Thread: 2 Timothy 3:16
May 4th 2012, 09:30 PM #1
2 Timothy 3:16
Hi John and Co,
I'm finally back home.
It's amazing how many times this verse keeps coming up in discussions, arguments and debates; actually in its broader context which includes verses 14, 15 and 17 plus the rest of 2 Timothy and the scriptures as a whole.
However knowing as I do that it is best to focus on a particular passage, I would like you to please focus on 2 Timothy 3 verse 16. I don't need to tell you but I guess it needs to be said that I am not a Greek scholar and will be deeply indebted if you can shed some light on the meaning and provide a spread of commentary that best explains:
'All Scripture is God-breathed ....'
Last edited by headheart; May 4th 2012 at 09:32 PM.
May 5th 2012, 08:25 AM #2
Re: 2 Timothy 3:16
Welcome back, Eric.
I look forward to comment by robrecht; in the meantime, in response to your request, I'll post some of the "spread of commentary" that has been written about the text in question.
From Black's New Testament Commentary: The Pastoral Epistles (London: A & C Black, 1960), by J. N. D. Kelly:
Paul develops his doctrine of the value of the O.T. in a sentence which commentators have found bafflingly ambiguous. Every Scripture, he states, is inspired by God and profitable ... There need be no hesitation about the noun (Greek graphē), at any rate so far as its broad reference is concerned. While it literally means 'writing' or 'book' and could conceivably cover writings or books in general, both the context and N.T. usage require that it should have the narrowed-down sense of Scripture, i.e., the O.T. Much more difficult is the total expression (Greek pasa graphē) here rendered Every Scripture. In the singular graphē can denote (a) a book of Scripture, (b) Scripture as a whole (e.g. Gal 3:8; 22; Rom 11:1; cf. also 1 Tim. 5:18), or (c) a particular passage of Scripture (e.g. Mark 12:10; Jn. 19:37; 20:9; Acts 8:35). The first usage, frequent in Hellenistic Judaism, is entirely lacking from the N.T., and we are probably justified in excluding it here. Many (e.g. AV, RSV, Moffatt) prefer the second, and translate 'All Scripture', and in favor of this is the fact that the Apostle is clearly thinking of the O.T. in its entirety. On the other hand, there is no definite article in the Greek, and where pas (= 'all' or 'every') is used with a noun in the singular without the article it usually means 'every' rather than 'whole' or 'all'. The problem is complicated by the fact that we cannot be sure how strictly this dogma was observed in the first-century koinē, but the balance of argument seems in favor of Every Scripture. Having spoken generally of the sacred writings, Paul may now be anxious to emphasize their usefulness in all the individual passages which make up the whole.
There has been much discussion about the construction of the sentence, for there is no verb corresponding to is in the original. Since the particle translated and has the alternative meaning 'also', inspired by God can be construed either predicatively as above (so AV, RSV), or as a qualifying adjective (i.e. 'Every inspired Scripture is also useful ...': so RV, NEB). Commentators who favor the latter argue that a direct affirmation of the inspiration of Scripture is out of place here, since Timothy had presumably never doubted it and Paul's object is to stress the usefulness of the O.T. Yet a reminder of the divine origin is perfectly appropriate in a passage intended to impress on his disciple its value both as authenticating the Christian message and as a pastoral instrument. A decision is not easy, but in support of the version adopted it can be argued (a) that it seems natural, in the absence of a verb, to construe the two adjective in the same way; (b) that the construction of the sentence is exactly parallel to that of 1 Tim. 4:4, where the two adjectives are predicative; (c) that if inspired by God were attributive, we should, in the circumstances, expect it to be place before Scripture, while 'also' is pointless; and (d) that Every inspired Scripture seems to contain a hint that certain passages of Scripture are not inspired.
