This text is generally held to be a touchstone of canonicity:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.—2nd Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

I've always read this to mean that if a text is Scripture then it is inspired and useful for teaching, etc. In other words, the criteria is exclusive.

Tertullian, however, seems to see it as inclusive:

But since Enoch in the same Scripture has preached likewise concerning the Lord, nothing at all must be rejected by us which pertains to us; and we read that “every Scripture suitable for edification is divinely inspired.”

That is, if a text is suitable for edification then it is inspired and therefore Scripture. Of course, the canon was in flux at the time, so it wouldn't have been possible for the author of 2nd Timothy to unambiguously be referring to a specific set of texts here. But was Paul's intention be to open the door to any text that could be described as "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness"?

  • I asked the question to help me provide an answer to this question. Jul 19, 2012 at 19:20
  • Are you asking about what 2 Timothy 3:16-17 means, or are you asking about what Tertullian's intentions were?
    – Jas 3.1
    Jul 19, 2012 at 21:23
  • 1
    Basically, I think Tertullian is full of it and I'd like to verify that. ;-) Looks like I need to clarify the pronouns. Jul 19, 2012 at 21:31
  • Couldn't the author of 2 Timothy have been referring to the Torah, Nevi'im, and/or Ketuvim as an unambiguous specific set of texts?
    – fumanchu
    Jul 19, 2012 at 21:40
  • @fumanchu: Perhaps. In that case, he wouldn't have had Enoch in mind and Tertullian misinterpreted the passage. But I'm not sure if anything except the Torah were defined at the time. Jul 19, 2012 at 22:10

1 Answer 1


The very notion of scripture carries with it an idea of the infallible and all powerful commanding perfect voice of God.  This means if one rejects a book of his word from the Bible canon they reject God's own voice and have sinned.  Now any writing that does not carry that invincible and perfect authority must be rejected no matter how edifying it may seem. One proven error in doctrine or in the moral perfection of its commanding voice as compared with known scriptures would make it a sin to accept it as scripture. This would be putting wood, hay or stuble along side of the pure gold of true scripture and would be a great sin of ignorance.  Including inspirational documents with the scriptures is just as sinful as rejecting true scripture from the Canon.

I guess I am simply saying the verse is most certainly (to me) restrictive, and very, very restrictive. Real scripture (in my mind) was generally accompanied by many miracles indicating a heavenly stamp of approval on them. Later once they had all the attention from their authors or the subjects in them, their own infallible and internal perfection, that transcends human comprehension, was the controlling means by which God himself arranged the Canon through weak and fallible men.

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