Yesterday we looked at several of the translation problems surrounding 2 Timothy 3:16, and some of the ways that translators have sought to solve these problems. In this post, I want to propose my own suggested translation of this verse.
The reason this verse is so critical is because it is the only verse in the Bible which specifically speaks of the inspiration of Scripture, and if we have misunderstood the verse, then we have misunderstood inspiration. And if we have misunderstood inspiration, then we have misunderstood how we got our Bible and how to use it.
Before I explain what my suggested translation is, I want to explain how I arrived at it.
The Method to My Madness
First, I’ve been reading and studying theology for over twenty years now. So while I am not a wisened old-timer, I am also not a new kid on the block. This doesn’t mean I’m right, it just means that I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a while.
Second, over the past three years, I’ve done a lot of reading from N. T. Wright, Walter Wink, and Walter Brueggemann which challenged my view of Scripture. More recently, I read some entries in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament which challenged my thinking regarding the view of inspiration itself. Here are two of these quotes:
2 Tim 3:16 is not using a specific term from the world of enthusiasm, nor referring to any particular theory thereanent. As in the NT as a whole, there is also no mention of the sacredness of Scripture (VI:454).
In the notes, it says,
How far Paul is from an authenticating theory of inspiration may be seen from 1 Cor 7:10, 40; cf. 14:37.
These are challenging quotes, and made me step back and rethink inspiration. I ended up in a very different conclusion than that of the author (Eduard Schweizer), but they were still influential in kick-starting the investigation.
Third, I looked at the grammatical structure of 2 Timothy 3:16, and arranged it in a way that does not seem to be reflected by any other translation, but which seems to make more sense of the verse. I fully admit that I am not a Greek expert, and so it is possible that I made a structural error or violated some rule of Greek grammar. If so, and you are a Greek expert, please point out the error to me.
Fourthly and finally, I recognized that the Greek word, theopneustos, is very rare, and could mean a variety of things. While “inspiration” is one possible translation, it is not a translation which is either the most common, or reflects the ambiguous nature of the word. Furthermore, the word “inspiration” means so many things today, this word leads to much confusion about the doctrine of inspiration.
So, with all of that in mind, let’s move on to my suggested translation of 2 Timothy 3:16.
A New Translation of 2 Timothy 3:16
Let us begin with the grammatical layout. Here is what I propose:
theopneustos kai ōphelimos
pros paideian tēn en dikaiosunē
In English, it looks like this:
is God-breathed and profitable
for training in righteousness
The thing I noticed when laying it out this way is that the verse has three pairs of words. “Teaching” is paired with “training” and speaks of positive instruction (what to do), while “reproof” is paired with “correction” and refers to negative instruction (what not to do). These two sets of words are parallel, meaning that each is a synonym of the other.
The third pair of words are “God-breathed” and “profitable.” Since the other two sets of words are parallel, it seems likely that this third set is also parallel. They are synonyms. In other words, “profitable” is a synonym for “God-breathed.”
Most translations seem to imply that “God-breathed” refers to the source or origin of Scripture (where it came from and how we got it) and “profitable” refers to the purpose and usefulness of Scripture. But if my structure above is correct, then both words refer to the purpose and usefulness of Scripture, and the verse says absolutely nothing about the source or origin of Scripture.
The surrounding context supports this view, as both the preceding and following verses are all about the usefulness of Scripture in our lives.
With this in mind, I began to search for a new way of translating theopneustos to more accurately reflect this, and since pneustos can be translated as “wind, breath, or spirit” thought of “wind of God” (very similar to what Jesus said in John 3:8), “God-spirited” (which was too vague for me, much like “inspiration”), or even “breath of God” or “God’s breath.”
I ended up going with this: “All Scripture is God whispering and is profitable…”
Why did I translate it this way?
I did some research into how the word theopneustos was used in other Greek literature of the time, and without fail, it is used of poets and philosophers who seem to speak with a certain passion and urgency that makes people listen and obey what they are saying. But this was only in regard to what they were speaking. If someone wrote down what they said, and then passed it on, the written record of what had been spoken was never thought of as theopneustos (See TDNT VI:454). Inspiring words, once they were written down, lost their inspiring power.
