The Meaning Of Inspiration

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Jesus, the apostles, and God Himself, all declare that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. But what does "inspiration" mean? Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield of Princeton, one of the greatest Greek scholars of all time, put it this way:

By it [inspiration], the Spirit of God, flowing confluently with the providentially and graciously determined work of men, spontaneously producing under the Divine directions the writings appointed them, gives the product a Divine quality unattainable by human powers alone.99 The esteemed Old Testament scholar and Semitic language expert, Edward J. Young, said:

Inspiration is a superintendence of God the Holy Spirit over the writers of the Scriptures, as a result of which these Scriptures possess Divine authority and trustworthiness, and possessing such Divine authority and trustworthiness, are free from error.100 Norman Geisler and William Nix, in their book A General Introduction to the Bible, define biblical inspiration in this way:

Inspiration is that mysterious process by which the divine causality worked through the human prophets without destroying their individual personalities and styles to produce divinely authoritative and inerrant writings.101

There are many people who confuse inspired with inspiring. There are those who say, "Oh, yes, the Bible is inspired," and yet so is John Milton, or Plato, or Socrates, or Aristotle, or any writer that might touch their fancy. Yet what they really mean is that many of these writers are inspiring—and with that I have no quarrel. But to say that they have been inspired by God to write His infallible will is an altogether different matter.

Perhaps the situation would be less confusing if the word inspiration (found in our comprehensive definition of 2 Timothy 3:16) had been translated differently from the Greek. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" is an incomplete translation. The Greek word theopneutos means "God-breathed"—that is, the Scriptures are "breathed out" by God. It is more expiration than inspiration. Probably the English translation should have said "all Scripture is breathed out by God" and the confusion with "inspiring" would at least be overcome.

THE BIBLE'S FULFILLED PROPHECIES

What evidence do we have that the Bible is inspired or God-breathed? First of all, in Deuteronomy 18:22, God tells us how we may know if a prophet is sent from Him: "When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him."

God alone knows the future, "which turns on many slippery and very tricky ball-bearings" as one historian said. God alone can prophesy the future.

The Scriptures are unique in that in the Old Testament alone, there are over 2,000 prophecies that have already come to pass. You will look in vain for anything like this in the world. If we consider all the other religions of the world, there are twenty-six books which the followers of these religions claim to be divinely inspired—the books themselves make no such claim— and the books contain no specific prophecies.

Of the more than 2,000 prophecies found in the Bible, 333 deal with the coming of the Messiah. There is no other individual in the history of mankind whose entire life has been so prophetically and predictively detailed.

Frederich Meldau points out that as few as five simple points of identification can single out any individual from all of the 6 billion other people that live on this planet, and yet with Christ we have 333 points of identification. For example, suppose your name is Lester B. Smith, and somewhere in the world an envelope with that name and the address 4143 Madison Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. is mailed. It doesn't matter in what country that letter is mailed, it will ultimately come to you, because it has the five key points of identification: the country, the state, the city, the street, and your name.

Note that one point alone is not sufficient for identification. A Christian once showed an educated unbeliever one of the 333 Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. After reading it, the skeptic said that he thought that for purposes of identifying Christ it was very weak and unsatisfactory. To which the young Christian replied, "I agree with you."

"What?" The skeptic exclaimed. "You agree with me?"

"Yes," said the Christian, "I think it is weak and unsatisfactory in the same way that I think a single thread is weak and unsatisfactory to handle any great weight and can be easily snapped. And yet if we take 333 such threads and wind them together, no man, not even the two strongest men we could find, would be able to break the cord produced by the combined threads. So it is with these prophecies. Though any of them may appear to be weak and unsatisfactory in identifying the Messiah, when all 333 of them come together, they present a case which is unbreakable."

Similarly, if I were to take one piece from a box containing a large jigsaw puzzle, which, when assembled, pictured the face of a famous individual, and I were to say to you, "Oh, I recognize this. It's Abraham Lincoln." You would not be easily convinced. But when all the pieces of the puzzle were in place, the features of our sixteenth President would be clearly delineated and it would be easy for you to recognize him.

Here are some of the prophecies Jesus fulfilled:

• He would come from the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3, c. 1400 b.c., cf., Galatians 3:8).

• He would come from the line of Judah, of the line of Isaac and that of Jacob (Genesis 49:10, c. 1400 b.c.).

• He would be from the house of David (Jeremiah 23:5, c. 600 b.c.).

• He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, c. 750 b.c.).

• He would be given the throne of David (Psalm 132:11, c. 1000 b.c.).

• This throne would be an everlasting throne (Psalm 45:6, c. 1000 b.c.)

• His name would be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14, c. 750 b.c.).

• He would have a forerunner who would proclaim His coming (Malachi 3:1, c. 425 b.c.).

• He would be born in Bethlehem and not merely any Bethlehem, because there were, in fact, two. He would be born in Bethlehem Ephratah, which was the small Bethlehem down south in Judea (Micah 5:2, c. 720 b.c.). There was a Bethlehem Zebulun in the northern extreme of Israel.

• He would live for a while in Egypt (Hosea 11:1, c. 700 b.c.).

• His birthplace, Bethlehem, would suffer a massacre of infants (as Herod slaughtered the infants when he heard of the birth of Jesus) (Jeremiah 31:15, c. 600 b.c.).

• He would be called a Nazarene (Judges 13:5, c. 1040 b.c.).

• He would be zealous for His Father's house (Psalm 69:9, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would be filled with God's Spirit (Isaiah 61:1, c. 750 b.c.).

