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Inspiration and Authority of the Bible

Throughout history the authority of God’s Word has again and again come into question, and again and again God’s people have defended its authority. Among these, Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield is considered “perhaps the greatest defender of the infallible inspiration of Scripture.”1 [1]1 Cornelius Van Til, introduction to The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by B.B. Warfield, 8. His work The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible [2] is perhaps the most well-known volume on the subject. 

The book was not originally one work but rather a collection of articles written by Warfield united by a common theme. Throughout the book, Warfield meticulously puts the authority and inspiration of the Bible under the microscope, examining in detail the various issues surrounding each. More specifically, chapter 1 discusses the nature, process, and modes of revelation. Chapter 2 relates a historical theology of the authority and inspiration of Scripture, culminating in chapter 3 where Warfield comprehensively summarizes the support for the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Chapter 4 gives the practical implications of these topics. Finally, chapters 5-8 dive into thorough studies on the meaning of various crucial words related to inspiration. Altogether the reader can find material on pretty much any major topic related to authority and inspiration, making it a great resource and reference for studying some of the finer questions of these subjects.  

Its greatest strength, however, is also the greatest obstacle for readers to overcome. Warfield writes in an academic style as was appropriate for his original audience: The readers of the various theological journals in which his articles originally appeared. Oftentimes he assumes knowledge of philosophy like metaphysics and epistemology, or assumes at least a fundamental understanding of Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. Because of this, some lay people may find The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible difficult to understand.  

Despite these challenges, Warfield gives a refreshingly thorough and biblical view on the inspiration and authority of the Bible. The reader will undoubtedly walk away more prepared to answer difficult questions about the nature of Scripture, more convinced than ever that the Bible is indeed God’s inerrant Word, and more in love with God and His Word. 

Helpful Quotes

  1. “The Scriptures as a whole shall be received by us with the same reverence which we give to God because they have emanated from him alone.” (109) 
  2. “The Bible is inspired not in part but fully, in all its elements alike, things discoverable by reason as well as mysterious, matters of history and science as well as of faith and practice, words as well as thoughts.” (113) 
  3. “The issue is not, what does the Bible teach? But, is what the Bible teaches true?” (118) 
  4. “We cannot modify the doctrine of plenary inspiration in any of its essential elements without undermining our confidence in the authority of the apostles as teachers of doctrine.” (181) 
  5. “It is often tacitly assumed that the Biblical doctrine of inspiration cannot be confidently ascertained until all the facts concerning the contents and structure and characteristics of Scripture are fully determined and allowed for. This is obviously fallacious.” (215) 
  6. “In one of these classes of passages the Scriptures are spoken of as if they were God. In the other God is spoken of as if He were the Scriptures: in the two together, God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that in point of directness of authority no distinction was made between them.” (299)