Who Is This God?—Biblical Inspiration Revisited -- By: Jeremy Begbie

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 43:2 (NA 1992)
Article: Who Is This God?—Biblical Inspiration Revisited
Author: Jeremy Begbie

Who Is This God?—Biblical Inspiration Revisited

Jeremy Begbie


Much of the contemporary discussion about biblical inspiration can be significantly advanced if the most important question of theology—who is God?—and its most profound answer—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—are kept firmly in the foreground. More specifically, although frequent mention of the Holy Spirit is made in the modern debate, insufficent attention has been paid to the trinitarian setting of the Spirit’s work. This is illustrated by reference to the work of B.B. Warfield and James Barr. The article suggests some of the ways in which a greater trinitarian awareness might open up more fruitful avenues for future consideration.

I. Introduction

Can anything new be said about biblical inspiration? So well-worn is the topic, and so sensitive the associated issues, one’s natural inclination is to give the topic a very wide berth. Nevertheless, a striking feature of the modern debate about inspiration calls for at least some comment and is, I believe, worth following up, namely the widespread reluctance to relate the inspiration of Scripture to fundamental theological convictions about the nature and character of God and his ways with the world.

As is well known, a number of theories have been constructed by extrapolating (often inappropriate) meanings from the English word ‘inspiration’.1 For example, inspiration has been taken to mean a general illumination that all spiritually sensitive people share and is thus either narrowed down to only some (‘inspiring’) books or passages of the Bible or widened to include other religious

classics. Some scholars model biblical inspiration on one person inspiring another.2 A number of literary critics see the Bible chiefly as an artistic creation whose inspiration—its poetic, rhetorical and narrative force—may be enjoyed by any modern reader quite apart from the beliefs of the community which produced it or ‘authorial intention’.3

In such instances, it is often said that the key text 2 Timothy 3:16 is being ignored, where the word theopneustos is probably best rendered ‘God-breathed’ rather than ‘inspired’ and appears to denote primarily the origination of Scripture in God, conveying little if anything about the manner in which it was written and compiled, nor about its effect today. But I would contend that a deeper problem—and it is one shared ...

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