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Inspiration Test

Inspiration is a major key issue in dealing with the authority of scripture. Paul states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17[1]).Lea and Griffin (1992: 235) raise four questions on this passage that need to be considered. The questions are:

  1. What does he mean by “Scripture,” which is the common translation for the Greek graphe [writings]?

  2. What does he mean by “all writings”?

  3. Should it be translated as “all inspired Scripture is also useful” or as “all Scripture is inspired and useful”?

  4. What does “God breathed” mean?

In light of these questions, it would seem that Paul’s statement is not an easy one to understand. It would seem that the literal translation of “writings” would be better because scripture as a unified whole (the 27 books in our bible) did not come about formally until the mid-fourth century. Paul would have understood it to refer to writings and more likely, the Old Testament (hereafter, OT), which are called sacred writings (pertaining to being appropriate for the expression of worship and reverence (Louw and Nida, 1996: 532)) in v. 15 (Lea and Griffin, 1992: 235). Are all writings inspired? Of course not. The Greek will allow for another understanding. “All inspired writings” would best suite if we are to expand beyond Paul’s probable (possible) understanding of the OT. Peter will call Paul’s writing “according to wisdom” (2 Peter 3:15), which may be synonymous to inspired. The word “given” (dotheisan) used by Peter in reference to Paul, “is a divine passive, emphasizing that Paul’s ability was not to be traced to his native gifts but God’s grace” (Schreiner, 2003: 395). Hendriksen and Kistemaker (1953-2001: 302) point out that “God breathed” points to God’s breathe as responsible for both the origin and the content. This means that it was directed by God’s spirit. This is understood in that the word “breathed” is also the word for spirit (pneusmatos).

The Test

How does one determine if a particular writing is inspired? How did the early Christians come to the conclusion that there were twenty-seven inspired books, even when so many others that were used by the church for years before the final canon was formed. This blog is not the place for this longer discussion. For an overview of how we got the bible, go to!how-we-got-the-bible/c1u6c, on my website.

Paul gives us an indication regarding a way to test this. It must be profitable! This word holds the idea of useful or advantageous (Arndt, Danker and Bauer, 2000: 1108). Also, it relates to a “benefit to be derived from some object, event, or state—‘advantage, benefit, beneficial.’” (Nida and Albert, 1996: 624). Inspiration and utility are united by kai (and). This conjunction in Greek and English is designed to connect or bond similar parts of sentences or clauses (Pridik, 1990: 227). Thus, there is no inspiration biblically unless there is also utility that is useful, advantageous, and/or beneficial.

Naturally, Paul leaves no stone unturned for this important concept by moving to the benefit. He specifies the arena in which the benefit works — Christian (this is the implied setting) teaching, reproving, correcting, and training.[2] According to Klöber (1986: 352), these are in ethical and didactic categories. “They serve progressively (1) to convert; (2) to restore and improve (epanorthōsis); and (3) to instruct in righteousness.” Let’s consider each term:

  1. Teaching

  • Instruction in a formal or informal setting (Louw and Nida, 1996: 412)

  • This suggests that Scripture is a positive source of Christian doctrine (Lea and Griffin, 1992: 236)

  1. Reproving: statement of wrong-doing

  • There is an implication of adequate proof (Louw and Nida, 1996: 435)

  • This is a rebuke that exposes the errors of false teachers or in personal lives

  • Clarifies the point of the mistake, and leads “to a new sense of peace and wholeness” (Lea and Griffin, 1992: 237)

  1. Correcting:

  • Root word denotes upright, straight, right. Paul uses a compound here to give the idea of improving. Klöber (1986: 351) draws the conclusion that this pictures moving straight toward a goal, that, according to Moulton-Milligan (1930: 456), uses the word (of God) correctly, explains it thoroughly, shapes it rightly, and preaches fearlessly

  • Ying to the Yang of rebuke! What good is a rebuke if one is not trained on how to avoid future mistakes?

  1. Training upright, straight, right; ὀρθῶς G3987 (orthōs), rightly, correctly; διόρθωσις

  • Possible as reprimand or discipline (Schneider, 1990: 3)

  • Framed in the context of raising a child (pais) (cf. Ephesians 6:4 where the same word is used)

As noted above, the context for Paul is Christian. This is sustained in the term righteousness that is the object of training. Righteousness allows the Christian to “prosper in the sphere where God’s holy will is considered normative” (Hendriksen and Kistemaker, 1953-2001: 303). Righteousness is the natural essence or nature of God. Basically, he is right about all or anything. He maintains this in Jesus who came to fulfil righteousness. See my article on this at!jesus-comes-to-fulfil/rsl4j. Short and sweet summary is that if a writing is inspired, then God has breathed life into it so that the end result is that someone will be more Christ-like. Paul says the same thing in Romans 10:17 when he states that faith is from hearing the message (rhēma) of Christ.

Paul clarifies this righteousness in verse 17 with two descriptors – complete and equipped. The first word designates right, proper, and becoming to a Christian (Delling, 1964: 476). This completeness (perfect in the KJV) gives the Christian what is needed to be “completely qualified for every good deed” (Louw and Nida, 1996: 679). This brings us full circle to the mission of this website: Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). All preaching and teaching should model Christ Jesus, giving every Christian what they need to be an ambassador of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).


  1. Arndt, W., Danker, F.W. and Bauer, W. (2000) 'opheleo', in Danker, F.W. (ed.) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  2. Delling, G. (1964) 'artios', in Kittel, G., Bromiley, G.W. and Friedrich, G. (ed.) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

  3. Hendriksen, W. and Kistemaker, S.J. (1953-2001) Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

  4. Klöber, R. (1986) 'Ὀρθός', in Coenen, L., Beyreuther, E. and Bietenhard, H. (ed.) New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

  5. Klöber, R. (1986) 'Ὀρθός', in Coenen, L., Beyreuther, E. and Bietenhard, H. (ed.) New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

  6. Lea, T.D. and Griffin, H.P. (1992) 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

  7. Lea, T.D. and Griffin, H.P. (1992) '1, 2 Timothy, Titus', in Dockery, D.S. (ed.) The New American Commentary, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

  8. Louw, J.P. and Nida, E.A. (1996) Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains, New York: United Bible Societies.

  9. Moulton, J.H. and Milligan, G. (1930) The vocabulary of the Greek Testament, London: Hodder and Stoughton.

  10. Nida, J.P. and Albert, E. (1996) 'opheleo', in Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, New York: United Bible Societies.

  11. Pridik, K.-H. (1990) 'kai', in Balz, H.R. and Schneider, G. (ed.) Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

  12. Schneider, G. (1990) 'paideia', in Balz, H.R. and Schneider, G. (ed.) Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

  13. Schreiner, T.R. (2003) 1, 2 Peter, Jude, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

  14. Swanson, J. (1997) Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament, Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted scripture text are from The New American Standard Bible 1995 Update.

[2] I have converted the nouns to verbs for emphasis. In the original, they are all objects of the prepositions pros (for) that is used to designate the movement toward a goal (Swanson, 1997). I am expressing these as verbs to strengthen the idea of movement!

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