“That Book in Your Hand”
My first sermon on Bibliology (the study of what the Scriptures are, and how they came to us) was on the inspiration of the Scriptures, from II Timothy 3:16. If you’ve been following this blog, you know I spent a lot of time on that subject, with the summary post here. In that discussion, I focused extensively on the divine nature of the Scriptures.
In my second sermon, we looked at how that divine nature came into being, the divine origin of the Scriptures, and some of the things the Bible tells us about God’s work in the giving of the Scriptures. We’ll start with II Peter 1:19-21:
19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Moved by the Spirit
Sometimes people ask exactly how God gave the Scriptures. Did He dictate them while the human authors wrote the words down? Did they hear an audible voice, or was there a voice in the writer’s head?
This is the kind of question that human curiosity often asks, but it is not one on which the Scriptures spend much time. When we talk about the act of giving the Scriptures, “immediate inspiration” or “inscripturation” (definitions), the attention is more on the “Who” than on the “How,” on “What the Scripture is” than on “How it got here.” Nevertheless, there are things we can learn from the Bible about this process that will help us to understand more about “That Book in Your Hand.”
They Spoke as They Were Moved
A Sure Prophecy of Scripture. In verse 19, Peter sets the context. His readers can have full confidence in the Scriptures, and so they must “take heed,” give full attention to the light that the Word of God gives.
Not Belonging to Any Individual. The exact meaning of “no private interpretation” has had different interpretations :). One reason is that this word “interpretation” is another hapax legomenon, appearing only once in Scripture (“interpretation” elsewhere in the New Testament comes from a different Greek word). The general sense is made clear by the next verse, though. The Scripture was not man’s idea, but God’s. Therefore, the meaning is not man’s meaning, but God’s meaning. When it comes to God’s truth, “I think” (human opinion) has to be set aside for the much more important matter — “What has God said, and what did He mean when He said it?”
Sometimes, people will argue against what the Scriptures clearly say with the statement, “That’s your interpretation.” The suggestion is that you are just putting your interpretation on the Scriptures, and someone else’s interpretation is just as valid. This is a false argument. There is only one valid interpretation, and that is the meaning that God intended. It may not always be easy to understand what God meant (Peter himself acknowledged this later in II Peter), but that doesn’t change the fact that God’s interpretation is the only right one. If someone says, “That’s only your interpretation,” the right answer is to ask, “Is there any reason I should know that it isn’t God’s interpretation?” What God meant is what matters.
Thus, we have a “sure word of prophecy.” The Scriptures are not a moving target, where we or someone else can change the meaning of what God says just by deciding on a different interpretation. The Bible means what God meant it to say, and God doesn’t change.
The Spirit Moved. This verse tells us the primary factor in the giving of the Scriptures — it was at the moving of the Spirit. Although we have the word “spake” here, we know this “prophecy” is talking about the Scriptures from the prior verse, which talked about “prophecy of the Scripture.” By describing it as “speaking” in this verse, the Holy Spirit has firmly placed the emphasis, as I mentioned in earlier posts, on the words themselves, rather than on the paper and ink with which they were written.
The sense of the word “moved” here is carried along, brought, borne along. It describes something being carried to whatever place the person carrying decides, and that is the force here. The same word is used in Acts 27:15, 17 to describe a ship being driven before the wind, and Peter uses a play on words here. A ship is driven before the wind (Greek pneuma), and those who wrote the Scriptures were carried by the Spirit (Greek pneuma). Peter’s point in this “pun” is not just to have fun, but to communicate to his readers how completely the Spirit controlled the process of the giving of the Scriptures.
A few years back we purchased two rubber rafts, and one of our favourite family activities is to go out rowing on a loch. We have learned, however, that this is not an endeavour for windy days. A rubber raft has no keel, and if a gale is blowing, you can’t beat the wind no matter how hard you row. The wind is just going to carry you along to wherever it is going.
This is the idea here in II Peter. The Spirit carried along the writers in their speaking and writing so that the end product is God’s, and not man’s. In subsequent posts, I’ll look at some things the Bible teaches about God’s moving in giving the Scriptures.
Update: Main article.