2Tim. 3:16. Every scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for teaching, etc.; or, Every scripture, given by inspiration of God, [is] also profitable for teaching, etc. It is now admitted by all competent scholars that either of these translations is grammatically admissible; no valid objection can be urged against either from the construction. Take the one or the other, and it will be found quite easy to support it by parallel examples; so that it is from the subject, and the connection in which it stands, that our grounds of preference must be drawn. Indeed, it matters little for the interpretation which we adopt, if the subject itself be rightly determined.
What precisely is meant by πᾶσα γραφὴ? Every scripture, as it must be rendered, since there is no article after πᾶσα [see here]. Can this, as some would have it, be taken in the sense of scripture, or written production of any sort? If it could, then the nearest adjective (θεόπνευστος) should have to be regarded as an attributive of the subject, distinguishing between one kind of writing and another:—Every writing God-inspired—not writings of all sorts, but whatever writing has this origin and character—is also profitable, etc. The expression, however, cannot be so taken. The usage is against it. There are as many as fifty passages in the New Testament in which γραφὴ occurs; and in every one of them, whether it has the article or not,—whether, also, it is in the singular or the plural (the singular, besides here, in John 19:37; 2Pet 1:20),—the word has but one meaning: it signifies uniformly sacred Scripture, which virtually determines the meaning here. But the context conclusively fixes it; for there the subject of discourse is not writings generally, but specially the sacred writings—those which Timothy had as a child been instructed in. These alone were in the eye of the apostle at the time; and so the πᾶσα γραφὴ, which follows, cannot fairly have any other sense attached to it than that of every part of the previously mentioned whole. He spoke first collectively of the Holy Scriptures; now he speaks individually of the component writings. So Chrysostom: “All, of what sort? That of which, says he, I said all holy; of which he was just declaring that from a mere child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures.”
Holding this, then, to be the subject in hand—Holy Scripture in one and all of its parts—it is plainly of no moment, as regards the substantive import of the passage, whether we say.
- Every scripture given by inspiration of God is also profitable; or,
- Every scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.
For in the former the theopneustic or divinely-inspired character is made to extend to every part of the sacred volume as well as in the other. In both, indeed, there is a virtual predication of the divine element; only, according to the first, the quality is assumed under a specific attribute or title, stamped, as it were, on the formal character of the writings; while, according to the second, it is directly affirmed of them. That is really the whole amount of the difference when you limit the reference in γραφὴ to sacred Scripture alone, and make the attribute of divine inspiration associated with it co-extensive with each and all of the component parts of Scripture. For in that case the expression, Every scripture given by inspiration of God, is equivalent to, Every scripture being given by inspiration of God; which, as already said, is a predicate in the form of an assumption. Such, precisely, is the way Origen explains, who is commonly represented as denying the predicative force of the θεόπνευστος here. He says:
“Let it be to us according to our faith, whereby we have trusted, that every scripture, being God-inspired (θεόπνευστος οὖσα), is profitable. For one alternative you must admit regarding those scriptures—either that they were not God-inspired, since they are not profitable; or that, since they are profitable, they are God-inspired” (Op. vol. ii. p. 443, ed. De Larue).
Clearly, therefore, Origen attached a predicative force to the θεόπνευστος; not less (only with a slight difference in the mode of exhibition) than Chrysostom, when, after explaining the “every scripture” here to be inclusive of all the sacred writings, he adds: “The whole of this, therefore, is divinely inspired; doubt not, then,” says he—namely, as to the truly divine character of Scripture—“in every part it is of God.”
Since nothing, then, as to the import of the passage depends on the mode of construing it, the only question touching the construction is, which of the two modes seems the more natural. Was it more likely that
St. Paul would seek to confirm the soul of Timothy in his early-imbibed regard to Scripture, and appreciation of its value, by directly asserting the divinely-inspired character of each of its parts, and then indicating what, as possessing such a character, were the important uses which it was calculated to serve? or
that, on the assumption of its divinely-inspired character, he should simply point attention to those various uses?
I cannot but think (after all that Huther. Ellicott, Alford, and others have advanced on the other side) that the former was the more natural. The inspired character of particular portions of Old Testament Scripture, it is alleged, was not then called in question by those who acknowledged an inspired element in any. But are we sufficiently acquainted with all the phases of opinion then afloat, to be sure that such was the case? No one can be sure; and besides, Timothy was coming into contact with modes of thought which set light by the very heart and substance of the Old Testament revelations. Even apart from such things, might not Timothy himself—not the less, one might almost say all the more, that he had been familiar with the Scriptures from his very childhood—be the better for having his mind thus arrested on the higher element in their composition? Would it not serve to bind him the more closely to them, and render him disposed to apply them to the uses for which they were designed? Surely, if it was not unnecessary or out of place to press on him such simple exhortations as to remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, and that St. Paul was a minister of His truth and an apostle to the Gentiles, it could not be superfluous to impress upon him a sense of the divine character of Old Testament Scripture.
And then, as to the objection that on this view “the καὶ, being copulative, would seem to associate two predications,—one relating to the essential character of Scripture, the other to its practical applicabilities, which appear scarcely homogeneous” (Ellicott),—the simple reply is, that according to the structure of the passage, the καὶ is to be taken as καὶ consecutivum, presenting what follows as a consequence growing out of what precedes (Winer, Gr. liii. 3):—Every scripture is given by inspiration of God, and hence is profitable; because it is that, then, as a matter of course, it is also this. The ancient versions, it may be added, omitted the καὶ. Thus the Vulgate: Omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata utilis est; so also the Syriac; and both Origen and his Latin translator, in the passage formerly referred to. But this probably arose from a desire merely to evade what was felt to have a measure of difficulty in it—they thought it enough to give the substance.
In regard to the subject itself of the inspiration of Scripture, the field is too wide and varied for discussion here. I simply refer to my article on the subject in the Imp. Bible Dictionary, and the works noticed there. The quality expressed by θεόπνευστος is primarily and strictly applicable only to men, employed as the instruments of the Spirit in making known His will to the world, writing as they were guided, or speaking as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2Pet 1:21). But it is in accordance with common usage to apply the same epithet to the words or writings that came from them under such an influence: the product of divine inspiration, they might justly enough be said to be themselves inspired.
The things mentioned in connection with the profitableness of Old Testament Scripture call for no special illustration: it is profitable for instruction (διδασκαλίαν, or teaching in the things of God), for conviction (or reproof, ἐλεγμόν), for correction, for discipline (παιδείαν, see at 2Ti 2:25, Tit 2:12) in righteousness; that is, for such a moral training as will lead those who submit to it to live in righteousness. All this, be it observed, is affirmed of the Old Testament Scriptures, even after the fuller light of the gospel had come. They have such uses still to fulfill to the church of Christ.