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During Religious Ed. last night the review book had a question that we didn't see explained in the text (using Faith and Life Series for 7th Grade).

It asked, "what part of scripture was not inspired?"

The kids were like, "um, Judas?" and I thought that was a good answer, but said we do learn a thing or two from him. The answer key however, said "the literary style" is not inspired.

I did not understand this and couldn't explain it to the kids. I just told them, the fact that some of it is poetry and some of it isn't is not in it self inspired. I can't for the life of me see how this tidbit will help them to understand the bible or even how thinking that a poem can be inspired in and of itself.

What does it mean that the literary style is not inspired and why is it not inspired?

This is asked from a Catholic perspective, but I think any tradition that doesn't hold that the literary style was in fact inspired (whatever that means) could help me answer this question.

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My guess here is that it means that the fact that an original document is poetry is not critical to the inspiration. A rendering in prose that conveyed exactly the same message would be just as inspired. Therefore the poetry is not part of the inspiration. But this is a guess, and I can think of a few ways to poke holes in the theory even now. – DJClayworth Oct 18 '12 at 17:47
Probably it's to refute the "dictation by God to scribes" understanding of "inspired". – kurosch Oct 18 '12 at 21:22
I would guess this refers to the fact that most of the New Testament authors were not native Greek speakers, and as a result the NT (especially the gospel of Mark) contains many grammatical errors. For example, a literal translation of Mark 2:1-2 reads, "And again he entered into Capernaum, after days, and it was heard that he is in the house, and immediately many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door, and he was speaking to them the word." – Bruce Alderman Oct 19 '12 at 5:39

The understanding of inspiration understood by Baptists (and many others) is that God allowed the authors to use their own literary style, but still write the exact meaning He wanted them to convey. This makes sense, because each book, each author clearly does have their own style.

This view is known as Plenary verbal inspiration. It is not the only view, but but is the one that allows for the author's literary style to show through.


Plenary verbal inspiration (emphasis mine.)

The word plenary means "full" or "complete". Therefore, plenary verbal inspiration asserts that God inspired the complete text(s) of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, including both historical and doctrinal details. The word verbal affirms the idea that inspiration extends to the very words the writers chose. For example, in Acts 1:16 the Apostle Peter says "the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake" (KJV). Paul calls all scripture "God-breathed" in 2 Timothy 3:16 (referring to the Old Testament). Thus, the Holy Spirit guided the writers along (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21) while allowing their own personalities and freedom to produce the Bible we have today. This view recognizes and asserts both the human and divine element within Scripture. This understanding has sometimes been compared and contrasted to the understanding of the two natures of Jesus.

Opposing understandings include:

  • Neo-orthodox
  • Dictation
  • Limited inspiration

All are covered on the page I linked to.

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Allowing the authors to express themselves naturally doesn't mean that God didn't also inspire the literary style. Unless it is thought that whatever is inspired cannot be influenced by the human partner... – curiousdannii Aug 31 '15 at 12:35

This is a helpful clarification on what exactly we mean by "inspired". Specifically, we don't mean that each word and punctuation mark was dictated. We believe the scriptures came about through God revealing truths and concepts to the minds of the apostles and prophets, but that the expressions of those were shaped also by their own skills with words and bear the mark of the early author in the actual diction.

Knowing that God didn't make the writers into robots helps us understand both God's work in our lives as well as better handle his words, knowing that the things being said are true and divine while also being a reflection of the pen that scribbled them.

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This is how I've always understood it, too. I'd never heard of the "dictation" method of inspiration until someone put a comment on one of my other answers claiming that this was how Inspiration worked. I agree with you, as does pretty much every Christian/pastor I've talked to or hear about the subject. – David Oct 18 '12 at 22:31

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