Bible 101: What is inspired and what is not?

2012-12-12 07.53.55

A key doctrine of Scripture for all Christians is that what we find in the Bible is inspired by God. Not directly written by God himself, but that God inspired the biblical writers to write what he wanted. But, our Bibles have a lot of information in them and sometimes it is less than clear what exactly is inspired and what is not. Above is a picture of my own Bible. So, what on this page is inspired and what is not?

Well, in some sense none of it is inspired because it is a translation and the claim of inspiration generally applies only to the original texts. But, in the interest of making a point…

What is NOT inspired?

1) The title “The first letter of Peter: 1 Peter”
2) The introductory notes (though it seeks to interpret the inspired text)
3) The headlines such as “Greeting”, “Born again to a living hope”, and “Called to be holy” are editorial and commentary.
4) The chapter and verse numbers were added much later.
5) The column references in between the two columns were by the translator.
6) The footnotes (on the page above, the footnotes are underneath the columns)
7) Not pictured in my Bible, but if your Bible has letters in red to denote Christ, those are not inspired and are simply an editorial (I don’t like them myself).
8) Last but not least on this page, are my own notes. Definitely, not inspired.

What else?
Not pictured above are the maps, concordance, and study notes that are throughout the different bibles.

So, what the heck is inspired?
1) The body text. The holy words of God, inspired by Him and communicated to us through His chosen scribes. That’s sort of it. The actual words of the authors. (Though it should be notes that originally, the text was in all caps with no spaces, so some of this would count as translational choices).
2) By extension, the Canon or the list of the books that are in the Bible (though we must admit that there is a difference of opinion between the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches). And the versification and book order of the OT vary among Christian and Jewish Scriptures.

I hope I haven’t burst an bubbles and haven’t destroyed your faith. I do think it’s important that Christians understand what is and what is not inspired text. It is essential to understand what was written by those first witnesses and what is editorial or peripheral text intended to help us interpret Scripture, but are not Scripture themselves.

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