This Week’s Passage: 2 Timothy 3:14-17
I. Establish the text
C. Other texts for Committed to Christ: Step 2 – Bible Reading
- Deuteronomy 6:1-9
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
3:14 – – The authority for our learning is from whom we learned it? But these are fallible humans? Or is this an exhortation to teachers to live as examples of what we teach?
15 – – Yet it is Scripture that makes us wise for salvation, and not people.
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- Preceded by contrast of the Pastor’s actions with the actions of those who opposed the truth. The purpose seems to underscore that people are known by their deeds.
- These four verses in English are one sentence in the original Greek.
- Passage followed by a statement that the Pastor is soon to meet his end, then greetings to various friends.
F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?
- 16 – This sentence is ambiguous in the Greek. Is it: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful …” or is it: “every document God breathed and useful …”? If verses 14-17 are considered as one long sentence, then “God-breathed writings” is a synonym for sacred writings.
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
Probably written pseudonymously by a follower of Paul. The original recipient would have understood it to have been written by someone other than Paul. The author is widely referred to as “the Pastor” as much of his issues are pastoral and pertain to establishing church polity. Perhaps one of Paul’s correspondents or close friends cut and pasted this letter from several of his writings.
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
This is rhetoric! Thus its severity should be considered as stylistic rather than prescriptive.
III. Question the text.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of gravity: Recognize sound doctrine and be willing to be challenged by it, then go about the work of Christ bringing the good news in all situations.
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- God-breathed writings are good news yet not as easy on the ear as myths.
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- 3:14-17 becomes easy to hear because someone else has already authenticated Scripture and we no longer have to figure out which documents are “God-breathed and useful for teaching …” Imagine having the task of authenticating the presence of the Holy Spirit in this letter!
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Luke Timothy Johnson (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) puts this pericope into one section starting at 2:14. This larger section is a polemic arguing against the philosophical teachers of the 1st century and for the values of Paul’s teachings, suffering, and especially for Scripture. He connects this with 20th century life holding up Scripture as the arbiter of values against human desire to value being pleasant and tolerant. At the same time, he demonstrates that this pericope does not argue for a closed cannon. The only sacred writings, God-breathed that Paul knew was the Torah. So if we can include Paul’s letters, we might also include inspiring words first penned in our century as having heard the word of God.
W. Eugene March (The Presbyterian Outlook, “Follow a good Mentor”. Feb. 6, 2006.) encourages readers to meet the challenge of disbelief by sticking to trusted teachers and mentors of faith. “New teachings should be examined in light of what has been received from those faithful guides” and from Scripture. “It is difficult to overstress the importance of regular, ongoing study of the Bible in the company of trusted teachers.” Although surveys of church programs frequently request Bible studies, only a small fraction of adults participate.
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
Studying Holy Scripture with competent teachers equips the faithful for every eventuality.
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
“Continue as you have learned” using all of the God-Breathed writings.