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How did God inspire the Bible?

The usual way that Christians understand the Bible to be a book from God is to say that he inspired it.

The concept of ‘inspiration’ comes from 2 Timothy 3.16, which refers to the Bible by the Greek word theopneustos (‘God-breathed’).

In Latin this was then translated as inspirata, from which we get the word inspiration. Inspiration is understood to mean that the Bible is not just an ordinary collection of documents. Rather, it usually means that the biblical authors were prompted to write as they did by God.

This doesn’t simply mean, however, that the writers looked to God for ideas. Nor does it mean that what they wrote was necessarily ‘inspiring’ – some parts of the Bible are rather difficult. It simply means that God had a hand in the process of writing the Bible.

Because of this, some Christians call the Bible ‘the word of God’.

Nevertheless, Christians may often have very different understandings of what it means to say that the Bible is ‘inspired’.

Some people understand inspiration to apply to the words of the biblical texts themselves. Others believe that inspiration extends only to the messages the Bible contains, or to the people who wrote them down. Still others use the term to refer to the process of reading the Bible in the here and now. So there is a range of views about what it means to say God ‘inspired’ the Bible.

For most of us, it's probably best not to get too bogged down in questions about how inspiration ‘works’. One thing all Christians agree on is that the Bible is God's gift to us, and that he speaks to us through it, enriching our lives, teaching us more about himself, and revealing Jesus to us. So we approach it humbly, reverently and prayerfully, asking God for wisdom as we read it.

Author: Bible Society, 23 September 2021 (Last updated: 6 October 2021)

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