Sunday, 2 September 2012

All scripture is innerant

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 δικαιοσύνῃ

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 “inspiration.”

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....."

1 comment:

  1. very nice connection. the ultimate conviction of this truth will come through individual experience and observation, but having coherent proof is an incredible milestone in the mission to deprogram blindness.