Paul is saying that this is not true of Scripture. The written word of God, unlike any other writing, still maintains the breath of God upon it. When we read it, it is as if God is speaking it to us all over again, fresh, for our own ears. It is not simply a “divinely inspired record of what God said in history” but is the actual, living, voice of God, speaking directly into our lives. It is so real, you can feel His breath.
In being written, Scripture did not lose it’s “Godness.” It is not God, but is the voice of God, the breath of God, the whisper of God into our ears. This idea also fits with other biblical passages, such at 1 Kings 19:12 and Matthew 10:27 (Luke 12:3).
Paul’s point in putting it this way is not to give us a book of theological trump cards by which we can denounce as heretics all who disagree with us. No. Theopneustos refers to the profitability of Scripture in our own lives. Scripture is not given for us to beat others over the head with, but is for God to encourage us, and help us understand Himself in a deeper way.
Maybe we could say that 2 Timothy 3:16 should more properly be placed on the theological idea of “Illumination of Scripture” where God helps us understand and apply Scripture through the help of the Holy Spirit.
So in the end, it seems that 2 Timothy 3:16 is saying that Scripture is the voice of God, the breath of God, even the whisper of God into our lives in a way that makes it profitable even for us today. Though written, it did not lose it’s “inspiring” power to make us more like Jesus.
If you do not like “All Scripture is God whispering…” and insist on continuing to use the word “inspired” might I suggest that at least you modify it to “inspiring”? The verse would then read: “All Scripture is inspiring and profitable…” I would be happy with this translation as well. It misses the “spoken voice of God” element, but retains the parallel between “inspiring” and “profitable” and shows that the verse is more about the function and purpose of Scripture, and not about the origin.
Jeremy Myers says
What about translating in hebrew?…was not hebrew their origin language?…just asking! 🙂
as you might expect from me, I was incredibly skeptical about this series of posts and was loading up my guns to come here a blazin’. I stuck with you, trying to give you the benefit of the doubt knowing that often times you word things in such a way to illicit a reaction, so I decided to watch and listen. I’m glad I did. I love your translation and I’m gonna subscribe to these comments to see if any greek scholars out there have anything profitable to add or subtract.
The fact that I thought I had guns to load in the first place seems silly now. Good job, bro.
Jeremy Myers says
Gotta always keep the guns loaded! Ha ha! Besides, some of the “ramifications” of what I say above might still require you to come out blazing. We’ll see though…
Ant Writes says
Great article. Well researched. I would agree with your conclusions. What did you use to look up Greek works in non-Biblical literature? Did you just filter out the biblical references in Google?
Jeremy Myers says
No, I didn’t use Google at all. I used the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and BibleWorks. Both are expensive, but are excellent resources for this sort of study.
Ant Writes says
I have BW8. But the only non-Biblical lit it searches is the Ante-Nicean father’s by Schaff. I used to have a reference of Homeric Greek references in the NYT, but that unfortunately is gone 🙁
Jeremy Myers says
You can use http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/ also, but it is somewhat tricky to use.
I usually start on this page: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/search and use the transliteration table in the upper right to help me type the Greek in the Dictionary Entry Lookup in the middle left.
Very cool tool! Thanks!!
Tammy Carter says
Wow, Jeremy…that seems to EXPAND the one verse as inspiration for the entire bible! That blows my mind, but helps me trust that his breath is revealing His Word to me as He would have me understand it.
Jeremy Myers says
Yeah, it seems to make the Bible “more alive” rather than less. But there might be practical ramifications that I fear people will not be comfortable with. I might get to some of them later this week. We’ll see how it goes….
Ant Writes says
I was a linguistics major in college and I learned Attic Greek, not necessarily Koine Greek. I’m better with grammar than vocabulary, but the grammar seems correct. The word pairing (I forget the term) is a Hebrew poetic method, which would not have been known to Timothy, since he wasn’t Jewish. (Well, TECHNICALLY he was because his mom was Jewish), so I’m not positive if the word play really matters, since an uncircumcised Gentile would NEVER be allowed to read the Torah, so he would not have been familiar with it. I do however believe that Jewish expressions are used throughout the NT, since even if the NT was not written in Aramaic, they THOUGHT in Aramaic as their letters were being dictated. Since 2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter, I still don’t think Paul was going to use Hebrew poetic word play in the last piece of advice he would ever give Timothy. But, I could be wrong. I’ve been known to be wrong. 🙂
Jeremy Myers says
You are right about the Hebrew poetic form. I didn’t mention it, but it is a basic “chiasm.” Whether Timothy would be aware of it or not, we cannot know. But Paul might have included it since he was schooled in Hebrew thinking and thought patterns, and was Jewish himself. But either way, the argument doesn’t fully depend on the poetic structure.
