"God-breathed Scriptures"

by Doug Mason 29 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason


    I had my eureka moment while reading a very Christian book, "Old Testament Survey: The Messages, Form, and Background of the Old Testament", edited by Lasor, Hubbard, and Bush, published by Eerdmans, 1996. Its date show you how late in my life I came to this moment.

    While I was studying the book, I wondered why the articles were so focused on events contemporary with the writers. The thoughts flooded in but I struggled against them: Why should anyone take any interest in the circumstances when this is God's book? But I could not stem the flow and I remember the moment when I could not fight the thought that I should be looking at the Bible from the outside. I discovered that it was critical to learn about the people of this Late Iron Age period and their subsequent editors, their idioms, understandings, politics (priests versus the royal household, between various groups of priests, etc.), the illiteracy (and polytheism) of the populace, that I was reading the views of only one side (propaganda), and so on. I then extended this to my reading of the New Testament documents, and the history of their writing and compilation.

    Regarding the writing of the OT, the most significant event was the neo-Babylonian period, and regarding the editing the most important period is the Perian era. Regarding interpretation: include an understanding of Pesher. The term comes mainly from the Dead Sea community, who saw Scriptures being fulfilled in them. This is familiar to those who know the teachings of the Watchtower Society, who see Scripture fulfilled in them. Jesus did the same. Basically it means "this is that", ignoring the circumstance of the original context and applying the words as relating to contemporary events.

    Yes, the Bible does give comfort to many. Likewise, religion helps many cope with the vagaries and pressures of life. If that helps, they should continue. Similarly, when the Bible raises stress and concern (Armageddon), family breakdowns, control of mind and living, then reliance on it should be reassessed. When religion fails to help people reconcile with current events near and far, they rationalise this by saying "God works in mysterious ways". When you look at the history of humanity, do you see religion bringing peace, or conflict and war?

    All the very best with your study and growth,


  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason


    I understand there would be a few, but I do not have any information at hand on them. I had a very quick look at the www, without being able to locate a list of these words.

    We are continually making up new words ("selfie", etc.) and the practice is not new. Even the word "atone" was an invented word:


    At issue with theopneustos is that it is foolishness to build a theology on a new word that appears only once in the Scriptures, and that the context does not explain nor define. The later sparse use of the word applied it to non-Scripture, such as a tomb inscription.

    The word is an adjective. It is not a verb. It does not describe an action taken by God. It describes the quality of the Hebrew writings that Timothy was exposed to when he was a child. The Bible did not exist when that verse was written.

    The other matter of concern is the serious doubt that 2 Timothy was written by Paul, but was actually written by one of his adherents. Therefore, if a relevance could have been found in Paul's writings, it did not come from him.

    Likewise with the only other reference raised in this matter - 2 Peter 1:20-21 - serious doubt has existed from the beginning of the Church Fathers that Peter wrote that epistle. Rather, it is dated to about 150 CE and was not written by one of Peter's adherents but by one of Paul's. (Jerusalem and Antioch were at loggerheads - a real tale of two cities). 2 Peter was written by someone familiar with Greek and with Greek thinking, not by an illiterate poor fisherman. Most agree that it is a commentary on the book of Jude and was hence produced much later.

    So please accept my inability to help you find that list of "new and invented words". But if you do succeed, I would really love to knw.


  • EdenOne


    My point is that, if the term was used before Paul "invented" it, it would be very helpful to look at how it was used, and its intended meaning and context. That way one could better undestand what Paul had in mind when he used "theopneustos".


  • EdenOne


    I'm not an expert in greek, but something caught my attention. Paul wrote: πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος [literally: "every" "scripture" "God-breathed"]

    The way the vast majority of Bible translations render this as "Every scripture is God-inspired ..." However the verb to be ["is"] has been inserted into the text, i.e. it has been assumed. In greek, this verb ἐστί is absent from the text that Paul wrote.

    Some translators, noticing this absence, translated the text in this manner, which makes a subtle, yet most significant change:

    " Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness." - ASV, ERV

    " For all scripture inspired of God is profitable to teach, to reprove, to chastise, [for] to learn in rightwiseness," - WYC

    "every Writing [is] God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that [is] in righteousness," - YLT

    What's the difference?

    If Paul had written "Every scripture is inspired by God", then he was qualifying a certain catalog of 'holy writings' , presumably the Septuagint /MT, which would be the "Every Scripture".

    However, if Paul has written: "Every scripture inspired by God is profitable....", then this subtle change indicates that Paul wasn't talking about a set catalog of 'holy writings', but he was making a general, universal remark that any and every scripture that was inspired by God is, therefore, naturally profitable for teaching, etc, without necessarily making reference to a set catalog of holy books. This leaves an open discussion as to exactly what works could be accepted as "God-breathed", which is exactly the situation around the time Paul wrote this, where there wasn't a closed catalog, a canon, of holy books, both for the OT and the NT.

    I'm not sure I'm expressing myself clearly, but I think the readers can see my point.


  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason


    You are absolutely correct. You will find discussions on whether the inserted "is" is valid and whether the rendering should be "every God-inspired Scripture is beneficial" Some also ask whether it should be "all" Scripture or "every" Scripture.

    For me and my biases, I suggest that the theme of the passage and of the whole letter is a pastoral encouragement of Timothy to preach and teach, so this particular adjective needs to be read in that context. Thus "every God-inspired Scripture" would sit most happily. I think it is possible that some are caught up in the idea that "this happened because that is what God would have done", thereby presuming what they want to prove.

