A Defense of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17 – Seeing God’s Breath

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 excludes 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 believe 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 believe 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. See, 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 about 62-65 AD and he knew that Luke was “scripture” from about 58-59 AD, 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, Romans, and possibly John.

Now, consider this. First, the “Every Scripture” clearly includes the New Testament. Does it include “Every Scripture” of the few writings not yet written; 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 and the intent of his writing by revelation. Yes, he would considering the whole of his writings. Just two verses past 3:16 & 17, Paul presented his foreknowledge of the future in 4:3-4. See also Paul’s foreknowledge in another scripture, 1 Timothy 4:1-3. At that time, Paul knew of existing New Testament Scripture, 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, 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.

Now, 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! Now look at Titus 3:8 “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” means every Scripture 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).

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
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5 Responses to A Defense of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17 – Seeing God’s Breath

  1. Phil says:

    Are you aware that one can read the scriptures and not spiritually comprehend what they read? You seem to indicate that words are received equally by all, and this is a big mistake. The NT is Spiritual in nature and reading it intellectually can really lead to serious misunderstanding. Your system of understanding is dangerous because it allows Gods words to fall on your intellect mind and you follow them as if they are instructions on how to “act,” and not how to “be.” The difference is subtle but very very important.

    Your theology is very elementary and meant only for babes in Christ. The mature Christian must see that we are to be “transformed of mind,” not just “transformed of action” as you suggest.

    I’d like to see you grow into Spirit and away from the text as all mature Christian should do. Not sure you get this…yet.

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    • The words are not received equally among the immature and the corrupt.

      “The NT is Spiritual in nature and reading it intellectually can really lead to serious misunderstanding.” That is blasphemy. God did not fail in communicating through Christ and His Apostles. Christ did not fail communicating the Truth. The Spirit did not fail communicating through Christ’s Apostles.

      You have failed to communicate whatever maturity that you claim.

      “Brethren, do not be children in mind; however, in malice be babes, but in mind be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20).

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  2. Scott says:

    Thank you Alan for reading and testing all things. Most the scholars that I read believe that it is a quote of “Scripture” being what Jesus said in Luke 10:7 being that the wording is an exact quote.

    Here’s a presentation of the phrases from Lev. 19:13 and Deut. 24:15 to 1 Tim. 5:18 and Luke 10:7 that Jesus and Paul might be referring to:

    *”The laborer is worthy of his hire[wage]” (1 Tim. 5:18, Luke 10:7)

    *”You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him:” (Lev. 19:13)
    *”the wages of a hired servant shall not abide with you all night until the morning.” (Lev. 19:13)
    *”in his day you shall give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it;” (Deut. 24:15)

    There are clearly similarities, but 1 Tim. 5:18 and Luke 10:7 would have to be drawn by implication since the points are different in the OT references. First Timothy 5:18 could be implied from these passages apart from being the exact words of Christ, but this can not be for Paul and Jesus to both separately refer to these passages with the same exact paraphrase by an implication for which both have separately concluded from Lev. 19:13 and Deut. 24:15. It appears that Jesus made the statment Himself or by implication from these passages, and then Paul used used Jesus’ exact wording in this paraphrase being recorded in “Scripture” only in Luke 10:7. I still doubt that Jesus was paraphrasing an implication from Lev. 19:13 and Deut. 24:15. I also looked at the LXX and there are no quotations of two or more words from Lev. 19:13 and Deut. 24:15 to suggest that Jesus and Paul were referring to these passages.

    Thanks for challenging me and please continue to prove your point if there is something that I missed.

    Grace and peace to you in Christ,
    Scott

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  3. Alan says:

    Hello. I’m not debating your conclusions here, just one of your arguments. You claim that Paul is accepting Luke as scripture by referencing Luke in 1 Timothy 5:18. Um, Paul is not referencing Luke in that passage, he is referencing Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:15.

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