On the Unitarian facebook group recently, a Conservative, Literal Christian posted the well-known and well-abused passage from Timothy: (2 Timothy 3:16) “All scripture is inspired by God ...”
But the Greek
text raises a number of problems: πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος
πρὸς διδασκαλίαν, πρὸς ἐλεγμόν, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν, πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν
First of all, there is no “is” (ἐστίν) in the Greek text, and there are a
number of different ways one can construct the syntax.
Second, the term
γραφή, which is often translated as “scripture,” is just the basic
Greek term for any “written text.”
Third, the Greek term θεόπνευστος
(often translated as “inspired by God”) is a pagan term meaning
“inspired.” Indeed, in the New Testament there is no definition of
The New English Bible (my preferred translation) translates the first part of 2 Timothy 3:16 as: “Every inspired
scripture has its use for teaching…” But it could just as easily be
translated as: “Every writing, both inspired and useful, is for teaching
…” Thus the claim that 2 Timothy 3:16 claims that “All scripture is
inspired …” is debatable. Furthermore, in the context of 2 Timothy 3,
the written text in question does not and cannot possibly include the New Testament because it did not exist: it had not been written yet! It might refer to the Hebrew scriptures as they are now known, and certainly not to the Chrsitian Old Testament. Rather it refers to the texts which Timothy may have read from early
childhood and were in use in Judaeism in the 1st Cenutry CE. We don’t know what Timothy read from early childhood, but it
might have contained some Old Testament book, and it might have
contained other non-canonical books of the early Christians.
Thus, as Rev. Ant Howe pointed out, the Unitarian stance that "All scripture is inspired by God" (i.e. more than just the Bible) can be seen as just a valid interpretation - if not more so - than the Literalist view that "All Scripture( i.e.Bible only) is inspired....."