This is in follow-up to this Q & A

Paul wrote the following passage in 2 Timothy 3:

14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for 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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Is Scripture a reference to the Hebrew Bible only?


2 Answers 2


The evidence strongly suggests that when New Testament authors refer to scripture, or say "it is written", they are referring to pre-Christian Jewish sacred writings and not what is now the New Testament. The one possible exception is the author of 2 Peter.

(I hesitate to say "Hebrew Bible" for three reasons. First, most of them use the Septuagint translation into Greek, not the Hebrew originals. Second, it is not clear that they would include all of Ketuvim, since that canon was not settled yet. Third, some of them, e.g. Jude, may have included writings like Enoch or other apocrypha.)

The main evidence is that when New Testament writers use the word scripture together with a quotation, the source of that quotation is invariably to pre-Christian Jewish sacred writings, and not to Christian writings. Furthermore, the earliest extant reference to writings from the New Testament as "scripture" is the gnostic Basilides in roughly 130 CE. Every reference prior to 130 is to pre-Christian Jewish sacred writings. Since all, or almost all, of the New Testament books were written well before then, it is unlikely that any of them use the word "scripture" to include Christian writings.

The one caveat, is that most critical scholars think that 2 Peter was written very late (after 120 CE). It is certainly possible then that the author of 2 Peter could be including the writings of Paul or the gospels as scripture as Basilides and Marcion held in the 130s and 140s. Nonetheless, the phrasing in 2 Peter is confusing, and we have no clear proto-Orthodox references to the New Testament as "scripture" until the late 2nd century. So I don't think the evidence is totally clear in either direction.

(Note that the restriction of the word "scripture" to pre-Christian writings does not necessarily imply that these authors thought that the gospels or the writings of Paul weren't inspired, only that they didn't use the word "scripture." For example, Justin Martyr has a very high opinion of the gospels, but doesn't use the word "scripture" for them.)

  • I missed when I was going through this before that 1 Timothy 5:18 might be an exception. There the immediate quote is from the Torah, but it's followed by a quote taken from Luke/Matthew/Q.
    – Noah
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 7:32

"But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them"

refers in part to the "new revelation" Paul shared with Timothy, his son in the faith, so no, the OT (Tanakh) was not the only Scripture in Paul's day, and the word Scripture(s) in 2 Timothy 3:16 is not a reference to only the OT scriptures. In fact, the Apostle Peter referred to Paul's letters as Scripture:

". . . just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:17).

Yes, the OT was important in Tim's training in the faith, since "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10), from Genesis to Chronicles (the OT's first and last books, according to Hebrew order of the books), and every book in between.

The new revelation Paul received from his conversion onward was also the word of the Lord, and I'm sure Paul shared it with Tim on many occasions and in many ways (via both walk and talk). I guess you could say the words of the apostles, of whom Paul was one, were the New Covenant's version of "the word of the LORD" in the same sense the words of the prophets of old were the word of the Lord and were often prefaced over and over again with "Thus saith the LORD."

In fact, in the nascent church throughout the Near Middle East and beyond, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was prophecy (Acts 19:6; 21:9; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:5; Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6; 1 Peter 4:11).

While the revelation of God is now complete, as to the written word, and there is therefore no more new revelation today which can be shoe-horned into the completed canon of Scripture, Holy-Spirit-gifted men and women today can, however, speak prophetically in the sense they can speak forth the word of the Lord to each generation in powerfully convicting ways. In fact, the message of repentance can be quite prophetic in nature today, though not in the predictive sense concerning, for example, the day and date of Jesus' return. Many "prophets" have learned this lesson the hard way, even in recent months!

Is the Lord's return imminent? Yes. All we can say with any authority, however, is that it is more imminent today than it was in Paul's day!

  • This answer certainly connects with the passage, but it doesn't answer the question.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 13:53
  • 1
    @curiousdannii: I've edited the first paragraph to make my answer clearer. Thanks for your comment. Don Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 15:44

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