You are on page 1of 5

Yes, it does matter which model of inspiration a person believes.

By way of answering the question

this paper will briefly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different theories and models of
inspiration. There are different theories and models of inspiration and theologians and scholars
argue about their relative strengths, weaknesses and their credibility. This paper will look at the
following: Mechanical Dictation, Plenary Inspiration, Verbal Inspiration, the Neo-orthodox theory,
Thought Inspiration and the Biblical View.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Mechanical Dictation Theory

This theory or process of inspiration teaches that the bible writers recorded exactly the words of
God into the scripture. Some scholars also refer to this as verbal inspiration which means that God
dictated every word written by the human authors so that the exact words are put on paper. They
illustrated this as God used the human authors as secretaries and they copy down the exact words of
God. This theory is based on the following passages of scripture: Psalms 119:89 which says that
Gods word is eternal and it stands firm in the heavens, and Matthew 5:17 which says that ...not
the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Gary Linton stated
that even some of the theologians argued that the grammar must be perfect in every place because
its the Holy Spirits grammar.1 However, theologians argued that this theory has a weakness
because the Bible contains most of the authors personal experiences, emotions, and trials that they
went through. For instance, the Apostle Paul wrote many of the epistles contained in the Bible which
include his personal experiences, emotions, trials and ministry.
Verbal Inspiration
Angel Manuel Rodriguez discussed in his article the theological argument on the Adventist pioneers
claim of verbal inspiration of the Bible which other Protestant churches also have. The pioneers
believed that Bible is holy words of God, so as the Ten Commandments which God gave to His
servant Moses on Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments were said to be Gods exacts words
because they were inscribed by Gods own finger on the two tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18). After
much discussion on the issue, the church eventually was uncomfortable with the theory of verbal

Dr Gary Linton, Theories of Inspiration of Scripture, Ministrymaker, accessed October 19, 2014,

inspiration and later rejected the theory2. The classical theologians viewed Revelation and
Inspiration in a wider perspective as the role of Gods activities and minimised the role of humans as
the agents God used to write the actual words of scripture.3 However, Juan Carlos Viera argues that
verbal inspiration has the weakness in claiming that God dictates his exact words to the human
writers of the Bible,4because major part of the Bible is about the human writers thoughts, personal
experiences, poetries, slogans and personal letters. Linton stated that God partnered with human
writers to use their individual personalities, their unique background, their individual styles, their
unique thoughts, opinions, prayers and their emotions5. So in essence the Holy Spirit guided the
writers and what they wrote.
Plenary Theory
Plenary theory of inspiration was defined as God using the potentials and creative abilities of the
human writers to write down the sacred and creative Word of God (Psa.33:4, 6, and 9). The liberal
theologians argue that the Bible exposes the inner feelings and challenges of the author6. Examples
of these are found in the letters of the Apostle Paul and his experiences and also in the Psalms in
which David as the musician composed songs out of his heart from personal experience of God and
His nature. However, this theory was observed to have a weakness because the Bible is not about
the writer and who he was but about Gods revelation of Himself in the person of His Son Jesus
Those who hold to this theory view inspiration of the Bible based on their understanding of God and
their view of God. He is far from human reach; God communicates to humans through revealing
himself to us. The Bible is not the word of God but it suggests that the Bible becomes a witness to
the Word because Word is God (John 1:1-3). Neo-orthodox theory holds that the words in the
Bible are not Gods words but they believe that God use those words to communicate to people.
This theory continues to uphold that the Bible still has grammatical errors and in the style of writing
even though it has evidence of divine influence over the writers. The Bible cannot be taken literally

Angel Manuel Rodriguez, Issues on Revelation and Inspiration | Biblical Research Institute, last modified
April 2005, accessed October 14, 2014,
Research Institute (Seventh-day Adventists. General Conference) Biblical, Understanding Scripture: An
Adventist Approach, ed. George W. Reid and Raoul Dederen, Biblical Research Institute studies v. 1 (Silver
Spring, MI: Biblical Research Institute, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2005), 52.
Juan Carlos Viera, The Dynamics of Inspiration A Close Look at the Messages of Ellen White (May 30, 1996).
Linton, Theories of Inspiration of Scripture.
Andrew Corbett, THE INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE (2001).

as perfectly correct. Gary Linton stated in his article that neo-orthodox theory claims that the Bible is
the avenue in which God imparts His truth to a person on the condition that the truth changes his
life and then the truth becomes the Word of God.7 Linton further stated that, the Bible is not
divinely inspired, but rather, a channel through which divine inspiration flows8.
Thought inspiration
Thought inspiration theory argues that the Bible is written by human writers who were illuminated
or in other words the very words used by the author were not inspired but the thoughts or ideas of
the scripture were given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The writers expressed those ideas in
their own words in writing. Liberal theologians argue that because the human writers are fallible,
Bible too is fallible. Verbal theory of inspiration argues that thought inspiration weakens or
contradicts the idea of divine inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16,17 which says that all scripture is given
by the inspiration of God. In other words, Verbal theory claims God put the exact words into the
lips of the writer and on to the paper. However, Angel Manuel Rodriguez quoted from a General
Conference statement as follows: We believe the light given by God to His servants is by the
enlightenment of the mind, thus imparting the thought, and not the very words in which the ideas
should be expressed. This view was to be known as thought inspiration9. Most Adventists still
accept verbal and mechanical dictation theory of inspiration. Ellen G. White through the guidance of
the Holy Spirit stated in the introduction to the Great Controversy how she understood biblical
inspiration. She wrote: The Infinite One by His Holy Spirit has shed light into the minds and hearts
of His servants. He has given dreams and visions, symbols and figures; and those to whom the truth
was thus revealed have themselves embodied the thought in human language.10 Different
theologians in Adventism have been divided into two groups to settle the struggle among
themselves. Some promote verbal and mechanical inspiration and others promote thought
inspiration. Juan Carlos Viera identified six models of inspiration in his article The Dynamics of
Inspiration, as follows: visionary, witness, historian, counsellor, epistolary, and literary. He stated
that all of these were used in the holy pages of the Bible11. These models of inspiration are evidence
that God used this mysterious process to communicate His truth to humanity. Ellen G. White stated
that it is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration
acts not on the mans words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of

