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Mistranslation of 2 Tim. 3:16 Causes Misunderstanding in NT


We are all told "All scripture is inspired of God and is profitable for teaching," etc. We are cited to 2 Tim. 3:16. This is how Paul's own words are used to prove he must be inspired in everything he says. This verse by circular logic is all you need to know to keep Paul in the Bible.


But we are never told that the first IS is not even there in fact. Hence, the word IS in this sentence itself cannot be inspired because it is not actually there. This changes the meaning completely to be saying nothing more than that "all writings inspired of God are profitable for doctrine," etc. Nothing more remarkable than that is being suggested by Paul.


Let's step by step explain this. 


First, in the King James this reads -- and please note the italics:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (See 2 Tim 3:16 KJV).

The first word "is" has been put in italics in the KJV. This is no accident. This is how it read in 1611. The KJV editors' introduction explained any time a word is italicized means that it is actually not present in the text. It is merely adopted to smooth out a sentence. This meant the reader was free to disagree if you did not think it smoothed out the sentence. Then you could just ignore it.  

Certain online versions of the King James clearly preserve the italics on the first IS between Scripture and Given. See King James Online.org for 2 Tim. 3:16. 


The 1611 introduction to the King James Bible explained that italicized words were added to make the text more readable in English. It explained such words were not present in the original source Greek text. This translation practice began in 1580 with the Geneva Bible upon which the KJV was based. The Geneva translators offered the same explanation  of what it meant to italicize a word. See link.

However, here, adding the first is fundamentally changes the meaning. In an article The Italicized Words in the King James Bible, it explains the general justification of adding words - in italics, and clearly should never have been used to radically change the meaning of the text had the addition been omitted:

The italicized words in the King James Bible are words that were added by the translators to help the reader. This is usually necessary when translating from one language to another because word meanings and idioms change. So, to produce a more readable translation, the King James translators (1604- 1611) added certain words to the Bible text. However, to make sure that everyone understood that these words were not in the available manuscripts they set them in italics.

The reputable scholar Scrivener in his 1884 reprint of the King James spent dozens of pages explaining how the italics were deliberately used by the King James translators to signify the original text did not have the word present. See The Authorized Edition of the English Bible (1611) (Ed. F.H.A. Scrivener, 1884) at page 61 et seq.

Hence, the word is after graphe / writing  / scripture in 2 Timoth 3:16 is not found in the original Greek text. This is unquestionable. 


First, in the original Greek and later Latin translations of 2 Tim. 3:16, no IS exists were in 1611 the KJV put it. The English translation in 1611 injected a meaning entirely unknown in any Bible prior to 1611. What is hard to explain is why the King James NT borrowed 84% of what Tyndale's translation of 1536 into English of the NT provided but here the KJV departed from Tyndale's correct rendering of this verse.  Tyndale translated 2 Tim. 3:16 as "all scripture given by inspiration is profitable..., etc." (Tyndale Bible 2 Tim. 3:16.) Tyndale did not render it as "all scripture IS given by inspiration," etc. 

Second, the first is was added to our Bible text by the KJV translators with 1300 years of unbroken absence in Greek or Latin texts at that point. The KJV wished us to believe it was necessary at that juncture to add it in English to make the text more readable. However,  the addition of the first IS in the sentence changes radically the sentence from merely saying "all writings inspired by God are profitable for doctrine etc," into "all writings are inspired of God, and are profitable for doctrine." This would signify all bills of receipt, letters to friends or for business are inspired, which certainly cannot be the case.


This absurdity is self evident in Young's Literal of 1895 which uses the IS in brackets -- to signify it is not in the Greek text. Then Young's renders graphe (Greek for writings) more correctly than the KJV as Writings. Young obviously did so because the term Scripture in English had developed due to the KJV error itself that now ipso facto the word Scripture in English had a meaning not implied by graphe in Greek. By 1895, "Scripture" came to mean an inspired writing. How so? By no other influence than the misimprepression created by 2 Tim. 3:16 itself!  Young's clears out that improper influence, and now it absurdly reads with the bracketed IS included to bow to the pressure of the KJV: 


every Writing [is] God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that [is] in righteousness, [YLT, 2 Tim. 3:16.]


If the bracketed is truly belongs, then any note you write to yourself, every letter you write to your mom, etc., is God-breathed. That is aburd.

This is the effect of Young correctly translating graphe as writing. In Greek, it means just that -- every kind of written material, such as bills and receipts, business letters, etc. By Young correctly translating graphe as "writing," it showed the absurdity and impropriety of the KJV editors inserting IS to say "every writing" or "scripture" (originally just meaning a writing too) is God-breathed. I suspect Young did this to allow us all to see the absurdity of the bracketed IS -- the IS which the KJV italicized to admit it is not actually present in the Greek.


So what is the answer? The verse makes perfect sense when you remove the KJV's misguided addition of  IS. Then you simply translate it as "every writing inspired of God is profitable for teaching, etc."  That is what Tyndale did in 1536.


In recognition of this, the American Standard Version of 1901 removed the improper addition to Paul's words, and drops the "is" at that first point. This thereby dramatically gives us a new perspective, restoring Tyndale's translation of 1536, as well as the Latin translation of Jerome in the 300s. Now we see the "is" only appears before the word profitable, but not also before "God-breathed." The corrected translation, and the literally accurate one, is:


Every scripture [i.e., writing] inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. (ASV, 1901, 2 Tim. 3:16.)


The scholar George Ricker Berry, in his Interlinear KJV New Testament (1993) likewise renders it literally as saying "Every Scripture God inspired is profitable." 


