Q&A: Dictating Revelation?

Dictating Revelation?

Did the Holy Spirit dictate his revelations to the prophets?

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Answer

As you look at the total package of both Old and New Testaments together, one of the themes that stands out is that God's people are fully aware that Scripture is nothing less than God's very own words to his people. We are also aware that Scripture has come to them through prophets, through apostles, and that God has used the mouthpieces of humans to deliver his word as well as to pen his word. In more recent years, there have been questions that have risen to the surface in terms of, well, then, are we saying that human authors had no role whatsoever in Scripture? Is this almost like the human authors are a robot that simply pen what they hear? Well, there are certain places in Scripture in which we find almost precisely that in which God says something, the prophet hears it, and he writes it down. It is that explicit. I think of the Ten Commandments as a prime example of that. I think there's also a broader issue here in terms of the ways in which we think about God using human words. God is completely other than we are, and the use of words is actually an act of God's condescending kindness to us. And when you look at a passage like 2 Peter 1, especially verses 16-21, we find Peter describing Scripture as something that is wholly divine, but he uses the agent of the human to write it down. It is quite true that Peter understands that the human author is not just passively involved but very actively involved. But he uses an amazing metaphor. He uses the language like a sail of vessel being filled with the air, the wind that pulls it along, and at the end of that chapter in 2 Peter 1, you see that the human author is one who is actually being filled with the breath of God, and not only being filled in the sense of just some sort of abstract inspiration, but that the filling of the wind actually delivers the vessel to the destination that was determined for it. So the human author is actually actively involved, and he's thinking, he's writing, but in all of that, the Holy Spirit is superintending so that what is written is precisely what God wants to be written, albeit using the various personalities, experiences, cultural and contextual dynamics that are ever present at the time that the human author is writing. One of the useful things I think we can think about the human role in Scripture is to recognize that God is the one who is fully in control governing all things, and it is no less true then that he is actively involved in the writing of Scripture through the vessels, but in a particular way, he is here, because Scripture has a unique and precious and authoritative function for God's people precisely because it is first and foremost a divine book written by human authors.

Answer by Dr. David Garner

Dr. David B. Garner is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.