Without some research, my knowledge of Koine Greek is inadequate to find any problems with your translation. Even if some Greek scholar should quibble, your understanding of what Paul is trying to say sounds better than any other I’ve read or heard.
Yes, we can know it is Scripture when God uses it to speak into our lives. Undoubtedly God uses other writings, events, people and circumstances to also speak into our lives. This is not saying that all are equal, but that God does not use Scripture alone to speak to us. I am especially wary of people whose doctrine is based on a handful of verses (and little knowledge of the rest of the Bible or other methods of God communicating with us).
I especially like the statement “Scripture is not given for us to beat others over the head with, but is for God to encourage us, and help us understand Himself in a deeper way.” If we believe God uses it to speak to us, I think God is speaking to us about how we ourselves can follow Jesus. Scripture is a mirror into which we look and see ourselves, not a magnifying glass to be used to examine the lives of others.
Jeremy Myers says
Absolutely right about the purpose of Scripture. It points us to Jesus and how to live like Him in the world. Thank you!
I haven’t been able to get over to Grace Ground in a week or so. Heading over there now to see if you have any new posts…
Georgia Ana Larson says
Thank you, Jeremy, for your own vocalizing of truth. Your exegetical answers speak to the metaphysician and poet in me as well as to the scholar who loves and wishes to obey the Voice of the One.
Jeremy Myers says
A metaphysician? I can’t say I’ve ever heard that term before. What is it exactly?
Georgia Ana Larson says
Jeremy, a scientist asks what a thing is in itself; a metaphysician asks what does a thing mean; a poet asks what is a thing like. 🙂
Neil Anderson says
Of course, the parallel/chiastic structure you refer to (each preceded by “for”, Gk. pros) doesn’t include the clause “God-breathed and profitable” (2 Tim 3:16a). It’s just not possible to ‘require’ that the descriptions in this initial clause be synonymous with one another when they fall outside the chiastic parallels in 2 Tim 3:16b. Since your translation largely depends on this, I think it a very unlikely rendering of the term “theopneustos.”
2 Tim 3:16 remains an excellent defense of the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture.
Jeremy Myers says
Good job noticing this. I was wondering if anyone would. It is the primary weakness in my argument.
So ultimately, the decision comes down to whether the kai between theopneustos and ophelimos is explanatory or contrasting.
If I am wrong, and the kai is not explanatory, then theopneustos is not defined in any way in the context. If so, then we must therefore go to contemporary usage in other Greek literature to determine it’s meaning. When we do this, we see that theopneustos refers ONLY to the spoken word, and never to the written word. Therefore, Paul would be saying that the Word of God was inspired when it was spoken, but this inspiration does not apply to the written word. So in this scenario, we are left without any inspiration of Scripture at all.
I prefer to think that Paul knew this word was tricky, and wanted to give some divine authority to the written word, and so his kai in 3:16 between theopneustos and ophelimos is a comparative kai rather than contrasting. He uses the tricky word theopneustos and then uses an explanatory kai to help define it, thus linking it with ophelimos, “profitable.”‘
Neil Anderson says
>>”If I am wrong, and the kai is not explanatory, then theopneustos is not defined in any way in the context. If so, then we must therefore go to contemporary usage in other Greek literature to determine it’s meaning. When we do this, we see that theopneustos refers ONLY to the spoken word, and never to the written word. Therefore, Paul would be saying that the Word of God was inspired when it was spoken, but this inspiration does not apply to the written word. So in this scenario, we are left without any inspiration of Scripture at all.”
