Does 2 Timothy 3:16, Really Say The Bible Is The Word Of God?

One of the important false assertions made by atheists and progressive scholars, is the idea that the text in 2 Timothy 3:16, does not say that the Bible is the Word of God. This brief essay examines the Koine-Greek texts to assist us in determining what is really being stated.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” ~2 Timothy 3:16-17

In any endeavor to discover the correct meaning of a text, it is important to examine the entire context before and after the verses in question. In the case of Paul’s letter to Timothy, we examine what Paul is saying in the verse preceding verse 16:

“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” ~2 Timothy 3:10-15

The context is clear: Paul is writing to instruct Timothy as a young man in charge of teaching others, the correct doctrine. Paul warns that evil men will come who will attempt to deceive the true followers of Jesus. Paul states that Timothy should “continue in the things which you have learned…”

This is a firm instruction to not deviate from the teaching of the Word that Timothy has already heard from Paul. With this is mind, the Word of God is the important foundation for what will come after. In confirmation of this, verse 15, Paul actually states what these words are: “the Holy Scriptures,” and his intended object of a continued reliance upon all of these for sound doctrine.

This brings us to verse 16, which is the text in question; whether or not it is in reference to the Word of God or something else. Even without an examination of the Koine-Greek, we can already see where Paul is going: The subject having been clearly stated: The Holy Scriptures, the question of their authority, is defined in verse 16.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…”

The reason that Timothy should rely only upon the texts of the scriptures, is that they are the only texts on earth that are “inspired by God,” literally breathed. This conclusion is the natural result of following the rule of context. There is, however, much more here in the Greek.

Concerning the original Koine-Greek, the meaning of, θεόπνευστος (theópneustos “God-breathed”), as far as the Greek is concerned, the precise meaning of this phrase is absolutely the same, notwithstanding the insignificant shift of the copula.

This is extremely important as θεόπνευστος is predicative even when the copula (connecting word) is placed after it. Wherever we see the copula located, the indication is that the scriptures described, are God inspired. This is the entire point of Paul’s letter to Timothy in this portion. The scriptures are reliable, Timothy, to such a degree—that they were given to us directly from God.

This followed by: “able to make you wise for salvation, the effective aorist infinitive; defining the wisdom that come to us because of the source of the Bible, everyone can trust in what it says.

Paul is stating that the texts of the Bible are incomparable to every other book or texts in the world, in that they came directly from the Spirit of God—His mind. There is no other texts in the history of man on the earth that have the capacity to cause the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of anyone who believes it.

The False Assertion That The Greek Here, Compels Us To Translate The Texts, πᾶσα γραφή “every Scripture”

Given what precedes this point of the texts, this conclusion is untenable.

The particular rule that is frequently cited to support this translation, does not apply to abstract terms:

“With the abstract word ‘every’ and ‘all’ amount practically to the same thing”

In every instance where we find that the Greek is not expressed by “every” and “all,” and we find that γραφή has not been defined as an abstract, rather a concrete term which indicates the established term, “Scripture,” this instance defines a collective that can be translated πᾶσα, “every” or “all.”

In instances where we find an expression such as “whole or all Israel,” or “all Jerusalem,” or “all Scripture” and “every Scripture,” this is not ἡ πᾶσα γραφή and can never be translated “the whole Scripture.”

One of the primary arguments regarding the predicative θεόπνευστος, or the predicate, is that we should we define this as: “inspired.”

This text is beyond ambiguity that it is written in the passive sense and does not need any further proof

On occasion critics assert that θεόπνευστος is active, meaning “breathing God,” instead of “God breathed,” defined as active, not passive. This is simply not true.

The reason this verbal passive is beyond ambiguity, is that the passive is assured when the antepenult has the accent. When the passive form is not part of the accent, the accent shifts to τος, which is also naturally passive.

A detailed examination of the Greek makes it certain that the object of Paul in his letter to Timothy, is that God is the singular author of all texts in the Bible. In all the verbals of this text, we find, θεόπνευστος, “God-inspired.”

The accent is on the antepenult, because of the implication of the two verbs associated. One of these reveals a passive verbal, the other an active verbal.

SIDEBAR: I never cease to be amazed at how inept some people are who claim to be experts in Koine-Greek. The following comment was made regarding accents, by Ian Beavis, who clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about:

Ian Beavis: “accents didn’t exist when the NT was written”

It is fundamental that diacritical marks are often used to determine the meaning of a word that can be accented two different ways by context. No one said the original texts used accents.

