Holy Spirit as Author

Theology is broken down into lots of subareas, many with their own special names:

  • Soteriology (Doctrine of Salvation)
  • Harmartiology (Doctrine of Sin)
  • Ecclesiology (Church Structure)
  • Eschatology (Doctrine of Endtimes)
  • Pneumonatology (Doctrine of the Holy Spirit)

Yet I am surprised that I haven’t found some special term for the theological category of  “Theology of Scripture” since it is crucial in all inter-religious dialogue.  But one of my commenters below informed me there is a “technical” word for “Theology of Scritpture” — it is “Bibliology“. Well, I have added this theology category to my post on “My Favorite Christians“, and would like to offer a brief explanation of the two simple positions I understand Christians taking on Bibliology.  The first view is taken by the majority of Christians and has many subtle variants, but compared to the second position, these variants are insignificant.

One Author – One Theology View

This view comes in many flavors but they all agree that the Holy Spirit somehow influenced all the authors of the Bible with a revelation which has one consistent theology.  This theology is intimately connect to the inerrancy doctrine.  For since believers in this view do acknowledge that humans wrote the Bible, they have to imagine their god (through the Holy Spirit) “inspiring” the writers so that their scriptures remain inerrant and consistent.  The theories as to how this inspiration occurs varies:

  • Automatic Writing:  outright possession
  • Dictation: the writer listens carefully
  • Nudging:  Holy Spirit intervenes only as needed
  • Ideas only: relying on the author to put it in their words
  • Mentoring:  the Holy Spirit raised the writers so their thoughts were correct
  • Good Authors:  the Holy spirit guided the Church to only select text of those authors who just happen to get it all right without the Holy Spirit interfering in the free-will of the authors.

While less conservative Christians may admit that, though the scriptures may have inaccuracies or need metaphorical analysis at times, those holding this view will still insist that the Holy Spirit has somehow assured us a consistent, trustworthy, infallible message throughout the canon.

Many Authors – Many Theologies View

Non-believers as well as many liberal Christians hold this view.  This view emphasizes the humanity of the writers, their cultural blinders, their personal agendas, their own personal theologies.  Some liberal Christians may still feel the Holy Spirit is acting through the scriptures, but admits to no unified theology.  They understand that different authors may put forward very different inconsistent theologies both within a given text and certainly between various texts.


I obviously favor the later view — Many Theologies.   I feel that in discussing faith, it can be useful to discuss the believer’s  “Bibliology” up-front in order to have fruitful dialogue.   And discussing epistemology stances can be very helpful.

But “Theology of Scripture” (Bibliology) is only part of a believer’s epistemology.  Understanding the broad role of revelation (as opposed to experience and reason) is also important.  For instance, the notions of closed vs open revelation may be important.  Some Christians emphasize that God continues to give new revelations to believers just like the Holy Spirit did to the writers of the bible.  They believe that revelation is still active (open) and must be taken into account.  These include Pentecostals and Mormons to mention a few.  Yet other Christians view this as problematic and see Revelation as closed and final.

So, if you are discussing theology, may I suggest you explore fundamental positions first before talking past each other based on different fundamental positions.  Without admitting one’s fundamental positions, dialogue can be very frustrating.

: “Religious Tolerance
Related PostThe Homogenized Bible : The illusion of a central author via homogenization.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

12 responses to “Holy Spirit as Author

  1. Ian

    Good summary.

    I know its my main drum to bang, but one of the problems of reading scripture from our english bibles is that they are intensely homogenized.

    Because they are translated by the same committee (or person, sometimes) working under a specific set of theological and translation guidelines, you get the sense that lots of it is pretty similar.

    The NT in particular, seems pretty consistent. In fact it is anything but. This incorrectly leads many people to think that there is some obvious central voice running through it.

    I don’t think it is necessary to learn to read fluently in Greek to get this, but it would be interesting to see a translation that tried to preserve functions of the language at this scale. To have revelation in pigeon-english, to have long flouncy sentences with obscure words in the pastoral epistles, and so on. It would make the obvious *theological* differences stand out too.

    Another interesting exercise is to read the gospels in a comparative edition like Throckmorton (english), where you can see the differences in the accounts starkly and their obvious theological biases.

