In 2 Timothy 3:14-15 it's written to Timothy:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

What are the Scriptures that Timothy has known from his infancy? Is this letter late enough that it would include parts of the New Testament? If not (or if it refers to the Old Testament), are those Scriptures then considered sufficient to make one "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus?"

4 Answers 4


I'm probably going to come close to the conclusion of the first answer but hopefully will provide some other thoughts.

  • Paul takes on Timothy on the beginning of his 2nd missionary journey (~49 A.D.).

  • Conservative scholars date 1 Timothy to between 62-67 A.D. (after Paul's first imprisonment).

  • There's no solid data on how old Timothy was when Paul took him, I've heard many different suggestions from 13-20 years old. If that's the case then Timothy would have been anywhere from 26-33.

  • It seems that Timothy's "youth" in 1 Timothy 4 is only relative to Paul's age and perhaps that of the demographic of the church that Timothy was now leading (Ephesus).

Having said that, Timothy's age is irrelevant to this question. What were the contemporary, extant Scriptures of the time, and what are the cultural implications of having a Jewish mother and Greek father?

  • The dominant "bible" of the time was the Septuagint and would have been familiar to Timothy. There also seems to have been a Hebrew text available, but citations of the LXX permeate the New Testament.

  • It wasn't until Peter held Paul's writings on par with "Scripture" that there is any external claim and validation of the writings of Paul being held to this level.

  • However, James was an early writing and would have been circulated before 1 Timothy was written (since James was executed in 62). Galatians dates between 48-57, depending on the theory. Additionally, the letter written by the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 was carried by Paul on the trip when he took Timothy.

Having said that, it's not clear whether or not these would have been considered "Scripture" yet. The closest thing that would have been considered "Scripture" would have been letters that had been circulated through the churches (candidates would probably be limited to Galatians, 1/2 Thessalonians, 1/2 Corinthians, and maybe James). Even still, these are not from Timothy's infancy so the most likely answer to the question is the Septuagint.

  • 1
    It also seems to me that Paul would have been unlikely to call his own letters "the holy Scriptures". Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 22:55
  • 2
    Also noteworthy that the "Septuagint" (Greek translation of the Tanakh) extant then is not necessarily the exact same Septuagint extant today.
    – user862
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 23:16

Based on the record of the conversation on the road to Emmaus when Jesus "beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures" {Luke 24:27}, that "the scriptures" must indicate the Old Testament - since the earliest aspect of the New Testament wasn't written until about 50 AD.

Given that Timothy was "young" {1 Timothy 4:12}, it is improbable that any of the New Testament had been written by the time he was a child (that letter was written only maybe 15 years after James, and only about 30 years after Jesus ascended).

The entire message of the Bible is about Jesus - He is throughout the Old Testament. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, "But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'" {Luke 16:29}

Therefore, it is safe to conclude that Timothy only had the Old Testament Scriptures as a child.

  • Wouldn't Timothy's youth rather make it more possible for parts of the NT to be written even while he was a child?
    – Soldarnal
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 19:53
  • 1
    Timothy's age is a red herring. It has no bearing on anything because the writing of epistles was not bound to Timothy's age.
    – swasheck
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 21:11
  • @swasheck - it's a relevant comparison, not because the letter had anything to do with his age, but because of when it was written
    – warren
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 21:15
  • @warren I disagree. The timeline doesn't add up in your current answer.
    – swasheck
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 21:18
  • 1
    @swasheck - I was trying to point out that even if he were under 20, the odds of him having heard any of the early epistles is remarkably low
    – warren
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 20:51

The Septuagint.

Scripture is always required for salvation.

A. concepts take time to absorb.

B. individual lives are not pressed out from cookie cutter forms.

C. to answer different questions arising from different situations in different people's lives, we all would need the services of the mature mentor Paul was.

D. Scripture and the Holy Spirit replaced Paul, in Timothy's life and our own.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 NET For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness. These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did. So do not be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” And let us not be immoral, as some of them were, and twenty-three thousand died in a single day. And let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes. And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall. No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Hebrews 3:15-19 NET As it says, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks!Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For which ones heard and rebelled? Was it not all who came out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership? And against whom was God provoked for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose dead bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear they would never enter into his rest, except those who were disobedient? So we see that they could not enter because of unbelief.

We see that God calls after you have drunk living water from Scripture. If you respond, you will be regenerated, and living water will flow out if you. Through you the world will be blessed.

Ezekiel 37:4-14 NET Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and tell them: ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the sovereign Lord says to these bones: Look, I am about to infuse breath into you and you will live. I will put tendons on you and muscles over you and will cover you with skin; I will put breath in you and you will live. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” So I prophesied as I was commanded. There was a sound when I prophesied – I heard a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to bone. As I watched, I saw tendons on them, then muscles appeared, and skin covered over them from above, but there was no breath in them. He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, – prophesy, son of man – and say to the breath: ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these corpses so that they may live.’” So I prophesied as I was commanded, and the breath came into them; they lived and stood on their feet, an extremely great army. Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are all the house of Israel. Look, they are saying, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope has perished; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and tell them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I am about to open your graves and will raise you from your graves, my people. I will bring you to the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. I will place my breath in you and you will live; I will give you rest in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord – I have spoken and I will act, declares the Lord.’”**


The clue to which Scriptures are in-view is the adjective. These are the sacred writings (ἱερὰ γράμματα). Note the focus of the ἱερὰ word group, as being tied to the temple and its service (ἱερός), the sanctuary (ἱερόν), to the priest (ἱερεύς) and priesthood (ἱεράτευμα), to the priestly service (ἱερατεία), and to the high priest (ἀρχιερεύς). This is old covenant language. The only other use of ἱερὰ in the NT is in 1 Corinthians 9:13:

Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? (9:13 ESV)

Hence, it is the law, prophets, and writings which are in-view in 2 Timothy 3:15, as making one wise "towards salvation (εἰς σωτηρίαν)."

This is particularly brought out in the next verse, as 2 Timothy 3:16 then overtly changes the scope of Scripture to say that "All Scripture"—in an expansive or inclusive sense—is inspired and necessary in order "that the [Christian] man of God may be ... thoroughly equipped." Thus, Paul is now also including "the things you learned (οἷς ἔμαθες καὶ ἐπιστώθης)" (3:14) through the teachings of the apostles, along side of the OT Scriptures, as being part of the body of Scripture which a Christian requires.1

1 Swinson wades into this more deeply. L. Timothy Swinson, What Is Scripture? Paul’s Use of Graphe in the Letters to Timothy (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014), 136–137, 150–152.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.