Shuck and Jive

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Divine Inspiration of the Bible: Spurious, Pernicious, and Moot

I offer here an excellent article by Robert M. Price, that was originally published in the Fourth R and is chapter 23 or 24 of his book A Reason Driven Life. It is called The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible: A Critique. He begins:

I love the Bible. I have devoted my life to the study of it. I wrote one Ph.D. dissertation on the various evangelical theories of Biblical authority, and a second one focusing on themes in Luke and Acts. None of this means my views must be correct. But it does show I do not approach this sensitive topic as an opponent of the Bible. Just the reverse. I disagree sharply with many Bible devotees, but we both love it and want to know it better. I want to suggest that, first, the claim that the Bible is divinely inspired is spurious; second, that it is pernicious; and, third, that it is moot. The Bible and our study of it will be better off without that claim. Read More
I think this article nails it. The point is not to diss the Bible. The point is to understand it better without making false claims about it. Here is one of my favorite paragraphs:

The claim to inspiration is pernicious. First, it implicitly insults the very book it seeks to praise, as if one need not take the Bible seriously unless one could be persuaded that a superhuman entity wrote it. Much of the Bible is so profound, so wise, so beautiful, so edifying that any claim of miraculous inspiration adds absolutely nothing to the inherent force of its words. As Father Abraham said to Dives, those who already have Moses and the Prophets and remain deaf to them will not start listening if one rises from the dead (Luke 16:31). And claims to divine inspiration will make no more difference. Conversely, some of the Bible, such as its vengeful commands to genocide, its threats of eternal torture, its easy toleration of slavery and the oppression of women, are so defective that no claim to inspiration can make them better and only places a halo over bad texts. Such claims to plenary inspiration corrupt biblical morality itself by teaching us to call the bad good. Such claims debase the Bible by making us pretend that it is all on the same level when in fact any sensitive reader, until bullied by theologians, can see that it is not. If Isaiah’s ringing oracles and the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount do not command your conscience by their own merit, claims of divine inspiration are not going to help. Nor should they make the superstitious scare stories of Leviticus sound any better to us. The good parts of the Bible do not need your help, nor do you have the right to become a disingenuous spin-doctor for the bad ones.


  1. Good post Jim - I find some of Price's stuff quite interesting - on what he is saying in this stuff quoted - I tend to agree with.

  2. I'm John! By the way, what is your first name, so I don't have to call you Society all the time?