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Gospels God-Breathed?





Joseph Francis Alward  
© Copyright 2003 


In this article I refute the claims of some apologists that the Bible declares that the gospels are "God-breathed."



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Apologists often claim support for the inerrancy of the gospels by pointing to the words of the writer of 2 Timothy 3:16:



But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture (graphe) is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:14-16)



Timothy Could Not Have Read the Gospels in His Infancy


Apologists claim that Timothy could not have learned about salvation through Jesus from the Old Testament, because not a word about Jesus is found in those writings.  Thus, Paul must have been referring to the New Testament when he spoke about "scripture", they claim. However, that claim is clearly false.  All Paul was saying was that Timothy's basis for understanding God—obtained from the Old Testament, would help him be "wise" enough to understand what Jesus wanted him to do to be saved.  It is actually quite easy to see that Paul could [i]not[/i] have been referring to the gospels, as I will show below:


Paul's letter to Timothy had to have been written before Paul died in 67 AD. Now, assuming that Paul wrote the letter to Timothy  in the last year of Paul's life, and say that Timothy was about twenty years old, then the "infancy" Paul referred to would have started when Timothy was about five, or in about 52 AD. Now, according to virtually all biblical scholars, the gospels were written from about 70 AD to about 105 AD so it would have been impossible for Timothy, in his infancy in about 52 AD, to have read the gospels, for they hadn't yet been written.


Paul:  My Teachings Come from Me, Not God

Other evidence that Paul was not speaking of the New Testament writings when he said that all scripture is God-breathed comes in his admission that what he said was his opinion, not God's teaching:

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  (1 Corinthians 7:12)

Obviously, Paul (above) wants his readers to know that it was Paul, not God, ("I, not the Lord") who teaches that even a non-believing wife must not be divorced.  Thus, this teaching is not "God-breathed."  We must conclude from this that either the editors of the Bible did not consider Paul's words (above) to be part of "Scripture," or else the Bible is in error when it said that all of Scripture is God-breathed.


Other evidence that Paul's writings were not God-inspired is found in the verse below in which Paul himself said that the things he taught were his own opinion, not God's. Paul says that he is not expressing a view that was inspired in him by God, and to make sure his audience knows that it is just his opinion, he says, "I think":


Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. (1 Corinthians 7:25-26)


Linguistic Evidence

To the author of 2 Timothy, "Scripture" was what we call the Old Testament. He wasn't saying that what he wrote, or what others (Mark, Luke, Matthew, John) would write in their gospels in the future would be "God-breathed." 


Some apologists may try to argue that the "scripture" Paul was referring to obviously was not the Old Testament, but evidence from the New Testament shows that this claim fails. The author uses the same word for "scripture" (graphe) that is used many places elsewhere in the New Testament where it is clear that the author is referring only to the writings of the prophets. Here are just a few examples.


Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures (graphe): " 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? (Matthew 21:42)

But how then would the Scriptures (graphe) be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Matthew 26:54)

Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures (graphe) must be fulfilled." (Mark 14:49)

"I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture (graphe): 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.' (John 13:18)

"Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture (graphe) might be fulfilled (John 19:24)

The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture (graphe): "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Acts 8:32)

As the Scripture (graphe) says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (Romans 10:11)

And the scripture (graphe) was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. (James 2:23)

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture (graphe) says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)

For in Scripture (graphe) it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (1 Peter 2:6)

There are many other examples of graphe very clearly referring only to the writings of the prophets that I won't display here. These should be sufficient to make my point. If all of these other writers mean "writings of the prophets" when they use the word "graphe," why in the world shouldn't we believe that the writer of 2 Peter 3:16 meant the exact same thing when he used the same word they did?