The Extent of Biblical Inspiration

Is it Possible to Carry Inspiration Too Far

Timothy S. Morton

As should be expected, in these latter days the Scriptural view of Biblical inspiration has been under attack. The position of many who claim to be Christians, including entire denominations, is inspiration does not extend to the actual words of the Scriptures but only to concepts or ideas that may be found in the Scriptures. Some do not believe in any form of inspiration beyond the natural inspiration of some men in general, and others only believe in a universal, Christian inspiration that is shared by all believers.

On the other hand there are certain believers who essentially claim Biblical inspiration extends beyond the words of Scripture, even as far as the spelling, punctuation, capitalization, italics, and general text layout. How far does inspiration extend according to the Scriptures? It is obvious one can minimize the true nature of inspiration, but can one extend inspiration too far?

Inspired or Expired?

The two salient passages that deal with Biblical inspiration are 2 Tim 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21. 2 Tim plainly states all scripture is given by inspiration of God. Thus if a text is Scripture, it was/is then given to man by inspiration. This begs the question; what is inspiration? The classic definition is it means God-breathed, that is God breathed something into man.

Often one will read where inspiration is defined as God breathing out His words, but the passage does not state this explicitly. Look at the word INspiration. It speaks of something going IN; not something coming OUT. The something coming out is only implied. Thus the emphasis is what is going IN to those blessed with the inspiration. William Evans stated this clearly in his excellent book, Great Doctrines of the Bible,

Inspiration, then, as defined by Paul in this passage, is the strong, conscious inbreathing of God into men, qualifying them to give utterance to truth. It is God speaking through men, and the Old Testament is therefore just as much the Word of God as though God spake every single word of it with His own lips. The Scriptures are the result of divine inbreathing, just as human speech is uttered by the breathing through a man's mouth.

Now the question arises, what is it that was given by inspiration? What was breathed in? 2 Peter 1:21 gives some more details.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Ah, the Holy Ghost moved mean to SPEAK, and what do men speak? Words, man speaks with words. When the Lord wanted to proclaim a prophecy to mankind he would by His Holy Spirit move upon a man in such a way as to cause the man to speak His words. When these words were written down they became Scripture.

Since the Lord gave the prophets the words to speak or write, this requires the inspiration to be verbal. Verbal inspiration means the actual words were given, not just concepts or ideas. The Bible says a great deal about words. A search of verses that contain words and Lord will return scores of revealing verses. For instance,

And Moses told Aaron all the WORDS of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him. (Exo 4:28)

And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these WORDS which the LORD commanded him. (Exo 19:7)

And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the WORDS of this law and these statutes, to do them: (Deu 17:19)

And thou shalt write upon them all the WORDS of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee.  (Deu 27:3)

If thou wilt not observe to do all the WORDS of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD; (Deu 28:58)    

And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the WORDS of the LORD your God. (Jos 3:9)

And Joshua wrote these WORDS in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. (Jos 24:26)

All is clear to a Bible believer: the Lord gave His very words to certain men to speak and write. To quote Evans again,

The statements of the Scriptures regarding Inspiration may be summed up as follows: Holy men of God, qualified by the infusion of the breath of God, wrote in obedience to the divine command, and were kept from all error, whether they revealed truths previously unknown or recorded truths already familiar. In this sense, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, the Bible is indeed and in truth the very Word of God, and the books of the Bible are of divine origin and authority.

Inspiration and the Authorized Version

By the very definition of Fundamentalism, all Fundamentalists must agree with the above. One of the main tenets of Fundamentalism is the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures. However, as Bible believers all too well know, most who identify with Fundamentalism insist this inspiration extends only to the original autographs. We will not spend time examining this here since we have already covered it in detail in other material.

Claiming only the original autographs WERE inspired is essentially believing in something that doesn't exist. As anyone who has even slightly examined this issue realizes, not one of the original autographs still exists. Therefore, according to the Autograph Only crowd there is no infallible, inspired Bible on the face of the earth. All that is left is reliable texts and reliable translations.

The Bible believer doesn't believe in such a useless and impotent inspiration. He believes the same God who gave His words by inspiration will also preserve them unto all generations. They further believe these preserved words are found in all their inerrancy and purity in the Authorized King James Bible of 1611. For an outline of the thought process leading to the conclusion that the AV is the pure word of God preserved in English, see From the Original Texts to the English Bible.

