The Bible’s Authors Were Inspired by God

The Bible’s authors were inspired by God.

That statement has been the focus of an incredible amount of controversy. But for some reason, late last night the thought occurred to me that the controversy is largely the result of taking that phrase in something other than its normal English sense.

There have been countless books and movies which were inspired by true events, or by the life of a particular individual, or by a song or a poem. If we say that a film was inspired by the life of Mother Theresa, we don’t mean that mother Theresa went and inserted thoughts into the mind of the filmmaker, but rather that the filmmaker found the inspiration for their film in the life of Mother Theresa.

Can we not say the same thing about the Bible’s authors in relation to God?

The author of the creation account in Genesis 1 was inspired by God – by the idea of one supremely powerful God being responsible for creation, rather than a large array of conflicting deities.

The apostle Paul was inspired by God – by the  idea that God had chosen his time to bring Gentiles into his people, and to do so without requiring them to be circumcised, and by the conviction that God had chosen him, Paul, to be his messenger and spread this news.

The Gospel authors were inspired by God – by the belief that God was acting in and through the life of Jesus to bring about the long-awaited dawn of the kingdom of God.

The author of Song of Songs – OK, he or she may have had other things on his or her mind. But that is no more of a problem for this plain English approach to the language of being “inspired by God” than it is for other views of inspiration and the Bible.

If we take the phrase “inspired by God” in the normal everyday sense in which we use it, in which we might say that Mother Theresa was inspired by God to work among India’s poor, or Martin Luther King was inspired by God to struggle for equal rights for people of all skin colors in the United States, then the controversy vanishes. In its place we find a statement that seems to fit what we find in the Bible perfectly.

The Bible’s authors were inspired by God. Their belief in and beliefs about God were the driving inspiration that led them to write what they did, as they did.

Taken at face value, in its ordinary sense, this seems to be uncontroversial.

But the discussion about whether we should understand the language of the Bible’s authors being inspired this way, or differently, will itself surely be controversial. But perhaps focusing the controversy there may put the matter in a new and useful light.

What do readers think about this?

  • Krista (@KristaNDalton)

    I think you make a really good point. Just because we debate methods of interpretation doesn’t mean the basic value of “inspiration” has to fade away.
    Thanks for the post!

  • Susan Burns

    I was inspired by your inspiration.

  • http://undeception.com/ Steve Douglas

    I’m with you in spirit, of course, but what those who insist on biblical “inspiration” seem to require from that property is that the Bible be made unique and specially authoritative by it. If Mother Theresa or Susan Burns can be inspired in the same way the biblical authors are inspired, then nothing unique is granted the Bible by its inspiration. Besides that, I think it’s fairly obviously not what the author of 2 Timothy 3.16 meant by theopneustos, either, and that means, well, your suggestion isn’t “biblical”. :-P

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Yes, well the question of whether we should think of someone like Paul writing with more authority than any other Christian is an important one. And since the term in 2 Timothy 3:16 doesn’t seem to be indicating what we mean by “inspired” the issue again becomes how one should render that term. But at any rate, for a view of the Bible to be “Biblical” in my thinking, it is more crucial that it agree with what the Bible shows itself to be, than that it agree with what one of the BIblical authors happened to say. Unless we can first determine whether and in what sense they were inspired, and what their authority is, then we cannot decide whether the person who wrote that writings are “God-breathed” had any particular insight into the process.

      • http://undeception.com/ Steve Douglas

        Well said, James. No arguments from me. I was just trying to make a comment about how your post is likely to be received by those who are probably most in need of hearing it. Oh, well.

      • Susan Burns

        Legalists are a buzz kill.

  • Dr. David Tee

    Only those who want to follow after secular teaching and alternatives to God’s word say such things. The want to justify their rejection of the Bible, its content and instruction.

    John 5:45-47 exposes their unbelief; 2 Peter 1:12-23 adds weight to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy; 2 Peter 2 warns about false teachers which McGrath should read very carefully as he is quite wrong in the article above and seeks to diminish God’s word and reduce it to human authorship.

    Why have the Bible at all if a human is going to say what is or isn’t God’s word? Why does he hold to salvation as divine yet dismiss other parts of the Bible when they tell him to drop following the secular world and how to treat others?

    What authority does he have to claim he can say what is or isn’t God’s word? Who gave him this authority and why?

    Reducing the Bible to human words destroys civilization and opens the door to anarchy where man gets to do what he wants.

    • Dr. David Tee

      P.S. Removing God’s word as the ultimate standard for right and wrong, for ,morality means that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were meaningless and God’s rules for who enters into his kingdom are moot. Anyone can enter even by doing only good works which Paul said was not enough.

      There was no need for Jesus to die because all one has to do is be a boy scout and they will get to heaven.

      The Bible is God’s inspired word whether Mcgrath and others like the term or not. Each book is not of human authorship but God’s. And the Bible is inerrant

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        Who gives the pseudonymous 2 Peter the right to turn Paul’s letters into Scripture? Who gives you, or the church, or anyone, the right to elevate human writings to the level of idols, and the words of their human authors to the level of words of God? That is a sinful rebellion against God, and not honestly looking at these texts and accepting them for what they are.

