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Automatic Writing
Or Biblical Inspiration?   

Q. Is Scripture a combination of men's words and thoughts, and God's words? The reason I ask is because 1 Corinthians 7:10 says, "But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord." And in verse 12 Paul states: "But to the rest I say, not the Lord…" In these verses Paul appears to clearly combine his own opinions with the Lord's opinion. So doesn't that prove the bible is a combination of human words and God's words and thoughts?


Terrific question - and the focus of many theological treatises. We'll attempt to keep it reasonable and short here with suggested sources at the end. Thanks for asking.

Psychic Phenomenon

The problem for many Christians who have not given this subject much thought is this: if none of the words of Scripture find their expression with the human authors, how does this escape being labled a kind of automatic zombie-like writing, possession by a spirit, or some kind of mind-control that we don't fully understand? In psychic circles we find people in trances who claim to be uttering the words of someone or something who is possessing them.

Astonishingly, this appears to be how many Christians view the inspiration of Scripture. In essence, they think God - a Spirit - has possessed the authors and written things down using human hands. Yet, that is clearly an error.

This is why many professors have chosen to teach their Bible students a simple maxim - one they can remember for life:

"The Bible is the Word of God in the words of men."

God's Words an Integrated Message Over 1000s of Years

Dr. Chuck Missler writes,

"Although the Bible consists of sixty-six separate books penned by over forty authors over a period of several thousand years, it is an integrated message system. Every passage, every word, every number, and every place name is there for a specific reason. A skillful design pervades the whole. This message system is from outside our dimensions of space and time. It is literally of extraterrestrial origin." (Missler 2002, 1).


Over the years I haven't found a much better description than Missler's. Consider the Encyclopedia Britannica, for example. It needs to be updated every year. Yet, the bible has come through approximately 3,000 years of history needing no updates or changes. We have used various translations throughout history as needed. But, the fundamental, basic words have remained unchanged. That is why the Catholic bibles, Greek Orthodox bibles and the Protestant bibles are essentially the same bibles plus or minus the apocryphal writings.

Supernatural Collection of Books

Our Bible is clearly a supernatural book. There is no other like it in the world. We can't really get around this fact. But, this is what we would expect if there is a God who communicated His will and messages through prophets and through his own Son, Jesus Christ. It would seem reasonable that such a book could prove that its origins came from outside of our time domain, thus giving us proofs such as fulfilled prophecies and knowledge of events coming true today. Of course, this is exactly what we see over and over in the pages of our sacred book.

Exact Date Prophesied

Although this is not an article about prophecy, one need only to look at Daniel 9:20-27 to see a prophecy concerning the exact day the Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey!

Can we explain this by late-dating the book of Daniel?


The Dead Sea Scrolls contain the book of Daniel and they are proved to have been written hundreds of years before Christ. We know for a fact that the Messiah would appear exactly 173,880 days from the time a decree was declared to rebuild Jerusalem. (Don't forget to count leap years and Jewish years of 360 days). Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on a donkey in 32 A.D. just as prophesied, precisely.

The Suffering Servant

Read the book of Isaiah chapter 53 for yourself. Again we have a book found among the Dead Sea Scrolls dated hundreds of years before Christ. There you'll see the suffering servant in great detail. Its specificity is far beyond chance. (See Muncaster, 2004).

Global Government, Global Currency, Global Dictator

Study current history and compare it to passages from the books of Revelation and Daniel. We find a prophesied one-world currency, a coming world government including what we see forming in the EU and Middle Eastern blocs, and what appears to be identification bio-chips! (Rev 13:16-17). (See Hitchcock, 2010).

Are you ready?

Dead Sea Scrolls - Scriptures Essentially Unchanged

Prior to 1947 our oldest translation of the Jewish Bible was dated approximately 1,000 A.D. Yet, in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were found which contained every book of the bible except for Esther. These documents were dated as late as 285 B.C. Amazingly, the 1,000 A.D. copy of the Bible matched the 285 B.C. copy almost word for word. The only differences included minor spelling changes similar to adding an "e" to a word or an apostrophe. Essentially, the bible remained unchanged although at least a thousand years had passed.

Scripture Often Defines Who Wrote it

From the biblical texts themselves some of the writers throughout Scripture knew that God was overseeing their writings. One example is 1 Corinthians 2:13:

"We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people" (HCSB).

Yet, in 1 Corinthians 7:40 Paul also states,

"But she is happier if she remains as she is, in my opinion. And I think that I also have the Spirit of God."

Dictation? - At Times, Yes - But Not Robotic

In addition to odd statements as those above, the book of Revelation presents something that does appear to be almost a form of dictation given to the apostle John in this one instance. In verse 1 the Holman Christian Standard Bible probably gives the most accurate translation we have. It says,

"The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave Him to show His slaves what must quickly take place. He sent it and signified it through His angel to His slave John, who testified to God's word and to the testimony about Jesus Christ, in all he saw."

While complicated, verse 1 says that this book is a revelation given to Jesus from God. Jesus Christ "signified" it (codified it) through an angel to give to the apostle John. Chapter 19 verse 9 clearly says, "Write: Blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb!" In other words, the apostle John was told exactly what to write in this case. But John was not a robot without a brain.

