The Biblical Evidence for the Verbal-Plenary Inspiration of the Bible -- By: John A. Witmer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 121:483 (Jul 1964)
Article: The Biblical Evidence for the Verbal-Plenary Inspiration of the Bible
Author: John A. Witmer


The Biblical Evidence for the
Verbal-Plenary Inspiration of the Bible

John A. Witmer

[John A. Witmer, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Acting Librarian, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Christians normally equate the Bible with the Word of God. To most this means accepting the verbal-plenary inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures. Even church leaders who deny and oppose this doctrine admit that it is the belief of the average Christian. Holmes Rolston, for example, writes: “If we would ask the average church school teacher why the Bible is important for Christian teaching, we would probably be told that this book is indispensable because it is the Word of God.”1 Two centuries of destructive Biblical criticism have failed to erase the identity of the Bible and the Word of God for the average Christian.

In addition to its persistent prevalence today, the verbally inspired, inerrant character of the Scriptures has been the historic doctrine of the church through the centuries until the rise of modern criticism. Space does not allow documentation of this assertion for every period of church history;2 but we will illustrate with the Reformation, a period whose belief on this issue is disputed by crisis theologians in particular. Harold DeWolf describes Calvin as “restricted” by a “rigid doctrine of Biblical inerrancy” in contrast to Barth.3 Speaking of the “sixteenth-century reformers” in general, Bakhuizen van den Brink identifies the first of two “inviolable” points as “Scripture is identical with God’s word.”4

If the verbal-plenary inspiration of the Bible and its concomitant inerrancy are the historic doctrine of the church and are commonly held today by the average Christian, these questions logically arise: Where did this belief come from? How did this doctrine develop? Why does it continue to persist under unrelenting attack? The only reasonable answer to these questions is, The Bible itself teaches it. If the doctrine that the Bible is the Word of God had been imposed upon the Scriptures instead of found in them, it would not have gone unchallenged for centuries nor would it persist today in the face of the all-out modern rationalistic attack.

At this very point, however, modern criticism challenges logic with a denial. Dewey Beegle, for example, calls “the verbal plenary formulation of inspiration…a non-Biblical doctrine.”5 The fact of the matter is that the Bible do...

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