        • Dr. David Tee

          Can’t answer the questions I see. So you have no authority which makes your opinions false. I see you presented no evidence that 2 Peter was a forgery so you fail again.
          By your response, you have proven that you arbitrarily and subjectively pick and choose which passages of Scripture you accept. Hmmm….God didn’t say to do that, did He? Nor did Jesus…Looks like you are very disobedient and a fake.
          You are in so much hot water with God I doubt you will ever get out.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            The evidence regarding 2 Peter is well known. So if you are a doctor in anything, it clearly is not in New Testament. The issues related to 2 Peter have been discussed since antiquity and are not just a product of modern scholarly concerns. Here are a couple of links to treatments of the issue by Evangelical scholars, which you will find useful, should you choose to read more on this topic:

            http://books.google.com/books?id=4wsAWV501VoC&lpg=PP1&ots=lBfKpai5WM&dq=2%20peter%20commentary&pg=PA260#v=onepage&q=2%20peter%20Greek%20authorship&f=false

            http://books.google.com/books?id=2Vo-11umIZQC&pg=PA1504&lpg=PA1504&dq=2+peter+commentary&source=bl&ots=5RdTd-YqPL&sig=xn-KoZv-subTu9KIZwuwXSuxaPg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=FcNfUKfAHqqBygHUxICgCw&ved=0CDQQ6AEwATge#v=onepage&q=2%20peter%20commentary&f=false

            • Beau Quilter

              It looks like the second source you reference here, Eerdman’s Commentary on the Bible, lays out the scholarly arguments that the pastoral Pauline epistles, Including 2 Timothy, are also pseudonymous.

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                Yes, that’s a commentary on the while Bible, and so it should discuss authorship of all the Bible’s contents.

                Anyone familiar with Biblical scholarship will know that 2 Peter is the work most universally agreed to be pseudonymous. It is funny but perhaps unsurprising that David Tee would try to turn my not stating the obvious into an inability or unwillingness to answer questions.

                • abombt1

                  James, don’t you know that Peter took online Greek and LXX courses after Jesus’s ascension? Repent! Think about it! (Add fake doctor’s other condescending comment here).

            • Dr. David Tee

              Sorry but I happen to accept 2 Peter as authentic and part of the Bible, which we also call the Word of God.

              There are no issues concerning its authorship, its divinity save for those constructed by humans who do not want to listen to its words.

              P.S. I do not like google and try to avoid using it. Do you have better links?

              • abombt1

                And yet you do not accept the Book of Mormon as the inspired word of God! Your hypocrisy is showing! You slam James with the same thing you do to the book of Mormon! We know that the book of mormon is true; it says so itself!! It is divine, you just refuse to accept the truth and turn your back on heavenly father and the holy spirit. you are a deceiver and unless you repent will suffer! You have been warned!

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                Feel free to skip Google books and just read plain old fashioned physical books. Any academic commentary on 2 Peter will do.

          • abombt1

            Only those who want to follow after secular teaching and alternatives to God’s word say such things. The want to justify their rejection of the The book of mormon, its content and instruction.

            fake dr. should read very carefully as he is quite wrong and seeks to diminish The book of mormon and reduce it to human authorship.

            Why have the Bible at all if a human is going to say what is or isn’t God’s word? That’s why god sent his prophets in this latter days to make his will clear to us! Why does he hold to salvation as divine yet dismiss other revelations from god when they tell him to drop following his apostate church and start following the one true church with the one true prophet?

            What authority does he have to claim he can say the book of mormon is or isn’t God’s word? Who gave him this authority and why?

            Reducing the Book of mormon to human words destroys civilization and opens the door to anarchy where man gets to do what he want

            • Dr. David Tee

              The book of Mormon is a human book and Smith plagerized from the Bible like any good con artist would do.

              Your twisting of my words doesn’t work.

              • abombt1

                Can’t answer SHEILD and FARMS defense of the Book of Mormon I see. So you have no authority which makes your opinions false. I see you presented no evidence that the Book of Mormon was a human book so you fail again. By your response, you have proven that you arbitrarily and subjectively pick and choose which Scriptures you accept. Hmmm….God didn’t say to do that, did He? Nor did Jesus, nor his prophets…Looks like you are very disobedient and a fake.
                You are in so much hot water with God I doubt you will ever get out.

              • rmwilliamsjr

                the humor of 2 fideists slugging it out with identical postings and the same basic mentality should not be lost on anyone watching this thread. although i’m relatively confident abombt1 is a dr david tee lds sockpuppet.

                • abombt1

                  :)

                • abombt1

                  I didn’t realize, but I guess some people didn’t notice my transfer from aaronpxian to abombt1.
                  None the less, I got the idea as I was writing a reply in which I was going to point out that the very same ridiculous arguments doctor troll uses can be used on any religious book, say the book of mormon. I realized however, that the thought would be unlikely to penetrate such a thick skull, so I decided to troll bait. It has been tremendously entertaining, and as it requires absolutely no brain power what so freking ever, I was able to stay focused on other studies.

