All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17]*
This is intended as the first in a series of blogs on various issues concerning Bible translations.
Perhaps the first, and to my mind, weightiest issue is that of the origin and scope of Scripture, in other words, all Scripture is verbally and plenarily “given by inspiration of God.” The Greek word translated by that phrase is theopneustos. The word carries with it the sense of exhalation [as when speaking]. When we say the Scripture was verbally given by inspiration, we assert that God did not merely inspire the ideas or concepts expressed in Scripture. The whole concept of ideal or conceptual inspiration is a compromise offered by what I call “semi-evangelicals,” who want acceptance by liberals, while at the same time, not wanting to risk rejection from evangelicals. On the face of it, it seems to have appeal, but on closer examination, the whole idea [pun intended] of ideal inspiration falls flat on its face because ideas cannot be communicated apart from the use of words. If you don’t believe me, here’s a challenge: communicate one of the following ideas without using any words: justification, reconciliation, atonement, sanctification. It’s impossible to communicate any idea apart from words.
When dealing with inspiration, we also speak of the Bible as being plenarily [fully] inspired by God. I do not believe in so-called “partial” or limited views of inspiration, which suggest that the only parts of the Bible which are inspired are those which are of salvific importance. Nor do I believe in the views of a Barthian “encounter” theology which suggests that Scripture becomes inspired as I encounter it and accept it as the word of God.
Such ideas err because:  they place Scripture in a subservient position to human reason; and  they violate the law of non-contradiction.
Scripture is what it is, the inspired written word of God, and its status as such is in no way dependent on my ability to perceive it or recognize it as such, nor is it limited by any inability on my part to perceive it as such.
Conversely, when I speak of Scripture [and I want it clearly understood that I use the terms “Scripture” and “the Bible” interchangeably and synonymously], as being verbally and plenarily inspired, I am not advocating for a view of mechanical dictation. To be certain, there are parts of the Bible which were dictated to the human writers [for example: Exodus 34:27; Jeremiah 36:2, 27-29; Revelation 2:1-3:22]. However, we also know that there are parts of Scripture which cite sources outside of the canon of Scripture [for example: Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18; Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12; Jude 1:14].
I believe the best understanding of verbal, plenary inspiration is found in understanding the sovereignty of God and His superintendence over the process of inspiration. I submit the following illustration to explain the difference between dictation and superintendence:
For over 25 years I worked for a government agency in a capacity which was essentially that of a paralegal. Not a day went by when I did not have to issue correspondence on behalf of my employer. Some of that correspondence were form letters in nature. The wording was predetermined by my employer and simply printed and mailed out, with my name only appearing as a point of contact for response. Other letters were written by me, with the wording being chosen according to the nature of the response, with the full understanding that what I was writing had to represent and be consistent with the will and purpose of the agency I represented. My employer did not dictate the wording, but at the same time, since the document could be used in a legal proceeding, what was said had to be consistent with the agency’s legal position, and would therefore be issued under the superintendency of my employer.
With those parameters in mind, I therefore believe that anyone who views Scripture as not being verbally, and plenarily inspired is not capable of rendering a translation which is faithful in intent or purpose to the original.
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.