Thursday, May 06, 2010

Inspiration and the Bible

The latest issue of JETS is out and it contains several good little articles, one of which is "What Does Theology Have to Do with the Bible? A Call for the Expansion of the Doctrine of Inspiration" by Norris C. Grubbs and Curtis Scott Drumm from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In their conclusion they wisely state:

"The definitions of inspiration drafted by systematic theologians clearly do not address the entire process as it is acknowledged and described by biblical studies scholars. Even though the concepts are well known, the issues of collection, revision, multiple authorship, and the use of secretaries have no place within our current definitional understandings of inspiration. Similarly, biblical scholars are making affirmations about the formation of the biblical text without considering the theological implications or possible contradictions inherent in those affirmations. Indeed, there seems to be a disconnect on the part of biblical scholars for how these textual theories relate to the theological concept of the original autographs ... The most important implication from this article is that the traditional definitions of inspiration need to be expanded in order to account for issues such as collection, revision, and multiple authorship. While the tradition understandings of inspiration with their emphasis on the authors are helpful and theologically correct, the various genres and content of the biblical text require a broader view of the important issue. Perhaps a larger stress on the process rather than just the writer would provide an avenue for going forward."

That is indeed the problem. It is impossible to attribute several books of the Bible to a single author writing a book in one or more sittings without any subsequent collection and revision of their work (e.g., Psalter, Jeremiah). The pink monkey in the room, however, is how much process can you allow? Can you go to Trito-Isaiah, JEDP theory, two editions of Acts, etc? But this article pushes the discussion in the right way and their Grenzian approach is commendable.


pennoyer said...

I would suggest very simply that the mysterious process of inspiration needs to be extended until the book reaches its "canonical form." For the OT, that would be the form in which Jesus received it. That would be the proto-rabbinic form as opposed to the form underlying the Septuagint (where they differ).

uno extranjero y peregrino said...


But isn't the version of the Old Testament most quoted by the apostles the LXX? Wasn't the Masoretic Text formed by Rabbis in response to Christian faith? Shouldn't this have an impact on which 'canonical form' we use?

...or am I misinformed?

pennoyer said...

@uno - On your two points:

1) The NT does sometimes quote from the Septuagint or other Greek recensions. That is not entirely unexpected because the NT was written in an international context where Greek was the common language and, besides, the Septuagint was often known to the target audience. I would argue that this does not confer special canonical status on the Septuagint as a whole, however. That special status should be reserved for the form of the Hebrew and Aramaic text used by Jesus. On this point, I would argue, Jews and Christians can be in agreement.

2) I do believe you are misinformed on the second issue. I know of no evidence that the Masoretic Text (which goes back to the proto-Rabbinic text of Jesus' time) was formed in response to the Christian faith.

Blessings, Ray

Michael F. Bird said...


I'll have to disagree with you. I think around 90% of NT citations of the OT are LXX based. In some cases, the NT cites editions and wordings not found in the MT. In some cases, Paul's linking of two texts together like Ps. 32.2 and Gen. 15.6 is based on their LXX likeness not their Hebrew likeness. And some LXX readings can be even found in the DSS versions of the OT. And rabbinic attitudes towards the LXX were formed in response to Christian appropriation of the LXX.

Rick Wadholm Jr. said...

Thanks for the post! I've been pondering such things for some time now, but have yet to read any proposal of inspiration with regard to amenuenses, redactors, etc. I also agree that this may open up what I would actually reject (which is some of the seemingly endless conceptions of redaction found in certain sectors of Biblical studies). Thanks for sharing this.

awilum said...

I would further add in response to the assertion that the MT precedes the time of Jesus that if by MT you are referring to vocalization then this is a product of the 5-8th century AD. The vocalization may preserve older readings (and I also think that the MT preserves variant *interpretations* in the ketiv/qere) but there is IMHO minimal proof of this in spite of Revell et al's claims. Lastly, I have seen several passages that are interpreted Christologically (particularly in Isa and Psa) and it seems that the MT self-consciously vocalizes them to avoid or obscure these types of interps.