                  • rmwilliamsjr

                    i don’t know how to crack the shell on hard YECists, on Biblical literalists who simply don’t see the problem of the canon. humor, parody, any tool that allows someone, however momentary, to step outside themselves and look back, seems a worthwhile and commendable attempt. how do we transcend our own positions to identify with another? how exactly do we see ourselves through someone else’s eyes? afterall, isn’t that part of the incarnation, God becoming truly man? it’s regretable that more people on’t strive for such self knowledge. thanks for your efforts…..

                    • abombt1

                      Actually, one of the main things that caused me to step outside my beliefs and think critically about them was, ironically, anti-Mormon apologetics. I took the very same sort of questions I was told to ask Mormons to “prove them wrong” and asked them of my beliefs. The results were quick shocking and humbling.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Buchholz/1203282337 Christopher Buchholz

      “Only those who want to follow after secular teaching and alternatives to God’s word say such things”
      Like Augustine and Aquinas?

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephenjbedard Stephen J. Bedard

    I respect your opinion. However, I am not sure common use of the English word ‘inspired’ should guide us as to the nature of the Bible. I understand the Bible to be prophetic, not in terms of predicting the future, but as God speaking through some of the earliest Christians to reveal what God had done, what God was doing and what God expected. I do not demand that others accept this view but to me it makes the most sense in terms of what the Bible offers itself as and how the early church interpreted it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I don’t think that the English word “inspired” should guide us as to the nature of the Bible. But I do think that what we find in the Bible is compatible with what we mean by “inspiration” in normal English usage, and that the view that some people have (which ranges from dictation through mind control into all sorts of other stances) fits awkwardly both with the normal meaning of the English word and with the evidence from the Bible. Hence my suggestion on this occasion that we mean what we say, or say what we mean.

  • Elizabeth

    I like your take, James. Sadly, many will continue to view ‘inspired’ as being synonymous with ‘inerrant’ and ‘infallible’.

    • Michael Deacon

      Elizabeth
      Sadly you miss the point of “Inspired” which is to say that the Holy Spirit did the writing through Man’s hand

  • Fred

    David Koresh was inspired by God, Jim Jones was inspired by God. Their beliefs about God inspired their actions. See how that works? Inspiration proves nothing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marilyn-Kaye-Muma-Reid/1088571988 Marilyn Kaye Muma-Reid

      Agreed!!!!

    • Dr. David Tee

      uhm…no they weren’t inspired by God. You forget that evil plays a role in what many people do. Your failure to include the devil and his minions in all of this leads you to blame God for things He did not do.

      • abombt1

        Don’t forget the Klingons

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1342655121 David Farmbrough

    I think that atheists will still find that statement controversial. If you don’t believe in God, then how can you accept something as having been inspired by him?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Couldn’t someone write things that were inspired by Star Wars? Are people only inspired by that which is factual? It is precisely for this reason that I thought that the wording should be uncontroversial.

      Obviously one can then discuss what sorts of ideas of God are the source of inspiration, and critically examine them, just as one can discuss whether the inspiration that Westboro Baptist Church finds in Christianity is what differs from others, or whether the Christianities that inspire people in different ways are themselves different things.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1342655121 David Farmbrough

        The difference is that Star Wars is accepted, even by its greatest proponents as being fictional. But I take your point.

      • ngotts

        If someone says they believe the Bible was “inspired by God”, I don’t take them as meaning “inspired by the ideas the writers had about God”, or even in the sense of “inspired by what God has done”, as you would if someone said their (newly-written) book was “inspired by Gandhi”; I take them to be saying that God had an active part in producing it. I’m confident most other people, whether Christian or not, would understand it the same way. Whether you like it or not, that’s what “the Bible is inspired by God” actually means, now.

        The controversy arises, not because the word “inspired” means different things in different contexts, but because people disagree fundamentally about the status of the Bible.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Would it not be fair to say that those who talk about the Bible as “inspired” in that way are using the term differently than it is used in pretty much all other contexts?

          • ngotts

            Yes, but I don’t see why that is of any particular significance. As I said, that is not why the controversy arises. If I were to agree with the average Christian who tells me that “The Bible was inspired by God” – but I was using the word in the sense you suggest in the OP, without telling them that I was doing so – then I would be deliberately deceiving them. If, on the other hand, I agreed to the form of words, but told them how I was using the word “inspired”, they would recognize that I disagreed with them fundamentally. Isn’t it better, in general, to be honest about disagreements in belief? (I concede that in diplomacy, deliberately ambiguous language has its uses – although even there, there are always accompanying dangers.)

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              I apologize if I gave you the impression that my aim was to have people using the terminology in different ways to do so without clarifying what they mean. Indeed, my point was to suggest that most people who don’t accept the special conservative Christian meaning given to the terminology have unnecessarily ceded the term, when the onus ought to be put on those using the term in an unusual and specialized sense to justify their claim.

              • ngotts

                I suppose tussles over the “correct” meaning of terms may sometimes be necessary, but are best avoided if possible since they generally do nothing to clarify or settle any substantive issue – here, the status of the Bible. In this case, I don’t see the point.

