Monday, May 26, 2014

Inspired Scripture (part 2)

On a wider scale, the movement contained here in the third chapter of the second letter to Timothy goes beyond the instructional movement of the letter, as encouragement is conveyed to the recipient.  The movement to be recognized draws from a long-established understanding about the Creator God, the nature of that God, the work of that God, and yes, the movement of that God. 

In order to hear the words as part of the movement, the word “inspired” must be addressed.  The Greek word here translated “inspired” is “theopneustos.”  There are two parts to this word.  The first, “theo,” is “God.”  The second, is “pneustos,” or generally speaking, “breathed.”  The root word for “pneustos” is “pneuma,” which, in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures primarily employed by the authors of the New Testament) and in the New Testament, while also used formally as a stand-in for the Spirit, is routinely translated as “breath.”  It is the suffix of the word that allows for it to be understood as “breathed.”  An acceptable rendering of the word would then be “God-breathed.” 

With the equivalence that is created between breath and Spirit, it could be said that the word, and therefore the concept being communicated by the word, could be understood as “God-Spirited.”  This would seem to reinforce the common notion of “inspiration,” meaning that the Creator God placed His very Spirit in the words of Scripture, therefore forcing an acknowledgment that the Scriptures themselves are that which have been inspired by the Creator God.  Now there is no real need to dispute this assertion, but stopping there would cause one to fall short of grasping the bigger picture of what the author has in mind when these words are penned. 

Stopping at that point, which only allows one to see an assertion about the words of Scripture, would leave an observer in a position that is short of the understanding about the Creator God that has been (and is being) conveyed throughout all of Scripture.  The Scriptures, first and foremost it would seem, are designed to teach about the Creator God, so that those that recognize Him might effectively reflect His glory---as through the Scriptures, those that do indeed desire to be fully human are taught, reproved, corrected, trained, and equipped to serve the purposes of the God whose image they wish to rightly bear (that is to be fully human).  To presume that Scripture teaches about itself as being inspired would seem to travel an awkward and most likely unintended path towards idolatry.   

So as one considers the thought of the holy writings being “God-breathed” or “God-Spirited,” and without getting into a detailed language study, it can be said that it is the Spirit of the Creator God that is conveyed through the holy writings of Scripture.  Therefore, the idea that the Scriptures are designed to teach about Israel’s God and about how to be His divine image-bearers in His world does not trail too far behind this thought.  The Scriptures, being inspired, convey the nature and the essence of the Creator, doing so to those that have been created for His specific purposes. 

Is this taking things a bit too far?  Isn’t this a complication, or perhaps a distinction without a difference?  Would it not simply be easier to hear the verse as an affirmation that the Bible is inspired in every way and therefore one hundred percent reliable and infallible in every way?  Of course that would be easier.  In doing that however, and in taking what is truly an easy route to a conclusion that falls short of what is intended, one is left relatively impoverished when it comes to attaining to the full richness of the language employed. 

Indeed, if the Scriptures truly are inspired, should they not inspire the reader to find out what they are saying about the very God that is said to have inspired them?  If one wanted to apply that notion of inspiration to the New Testament writings, all of which were composed within a thoroughly Jewish mindset and by people that were shaped and given their identity by the narrative of Scripture in the light of their understanding of the nature of their God, then one would need to hear the voice of the movement of Scripture and thereby the implicit and underlying understanding of what the Creator God expects from His people as a result of His movement, as this speaks from behind the text.

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