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. 

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13 Replies to “θεόπνευστος and θέωσις in the Inerrancy Debate”

  1. “Further, if you hold to Trinitarian theology, the Spirit does not originate with Christ either.”

    Jesus said that the Father and himself would both send the Holy Spirit.

    ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counseller to be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth’. John 14.16 (NIV)

    ‘… unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you’. John 16.7 (NIV)

    The Nicene Creed states as a belief that the Holy Spirit ‘He proceeds from the Father and the Son’.

  2. As Joel, recognizes , the original Nicene creed , before a later Pope added the filoque post , stated that the Spirit proceeds from the father–(-which is in accord with what Jesus taught in John ) .

    Jesus transmitts the spirit, but the Spirit proceeds originally from the Father in ontological terms .

  3. Hi Joel.

    Its a pity this conversation hasn’t been picked up more. I think evangelicals are frightened of questioning what do we mean by the word of God is God breathed. I like how you picked up on ‘pasa’ in the singular and ‘graphe’ in the plural. I believe this passage needs to be looked at within its overall contextual basis on a deeper level, instead of the way its simply proof texted.

    There is a key here where Paul remind’s Timothy that the Scriptures he refers too, Timothy has known since birth – therefore we cannot include the New Testament as being Scripture within this context….. (oooh can you hear the deep breathes and indignation building up ) 😉

    In the context of breathe, I’d like to draw on the similarities to when Silas and Barnabus went around encouraging the church through their prophecies and teachings. Paul is encouraging Timothy within the context of persecution, and remind’s him that its not a new thing..rather Moses was also also persecuted from within his own ranks…he then builds up his case that all Scripture is useful to teach, correct, equip and make one wise for salvation.

    It very well could be that Paul was using a form of Hyperbole to support his own usage of the OT to support his statement where he compared persecuted Christians / leaders with Moses. .

    1. Of course, your assumption is based on the idea the Apostle Paul wrote this to a particular Timothy in the early 60’s. I wouldn’t go so far as to split the word into two or to associate it too strong to the OT. Instead, as I pointed out, I think this is very philosophical.

      1. I have no reason to believe Paul didn’t write this to Timothy. I think the context has to be within the authors understanding of Scripture. For instance, can we truly say that the author intended that letter to be included as Scripture?

        1. I think there are plenty of reasons to say the Apostle Paul didn’t write this or even Titus. Further, the idea of inerrancy of any sort is not found in any part of Scripture. And, I would doubt that the author would have classified his writings as that of the OT.

          Jews believed and still believe that the Torah is the only real books — and everything else is commentary. Those books do not rank anything, really, but the Torah does.

          If we are to stick to the author’s view point of Scripture we would have to decide who the author was. I doubt it was Paul for a variety of reasons. Further, I think the view here is not about a set version of books, but about what God can do through holy writings.

          There is no set idea of what the holy writings are, were, or would be. But I would contend the author believed that God could use writings to bring about his divine purposes.

          1. Yes, I certainly agree with you that I don’t think “God Breathed” means inerrant. For instance we have many records of prophecy that didn’t come to pass, yet those same prophesies were inspired by God..so Scripture tells us..

          2. Not the same thing though. Further, the word of God (not to be confused with the way people speak about Scripture) is only for a particular time and place. This “prophecy” is enshrined in words of humans.

            Further, both Jesus and Paul said that somethings are just humans talking, even parts of the Torah. Just humans taking the place of God.

    2. fwiwimo: Your translation issue #4 intersects with the common evangelical unquestioned preference of sola scriptura (vs prima scriptura) because most are unaware of the choice (not being aware of the 5 solas and their place in reformation history).

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