On a related point, I haven't read the article but it seems that the authors continue to use the term "autograph" even though they are trying to include perspectives that see books edited over time with multiple authors/editors. It seems to me that by definition this is not an "autograph" so why retain the term?

John Anderson said...

Ok, just my two cents, NO ONE should propose JEDP or anything like it . . . and I'm not saying that because of my "view" of inspiration!

Mike W said...

Andrew Shead, an Old Testament Scholar at Moore College did an interesting study of this very question in Jeremiah for the Moore College Annual Lectures in 2007. They still haven't come out in print, but are worth a listen from the Moore College site

pennoyer said...


Would you argue, therefore, that because the NT authors tend to use existing Greek translations in their OT citations, that fact confers canonical status on the LXX as a whole? That seems to me to be a leap. I think it would be more coherent to hold to the canonical form of the text closest to the one used by Jesus and, most importantly, held by him to be authoritative. (At least more coherent for modern day Christians and translators who have access to both the MT and LXX.) In this way of looking at it, the LXX citations used in the NT would then be treated as special cases, that is, they are also inspired by the fact of their inclusion in the NT.

Note: When I speak about the priority of the MT, I am not talking about simple variant readings, of which the LXX can often be the more original witness.

E said...

I think it would be more coherent to hold to the canonical form of the text closest to the one used by Jesus and, most importantly, held by him to be authoritative.

Why restrict this to Jesus? Why not include Paul and the other NT authors?

And per the above comments and Lee Martin McDonald, over 90% of the NT quotations of the OT are from or related to the LXX. Which does create a bit of a sticky wicket for the doctrine of what text is inspired and what that means.

pennoyer said...


Not to be too quick to the mark, but it is Jesus who is Lord of the Church, right?

And besides, I think it is a leap to go from "Paul cited the LXX" to "Paul affirms the Vorlage of the LXX to be superior to the proto-Rabbinic text."

Blessings, Ray

E said...

You're right, Ray. I forgot that the church has clearly affirmed that Paul and the other NT writers spoke and wrote by the inspiration of a lesser Spirit than Jesus did. And that while what Jesus said was pure and perfect in all its words and ways, what the other writers said and wrote was less so, esp. if they used the LXX.

My bad. :)

But what you and I are batting back and forth is part of the inspiration problem that this post is discussing, isn't it? So, what is the answer?

MrErr said...

This may seem like a leap to most of you, but i think it is worthwhile to consider. Timothy was born of a Greek father and Jewish mother. He was not circumcised, so not very Jewish. But he was taught the scripture. The most likely scripture for him to be taught from is the LXX. So reading 2 Tim 3:16-17 in context should lead us to believe that Paul was saying that "All scripture" {i am sure there is a good reason he was using "ALL"} is referring to the LXX.

MrErr said...

It is good to see people in academia finally taking up the issue of origin of scripture seriously. I have found the doctrine of inerrancy to be wanting. We first need to understand how the OT came together. Understanding history properly i think you will realize the OT was canonized based on both written tradition and oral tradition. Also it is canonization that is the final arbitrator of scripture not the original authors. Understanding how the OT came to us will make that clear. The NT also came to us a similar way.

E said...


Addressing these questions would make for a good episode of CSI.

Tim Ricci said...

So...if someone was to do a Th.M. on the doctrine of scripture what 5 books would they want to be reading (not counting Inspiration and Incarnation and God's Word in Human Words...I already read them :) )?

Honzo said...

Can this be easily solved by asking the systematic theologians to adopt a divine stamp view of inspiration rather than a divine ghostwriting view?

MrErr said...

Good way to break down the problem. My reading of history of scriptures leads me to say that you need both a divine stamp view and a divine ghostwriting view. It is the divine stamp view that has been left out of systematic theology.


E said...

Well, since Scripture and Canon are almost the same thing, a better CSI episode, IMO, on the how and why and what of our Bible would be:


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