                In the OP, you say:

                “If we say that a film was inspired by the life of Mother Theresa, we don’t mean that mother Theresa went and inserted thoughts into the mind of the filmmaker, but rather that the filmmaker found the inspiration for their film in the life of Mother Theresa.

                Can we not say the same thing about the Bible’s authors in relation to God?

                The author of the creation account in Genesis 1 was inspired by God – by the idea of one supremely powerful God being responsible for creation, rather than a large array of conflicting deities.”

                Being inspired by the life of a human being whom no-one doubts existed, is quite different from being inspired by an idea about a hypothetical supernatural entity. And in fact, if you had said “inspired by Mother Theresa” (to parallel “inspired by God”), not “inspired by the life of Mother Theresa” there would be an ambiguity, since you could have meant she suggested making the film. In fact, “I was inspired to make this film by Mother Theresa” would perhaps most naturally be interpreted in the latter way, which suggests that I may have conceded the point about the conservative Christian’s use of the term too readily in my previous comment.

  • Chris

    hrmm…. I think you, Dr. McGrath, have been inspired by enlightenment thinking instead of being inspired by The Holy Spirit and about 2,000 years of tradition (thinking of the likes of the early church fathers, Calvin, Luther, Wesley and the like). How about looking into remah and the breathe of God breathing life through the Spirit into these authors. Inspiration isn’t just what I think. “I think therefore I am” is inspiration of the mind, like your movie inspired by thoughts of another. “God created…” and later “God is the creator of all things…” is inspiration of The Spirit that points back into reality of history (and of the mind).

  • http://www.facebook.com/Dynasurdus Bob Wilson

    I believe I understand what you are driving at. It is the IDEA of God from which the authors derived their inspiration, not that any Deity actually spoke to them. Certainly, they were driven in their minds to create a God-centered theology from which other people may gain inspiration to live better lives. So, the motivation to write was for the good.

    • ngotts

      Others again may gain inspiration to live worse lives: while authoritarianism, misogyny and homophobia would still exist without the Bible, there is no doubt that many people find justification for them in the Bible – and it’s not at all difficult to do so.

  • Dr. David Tee

    Again, the only people who want to remove the divine authorship of the Bible and any of its individual books and demote them to human status are those who do not want to obey its words or even accept them.

    They think they have the authority to decide what is or isn’t God’s word and what a biblical person said or didn’t say. God gave man dominion over the earth BUT He did not give him dominion over His Word.

    Think about it,.

    • abombt1

      Fake Doctor troll wants to remove the divine authorship of the Book of Mormon and demote it to human status because he does not want to obey its words or even accept them.
      He thinks he have the authority to decide what is or isn’t God’s word and what a biblical person said or didn’t say. God gave man dominion over the earth BUT He did not give him dominion over His Word and His Prophets
      Think about it,.

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    By your definition of inspiration, we should consider the multitude of scriptural prophecies fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth the most amazing coincidence of all time.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      What prophecies are you thinking of? Presumably not the sorts of things we find in the Gospel of Matthew, which are the typological application to Jesus of texts that in their original context were not messianic predictions.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        The New Testament documents are nothing if not writings shared among first-century Jews who believed that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Hebrew Bible’s prophecies of a Messiah. I don’t buy your wholesale rejection of Matthew’s claims regarding fulfillment of Scripture (though it’s no slight to you, his writing has more credibility than yours), but even if I did, just how far are you willing to go in reducing the Old Testament’s inventory of messianic scriptures in order not to make your definition of inspiration look silly?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          My view of inspiration is shaped by my understanding of what Matthew and other NT authors wrote. Are you saying that Hosea 11:1ff seems to you to be a prediction about Jesus in its original context?

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            NT authors claim that many things written in the OT, while not ostensibly written of Christ, actually were written with Him in mind. (See, among others, Luke 24:25-27, 31-32, 44-48; John 5:39-40, 46; 1 Cor 10:1-11; Col 2:16-17; 1 Pet 1:10-12; 2 Pet 1:20-21.) And then there are, of course, the scriptures which ostensibly do speak of Christ and were understood to do so from the very beginning. (See, among others, 2 Sam 7:12-19; Dan 9:25-26; Mic 5:2-4).

            You say that Matthew and the other NT authors have shaped your understanding of inspiration and yet you seem to take issue with his saying that Jesus fulfilled what Hosea wrote. Please explain.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              I am saying that Matthew understood this “fulfilment” in terms of typology rather than prediction, because I do not think he was trying to pull a fast one on his readers.

              Once again I will ask you, do you understand Hosea 11:1ff to be a prediction about Jesus as understood in its original context?

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                If you had read my previous answer you would have seen that I answered your question. To save you time, I specifically point you to the first sentence and to the 1 Pet 1:10-12 passage.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  You have yet to say anything in response to my question about Hosea 11, one of the passages which Matthew quotes.

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    Must I spell it out for you? Yes, I believe that the Holy Spirit inspired Hosea’s writing of Hosea 11:1, and also inspired Matthew’s appropriation of it in Matthew 2:14-15. See 2 Pet 1:20-21 for a description of the process.

