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Don Stewart :: Don't Some Translations of 2 Timothy 3:16 Seem to Limit the Bible's Authority?

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Don Stewart

Seemingly yes. There have been some translations of Scripture that seem to limit the extent of the Bible's divine inspiration. The Revised Standard Version of 1881 is an example.

All Scripture that is divinely inspired is also profitable (Revised Version)

The American Standard Version of 1901 reads.

Every scripture inspired of God [is] also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness (American Standard Version)

The New English Bible says.

Every Scripture inspired of God is also useful (New English Bible).

The New Revised Standard Version gives this as an alternate reading.

Every scripture inspired by God is also useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (New Revised Standard Version)

These Translations May Give The Wrong Impression

In these translations the impression may be given that there may be some parts of Scripture that are not God's authoritative Word.. This is contrary to the entire teaching of Holy Scripture. The Bible knows nothing of a partially authoritative Word from God.

It Would Be A Repugnant Idea That Some Scripture Was Not Authoritative

No New Testament writer would hold the idea that a book could be considered part of Scripture without it being fully authoritative. Yet this alternative translation would seem to suggest this. Such an idea would have been repugnant to the New Testament authors.

Human Reason Would Be The Final Judge

The view of rationalism is that human reason is the final determiner of what is true. If some parts of Scripture were not divinely inspired, then it would be left up to each person to decide what was true and what was not. This would render the Bible meaningless because everyone would create God in his or her own image and ignore those passages that disagreed with their point of view. The final result is that no Bible is left.

It Was Not Necessary To Say That Some Parts Of Scripture Were God-Breathed

In addition, Paul did not need to tell Timothy that some parts of Scripture are God breathed and profitable. No one would doubt that. His emphasis in the passage is that all Scripture is profitable - readers can examine every part and derive benefit from it. He was not limiting the Scripture to certain unknown divinely inspired, or "God-breathed" sections.

This Is Not The Best Translation

It should be noted that few translations have followed the reading of these versions in 2 Timothy 3:16. Although it is possible for the Greek text to read this way it is not the natural way in this context. The verb "is" needs to be supplied in the sentence. It is more consistent grammatically, as well in keeping with the rest of Scripture, to supply the verb after the words "all Scripture" and before the word "God-breathed." Therefore it should read, "All Scripture is God-breathed."

There Is Another Way Of Understanding The Translation

There is, however, another way of understanding this translation without necessarily view it as limiting divine inspiration. When it says, "Every Scripture inspired of God" it automatically assumes that all Scripture is divinely given - it is not intending to make a distinction between the divine and the non-divine.

Summary

All Scripture has God's authority behind it. However the translations of 2 Timothy 3:16 in the Revised Version of 1881, the American Standard Version of 1901, the New English Bible as well as the New Revised Standard Version seem to limit God's authority to only parts of Scripture. The verse reads, "All Scripture that is divinely inspired is profitable" or "Every Scripture inspired of God is profitable." These versions translate the verse with the impression that the only portions of Scripture that are profitable are those "divinely inspired" or "God-breathed" portions. It gives the idea that some parts of Scripture are not authoritative.

There are a number of problems with limiting divine inspiration to some parts of Scripture.

First, it is a repugnant idea - inconsistent with the totality of Scripture. The Bible knows nothing of a limited authority for itself. If this idea were correct, then human reason would have to be employed to determine what parts of Scripture were authoritative and which parts were not. There would be no ultimate standard that everyone could trust and agree upon..

Paul would not have to tell Timothy that some parts of Scripture were authoritative - this would be something that Timothy would be well aware of. Finally, it is not the natural way to render the original Greek in 2 Timothy 3:16. Therefore the preferable translation is "All Scripture is God-breathed" rather than "All Scripture that is divinely inspired is profitable."

Having said that, it is also possible to read the translation without assuming they are making a distinction between parts that are divinely inspired and parts that are not. There would have been the assumption that all parts of Scripture were divinely given - it was not something that had to have been said or proven.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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