Looking at Scripture Mastery - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Looking at Scripture Mastery - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Greek: 15 καὶ ὅτι ἀπὸ βρέφους ἱερὰ γράμματα οἶδας, τὰ δυνάμενά σε σοφίσαι εἰς σωτηρίαν διὰ πίστεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 16 πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν, πρὸς ἐλεγμόν, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν, πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, 17 ἵνα ἄρτιος ᾖ ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος, πρὸς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἐξηρτισμένος.

My Translation: 15 And because from a baby sacred writings you've known, those which can make you wise through faith in the Christ Jesus, 16 all god-breathed writings, profitable towards instruction, towards evidence, towards improvement, towards chastisement in righteousness, 17 in order that the human of God may be fitted, accomplished towards all good labors.

KJV: 16 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

My translations are purposefully stretched and should not be viewed as more accurate than the KJV translation unless I say so in the post. I'm trying to show the range lying between the original Greek text and the English.

Again, this scripture mastery verse is simple, and thus to me is boring. Not looking forward to this one.

Pseudo-Paul has just finished explaining the many dangerous kind of people who would arise at the last days and warns Timothy against them (somewhat implying that Timothy lives in the last days). In the previous post we read the warning.

Here Pseudo-Paul is explaining how Timothy can be prepared: he can fall back to what he already knows. According to Pseudo-Paul, Timothy is third-generation Christian (another mark against actual Pauline authorship, as three generations of Gentiles within the movement would have been hard to achieve within Paul's lifetime), and he has been raised knowing the scriptures.

That's the context, but there are two things I find interesting about this verse.

First, this is a verse commonly used by individuals who feel that the Christian Bible is without any errors. It doesn't same "some scripture", or "those scriptures", but instead says "all scriptures" are inspired of God. Of course, at the time of Pseudo-Paul the writings of the New Testament were only just beginning to be viewed as scripture themselves (and in the time of the historical Paul various Christians may have been writing letters and gospels, but they weren't yet viewed as scripture), so the author might only have the Jewish scriptures in mind when he writes this.

Secondly, and interestingly, the Joseph Smith Translation actually tackles this issue by shuffling a few words around to result in the following:

16 And all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Now the scripture is saying that all inspired scripture is useful. Big change from a few word changes. Unfortunately, while this change is very easy to make in English, it's extremely difficult to produce in the Greek and the idea that Joseph Smith's rendering is the actual original is nearly impossible. But it's still an interesting look at how some Mormons respond to the use of this scripture as a statement of biblical inerrancy.

In the official CES manuals on this chapter neither the inerrancy interpretation nor the JST edits are discussed. Instead, the focus appears to be on the last phrase, that the man of God may be perfect, fully accomplished toward all good labors. It seems that someone in the CES department decided that this was another verse about the importance of works in salvation. But, again, that's not what the scripture itself actually says. It just says that the result of using scripture as a tool of various uses is that people are perfected and filled with good works. Nothing about salvation here.

Why Do I Think This Is Part of Scripture Mastery?

I think this verse was chosen because it speaks of how works arise from the use of scriptures, with the unspoken assumption that this is the purpose of the scriptures: to help humans have good works. In the end, though, I think it's a very odd and boring choice of a scripture.

See other posts in my Scripture Mastery New Testament Series

Tom Doggett

Tom Doggett

I'm a programmer, Ancient Greek reader, feminist, spouse and partner, and a dad.

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