Explore the Bible: 2 Peter 1:12-21
Explore the Bible: 2 Peter 1:11-21
The inspiration of the Bible is one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity. While the doctrines of God and of Jesus Christ may be more important in and of themselves, since God is the source of all things and salvation comes through Jesus, without a reliable revelation of God we could never know the truth about God Himself. There is a certain amount of information about God available through what we call general revelation, the natural world and the inner conscience of the person, but that only helps us understand that there is a God and that we are not innately good. We need to know far more to be right with God, and only He can reveal to us the truth that we need.
2 Peter 1:20-21 is perhaps the clearest statement about the inspiration of Scripture in the Bible, along with 2 Timothy 3:16. The role of the Holy Spirit in “carrying along” the writers of the Bible gives us a good picture of the process. The Bible was not simply dictated by God and dutifully transcribed by the human authors (except for a few places where the authors indicate that they are writing exactly what God says), but the human authors wrote in their own words and styles while the Holy Spirit guided and protected the final product so it was exactly what He wanted written. The Bible is without error and authoritative because it comes from God, but it also is a collection of works that show the personalities and emphases of human writers over some 1500 years.
Despite being a clear statement of inspiration, the phrase “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation” has caused some disagreement among scholars. Some see it as referring to the original authors, with the implication that what they wrote was not merely their own ideas but the words the Spirit wanted written. Others see it as referring to the readers of Scripture, who cannot simply make the Bible say what they want it to say, but must be subject to what the Spirit intended the author to say.
When the context is considered, I believe that more weight should be given to the first option. Since the passage makes note of the role of both the human author and the Holy Spirit, and the previous passage deals with the reliability of the testimony of witnesses to Jesus’ glory, there is a definite idea that the authors of the Bible were not operating on their own, but that they were following the guidance of the Spirit, even though they may not have been aware of it at the time.
However, sometimes when a Biblical author uses an ambiguous word or phrase, he may have both ideas in mind. I don’t think there u\is anything wrong with seeing both of the explanations above as true, even if one is primary. The second meaning also is needed in our modern setting, in which so many people try to import into the Scriptures a meaning that the author never intended to convey (and in some cases couldn’t have meant, given his historical setting). Before we start to apply the Word of God to our lives, we have to know what it says, and to do that we need to know what the author wanted to express to his original readers. We can’t just twist the words of the Bible to say what we want them to mean and think we have the truth that God has revealed in our own ideas.
The doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible boils down to one question: is the Bible the true, reliable authority over our beliefs and practices, or are we the authority over what the Bible says? If it is truly God’s revelation, we have no choice but to submit to His authority. If it is not God’s revelation, then we can ignore it at will. Without the Holy Spirit, we will not see the beauty and glory of the Word. As we submit to the guidance of the Spirit, we will all that the Lord reveals to us, and put it into practice in our lives.