The adjective rendered inspired by God (Greek theopneustos) occurs nowhere else in the Greek Bible, but is found four times in pre-Christian Greek literature and the Sibylline Oracles. Literally meaning 'breathed into by God', it accurately expresses the view of the inspiration of the O.T prevalent among Jews of the first century (cf. Josephus, C. Ap. i. 37 ff.; Philo, Spec. leg. i. 65; iv. 49; Quis rer. div. 263 ff.). The Church took it over entire, as we see from the statement in 2 Pet. 1:21 that in prophecy 'men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God'.
Scholars differ regarding some of the above exegesis. I'll post one or more differing interpretations later on in this thread.
Last edited by John Reece; May 5th 2012 at 08:40 AM.
May 5th 2012, 10:06 AM #3
Re: 2 Timothy 3:16
I suspect you should have a response from robrecht if he's not too busy on other threads, as well as I suspect a strong reaction from a newcomer to this forum by the name of ZackMartin (a Theist), who's post 'Why believe the Bible?' triggered this post of mine.
Let me get to reading what you presented me with and the subsequent necessary reflection that accompanies most of your posts.
Thanks for your prompt response.
'I've 'Been away so long I hardly knew the place ....' (USSR - The Bealtes),
Last edited by headheart; May 5th 2012 at 10:11 AM.
May 5th 2012, 02:34 PM #4
Re: 2 Timothy 3:16
From The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), by Donald Guthrie:
There is a twofold problem in the interpretation of this verse. First, what is the precise meaning of graphē (Scripture), and second, should theopneustos (God-breathed) be rendered as a predicate (as AV, NIV, and RSV), or as a qualifying adjective, 'every scripture inspired by God is also profitable' (RV)? The second problem cannot be settled until the first is decided, although in some aspects the two problems are inseparable. Graphē could mean any writing, but the uniform New Testament use of it with reference to Scripture (i.e. the Old Testament) determines its meaning here. But does it mean Scripture as a whole or separate passages within scripture? The latter meaning is in accordance with the general use of the singular noun, and must therefore be given due weight in the present passage. Yet the crucial factor must be the meaning of all (pasa). The absence of the article may point to the sense 'every', but there are analogous cases where pas is used in a semitechnical phrase and where the meaning 'every' is ruled out, e.g. Acts 2:36 where all the house of Israel is clearly demanded (see also Eph. 2:21; 3:15; Col. 4:12). Yet it may well be that in all these exceptions the pas draws attention to the partitive aspect of the expression, and, if that is so, the present phrase may mean Scripture as viewed in each separate part of it.
The second problem cannot be decided purely on grammatical grounds for both the readings mentioned above are grammatically possible. It would be more natural for the adjective, if attributive, to precede the noun, i.e. 'every inspired scripture' rather than 'every scripture inspired', but the latter is not impossible. The context itself must decide. Simpson maintained that the adjectival interpretation 'presents a curious specimen of anticlimax'. It is difficult to see why the apostle should need to assure Timothy that inspired scriptures are profitable. On the other hand it is not easy to see why Timothy should need to be assured, at this point, of the inspiration of the Scriptures. One explanation is that it is the profitableness not the inspiration which Paul is pressing on Timothy (cf. Bernard). After all he must have been assured of the inspiration of Scripture since his youth. The significance of the conjunction (kai) has some bearing on the matter. Its normal meaning is 'and' as in NIV and is useful, whereas the RV has to translate it 'also' which seems in the context to be less meaningful. Comparison with the use of kai in 1 Timothy 4:4 would support the meaning 'and' here and this would seem to be the most probable. While not ruling out altogether the RV rendering, it is rather more in harmony with both grammar and syntax to translate as the NIV and RSV have done. Timothy is not therefore being informed of the inspiration of Scripture, for this was a doctrine commonly admitted by Jews, but he is being reminded that the basis of its profitableness lies in its inspired character.
Last edited by John Reece; May 5th 2012 at 02:38 PM.
May 6th 2012, 12:00 AM #5
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Re: 2 Timothy 3:16
Well Eric, I don't really have a strong reaction :)
John, both the commentaries you have cited make sense to me.
