θεόπνευστος and θέωσις in the Inerrancy Debate

The Scriptural Foundation:

Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. (2Pe 1:4 NAB)

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
(2Ti 3:16 NAB)

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. (Joh 20:22 NAB)

In this way the holy Spirit shows that the way into the sanctuary had not yet been revealed while the outer tabernacle still had its place. (Heb 9:8 NAB)

The holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying (Heb 10:15 NAB)

For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (2Co 5:21 NAB)

Oswald Bayer’s interpretation of Luther: “what God says, God does… God’s speech is not fleeting breath. It is a most effective breath that creates.” (Justification: Five Views, Intervarsity Press, 2011, (127)

The above quote was made in examination of Luther’s view of Justification in which the idea of God speaking that a person was righteous is held. We find something along those lines in both the giving of the Spirit, not only in Adam, but so too with Christ and the Apostles. The word which is commonly translated as God-breathed is among the ‘one-verse doctrines’ of Scripture; in other words, it doesn’t mean the Scriptural test for truthfulness. However, let us move past that. As a recent blogger noted,

Thirdly, there is the issue of the word “all.” This is the Greek word, pasa, which can also be translated “every.” So is Paul referring to all Scripture as in “Scripture in it’s entirety” or every Scripture as in “each, individual passage, verse, sentence, and word”?

Finally, there are translation issues with the word “Scripture” itself. The word isgraphē which literally means “a writing” (singular). What “writing” is Paul referring to? In the immediately preceding verse (2 Tim 3:15), Paul has used the wordgrammata, which also means “writings.” Are the two synonymous or is Paul referring to something different with each word?

So, in the space of just three Greek words, we have four serious translation issues:

  1. What does the word theopneustos mean?
  2. As an adjective, how is it being used?
  3. How should we understand pasa in relation to Scripture?
  4. What is Paul referring to when he uses the word graphē?

Unless we wish to continue to do mind-bending/numbing gymnastics, let us consider that the inspiration of Scripture is carried over not just to the Torah, which was perhaps the ‘all of the Writing’, but to the Old Testament as a whole and finally, to what would become the New Testament as well, all breathed by God.

As God’s breath is effectual, meaning that it works until the job is complete, but doesn’t make something immediately perfect, then we can allow that God-breathed doesn’t necessarily mean the source, but the process of theosis. Simply, God-breathed is not about the source but about the transformation. Christ breathed into the Apostles, making them his, but they didn’t not originate in him. Further, if you hold to Trinitarian theology, the Spirit does not originate with Christ either. God-breathed, then, must mean that God inhabits Scripture. But to what end? The end, like justification, is to sanctify. Just as God’s breath declares someone righteous, but they must go on to perfection, so too can Scripture be declared God’s but that it must be brought to perfection. Does this give us license to change Scripture? Of course not. What does this mean? This means that we must realize that the perfection of Scripture is not found in every word, letter, pericope, or book, but in the Grand narrative which brings about correction, good teaching, and the push towards righteousness which is spoken of in Scripture but exists outside of Scripture. Righteousness is not biblicism.

We find a similar teaching in the East, as well as in Anglicanism and the perfection of Anglicanism, Wesleyanism. Theosis is the act of partaking in God’s nature. So too can Scripture become a part of God’s nature. Just as God breathes into us, as Christ breathes the Spirit into the Apostles and through the Apostles, the Church, so too is God breathing through Scripture to testify to us about our role in the grand narrative of Creation. Note the above verses. They are first about  us becoming, partaking in, righteous(ness). I note as well Ephesians which includes the notion that we will grow into Christ. Behold as well the role of the Spirit and Scripture in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Here, pre-existent Scripture is used by the Spirit to testify to the Christianity community something new. Scripture is perfected for the Christianity community, as part of its narrative. We see this in Matthew, an author who so twists, calls attention to, Hebrew Scripture, albeit from the Septuagint, so as to present the life of Jesus parallel to the life of Israel. The Spirit speaks through Scripture, using Scripture in new ways. This doesn’t mean that we can make Scripture change its context, or that we can remove whatever Scripture we deem unnecessary, but that we wrestle with it continuously because it is being made perfect, just as the Church is, just as we are. Indeed, both Matthew and the author of the Epistle of Hebrews needed validation for Jesus in Scripture so that Scripture is the primary source for the worldview. We do not need a definition, dogma or doctrine of inerrancy. What we need is humility to realize we aren’t what we are to become, and neither is Scripture.

