All The Writings Are God-Breathed

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

That’s probably the most commonly-quoted verse from the New Testament whenever anyone questions the accuracy or truthfulness of what we read in the Bible.

It’s found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 [an epistle which many Bible scholars admit was most-likely not actually written by the Apostle Paul], and what it says – and what it really means – are two entirely different things.

For example: When Paul [or Pseudo-Paul] wrote this sentence, it’s highly unlikely that what they had in mind was the book that most Protestants today refer to as “The Bible”. The Biblical Canon of Paul’s day wasn’t exactly the same as our own.

Plus, it’s also very unlikely that “Paul” was thinking of his own letters as “Scripture” in any way, shape or form. These were letters written to encourage other believers who were struggling with various challenges that he wanted to address. That’s all.

Still, the verse above does say: “All Scripture is God-breathed…”. Or, does it?**

Actually, no. That’s not what the verse actually says.

Yes, in your English translations of that verse you will find the phrase “All Scripture is God-breathed…”, but in the Greek the word rendered as “Scripture” is simply the common word for “writings” [graphia].

So, what this verse actually says is: “All the God-breathed writings are useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

In other words: Everything is inspired by God and can be useful for our spiritual growth, enlightenment, and development as followers of Christ.

As an example: When Paul goes to Athens and sees the idol to the “Unknown God”, he stands before the pagan unbelievers and declares that Christ has fulfilled their scriptures [or their “writings”] about a God who is unknown to them. He even quotes their own prophets and poets to show how Christ has fulfilled what was written.

So, what if what is really meant by this verse is that Christ is the fulfillment of every scripture, whether Jewish, or Pagan, or Hindu, or Buddhist, etc.?

In other words, if Jesus is the “Way, the Truth and the Life”, then we can expect to see Christ in all truth, and in all ways, and in every life.

This means we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Hindu Vedas [scriptures] teach something like this:

“God Himself is the sacrifice” [Satpatha Brahmanam] and In Tandya Maha Brahmanam of Sama Veda that “God would offer Himself as a sacrifice and obtain atonement for sins”.

“The word is the indestructible God.” (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4:1, 2).

The Hindu scriptures also highlight the physical suffering of Christ. [NOTE: There was no Hindu god or goddess who bore such suffering on behalf of sinners]:

“The sacrificial victim is to be crowned with a crown made of thorny vines” (Rigveda 10.90.7, 15)
“After death, His clothes are to be divided among the offerors” (Ithareya Brahmanam)
“His hands and legs are to be bound to a yoopa (a wooden pole) causing blood shed” (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, 3.9.28)
“Before death, He should be given a drink of somarasa” [an intoxicating herbal juice] (Yajur Veda 31).
“None of His bones will be broken” (Ithareya Brahmanam 2.6).

It should not surprise us in the least to learn that Buddha taught something very similar to what Jesus taught about loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, or treating others as we want to be treated.

Why? Because all truth is God’s truth and because all the writings are “God-breathed”, not just the Jewish writings, or the Pagan writings, but “all writings are profitable to us for teaching, instruction and wisdom.”

Christ fulfills the Scriptures – all of the Scriptures.

This does not diminish the Bible. It magnifies Christ above the Bible and above every Holy Book ever written.

Christ has not only accomplished everything in the Law and the Prophets, as he promised to do, He also accomplished what was written and promised in all the writings.

Therefore, all the writings can point us to Christ. All the God-breathed writings are profitable for us.

As long as our eyes are set on Christ, and our relationship is with Him [and not any book or man-made religion], we can learn to see and to know Christ as He has been revealed and illuminated to us, regardless of the source.

What do you think?

NOTE: Special thanks to my dear friend, Chuck McKnight, who pointed out to me that the word for “Scripture” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is actually the simple Greek word for “writings” [graphia] and inspired this post.

**

Keith Giles is the author of several books, including the forthcoming “Jesus Unbound: How the Bible Keeps Us From Hearing the Word of God”, available July 4th, 2018.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”. He is the co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.

Please, join me at one of these upcoming events:

*The Nonviolent Love of Christ: How Loving Our Enemies Saves The World, with Joshua Lawson and Keith Giles on Saturday, June 16 in Portsmouth Ohio. Register here>

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I love this: I have found useful ideas in teachings from a number of religions, such as the Dao De Jing and the teachings of the Buddha. (In addition, I even think Buddhist teaching could be useful for incels.)

    I also find useful ideas in Judaism and Islam. There is a novel called 40 Rules of Love by Elif Şafak, which is based on Sufi teachings (a mystical branch of Islam). I will end with a poem by medieval Muslim mystic ibn-Arabi:

    My heart is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks/
    A temple for idols and the Kaaba* for pilgrims/
    The tablets of Torah in law and the book of the Qur’an./
    I follow the religion of love; wherever love may lead/
    That is my religion and my faith.

    *The Kaaba is a black box in Mecca, which Muslims face when they pray five times a day. It is believed to have been built by Abraham and Ishmael.