In further support, we can cite J.W. Roberts, the famous Greek

linguist scholar. Roberts comments on the "is" issue, and

agrees with the conclusion that the verse in 2 Tim. 3:16 means

every God-breathed scripture "is" profitable, not that every

"scripture is God-breathed" -- a big difference. Roberts says:


The American Standard renders, "Every scripture

inspired of God is also profitable . . ." It would appear

from this difference in translation that the difficulties are

in the words "all" or "every" and in the placing of the

copula or verb "is." The fact that the verb is

italicized [in the KJV] in both versions indicates that it is

in ellipsis (understood) in the context....[However, Paul

means] "every Scripture" inspired in the same manner

as the Old Testament, may be used as religiously

profitable, for the Christian. (J.W. Roberts, "Every

Scripture Inspired of God," Restoration Quarterly Vol. 5,

No.1 (1960), available online.)


In fact, the translation that every writing is inspired in the KJV is unique in Christian translation history up to 1611. No translation before it read other than "all writings inspired of God are ...."


The present view that "all writings / scripture are inspired...." solely was caused by an erroneous English translation in 1611 that was entirely unknown in any Bible prior to 1611.


For example, the King James NT borrowed 84% of what Tyndale's translation of 1536 into English of the NT provided but here the KJV departed from Tyndale's correct rendering of this verse.  Tyndale translated 2 Tim. 3:16 as "all scripture given by inspiration is profitable..., etc." (Tyndale Bible 2 Tim. 3:16.) Tyndale did not render it as "all scripture IS given by inspiration," etc. 

Prior to that time, the Latin Vulgate of Jerome from the 380s stood alone as the only translation for over 1000 years. It reads similar to Tyndale's translation:


Omnis Scriptura Divinitus inspirata utilis est ad docendum, etc.

Every Divinely inspired Writing is useful for teaching, etc.  [Link.


Today, the Interlinear and Vulgate reading are recognized as a proper alternative rendering to the KJV's influential mis-step. 

Yet, in fact, it is the only sensible reading. The KJV gave us an inaccurate version.

Why do this? Could it be that the KJV knew it served to support claims that Paul's writings should always be taken as inspired due to Paul's now all-inclusive statement created by a mistranslation?


Otherwise, the KJV knew there is no way to explain why we are paying any attention to Paul at all. 


For Paul only arguably quotes Jesus in a revelation to himself once in his epistles - 2 Cor. 12:7. Even that quote is so revulsive -- our Lord supposedly refusing to release Paul from the dominion of an "angel of Satan" -- that most Paulinists refuse to believe Paul meant to attribute to Jesus what that passage says the "Lord" said. See Was Paul a Messenger Of Words from Jesus? 

Hence, when we remove the italicized IS in the KJV for 2 Tim. 3:16, Paul clearly implies that not every writing is inspiredOnly those scripture or writings that are inspired are useful for correction, etc.  Paul was not trying to give himself any authority ipso facto because he had written something down, and it could be described as a GRAPHE.

By now correctly deleting the "is" where it was not originally present in 2 Tim. 3:16, we see in Paul's language an understanding that not every "graphe" (writing) / scripture is inspired of God, but instead that every "writing / scripture inspired by God is profitable," etc.


In other words, Paul is only saying "every God-breathed writing / scripture is profitable." This implies that if it is not God-breathed writing / scripture, then such "writing" or "scripture" is not necessarily profitable. Hence, this verse can never be used to prove anything we label "graphe" or "writing" or "scripture" is itself all we need to prove something is inspired. For that, we must turn to the Law and Prophets, and our Lord Jesus.


Paul does not count among writings we must listen to because neither Jesus nor Yahweh spoke over Paul that anyone must "listen to" Paul.  Yahweh did this for Jesus at his Transfiguration. No one ever did this for Paul.




Does Paul Mean By 'Scripture' Always An Inspired Writing?


Paul in his epistles, as explained in Scott Schifferd's FORMATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES blog, supposedly proves "Scripture" necessarily means an inspired writing rather than the context dictating the meaning. It says "Paul quoted Luke 10:7 as 'Scripture' in 1 Timothy 5:18." He adds: "Look again to 1 Timothy 5:18 to see that the 'Scripture' of 1 Timothy 5:18 referred to both Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7." (July 29, 2015)


Based upon this, Scott concludes the term "scripture" necessarily refers to Holy Scripture, and thus is a shorthand term. However, the word translated as "scripture" merely means "writings," and whether it means more -- like an inspired writing -- requires examination of context.


For example, the word "writings" (translated as 'Scripture' with a capital S) does in the context of 1 Timothy 5:18 refer to inspired writings. But this is only deducible from the context of a quotation of a known inspired writing. Otherwise, graphe - scripture -- is highly ambiguous, and can refer to non-inspired materials and 'writings' just as easily.


Let's first look at 1 Timothy 5:18.  Here's the NIV:


For Scripture says, "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." (1 Tim. 5:18, NIV.) 


The first quote is clearly from Deuteronomy 25:4 -- "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain."


The second does appear to be from Luke 10:7 which reads: "Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house."


In Greek the words "for the worker deserves his wages" is ho ergates tou misthou. These are almost the identical words in 1 Timothy 5:18.


Jesus is paraphrasing the law, and this is how we know "graphe" means an inspired writing. The word "graphe" by itself merely means writing, and does not necessarily mean an inspired writing. Here are the passages that Jesus or Paul is paraphrasing:


Leviticus 19:13

"'Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. "'Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.


Deuteronomy 24:14

Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.


Deuteronomy 24:15

Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin.  [From Cross-references to 1 Tim. 5:18.]