What I was really complaining about, is that many people think it applies to the whole of the Bible, whereas its meaning as originally written it must have meant the OT only. Translations such as "All Scripture" are probably not very helpful in that regard, since some contemporary readers will read that as including the NT as well. That's not to say it couldn't be extended to apply to the NT as well - I don't see anything objectionable about such an extension - so long as it is understood as an extension of the text's original meaning, not the original meaning itself. But it looks like the commentaries you have cited agree with this position.
I think there is some ambiguities around "All" and "God-breathed", if it implies a partial inspiration or a full inspiration view, and some of the linguistic issues mentioned are relevant to that. But I think, regardless of my own personal views on the issue, as a simple matter of history, it is more likely that full inspiration is what Paul meant. If Paul believed in some kind of partial or limited inspiration theory, there is a lack of evidence in his writings for that; this passage is too vague/ambiguous to use as evidence for that conclusion; and given that full inspiration was arguably the most common position among Jews at the time, if we know nothing else about Paul, it is likely he agreed with it. I myself have what would be called very liberal views about the Bible, but I think for me to project those views back on to Paul would be historically naive of me.
I think my other complaint, was not about this verse itself, but simply the way some people use it. If you try to use this verse by itself as the foundation of a belief that the Bible is inspired, then that is probably not the best argument one could make (it could be accused of being circular). But that discussion is probably getting off topic in this particular forum.
May 6th 2012, 06:53 AM #6
Re: 2 Timothy 3:16
Thank you for the invitation to this thread. I'm not familiar with the discussion that prompted this thread, nor have I studied this passage or the commentaries on it, but it is certainly a nice passage to read and discuss.
My initial reading of the Greek is to construe verses 15-17 as a single sentence with a single verb, which is grammatically linked to the imperative in v 14. So the author, ostensibly Paul, is primarily talking to Timothy, exhorting him to remain faithful to that which he learned from his youth, mentioning that he learned the 'sacred letters' as a child, presumably from his believing grandmother and mother named earlier in the letter. These 'sacred letters' are subsequently expanded upon as 'every God-inspired scripture', which has now brought Timothy to the point of being a fully trained man of God. So in a single sentence Paul is referring to Timothy's education in the scriptures from being a very small boy through to adulthood and even a position of responsibility in the church. I wonder if it is even possible that Paul might be referring to Timothy not merely learning sacred scriptures as a child, but even learning them in the sacred letters, ie, in Hebrew? Regardless, he is clearly not referring to writings of the New Testament. Later on, he does ask for his books (papyri) and especilly the more valuable parchments to be brought to him. Are these texts that Paul has collected, studied, written? Interesting to speculate with such questions, but it can only be pure speculation. The freedom with which ancients in general and Paul in particular cited and interpreted scriptures seems to indicate to me that they thought of the inspiration process as being continued in the reading and disputing about the meaning and application of texts.
Last edited by robrecht; May 6th 2012 at 07:02 AM.וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי יְהוָה
May 6th 2012, 08:35 AM #7
Re: 2 Timothy 3:16
The most extensive and unique commentary I have read regarding the phrase highlighted in the OP is the seven-page exegesis written by George W. Knight III in The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), from which these excerpts:
[Snip many pages in which Knight thoroughly exegetes the biblical history and usage of each Greek word and phrase that occurs in 2 Tim. 3:16.] Paul appears to be saying, therefore, that all scripture has as its source God's breath and that this is its essential characteristic. This is another way of saying that scripture is God's word (cf. Jesus' use of "scripture" and "word of God" in apposition to each another in John 10:35). The same thing is also said when the NT uses "God says" for what is found in scripture, whether the words were originally spoken by God or not (see Warfield, Inspiration and Authority, 299-348) and when Paul insists that the message he speaks consists of words taught by God's Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12-12; cf. Heb. 3:7; Acts 1:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).