  • “All the God-breathed writings are useful …” is a little different from “all writings are God-breathed” don’t you think? It allows the possibility that some – perhaps many – writings are not inspired by God (even some in the OT, perhaps). So I would agree that where God has inspired truth this is useful and it should not be surprising to find it in the scriptures of other religions (or in books and films either) but it doesn’t mean that the entirety of their scriptures is inspired. Equally importantly, if this translation is correct, this verse does not mean that we must take as “Gospel” everything we read in the writings that have become our Bible.

  • I have a belief that human truth can potentially come from any human. I also tend to like the idea that “writing is magic” and have probably taken more life lessons from various fiction works than anywhere else. Still, some discernment is to be involved. I think that parts of “The Lord of the Rings” certainly can fall into the God-breathed category, but I do not reserve such praise for “Mein Kampf.”

  • Graeme Cooksley

    Whoa! The text “So, what this verse actually says is: “All the God-breathed writings are useful … ”

    and In the next paragraph the interpretation is much different:

    “In other words: Everything is inspired by God …”

    ‘God-breathed writings’ does not equate to ‘Everything is inspired by God”, seems like hast generalisation to me.

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    You need to back up one verse Keith: “From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). The Old Testament sacred Jewish writings (ἱερὰ γράμματα – sacred writings) are what’s being referenced here and in verse 16.

  • ashpenaz

    What about The Book of Mormon, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, A Course In Miracles, The Gospel of Thomas, and The Power of Now, for instance? I find inspiration in all these books–am I being led away from Jesus–or into a deeper understanding of Jesus? Why do we limit Christian Scripture to that which was chosen by a group of biased men early in Christian History?

  • Thank you for highlighting this flaw in logic.

    Saying “All the God-breathed writings are useful” is vastly different than saying “All the writings are God-breathed”!

    I also think that the Christ who is “magnified above the Bible and above every Holy Book ever written” is a Christ of our own imagining. The Christ of the Word of God (the Bible) is the Christ of all time and eternity. They are one and the same.

  • bill wald

    Porn writings are “god breathed?” Your god, not mine. Or are you recognizing that ‘god” is a generic name that could apply to Satan, the Greek gods thus temple prostitution, human sacrifice . . . .

  • This post reminds me of a magicians mis-direction.

  • soter phile

    you said: “Special thanks to my dear friend, Chuck McKnight, who pointed out to me that the word for “Scripture” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is actually the simple Greek word for “writings” [graphia] and inspired this post.”

    Did Chuck forget to point out that Jesus only uses the verb form (gegraptai / “it is written”) to mean the OT Scriptures?

  • Nick G

    What do I think? That it’s typical Christian arrogance, wanting to claim everything as theirs.

  • Daniel Fisher

    Concur -the context in the very previous verse makes it painfully obvious that the particular γραφὴ (graphe) in view is the *holy* writings that Timothy had known as a child…. the author of this post seems more interested in communicating his wishful thinking than understanding what Paul actually intended in this passage.

  • Yes I don’t mean to suggest that EVERYTHING WRITTEN is inspired. Only that Christ has inspired all Truth and we can find Christ in every writing/scripture if Christ fulfills all Truth.

  • Well, the reality is that Paul didn’t write 2 Timothy. So, it’s a pseudapigrapha anyway.

  • Didn’t God invent sex? If so, then yes, even porn contains a measure of truth and beauty that can be traced back to God and Christ. Of course, not EVERYTHING written is entirely “of Christ”, but Christ does fulfill all Truth, regardless of where we find it.

    The key is first to know Christ. Then we can clearly see Christ in other writings and inspired teachings.

  • Thanks! ☺

  • Steve.isham

    Your measuring stick for the God breathed bits in non-JudeoChristian writings are those bits that affirm Biblical statements about Christ. So you infer an elevated status for the Bible. Is there then a scale of God breathed content? As though we see in the gospels that all the anticipation and archetypes in earlier writing come to fulfilment in Jesus. The Biblical narrative is always borrowing content and artefacts — redeeming, as it were, those things that came before. (Redeeming all that was once aligned with the truth, the Logos.)

  • Daniel Fisher

    Sir,
    1. This has nothing to with A J Macdonald’s initial observation, and I was using “Paul” simply as shorthand (just as you did in your article). Point remains that you missed “Pseudo-Paul’s” rather obvious context and intention, as MacDonald pointed out.
    2. If you mean by “it’s a pseudepigrapha anyway” that the authoritative nature of the work is thereby undermined or diluted, then I would question why you wrote your extensive article using Pseudo-Paul as if he were an authoritative source to support your idea about “all the god-breathed writings.” If not, I don’t see what that observation has to do with MacDonald’s critique.
    3. It is hardly the “reality” that this was not written by Paul… to borrow your words, many (not all) Bible scholars believe it was most-likely (not certainly) not actually written by Paul. And I for one find the reasoning offered by those Bible scholars to be thoroughly preposterous on that topic.

  • Could someone respond to Paul’s references to Pagan scriptures and how Christ fulfilled those? That was sort of my overall point.

