All Scripture and Inspiration

In the first century AD, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to a young preacher regarding the nature and scope of the Christian Scriptures and its teaching. Paul declared,

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

II Timothy 3:16

In this post I want to give a brief analysis of the words in this most familiar passage.

πᾶσα – Translated “all, each, or every.” We see here that the KJB translates it “all” and we here at believe rightfully so. Paul’s emphasis is on the collective nature of the text rather than the distributive [i.e., each or every]. Central to this conclusion is the context and particularly the prior verse. Paul emphasizes the fact that Timothy has known the ἱερὰ γράμματα [holy writings] since he was a child. “Holy writings” is a technical term used through out the Scripture pointing not to the Septuagint/LXX but the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus when we get to verse 16, Paul has in view the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures, the canon, rather than isolated aggregates.

γραφὴ – Carrying on from verse 15, Paul declares that all such γραφὴ [writings] fall under the same category. The emphasis here of course is on the mode of revelation – writing. Paul is saying that these particular written words are of a certain quality. They are a kind unto themselves, sui generis, if you will. And what is that quality which they all possess?

θεόπνευστος – Literally translated, God-breathed or God-spirated. All holy writings are breathed out by God. This is that unique quality which the words of Scripture are and that no other words possess. These written words are God’s words thus having God as their author. These words were not mediated which means the authority behind these words is the very authority of God Himself. What is more, seeing they are God’s words, they are by definition spiritually discerned because they came from God who is a spirit. God is the immediate, ontological, and epistemological source for these particular words.

καὶ – Having God as their author, these words carry the power and authority of God Himself. Thus it is necessary that an emphasis fall to καὶ [and]. “And” can be taken here as coordinating or correlative. But Paul is not merely making a correlation between God’s words and their profitability. No, his emphasis bears more on the idea of result. Thus, we understand, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable,” as “Because the scriptures are inspired they are profitable.” As such, something of the reverse is also true. If the words under examination are not inspired then they are not profitable in the sui generis way Paul depicts here in II Timothy. What then is the nature of this profitability?

διδασκαλίαν, ἐλεγμόν, ἐπανόρθωσιν, παιδείαν – Translated respectively, doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction. There is much that can be said here but I would like to leave you with this. The profitability of Scripture which derives from its Author is not only the means of faith and salvation. Certainly, we would contain such cardinal doctrines within the scope of profitability. The litmus test for whether a copy of Scripture is indeed the Scripture is not whether or not you can receive Christ as Savior through its teaching. No, the scope of Scriptural profitability reaches far beyond that into the life of sanctification which touches the whole of Christian living throughout the whole of a Christian’s life. As the Scriptures teach, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” [John 17:17]. So do you believe your Bible contains truth or is it truth? And if it is truth like that depicted can it have errors or corruptions? And if does have errors or corruptions, can those be profitable in the same way as God’s word are profitable?

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