Therefore, what Paul writes to Timothy here embodies a conviction found throughout the NT and held by Jesus, his apostles, and other NT writers. Its particular significance lies in its absoluteness, first that relating to the extent of scripture (πᾶσα γραφή [pasa graphē]) and the second that relating to the character of scripture (θεόπνευστος [theopneustos]). Because "all scripture is God-breathed" Paul can state categorically that it is "useful for teaching, ..." and that as a result of its fourfold work in one's life that "the man of God" is adequate and equipped (verse 17).
Knight comments on how Paul uses γραφή [graphē] like others in the NT to refer to that which they regard as the written word of God. He then asks this question: "But is the OT all that he intends by the phrase πᾶσα γραφή [pasa graphē]?"
It would, indeed, be in accord with the context to conclude that he uses the phrase as a virtual synonym of ἱερὰ γράμματα [hiera grammata] (['holy scriptures/sacred writings'], verse 15) so that he can say more about the origin and character of the "sacred scriptures" and indicate that their usefulness extends beyond leading to salvation to include all the aspects of one's life before God.
But another possibility is that Paul is enlarging on the previous reference by using another term and especially by his use of πᾶσα [pasa]. He probably uses γραφή [graphē] in 1 Tim. 5:18 (see the comments there) to refer to words of Jesus (found in Luke 10:7). Another NT writer includes Paul's letters in the category of γραφή [graphē] (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul insisted that his letters be read (1 Thes. 5:27), exchanged (Col. 4:16), and obeyed (e.g., 1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Thes. 2:15) and identified the words he used to communicate the gospel message as "those taught by the Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:13). In this letter Paul has praised Timothy for following his teaching (verse 10), has urged Timothy to continue in what he has learned from Paul (verse 14), has commanded Timothy to retain "the standard of sound words" that he has heard from Paul (1:13), has commanded him to entrust what he has heard from Paul to faithful men so that they could teach others (2:2), and has insisted that Timothy handle accurately "the word of truth" (2:15). After his remarks on πᾶσα γραφή [pasa graphē] he will urge Timothy to "preach the word" (4:2), i.e., proclaim the apostolic message, about which Paul has said so much in this letter.
It seems possible, therefore, that Paul by his use of πᾶσα γραφή [pasa graphē] is expanding the earlier reference to the OT to include those accounts of the gospel that may have been extant and perhaps also his own and other apostolic writings that have been "taught by the Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:13; cf. for this view, e.g., Stott). This understanding also fits well in this context. It provides a reason for Paul's use of πᾶσα [pasa] and for his change from ἱερὰ γράμματα [hiera grammata], an OT designation, to πᾶσα γραφή [pasa graphē], a possibly more inclusive term. It would gather together Paul's concern for the preservation and communication of the gospel and the apostolic understanding and application of that gospel and place it on a par with the OT, as 2 Pet. 3:16-17 clearly does. And it would provide a clearer background for and transition to his demand that Timothy "preach the word" (4:2). However, we can only say that this is a possibility that should be considered alongside the other.
Looking at the question from a later historical perspective, it can be said that the unqualified statement that "all scripture is God-breathed" would apply to all the writings that belong to the category of γραφή [graphē], including those that were extant when Paul wrote. Paul's statement is not that "these" certain writings are God-breathed and no others, but that "all" γραφή [graphē] are God-breathed. The way in which he makes this affirmation gives us warrant to relate that truth to "all" of the NT, since it is recognized to be γραφή [graphē] (2 Pet. 3:16-17, where this has already taken place in the NT age).
Last edited by John Reece; May 6th 2012 at 08:40 AM.
May 6th 2012, 01:09 PM #8
Re: 2 Timothy 3:16
That's not what is required to participate in BL301. It's primarily about reading, thinking and thinking some more and if you have something relevant to add, discuss or contribute then go for it. I'm still reading and thinking and thinking and reading and will be hanging back in the shadows.
May 6th 2012, 01:12 PM #9
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