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When the Bible teaches about its nature and origin in 2 Timothy 3.16 it uses a word that should shape our handling of the Scriptures. The term translated “inspired” (theopneustos) by many translators could perhaps better be rendered as “breathed out by God” as is captured in the English Standard Version (ESV).

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Tim. 3.16 ESV)

B.B. Warfield helpfully stated that theopneustos “is primarily expressive of the origination of Scripture, not of its nature and much less of its effects. What is theopneustos is ‘God Breathed’ produced by the creative breath of the Almighty….What it affirms is that the Scriptures owe their origin to an activity of God the Holy Ghost and are in the highest and truest sense His creation. It is on this foundation of Divine origin that all the high attributes of Scripture are built.” (The Inspiration & Authority of the Bible, B.B. Warfield)

“Warfield rightly concluded that the term translated “God-breathed” is speaking of the origin of the Scriptures; they are not, first and foremost, in a primary sense, human in their origination….A solid view of the Bible begins with the recognition that God is its principle author, the origin and source of its very essence. All sub-Christian systems must, by definition, attack God’s Word at this very point, for the survival of their unbiblical teachings and views of authority is dependent upon overthrowing this precise truth.” (Scripture Alone, James White), p. 51

What an immense and unspeakable treasure we have in the Word of God. For in it we have the fresh, pure, and certain mind and will of Almighty God. Indeed, what a sacred stewardship we have in the Bible!

But he answered, “It is written, “‘ Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matt. 4.4)

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7 thoughts on “The Origin of the Scriptures”

  1. Steve says:

    I think we often forget just how sacred it is to have something breathed out by God. What a priviledge we have!

  2. Amen Erik! This is a truth we often neglect to appreciate, and has unfortunately led to the church growth movement and the seeker sensitive churches where the unadulterated Word of God has been thrown out.

  3. Erik,

    Warfield’s article on “theopnuestos” is one of the best scholarly articles I’ve ever read. At one point he suggests that the word is foudn in no other literature outside of the canon and in this one place within Scripture. This makes Paul’s use of it all the more amazing. What a blessing to have been given men like Warfield to bring out such rich truths from the “God-Breathed” word.

  4. Paul Bright says:

    Warfield is definitely correct in looking at the the word ‘theopneustos’ as a compilation of ‘theos’ and ‘pneustos.’ The whole argument would be how these two ideas in one word function. The “God is the Origin” or Scripture is Breathed Out By God sees primarily the first part of the word as that relating to SOURCE or ORIGIN, such that if one were to unpack the word, one could either get ‘pneustos to theo’ (dative in case/instrumental in function…that is a dative highlighting the SOURCE) OR the more ambiquous ‘pneustos tou theou’ (genitive in case, where ‘tou theou’ is a GENITIVE of SOURCE). But the both the genitive/ablative and the dative/instrumental leave open ambiquity that is not in the combination of the word. Consider a cognate form of another hapax legomena where ‘theos’ is put at the beginning in 1 Thess 4:9, ‘theodidaktoi’ or God-taught. Some might think that the ‘theos’ in this would be, for you yourselves are teachers of God, where ‘theos’ would function as an objective genitive and thus the content of their teaching. However, this does not fit the context. Rather, the context shows that the reason the APOSTLE is not a sufficient source/means by which to write them specifically of how to love is because of the greater ORIGIN/SOURCE of their teaching…the teaching of God within by the Holy Spirit (a covenantal application to Gentiles of the promise of the New Covenant to Jews in Ezek 36). So, in an early letter, Paul used a compound ‘theo-‘ hapax legomena to describe the source of a particular characteristic. Notice, in both 1 Thess 4:9 and 2 Tim 3:16, the ORIGIN (theos) of the characteristic (didaktoi and pneustos) assumes the ongoing nature or state to which the characteristic is applied (you and the Scriptures), even though the kinds of words that are conjoined to ‘theos’ in the cognate are different semantically (didaktoi is a personal noun, pneustos is more adjectival). This adds further weight to the observation that the SOURCE affects the adjectival conditions by which the permanency/ongoing nature is understood. Thus, God as the SOURCE affects the nature of His internal teaching by the Holy Spirit to the Thessalonians so that the state into which they have been placed is assumed as ongoing, otherwise Paul would have listed for them on how to love specifically. AND God as the SOURCE affects the nature of His breathing out the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit so that the state of the Scriptures is permanent/unchanging. Thus, the nature/attribute/characteristic, built upon divine source, becomes the impetus for application in each context.

