2 Timothy 3:16—Does this passage prove the inspiration of all Scripture or just some?

Problem: Paul says in this passage that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Some think that the word “all” should be replaced by the word “every.” Plus, some believe that the copula “is” should be placed after the remark concerning the inspiration of the Scriptures, not before. In doing so this can lead to the conclusion that some Scripture is not inspired.

Solution: First, most versions translate this verse “All Scripture is God-breathed,” except those that translate this verse with the copula “is” after the word “God.” This makes it sound like there are some Scriptures that are not inspired of God (e.g., rsv, asv), although the marginal notes in these translations give a more accurate rendering. But, most Bibles see the verse as reading “All Scripture is inspired of God.”

Second, concerning whether the word “all” should be translated “every,” some argue that it should on the grounds of, if the definite article is missing in reference to this word, the verse should be translated “every.” However, whenever the word “Scripture” (graphe) is used in the NT, it always refers to authoritative and inspired writings—never the opposite—with or without the definite article in Greek. This word is used of the Hebrew Scriptures (as in our present verse) or NT writings (2 Peter 3:16).

Third, the word for “inspired of God” suggests that God so guided the NT authors as to write the very word of God. As we notice in 2 Peter 1:20–21, no prophecy of Scripture came about by the will of man but by the Holy Spirit moving (carrying along) the writers of Scripture to speak from God. The word for “moved” (phero) in 2 Peter is the same word used in Acts 27:15 where the ship which carried Paul was so caught up in a storm that they could not face the wind. They gave way to it, and they let themselves be “driven along” by the storm. This is true of the Holy Spirit inspiring the authors of Holy Scripture to write the Word of God. But if all the authors of Scripture were moved by God, then the words of Scripture were breathed out by God and without error, since God cannot err (Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2; John 17:17).

Finally, even if it could be argued from the NT that not every use of “the Scriptures” refers to an inspired writing, nonetheless, it would not undermine Paul’s teaching here that the entire OT is inspired of God. For the context makes it clear that the “Scripture” to which he refers is “the Holy Scriptures” (1:15) which Timothy’s Jewish mother and grandmother had taught him (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5), and this could be none other than the whole Jewish OT.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.