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Hebrews 2:6 and Inspiration

James McGrath brings up Hebrews 2:6, where the author introduces a quote by saying “somebody somewhere says.” Dr. McGrath uses this sort of as an argument against inerrancy, though primarily as an argument for human authorship.

I have used the text in a similar way. It is not, in fact, a good argument against inerrancy, at least as generally defined by scholars who affirm it. It is not an error but rather a failure to state a fact. Is this rhetorical? One of the commenters on Dr. McGrath’s post seems to think so. I would suggest rather that the author either did not remember precisely or simply didn’t come up with a good way to introduce the passage.

But the important thing about this, in my view, is that the verse sounds distinctly human. The problem with “distinctly human” is that we don’t really have a way of knowing how God might talk about such a thing should he choose to. But arguing about this particular issue and finding a way to make it more “god-like” in tone is not the issue.

One key point I try to make in my book When People Speak for God is that we need to look at how Scripture actually was produced and how it functions in order to understand how it was produced and how it functions. Circular? Well, in a way. There’s nothing like looking at the actual object or mechanism to discover what it is and what it does.

But the tendency in creating or producing a doctrine about Scripture is often to read texts in Scripture that say what the “Word of God” is, or texts that speak of what Scripture is (circular again, anyone?), then to imagine what this would mean in practice, and finally to force the texts to fit the definition.

What does it mean for Scripture to be “god-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16)? The only way we have to really know that is to look at other things that are god-breathed, if we can find them. The difference between “All god-breathed Scripture” and “All Scripture is god-breathed” may be somewhat less substantial than people think. What we need to do is to fill in the definition of “god-breathed” by looking at Scripture, rather than concocting a definition and then imposing it on Scripture.

Besides looking at how Scripture itself came to us, we have some interesting claims regarding what God’s breath might do, such as Genesis 2:7, when God breathes into the first human being. Interestingly enough, that first human became alive. He did not, perhaps unfortunately, become inerrant.

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