Inspiration of the Bible

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The inspiration of the Bible: How does the inspiration of the Bible differ from the way other holy books claim to have been inspired?

1 Peter 1:20,21,  tells us that Bible Scripture was inspired as a prophet was led along by the Holy Spirit. This differs from the dictation form of “inspiration” recounted by Mohammed. He claimed to have a series of revelations from “Angel Gabriel,” at least one for each book (surah) of the Qur’an.  (In fact, the hadiths, traditions, report that Mohammed was afraid after his first “revelation,” and not even certain if the angel that appeared to him was from God, or a demon.)  Joseph Smith also received revelation from an angel. For the translation of the cryptic tablets of Mormonism, English words reportedly appeared to him in a box-like device.

Most of the books of the Koran begin with an affirmative statement, “Bismallah ar-rahman ar-raheem” (in the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate), for example at the beginning of book 2, The Cow. To those used to reading the Qur’an, such words are a key that what follows is to be considered as coming directly from God.

The Bible does have verses which say this about God (Exodus 34:6, Jonah 4:2), but no books of the Bible start out with a similar queue. So, for a Muslim who begins to read the Bible, it can be difficult to accept that it is the inspired Word of God. Also, the Bible includes many details about patriarchs and prophets that Muslims have heard about. Not everything it says about them is flattering. The Bible is a book based in reality, so it records the truth about God’s people, their mistakes and sins, as the saying goes, “warts and all!”

In order for Muslims to understand the difference in Biblical inspiration from what they expect, Dr. Cynthia points out that although there are places where the Bible directly reports what God says, “This is what the Lord says” (Jeremiah 21), and very rarely a voice is heard from heaven, as with Moses and the heavenly voice at Jesus baptism. God as Jesus spoke directly to the people in his sermons, like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and in instructions to his disciples.

God also speaks indirectly in the Bible. “Then the Word of the Lord came to me,” Zechariah says in 4:8, reporting to us who hear indirectly what he was told.

God’s word is often implied, as in wisdom presented in Proverbs, advice in letters of the New Testament, and in the lessons we absorb from considering the lives of Bible characters (1 Corinthians 10:11, James 5:10, Hebrews 11-12:3).