                    Now perhaps you will answer the question I asked you: “[J]ust how far are you willing to go in reducing the Old Testament’s inventory of messianic scriptures in order not to make your definition of inspiration look silly?” That is, are you prepared to argue that there are no messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth? For that is what you’d have to do to prove that biblical inspiration is no different from the inspiration we commonly ascribe to works of a lofty nature.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If something wasn’t a prediction, but was applied to Jesus with hindsight because of certain resonances, then why do you object to my calling that typology rather than prediction?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Because you’re using it to obscure the fact that the NT authors claimed that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the OT prophecies of a messiah – a claim that disallows your notion that the inspiration behind biblical writings is merely human and not divine.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      No. I am starting to suspect that you didn’t actually read the passage in Hosea, other than the quote in Matthew.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Even if I had not read the passage in Hosea (which I had), and even if you had proven that Hosea had no conception that what he wrote in 11:1 would ever be used to refer to Israel’s messiah (which you haven’t), it wouldn’t change the weakness of your original post which was to suggest that the Scriptures, and the messianic promises they contain, are inspired by no mind greater than human ones.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Mike, please explain to me where there is a prediction of the Messiah in this text, rather than it being about Israel and later typologically applied to Jesus.

                      Hosea 11:1-7
                      “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called,
                      the more they went away from me.
                      They sacrificed to the Baals
                      and they burned incense to images.
                      It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
                      taking them by the arms;
                      but they did not realize
                      it was I who healed them.
                      I led them with cords of human kindness,
                      with ties of love.
                      To them I was like one who lifts
                      a little child to the cheek,
                      and I bent down to feed them.
                      “Will they not return to Egypt
                      and will not Assyria rule over them
                      because they refuse to repent?
                      A sword will flash in their cities;
                      it will devour their false prophets
                      and put an end to their plans.
                      My people are determined to turn from me.
                      Even though they call me God Most High,
                      I will by no means exalt them.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      That Israel typified the Christ to come is proof that a Christ was not being predicted?

                      More to the point, why do you continue to ignore the thesis of your original post and my challenge to it?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      In worshiping Ba’al? You seem to be working very hard to avoid the obvious, while insisting that I am the one who is ignoring things. Is there some reason why you are determined that Hosea 11:1ff must be a prediction about Jesus when it clearly is about Israel? Is it not far simpler, and a better fit to the evidence, to understand Matthew to be depicting Jesus as recapitulating in his own life elements of the story of Israel – fulfilling the Scriptures in that sense, rather than in the sense of those texts having been predictions of him?

                      What about Jeremiah 31, which Matthew quotes? Is it not clear that in their original context, the words refer to the exiles about whom it is explicitly said that they will return to their own land?

                      “A voice is heard in Ramah,
                      mourning and great weeping,
                      Rachel weeping for her children
                      and refusing to be comforted,
                      because they are no more.”
                      16 This is what the Lord says:
                      “Restrain your voice from weeping
                      and your eyes from tears,
                      for your work will be rewarded,”
                      declares the Lord.
                      “They will return from the land of the enemy.
                      17 So there is hope for your descendants,”
                      declares the Lord.
                      “Your children will return to their own land.
                      18 “I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
                      ‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
                      and I have been disciplined.
                      Restore me, and I will return,
                      because you are the Lord my God.
                      19 After I strayed,
                      I repented;
                      after I came to understand,
                      I beat my breast.
                      I was ashamed and humiliated
                      because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
                      20 Is not Ephraim my dear son,
                      the child in whom I delight?
                      Though I often speak against him,
                      I still remember him.
                      Therefore my heart yearns for him;
                      I have great compassion for him,”
                      declares the Lord.
                      21 “Set up road signs;
                      put up guideposts.
                      Take note of the highway,
                      the road that you take.
                      Return, Virgin Israel,
                      return to your towns.
                      22 How long will you wander,
                      unfaithful Daughter Israel?
                      The Lord will create a new thing on earth—
                      the woman will return to the man.”
                      23 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’ 24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      It is certainly true that the NT authors at times describe Jesus as fulfilling scripture that we in our own intuitions would not have discerned (the Hosea and Jeremiah passages you quote being prime examples). I believe in such cases we are seeing what Peter was describing in 1 Pet 1:10-12; that is, prophets writing about things they knew would have future significance for the life of Messiah even though they seemed to speak strictly to events of the prophet’s time. Similarly, according to Peter as recorded by Luke, David wrote Psalm 16 with simultaneous application to his own life and application to “the greater David” who would come from his loins (see Acts 2:30-31). Thus, in such cases, the prophets’ words would have immediate meaning but would simultaneously be alluding to Messiah in ways sometimes completely opaque to interim readers until the Holy Spirit brought the messianic understanding – most notably in the time of Messiah. In this regard note 2 Pet 1:19-21. And thus the history of Israel was written in such a way as to yield benefit to the first-century Jews who would believe in Christ, as stated by Paul in 1 Cor 10:1-11, and, in essence, reiterated in Rom 15:4. Specifically, with respect to types, we see the stories of Adam (Rom 5:14), Isaac (Heb 11:19), and Melchizedek (Heb 7:3) recorded in a such a way as to signify some aspect of the Christ to come. Jesus could hardly have been ignorant of such things when he said to his contemporaries, “You search the Scriptures…and it is these that bear witness of me” (John 5:39).

