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This closely related question has an answer that tries to argue in a theological point of view. However, I would like to discuss this topic from a purely grammatical perspective.

πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν, πρὸς ἐλεγμόν, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν, πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, ἵνα ἄρτιος ᾖ ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος, πρὸς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἐξηρτισμένος.

Can this sentence be interpreted as both inclusive or exclusive?

The exclusive version would be:

All Scripture is divinely inspired and profitable ...

The inclusive version would be:

All divinely inspired Scripture is profitable ...

In this comment on a question on Christianity.SE:

From Ellicot's[sic] commentary: Although this rendering is grammatically possible, the more strictly accurate translation, and the one adopted by nearly all the oldest and most trustworthy versions (the Syriac and the Vulgate), and by a great many of the principal expositors in all ages (for instance, Origen, Theodoret, Grotius, Luther, Meyer, Ellicott, and Alford), runs as follows: “Every scripture inspired by God is also profitable for doctrine, for reproof,” So this verse itself, given that alternate translation may answer your question.

Case for the exclusive interpretation

The "καὶ" connects two adjectives, both in the nominative feminine singular: "θεόπνευστος" and "ὠφέλιμος". Then, it is clear that both adjectives are describing the noun "πᾶσα γραφὴ" simultaneously.

The Vulgate translation reads:

omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata et utilis ad docendum ad arguendum ad corrigendum ad erudiendum in iustitia ut perfectus sit homo Dei ad omne opus bonum instructus

which contradicts the quote above from Ellicott's commentary, as this is clearly the exclusive interpretation.

Case for the inclusive interpretation

This requires interpreting "πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος" as the whole subject and "καὶ" as an adverb meaning "also".

In Matthew 7:17:

οὕτως πᾶν δένδρον ἀγαθὸν καρποὺς καλοὺς ποιεῖ, τὸ δὲ σαπρὸν δένδρον καρποὺς πονηροὺς ποιεῖ·

Here, "πᾶν δένδρον ἀγαθὸν" is in the construction of "every + [noun] + [good]" as a single noun phrase, just like the first three words of our verse in question.

However, "καὶ" is not an adverb, but a conjunction, which seems to render this interpretation grammatically impossible.

  • Great question! "omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata et utilis ad" should read "omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata et utilis est ad". – Sola Gratia Jun 20 '17 at 14:44
  • @SolaGratia I copied it from biblegateway.com. – Leaky Nun Jun 20 '17 at 14:52
  • Your last statement is wrong. καὶ is both a conjunction ("and") and an adverb ("also"). This is elementary Greek grammar. – fdb Jun 23 '17 at 17:03
  • @fdb you're right. Wiktionary is wrong then. – Leaky Nun Jun 23 '17 at 17:06
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Regarding Ellicott's commentary, we could perhaps give different weights - in descending order - to how (a) Greek Fathers in antiquity understood the verse; (b) Latin Fathers in antiquity understood the verse; and (c) latter non-Greek commentators understood the verse.

Ellicott is probably correct about Origen's interpretation, but I could not find the reference. Theodoret (4th c. Greek) uses the inclusive interpretation, as Ellicott suggests, in his Commentary on the Apostle's Creed. Tertullian (2d/3rd c.) also shows the inclusive interpretation in his On the Apparel of Women I.3.

There are other Greek Fathers, though, whom Ellicott does not mention who interpret the verse exclusively:

The above differences, however, are perhaps due more to differences in the manuscripts available to the interpreters rather than differences in how the Greek itself was interpreted. According to the apparatus of The Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testament (11th ed), the connective is missing in certain Old Latin translations as well as in the Syriac Peshitta. Probably as a consequence of the Old Latin witnesses, the connective is also missing in the older 1592 edition of the Clementine Vulgate. Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament indicates that the connective is also missing in Latin translations of Origen (perhaps the basis for Ellicott's claim), from certain Egyptian (Coptic) translations, as well as from citations of the verse made by Hilary of Poitiers (who was a western Father - as was Tertullian).

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    Could you give some arguments regarding the grammar? EDIT: Never mind, I saw the bottom paragraph. – Leaky Nun Jun 20 '17 at 15:04
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Question: does "πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος" mean:

  • exclusive: "All Scripture is divinely inspired and profitable" and/or
  • inclusive: "All divinely inspired Scripture is profitable"?

The following all support exclusive interpretation:

  1. The "καὶ" connects two adjectives, both in the nominative feminine singular: "θεόπνευστος" and "ὠφέλιμος". This indicates both adjectives modify the noun "πᾶσα γραφὴ" in the same way.
  2. The adjectives "θεόπνευστος" and "ὠφέλιμος" are in the "predicate position" relative to their noun (expressing a quality), rather than "attributive position" (making an assertion). (See Reference below.)
  3. "All divinely inspired Scripture is..." could imply some Scripture is divinely inspired, while other Scripture is not divinely inspired, which is nonsense, and to be rejected.
  4. "All profitable Scripture is..." could imply some Scripture is profitable, while other Scripture is not profitable, which is nonsense, and to be rejected.
  5. For "θεόπνευστος" and/or "ὠφέλιμος" to be substantives (used as nouns), they would need the definite article or a demonstrative pronoun, both of which are lacking.

