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2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV:

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.

The NIV puts it this way:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

What I'm wondering is:

  • Did Paul intend to convey the idea that his own writings possessed the same divine authority as scripture when he stated that "All scripture is God-breathed"?

7 Answers 7

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Did Paul intend to convey the idea that his own writings possessed the same divine authority as scripture when he stated that "All scripture is God-breathed"?

I don't see any scriptural support that Paul intended to convey that his writings were given by Divine Authority , that's not to say that they were not ...the fact that they are in the Canon means that we do believe his writings were inspired, and Peter likens Paul's writings to scripture .

2Pet. 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

However when Paul wrote to Timothy , the only scriptures available were the Torah , the Hebrew Scriptures those we know as the Old Testament Paul makes mention of this in v 15 , 2Tim. 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

The Holy Scriptures were God breathed , they are able to make us wise unto Salvation Salvation can be received by no other name, that being Jesus Christ the One who spoke the World into Creation by His Word

Col. 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

So in short Peter likened Paul's writings to scripture ( which we believe to be God Breathed ) , but Paul himself was referring to the Hebrew Scriptures when he wrote to Timothy

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  • +1. Thanks for your clear answer!
    – Jason_
    Feb 29 at 20:34
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Paul's statement in verse 16 is not being applied (by Paul) to his own writings. This is evident from the prior verse:

15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Timothy is a grown man who has been with Paul in the ministry for more than a decade, and Paul is referring to holy scriptures that Timothy has known since he was a child. Thus, anything Paul has written in recent years would not be the referent of "scripture" in this passage.

Paul's surviving writings were recognized as authoritative by subsequent writers, most notably in 2 Peter 3:16 and in the many quotations found in Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp. The Muratorian Canon & Irenaeus' Against Heresies also provide later, explicit discussion of the authoritative nature of Paul's writings.

As a general historical rule (applicable also to the OT), an inspired writer does not canonize his own writings; his successors recognize the significance of his writings and preserve them.

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    + 1... Not to mention the fact that many scholars do not accept that Paul is the author of 1 Tim. The introduction to 1 Tim. and the other Pastoral Epistles in the New American Bible says: "Most scholars are convinced that Paul could not have been responsible for the vocabulary and style, the concept of church organization, or the theological expressions found in these letters." Mar 1 at 3:36
  • @Hold to the Rod, excellent answer! Dan Fefferman, most scholars weren't present when these letters were written. How would they know whether Paul didn't write to Timothy in Aramaic, which was subsequently translated by someone else into Greek? The letter starts with "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith." The scholars you refer to must then believe that the opening statement is a lie. The early Christians accepted this letter as true, and they rejected others pretending to be from Paul as frauds.
    – Dieter
    Mar 1 at 15:57
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Based on 2 Tim 3:16 the entire bible is supposed to be inspired by God. Regardless if it was Paul or someone else who wrote Timothy. To really A the Q you have to really deal with numerous issues with the OT & NT – when it was written, who wrote them, when they were written, how well was it preserved, why certain scriptures were chosen and not others, the clear contradictions, no original text etc…

Obviously, this will be too exhaustive and there is more literature that attempts to overcome the issues than the scriptures itself and the more you discuss the more Q are raised. So, I will focus as narrow as possible & bullet points.

  1. Most of the NT is conversations between people
  1. There were many scriptures at the time with no names / authors so how can we judge if these unknown people were inspired
  1. There was no book called the Bible or a religion called Christianity – this came after Jesus
  1. Jesus never claimed to bring a ‘new religion’
  1. Jesus was a Jew and sent to only the lost sheep of Israel
  1. The scriptures themselves say they are not inspired – Jer 8:8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie.
  1. Deuteronomy 31:25-29 – today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD. How much more after my death! / after my death you will surely act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I have commanded you.
  1. Paul said Peter (the rock) was wrong Galatians 2:11–13 – which one was right? or are both still inspired even if they disagree?
  1. Argument with saint Barnabas - Acts 15:36-39 – What evidence is there that Jesus or God favoured Paul above the others apart from Pauls own words?
  1. Who wrote Moses’ death? Obviously, another unknown inspired person!
  1. Matt 15:1-9 - Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? / but their heart is far from me But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.
  1. Are these really God inspired:

