Monday: The Nature of Inspiration

“It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired.

Image © Lars Justinen from

Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of 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 the utterances of the man are the word of God.”-Ellen G. White,Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21. How do these words help us to understand how biblical inspiration works?

In the whole question regarding inspiration, people sometimes get obsessed with what are often deemed as problematic texts. Consider, for example, the wording of the inscription above Jesus’ cross as depicted in the Gospels. According toMatthew 27:37, it said, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS”; according to Mark 15:26, “THE KING OF THE JEWS”; according to Luke 23:38, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” How are we to understand these differences?

As the Bible says, “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” and is trustworthy; yet, we are given different accounts of the inscription on Jesus’ cross. These two points together can give us insight into the way in which inspiration works. This case shows that inspiration permits different expressions of an idea or event to the extent that the expressions adequatelydepict it. Where a general approximation is an adequate expression, as in the inscriptions on the cross, inspiration accommodates it. On the other hand, where specificity is required, as in 1 Kings 6:1, inspiration provides it and should be accepted as such.

Compare Acts 1:18 and Matthew 27:5. In what ways do these accounts of Judas’ death seem to differ?

For a long time, critics of the Bible claimed that these verses gave conflicting accounts of Judas’ death. However, recent research has shown that the word translated as “falling headlong” in Acts 1:18, also means “swelling up.” Therefore, it’s likely that, after hanging himself, Judas was not discovered until his corpse had swelled up, which had caused his guts to burst open. The point is, what at first seemed to be contradictory is now shown not to be. The vast majority of the Bible is not problematic. In the few places where some questions remain about apparent “errors” or “contradictions,” the prudent attitude would be humility. Who knows how many people have made a shipwreck of faith by focusing on “problem” texts. We have not been called to stand in judgment over the Word; we have been called, instead, to obey it.



Monday: The Nature of Inspiration — 16 Comments

  1. Prophecies were told in any forms and expressions of wordings in the past, I believed today as the prophecies unfold in the time of age I am living, truly the Bible is inspired Word of God...good morning and have a blessed day!!'s 5.16am in PNG

  2. When inspired the Word of God becomes a pillar and not a problem. Obedience to the Word will become automatic and not criticizing the same Word. Many have focused on their words to inspire forgetting their own inner inspiration. When the inner (persona) is inspired then easier it is your thoughts, words and lifestyle to inspire many. Amen. Halleluiah, the WORD as unfolded in our time is true.

  3. good morning people of hope! The Nature of Inspiration.....until the end of the WORLD, none of the word of God can be taken out from the BIBLE. if we are having any problem with a quote, then probably it could be the English translation... why don't we visit the very language that was used at that time because BIBLE ''THE WORD OF GOD'JESUS',''never lie nor conflict the mind of human....lets seek......matt.7:7..

  4. RE: Compare Acts 1:18 and Matthew 27:5. In what ways do these accounts of Judas’ death seem to differ?

    I'm surprised that the lesson author did not include the reference to Judas death in Desire of Ages p. 722. Here is clearly states that Judas burst open after falling from the tree where he hanged himself.

    "He felt that he could not live to see Jesus crucified, and in despair went out and hanged himself.

    Later that same day, on the road from Pilate's hall to Calvary, there came an interruption to the shouts and jeers of the wicked throng who were leading Jesus to the place of crucifixion. As they passed a retired spot, they saw at the foot of a lifeless tree, the body of Judas. It was a most revolting sight. His weight had broken the cord by which he had hanged himself to the tree. In falling, his body had been horribly mangled, and dogs were now devouring it."

    • I too was surprised that the lesson had a different explanation for the apparent discrepancy on how Judas died than we find in the Desire of Ages. I don't believe that Ellen White made that up when she wrote it. Thanks for clarifying this!

  5. I have been christian now for almost three years and it has been great, not without challenges and I have made some mistakes but i am going to fight like wildfire for my salvation because GOD has proven to me that he IS and will always be the one and only true GOD and he will always love me.
    That for me is the greats joy in the whole world....

