2 Timothy 3:16

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

Contents

Pro

"The Bible is true because the Bible says so". And here is where "the Bible says so": the verse most commonly cited by inerrantists as the Bible's declaration of its own inerrancy.

However, there are several problems here:

1. It is obviously circular to argue that "the Bible is true because the Bible says so" (or any variation thereof).

2. "Scripture" refers to what was already accepted as "Holy writ" when 2 Timothy was written: the Old Testament, not the New (and, hence, not 2 Timothy either).

3. The translation is disputed: while many Bibles say that "all scripure is inspired of God", this can also be interpreted as "all scripture that is inspired of God" (literally, "God-breathed"), implying that some scripture is NOT inspired of God.

4. Paul himself is a somewhat dubious source for "Holy writ": a man who never met Jesus (except "in a vision") and doesn't generally attribute his religious teachings to Jesus (he cites the Old Testament and "personal revelation"), but nevertheless invented a lot of Christian theology wholesale. Many Christians reject "Paulianity", and many people (including Christians) believe that he suffered from a mental disorder.

5. 2 Timothy is considered by scholars (on the basis of textual analysis) to be pseudigraphical: one of several "Pauline" epistles not actually written by Paul, but attributed to him to imbue them with authority.

...So, allegedly the Bible is inerrant because an anonymous author possibly says so, in an ambiguous document falsely attributed to a madman who never knew Jesus. --Robert Stevens 11:37, 17 Jan 2006 (CST)


Response to Con piece: "That an argument is circular says nothing about the truth or falseness of the claims made. Circular arguments may be true; they are not logically compelling.

However, the argument for inerrancy is:

1. All Scripture is inspired by God. 2. God cannot lie. 3. Therefore, All Scripture is true.

There is nothing circular about the argument."

An "argument" that is not logically compelling is not an argument: it is an unsupported assertion. And, in this case, there is no basis for the assertion that "all scripture is inspired by God", or for the assertion that "God cannot lie", except from scripture: therefore this is indeed entirely circular.

And what follows are a set of assertions that "the church has decided" or "the church has defined". These are arbitrary assertions by "the church": not arguments. Furthermore, there is no basis provided for the assertion that "PRO errs" regarding the translation issue. Con seems to be taking the view that whatever "the church" asserts must be true, by definition: but this is based on a series of arbitrary "leaps of faith" that are not supported by argument, and which also entirely ignore the point-of-fact that "the church" asserts nothing of the sort (inerrancy is a minority belief among Christians, and very few Christian denominations endorse it).

It is erroneous to believe that the Bible is inerrant (though the reasons why are rather too voluminous to sum up here!). It is also erroneous to believe that the Bible claims to be inerrant in 2 Timothy 3:16 (without several "leaps of faith" regarding interpretation), and it is erroneous to believe that 2 Timothy 3:16 provides a sound argument for inerrancy. --Robert Stevens 11:19, 23 Jan 2008 (CST)

Con

PRO misunderstands the arguments that proceed from the verse. The verse does not make the claim that Scripture is inerrant. The verse merely states that “all Scripture is inspired by God.” It is because we are told elsewhere in Scripture that God has stated that He cannot lie that we can then conclude that all Scripture is truth and without error. This verse, by itself, does not make that claim.

The verse states specifically that Scripture is “profitable” for teaching and training in righteousness as it has been authored by God who has given it to provide direction to the church regarding beliefs and practices. PRO does not allege this statement to be in error but uses the presence of the verse to address personal issues that he has with the Scriptures.

1. His first issue is that there is a circular argument in this verse. Even if that were so, a circular argument is a logical fallacy whose effect is to prevent the argument from providing proof of a claim. That an argument is circular says nothing about the truth or falseness of the claims made. Circular arguments may be true; they are not logically compelling.

However, the argument for inerrancy is:

1. All Scripture is inspired by God. 2. God cannot lie. 3. Therefore, All Scripture is true.

There is nothing circular about the argument.

2. The claim in 2 Timothy is made by Paul and in the historical context, would apply primarily to the Old testament writings. To the extent that the church accepted later writings as “Scripture,” then the church would be bound to declare that those writings were also inspired by God and truth. Those writings would then be applied by the church in its teaching as they would be profitable for that purpose.

3. The third claim is that the translation is disputed. Basically, all the translations read the same. The issue is to define that which is Scripture. Here, the church has found that the books of the Old Testament and New Testament are Scripture in their entirety.

4. Where Pro states that “this can also be interpreted as "all scripture that is inspired of God" (literally, "God-breathed"), implying that some scripture is NOT inspired of Go,” PRO errs. By definition, ALL Scripture is inspired as the Church defines Scripture as that which is inspired by God. One might protest that the Catholic Bible contains the Apocrypha which include books not recognized by Protestants as inspired or Scripture. Those books that both the Catholic and Protestant churches agree to be Scripture can be labeled inspired by God and truth.

The remaining comments reflect personal opinion of individuals, are speculative, and do not make any claim of error in this verse.

Neutral

It may be true that 2 Timothy 3:16 refers to the Old Testament specifically. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that the New Testament would not be inspired.

Claiming 2 Timothy is not Pauline doesn't do anything against the verse's meaning. In contrast to debates surrounding a scholar or student, this is a reader's debate, and authorship has no role. In any case, the fact is, the over-abundance of personal remarks which would be worthless for a forger to include, not to mention that there is pretty much nothing else in the epistle except these personal reminiscences has always been a strong support for authenticity (on this same basis Philemon is considered authentic). The only real explanation against this has been to claim that this type of 'suffering' was forged to show how a Christian's life ought to be patterned when faced with such challenges (so Marxsen, INT), yet this is completely ridiculous. No one questions that the Pastorals all come from the same author, and the many theories regarding 'genuine Pauline fragments' in the other two epistles makes it a little hard to be convinced of a forgery. Arguments from style are fairly inconclusive, as the subject nature can produce differences in style as can be seen from Cicero.

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