All Scripture Is Given By Inspiration

2 Timothy 3:16

 By Dr. Allen P. Ross

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness


Paul wrote to the young pastor, Timothy, instructing him about exclusive character of Scripture, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV). Paul’s affirmation about Scripture is the necessary starting point of all Bible study, for it provides us with a profound understanding of the nature of the book we study.  It is important to note that Paul’s teaching about the nature of Scripture harmonizes perfectly well with what all the prophets and the apostles as well as our Lord Jesus Christ said about it–that it is fully the Word of God.  Paul uses the Greek word, theopneustos, to signify the uniqueness of Scripture.  It is often translated in English as “inspiration” but means literally “God-breathed.”  Holy Scripture, although written by many people over many centuries, was actually breathed out by God.

It is interesting to probe how Paul might have developed this expression from his exhaustive knowledge of the Bible, what we call the Old Testament.  In Hebrew there are several words that could be used to express the idea of “breath.”  One is the well-known word ruakh (pronounced roo-ack) which most often means Spirit or  spirit, but can also mean attitude, breath, and even wind.  And there is nephesh, which has most often been translated soul, but means life, the whole life or the soul in a body.  It can have the idea of a breathing, living creature.  But the word that actually means “breath” is neshamah.  This word most likely is what was in Paul’s mind when he expressed the idea that Scripture was “God-breathed.”

A survey of how this word “breath” is used in the Old Testament helps us understand the concept more precisely.  First, it is used in Genesis 2:7 to provide animation in creation.  The LORD God breathed into the man “the breath of life,” and the man became a living being.  It is the nature of the breath from God that it produces life.  Second, the divine breath brings spiritual understanding.  In Job 32:4 we see this use: “It is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty that gives him understanding.”  Third, the breath from God provides us with a functioning conscience.   Proverbs 20:27 reads, “The spirit of a man is the Lord’s lamp; it searches out his innermost being” (although the translation varies in different versions, the point is that this imparted breath from God serves as the conscience).

If the breath from God does all this in human life, then Scripture, which also came from God, should have the same capacities.   And in fact this is what we find in the teachings about the Bible.  The clearest example is Hebrews 4:12.  “For the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  The Bible is not magic.  But it is God’s Word, breathed out from the divine Spirit into the hearts and minds of the human authors who wrote its books.  And if the Bible is read carefully and prayerfully, it will accomplish what God intended it to do.  It will convict of sin, open the way of redemption, and guide in the way of everlasting life.