How does inspiration work?


Scripture is divinely inspired. God is the primary author, but there is also human authors. Now, from my understanding God does not dictate these books. So what does He do? Does the Holy Spirit put ideas about the faith in the human author’s head and then he writes about them?


From the Vatican II document Dei Verbum:


  1. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).

If you’re asking about the mechanics of the thing, it is impossible to know, just like we don’t know the actual mechanics of grace, faith, justification and salvation. If we did, we’d be God.


Not only are the Scriptures inspired, but the Sacred Tradition of the Church is also inspired, and that inspiration was behind the naming of the now canonical books of the Bible three hundred years after they were written, not to mention the inspiration of the Papal encyclicals, the writings of the doctors of the Church, and the Council teachings throughout history. Likewise, the Holy Spirit inspires all Christians in their daily lives. Some are open to that inspiration … others are not.

Again, as to the mechanism, who knows?


God gives grace which enlighten and raise the faculties of the author.

He does not dictate, but rather gives the power to the inspired author to convey Divine Revelation.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says:

“The Holy Ghost Himself, by His supernatural power, stirred up and impelled the Biblical writers to write, and assisted them while writing in such a manner that they conceived in their minds exactly, and determined to commit to writing faithfully, and render in exact language, with infallible truth, all that God commanded and nothing else; without that, God would not be the author of Scripture in its entirety” (Encycl. Provid. Deus, in Dena., 1952)."

“Seen in this light, the hagiographer no longer appears a passive and inert instrument, abased as it were, by an exterior impulsion; on the contrary, his faculties are elevated to the service of a superior power, which, although distinct, is none the less intimately present and interior. Without losing anything of his personal life, or of his liberty, or even of his spontaneity (since it may happen that he is not conscious of the power which leads him on), man becomes thus the interpreter of God. Such, then is the most comprehensive notion of Divine inspiration.”


God inspired the authors of the words of the Bible. But there are two worlds to be redeemed. We are witnessing in our own time the inspiration of the authors who address that second world, which is the world of cinema. With cinema, we do enter again into our mother’s womb, to be born again.

The two directors who are “perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect” are David Lynch and Lars von Trier. They are currently being inspired by The Lord.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit