by Randall Hardy

1. Words Translated as "Scripture".

In the OT the AV uses "scripture" only once in Dan. 10:21. The same Hebrew word is translated 223 times as writings/written. The Daniel reference seems to be referring to prophetic records in Heaven and not the Jewish scriptures.

In the NT two Greek words are translated as "scripture". The first is "GRAMMA" and of its 15 occurrences, it is only translated once as "scripture" in 2 Tim. 3:15 (see below). The other word is "GRAPHEE" and occurs 51 times being translated as "scripture" on every occasion. The majority of times it is used when quoting the OT (e.g. Mt. 21:42 & Gal. 4:20). Listed below are those passages where the NT speaks about the nature or function of what it calls the "writings".

2. The Word of God.

Amongst evangelicals etc. this is the most commonly used name for the Bible apart from perhaps "the Bible" itself. It is usually the term used in bases of Faith/Doctrine. Is there any foundation in the Scriptures for this? In the OT (Psalms particularly) the writers in addressing the Lord speak about "your word" - what God has said in the past (recent or distant). The only time in the entire Bible when "The Word of God" is used as a descriptive title is in Rev. 19:13. Here it is very clearly given to Jesus and recognises who He is. John himself reflects this in the opening statement of his Gospel where he calls Jesus "The Word". My own conviction is that to take this divinely given name of Christ and allocate it to the Scriptures leads to much confusion and may be a serious mistake. The next reference we consider highlights one of the dangers in making this confusion.

3. John 5:39,40.

Jesus speaking to some Pharisees pointed out their error in making the Scriptures too important. They had for them become a replacement for entering into a relationship with Jesus! They were not wrong in searching the Scriptures (cf Acts 17:11) but in attributing to them the ability to give spiritual life to people. Jesus said that the Scriptures are a signpost pointing to Him. He is the way, the source of life. Today we need to encourage people to seek God not just to read the Bible.

4. Galatians 3:22.

Here we are told that the work of Scripture is the very opposite of what many believe it to be. Its function is not give life but to isolate men from it! Paul says it does this so that we see our need for something greater - FAITH. In Rom. 7:7-13 he makes the corresponding point about the Law, it tells us about sin, not how to be free from it. The Scriptures identify mankind's problem but in themselves have no power to deal with it. The most they can do is tell us where to find God's solution.

5. John 10:35.

Here Jesus states the Scripture cannot be broken. The Greek word used by John means nullified, loosed or ignored. Jesus was quoting from the OT in order to make the Jews face up to the reality of what God had said in the past. We too must not try to ignore what the Scriptures say by finding reasons why certain parts are no longer valid. We must face up to the spiritual realities described in the Bible even if we find them unusual or unpleasant.

6. Romans 15:4.

To the believer the purpose of the Scriptures is alongside perseverance, to encourage us to hope in God, through providing instruction in Godly wisdom.

7. 2 Timothy 3:15-17.

Note: The "is" of :16 is not in the original Greek. If it is left in, as usually translated, :16,17 are a definitive statement about all Scripture. Alternatively without it they become a comment on the sacred writings (GRAMMA) of :15. The only implication of the second interpretation is that it makes the subject of its commendation the OT only. If this is so these verse are no longer a "proof text" for the NT. It may be argued that even if the NT is not the prime concern of Paul, which I think is the case, the spirit of what is said about the OT also applies to the NT. (cf similar situation in Rev. 22:18,19.) God breathed (inspired) implies "from God's Spirit".
In :15 we find a summary of what we have noted above: The Scriptures can give us the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul then goes on to outline the ways we can profitably use Scripture in both our lives and those of others. Teaching [instruction as in Rom. 15:4], Reproof [convicting/checking], Correcting [to set up straight again] and Training in Righteousness [to nurture/discipline with the aim of bringing to maturity]. This last thought is then emphasised in :17 where the objective in all this is stated. God's people are to become adequate [complete/fit for the task/able to fill the need/entirely suited] and equipped [fully prepared/supplied] for EVERY good work our God asks us to do. (cf Eph. 2:10)

8. Luke 24:45 & John 2:22.

The disciples needed Jesus to open up their minds so that the spiritual truths held in the Scriptures could be "brought together" for them. Until we find Jesus taking the same action towards us the treasures of Scripture will remain hidden from us. When our minds have been opened by Jesus we can see the truth of Scripture and believe in Jesus. The negative of all this is in Gal. 3:23 where "kept in custody" and "shut up" describe life under the law prior to faith.

9. 2 Peter 1:20,21.

This follows on from 8). Because prophecies contained in the Scriptures are the result of revelation then they cannot be understood by the human mind alone. These things remain shut up until the Holy Spirit makes them known individually or collectively.

N.B. Perhaps Peter had the writings of Paul in mind when he wrote the above. He includes these when he says later in 2 Pet. 3:15,16 that it is the practice of the untaught and unstable to distort Scripture. It is possible that here Peter is referring to contemporary "writings" that were being circulated in the early Church, though it is not easy to be certain either way.

10. Occurrences in the Book of Acts of the Apostles.

17:2 & 18:28 - Both Paul and Apollos used the Scriptures to evangelise the Jews. These were people who accepted the authority of the OT.

17:11 - The Jews at Berea were commended for not accepting or rejecting Paul's words instantly and for eagerly examining the Scriptures to see if what was being said was true.

18:24 - Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures. He knew them well and understood how to apply them.

If we have the Biblical attitude to the Bible then we too will become mighty in the Scriptures.

This study is aimed at providing a basic treatment of the topic, as a stimulus to personal bible study. Every effort has been made to be accurate, but the reader should test everything (Acts 17:11; 1 Thess 5:21). Please report errors and omissions, and queries unresolved after consulting THE LORD to the writer: Email Randall Hardy

© R Hardy, 1994.  This paper may only be copied in its entirety for private non-commercial use. All other usage requires the written permission of the author.

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