I am ever so slowly making my way through a list of steps my pastor gave the congregation to help us go deeper in our faith. I read the verses Pastor Brad provided to support the eighth step, “Immerse yourself in Scripture” and thought it would be easy to write about the verses. Instead, I found myself wrestling with a verse that Christian frequently quote.
2 Timothy 3:16
According to the New International Version translation of the Bible, the apostle Paul wrote that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” Christians often quote 2 Timothy 3:16 as evidence that every word of the Bible was inspired by God. In other words, the Bible is infallible.
Is every word of the Bible really infallible? If every word of Scripture is God-breathed, how do we explain inconsistencies? Did God, the supremely intelligent Creator, give Moses the inspiration to write a simplistic account of creation? When was Genesis written and why does it matter?
I searched for commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16 to find out what other people think of it. I found a long article written by Frank W. Nelte, The Real Story Behind the Translation of 2 Timothy 3:16. He believes that the original Greek was mistranslated; Paul’s statement is more accurately translated as “Every writing that has proceeded out of the mouth of God…” This translation is consistent with The New Testament translated by Richard Lattimore, who endeavored to keep the meaning as close to the Greek text as possible.
Every writing that is divinely inspired is also useful for teaching, for argument, for correction, for education in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete and equipped for every good work.
In addition to wrestling with the issue of whether the entire Bible is inspired by God, I struggle to see the usefulness of much of the Old Testament writings. The Old Testament includes the Pentateuch (The Law of Moses), books on prophesy, books on the history of Israel, and poetic and wisdom writings. While useful in understanding the big picture themes of the Bible, I learn and grow more by reading about Jesus and the good news of the gospel.
I remember reading that Thomas Jefferson compiled his own version of the Bible (The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, now known as the Jefferson Bible) by editing out the parts he didn’t like or believe to be credible. According to Wikipedia, Jefferson had high regard for the moral teachings of Jesus but did not believe in miracles or the supernatural. While I don’t want to use Jefferson’s approach to studying the Bible – picking and choosing my favorite parts, I do want to study Scripture intelligently.
Immerse yourself in His Word
Now that I’ve reflected on the meaning of 2 Timothy 3:16, I have fine-tuned my pastor’s advice for going deeper in my faith. Immerse yourself in God’s word. Every word that comes directly from the mouth of God and every word inspired by God is useful for growing spiritually.
His word teaches me.
His word corrects me.
His word penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of my heart.
His word endures forever; it stands the test of time.
Every word from his mouth sustains me. I treasure it more than my daily bread.
His word accomplishes the purpose for which he sent it.
He sent his Word to heal me.
The Word is my rock and my foundation.
The Word is alive and active.
The Word lives in me!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Reading List Job 23:12 Isaiah 40:8; 55:11 Psalm 107:20 Matthew 4:4; 7:24-27 Luke 11:28 Colossians 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16 1 John 2:14