Inspiration: Temporal or Eternal
I believe that inspiration is not a process but an entity, an eternal entity, a fact or deed. If the KJV translators had believed it was a process they would have translated II Timothy 3:16 “pasa graphe theopneustos” as “All scripture is God breathed.” In that sentence God breathed is an adjective, or present participle used as adjective, which describes the noun scripture. A verbal adjective would imply a becoming, but the Word did not become. He is. But the translators, and their English predecessors, were led to avoid that rendering, and I believe they knew in their hearts that inspiration was an eternal entity, a noun. Even though the phrase “by inspiration of God” describes scripture it is at least equally valid to look at it as a noun which is the object of the sentence. Here Paul could not have been speaking to Timothy of any original manuscripts. Those of the Old Testament were gone. And since II Timothy was probably Paul’s last epistle much of the New Testament already had been written. Graphe in this verse means scripture of both testaments. The Holy Ghost said that Timothy had known the scriptures, and so he had them before him from childhood.
The word theopneustos was given by the Holy Ghost to Paul. It is unique. It appears only once in the New Testament and is only infrequently seen in earlier pagan Greek writing. Some defenders of the KJV believe that theopneustos is a “verbal adjective,” essentially a past participle. That belief is more compatible with the concept of inspiration as a process which occurred in time, that is, a becoming. They say that “pasa graphe theopneustos” means all scripture is God breathed. If theopneustos is a verbal adjective the translation should be “God breathed” and not “given by inspiration of God.”
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives theopneustos as a noun. It says that Scripture is “the product of the creative breath of God. In a word, what is declared by this fundamental passage is simply that the Scriptures are a Divine product”…When Paul declares, then, that "every scripture" or "all scripture" is the product of the Divine breath, he asserts with as much energy as he could employ that Scripture is the product of a specifically Divine operation.” It is a product, an eternal entity, and not a process or becoming.
Adding the suffix –tion to a verb in English makes a noun. “All scripture is the breath of God” treats theopneustos as a noun and would be a better rendering than “All scripture is God breathed,” which would treat theopneustos as an adjective. Neither is as sublime or correct as “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” which we have in the KJV.
Theopneustos is masculine and graphe is feminine. By the rules of Greek grammar they should agree in gender. In order for them to agree we would have to change the os ending to an eta, and we would then have breath of a goddess, rather than breath of God. But in Greek there is no feminine adjective which ends with omicron sigma. Theopneustos is masculine.
Theopneustos occurs only once in the NT and therefore is an extremely important word that must be properly rendered. Of course it does not need to occur more than once. But it is a noun, naming an eternally completed entity. When the KJV translators put “given by inspiration” they were rendering theopneustos as a noun. According to rules of Greek usage, juxtaposing these two nominatives, graphe and theopneustos, implies the equivalence of them. Also implied is the verb to be, “is,” between them. The absence of the verb to be is called an ellipsis that actually gives emphasis that it should be rendered in translation. There is a second implied "is" in verse 16 followed by an adjective. This context is consistent with inspiration as a noun, because inspiration is qualified by being described with the adjective, profitable. In addition the “given by” reminds us that the scriptures are themselves an eternal gift from God, not to be whimsically meddled with. The scriptures were inspired from eternity, inspired while they were being put into the “original autographs,” are still inspired today, and must always be so, forever settled.
Inspiration is seen again, and only once, in the Old Testament in Job 32:8: "But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." There it is also a noun, in Hebrew neshamah, and the passage is parallel to II Timothy 3:16. It is also once more the breath of God which was given to Adam and which gives us understanding. It is the Bible, the breath of God, which gives man all the understanding which he can possibly have. Psalm 33:6 states that the heavens were made by the word of the LORD and “by the breath of his mouth,”
so that here the word of God and his breath are seen to be the same. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia comments here that the Hebrew word neshamah is particularly used where those operations of God “are energetic,” and “that “God’s breath is the irrestible outflow of His power.” Job 33:4 again refers to "the breath of the Almighty" which gave Elihu life and to the Holy Ghost, who gave Paul The Theopneustos.
Mr. John Krinke, Bible College teacher of Greek and author and publisher of What Happened to Bible Faith? (Greenwood, IN, 2003) also contends that theopneustos is a noun, an entity. He asks a very important question: “What are the languages that may be referred to as being inspired?” He answers from Acts 2:5-7:
5And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
He further cites Acts 2:8-12:
8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
And then he adds that, since every nation under heaven is stated in Acts 2:5, the 16 named regions of verses 8-12 were only representative of the whole congregation assembled. There were more languages and dialects represented than the 16 named regions. When the Gospel of Christ was preached and written by the apostles, those who heard or read had nothing less than God’s inspiration, no matter what language they heard or read. He rightly believes that, if inspiration is confined to autographs or faithful apographs of the original languages, we cannot claim God’s promises unless we know those original languages in which God delivered His inspiration, the Bible, to mankind. We must forever be at sea.
Scripture is eternal and is given to all, out of every nation. And in the same way the plan of redemption is eternal and given to all, out of every nation. The Bible says Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, from eternity. The Word that became flesh was eternal. It follows that the word of God which we have before us is also eternal. When God breathed the breath of life into Adam he became a living soul; we see the same statement made in Job by Elihu. The breath of God came upon something already completed. Likewise when God breathed His word from eternity inspiration was completed. In I Corinthians 2:7 Paul says that the wisdom he preached and wrote “God ordained before the world unto our glory.”
My Dad, The late Dr. Harold B. Sightler many times said “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever occurred to God?” I do not believe the scriptures occurred to Him in time but have existed from eternity and are a part of His being, the great I Am. That is why the crucifixion and resurrection are described as occurring according to the scriptures. Scripture is the only means we have of knowing the attributes and nature and plan of God for the world. That is why the Bible cannot be an idol. The alternative to revealed religion of the Bible is natural theology and apologetics, both products of man’s mind which have always led man astray into philosophy and vain babblings.
The KJV translators did not claim inspiration for their work because they did not need to. In their day it was generally understood that the Bible was inspired, and to them it was also clear that the Bible was now English and had been since at least the day of Wycliffe; that the Greek and Hebrew already had served their purpose and had long been properly put into English, perhaps as early as Tyndale. The true church, even in the middle ages, has always had inspired scripture before it. An omniscient, omnipotent God would not have allowed anything else.
James H. Sightler, M.D.
Sightler Publications, July 2005
Mr Krinke’s book, What Happened to Bible Faith?, may be obtained from:
John M. Krinke
1161 Rosengarten Drive
Greenwood, IN 46142
Price is 15.00 for 1 book, 13.00 for 2-4, 10.00 for 5-9, and 9.00 for 10 or more.