The Paul tells Timothy in the balance of 2 timothy 3:16-17, why it is crucial we understand that the words found in the Bible are not ordinary, but extraordinary:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful 1. to teach us what is true and 2. to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. 3. It corrects us when we are wrong and 4. teaches us to do what is right. God uses it 5. to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” ~2 Timothy 3:16-17

The power that is contained within the words that are in the Bible, is unpacked for us by Paul, teaching that these words God has spoken to us through the men who wrote these texts, can accomplish five practical everyday things:

  1. teach us what is true
  2. make us realise what is wrong
  3. corrects us when we are wrong
  4. teaches us to do right
  5. prepares and equips us for every good work

The power within the words of the Bible are exceedingly greater than any other words that men write in secular or other religious books

These words have literally been breathed from the Living God, and they posses power unseen. They have the same power that Genesis 1:1, describes when, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth:”

“The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.” ~Psalms 33:6

They have the same power that we see in Jesus when He spoke:

Raising the dead by a command: “Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth.” ~John 11:43-44

Calming a storm by a command: “When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.” ~Mark 4:39

A Demon comes out by a command: “But Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him.” ~Mark 1:25-26

Paul describes the power of God’s word as like a double edged sword that cuts both ways, separating the motives of the heart from the actions of our life.

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” ~Hebrews 4:12

When Jesus returns to earth at the end of the seven year Tribulation, a great army will be gathered at the Valley of Megiddo, ready to kill Jesus.

“Jesus was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the armies of these nations.” ~Revelation 19:13-15

Jesus will simply speak and the assembled armies will be destroyed. The blood from that carnage will be to the depth of a horse’s bridle (5 feet), across the 200-mile long Valley of Megiddo. This is called The Battle of Armageddon.

And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles (5 feet), for one thousand six hundred furlongs” (200 miles). ~Revelation 14:20

Most important: the power of God’s Word can change a human life from a lost and condemned sinner, to a redeemed Saint on their way to heaven for eternity:

“So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” ~Romans 10:17

There are 12 step programs and many other programs of this word, that attempt to change human lives destroyed by sin. Only a new life by being born again by the Spirit of God, can truly change the human heart, and cleanse the mind and emotions from all the damage caused by sin and this world.

Every program of man in this world addresses only the physical side of man; the Word of God—through a new life in Christ—cleanses and changes the soul and Spirit of the person. These changes last for a lifetime. I was one of those who heard about Christ as an atheist, and with all of the severe problems I had in my life at that time, I was immediately set free and began a completely new life, the moment I turned from my sins and decided to trust in Jesus. That was 47 years ago. It has been a continuing study of the Bible for over four decades, that has kept me close to the Lord for all of this time.

The Importance Of Declaring The Power Of God’s Word

Of course the reason that such a great assault is made against this text, is that the entire Bible depends upon whether these words are from God, or are the words of men. The entire body of evidence in the Bible, defines all the texts as the words and inspiration of God, who gave these texts to men who had set themselves apart from this world for God.

Even people who do not believe the Bible is the Word of God, give it a special place. Atheists write commentary about the Bible even though they say the don’t believe it. Why do people oppose a book of two-thousand year old texts, asserting that it is not true? Without realizing, these persons know deep in their heart that the words of the Bible are from a source that is somehow linked to their own existence.

See also: Biblical Inerrancy: Is The Bible Accurate And Trustworthy?

Paul Defined The Gospels, and All of the New Testament, as Scripture, Equal in Authority to the Old Testament Scriptures

Paul confirms that what the men who saw and heard Jesus, wrote, including what he wrote in his 14 letters, is also the “Word of God.”

“Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.” ~1 Thessalonians 2:13

Peter confirms that everything written in the Bible, was “Inspired” by God, breathed by the Holy Spirit:

“Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.” ~2 Peter 1:20-21


Understanding that some did not understand my exegesis of 2 Timothy 3:16, the following notes may be of some help.

The first question we must ask is whether γραφή is descriptive with other texts or was it intended in a shared meaning with other scriptures? Did Paul intend that πᾶσα should mean “every” or “all”?

