The Poorly-Worded Words of God?

I had a commenter on this blog suggest that 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All scripture comes from the mouth of God”.

The actual statement there refers to all writings being “God-breathed” – or perhaps the usefulness of “every God-breathed writing.” There has been a lot of debate about how that phrase should best be translated, and what it means.

It struck me that people insist that that statement as they understand it declares “the Bible” inerrant or something like that. And yet there was no “Bible” in this period – certainly not one that included a New Testament. And so are we to understand that God’s inerrant Word fails to provide us with an authoritative list of contents, and that it affirms its own inerrancy in rather ambiguous and at times downright clumsy expressions?

The truth is that the people who claim that the Bible is inerrant are looking for texts that will allow them to claim that the Bible is what they think it ought to be. And they would be better off studying it more and taking seriously what it actually is.

  • beau_quilter

    The problem of interpretation in 2 Timothy 3:16 is compounded by the fact that most experts agree Second Timothy is falsely attributed to Paul – written by someone else.

  • dangjin1

    “And yet there was no “Bible” in this period”

    people who say things like this are only looking to disobey God and rewrite scripture to fit their own selfish beliefs.

    • beau_quilter

      dangjin is such an odd little troll. He quotes a statement, then never deals with the actual statement, just tells lies about the stater’s intentions.

      • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

        I think you have to think of Dangjin as a tom-cat, he feels that as long as he can wander in to each discussion, spray his scent on the walls, he can wander off. He’s marked his territory.

        Having a conversation with him is going to be as useful as talking to a tom-cat. He’ll ignore anything you say and still piss on the walls.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I remember pointing out to Dangjin before that trolling is unacceptable. I wonder whether he would be willing to actually engage you in conversation as an alternative to being banned…

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      James simply made a statement of fact. Anyone with a bit of understanding about how the Bible came to be knows this. Perhaps you think God chucked the completed Bible out of heaven and it landed in Palestine 2,000 years ago? I suppose it was a leather bound Cambridge KJV?

      “people who say things like this are only looking to ignore history and rewrite scripture to fit their own selfish beliefs,” to use your words.

  • Guest

    Well You would think ..after all these years (for most of
    us..) that we sat and listened to Pastors expounding on scripture…and
    throwing them around right and left…that we wouldn’t need a Bible at
    all…not ever…I mean enough is enough…”For God so loved the loved the
    WORLD…that he set an example through a human being just like us…that
    whoever believed on that idea..would finally begin to live…in the now…”

  • Cadfael

    Some think that the first word in the Greek is not a quantitative one but a qualitative one, hence instead of “all” writings more accurately be translated “Every writing” followed by an adverbial phrase “that is God breathed(inspired” since there is no verb ”is” in the first section. Therefore 2 conditions are set up 1. ”Every writing that is God breathed and (2) is worthy for……”

    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

      I’m not fluent in greek, but I’m pretty comfortable with it. If you look at teh start of the verse, I can see this translation, but it doesn’t go anywhere, the clause just dangles, and then runs headfirst into the next verse. As tricky as the missing copula is, I think it makes more sense in the regular translation. Much to my disappointment.

      How do you render the whole of 16+17 using this translation?

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      This translation only moves the discussion. We would then have to determine which writings are “God breathed.” Of course this is exactly what the early church did. They decided which writings were authoratative and which ones were not. In both cases, for everyone except a Fundamentalist/Evangelical, the determining factor is human/humans deciding what books/verses are “God breathed.” (And deciding what God breathed means is a whole other discussion)

      • beau_quilter

        I’ve got this one!

        2 Timothy 3:16 says that scripture is God breathed.

        2 Peter 3:16 says that what Paul writes is scripture.

        Clearly, God inspired these two scriptures to demonstrate that the New Testament is inspired! Then God inspired the translators of the Geneva Bible to assign these passages matching book, chapter, and verse number designations so that we would know to add them together as proof texts.

        See, some of us were listening in Sunday School …

        • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

          Yes you were :) I suspect that it makes a lot less or no sense now. Within the bubble it makes perfect sense. Now? Did I REALLY believe that?

          • beau_quilter

            It’s amazing what we all will believe to confirm our bias.
            Somehow the bias has to be shaken, not stirred.

  • James Walker

    I’ll be the first to tell you I’m no expert on New Testament Greek. That said, when I look at this passage in the Greek it seems fairly clear to me the writer is referring to the Jewish scriptures. The choice of wording is consistent with other references.

    Nevertheless, I think the writer left this open-ended enough (whether by accident or design) that we believers are granted space to form our own conclusions (with prayer and the Spirit’s guidance) as to what is or is not scripture based on whether a given writing does or does not “pass muster” with the “profitability” test.


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