Per my reply in your post entitled, “Is the Doctrine of Inspiration Biblical?” (July 26, 2011)…
“That such inspired (“God spoke… moved by the Holy Spirit,” 1 Pet 1:21) origins of prophecy could not extend to the written Word seems, to me, to be a bit picky :). It’s not unreasonable to suppose that the recipients of inspired prophecy were capable of also documenting that same prophecy in written form. I’m not suggesting a dictation theory, I’m simply suggesting that man is capable of transmitting conversations/ideas in other forms, while preserving original content/intent.”
Jeremy Myers says
I responded there, but let me make an additional point here.
Anybody who has heard a powerful sermon, and then written it down word-for-word and tried to “re-preach” it, or even distribute it in written form recognizes that most of the power is lost in transmission.
Why does this happen? Because the power is not in the exact words themselves, even if accurately recorded.
Ultimately, what I am trying to say in these posts is something along these lines:
So what if we have an exact transmission (as I believe we do) of what was originally said? This doesn’t make the biblical text powerful any more than a written sermon is as powerful as the original spoken sermon.
Yet it seems that according to the reading of 2 Timothy 3:16 which I presented, God does something through the reading of Scripture which makes it powerful and profitable once again.
i think i like your study on the verses but i like the fact that the epistles were written for believers in Christ and the gospels were for the lost. so the result is although we may be able to use scripture to witness to those that have no love for GOD by using scripture it is the power and authority of that scripture that produces a saving faith. the power of the work at the cross is what saves people not the nuances of language, although it does challenge us to be like the bereans. this is not in any way a criticism of your study but rather a exhortation to conclude any study back to it’s origin and that is that Christ came, he was crucified and that he rose from the dead in fulfillment of prophecy. i do not know any greek, hebrew or aramaic so i need to depend on scholars for meaning for those words written but i know that the Spirit of GOD, my comforter, will not let his words come back void. thanks for your time
Great work! I was in agreement most of the way. However, you didn’t address the final point you raised in your initial article. What was the scripture (graphe) that Paul was referring to? If you don’t research this point then your work is incomplete.
In the previous 2 verses, Paul encouraged Timothy to continue in the things he had learnt and referred to the sacred writings,( “heiros grammata”) that Timothy had learnt and was skilled (oida) in since a child. In the Judaic upbringing of a child in the early first century, the tanakh would be an essential since it was compiled as early as 450BC. My first instincts would be to think that Paul was referring to the Old Testament but that could be too limiting?, maybe?
You are better equipped and skilled to finish the great work you have begun! I will love to see what you come up with!
Jeremy Myers says
Hmm. Yes, I forgot about that question. I don’t know if I will write an article about it right now, but my initial thought is that you are right. At the time Paul wrote this letter, very little of the NT would have been written or in circulation, and so he was primarily referring to the Hebrew Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament.
I think that most commentaries would agree with you on this! Good insight!
Peter Rouzaud says
Thanks Jeremy; I needed this perspective. It helps to explain the Lord’s words: “Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me; my sheep hear my voice”
If the Holy Spirit of God is real, and dynamic, we can hunger and thirst after God, and actually get rewarded for it. This is not to say, we should not seek his word diligently. However, we humans enjoy putting everything in tidy boxes, ie: we often have our own Mishnah’s. We spend so much time arguing for the perfect translation, we miss the “whisper” of God. Sadly, we often sacrifice, the Heart of God, and replace it with the wooden ‘terms’ of God. Unfortunately, (it might be said) the High Church has had the copyright over the scriptures for well over a thousand years. They have turned the scriptures, from love letters, to gilded and leather bound demands. Truly the wise of this world fail to hear His whisper. I think, it is because is sounds too sweet to them.
Keep up the good work. Thank you again. Peter
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks, Peter. I have gotten away from this perspective some in recent years, but actually need to get back to it again. Old habits are hard to break!
You said “Most translations seem to imply that “God-breathed” refers to the source or origin of Scripture (where it came from and how we got it) and “profitable” refers to the purpose and usefulness of Scripture. But if my structure above is correct, then both words refer to the purpose and usefulness of Scripture, and the verse says absolutely nothing about the source or origin of Scripture.” I don’t know if we can say that, just because the main point is on the usefulness of Scripture, that the verse is not implying origin or source.