                      But even if you think that Matthew and I go too far in seeing foretellings of Christ in the Scriptures, surely you don’t deny all messianic prophecy. And if you don’t, how do you explain mere human inspiration producing it?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I’m not sure we can have a meaningful conversation about this, since it seems as though a text can explicitly say it is about Israel turning their back on Yahweh, and you can still regard it as a prediction about Jesus.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      israel didn’t turn its back on Yahweh when Jesus came?

                      But let’s leave that aside. For purposes of this discussion I’m willing to stipulate that you can exclude any “messianic prophecy” that you think invalid – including, of course, this one. My question then would be 1) are any messianic prophecies left? and 2) if so, how could they be fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth apart from having been divinely inspired?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      As I’ve said all along, it depends what texts you are referring to. If you have in mind “your king comes riding on a donkey” then obviously if Jesus believed himself to be the fulfillment of that text then he might have arranged to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. That’s just an example. It depends what texts you have in mind, whether they were actually predictions about a future figure to restore the kingship, and so on.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      It is a widely-understood view that the Old Testament contains messianic prophecies for which the New Testament claims Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment. Do you disagree that the OT contains messianic promises or do you disagree that Jesus legitimately fulfills them?

                    • Beau Quilter

                      Well, I know that I’m not speaking for James, but having followed this trail, I can confidently say that, no, the OT “messianic” verses do not refer to Jesus and Jesus does not legitimately fulfill them. The passages already discussed here make that abundantly clear.

                      You begin this string of comments by saying:

                      “By your definition of inspiration, we should consider the multitude of scriptural prophecies fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth the most amazing coincidence of all time.”

                      On the contrary, the “messianic prophecies” referenced in the gospels don’t look like amazing coincidences; they look like verses taken completely out of context and misapplied.

                      For example you tossed out the suggestion in reference to Hosea 11:1-7 that:

                      “israel didn’t turn its back on Yahweh when Jesus came?”

                      But that makes no sense. The “son” in Hosea is Israel, the “son” in Matthew is Jesus. The “son” in Hosea turns his back on Yahweh, so to make the verse “fit”, you’re now suggesting that Hosea intends “son” to refer only to Jesus and Israel, for the short cut of verse that Matthew quotes, but not the end of the sentence in which the son turns his back on Yahweh.

                      It makes far more sense that Matthew simply lifted the verse completely out of context and misapplied it to Jesus. Hardly an “amazing coincidence”.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      The OT is filled with types and shadows of Christ in addition to specific prophecies concerning Him. Types and shadows are, by their very nature, less direct and obvious – and some more so than others. In dodging my question about messianic prophecy James intentionally chose some of the NT’s most notoriously obscure references (obscure, that is, to us – centuries removed from the scene). It’s foolish to suggest that if Matthew were called upon to defend the claims of Jesus according to the OT scriptures that this is the first one he’d pull out. His gospel was written to strengthen the faith of believers, not convert unbelievers – and you could say this about practically all of the NT documents.

                      If you want to compare the life of Jesus to more direct prophecies, trace the promises to David beginning with, say, 2 Samuel 7. Be sure to include Psalm 110 for which resurrection from the dead is necessary qualification for fulfillment of the promise. Recognize also that the promises to David were an extension of messianic promises previously given to Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. The combination of the suffering Jesus experienced along with the glory of the resurrection and ascension were what convinced first-century Jews that this Jesus was one God had been promising. His claim to messianic status was uniquely compelling – largely because no other messianic candidates had resurrection on their resume, before or since. (Resurrection was required to fulfill the prophecies – even if that was only recognized by observers in hindsight.)

                    • Beau Quilter

                      Mike,

                      I’ve read these verses many times. I understand that you apply a sort of “hindsight” to them, supposing them to be prophecies; but I see no amazing coincidences here. Especially in regard to Jesus.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      The hindsight of which I speak is that which even the first-century Jews who believed in Jesus practiced. That is, the host of prophecies presented a riddle to which Jesus’ resurrection was the answer – and hardly anyone figured out the riddle ahead of time. If they had, the authorities would not have crucified Jesus for they would have known where it would lead.

                    • Beau Quilter

                      Well, yes, and those particular 1st century Jews weren’t the first to promote messianic claims and wouldn’t be the last. The fact that they lived 2000 years ago doesn’t really validate their worldview. Hmmm, a “host” of prophecies about Jesus’ resurrection? Such as?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Deut 18:5
                      2 Sam 7:12
                      Ps 45:6-7
                      Ps 110:1
                      Jer 23:5
                      Mic 2:13
                      Mic 5:4
                      Mal 4:2

                    • rmwilliamsjr

                      for the LORD your God has chosen them and their descendants out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the LORD’s name always.

                      When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.