    I also find it interesting theologically that these ‘theo-‘cognate words are used by Paul both early (Thessalonians) and late (2 Timothy) and is not evidence of development of his theology/language. And moreover, he uses the words in 2 contexts where the action of the Holy Spirit is assumed, thus giving theologians another proof via inductive analysis that the Holy Spirit is indeed the Third person of the God head:

    Only God teaches believers internally (in relation to covenant promise) of the truth.
    The Holy Spirit teaches believers internally (in relation to covenant promise) of the truth.
    The Holy Spirit is God.

    Thanks for the post!

  5. erik says:


    Thanks for this comment. Very helpful connection w/1 Thess…I had not previously made that. Additionally the point about the early/late usages of such words is helpful.

    thanks Paul..


  6. Paul Bright says:

    Hello Erik,

    I love your Website! I visit it sporadically, but every post is saturated with a pastor’s heart!

    What is even more interesting about ‘theopneustos’, especially in comparison to 1 Thess 4:9, is the unpacked phrase in John 6:45. Let me construct a grammatical syllogism.

    1 Thess 4:9 uses ‘theodidaktoi’ as an anarthrous (no article) plural, personal, predicate adjective after a state of being verb (‘to be’).

    John 6:45 (a quote from the OT) uses ‘didaktoi theou’, the first word ‘didaktoi is anarthrous, in the position of the plural, personal, predicate adjective after a state of being verb (to be). The second word ‘theou’ is a genitve, also anarthrous. Thus, the phrase is ambiguously translated, ‘teachers of God.” So, how are we to understand the genitive ‘of God.’ Well, the verse continues and offers some wonderful exegetical data. ‘All who hear and learn from the Father come to Me.’ So, in CONTEXT ‘hearing and learning’ is in synonymous parallelism with ‘teachers’ AND ‘the Father’ (articular, personal pronoun) is in synonymous parallleism with ‘of God’. Also, ‘the Father’ follows after the first participle only, but includes the second, because of the difference in the prepositions that would be required.

    Verbs of hearing frequently have the preposition ‘para’ + genitive to identify SOURCE/ORIGIN, as it is here in John 6:45.

    The verb ‘to learn’ normally uses the preposition ‘apo’ to identify the archtype in the discipleship relationship. However, Jesus purposesly stays away from using a second preposition and thereby a repetition of the phrase ‘from the Father’ as ‘apo tou Patros.’ So, the preposition ‘para’ governs both participles, syntactically linked, but grammatically only required by the first. So, it is clear that ‘para’ means SOURCE or ORIGIN. And therefore, the genitive ‘theou’ in John 6:45 is likewise a GENITIVE of SOURCE/ORIGIN.

    Now, back to the more primary point. 1 Thess 4:9 (a compound ‘theo-‘ word) is equivalent to John 6:45, where ‘theou’ is a GENITIVE of SOURCE. Therefore, for a compound ‘theo-‘ word used as an anarthrous, predicate adjective, ‘theos’ in that compound word can be considered/ translated as a ‘GENITIVE of SOURCE.’

    To show why one should limit the use of the compound word ‘theo-‘ to predicate adjectives, one only need to go to Acts 5:39, where another compound ‘theo-‘ word is used “God-opposers.” But, in this context the word “God” within the compound word is correctly understood as an OBJECTIVE genitive, or the personal OBJECT that would receive the action within the adjective (opposing). So, is it possible that 2 Tim 3:16 could then be a compound of an OBJECTIVE GENITIVE and a VERBAL ADJECTIVE, such that it should be understood as ‘the Scriptures are are breathed of God,” where ‘of God’ is less personal, and more adjectival.’ No! Why? First, in Acts 5:39, ‘theomachoi’ (God-opposers/ God-haters) is in the grammatical position of a RETAINED OBJECT, following the second person plural passive subjunctive verb ‘You may be found.’ The function of the compound is different because of the different grammatical use. 2 Tim 3:16 is a predicate adjective.

    So, 1 Tim 3:16’s ‘theopneustos’ should be considered a compound of an GENITIVE of SOURCE and a VERBAL ADJECTIVE.


  7. erik says:

    Paul, Did you say you were a student of Dr. Zemek? :/

    Good stuff! Thanks!!

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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