WHY 2 TIM 3:16 DOES NOT APPLY TO THE INSPIRATION OF THE ENTIRE BIBLE
By Victor Feria
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be equipped, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
We have to see the context of this verse as to when it was written by St. Paul to Timothy. Looking at the verses prior to this:
14: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15: and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
We can see that Paul was referring to the scriptures that was written at that time. He was referring to the Old Testament. Blessed John Henry Newman explained it in an 1884 essay entitled “Inspiration in its Relation to Revelation.” :
“Now, a good part of the New Testament was not written in his boyhood: Some of the Catholic epistles were not written even when Paul wrote this, and none of the books of the New Testament were then placed on the canon of the Scripture books. He refers, then, to the scriptures of the Old Testament, and, if the argument from this passage proved anything, it would prove too much, viz., that the scriptures of the New Testament were not necessary for a rule of faith.”
One may claim the verse is “self-authenticating”. This is problematic due to reasons where other books can claim as inspired. The Quran, The Book of Mormons, etc. can then claim the same argument. Self-authentication becomes a circular logic or reasoning. It is like, in mathematics, solving an equation using the same declaration as the solution itself. That gets us nowhere. An absurd claim can also be made like this: “I am God because I said so; I said so because I am God.” There is nothing more clear than this example and that proves nothing.
When we rely solely on 2 Tim 3:16 that declares that “All scriptures” are inspired then we have taken the Church out of the process of compiling the books that we now have as the Bible. Most Protestants adhere to this verse in their argument of “Sola Scriptura” or Bible Alone. There is more to this which is beyond the scope of this paper. As one can see, the Church under Divine Authority, infallible and as surrogate, issued a final decree beginning with the Council of Rome. There is simply no argument against that the Church was involved in declaring the canonicity of the books.
“Being inspired by God is, by definition, the only real criterion for a book’s inclusion in the biblical canon. This is fine, in the abstract, but useless when it gets down to brass tacks– for to respond to the question ‘Which books are canonical?’ with ‘The books that are inspired’ is just to say that we can know the inspired books by their being inspired! The question just gets pushed back a step to ‘How do we know which books are inspired?’ What the canon is does not tell us how to identify it.” – Dr. Doug Beaumont, “Evangelical Exodus”
In “Decretum Gelasianum De Libris Recipiendis Et Non-Recipiendes” at the Council of Rome (382AD) decreed which books are to be received and not received. So the Divinely appointed infallible Church, with Divine Intervention, “discovers” which books are canonical. It is worthwhile to note that there were numerous books that were disputed and some declared spurious and their “authors to be damned in the extricable shackles of anathema forever.”
At the Vatican Council I (1870), “ Dei Filius, Chapter 2” states:
“…this supernatural revelation, according to the faith of the universal Church, as declared by the holy synod of Trent, is contained “in the written books and in the unwritten traditions which have been received by the apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself; or, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit have been handed down by the apostles themselves, and have thus come to us” [Council of Trent]. And, indeed, these books of the Old and New Testament, whole with all their parts, just as they were enumerated in the decree of the same Council, are contained in the older Vulgate Latin edition, and are to be accepted as sacred and canonical. But the Church holds these books as sacred and canonical, not because, having been put together by human industry alone, they were then approved by its authority; nor because they contain revelation without error; but because, having been written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and, as such, they have been handed down to the Church itself.
In closing, let me quote from a book written by Rt. Rev. Henry Grey Graham, 1911, “Where We Got The Bible”:
“.. We shall only be awarding a just meed of praise and gratitude if we frankly and thankfully recognize that it is to a council (or councils) of the Roman Catholic Church that we owe the collection of the separate books into our present Canon of the New Testament, and that to the loving care and devoted labor of the monks and scholars of that Church all through the ages we are indebted, not only for the multiplication and the distribution of the sacred volume among the faithful…but even for the preservation of the Book from corruption and destruction.”