                      6 Your throne, O God,[a] will last for ever and ever;
                      a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
                      7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
                      therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
                      by anointing you with the oil of joy.

                      Of David. A psalm. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

                      5 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord,
                      “When I will raise up for David a righteous [a]Branch;
                      And He will reign as king and [b]act wisely
                      And do justice and righteousness in the land.

                      Mic 2:13 The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the LORD on the head of them.

                      Mic 5:4 And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.

                      But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.

                      which of these has anything to do with a dying Messianic prophet being reborn as a God?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      In order to be able to use a text editor I posted the answer here: http://wp.me/p1eZz8-1vI

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Thank you for taking the time to post passages on your own blog. I encourage those interested in discussing them to click through.

                      My own brief observation is that there are texts which Jesus did not obviously fulfill (reigning on David’s throne, for instance) and which early Christians thus said would be fulfilled later, or were fulfilled in a celestial realm where none can verify their fulfillment, and so at most what we are talking about, from a human perspective, is the claim by human beings that certain passages apply to Jesus in an unverifiable manner. Others are ones that Jesus may have deliberately chosen to fulfill – such as riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. And still others involve reading things into the text with hindsight that were not there on a plain reading of the text – such as taking the reference to “raising up” a descendant not to the birth of an heir but to resurrection.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      “And still others involve reading things into the text with hindsight that were not there on a plain reading of the text – such as taking the reference to “raising up” a descendant not to the birth of an heir but to resurrection.”

                      Such verses would have been part of the explanation the apostles gave as an adjunct to their personal testimony about the resurrection of Jesus – as seen in passages such as Acts 17:2-3, 11.

                      Thus the apostles, contrary to what many unbelievers seem to think today, were not testifying to the resurrection of a human being as if that physical phenomenon alone was all there was to the story. Rather, their message included a thorough explanation of the event’s meaning written centuries in advance.

                      Even if one doesn’t believe the resurrection, he ought at the very least to recognize that neither Muhammad, nor Joseph Smith, nor Ron Hubbard were able to advance their respective movements without writing their own self-justifying manifestos. By contrast, Jesus advanced His cause while working entirely from a script written long before He was born, and which was treasured as much by His enemies as His friends.

                    • Beau Quilter

                      Thank you to rmwilliams for providing the words to the verses. Can you answer his question?
                      Which of these verses prophecies Jesus’ death and resurrection?
                      Which of these verses present what you called “the most amazing coincidence of all time”?

                    • Beau Quilter

                      Let me help you with the answer:
                      None of them.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      The answer is posted at http://wp.me/p1eZz8-1vI

                    • Beau Quilter

                      Thanks for doing this homework, Mike. I’ve read and responded on your site.

                    • rmwilliamsjr

                      re:
                      Thus, in such cases, the prophets’ words would have immediate meaning but would simultaneously be alluding to Messiah in ways sometimes completely opaque to interim readers until the Holy Spirit brought the messianic understanding – most notably in the time of Messiah.

                      i guess i don’t understand your argument. if the OT writers are not aware that they are writing about a particular future messiah-Jesus, but possibly aware that they are writing about a class of messiahs(class=topological vs individual=prophetic) this doesn’t rule out the fact that the NT writers are involved in a midrash commentary on the OT. they are interpreting the OT very differently than the authors intended it or their first readers interpreted it as.

                      what you have done is make God the author of both and claim that this proves the verses in the OT are prophetic. but that sleight of hand is only persuasive to the choir, it is not evidence to an unbeliever in your system.so pointing to it as evidence is useless, it is merely confirmation to the already persuaded.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      The OT writers did not think they were writing about a class; they knew they were writing about a person (1 Pet 1:10-12). The NT writers tell us specifically that Moses (John 5:46), David (Acts 2:25-31), Isaiah (John 12:41), and, in fact, all the prophets (Acts 3:25-26) – and even Abraham (John 8:56) – knew to whom they were alluding when they wrote. Each of them prophesied a part of the story, however, so it is not likely that any of them knew all the details of the gospels as they are laid out to us.

                      Apart from the corroboration of the mosaic of these various prophecies in the Hebrew Bible it is questionable how many disciples – if any – the apostles would have been able to make with their naked testimony of a resurrected rabbi.

                    • rmwilliamsjr

                      there have been thousands of people claim to be the Jewish Messiah, all using these same verses to “prove” their point. they form the typological class to which the verses refer. why do you believe Jesus has a better claim to these verses’ fulfillment than Bar Kokhba, or Menachem Mendel Schneerson?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Were they raised from the dead?

                    • ngotts

                      No. Nor was Jesus.

                    • Ian

                      “No. Nor was Jesus.” – an entirely irrelevant point.

                      rmwilliamsjr and Beau were making the point that the OT prophecies Mike was referring to said nothing at all about a resurrection, unless he read them in a really extremely tortuous way.

                      So even if Jesus were raised from the dead, (which I agree, he wasn’t), the OT prophecies would still be spectacularly unimpressive and have to be read with extreme tendentiousness.