Sometimes critics of the Bible believing philosophy will bring up something called double-inspiration in an attempt to confound a Bible believer. They try to trap the believer into making inconsistent and contradictory statements by insisting the he believes the KJB is/was inspired in itself when it was translated (1603-1611). But the truth is the words of God did not loose their inspiration along the way to need to be re-inspired!

Since the Autograph Only believe only the original autographs were inspired, they believe it is logical only the original languages can convey the inspiration. Nonsense. No where in the Scriptures does it say God's words loose their power, inerrancy, or inspiration when they are translated. We showed multiple instances of how the words retain all their virtues in Which Translation Should You Trust? So since the words did not loose their inspiration when translated, they do not need to be re-inspired as the critics try to claim.

Some Bible believers, however, fuel such attacks with certain statements they make. In an attempt to uphold and exalt the word of God your author has heard believers claim the spelling, punctuation, capitalization, text layout, word format and even type-face are also inspired. These brethren are well meaning in their attempt to uphold the AV, but frankly, their zeal is not according to knowledge or Scripture.

As we outlined above, the Scriptures were given by inspiration by the moving of the Holy Spirit upon certain men. This inspiration was verbal and thus extended to the very words, and these words have been and are continuously preserved by the Lord for all generations, but what is a word?

Words, Words, and More Words

Words are sounds that are spoken to express a specific idea or tangible thing.  Webster's 1828 defines word as,

WORD, n. [G., L., to speak. A word is that which is uttered or thrown out.]

1. An articulate or vocal sound, or a combination of articulate and vocal sounds, uttered by the human voice, and by custom expressing an idea or ideas; a single component part of human speech or language. 

Thus since words are spoken, we learn a key lesson in understanding what was given by inspiration: the sound that represents a word. It is the sound of a word that defines it, not the spelling, etc. Meaning is linked to the sound of the word; not to its appearance.

For instance the words, life, death, water, light, pain, etc. all refer to specific thoughts, concepts or things. There is no ambiguity. However, what if pain was spelled paine, payne, or pane. Would it be any less painful? To paraphrase Shakespeare, would pain by any other spelling sting any less? Obviously spelling does not change the meaning of the word. It is just a variation in the appearance of the written word.

The same can be said for punctuation. Punctuation is merely an aid to understanding the written word. Most punctuation as we know it today was unknown in Bible times. Sometimes Bible texts were even written without spaces between the words. This could lead to some confusion. TRUTHISNOWHERE could say Truth is now here or Truth is no where. Concerning punctuation, You are smart can have a different thought than You, are smart?  thus word spacing or punctuation can affect meaning. Punctuation does not change the meaning of the individual words, but it can change the meaning of a group of words or sentence. It is the context that determines the proper meaning and punctuation.

Some Bible believers have not considered these facts when making statements concerning the preservation of the Scriptures. Your author has heard some say things like, If you change one letter in the King James Version you have corrupted God's word. Or If you move or change one comma, you are a Bible corrector. Though well meaning, statements like this are actually counterproductive. The proof is the King James Bible itself.

Although it has been available for nearly 400 years, some of the brethren are apparently unaware that the edition of the AV we use today is not the original edition of 1611. The current edition was first printed in 1769 with (as the critics of the AV love to point out) thousands of visible changes from the 1611 edition. However, the vast majority of these changes are only changes in spelling and punctuation. The 1611 edition spells fear as feare; love as loue; and sin as sinne. Is any meaning changed, though? Of course not. Sin is still sin whether it is spelled sin, sinne, or syn.

Sometimes the 1611 edition even uses a symbol instead of a word. For instance in Gen. 2:4 a & is used in place of and, but and is found later in the verse. This really throws a monkey-wrench into the works for those who insist the appearance of a word is inspired. & is not even a word! And which is the "inspired" appearance, & or and? This is little different than exchanging the written out numbers to digits as done in the AV Numerical.

Also, as a result of the spelling changes, the 1769 edition usually has several fewer letters per verse and many fewer letters over all. This also affects words. The 1611 will sometimes have two words where the 1769 only has one, and vice versa (in stead for instead; Gen 2:21). Thus the total word count between the editions is different as well. Another difference is in the italics. The 1611 has considerably fewer italics than the 1769. In view of this all one needs to challenge the statements some brethren make concerning the word count, spelling, punctuation, italics, etc. of the current 1769 KJB is the original 1611 KJB.