2 Timothy 4:9-13 9 Do your best to come to me quickly, / Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. -

Titus 3:12-14 - 12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

  1. Titus 1:14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Paul says the OT is not inspired.
  1. Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (So even the evil rulers are inspired!)
  1. Romans 9:1 - I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— (John 5:31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.)
  1. Gal 5:12 - I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. - Truly inspired!

This is a very brief flavour of something that could be discussed in very great detail.

I will finish with some of Pauls so called ‘inspired’ quotes;

  1. 1 Corinthians 7:25 - 25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.
  1. Romans 2:16 - on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
  1. Romans 16:25 - Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages = how sad that all before had no chance of salvation as it was a mystery!
  1. 1 Corinthians 7:40 Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
  1. Romans 3:7 - But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? – Can get more inspiring then this! (Note: [Proverbs 12:22] "False lips are an abomination of YHVH, but those who work faithfully are His delight." (תּוֹעֲבַ֣ת יְ֖הוָה שִׂפְתֵי־שָׁ֑קֶר וְעֹשֵֹ֖י אֱמוּנָ֣ה רְצוֹנֽוֹ)
  1. 2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches, having received support for service toward you. – Maybe you can get more inspired.
  1. “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:” 2 Timothy 2:8
  1. Be ye followers of me… that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered [them] to you. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
  1. 2 Timothy 1:11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. (note: Matt 23:8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.
  1. “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.” – 1 Corinthians 3:10
  1. Romans 15:20 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. - can it get any clear that he is preaching his own gospel!

Conclusion:

Just with the above summary its clear that ALL the bible is not inspired. Jesus surely was and his words would have been as with all the previous prophets, but unfortunately its very unlikely that these things were preserved. Scholars doubt that Moses wrote everything attributed to him so how preserved are the scriptures.

We have no originals and most of the scriptures had no names and were attributed much later. Even then only John & Matthew were the original disciples and the writing attributed to them are very doubtful, see below link for more.

As to Paul, IMO his status was only raised by Rome to control the people and keep the pagans / Greek’s content with their Gods and sacrifice. He was not an apostle and there is no evidence that he was inspired in any way accept his own testimony.

Gospel of John: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/63568/33268 Gospel of Matthew: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/73492/33268

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  • But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God." - Matthew 22:29 ESV
    – Dieter
    Mar 1 at 15:26
  • The only "writings" that Jesus had available and from which he quoted is the Tanakh. But, the people who Jesus addressed above doubted the power of God, as have many people since. Both the Tanakh and in the writings in what we term the New Testament or New Covenant came through mankind just as the Word was delivered through an imperfect Miriam, the mother of Jesus. If God exists at all and if a person can be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, then the veracity and reliability of the writings inspired by the Holy Spirit resonates in the person filled with the Holy Spirit.
    – Dieter
    Mar 1 at 15:40
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Woah - not so fast - Paul makes no statement about his own writings in 2 Tim 3:16, 17. He simply states a fact:

All Scripture is God-breathed ...

Now, whether Paul's writings are part of Scripture is another question entirely. Further, there is almost certainly more of Paul's writings than are recorded in the NT which were never adopted into the Canon of Scripture.

However, we should also note that:

  • Paul was a visionary prophet of God and an apostle appointed by God
  • Peter, also a prophet of God and an apostle appointed by God, effectively declared Paul's writings to be part of Scripture as per 2 Peter 3:16
  • Paul encouraged his letters to be read to the church in places like Col 4:16

This suggests that Paul was aware that he was the conduit of divine information that needed careful and sacred trust.