  6. @ one point I was hang up on the account of Saul's death. One account said he fell on his sword and the other, the young man said he slay Saul. I could not understand why the reports were so different. Two different stories. So now, seeing I cannot explain it, I am moving on calling it human error of an event that can neither make or break me. I live by the word and praying that God will keep me in His word.

    • There is an easy answer to your question. The young man who claimed he had killed Saul was lying to make himself look like he was a hero and had done the wounded Saul a favor. He had not killed Saul. Rather, as the Bible tell us, Saul committed suicide.

  7. Angela, I too had been stumped for a long time by the two apparently conflicitng accounts of Saul's death. However I found a passage in Patriarchs and Prophets which made the matter clear. The man who claimed to slay Saul with his sword was actually exagerating and telling an untruth, hoping to impress David. Boy did that backfire! Here is the passage from Patriarchs and Prophets Pages 694-695. " The fugitive reported Saul's defeat and death, and the death of Jonathan. But he went beyond a simple statement of facts. Evidently supposing that David must cherish enmity toward his relentless persecutor, the stranger hoped to secure honor to himself as the slayer of the king. With an air of boasting the man went on to relate that during the battle he found the monarch of Israel wounded, and sore pressed by his foes, and that at his own request the messenger had slain him. The crown from his head and the golden bracelets from his arm he had brought to David. He confidently expected that these tidings would be hailed with joy, and that a rich reward would be his for the part that he had acted. But "David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: and they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword." {PP 695.1}

  8. The subject of inspiration has caused a lot of trouble in Christianity through the centuries and our church is no exception. Even though we believe that Ellen White was a prophet we seem to have trouble understanding the process of inspiration that produced the Bible along with her writings.

    The lesson author has carefully chosen a part of a paragraph from an entire chapter in 1 Selected Messages on the subject of inspiration. I will likewise choose a small portion to further the discussion but if one wishes to get the whole picture then it would be well for him/her to read the entire first chapter in the book of 1 Selected Messages. Here is my chosen quote:

    The Creator of all ideas may impress different minds with the same thought, but each may express it in a different way, yet without contradiction. The fact that this difference exists should not perplex or confuse us. It is seldom that two persons will view and express truth in the very same way. Each dwells on particular points which his constitution and education have fitted him to appreciate. The sunlight falling upon the different objects gives those objects a different hue.
    Through the inspiration of His Spirit the Lord gave His apostles truth, to be expressed according to the development of their minds by the Holy Spirit. But the mind is not cramped, as if forced into a certain mold.-- Letter 53, 1900. (1 Selected Messages, p 22,

    I hope you see here the great amount of freedom the Lord gave his prophets. "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor 3:17 NKJV). What all the contradictions and differences in the Bible tells me is that even with the immense amount of absolute authority God has in the universe He still values freedom above everything else. As important as the Bible is He still gave the prophets freedom to express the thoughts He gave them the way they wanted to express it and sometimes that creates contradictions among writers.

    To me that means that if He was willing to do that for the prophets then He is more than willing to do that for me. There indeed is diversity within the unified body in God's church (1 Cor 12). If that were not so then He would have cloned each of us from an original mold without any differences. I am glad God wanted variety - free moral agents capable of thinking and expressing things in their own individual way.

  9. It is good that we have the knowledge of greek and hebrew which is the original languages of the Bible. We are being confused the more because of the new translations we have today.

    • Onyendi, I agree that Greek and Hebrew are valuable tools for Bible study. I do not understand why you are confused by the modern translations. Could you give an example of what is confusing you?

  10. i believe with all my heart that the BIBLE was written by holy men as they were inspired by God... they varied from their expressions and words they used because these show that they have different status and level as individuals. This confirmed the authenticity and originality of the Bible and they did not copied the works of others.

  11. There are parts of the Bible where the author did copy from others and says so. I am not sure why you see a Bible author copying from someone else as a problem. God testifies to the authenticity of the Bible, and whether the author uses his own words or someone else to convey the message God gave him is irrelevant to either the truthfulness or authenticity of the message.


Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and considerably shorter than the original post. First and last name required.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *