What is the difference between dictation and inspiration?

The difference between dictation and inspiration is that dictation is when one or more persons says something and another records it exactly as is stated.  The one doing the writing is only a recorder and non of his style, vocabulary, and influence occur in the finished product. Inspiration, as it refers to the Bible, is the work of God through a person where what God wants to be said is accomplished via the style and vocabulary of the individual writer.  This does not happen with dictation.  In inspiration, God inspires an individual to write something but what is written reflects the style of the one doing the writing. Dictation excludes the style of the one doing the writing and is instead an exact copy of what is said by the speaker.

So, in the Bible the style of Paul the apostle is different than that of John which is also different than Luke which is different than Peter. Each person used their own style and vocabulary.  Yet, every word in the Bible is inspired by God because it has been directed by the work of the Holy Spirit through the individuals who wrote the word. Though there might be different styles and uses the vocabulary, the themes are consistent. Furthermore, this means that in inspiration the original documents are without error because they are from God even though they are expressed through the personalities of the people who wrote the books of the Bible.

Inspiration is not automatic writing where the Spirit of God simply moves the hand of the writer. Nor is it the result of a trance-like state where the mind of the writer is overcome in the person is not really aware of what is happening.  Inspiration is verbal and plenary; that is, it is God's words, completely, and authoritatively.

  • The older phrase “plenary inspiration” meant that all the words of Scripture are God’s words (the word plenary means “full”).1
  • "inspiration, plenary The “full” (plenary) inspiration of the Scriptures, in the sense that the whole Bible is inspired, not simply portions of it."2


  • 1. Grudem, Wayne (2009-05-18). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (p. 90). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  • 2. McKim, Donald K. (2014-04-21). The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded (Kindle Locations 7440-7441). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.