Introduction: We have been involved in a series of blogs dealing with the subject: “Great Writings on Biblical Inerrancy”. Dr. Robert J. Dunzweiler served for many years as Associate Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield Pennsylvania. Though I never personally met Dr. Dunzweiler, his influence was undoubtedly still felt in the years I attended and graduated from Biblical Seminary. Among all the professors under whom I studied, Dr. Dunzweiler’s reputation as a scholar and researcher was never forgotten.
The research arm of the Seminary, being a group of which he was a part (Interdiscplinary Biblical Research Institute or IBRI) produced essays and research publications for the wider Christian community and academic realms. I have chosen the following excerpt from Dr. Dunzweiler’s larger essay he wrote for IBRI back in 1981 entitled: ARE THE BIBLES IN OUR POSSESSION INSPIRED? TWO STUDIES ON THE INSPIREDNESS OF THE APOGRAPHS. (1)
When we discuss the inspiration of the scriptures, the term “autograph” refers to the original documents penned by Divine inspiration by the Prophets and Apostles that are inerrant and infallible in every detail. The second term “apographs” refer to the copies and translations following from the autographs. Many critics and non-critics alike may question how we can still speak of the Bibles today being the Word of God when only the original manuscripts (of which we don’t have) were strictly speaking inspired. Is it proper to refer to my NASB Bible as being as much the Word of God as those original autograph documents?
Of all the great writings on Biblical inerrancy that I have read over the years, few have helped bring clarity like Dr. Dunweiler’s piece. His proposal is that the Bibles we have today carry the authority or Divine imprimatur of Divine inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility or in what Dr. Dunzweiler terms “inspiredness”. My prayer is you the reader will find the following excerpt helpful. I would urge the reader to check out the link provided in the endnotes section of this post so as to review the entire essay written by Dr. Robert Dunzweiler.
THE INSPIRATION AND “INSPIREDNESS” OF SCRIPTURE: A PROPOSAL
A PROPOSED SOLUTION
Dr. Dunzweiler prefaces the below excerpt by addressing the issue of how today’s Bibles (apographs) are the authoritative Word of God just as much as we would affirm the original autographs to be the Word of God. He then writes the following: “Permit me to suggest a way out of this difficulty. I would propose a theological construct, the essence of which is this: that the term “inspired” include two subcategories inspiration as an act, and “inspiredness” as a quality.
Inspiration would refer to the act of the Holy Spirit, operative only in the original inscripturation of revelation; “inspiredness” would refer to a unique quality, inherent in the autographs in a primary, immediate, absolute sense, but also retained in the apographs in a derived, secondary, mediate and relative sense. To put it another way, as a result of the act of inspiration, the quality of “inspiredness” would be found in the autographs absolutely and in the apographs relatively. Thus the term “inspiration” would refer only to the originals, whereas the term “inspiredness” would refer both to the originals and to the copies of Scripture. The larger category “inspired” would then include both autographs and apographs, both the originals and copies of them.”
“This theological proposal (if it could be supported) would permit us to consider those
copies, versions and translations which we possess to be the Word of God, true,
authoritative, infallible and inspired (in the sense that they would be characterized by the
quality of “inspiredness”). But can it be supported? Or is this only a theological curiosity,
created by a feverish mind and nurtured by a strong psychological frame of desire?
The answer, interestingly, lies in the Scripture references at which we have already
looked. Let us examine a few of them a bit further, and ask some pointed questions
“In 2 Tim 3:15 we discover that Timothy had known from childhood the Holy Scriptures
which were able to give him the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ
Jesus. These were the Scriptures which, in verse 16, Paul says are God-breathed (or
inspired) and profitable to adequately equip the man of God. Now when Paul spoke of the Holy Scriptures which Timothy had known from childhood, of which Scriptures was he speaking?
Dr. Dunzweiler continues on: “What Scriptures of the Old Testament did Timothy’s mother and grandmother have in their synagogue (or perhaps, if they were very fortunate, in their possession) the originals or copies?” The overwhelming probability is that they were copies apographs. Yet Paul says that these apographs are able to give the knowledge of salvation (verse 15); and he goes on to say that all Scripture is God- breathed and profitable. It would not make a great deal of sense for Paul to have said that the Scriptures which Timothy did not have — the autographs — were God-breathed and profitable to equip him for every good work.
I believe that Paul was saying that the Scriptures which Timothy did have were God-breathed and profitable to equip him for every good work. That is, I believe that the copies of the Old Testament books available to Timothy in AD 43 (when he was, say, five years old), and the copies of those New 10 Testament books which had thus far been written, put into circulation, and made available to Timothy in AD 63 in other words, whatever books could properly be called Scripture were inspired, in the sense that they carried in them the quality of “inspiredness.”
“In John 10:35, Jesus referred to Psalm 82, argued for the propriety of calling himself the Son of God on its basis, and said “the Scripture is not able to be set aside.” Now if not
one truth of Scripture can be set aside, nullified or omitted, to what Scripture was Jesus
referring? To the autograph of Psalm 82? Or to the copies which the Jews had in the
temple and in their synagogues, whose words they could check and read for themselves?
Most probably the apographs. Incidentally, this text would argue not only for the
“inspiredness” (and thus the truth and divine authority) of copies, but would also argue
for the uncorrupted preservation, in the apographs, of the truths of the autographs, in spite of errors of transmission.”
“In 2 Pet 1:19 Peter says that “we have more certain the prophetic word.” I believe that
Peter was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures, which predicted the first coming of
our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet the prophetic word which Peter had was not the originals, but
copies. However, in verses 20 and 21 Peter is referring to the manner in which the
prophecy of Scripture originally came into being; and I believe he is there speaking of the autographs, not of copies. And yet both are inspired. The autographs had the quality of “inspiredness” because of the Holy Spirit’s unique act of inspiration; the copies had the
quality of “inspiredness” because they were derived from the autographs. In spite of the
fact that the inscripturated revelation was transmitted across centuries, copied, translated, and marred by copyists’ errors, its truths were preserved in such a way that Peter could tell his readers to pay the closest attention to that prophetic word which was available to them.”
IMPLICATIONS OF THIS PROPOSAL
We will now condense Dr. Dunzweiler’s implications to just two short paragraphs that are found in his essay (again I encourage the reader to go to the link included at the end of today’s post).
1. “It is well to consider carefully the implications of a proposal before hurrying to adopt it. In connection with this proposal I would suggest two implications. The most obvious is that the term “inspiration” represents an absolute concept, whereas “inspiredness” represents a relative concept. To the degree that copies, versions, translations and paraphrases diverge from the text of the autographs, to that degree is
2. A second implication of this proposal is that we can have not only a tremendous
confidence in the fact that we possess copies of Scripture which are as provably close in
accuracy to the originals as those copies of the Old Testament which the apostles had; but that we can also be assured that what we have is the inspired, true, authoritative, infallible, trustworthy, and powerful Word of the living God! May the divine Author of Scripture himself fill us with this confidence and this assurance!”
(1) Robert J. Dunzweiler
Biblical Theological Seminary
Copyright © 1981 by Robert J. Dunzweiler. All rights reserved. http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/00-introduction/text/articles/dunzweiler-inspiredness-ibri.pdf