2 Timothy 3:16a, A Greek Study -- By: John H. Bennetch

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 106:422 (Apr 1949)
Article: 2 Timothy 3:16a, A Greek Study
Author: John H. Bennetch


2 Timothy 3:16a, A Greek Study

John Henry Bennetch

The major texts in support of the Bible’s own claim to inspiration are but two. Peter wrote, “Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet 1:21). And Paul added, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16–17). It is our purpose to consider just the opening words of 2 Timothy 3:16, Πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος. Dr. Chafer makes the observation here: “It is doubtful whether any one original New Testament word has been more scrutinized under the searching rays of scholarship than has theopneustos…which word, whatever its specific meaning may be, comprehends the central or pivotal idea of the first of these two momentous passages,”1 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21.

Theopneustos does not occur in either the Septuagint or New Testament again, though common enough in later Greek (Plutarch, Pseudo-Phocylides in the Sibylline Oracles, ecclesiastical writers, inscriptions).2 It represents the mingling of two words—Theos, a common term for God, and pneō, the ordinary verb to breathe or blow (Matt 7:25, e.g.). In keeping with the usage of koinē or everyday Greek when Paul wrote, adjective compounds like this are somewhat numerous throughout the New Testament.

“The question at issue,” Chafer must continue, “is one as to whether the term God-breathed is to be taken in the passive form, which implies only that as to its source all Scripture is the breath of God—its distinctive characteristic being the fact that it originates in and proceeds from God, or whether it is to be taken in its active form, which would imply that the Scripture is permeated and pregnant with the breath of God—its distinctive characteristic being the fact that it has received by impartation or inspiration the breath of God.”3 In short, whether the Bible is the Word of Go...

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