Inerrancy – Part 2: Scripture

What is Scripture?

The word, “scripture” occurs 32 times in the NKJV and 32 times in the NASB, but the list is slightly different. The NKJV list includes Daniel 10:21, the NASB does not. The NASB list includes 1 Timothy 4:13 (but it is marked to show that it is not in the Greek, merely added for clarification).

The plural, “scriptures” occurs 21 times in the NKJV and 20 times in the NASB. The NKJV includes 2 Timothy 3:15, while the NASB does not. These are different because the NKJV interpreted “sacred writings” as “holy scriptures.” It is not the normal Greek word translated as Scripture, which is γραφη (graphē). The word γραφη occurs in the N.T. exactly 51 times. It occurs 13 times in the Apocrypha (considered non-canon books) and it occurs 23 times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). Apart from Daniel 10:21 in the NKJV, the word γραφη is only translated as “scripture” in the New Testament… and every time it occurs in the N.T. it is translated as “scripture.” The Daniel 10:21 passage is actually a textual variation… but it is normally translated as “writing of truth” but the NKJV translates it as “scripture of truth.” Apart from that one instance, it is not very fruitful to talk about the O.T. because it is generally translated from Hebrew and Aramaic, not the Greek translation. But it may be fruitful to take a moment to discuss what Hebrew words γραφη is translating. Often times it is the word for “writing” or “word” and generally other sort of “communication” devices.

So, what does the word γραφη mean? According to BDAG it has two general definitions, either a “brief piece of writing” or a “sacred scripture” referring to either a single passage or scripture in its entirety. BDAG states that γραφη refers to scripture in the New Testament exclusively. So what does this mean? Why did we translate γραφη in the New Testament as “scripture” instead of “writing”? The reason is basic, but it is kind done with circular reasoning.

According to Merriam-Webster the word “scripture” means “the books of the Bible,” “a passage from the Bible,” or “a body of writings considered sacred or authoritative.” It is my opinion that the translators use the latter definition when translating γραφη in the New Testament. For instance, when we look at 2 Timothy 3:16 we read, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” I think it is safe to say that Paul is not talking about “all writing,” right? The circular reasoning comes from the fact that the context suggests that word is talking about divinely inspired writing. So basically the translators are saying “All divinely inspired writing is inspired by God…”

(Side note: I am not that good at Greek, but I wonder if it is possible to translate that verse as “And all writing inspired by God is profitable…” It really depends on how far away the “and” can be from the beginning of the sentence, and my Greek is not strong enough… and probably more rusty than it should be.)

So, anytime in the New Testament the word γραφη appears the context ALWAYS suggests that the author is talking about writings that are divinely/God inspired. Because of this fact, the word “scripture” becomes almost useless to us. It only helps us a little in the fact that we have already have an idea that “scripture” is divinely inspired and does not force us to question that presupposition when reading the Bible.

It is also important to note that each time the word γραφη is used in the New Testament, it is used in reference to the Old Testament. There is one time, in 2 Peter 3:16, where Peter talks about how the “untaught and unstable” distort Paul’s writings “as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” It is a semi-weak connection, but the use of the word “rest” infers that Peter is saying that Paul’s writings are “scripture.”

I think that is all I want to cover in this post. Hopefully it was not as confusing as I think I made it. To sum things up, scripture means “a body of writings considered sacred or authoritative.” The word translated as scripture is γραφη (graphē), means “writing,” and in the New Testament always points back to the Old Testament (thus the translation, scripture). Tomorrow I will discuss our Bible and its trustworthiness.