    Having done this, problems with "inspiration" referring to the corrupted texts that Timothy (Paul and Jesus) heard means that a new term had to be invented for the original words: "inscripturation", as well as expressions such as "verbal plenary". Layer upon layer, when the original text at 2 Timothy provides no explanation of a process. And we have such things as "adjectival verbals", and so on, without my knowing whether these were used at that time or whether the anonymous writer intended such a grammatical structure.

    The variety of explanations shows the weakness of the original statement. Let me go out on a limb and suggest something even more way out: "all Scripture-inspired-of-God" or "all Scripture is inspired-of-God". Not being a scholar of Greek nor a grammarian, I am quite likely to be shot down in verbal flames.

    Yes, which of the Jewish writings were available to Timothy?

    Most commentators say that the word was invented at 2 Timothy, although I did locate the statement: "theopneustos (inspired by God) is rare, not being used before the Hel[lenic] period and then only with reference to divination", which I noted at page 5 of my Study. Paul (although likely not the writer of 2 Timothy) invented many ideas that are crucial to Christian mythology. Always remember that he was the earliest writer and that others copied ideas from him. (Hint: eucharist, and significance of baptism.)

    As I wrote - read widely from the range of views, argue with yourself, make decisions, be prepared to keep learning and adjusting. The joy is in the hunt, in the mental gymnastics. The Bible is a very human book.


  • Terry


    What scripture actually does is . . .PURPORTS


    [ v. per- pawrt , - pohrt , pur -pawrt, -pohrt; n. pur -pawrt, -pohrt ] Show IPA verb (used with object) 1. to present, especially deliberately, the appearance of being; profess or claim, often falsely: a document purporting to be official.

    The Bible purports many things which are take it or leave it.


    1. It is either a True history or it isn't.
    2. It speaks of actual persons and personages or it doesn't.

    3. It conveys the mind of God or it doesn't.

    4. It is literal or it is metaphorical, or, it is maddeningly both simultaneously or perhaps neither.

    5. It represents actual information or it is opinion, myth, semi-legend or ad hoc hearsay. Perhaps all.

    The Bible doesn't actually exist qua the Word of God.

    It is MISrepresented as all the things it is purported to be and isn't.

    Consequently, it doesn't matter which translation is more nearly accurate.

    The state-of-the-art of Bible scholarship has demythified (did I coin that word just now?) the inerrancy issue.

    The Bible is highly suspect from start to finish. It may be nothing more than a constantly reworked pile of bones passed off as solid gold.

    The NWT is the best possible example of how that has happened repeatedly in history.

    It isn't JUST the Watchtower Society which has done violence to the text for their own doctrinal ends. No!

    Every hand that has ever touched a translation has done exactly the same violence to whatever "integrity" may remain.

    Tweaking the text is a game everyone has played! None are innocent of making it "read better" (i.e. the way the translator thinks it SHOULD BE.)

  • Emery

    Excellent study Doug!

    I'm on page 8 so far and im really liking it. I was actually planning on doing a study of 2 Timothy 3:16 myself after reading what 'Barnes Notes on the Bible' had to say about the scripture:

    "All Scripture - This properly refers to the Old Testament, and should not be applied to any part of the New Testament, unless it can be shown that that part was then written, and was included under the general name of "the Scriptures;" compare 2 Peter 3:15-16. But it includes the whole of the Old Testament, and is the solemn testimony of Paul that it was all inspired. If now it can be proved that Paul himself was an inspired man, this settles the question as to the inspiration of the Old Testament."

    I remember being floored at this but it all made sense. It's such an intriguing subject which holds so much power over the minds of Christian fundamentalists. Thank you for saving me a lot of time.

  • Emery


    My point is that, if the term was used before Paul "invented" it, it would be very helpful to look at how it was used, and its intended meaning and context. That way one could better undestand what Paul had in mind when he used "theopneustos".

    I found this in the commentary by Barnes, not sure if it was touched on but here's what I was able to find.

    "The expression was used among the Greeks, and a similar one was employed by the Romans. Plutarch ed. R. 9:p. 583. 9. τοὺς ὀνείρους τοὺς θεοπνεύστους tous oneirous tous theopneustous. Phocylid. 121. τῆς δὲ θεοπνεύστου σοφίης λόγος ἐστὶν ἄριστος tēs de theopnoustou sophiēs logos estin aristos.

    Perhaps, however, this is not an expression of Phocylides, but of the pseudo Phocylides. So it is understood by Bloomfield. Cicero, pro Arch. 8. "poetam - quasi divino quodam spiritu inflari." The word does not occur in the Septuagint, but is found in Josephus, Contra Apion, i. 7. "The Scripture of the prophets who were taught according to the inspiration of God - κατὰ τὴν ἐπίπνοιαν τὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ kata tēn epipnoian tēn apo tou Theou. " - source

  • designs

    Do you think Paul, with his colossal ego, felt he was writing inspired words at the time.

  • Focus

    Do you think Paul, with his colossal ego, felt he was writing inspired words at the time.


    Don't be absurd.

    He felt he was setting up a lucrative scam.

    Which he was.

    And one that would feed his colossal ego.

    "Follow the money," as they say in Jerusalem and elsewhere.



    ("Logic" Class)

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