2 Timothy 3:16 "given by inspiration of God" or "God-breathed"?
By WILL KINNEY
There are some Christians whom I have encountered that try to tell us that versions like the NIV that read: "All Scripture is GOD BREATHED" is a better and more accurate translation than the King James Bible's "All scripture is GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD".
Not one of these people actually believes the NIV or any other version is in fact the complete, inspired, infallible and 100% pure words of God, but it seems that they think that if they can somehow show that the King James Bible is inferior in any way, then they have somehow scored a point for their "No Bible is Inspired" side and discredit to some degree the authority of the King James Bible.
You undoubtedly are going to encounter some "expert in the Greek" who will tell you that the word translated as "given by inspiration of God" in the King James Bible and many others, is actually better translated as "God-breathed".
Let's take a look at how the various Bibles through history have translated this word, and what the Greek lexicons and dictionaries have to say. We will compare Scripture with Scripture to see which translation is in fact the most accurate.
Not only does the King James Bible say that all Scripture "is given by inspiration of God" (or, inspired by God) but so also do the following Bible translations: Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1325, Coverdale 1535, the Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, John Wesley's N. T. translation 1755, Webster's 1833, the Revised Version 1881, the American Standard Version 1901, the 1950 Douay version, 1970 New American Bible, 1985 New Jerusalem Bible, Hebrew Names Version, the Revised Standard Version 1952, the New Revised Standard Version 1989, Weymouth 1902, the New Living Translation, God's Word Translation 1995, the NASB 1963 - 1995, the New KJV 1982, the 21st Century KJV 1994, Third Millenium Bible 1998, the Holman Christian Standard Version 2003, and even Daniel Wallace's ongoing NET version.
The Spanish Reina Valera from 1602 all the way to 1995 read: "Toda la Escritura es inspirada por Dios".
Likewise so do the French Louis Segond, the Italian Diodati, and Rivedute, and the Portuguese Almeida.
The people who put out the NIV are inconsistent when they translate it into various foreign language versions. Though the English NIV version, put out by the International Bible Society, says Scripture is "God-breathed", yet when they translated the NIV in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian, they all agree with the time tested KJB rendering of "insipired of God".
The Spanish Nueva Versión Internacioinal 1999 says: "Toda la Escritura es inspirada por Dios y útil para enseñar, para reprender, para corregir y para instruir en la justicia."
The NIV (International Bible Society) when translated into Italian also reads "inspired by God". "Tutta la scrittura è stata ispirato da Dio..."
As does the NIV Portuguese edition (International Bible Society): "Porque toda a Escritura é inspirada por Deus e é útil para nos ensinar,"
And also the French NIV (International Bible Society) reads: "Car toute l'Ecriture est inspirée de Dieu."
The new ESV of 2001, which is a revision of the revision of the revision (the RSV, and NRSV) now basically sides with the NIV, reading: "All Scripture is breathed out by God."
What picture comes to mind when a version like the NIV or ESV says that all Scripture is "God-breathed" or "breathed out by God"? The words "breathed out" seem to exclude the human instrument and make it sound as though the words came floating down through the air and somehow landed on pieces of parchment or paper. Is this what the Bible says about it's own inspiration? I think not.
What I believe the Scriptures teach is that God, either directly or through His Son or His Spirit, actually INspired BOTH the writers AND the Scriptures.
The word "inspire" does literally mean to breathe into, and this seems to be the method God has always used. In the very beginning when God formed man from the dust of the earth, we see intimations of this same process of INspiration taking place when God communicates His life to man. "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and BREATHED INTO his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Genesis 2:7
Let's see what the Scriptures teach about how God moved upon chosen men to give to us His pure and precious words.
1 Peter 1:20-21:
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake AS THEY WERE MOVED BY THE HOLY GHOST."
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers BY THE PROPHETS, Hath in these last days spoken unto us BY HIS SON..."
Balaam answered and said "Must I not take heed TO SPEAK THAT WHICH THE LORD HATH PUT IN MY MOUTH?"
"Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them BY THY SPIRIT IN THY PROPHETS: yet they would not give ear..."
Ezekiel 2:1-2; 3:1-2:
And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me...Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll."
2 Corinthians 13:3:
"Since ye seek a proof of CHRIST SPEAKING IN ME, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you."
2 Peter 3:2:
"That ye may be mindful of the WORDS which were spoken before BY the holy prophets, and of the commandment OF US the apostles of the Lord and Saviour."
1 Corinthians 2:9-13:
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath REVEALED THEM UNTO US BY HIS SPIRIT."... Which things also we speak, not in the WORDS which man's wisdom teacheth, but WHICH THE HOLY GHOST TEACHETH; comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
The essential point to be grasped is that when men wrote the Scriptures, their statements did not originate in their own thinking, but were put into their minds by the direct action of the Holy Ghost. They wrote the word of God in the sense that they wrote words that came directly from God. This is what the Westminster Confession means when it says that the original text of the Bible was "immediately inspired by God" (1.8).
Consider another example, that of Jesus disciples who would be taken before rulers to give an account of their faith. Jesus told them "take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but WHATSOEVER SHALL BE GIVEN YOU in that hour, that speak ye: for it is NOT YE THAT SPEAK, BUT THE HOLY GHOST." (Mark 13:11).
Here the Lord Jesus explains what inspiration involves. When an inspired speaker or writer says something, it is not he who is speaking, but God. Now of course the person is speaking in the sense that he expresses thoughts that are in his mind, but he is not speaking in the more important sense that those thoughts were formulated by him. The inspired speaker or writer utters only words put directly into his mind by the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:4).
Consider the Psalms, which were written mostly by the prophet David and which contain many prophecies of Christ. Davids own testimony about the origin of the Psalms could not be clearer: "David the son of Jesse said...and the sweet psalmist of Israel said, The Spirit of the LORD SPAKE BY ME, AND HIS WORD WAS IN MY TONGUE." (2 Sam. 23:1- 2).
Similarly, Peter explains: "Men and brethren, this scripture must need have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost BY THE MOUTH OF DAVID SPAKE before..." (Acts 1:16).
David and the other Old Testament prophets did not always understand the very things God was prompting or inspiring them to write. 1 Peter 1:10-11 clearly tell us:
"Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ WHICH WAS IN THEM DID SIGNIFY, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Pet. 1:11).
"But those things, which God before HAD SHEWED BY THE MOUTH OF ALL HIS PROPHETS, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled."
"Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God HATH SPOKEN BY THE MOUTH OF ALL HIS HOLY PROPHETS since the world began."
"Who BY THE MOUTH OF THY SERVANT DAVID HAST SAID, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?"
"after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the HOLY GHOST BY Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive..."
"I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, AND I WILL PUT MY WORDS IN HIS MOUTH, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him."
We see the fulfillment of this promise in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 12:48-29; 14:10 and 17:8:
"the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak." - "the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." - "For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them..."
I do not hold Greek lexicons as my final written authority, but every one I have access to agrees with the reading found in the King James Bible (and numerous other translations) of "inspired of God".
The Greek word translated in the KJB and several other English bibles as "given by inspiration of God" is theopnustos. Diury's Modern Greek-English dictionary, which has nothing to do with the Bible as such but is a purely secular, modern dictionary of the Greek language today, defines this word in only one way - "inspired by God".
Liddell and Scott's Greek English lexicon 1968 Oxford Press, on page 791 gives only one definition of this word - "inspired of God".
Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 19th Zondervan printing 1978, on page 287 again gives us only one definition - "inspired by God".
The Greek-English lexicon by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, 4th edition 1952 on page 357 again gives only one definition of this word - "inspired by God".
Inspiration is the process whereby God "breathes into" a man His divine, perfect and inspired words and filters them through the individual personality of each man to bring forth His pure words of truth.
Both the writer and the words are inspired of God. The King James Bible's "All scripture IS GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD" is right, and the most accurate . . . as always. V