All of these things were written hundreds of years before He was born. Stop and think my friends. Suppose you were trying to describe the man who would be inaugurated President of the United States in the year 2764. He was going to be born in a small town, let's say in Mississippi—a town so small it wasn't even on the maps of that day, but it exists. You would have to describe this man's lineage and all of the things he would do and would have done to him during his lifetime. As in Christ's case:

• He would miraculously heal many (Isaiah 35:5-6, c. 750 b.c.).

• The blind would see (Isaiah 35:5, c. 750 b.c.).

• The deaf would hear (Isaiah 35:5, c. 750 b.c.).

• The lame would walk (Isaiah 35:6, c. 750 b.c.).

• He would draw the Gentiles to Himself (Isaiah 42:6, c. 750 b.c.).

• He would speak in parables (Psalm 78:2-4, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would be rejected by His own family and friends (Isaiah 53:3, c. 750 b.c.).

• He would make a triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9, c. 500 b.c.).

• He would be praised by little children (Psalm 8:2, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would be rejected as a cornerstone of the nation, which He would turn out to be (Psalm 118:22, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would not be believed (Isaiah 53:1, c. 750 b.c.)..

• A friend would betray him (Psalm 41:9, c. 1000 b.c.) for a specific amount of money— 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12, c. 500 b.c.).

(Now this President, who shall reign in 2764, shall be betrayed by a friend for how much money? Do you know? How did the prophet know?)

• He would be a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3, c. 750 b.c.).

• He would be forsaken by all of His followers (Zechariah 13:7, c. 500 b.c.).

• He would be scourged and spat upon (Isaiah 50:6, c. 750 b.c.).

• His price money would be used to buy a potter's field (Zechariah 11:12, c. 500 b.c.).

• He would be given gall and vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would suffer the piercing of His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16, c. 1000 b.c.).

• His garments would be parted among His crucifiers and would be gambled for (Psalm 22:18, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would be surrounded and ridiculed by His enemies (Psalm 22:12-13, 16-17, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would commend His spirit to God the Father (Psalm 31:5, c. 1000 b.c.).

• Not a bone of His would be broken (Exodus 12:46, c. 1400 b.c.).

• He would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9, c. 750 b.c.).

• He would be raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would ascend to heaven (Psalm 68:18, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would become a high priest greater than Aaron—in the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would be seated at God's right hand (Psalm 110:1, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would become a smiting scepter (Psalm 2:9, c. 1000 b.c.).

• He would rule the Gentiles (Psalm 2:8, c. 1000 b.c.).

What does Dan Brown say about all these prophecies and their fulfillment? Absolutely nothing. He just ignores them, just as he ignores Paul the apostle. Instead, Brown prefers to listen to second, third, and fourth century documents that alleged to be "gospels," supposedly written by apostles—who had been long dead.

Lee Strobel, a former skeptic, says of the prophecies Christ fulfilled that the Old Testament gives us a thumbprint: "It says that when you find the person that fits this thumbprint, that's the Messiah. That's the Son of

God, and throughout history, only Jesus Christ has had that thumbprint."102 Strobel—who earned a law degree at Yale, used to be an award-winning legal affairs journalist for the Chicago Tribune—until he was confronted with the claims of Christ. He decided to apply all of his journalistic skills toward Christianity, so he could show how historically incorrect it was. But the skeptic became a believer when he studied the facts, as has happened many times down through history.

If you are a skeptic, I challenge you to study the historical facts about Jesus Christ—His death, His resurrection, and the prophecies written hundreds of years before He came that show with pinpoint accuracy that Christianity is true. Strobel has now written (with Gary Poole) his own rebuttal to Dan Brown's novel, Exploring The Da Vinci Code.1"3

As Strobel studied the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, he found that they weren't easily dismissed. He writes: "The more I studied them, the more difficulty I had in trying to explain them away."104 As he looked at the odds of any one person fulfilling these prophecies, he was stunned at the scientific evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. Strobel was shocked by the work of mathematician Peter Stoner,105 who proved that the chance of any one person fulfilling even eight of these Old Testament prophecies was one in 1017 —that's 10 with seventeen zeroes after it. Strobel began to grapple with the implications of those formidable odds:

To try to comprehend that enormous number, I did some calculations. I imagined the entire world being covered with white tile that was one-and-a-half inches square—every bit of dry land on the planet—with the bottom of just one tile painted red.

Then I pictured a person being allowed to wander for a lifetime around all seven continents. He would be permitted to bend down only one time and pick up a single piece of tile. What are the odds it would be the one tile whose reverse side was painted red? The odds would be the same as just eight of the Old Testament prophecies coming true in any one person throughout history.106 If that didn't boggle Strobel's mind enough, Stoner demonstrated that the chances of any one fulfilling 48 prophecies were 10157.107 Strobel realized the incredible implications of that as well. It would be like finding "a single predetermined atom among all the atoms in a trillion trillion trillion trillion billion universes the size of our universe."108 Lee Strobel finally did the intellectually honest thing—he recognized Jesus as the Messiah. He has now written such classics as The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith.

That Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the messianic prophecies provides compelling evidence for the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. The other 1,700 or so prophecies of the Old Testament deal mostly with the cities and nations that were in or near the land of Israel. Their future is outlined in those prophecies. The major emphasis of Scripture itself is on those thousands of spe cific prophecies. They are not vague, they could not have been made after the events, and they could never have been known by the people who made them.

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