2 Timothy 3:16
“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”
What better verse to start with than this one – the most popular of all.
Most people are not aware that the above is only one way of rendering the Greek. Some theologians (e.g. C. H. Dodd) have suggested that this passage is probably to be rendered as, “Every inspired scripture is also useful…” (Greek note: the author could have chosen to insert an article, which would have made the popular translation clearly correct, but chose not to.) Here are some other similar examples.
“Every scripture inspired of God [is] also profitable…” (American Standard Version).
“Every inspired scripture has its use …” (Revised English Bible).
“Every scripture inspired of God is also useful…” (New English Bible).
The Latin Vulgate can also be read this way.
Can you tell the difference? It’s quite significant. It leaves open the question, “which scriptures are the ones inspired by God?”
Someone is bound to point out, “but most bibles and scholars don’t translate it that way, so why should I think that is the correct one?”
First of all, as history readily demonstrates, the majority opinion in no way guarantees nor even supports the accuracy of any idea and has never been a reliable guide to truth. Second, translations are not independent of bias. When there is more than one option available, people will generally tend to favor the translations that better fit their preconceived notions. Most people who go to seminary to learn Greek go with the preconception that the scriptures are inspired, just as they were taught by their parents, at Sunday school, at church gatherings, etc. Given that the above translation does not match the theological paradigm of most scholars, it is not surprising that this translation is not favored by most.
But, for the sake of argument, say we took the more popular translation, that “all scriptures is inspired by God.” The question still remains as to what the word “scripture” in the verse is referring to. It certainly didn’t mean the canon we now have, since it didn’t yet exist at the time. What qualifies something as “scripture”? Paul doesn’t say. Paul surely was referring only to the Old Testament, as he states to Timothy in the previous verse, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings.”
In conclusion, even this most popular verse, whatever Paul meant to say by it, is by no means clear as to its message.