While the idea of Mechanical Inspiration -- that the very physical action of writing down the scriptures was guided or enacted by God through physical manipulation of the human writers -- is always listed for completeness as one of the ways the inspiration of the Scriptures could have been accomplished, I wonder if anyone actually holds that view.

Do any current groups identifying as Christian believe in this kind of inspiration? If so who and what evidence or reasoning do they cite?

  • Never heard of mechanical inspiration. Is that different than being inspired by God's spirit, or is that what you are talking about? Jan 25, 2012 at 0:13
  • You mean that the writers might not have been aware of the meaning or even the words being written, but they wrote what they were directed to write nonetheless?
    – Rex Kerr
    Jan 25, 2012 at 16:05
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    A point of thought which would seem to go against this "Mechanical Inspiration" idea is the varied writing styles of the biblical authors. Where John writes in a poetic, repetitive, abstract way, Matthew writes in a way which would appeal to the Jews of the time- ordered, historical and with many references to scripture. These differences speak not to the reliability or truth of the works, but of the human element in the scriptures. If God wrote the scriptures through "physical manipulation" of the writers, a constant voice and style would seemingly be present.
    – LukeFitz
    Jan 27, 2012 at 5:25
  • @LukeFitz: Not necessarily. If God guided the writing of the scriptures, only intervening when necessary, the author's voice would still be present in the writing and the totality of the writing would deliver God's message. Jan 27, 2012 at 13:11

3 Answers 3


Mechanical Inspiration sees the writing of the Bible as God dictating to the author every word that needed to be inserted in the Bible or that the author was in some sort of trance and did not know what he was doing. God using the author has a puppet.

The view is presented in doctrines classes as a view put forward in history to explain the inerrancy or ineffability. I do not know any evangelicals who hold this position in the current day.

Current evangelicals believed that the Bible was breathed by God, but that the human author was still lucid and that he wrote with his own words, his own style. There is a miracle component to the evangelical position, but it is not mechanical inspiration.



I've always understood the term "mechanical inspiration" to be synonymous with inerrancy, although I believe technically that mechanical inspiration refers to God's ensuring that humans wrote what God said to write and inerrancy that the autographa were themselves without error.

In neither case would printer's mistakes like The Adulterers Bible be covered by mechanical inspiration.

Modern Adherents

Much of the Southern Baptist Convention (especially say, the Texas General Convention) and most "Bible Church" evangelicals believe in inerrancy.

This issue, of course, is what divides Baptists more than anything else. The more conservative conventions (Texas, Alabama, Georgia) tend to make this a litmus test. Paige Patterson (I've had him over dinner!) would be one such leader of this line of thinking.


As recently as the 1950's, the Lutheran church also accepted this position.

Rogers' and McKim's classic work The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible (1979) argues that it is a fundamentalist and evangelical novelty, although Paul Achtemeier's book The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture (1995 - I think?) would argue this has been the historical position of the church.

The classic source and defense for inerrancy is Francis Turretin, who expounded this doctrine as an extension of his understanding of Calvinism.

  • I've got a 30 page thesis on Turretin and the history of inerrancy that I could post and link to, if you'd like. I grew up believing this, although I now prefer the term perfection to mechanical inspiration or even inerrancy. Jan 31, 2012 at 20:12
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    inerrancy does not have any thing to do with mechanical inspiration. Inerrancy means without errors, mechanical inspiration means that the biblical authors worked as scribes or in some sort of trances. Which would be denied by most evangelical today. Feb 2, 2012 at 11:11

I have never heard it called "mechanical" but simply that the writers of Sacred Scriptures (as opposed to the author, who is the Holy Spirit) were infused with the truths to write and then they wrote them down. The analogy I've heard is that the inspired writer is to the Holy Spirit what a particular kind of pencil or pen or marker or paint brush is to a human writer: an instrument with unique qualities and properties which affects the manner in which they write what has been inspired in them. As an example we see the physician Saint Luke using medical details not seen in the other Gospels; Saint John's contemplation yields scriptures unlike the others; Saint Paul's background as a Pharisee yields a degree of exactitude and legal precision not seen in the other books.

And for the sake of citation, here's a quote from the First Vatican Council and one from an encyclical letter by Pope Pius 12th:

The Catholic who wishes to make a correct analysis of Biblical inspiration must have before his eyes the following ecclesiastical documents: (a) "These books are held by the Church as sacred and canonical, not as having been composed by merely human labour and afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their author, and have been transmitted to the Church as such." (First Vatican Council, 3rd Session, const. dogm, de Fide, cap. ii, in Denz., 1787).

"The Holy Spirit Himself, by His supernatural power, stirred up and impelled the Biblical writers to write, and assisted them while writing in such a manner that they conceived in their minds exactly, and determined to commit to writing faithfully, and render in exact language, with infallible truth, all that God commanded and nothing else; without that, God would not be the author of Scripture in its entirety" (Encycl. Provid. Deus, in Dena., 1952).

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