                      It all comes back to Mike’s claim that these passages, if not prophecy would be “the most amazing coincidence of all time.” Which, when he looks at “I will set you above your companions” and concludes “the phrase ‘set you above’ is, of course, an allusion to the resurrection.”, is a rather transparently biased claim.

  • WRD

    So how do you understand the term “God-breathed” in relation to all scripture? Do you throw out Paul’s second letter to Timothy? What about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians? In 2:13 Paul praises the hearers for understanding his message as not from men but from God. What about Jesus and Satan in Matthew 4 where he quotes Moses but says man cannot live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. This statement by Jesus is at odds with your understanding of inspiration as found in the paragraph about Mother Teresa and her actual thoughts not being inserted. Or is Matthew’s testimony not valid. If you have already answered these below…my bad.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      There are a number of side issues that could be brought up in relation to your comment, but let me focus on the central point, the irony of your appeal to 2 Thessalonians 2:13. There the author says that the recipients of the letter had previously accepted the Gospel message which had been proclaimed to them as being of divine origin. He says nothing about them being expected to view that letter itself in the same way.

      • WRD

        You make a good point (I guess I get to that point with Peter’s word in 2 Peter 3:16 about Paul’s letters being equated with Scripture and Scripture being God’s word (Matt 4)…BUT I DISAGREE THAT IT IS THE CENTRAL POINT.

        What do you do with the words of Jesus equating the words of Moses with the words of God (not just his inspiring thoughts about God)? I see 1 Cor 2:9-16 making it clear that “correct” or “true” thoughts about God are possible only because the Spirit has imparted that knowledge (not man within himself speaking authoritatively about God). I see this as a reasonable fulfillment of what Jesus said in John 14:26 about God the Spirit being the teaching and revealing agent and not man’s natural mind. How do you deal with these?

        I have some more thoughts below that point to Scripture being God’s own Words and not merely men’s thoughts about God (although God did use human agents so I cannot discredit man’s thoughts but the Bible claims these are from God and not from within Man). I respond with such a lengthy post because I think you are departing from the clear testimony of Scripture. There is more data to deal with than the “central point” of 1 Thess. 2:13.

        There are times in the Bible where God and Scriptures are used in the place of the other (e.g., In the OT it might say God said and then in the NT it says the Scriptures say… i.e.,more than Moses thoughts about God). Below are some examples:

        Now the
        LORD said to Abram…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed
        (Gen 12:1,3)

        And the
        Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith,
        preached the gospel beforehand…saying,
        “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8)

        Then the
        LORD said to Moses…present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him…for this
        purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be
        proclaimed in all the earth (Ex 9:13,16)

        For the
        Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up,
        that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all
        the earth.” (Rom 9:17)

        Also, what about all the OT references to the Word of God coming to men? These are clearly words of a divine entity.

        The words of Jeremiah…to whom the word of the LORD came (Jer 1:1-2)

        The word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the
        priest (Ezek 1:3)

        The word of the LORD that came to Hosea
        (Hos 1:1)

        The word of the LORD that came to Joel
        (Joel 1:1)

        Thus says the LORD (Amos 1:3)

        Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom (Obad
        1)

        Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah
        (Jonah 1:1)

        The word of the LORD that came to Micah
        (Mic 1:1)

        Thus says the LORD (Nah 1:12)

        And the LORD answered me (Hab 2:2)

        The word of the LORD that came to
        Zephaniah (Zeph 1:1)

        The word of the LORD came by the hand of
        Haggai the prophet (Hag 1:1)

        The word of the LORD came to the prophet
        Zechariah (Zech 1:1)

        The oracle
        of the word of the LORD to Israel by
        Malachi (Mal 1:1)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          OK, but are you saying that those words came to them through written texts? You seem not to be grasping the point about those things rarely if ever referring to written texts, and even then not being referring to those texts as a whole. Jesus’ reference to Moses having allowed divorce, rather than it being a divinely ordained law, is a classic example.

          We must also include consideration of the evidence that the prophets wrote with different styles reflecting their different personalities. However one understands divine inspiration, the evidence from the Bible doesn’t allow for it to be something that bypasses or overrides the personalities of those inspired.

          • WRD

            I am trying to understand your first paragraph but I am not able to as of yet…I am trying to figure out the antecedent of “those things.” I am assuming it is connected to “those words” which connects with my examples?

            My take on inspiration has always been in relation to the product (the Scriptures) and not the authors. All Scripture is God-breathed, not the authors. This term is not used for his authors like in 2 Peter 1:21 or elsewhere.

            I do agree with your second paragraph that the authors personalities are not bypassed. I would see God providentially preparing (the family, background, culture, language, intellect, etc.) his authors so that what is written is at the same time the words of man and yet the word of God.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              So can the Torah be “the Word of God” and yet still include concessions from Moses which don’t reflect the perfect divine will, on your view? It would seem that any view which cannot embrace that statement attributed to Jesus can’t lay a serious claim to be a Christian view of Scripture.

  • Dawn

    What makes you say that? These are your thoughts. What do you base your proof on?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Hi Dawn! I wasn’t clear what your question was aimed at. Did you read the post? It sounded as though you were perhaps responding to the title of the post without reading it.

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