“All Scripture is God whispering and is profitable.” The word “whispering” seems to be too verbal. The word is an adjective, not a verb. I don’t know if “whispering” or even “inspiring” can be allowed by the word. I understand that you are using to the context to understand the word, and that the context seems to modify it because the profitability of Scripture is synonymous with theopneustos. But i don’t think that we should take a step that far. Many scholars (see the WBC and NIGNT for example) see the adjective as being a description of the origin or source of Scripture. Moreover, Paul seems to be quite capable of taking certain words from the culture of the time, and packing new meaning into the word (such as agape, mysteries, and theopnuestos, to name a few). What if Paul is not only speaking of the origin of Scripture, as well as its function and usefulness? Just some thoughts
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, you are right. Since a lot of scholars go with “God-breathed” what about “God-whispered”? The common understanding of “inspired by God” is also quite verbal.
My only real point is that “inspired” seems to be too vague of a word and is full of theological baggage which differs from person to person. I am not sure God-breathed or God-whispered is any better though, but at least these cause a person to stop and think about what Paul might be saying.
Yeh I don’t like the word ‘inspired’ either. A few of the scholars say that ‘God-breathed’ not only invokes the idea of the Holy Spirit, but also that the Scripture is God’s Word/ breath; a concept that would have been very familiar to a Jewish mindset. The word whispered might have been a common concept among the secular world, but I think that it might be better to be conservative and say that Paul is either coining a new meaning/ word (a view that a couple of scholars suggest) or is packing new meaning into the secular word. I would rather be conservative, give Paul the benefit of the doubt, and say that he is packing new meaning into the word (a noted practice of his) instead of adopting a secular idea and making Christianity fit with it.
I agree with you. We should step back and take a look at passages to see if they are really saying what we think they are saying. I am not positive, but from what I understand, the doctrine of inspiration at its core is generally used to define the nature of Scripture as God’s Word. Where differences come in, is in the nature of the process and the essence of how the Scriptures are God’s Word. But at its core, it is used to proclaim that the Bible is God’s Word. And on this definition, the inspiration of Scripture definitely does not fall or stand on 2 Timothy 3:16 alone. It is definitely more convenient for us Christians if this passage is teaching the inspiration of Scripture, and we can just jump to this passage. But it may or may not be teaching it. However, I am glad that the fact that the Bible is God’s Word, is not destroyed if 2 Timothy 3:16 is not teaching the inspiration of Scripture.
Good point; the word ‘inspired’ is quite verbal as well. The difference that the commentators wrestle with, is whether it is active or passive. Whether or not the Scripture is ‘inspiring’ or it was ‘inspired.’ Most people take it in the passive, since the word ‘θεοδίδακτοί’ in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 is clearly passive.
What are your thoughts on 1 Cor 7:10, 40; cf. 14:37. ?
I’ve read a lot of attacks on the verbal plenary inspiration over the years. Roughly 98% of them are unimpressive and strengthen my faith in VPI. Oddly, there are some legitimate concerns they could raise, but never do. One is this passage here that you quote. At first glance, it would appear Paul is setting forth 2 potential levels of authority for commands that He may give. I’ve never heard a conservative address this to my satisfaction. What is your take on what is going on here?
Gary Smitham says
For this simple soul … at the end of the day do you believe that this verse gives us a clear statement that the scriptures are ‘God breathed’ … certainly the context of Paul warning Timothy (and us) about false prophets cry out for such an encouraging word in our day of departure. Do you believe that here we are given such an encouragement?
I was under the impression; he wasn’t referring to the New Testament, seeing it was not written, compelled, and canonized yet, or is this error in my understanding? My understanding was that the Word is none other than the Torah, (the Old Testament).
Ed Lucas says
A word-for-word translation of the Greek text is as follows:
Pasa (Every) graphe (writing) theopneustos (God-spirited) kai (and) ophelimos (beneficial) pros (toward) didaskalian (teaching) pros (toward) elegchon (persuasion) pros (toward) epanorthosin (correcting) pros (toward) paideian (discipline) ten (the) en (prep) dikaiosune (justice)
The best translation I have seen is the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)
“All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice”
Notice the nuance of the punctuation, which emphasizes that a writing is profitable as long as it is inspired of God. That’s a lot different than saying “All scripture is inspired of God”.
