This post is my first and the basis for the title of the site. Second Timothy 3:16–17 states,
“Every Scripture is God’s breath and profit for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the person of God would be complete equipped unto every good work.”
Many confessing belief in Jesus Christ do not accept that the Scriptures to be God’s breath profiting a person to be complete unto every good work.
These affirm that “every scripture” in 2 Timothy 3:16–17 includes the Old Testament and exclude the New Testament scriptures. They assert that the New Testament Scriptures were neither completely collected nor circulated. Being that Paul wrote to Timothy about his knowing the “sacred writings” when he was a babe, then according to them the “sacred writings” must only be the Old Testament and not the New Testament. They think that 2 Timothy 3:15 shows that Paul was only writing about the Old Testament Scriptures like those of Romans 15:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11. From this, they presume that the Scriptures are not the source for some Christians practices. They consider the Scriptures as just being “useful” and “profitable” like many sources that are “useful” and “profitable,” but not essential. They think that the Scriptures are thus sometimes “useful” and sometimes “profitable” unto good deeds and not always necessary and essential.
This understanding regarding 2 Timothy 3:16–17 is simply wrong. The New Testament Scriptures were almost complete when 2 Timothy was written. The writings were being collected, circulated, and being completed when Paul wrote 2 Timothy. This can be seen throughout the Scriptures by such passages as 2 Peter 1:16–21; 3:15–16; 1 Timothy 5:18; Luke 1:1–3; and 1 John 1:1–4. For instance in 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul already accepted a New Testament book, the Gospel of Luke, as “scripture” as much as Deuteronomy (Luke 10:7; Deut 25:4). Paul’s reference to “every Scripture” in the later written text of 2 Timothy would certainly include the Gospel of Luke and Paul’s own past writings. Being that Paul accepted Luke, then he would have also accepted the previously written narratives that Luke referenced in Luke 1:1–3. Now, there is more to the collecting of Scripture, which was being accomplished before and during Paul’s writing of 2 Timothy.
Apparently, Timothy was a “babe” when he knew the “sacred writings” in 2 Timothy 3:15. Yet, Timothy knew “from a babe” as this was the starting point of his learning (ASV 1901). Clearly, Timothy knew “from a babe” hearing Old Testament scripture and then hearing some of the early New Testament scriptures into his youth. Even if Timothy was just a “babe” in Christ rather than a “babe” in age, then Paul’s reference to Luke, Luke’s reference to the Gospels, and the early writings of Paul show that the New Testament Scriptures would have been included. In 1 Timothy, Paul noted Timothy’s youth and referred to Luke’s Gospel as though Timothy knew this writing calling it “scripture” (1 Tim 4:12; 5:18).
What if Timothy was an actual babe in age when he knew the “sacred writings”? Could Timothy have read or heard read some of these early New Testament writings from the late 40s and early 50s AD? With Timothy being in his mid-twenties or younger when Paul wrote to him in AD 62–65 AD and he knew that Luke was “scripture” from about AD 58–60, then Timothy must have known, read and, or heard some early Christian scriptures from the 30s to the 50s like Matthew, Mark, James, Galatians, 1 & Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and Romans.
Now, the reference to “every Scripture” clearly includes the New Testament. Does it include “every Scripture” of the few writings not yet written like 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation? Paul’s general reference to “every Scripture” would literally include every Scripture even those not yet written. Paul knew the state of these writings from Rome while being with Peter, and he could know the future by revelation and the intent of Peter to write. Just two verses after 2 Timothy 3:16–17, Paul presented his foreknowledge of the future in 4:3–4. Paul’s foreknowledge is also in another scripture of 1 Timothy 4:1–3. At that time, Paul knew of existing New Testament Scriptures, and Paul most likely knew either by his own reasoning or by the Holy Spirit that there would be more New Testament writings since he already recognized some (1 Tim 5:18; cf. Luke 1:1–3). With such a general reference to “every scripture,” Paul must have been referring to the Old Testament, the previously written New Testament, and the future New Testament writings.
The Scriptures are presented as “useful” and “profitable” as the English translations translate the word ophelimos in 2 Timothy 3:16. Many take this to mean that the Scriptures are useful sometimes but not essential. The Scriptures are not just “useful” and “profitable” sometimes, but the Scriptures are the source of profiting unto every good work. This word ophelimos is used 4 times in the scriptures. These scriptures include 1 Timothy 4:8 twice, in 2 Timothy 3:16, and in Titus 3:8. First Timothy 4:8 presents physical exercise as profitable a little, while piety is profitable for all things. Is piety profitable sometimes, and not necessary and not essential? Certainly not! Titus 3:8 reveals, “Faithful is the Word, and as to these things, I desire that you strongly affirm that those believing God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.” Are good works just sometimes useful and profitable while not essential and necessary? No. Again, that is foolishness to assert that “profitable” is limited, and it is foolish to interpret 2 Timothy 3:16 in the same way.
In conclusion, “every scripture is God’s breath” means that every Scripture was written by the guidance of the Spirit (2 Pet 1:20–21). Therefore, “Every scripture is God’s breath and is profit for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. In order that the person of God is complete being equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16–17).