Friday, July 18, 2014

Are Accurate Copies and Translations of Scripture-Such as the KJV-Inspired? A Study of 2 Timothy 3:16, part 4

Some have alleged that the grammar of 2 Timothy 3:16 requires a restriction of the Theopneustos of 2 Timothy 3:16 to the original manuscripts because of an alleged distinction in 2 Timothy 3:15-16 between the words grammata and graphe.  One word supposedly speaks of the autographs, and the other word of copies. It is difficult to determine how exactly this argument is supposed to work, but, in any case, it is invalid, since both words are used for copies.
For example, grammata is used of copies:
John 5:47 But if ye believe not his writings [grammata], how shall ye believe my words?
They Jews of the first century only had copies of Moses’ writings, obviously.
The word is also used of copies, and with semantic overlap with graphe, in early extra-Biblical patristic works:
Irenaeus, Against Heresies I:20:1 Besides the above [misrepresentations], they adduce an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish men, and of such as are ignorant of the Scriptures [grammata] of truth.
Justin, Dialog with Trypho 29: For these words have neither been prepared by me, nor embellished by the are of man; but David sung them, Isaiah preached them, Zechariah proclaimed them, and Moses wrote them Are you acquainted with them, Trypho? They are contained in your Scriptures [grammata], or rather not yours, but ours. For we believe them; but you, though you read them, do not catch the spirit that is in them.
Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 70: Moreover, these Scriptures are equally explicit in saying, that those who are reputed to know the writings of the Scriptures [here both words together, ta grammata twn graphon], and who hear the prophecies, have no understanding.
Theophilus of Antioch, to Autolycus 3:29 These periods, then, and all the above-mentioned facts, being viewed collectively, one can see the antiquity of the prophetical writings [grammata] and the divinity of our doctrine, that the doctrine is not recent, nor our tenets mythical and false, as some think; but very ancient and true.
Graphe is also used of copies of Scripture:
Matthew 21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures [graphe], The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
The book that the Lord Jesus’ audience would hold in its hands and read was a graphe.
John 5:39 Search the scriptures [graphe]; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
Early patristic writings also use graphe for copies.  One easy example is:
1 Clement 53:1 For you know, and know well, the sacred scriptures [graphe], dear friends, and you have searched into the oracles of God. We write these things, therefore, merely as a reminder.
Here the copies that Clement’s audience, the Church at Corinth, was examining were the sacred/holy scriptures.  The Greek of 1 Clement 53:1 is tas hieras graphas, almost identical to 2 Tim 3:15’s ta hiera grammata.  If there is some sort of technical distinction between the words so that only either graphe or grammata refers only to the autographs, the distinction was lost already in what is likely the earliest extant Christian document after the composition of the New Testament, 1 Clement, which was written by the man who appears to have been the Baptist pastor of the church at Rome around the turn of the 1st century.[xv]  As noted above, grammata/graphe are also found together as early as Justin Martyr’s Dialog with Trypho 70, c. A. D. 120 or before.  Moreover, these early texts use both grammata and graphe for copies of the Scriptures, rather than restricting the words to the autographs.
Thus, it is difficult to know which word, gramma or graphe, is the one that is supposedly the technical word for the autographs, and why one must believe the one or the other word constitutes such a technical reference in2 Timothy 3:15-16.  The plain teaching of 2 Timothy 3:16 is that accurate copies of the Bible have the breath of God upon them in the same way that the original manuscripts did.
            On a concluding note, when this author made a cursory examination of Baptist confessions and similar material, there appeared to be no hesitation in employing the word inspiration for copies or for accurate translations.  For example:
“And no decrees of popes or councils, or writings of any person whatsoever, are of equal authority with the sacred scriptures. And by the holy scriptures we understand, the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, as they are now translated into our English mother tongue [the KJV, as is evident from both the time of the confession and the references and allusions to verses in the document], of which there hath never been any doubt of their verity and authority in the protestant churches of Christ to this day. . . . all which are given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life. (Article 37, An Orthodox Creed, 1678, quoted in Underhill,Confessions of Faith and Other Public Documents).
The Charleston Association of Baptist Churches in their 1802 circular #9, “On the Duty of Churches to their Ministers” (cited in Furman, A History of the Charleston Association of Baptist Churches) wrote, “We conclude in the language of inspiration—“Live in love and peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”  Note that the “language of inspiration” is the KJV.
            There did not appear to be any confession that either denied that the breath of God was in copies or accurate translations, or that made some sort of distinction between gramma and graphe in 2 Timothy 3:15-16.
            Scripture teaches that inspiration is a quality that pertains to all that is appropriately called Scripture.  Since original language copies are properly considered Scripture, they are properly termed inspired.  Since, in a derived sense, the Bible, when accurately translated, is still properly termed Scripture, the Word accurately translated is, in a derived sense, properly termed inspired.  Therefore, it is proper to call the King James Version inspired, because it is an accurate translation of the Greek and Hebrew autographs dictated once and for all by the Holy Ghost.

[xv]         See the article “Images of the Church in 1 Clement” at; Clement teaches justification by faith alone, church independence and autonomy, and in every way looks like a good Baptist.


Jon Gleason said...

Thomas, well stated. It is obvious that both words are used of copies, so the autograph / apograph distinction is obviously a flawed one.

What, then, is the reason for Paul using the two words? Is it simply variation with no particular significance? That's possible, but I have a suggestion.

Holy Scriptures (hiera grammata) is only here in the New Testament (grammata appears elsewhere, as you've noted, but not with the modifier "Holy"). But it appears in Jewish usage (A.T. Robertson cites Philo and Josephus) to refer to the Old Testament. Most of the citations you gave are writing of the Old Testament, notably Justin when addressing his comments to a Jew.

From a child, Timothy knew the Old Testament Scriptures (verse 15), and perhaps Paul used a term which would be recognised by Timothy, with some Jewish training, or any other Jew as referring to the Old Testament in verse 15. But then, in verse 16, he says "All Scripture" to draw it more broadly.

I would suggest that Paul was saying, "You had the Old Testament, but ALL Scripture is inspired...." Thus, he affirmed the Old that Timothy had known as a child, in which he was to continue, but also the New, for he was to use both for doctrine, reproof, correction. Both were the Word he was to preach.

That, I believe, is an explanation for the use of the two words that much better fits the context than any kind of spurious autograph / copy distinction.

It also explains why "all" was necessary in verse 16. Otherwise, Paul could have just said, "Scripture is given by inspiration of God" and it would have taught the same truth. But by adding "all" to graphe, he contrasted and completed the thought.

Re: the autograph/apograph distinction, as far as I can find, no one ever said, before 1881, that only the autographs were inspired. Until that point, everyone held that the words themselves were inspired, wherever they were written.

And of course, to hold that the autographs alone were inspired, sometimes you have these awkward situations where there is more than one autograph.

For the Ten Commandments, there were three autographs. The first set of tables of stone, the second set of stone tables, and then when Moses wrote it down in Exodus. Which was the only inspired autograph? And what was the inspired autograph of Proverbs 25:2, the piece of paper on which Solomon wrote it in the first place or the piece of paper on which Hezekiah's scribes copied it into what is now the book of Proverbs?

When pushed, the autograph-only view crumbles pretty quickly.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Jon,

Thanks for the comment. I haven't had time to study out whether your distinction is correct or not at this time, but I think it's definitely worth thinking about.