2 Timothy 3:16

2 Timothy 3:16 October 4, 2015

In my Sunday school class, we recently talked about this famous verse, which is cited with incredible frequency in discussions of the Bible's inspiration and authority.

And yet very rarely are the details of what that verse actually says noticed.

I've already mentioned before that the text does not use the existing word that it could have for “inspired,” and that the depiction of scriptures as “God-breathed” may have the Adam story in view, with God taking what would otherwise be lifeless matter or lifeless texts and giving them life through his breath.

In this post I want to highlight other elements – that the focus is entirely on behavior. Scriptures are not said to impart right doctrine, but to be useful in training people in living a particular way.

Also note that the emphasis is on their usefulness and their beneficial character. Perhaps we ought to start there. Rather than first defining a particular collection of texts as scripture (something 2 Timothy does not do, nor does any other work in the Bible), and then assuming they must be useful and beneficial, perhaps we ought to start with texts that are useful and beneficial, and treat those as not just “scriptures” (which simply means “writings”) but as special, even sacred.

This should lead us to ask whether hate-filled texts are useful or beneficial, and if not, what that means for their status as “scripture.”


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