Now, just how the canon of the Scripture was compiled - what was included and excluded - is a HUGE subject with a HUGE literature that is too general for an answer here. However, the identity of the apostles and prophets was actually fairly straight forward: Matt 10:8, Mark 16:17, 20, Acts 2:22, 43, 4:30, 5:12, 6:8, 8:6, 13, 14:3, 15:12, 19:11, Rom 15:18, 19, 2 Cor 12:12, Heb 2:4 speak of the supernatural signs and wonders accompanying the apostles’ ministry as the seal of God's approval and thus the distinguishing sign of God's appointment.

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    I am thoroughly confused by the statement. It seems to imply that anything not included in scripture is not God-breathed. But surely God must have inspired prophets to say many things that were not included in scripture. Are we to presume that any words of Jesus not included in scripture are not God-breathed? Dottard? (i was not the downvoter) Mar 1 at 3:28
  • @Dottard, +1 But I'm not so sure about your reversibility assertion. The word "scripture" means writings. What that means to me is that the spoken word must have been written to be scripture. I agree that God preserved what He wanted preserved and gave us the power to restore imperfections in copying and interpretation through various resources including the LXX, the DSS, the Syriac Peshitta, and quotations from letters.
    – Dieter
    Mar 1 at 16:07
  • @DanFefferman - that part of my answer is confusing so I removed it.
    – Dottard
    Mar 1 at 20:48
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He did not immediately imply his own writings when saying those words, of course, because the Old Testament canon of the God-inspired writings was already basically established (although not all Jewish sects regarded as canonical or divinely inspired all those texts that were regarded as such by other sects, yet, some basic writings, Pentateuch, for instance, were). It is about this established canon that Paul speaks.

However, had he been asked, whether his writings also were inspired or not, I guess, Paul would respond that some parts of his writings, for sure, the theological preaching part, in which he communicates the mystery of salvation and the nature of divinity, definitely were inspired. Indeed, he even explicitly says that his preaching is inspired. For instance, it is nowhere written in the Old Testament that a widowed woman who will keep fidelity to her passed husband and will not marry is more blessed than a widowed woman who legitimately marries another man; but Paul guesses and understands this and asserts that this guess and understanding of his is from Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 7:40).

Canon of the New Testament was formed through a long process. Initially, as one of the main experts of the field, Norman Metzger affirms, only the words of the Savior were put in par with the words of the Old Testament, but gradually those same words and the New Testament itself were started to be regarded as more august and holy than even the Old Testament.

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  • +1. Thank you very much for your answer. I realize I may have entered some rough terrain with this question!
    – Jason_
    Feb 29 at 20:18
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I do not sense when Paul wrote this that he was speaking of his own words being “scripture”, but what Paul did not intend, we now know that God did intend, as with the rest of the New Testament writers. I find it hard to imagine that these men were writing in the first century, and that they had revelation that in the third century, these letters would be compiled and put together to create what we now call the holy Bible. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m just saying it’s not likely. And in fact, if they did have special revelation, I would think that they would have mentioned that an angel appeared to them and revealed this to them. For example, as John the revelator did with the book of Revelation.

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Answer

Paul asserted the status of his own writings as Scripture.

Explanation

God is the real author of the Scriptures and as such He decides when and where to begin and end His writings.

He never asked any of the Patriarchs to write any of His words. The first command to write is given to Moses by God:

“And Jehovah said to Moses, Write this, a memorial in a book” (Exo 17:14).

So Moses began the Scriptures of God.

God prophesied in advance when and where He will end His Word:

“Bind up the Testimony (New Testament), seal the Law (Old Testament) among My disciples (Isaiah 8:16).

Scripture Ended by the Apostles

The Scripture was to be bound up and sealed (completed) by the disciples of Yahweh. Who was this Yahweh? Let us see.

“Sanctify Jehovah of Hosts Himself, and let Him be your fear; and let Him be your dread. And He shall be for a sanctuary, and for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of falling to the two houses of Israel; for a trap and for a snare to the ones living in Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. Bind up the Testimony, seal the Law among My disciples” (Isaiah 8:13-16).

