What is plenary verbal inspiration and what does the Church think about it?
Plenary verbal inspiration of the Bible is the theory that every single word of Scripture was directly inspired by God. In layman’s terms, it reduces the sacred authors of Scripture to sacred scribes who recorded what God said, word for word. For more information, please see these articles:
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The Church affirms the inerrancy of sacred Scripture:
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 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) Dei Verbum 11].
However, the Church does not necessarily teach that the human authors of sacred Scripture transcribed God’s words, as if they simply copied out what God spoke to them:
In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which he wanted (ibid.; emphasis added).
The Bible itself attests to this mysterious working of God through the human abilities of men. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:16, Paul writes indecisively, trying to recall whether he baptized more than the household of Stephanas. Another example is Luke 1:1-4: The evangelist appears to be entirely unaware that his account of Christ might have a larger purpose than the recorded intention to be a history for Luke’s friend Theophilus.
Just as the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is true God and true man, so the word of God, sacred Scripture, is truly authored by God and truly authored by men.