Marvin Moran says
The purpose of this passage was to show the purpose that every God breathed (spirited) writing serves in the instruction of believers. It is not saying that all writings (scriptures) serve this purpose. Certainly Song of Solomon is not God Breathed or meant for the uses mentioned in this verse. Some scriptures are God breathed, others are not. This may be hard for some Christians to accept. The translation you give is decent, but “inspiration” is not an accurate translation. the correct nuance can only be reflected in translating both words (hyphenated pair) that “inspiration” takes the place of. “God-breathed” is a good translation and better reflects the writer’s intent. It is also important to know that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 should be read as a single sentence as they are part of the same thought. The verse should never have been divided, since doing so removes part of the intent contained in the complete undivided sentence. Dividing the verse obscures the purpose given in verse 17, and gives the wrong impression about the verse’s purpose which was never to show that all of scripture is inspired. Verse 16 without 17 tends to give that impression wrongfully. Scripture is profitable for the stated purposes only if it is God-breathed. Not all of the Bible is God-breathed, not all of the New Testament is God-breathed either. The Gospel message is God breathed, the words of the Prophets are God breathed. Basically, when God has directly spoken and made His will known, these are the God-breathed scriptures. Other scriptures are useful for various purposes. Sometimes they were written to and meant for a specific audience directly and are only informational to the general audience of all believers. Not being God-breathed doesn’t mean they serve no purpose or aren’t important or holy. It simply means that the God-breathed verses have an elevated purpose. In the Temple all the ground was sacred, but the holy of holies where God’s Glory resided, was more sacred. To understand this all better read “The real Story behind the Translation of 2 Timothy 3:16” by Frank Nelte, on the web. It gives the complete history behind our modern translations of this verse.
Mary Davis says
Did Paul consider his own letters (and his friends) as scripture or was he referring to the OT?
Marvin Moran says
Mistranslation of 2 Timothy 3:16
1. Only the first four Greek words in the text (i.e. pasa graphe theopneustos kai) are involved in the mistranslation of this verse.
2. In biblical Greek an adjective may precede or follow the noun it describes. In this case, Pasa Graphe theopneustos is, therefore, acceptably, and as we’ll see, correctly translated in English as “Every God-breathed writing” rather than as “All scripture is inspired of God.” The latter translation improperly includes a verb that does not exist in the Greek text. There is in fact not a single verb in the text of 2 Timothy 3:16. Without a verb there is not a complete thought, and therefore not a complete sentence. the thought is not complete without the completion of the sentence that is found in verse 17.
3. For contextual reasons, the Greek word “pasa” should in this verse be correctly translated as “EVERY” and NOT as “ALl.”
4. In our present age the Greek noun “graphe” should be translated as “WRITING” and NOT as “SCRIPTURE”. The word “scripture” is an interpretation and not a translation of the Greek word “graphe”. At the time of the writing there was no distinction in the term “graphe” to give it the specifically religious connotation that we today understand the term “scripture to carry.
5. The compound Greek word”theopneustos” is an adjective formed of two separate words, and its translation should reflect this. The literal translation would be correctly rendered “GOD-BREATHED” and NOT, as found in the KJV, the clause “IS GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD.” The Greek text makes no implication of anything being given. The phrase “inspired of God”, is also equally incorrect since it speaks of the reaction or response of men whereas the text instead speaks of the source of what was only subsequently recorded in writing by men, that source being God. The text is not about men’s reaction, nor is it speaking about all of scripture. This should be obvious since not all of scripture is useful in all the ways mentioned in the text. Every writing who’s direct source is God, however, is useful in all of these ways. Before rejecting this idea, as many Christians taught the traditional understanding of this text will surely do, consider if you would find texts from the Song of Solomon to be “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” If you agree that these texts (Song of Solomon) are not so generally useful, then you’ll be forced to agree that 2 Timothy 3:16 cannot be referring to “All of scripture.”
6. There is reason to believe that “kai” (and) may have not been part of her original Greek text.
1) “Kai” is a CONJUNCTION which means “and”.
2) Conjunctions join together words, clauses, phrases and sentences.
