2 Timothy 3:16 translation

Frank Nelte (link here) says, “One point about 2 Timothy 3:16 that should immediately attract our attention is that THE GREEK TEXT OF THIS VERSE DOES NOT CONTAIN A SINGLE VERB!” He goes on to say, “The fact that the Greek text for this verse does not contain any verbs at all should immediately tell us that THE THOUGHT OF THIS SENTENCE CONTINUES IN THE NEXT VERSE. The translators really should have presented the texts of verses 16 and 17 as ONE VERSE. In fact, to my knowledge the Wycliffe New Testament is the only English language version that actually correctly presents these two verses as one verse.”

About his article he says, “It also reveals the story behind this very deliberate mistranslation, which was foisted upon an unsuspecting Christian world. It is a story that involves a Dutchman, a Frenchman, and an Englishman, a story that I believe has never before been adequately exposed to objective scrutiny. The deliberate mistranslation of this verse was essential for making a very specific claim that certain people wished to make.

The Greek adjective “theopneustos” should have been translated as the adjective “GOD-BREATHED” and NOT as the clause “IS GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD”.

He cites Adam Clarkes commentary who was a giant of a scholar in his day, even though he didn’t agree with Adam’s theological perspective and many of the interpretations he gave in his commentary. Still he credits him for his well read scholarship and quotes him, ”

Verse 16. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God”. This sentence is not well translated; the original “pasa graphe theopneustos ophilimos pros didaskalian, k. t. l.” should be rendered: “Every writing Divinely inspired is profitable for doctrine” etc. The particle “kai”, “and”, is omitted by almost all the versions and many of the fathers, and certainly does not agree well with the text.

The only words that precede “kai” in 2 Timothy 3:16 are one noun and two adjectives. That is why the literal English translation of the first four Greek words (i.e. “every God-breathed writing AND”) does not make any sense! A conjunction is totally inappropriate after the three Greek words “pasa graphe theopneustos”. NO WONDER ADAM CLARKE SAID THAT KAI CERTAINLY DOES NOT AGREE WELL WITH THE TEXT!

About the Greek translations that came largely from the Latin Vulgate, which was largely used to translate to English:

“Every single Greek text of the complete New Testament that is available today is to one degree or another a product of this eclectic method. There isn’t a single copy of a “pure” text available anywhere. This may be something some of us may not want to hear, but it is the truth nonetheless.” (eclectic method - an eclectic text is one that is based on selecting from amongst a number of variant readings found in different source documents for each specific verse or passage. It is typically, though not always, the majority opinion, selected from among variant readings for specific verses, that is then selected to become a part of the accepted “eclectic” Greek text that is produced)

Some of the translations that get closer:

-EVERY scripture inspired of God (is) also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. (2Ti 3:16 ASV, American Standard Version, 1901)

-for all divinely inspired writings are conducive to instruciton, to conviction, to reformation, and the practice of virtue (Mace New Testament translation-1729)

-EVERY scripture inspired of God (is) also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: (2Ti 3:16 ERV, English Revised Version of 1885)

It should be clear that unbiased scholars of Greek understand that in this verse “pasa graphe” without the article should be correctly translated as “EVERY scripture”. And that translation is then qualified by the attributive adjective “theopneustos”.

The inevitable consequence of this conclusion is that the Apostle Paul assuredly was not claiming that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God”! That is simply not what Paul was telling Timothy.


Another article here has a different take on things that broadens up the idea of what can be used to teach and instruct:

In all occurrences of graphe where the Holy Scriptures are meant, this word is preceded by the definite article: The Scriptures, but not in 2 Timothy 3:16. The only other exception happens in JOHN 19:37, where the definite article is replaced by the word another. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul has the word graphe precede by the word πασα, pasa, the feminine form of πας (pas), where also the familiar word pantos comes from. This root pas means all, with a clause of one-ness; the whole of something.

In 2 Timothy 3:15-16, Paul basically divides everything that has ever been written in two parts:

Holy Texts. These are those Texts that are able to make wise, even so wise that you will believe in Christ Jesus, which then leads to salvation.

The whole of all texts. These are any written word, from a Bible commentary to a Star Trek script to the TV guide.

Anything written can be used by anybody clever, creative or inspired enough to introduce the gospel or give an example of how things work or don’t. Language and specifically written language requires such an enormous degree of cooperation and convention that Paul rightly deems it θεοπνευστος (theopneustos) or “God-breathed”.