all a prickly question for the majority of Christians (though interestingly, a good many non-errants charge that those who do not believe that the Bible is inerrant are not true Christians). For the majority of Christians, “inspiration” can be as non-substantive as a feeling or a hunch, or a realization of some sort. This type of inspiration would not at all conflict with our observation that the Bible contains errors, contradictions, and other inconsistencies.


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