“The prophets and the apostles,” some say, “were, no doubt, inspired when they wrote their sacred books, in so far as respected their thoughts; but we must believe, that, beyond this, they were left to themselves as respects their language; so that in this written revelation the ideas are God's, and the expressions those of a man...the Divine Spirit is considered to have presented the holy truths they announce to the view of the evangelists and the prophets, leaving them no more to do than simply to express them; and this mode of conceiving of what they did,” it is added, “at once accounts for the striking differences of style which their writings exhibit.”
- That this system is directly contrary to Scripture testimony. The Bible declares itself to be written, “not with the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." It calls itself 'the word of God," "the words of God,' 'the voice of God,' 'the oracles of God,' 'the lively oracles of God," "the holy letters of God," "the scripture of God." A scripture, or writing, is made up of letters and words, and not of invisible thoughts only: but, we are told, "all SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God." What is WRITTEN, therefore, is inspired of God (θεόπνευστος); and that which is inspired of God is ALL SCRIPTURE - it is all that is written (πᾶσα γραφὴ ).
- While this system is contradictory to the Bible, it is also most irrational. The ideas of our fellow-men embody themselves in words; and it is there only that you can seize them. Souls are revealed to us only in the flesh. You do not learn their character; you know nothing of their desires or their experiences; you do not even suspect their existence; and betwixt you and them there are no ties, until they have become clothed with bodies, and have received organs, so that they can manifest themselves to you. My most intimate friend is known to me only by the language of his voice and his gestures. If he had no power of employing these, in vain might he remain for twenty years at my side: he would be to me as if he were not.
- This theory of a divine revelation, in which you would have the inspiration of the thoughts without the inspiration of the language, is so inevitably irrational that it cannot be sincere, and proves false even to those who propose it; for, without their suspecting it, it makes them come much further down in their arguments than their ﬁrst position seems at a ﬁrst glance to indicate. Listen to them. Though the words are those of man, say they, the thoughts are those of God. And how will they prove this to you? Alas! once more, by attributing to this Scripture from God, contradictions, mistakes, proofs of ignorance! Is it then the words alone that they attack? and are not these alleged errors much more in the ideas than in the words? So true it is that we cannot separate the one from the other, and that a revelation of God's thoughts ever demands a revelation of God's words also.
- This theory is not only anti-biblical, irrational, and mischievous; further, it is taken up arbitrarily, and amounts at best to a gratuitous hypothesis.
- Besides, it is very useless; for it resolves no difficulty. You ﬁnd it difficult, say you, to conceive how the Holy Ghost could have given the words in Holy Scripture; but can you tell us any better how he gave the thoughts? Will it be more easy for you, for example, to explain how God suggested to Moses the knowledge of the different acts of the creation, or to St. John that of all the scenes of the last day, than to conceive how he made them write the narrative of these things in the language of the Hebrews, or in that of the Greeks?
- But we have much more to say than this. That which in this theory ought above all to strike every attentive mind, is its extreme inconsistency, seeing that those even who hold it most strenuously, are forced withal to admit that, in its greatest part, the Scripture behooved to be inspired to the men of God EVEN IN ITS WORDS.
- We have said, that the question relates to the BOOK, and not to the WRITERS. You believe that God gave them the thoughts always, and not always the words; but the Scripture tells us, on the contrary, that God has given them always the words, and not always the thoughts. As for their thoughts, while they were in the act of writing, God might inspire them with ideas more or less lively, more or less pure, more or less elevated: that interests my charity alone, but has no bearing on my faith. The SCRIPTURE—the Scripture which they have transmitted to me, perhaps without themselves seizing its meaning, at least without ever entirely comprehending it, this is what concerns me. Paul might have been mistaken in his thoughts, when, on appearing before the council of the priests, and not recognizing God's high-priest, he ventured to say to him, “God shall strike thee, thou whited wall!" This is of little consequence, however, provided I know that Peter might have been mistaken in his thoughts when, refusing to believe that God could send him among the heathen, he did not perceive and acknowledge that “in every nation, they who turn to God are accepted of him." He might have been still more grievously mistaken when, at Antioch, he compelled Paul to withstand him to the face, because he was to be blamed, and because he walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel. But how does this concern me, after all, I repeat, at least as respects my faith? For the question is, not how I can know at what moments, or in what measure, Paul, John, Mark, James, or Peter, were inspired in their thoughts, or sanctified in their conduct: what, above all, interests me, is to know that all the sacred pages were divinely inspired; that their written words were the words of God; and that, in giving these to us, they spoke, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, (οὐκ ἐν διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις); that then it is NOT THEY that speak, but the Holy Ghost;" in a word, that “God hath spoken BY THE mouth of his prophets since the world began.“ The sacred writers were sometimes inspired; but the Holy Scriptures were so ALWAYS. Accordingly, the times, the measures, the degrees, the alternations of the inspiration of the men of God, are not for us an object of faith; but that which is an object of faith, is that the Scripture is divinely inspired, and that that which is divinely inspired is the whole Scripture. “Not one jot or tittle of it shall pass away.” There is doubtless an inspiration of thoughts, as there is an inspiration of words; but the ﬁrst makes the CHRISTIAN, while it is the second that makes the PROPHET.
From Theopneustia, by Louis Gaussen