  • Here’s what I think people are misunderstanding: Christ fulfilled the pagan writings and Paul pointed this out in order to draw the Athenians to Christ. The point was not that Christ validated those writings. The point was not to draw people to paganism, but to draw pagans to Christ.

    So, can we show Christ to someone who reads and seeks truth in those other writings? Yes.

  • To clarify: All Truth is inspired by God. Not literally “everything”, but every Truth is inspired by God and all Truth is fulfilled in Christ.

  • ashpenaz

    Are you saying Jesus wasn’t involved in the writing of Science and Health, The Book of Mormon, A Course in Miracles, etc.? Because Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, and Helen Schucman claim direct contact with Jesus. How is their experience different from Paul’s, who only had contact with Jesus after His ascension? Why wouldn’t Jesus ask Joseph Smith to restore His Church? Why wouldn’t Jesus explain to Mrs. Eddy how to heal people? Why wouldn’t Jesus dictate a manual for spiritual growth to Helen Schucman? Does He only speak through people within in the mainline church? Again, where was Paul before his conversion? Outside the church. John of Patmos had a vision which was argued about for many centuries–Luther rejected it. Why don’t we have the same arguments about whether people like Smith, Mrs. Eddy, and Dr. Schucman have had genuine revelations from the ascended Jesus? Why do we accept that Thomas a’ Kempis, Julian of Norwich, St. Faustina, and “Jesus Calling” all had dialogues with Jesus, but not others?

  • bill wald

    I’m a “legalist.” It is a question of command and control. Why does God take credit for the good we do and we are blamed by God for the evil we do. Either God gets what he wants or we have the ability to counter God’s “wants” and then God takes revenge here or in the next life.

    If these matters are beyond human understanding, then the entire “preaching” industry is a scam. I, personally, have no problems or complaints against God, Jesus or the ecumenical creeds.

    No preacher is going to pay his bills by telling his customers that God is beyond all human understanding and the best we can do is follow Jesus’ teachings. Personally, I take Jesus’ teachings as koan for teaching us how to think and how to see the world.

    Google says
    ko·an
    ˈkōän/Submit
    noun
    a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.

  • Realist1234

    The problem with this argument is that the same Greek word γραφὴ translated Scripture in 2 Timothy is also used throughout the New Testament, including the Gospels and Paul’s other letters, and is correctly translated as Scripture, for example in the context of Scripture being fulfilled.

    So this is a pretty poor argument against the normal understanding of 2 Timothy, and it clearly does not refer to all writings supposedly ‘God-breathed’. Jesus and other 1st century Jews would certainly not have viewed other religion’s ‘sacred’ writings as God-breathed. And neither did Paul.

  • Realist1234

    That’s a debateable point so I dont see why you can make such a firm assertion.

  • jekylldoc

    What do I think? I think I agree with those who see this post as a kind of trick. Trying to use the authoritarian mindset as leverage against rejection of “foreign” and “pagan” insight. The responses here make it plain why this is probably a forlorn hope: the authoritarian mindset insists, above all else, that “mine” (and so, “me”) are correct and all others are unworthy, even evil.

    In the end, until we get that we are just beggars who have found some bread, and not chosen disciples competing for the right to sit at the right hand of Jesus, we don’t get Jesus. And the rightness or sacredness of our scripture will not rescue us from this silliness.

    Love the quotes from Hindu scripture, by the way. Mind-opening.

  • tricky

    Yep. Typical academic sleight-of-hand … you cite a source, provide an overly sweeping analysis that doesn’t match what the source actually says, and then build a commentary on that analytic foundation of sand.

    That being said, despite some overly sweeping claims and fuzzy analysis, the writer makes a good point: God can reveal himself through any “God-breathed writings” that he chooses, and the “God-breathed writings” to which Paul was referring at the time would not have included today’s conception of the Bible. Good food for thought.

  • So are ‘God-breathed’ writings fixed in stone or are we talking about a present and on-going inspiration. The Spirit of God is constantly revealing truth to us all but very few of us ‘get it.’ Jesus stood before men doing good and healing those oppressed of the enemy and few correctly interpreted the times. Few correctly ‘read the wind’ even in the face of God’s most obvious revelation – His one and only beloved Son. It was not a revelation to be put into words by Jesus. Why? Because Jesus waited for God inspiration To break through to a Peter here – Matthew 16:17 – through the Father here – Mark 9:7 – a Centurian here – Luke 7:7 – and through a Pharisee here – John 3:1,2, a woman here – John 4:25. So we the reader must be ‘God-breathed’ to hear God’s very word spoken to us and see the One the Holy Spirit would reveal to us.

  • Daniel Anderson

    As pointed out, “scripture” could refer to the OT due to its usage in the previous verse. However, the shift to “ALL scripture,” shows the possibility of the writer acknowledging the existence of more inspired writings than the OT writings. However, if “scripture” in both verses means the “OT” only, then it excludes the NT. And that was one of the major points of the article (that “scripture” doesn’t refer to the Bible as we know it)