I discussed previously whether θεόπνευστος is active or passive. Was it the intent to cause θεόπνευστος to function as an attributive adjective, such as “God-breathed scripture? The question for many is where should the verb be placed; after γραφή, the scripture is God-breathed, or should the verb be located after θεόπνευστος, God-breathed scripture?

In deciding this outcome, we are linked to whether καί is a conjunction between θεόπνευστος and ὠφέλιμος, or is it an adjunctive adverb? In the first century, γραφή was in use in KG for any part of writing. In the texts of the New Testament we find it only in use to describe the scriptures.

In examination of the complete context for which Paul is writing to Timothy, this would be the correct defining principle for us seeking to correctly define the texts.

This in parallel with 2 Peter 1: 20, that “no prophecy of scripture…,” means all scripture in the New Testament, which Paul is writing a majority. This is observed in 1 Peter 2:6 where this contains scripture, περιέχει ἐν γραφή. Luke also makes use of this in Acts 8:32.

Other citations which purvey this usage are: Romans 4:3, 9:17, 10:11, Galatians 4:30, 1 Timothy 5:18, etc.

The intended meaning is clearer here in 2 Timothy 3:16, by a correct understanding of πᾶσα.
πᾶς, when connected with an anarthrous noun, is best understood as “every.” In a solitary use, γραφή is written two times anarthrously as definite without the article, in 1 Peter 2:6, 2 Peter 1:20.

Once again, because we know these things are certain, this text in 2 Timothy 3:16 does not need the article. It is acceptable to use the grammatical use as “all scripture, or every scripture.”

In all considerations, there is no crucial difference in the true definition of these texts by usage of either, or. The meaning both contextually, and grammatically, is that all scripture as a whole, and every scripture, is the intended defining principle in this text.

With these things being said there is no doubt by what Paul has written to Timothy in the entire context of chapter 3, that he meant that the entire body of scripture in the New Testament is from God. This is made clear once again in Paul’s statement to the Thessalonians that, “you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1:13).

If we are honest in seeking the correct defining principle in this letter we must consider carefully what Paul is trying to accomplish. There was some doubt in the mind of Timothy that what Paul had taught him previously was, perhaps, not completely accurate. The issue may have been whether the texts Paul was writing, as well as the other authors of the New Testament, were really recording scripture—equal to those of the Hebrew scriptures.

It is clear to me that the intent by Paul is to forever settle this issue of inspiration by God, and whether we, as believers, can trust these texts as the Word of God. In this, Paul is being clear, “All scripture is by inspiration from God.”

Paul intends that all scripture be treated equally regarding it’s true source: the Spirit of the Living God. This becomes clearer when Paul defines why the inspiration from God is so relevant: “for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.”

Paul is certain as a Hebrew scholar, that no writing created by mere humans, can equal the eternal power of the scriptures to change a human life.

By using a biblical hapax, θεόπνευστος, as a compound for the word God (θεός), as well as  the verb, πνέω (breathe), by the first aorist stem πνευσ-, along with the verbal adjective ending -τος, there is no ambiguity as to what Paul meant. The texts he is writing to Timothy, and every letter Paul previously wrote, along with all the other texts of the entire Bible, are “God-breathed.”

In this passive verbal form, it is indicative that the source of all that is in the Bible, is the breath of God—these texts are the result of action on God’s part to give us these words by His inspiration, to the writers, who delivered them to us. If the active verbal is used, the meaning is that all scriptures of the Bible are filled with God’s breath and these texts breath out the Spirit of God.

It may be further argued that in patristic writing this word carries a uniformly passive significance that is based upon the reality of the creative breath of God. We can arrive at this conclusion by the compounds of verbals in τος with θεός, which are conventionally stated as a result produced only by God and his works of creation.

There is strong Hebraic evidence that God produces everything that exists by His breath. Paul being a preeminent Hebrew scholar was well aware of this fact in understanding θεόπνευστος. It is clear by the entire text of chapter 3 of 2 Timothy that Paul intended that Timothy, and all who would read these scriptures later, would understand that all scripture in the Bible has a source that originates in the breath of God, which is its essential attribute.

In conclusion, Paul is merely stating for the eternal record, that all the texts of the Bible are the Word of God.


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Categories: Apologetics, Bible, Defending the Gospel, Exegesis and Hermeneutics, New Testament Criticism, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Robert Clifton Robinson, Studying the Word of God

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