3) When this conjunction is used at the start of a sentence, the purpose is to join what follows to the previous sentence. That is not the case in this verse, since “kai” does not appear at the start of the sentence.
4) When joining two clauses, this conjunction MUST be preceded by at least one verb. That is also not the case in 2 Timothy 3:16, since there is no verb anywhere before “kai”.
5) The only words that precede “kai” in 2 Timothy 3:16 are one noun and two adjectives.
6) So A CONJUNCTION SIMPLY DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE IN THIS CONTEXT!
7) That is why the literal English translation of the first four Greek words (i.e. “every God-breathed writing AND”) does not make any sense!
8) A conjunction is totally inappropriate after the three Greek words “pasa graphe theopneustos”.
There are viable grammatical reasons for the exclusion of “kai” from the text.
“There is considerable debate amongst some “experts” of New Testament Greek regarding the correct translation of this verse. The debate concerns the status of the adjective “theopneustos”. In an attempt to justify the awkward inclusion of the conjunction “kai” in this verse, some scholars have claimed that in this sentence “theopneustos” should be a predicate adjective, when in reality it is an attributive adjective. The difference between these two grammatical constructions is that the attributive is an incidental description of the subject (note!), while the predicate presents an additional statement.
A simple example with the adjective “red” should illustrate this. “Red” is an attributive adjective in the sentence: “The red book is lying on the table”; and “red” is a predicate adjective in the sentence: “The book is red and it is lying on the table”. Notice that the construction with the predicate adjective requires a verb (here “is”) and a conjunction (here “and”), while the attributive adjective is joined directly to the noun without requiring a linking verb or a conjunction.
[In 2 Timothy 3:16 a predicate adjective would translate as “every writing is God-breathed and it is profitable for …”, while an attributive adjective would translate as “every God-breathed writing is profitable for …”, demonstrating the difference between presenting an additional statement versus simply presenting an incidental, though important, descriptive detail.]
Now if we add the adjective “all” to our example above, then we can see how the meaning between the attributive and the predicate can change things very dramatically. Thus, the attributive example would be: “All red books are lying on the table”, whereas the predicate example would read: “All books are red and they are lying on the table”. The inclusion of the adjective “all” has created a major difference between these two statements, with the predicate presenting a change in focus and perspective from the focus of the attributive statement. The predicate has introduced a completely different focus.
The key factors in the Greek text of 2 Timothy 3:16 are: first of all there is no verb in the text to make “theopneustos” a predicate adjective. And secondly, there is no article in the first part of this Greek sentence, thus making “theopneustos” an anarthrous adjective. Now in anarthrous constructions (i.e. without using the article) in biblical Greek the predicate adjective normally precedes the noun, while the attributive adjective normally follows the noun (which is the case in this verse). So in this verse BOTH THESE FACTORS (the absence of a verb, and the adjective following the noun it describes) make this an attributive adjective construction. That is precisely why Adam Clarke said that here the conjunction “kai” certainly does not agree well with the text.”
(The Real Story Behind the Translation of 2 Timothy 3:16) https://www.franknelte.net/article.php?article_id=281
You have made the basic error that most do translating this verse. Firstly ‘graphe’ does not means scripture it means ‘writing’ and applies to any writings. Crucially however it’s the false insertion of ‘is’ that changes the meaning from the original. There is no ‘is’ in the Greek, the is falsely inserted to support an otherwise unsupportabe doctrine.
It should be ‘All writing, God breathed , useful for… This suggests that Paul believed some writing even scripture were God breathed and some not. To insert an ‘is’ to make it read better in English and to be true to the original intention, it should follow the ‘God breathed’ All writing, God breathed is useful for…’ It’s ironic that a verse used to support an ‘inerrant’ Bible is itself and errant translation!
Jeremy Myers says
This post is part of a series. In a different post, I do talk about how graphe means “writings.”
Hello. Thank you for this refreshing perspective. I came here looking for the answer to a different question and was wondering if you might be able to point me toward some sources. What is Paul referring to when he says “scripture?” This is before the canonization of the Bible. Would he also be referring to books like Enoch that are not canonized but are quoted in today’s bible?
tom dilly says
What are some areas of Scripture to support inspiration/inerrancy if indeed 2nd Tim 3:16 is primarily about function/purpose?