This is only a start to the conversation, and not my final thoughts. I’ve left several things out of this post, to, I hope, start the conversation. 

Plutarch and θεόπνευστος

Bust of Plutarch of Chaeronea, a Greek philoso...

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In a recent conversation, one which I’m not going to link to because, well, every challenge presented, even in the most light hearted manner, friendliest push possible is answered with insults. However, I wanted to post on this because I felt like it may in fact be interesting.

As I noted last years, Plutarch and the author of 1st Timothy shared some common themes. Rodney has since done a post on Plutarch as well. Anyway, so you have the basic groundwork needed to understand that there may in fact be a connection between Plutarch and some of the New Testament writers, especially 1 Timothy. But, what about 2 Timothy? Well, that’s where θεόπνευστος comes in at.

As I suggested to someone recently, Thayer may in fact be a good place to start:

 θεοπνευστον (Θεός and πνέω), inspired by God: γραφή, i. e. the contents of Scripture, 2 Tim. 3:16 (see πᾶς, I. 1 c.); σοφιη (pseudo-) Phocyl. 121; ὄνειροι, Plutarch, de plac. phil. 5, 2, 3, , p. 904 f.; (Sibylline Oracles 5, 406 (cf. 308); Nonnus, paraphr. ev. Ioan. 1, 99). (ἐμπνευστος also is used passively, but ἄπνευστος, ἐυπνευστος, πυριπνευστος (δυσδιαπνευστος), actively (and δυσαναπνευστος; apparently either active or passive; cf. Winer’s Grammar, 96 (92) note).)*

That is Thayer’s complete entry on this word. Now, one should note that Thayer goes beyond a simply translation, but suggests contexts which range from Pseudo-Phocylides to the Sibylline Oracles. Both of these are fine, but considering that scholars have easily shown that both of those works make use of, through redactors, Christian theology, we may not want to go there for our sources.

Plutarch, however, remains a somewhat neutral source.

When speaking of Dreams in his work, Concerning Nature (5.2), Plutarch writes,

Democritus says that dreams are formed by the illapse of adventitious representations. Strato, that the irrational part of the soul in sleep becoming more sensible is moved by the rational part of it. Herophilus, that dreams which are caused by divine instinct have a necessary cause; but dreams which have their origin from a natural cause arise from the soul’s forming within itself the images of those things which are convenient for it, and which will happen; those dreams which are of a constitution mixed of both these have their origin from the fortuitous appulse of images, as when we see those things which please us; thus it happens many times to those persons who in their sleep imagine they embrace their mistresses.

While there may be issues with using Plutarch’s text here, as there are indeed with every ancient text, I shall take this text as a parallel text to the author of 2 Timothy. Note that some dreams are said to come from divine instinct, or perhaps, divine pushing. But, what does this mean? Well, divine dreams have purpose; natural dreams do not. But… more… dreams can be mixed of both!

What does this mean for the ongoing debate on whether or not God dictated the words of Scripture and thus, they are free of error (and feel free to attach to that last part whatever qualifier you may need to help rationalize it, you know – in the originals, in whatever it affirms)? My position is that Scripture is not the Word of God. Christ is. That is actually Scripture (John 1.1 for my position versus lots of presuppositions for the other position). Scripture is the human witness to God’s revelation and is not a revelation in of itself. It doesn’t really affirm anything, but stands as a witness to what God has done, will do, and wants to do. But, what Plutarch does do is to show that the word wasn’t meant to be thought of producing something eternally infallible, etc…, but something which God directs for a purpose, although, as he notes, divine and human instinct can mix.

Let’s keep Scripture in its proper place, as given to humanity for a purpose. Not all at once, not always in the way we want, sometimes as mythic historical narrative so that we can learn from it, but not as a dictation. Scripture is given to learn from and for the Church as a while to love by. The divinity of it mixes with humanity, so that we can embrace God.

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