The case against inclusive interpretation:

  1. In "πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος," "καὶ" is a conjunction (joins two similar entities), not an adverb (modifies a non-similar entity).

Good exegesis always considers the larger context. Previously in 2 Tim. 3:10-15, Paul is telling younger Timothy how to live his life. Then in 3:16-17, Paul gives his authoritative source: all scripture, tells why it's authoritative (all God-breathed), and for what it's all profitable (teaching, reproof, correction, and training one in righteousness).

My conclusion, both from grammar and context, is for what you call the exclusive interpretation:

16All scripture is God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for 
reproof, for correction, for training one in righteousness, 17that 
he should be whole, the man of God, a man thoroughly prepared, fit 
for any good work.

Reference:

Dana, H.S., and Mantey, Julius R. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Macmillan, 1927.

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it is neither of your proposed solutions. First the first word (πας Strong's 3956) is better translated "Every" (in verse 17 most translations translate the same word as "every") as scripture is singular. This is actually a case of non-restrictive versus restrictive adjectival clauses. In this case if they were non-restrictive we would get a really terrible argument that admits the Zoroastrian scriptures (which most Roman citizens in the Near East would have heard about) are inspired by God. That cannot be true so we can be certain that these are restrictive clauses so:

16 Every, inspired and useful for instruction, for substantiation, for correction, for discipline in righteousness, scripture 17 [is] so God's own man may be ready, outfitted for every good work

a nominal modifier is non-restrictive if and only if two conditions hold: (i) that the speaker believes that the modified noun phrase has the same denotation as the unmodified noun; and (ii) that the modifier can be used to deduce an implication that is discourse-related in a particular way to some salient proposition in the sentence or discourse[The semantics of modification: Adjectives, nouns, and order][1]

[1] Leffel, PhD, Timothy James, "The semantics of modification: Adjectives, nouns, and order", cited at http://home.uchicago.edu/~timleffel/leffel_2014_nyu_diss.pdf, p64.

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I would translate 2 Timothy 3:16-17 like this:

16All scripture is God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training one in righteousness, 17that he should be whole, the man of God, a man thoroughly prepared, fit for any good work.

Details:

enter image description here

  1. πᾶσα (NFS) is an adjective that modifies the noun γραφὴ (NFS), giving "All scripture", i.e. The Tanakh, in whatever form Paul had it.

  2. θεόπνευστος (NFS) is an adjective, but it is not being used to modify γραφὴ. It stands, rather, in place as a noun, i.e. "a God-breathed thing". If someone were to argue that it was modifying γραφὴ then they would have "All God-breathed scripture", suggesting that Paul was drawing a distinction here between "scripture" that was God-breathed, and "scripture" that wasn't. But such an idea is nonsense.

    It is interesting to note that in coining the word θεόπνευστος (if, in fact, he did), Paul is depicting Scripture in the same way Adam is depicted in Genesis: an inanimate collection of atoms into which God breathed His living breath. The writer of Hebrews uses the verb ζάω (to live) as a noun in Hebrews 4:12 to depict the word of God as a "living thing".

  3. ὠφέλιμος (NFS) is an adjective, but it is not being used to modify γραφὴ either, but stands in place as a noun. Again, to suggest that it modifies γραφὴ would give "profitable scripture", suggesting that Paul is making a distinction here between "scripture" that is profitable and other "scripture" that is not. No, ὠφέλιμος, here, is simply "a profitable thing"

Additional Comments

In regard to Matthew 7:17, I would translate it this way:

So, every useful tree produces good fruit, but the worthless tree produces bad fruit.

Details:

enter image description here

Here we have precisely what we don't have in 2 Timothy 3:16, a comparison between things. It's okay in this context to swing the adjective ἀγαθὸν (good) around in front of the noun δένδρον (tree) to make the English phrase "Every good tree", because the purpose of the adjective is to distinguish this type of tree from the other type in the context. It is not okay to do this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, because the context is not about comparison, but about declaring a property of "All scripture", that it is a God-breathed thing.

Conclusion

The sense of 2 Timothy 3:16 is: "The Tanakh is a God-breathed thing, a profitable thing for teaching, ..."

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I think Mark_K made some compelling points and to my mind could qualify as the answer. However, I would like to add some stuff...

The verse in question is not an "island". No verse is an island. There is a context. And the context of the previous verse, in my mind, establishes what Paul is referring to when he says "all scripture":

NIV 2 Timothy 3:15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul is speaking specifically of the scriptures that Timothy grew up with which would almost certainly be a version of the LXX. These are "sacred writings", not just any old writings and in the context of his education by his Jewish messianic parents:

NIV 2 Timothy 1: 3I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

That Paul may have been including the writings of the apostles is possible:

NIV 2 Timothy 3:

14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy (βρέφους) you have known the Holy Scriptures (ἱερὰ γράμματα), which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of God a may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

In that passage Paul refers to "ἱερὰ γράμματα" which is NOT the usual name for the scriptures ("writings") but instead could be understood to read "sacred literature" which leads me to suspect he wants to include his own writings and that of the apostles. He also says "knowing from whom you learned it" which may refer to the apostles themselves, particularly of course himself.

But in no way is he endorsing writings outside of the Jewish world.

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