Gaining a Deeper Understanding of the New Testament — 20160103

st-timothy1In the last issue of this article I finished commentary on First Timothy. Second Timothy is like and unlike the first. Both begin as letters from Paul to Timothy. Both emphasize “sound teaching,” guarding “the good treasure entrusted to you” and “sound doctrine.” Both are almost certainly by the same author.

But 2 Timothy is much more personal. Paul is in prison, expecting to die soon. The letter reads like a “farewell letter” that also commissions Timothy to continue what Paul has begun. There is nothing about qualifications for leadership or directives about who is a real widow. Rather, it is like a last testament from Paul to Timothy.

It begins with memories, naming Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois. Then the author refers to Paul’s imprisonment and sense of abandonment. It continues with a commendation to Timothy to be “a good soldier of Christ Jesus” and a worker approved by God. It warns of what will happen “in the last days.”

This is not Paul. But it is not far from Paul. Most of the rest of the letter, beginning with 3:10, is a “charge” to Timothy commissioning him to be Paul’s successor and legatee.

This section of the letter contains what is probably its best-known verse. It affirms that “all scripture is inspired by God”. It is one of the foundations of Christian controversy about the authority of the Bible. Especially in the last hundred years, many Protestants have thought, been taught, or have taken for granted that “inspired by God” means that the Bible has a divine guarantee to be true. It commonly leads to the claim that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Some would make a subtle distinction between those two terms, but in ordinary usage today they are synonymous. This understanding of this verse and thus of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God is the basic foundation of fundamentalist and most of conservative-evangelical Protestantism. For these Protestants, the Bible as the inspired and therefore inerrant and infallible Word of God defines who they are. You should read 2 Timothy 3:14-17. You will find that although the verse does say “all scripture is inspired by God,” it does not say that “inspired” means inerrant and infallible. Rather, because it is inspired, it is useful for teaching, correction,   reproof and training in righteousness (better understood as justice). There is nothing controversial in that claim. Is scripture useful for teaching and so forth? Of course.

Again this seems to prove that all scripture can be read in a way that is dependent upon the predisposition of the reader.

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