Both Peter and Paul quoting Isaiah’s prophecy, identify who this Yahweh of Hosts is:

“But to disobeying ones, He (Jesus) is the "Stone which those building rejected; this One became the Head of the Corner, and a Stone-of-stumbling, and a Rock-of-offense" to the ones stumbling, being disobedient to the Word, to which they were also appointed” (1 Pet 2:7-8).

“For they stumbled at the Stone-of-stumbling, as it has been written, "Behold, I place in" "Zion a Stone-of-stumbling," "and a Rock-of-offense," "and everyone believing on Him will not be shamed” (Rom 9:32-33).

Yes, both Peter and Paul identified the Yahweh of Hosts as Jesus Christ. This is undeniable!

So, it was Jesus’ disciples who were predestinated to complete and bind up the Scriptures. Thus, bind up and seal the Scripture (both OT/Law and NT/Testimony of Jesus) was to be done by the disciples of Jesus.

Peter and Paul Knew This

Both Peter and Paul knew from prophecy through the Holy Spirit that they were to complete and bind up the Scripture.

Peter identifies Paul’s epistles as Scripture:

“as also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them concerning these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the unlearned and unsettled pervert, as also they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Pet 3:16).

Rest of the Scripture” means clearly that Peter considers Paul’s writings as Scripture.

Paul identifies Luke’s gospel as Scripture:

“For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox treading out grain," and, “the laborer is worthy of his pay” (1 Tim 5:18).

Here Paul considers Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 (laborer’s pay) on an equal footing. This clearly shows that Paul considered Luke as Scripture!

Peter Arranges New Testament

“I think it only right for me to stir up your memory of these matters as long as I am still alive. I know that I shall soon put off this mortal body, as our Lord Jesus Christ plainly told me. I will do my best, then, to provide a way for you to remember these matters at all times after my death” (2 Pet 1:13-15; GNB).

Peter, knowing that he, as a disciple of the Lord of Hosts, was to “seal the OT” and “bind up the NT” says that he will make sure that the true Christians will have always “a way” to remember the true faith.

Paul Compiles the New Testament and Entrusts Timothy

“Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he can help me in the work. When you come, bring my coat that I left in Troas with Carpus; bring the books (OT) too, and especially the ones made of parchment (the New Testament writings)” (2 Tim 4:11, 13).

There is an “urgency” in this command to Timothy. Luke is already with Paul. He asks Timothy to get Mark and bring him with Timothy to finish the work.

Second epistle of Timothy is Paul’s last epistle. He says he is about to be “poured out” (verse 6). So, as another disciple of the Lord of Hosts, he urgently needs to compile the NT. He already knows that Peter has edited the NT books. Now he wants to finish the final editing and entrust the same to Timothy before his death.

The Greek word for “coat” is “phelones”. Adam Clarke commentary:

“Τον φελονην is by several translated bag or portmanteau; and it is most likely that it was something of this kind, in which he might carry his clothes, books, and travelling necessaries.”

Yes, Paul was not worried about his cloths at his last breath. He was concerned about the bag with the OT books and the NT parchments he left with Carpus at Troas.

The “books” are definitely the OT books. What about the parchments or “membrana”. The parchments were made of sheep skin and were very expensive in those days. These were used only for very important documents.

In the first century the New Testament writings were made on parchments. These are the documents he meant by parchments. He made the final editing of the NT together with Luke and Mark after Peter had finished his part. Both the OT and NT were entrusted to Timothy for sacred use.

Conclusion

Paul knew about the Isaiah prophecy of the completion of OT and NT among the disciples of Jesus Christ.

He, as part of the disciples of the Lord, knew he was writing the Scripture. Hence he charges:

“I charge you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the holy brothers” (1 Thess 5:27).

“And when this letter is read before you, cause that it be read also in the Laodicean assembly, and that you also read the one of Laodicea” (Col 4:16).

“But if anyone does not obey our Word through the letter, mark that one, and do not associate with him, that he be shamed” (2 Thess 3:14).

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