Thus Saith…

Furthermore, many of the "Thus says the Lord" statements by the prophets in the Old Testament indicate the writers knew exactly what they were to write and knew it was information given directly by the Lord. But here again they used their own words to relay the message. You could say that God enabled the authors and then "supervised" the work. In other words, God says what He means and means what He says.


Polycarp, Early Church Father

Kenneth Berding, Ph.D. specializes in hermeneutics and biblical interpretation at Talbot School of Theology. He clarifies:

In the early second century, Polycarp of Smyrna, one of Christianity's most famous martyrs, lists three sources of authority for early Christians. He writes, 'So, then let us serve him with fear and all reverence, just as he himself (Jesus) has commanded, as did the apostles, who preached the gospel to us, and the prophets, who announced in advance the coming of our Lord (Pol. Phil. 6:3).

Authoritative Sources

Continuing, Berding notes:

The three sources of authority for the earliest Christians were (1) the teachings of Jesus passed on orally by the apostles (2) the instructions of the apostles (cf. Acts 2:42), and (3) the words of the prophets, that is, the Old Testament Scriptures. These three streams of authority were different from each other stream, but each of the three was binding on early Christians.

So in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul distinguishes between source-of-authority No. 1 and source-of-authority No. 2. When Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:10, 'not I, but the Lord,' he is appealing to the specific teaching Jesus gave about divorce when he was on earth.

…So when Paul passes on the particular instruction found in 1 Corinthians 7:10, he wants to draw attention to the fact that this teaching is not new - it was given by the Lord himself some 20 years earlier. Paul's appeal in this verse, then, is to source-of-authority No. 1, the specific teaching of Jesus in his earthly ministry as passed down orally by the early disciples and written down in this verse by Paul.

But did Jesus give instructions during his earthly ministry about what to do in the case of a believer who is already married to an unbelieving spouse? No, there is no evidence in any of the Gospels that Jesus ever had reason to teach about such a situation during his earthly ministry.

So Paul gives authoritative instructions as God's appointed apostle about what to do in this particular situation. In this case, his appeal is to source-of-authority No. 2, the authority of the apostles (of which he is one). His instruction is still a 'trustworthy' word of the Lord, even if Jesus didn't teach about it during his earthly ministry (1 Corinthians 7:25), because, as Paul says about himself, 'I also have the Spirit of God' (1 Corinthians 7:40). Paul is a divinely appointed apostle who has authority to give such directions to the churches (1 Corinthians 7:17).

Therefore, 1 Corinthians 7:12 is not just Paul's "personal opinion." It is our instruction from an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Berding 2008, 39).

Roman Catholicism

In addition, we must understand that the Roman Catholic Church has always given some authoritative weighting to oral traditions within their church doctrine. Their Answer Bible states,

"Over the course of centuries, however, the Church has gradually come to understand the meaning of that complete revelation more deeply. From this deposit, handed down by the apostles and their successors, the teaching office (magisterium) of the Church draws everything that it proposes to us for our belief as being divinely revealed. Catholics are obligated to accept this public revelation of God." (D-3 insert).


The Protestants of the Reformation, however, don't go this far. They insisted that the Bible alone was the final authority. The Church leadership did have authority in many things but they must always be submissive to the Bible.

In summary, we need to clearly understand that there are at least three authoritative sources for the inspired Word:

1. The teachings of Jesus passed orally to the apostles.
2. The instructions of the apostles (Acts 2:42).
3. The words of the Old Testament prophets.

And all of these were under the authority of God Himself

The early New Testament church "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). Two thousand years later the church continues to follow this tradition. We read, study and believe God's Word, take communion, and pray for one another.

"Theopneust" - God breathed

" All Scripture is given by inspiration (theopneust) of God."
(2 Tim 3:16a). The word inspiration actually means "God Breathed."

J.I. Packer says simply, "Scripture is not only man's word, but also and equally God's Word spoken through man's lips or written with man's pen" (2003, 31).

R.C. Sproll summarizes: "The doctrine of inspiration declares that God enabled the human writers of the Scripture to be agents of divine revelation, so that what they wrote was not only their writing but in a higher sense the very Word of God" (1997).




Berding, Kenneth. 2008. God's word or Paul's personal opinion? Biola Magazine. Summer.

Heiser, Michael S. Inspiration discussion. www.michaelsheiser.com.

Hitchcock, Mark. 2010. The amazing claims of Bible prophecy. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.

Klein, William W. 2008. Handbook for personal Bible study Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Missler, Chuck. 2002. Learn the bible in 24 hours Nashville, TN: Nelson.

Muncaster, Ralph O. 2004. Examine the evidence Eugene, OR: Harvest House.

Packer, J.I. 2003. The origin of the Bible. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.

Sproul, R.C. 1997. What is reformed theology? Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books.

Authors Valorie Mays Emilio holds an M.A. in History from UCLA having specialized in early church history. Ken received his M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University.

Students: Please note that we are using the Harvard Citation Style (similar to Turabian author-date) which is computer-friendly and allows for some variations in format - not in content. Always check with your professors for required format and style.

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