  2. atimetorend

    Is ‘theology of scripture’ different than biblical hermeneutics? Maybe it would fall under that? Per wikipedia:
    “the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible”.

    I understand theology would be relating God to scripture writing. But what you believe about that (like the categories you presented) are integral to biblical hermeneutics.

  3. LOL @ Writing Pigeon.

  4. @ Ian: Excellent points. I will elaborate and repeat in another post. Thank you kindly.

    @ ATTR: Indeed, it may be part of hermeneutics. But it may come before hermeneutics. But thank you! I will have to add hermeneutics to the list.

    @Luke: I was hoping someone would enjoy that ! I asked two atheist friends and they didn’t get it at all. I guess it is tough if you are not an active or apostate Christian (or in your case, both – smile !) I actually spend time choosing and touching up the pics so I love it when someone gets it.

  5. Evangelical biblical scholarship, as I read more and more of it, is just apologetics. It tries to defend the inspiration (nay, inerrancy) of Scripture by making all the inconsistencies (read: contradictions) go away. I find it annoying when otherwise intelligent evangelical scholars would try to reconcile the differing Christologies of the gospels, the theologies of Paul and James, or make the Hebrew Bible sound like one long preamble for Christ.

    It is obvious that there are differing theologies/viewpoints by different authors. On this topic I would suggest Randel Helms’ very informative book “The Bible Against Itself”. Explains the backgrounds of the various biblical books and why they contradict each other.

  6. @ Qohelet — I totally agree.
    Here is a link to “The Bible Against Itself” — looks excellent.

  7. societyvs

    I agree with you 100% on the idea of ‘multiple theologies’ at work – likely trying to be homogenized as time went on from the early church into those councils (that sought unity).

    The reason I line up with the view of mutliple theologies at play is because os study of those scriptures myself over a period of 17 years – with much more emphasis in the last 4 years.

    The gospels show diversity – from the synoptics to John. Paul’s letters differ from James – and even Acts seems to have some debate with certain issues of Paul. Hebrews adds a lot of new ideas in. Revelations – well – that’s in a class all by itself.

    In the end of the study of all those 27 works one has to conclude difference exist – not only in theology – but in emphasis and who the messiah is. The gospels seek to work from a historical Jesus viewpoint (with additions I think) and the letters on a more meta-physical Jesus viewpoint (after his death – less concern with who he was). This does equivicate to a few viewpoints arising and changes/additions to the messianic ideal…so much so I would even think (from the letters alone) – Jesus’ last name was Christ and not about a position.

    I am reading a lot of Geza Vermes this day – who gets into the Jewishness of Jesus and even biblical authors that address different aspects of this person…it does seem there are multiple viewpoints when certain works are isolated from other one’s. The proof is really the amount of denoms that exist in Jesus’ name…these are all based on different weightings for different passages of scripture (or emphasis – sometimes even interpretation).

  8. solomon

    Hey guys, let me tell you the real story.The Bible is re-written and manipulated by man out of hatred,jealousy or interests.All the true teachings from the true Torah,Injil and Zabur are twisted to fit in the bible mainly to sway people from the right path and to conform to certain agendas.

  9. Derek Knox

    The standard term for “theology of scripture” is “bibliology.” Bibliology is distinct from the practice of hemeneutical methods.

  10. @ Derek
    Thank you !
    I have updated the post and my charts.

  11. Very informative post. I did see that Ian commented on something that I may be able to help a small part with.

    From Ian, “I don’t think it is necessary to learn to read fluently in Greek to get this, but it would be interesting to see a translation that tried to preserve functions of the language at this scale. ”

    The Messianic Jews have a few versions of the Bible focusing on the old Testament in English that was transcribed by Jewish and English speakers so they could keep the nuances of what the authors were trying to convey. I cannot say they succeeded in the NT portion but form what I have heard from other Messianic Jews the OT portion is very good.

  12. @ haydenlinder,
    Thanks for reading — btw, Ian knows and translates Greek.
    And remember, “experts” on the languages (believers, Jewish or otherwise) still differ in their translations. I use to translate Japanese, for instance, it is tough — and that is MODERN Japanese.

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