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A God-Breathed Book

God has revealed himself in Scripture by his works and words. The chief revelation of God is Jesus who came to show us what God is like and to secure our salvation. The vehicle which God chose to use to carry this message to the generations is Scripture.

We might ask: In what way is Scripture the word of God? There are two texts in the New Testament which can help us answer this question. The first is 2 Timothy 3 (16) and the second is Second Peter 1 (21). Let’s observe them in that order.

In the Timothy passage, the word God-breathed relates Scripture directly to God, though some recent translations have chosen the word inspire to translate the Greek word theopneustos (theo noose tos). Today’s New International Version has chosen a better English word, God-breathed. The human words which are employed by God to give us his message are breathed with his life and surely are trustworthy. Paul told Timothy that the goal of these God-breathed words were to teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness. It may be correct to say, that the concept of God-breathed might be understood by saying that the written words cannot be read correctly without the breath of the Spirit of God.

Second Peter 1 (21) is the second passage which might help us with this concept. In this passage, Peter talked about prophecy, but the message provides some clues about determining the character of Scripture. Peter said that prophecy comes from God, not from man. The phrase from God provides us with a dimension of authority and trustworthiness. The origin does not exclude the human character of it (men spoke). While men spoke these words, they were from God. The essential understanding of Scripture as being God-breathed is that the words of humankind carry an important quality of trustworthiness.

Often it is asked if the authors of the text of Scripture knew that this process of God-breathing was happening as they wrote their works. Three illustrations will help provide an answer.

First, in the opening of the book of Revelation, what we often refer to as chapter 1, John told his readers that the book was a revelation and a prophecy. This awareness was common in the Old Testament prophets. Second, Luke, the author of Luke-Acts, wrote a description of the reasons and efforts for writing two books (Luke 1). He said that several had written accounts; the material Luke was going to write was handed down from eyewitnesses, and he had investigated everything that he was about which he was going to write. The concept of being God-breathed doesn’t seem to appear in these texts. Third, Paul seemed not to be aware that his God-breathed process was going on when he was writing. He could even ask for help in writing as seen in Romans 16 (22). Finally, Peter saw the writings of Paul as somehow being like the Old Testament authoritative books (2 Peter 3). Remember, these books had not recognized as authoritative books yet in the life of Judaism. It seems fair to say that some of the authors were aware, while others were not. It may also be said that because Paul had this experience on one occasion, it does not follow that he had it on every occasion.

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