Since inspiration applies to all scripture (the entire Bible), then there are no degrees of inspiration. Either a writing is inspired or it is not. Either it is breathed by God or it is not. Consequently, the whole of scripture—the entire Bible—is inspired.
When people think about the inspiration of the Bible, they tend to imagine it as a process. They think of inspiration as a way of stating how the Bible got to be what it is. Trying to answer the how question is one of the reasons that we are surrounded by so-called “theories of inspiration.” Some theories suggest that God gave ideas to the writers, which they then expressed in their own words. Others argue that God simply dictated every word of the finished text. Still others speak in terms of inspired writers rather than an inspired text. Some talk about documents other than the Bible being inspired to some degree, and some see the Bible as inspired to varying degrees. To clear up these misunderstandings, our doctrine of inspiration should rest firmly upon the Bible’s own use of that term.
The only biblical passage that speaks directly about the inspiration of the Bible is 2 Timothy 3:16. Unfortunately, the older translations tend to obscure the meaning of the text. Both the King James and the New King James versions read, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable….” In this translation the first verb is given, which does not even appear in the Greek text. Alternatively, the American Standard Version of 1901 reads, “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable….” This translation seems to imply that some scriptures are inspired while others are not, and that only the inspired scriptures are profitable.
This verse is critical for defining a biblical doctrine of inspiration. Given the variety of ways in which it has been interpreted, how should we understand it? The answer is that we will grasp its meaning correctly only if we pay close attention to its grammar and structure.
The first thing to notice about the verse is that the Greek text does not contain a verb. That is not an uncommon occurrence: Greek sentences have ways of implying verbs rather than stating them outright. In this case, the implied verb must be some form of the verb to be. The verse is stating that every (or all) scripture is something.