The Role of the Human Author

“Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?”

- 1 Kings 14:29

The origin of Scripture is to be found in God Himself, who breathed out the words that we find written by the prophets and Apostles in the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Given that human writers transmitted these words to us, however, it is important to have a clearer idea of what role these divinely inspired authors played in giving us God’s Word. At the outset, we must note that for the most part, Scripture does not explain the full details as to exactly how the Lord inspired the human authors. However, there is enough in the Bible to draw some conclusions regarding the process by which God gave His revelation to these human writers.

First, the evidence of the biblical text itself indicates that we should not view the process of inspiration as something that happened mechanically, as if the human writers became automatons and did not contribute anything to the text. God did not take the authors and use them to write the Bible like we use a pen to write a note. When we use a pen, the pen does not contribute any personality or perspective to the writing. All of that comes from the human author. The inspiration of Scripture did not occur in an analogous way. Each of the biblical authors wrote in a different style and with different concerns even though they all affirmed the same faith. Some books, such as Hebrews, are written in a very refined literary style. Others, such as Revelation, reflect more colloquial grammar. God did not so overpower the human authors that they gave us everything in the same voice; nevertheless, each author, though he will affirm things in his own voice, affirms only what is true. And note that truth can be affirmed in many different styles and even by people who lack literary training and sophistication.

Second, with a few exceptions (see Rev. 19:9a), God did not dictate the Scriptures word for word to the biblical authors. Among the lines of evidence that demonstrate this is the use of other written sources by various biblical authors. Today’s passage, for example, refers to the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah, which appears to be a non-inspired historical source that the author of 1–2 Kings consulted. The use of such sources would be unnecessary if the Lord dictated the Scriptures to the biblical authors.

Thus, human authors played a key role in the writing of Scripture, making their own contributions to the text. In so doing, they were kept by God from affirming anything untrue (John 17:17).

Coram Deo

God’s inspiration of the Scriptures did not entail His taking possession of the human writers or otherwise completely overriding their personalities. Instead, He worked in and through these authors, making use of their skills, personalities, and even histories to accomplish His plan. This is how the Lord works out His will more generally as well. God uses our wills, desires, and actions to accomplish His purposes.

Passages for Further Study

1 Kings 11:41
2 Chronicles 16:11
Luke 1:1–4
2 Timothy 4:13

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