Viera, The Dynamics of Inspiration A Close Look at the Messages of Ellen White.
Rodriguez, Issues on Revelation and Inspiration | Biblical Research Institute.
Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan: The Conflict of the Ages in the Christian
Dispensation (Nampa, Idaho; Oshawa, Ontario, Canada: Pacific, 2012), 5.
Viera, The Dynamics of Inspiration A Close Look at the Messages of Ellen White.

the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind.
The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus
utterances of the man are the word of God.12
Biblical View
There are many arguments among the scholars and theologians on the authorship of the Bible when
it comes to the argument on inspiration of the Bible and the interpretation of 2Timothy 3:16 and 2
Peter 1:21. Paul uses the Greek term pasa graphe theopneustos to mean all (every) scripture *is+
God breathed (2Tim.3:16)13. There are a couple of arguments on this text; some argue that God
breaths into the scripture his authoritive approval of his word, and others argue that the scripture
breaths out, and that what comes from the scripture is from God. Peter clarifies the argument by
saying For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke
from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet.1: 21). John Frame (cited in The
Church, A pillar of truth) states that to breathe out words is to speak. To say that God breathes out
errors is to say that he speaks errors. That is biblically impossible. God does not lie (Titus 1:2) and he
does not make mistakes (Heb. 4: 12). So he speaks only truth.14 The outcome of inspiration is to
confirm that all scripture is holy and divinely infallible, and has the power to rule over our faith and
practice. God is the author and speaker of the Scripture. Clark Pinnock cited The Main Theories of
the Inspiration of Scripture argues that theopneustos means breathed out by God, but the context,
he adds, also suggests a Spiritual power possessed by the text is what makes it so effective for the
purpose specified15. Even though the Bible was written by men, scripture clearly claims (2 Tim.
3:16) that the Spirit of God was the author of the Scripture. The Spirit of God uses the talents and
abilities of men to reveal the will of God to fallen human beings. Myer Pearlman cited Theories of
Inspiration of Scripture defines inspiration of the Scripture as, The supernatural influence of the
Spirit of God on the human mind, by which prophets and apostles and sacred writers were qualified
to set forth Divine truth without any mixture of error16.


Rodriguez, Issues on Revelation and Inspiration | Biblical Research Institute.

Research Institute (Seventh-day Adventists. General Conference) Biblical, Understanding Scripture: An
Adventist Approach, ed. George W. Reid and Raoul Dederen, Biblical Research Institute studies v. 1 (Silver
Spring, MI: Biblical Research Institute, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2005), 48.
Michael D Williams, The Church, a Pillar of Truth: B. B. Warfields Church Doctrine of Inspirat...:
EBSCOhost, last modified 2011, accessed October 14, 2014,
Robert I. Bradshaw, The Main Theories of the Inspiration of Scripture, last modified 1990, accessed
October 14, 2014,
Linton, Theories of Inspiration of Scripture.

Although there is theological arguments among the theologians and even among the Christians who
read the Bible, most have accepted the Bible as the inspired word of God. They also believe that the
Holy Spirit moved, and inspired the human writers of the Bible (2 Pet. 1:21). Therefore, the Bible is
very useful for guiding us to salvation, and for strengthening our faith. The scripture contains
evidence that the New Testament affirms the inspiration of the Old Testament (Luke 24:44 and John
A crucial point to remember after all these arguments is that if the Bible was written with the exact
words of God, then the readers of the Bible would be like King Belshazzar, who was terrified, pale
and fearful when he saw the writings on the wall. No one could interpret these writings except the
servant of God, Daniel. Therefore, through the scriptures God has revealed Himself to mankind in all
history and he continues to reveal to man the knowledge of Gods involvement in human history and
of course ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ. When looking at Jesus attitude and usage of the
scripture and the prophets and apostles acceptance of the Bible as the trustworthy and
authoritative Word of God, given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in human language for better
understanding,17then we can have confidence in the truth of the Bible.
The arguments and criticisms on the different theories and models of inspiration of the Bible, their
weaknesses and strengths have been discussed in this paper. The Verbal and Thought inspiration
was evident to be the process in which the Bible was written in all those argument, even though
there are criticisms on these theories which cannot be denied but biblical evident support thought
and verbal theories.


Raoul Dederen, Nancy J. Vyhmeister, and George W. Reid, eds., Handbook of Seventh-Day Adventist
Theology, Commentary reference series v. 12 (Hagerstown, Md: Review and Herald Publishing Association,