Statistics of Authorized Version


Checked with Bible Analyzer

Different But The Same

In view of all that is different between the editions of the KJB, let's consider what is the same -- the WORDS! Even with all the spelling, punctuation, etc., differences, the words are the same and thus the meaning is the same making them the SAME Bible. The surest proof for showing they are the same text and same Bible is there is no difference in the hearing in this words. If someone read aloud from a 1611 edition and another from the 1769, there would be no difference in the hearing! The words are the same. Remember where Peter said holy men of God SPAKE? It is in the speaking and hearing where words and their meaning are found. Try this with the so-called NKJV (or any other version). You won't go two verses before you hear different words. 

It is this knowledge of the verbal agreement between the 1611 and 1769 editions that allows Bible believers to refer to them interchangeably. We often say we believe the true Bible to be the Authorized King James version of 1611 when some may have never seen the 1611 and use the 1769 edition. This is acceptable because they are simply two editions of the same text, consisting of the same words (apart from the very few misprints in the 1611 printing).

Can the Spelling be Changed Again?

In relation to this, the argument can be made that if the spelling of the AV has been updated without harm to the text, it could be done again. To be consistent such a conclusion must be true, but that does not mean it is necessary or even beneficial. If the Lord desired He could cause an edition of the AV to be distributed that uses modern spelling for the relatively few words in the 1769 that use older spelling. But ,again, this does not mean that such has to be done or even should be done. Only that it could be done without harm to the text.

Occasionally, your author has had brethren insist the spelling cannot be changed without corrupting the text. One brother claimed the spelling of Saviour in the 1769 is the only proper spelling of the term implying it was in some way sanctified. He alleged the modern spelling of Savior was a perversion. We asked him if Saviour is the only acceptable spelling, what is he going to do with Sauiour as found in the 1611 edition? He did not reply.

Bible believers need to be consistent. God is not the God of confusion or irrational reasoning. The lesson is the Lord is showing us with the two editions of the AV is spelling, punctuation, italics, typeface,  divided compound words and even symbols are not actually the Scriptures. The WORDS are the Scriptures.

Let's go a little further. Your author has heard some of the brethren say, The 1769 King James has been God's choice for 250 years and woe be anyone that dares change it in the least. They claim to resist any deviation from the 1769 while at the same time many of them use a modern printing of the Bible that uses a self-pronouncing text which contains thousands of visible changes.

The self-pronouncing text in many Bibles today was not incorporated in the 1769 edition. It was developed in the 1800's by Oxford Press as an aid to pronouncing some of the more difficult Bible words. Many thousands of the plain 1769 words were modified to include dashes, hyphens, and other pronunciation marks. For example, Enoch is rendered E`noch. In spite of their numerous additions, these changes amount to little more than a spelling change. And as with any spelling change there is no difference in the hearing, and if there is no difference in the hearing, there is no difference in the words.

The Conclusion of the Matter

In summary, the 1611 edition of the AV along with the 1769 edition (and all editions in between), plus the self-pronouncing version of the 1769, any red-letter edition (and even our own AV Numerical which changes the written out numbers to digits) are all the pure King James Bible because there is no difference in the hearing of the words. They are the same text. Those who differ will have a hard time proving their claims from the Scriptures. The promises God has made deal with words, not spelling, punctuation, layout, and other non verbal matters. No where in the Bible does it say God's words must be spelled a certain way or even laid out in verses. If that were true then the Autograph Only would be correct in insisting only the original autographs can convey the full extent of God's word.

In summary the 1611 edition of the AV along with the 1769 edition (and all editions in between), plus the self-pronouncing version of the 1769, and any red-letter printing are all the pure King James Bible because there is no difference in the hearing of the words. They are the same text. Those who differ will have a hard time proving their claims from the Scriptures. The promises God has made deal with words, not spelling, punctuation, layout, and other ancillary matters. No where in the Bible does it say God's words must be spelled a certain way or even laid out in verses. If that were true then the Autograph Only would be correct in insisting only the original autographs can convey the full extent of God's word.

Since 1984 we have insisted,