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What constitutes Scripture? And what is it that makes Scripture inspired? The answer may be different than we think.
The Apostle Kepha (Peter) implies that Shaul’s (Paul’s) writings are Scripture, seeing as he compares Shaul’s writings with the “rest of the Scriptures.”
Kepha Bet (2 Peter) 3:15-16
15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Adon is salvation — as also our beloved brother Shaul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
In the Nazarene Israel study we show that the people who twisted Shaul’s writings in the first century are the same people who twist them now–the replacement theology Christians. However, our point here is that Kepha could not have said that the Christians twist the Apostle Shaul’s writings right along with the rest of the Scriptures unless Shaul’s writings were Scripture.
But what exactly does it mean that Shaul’s writings are Scripture? Does it mean that every word Shaul ever wrote was inspired and infallible? Many in the church teach this, based on 2 Timothy 3:16-17. We will look at the New King James Version here.
Second Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
According to the New King James Version (and most other mainstream translations), we should be able to form infallible doctrine based solely off of the Apostle Shaul’s writings, seeing as
- Kepha tells us Shaul’s writings are Scripture
- all Scripture is inspired
But wait—not so fast. The American Standard Version (ASV) gives us a very different reading. The specific reading in the ASV implies that it is only those Scriptures which are inspired of Elohim which are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, etc.
Second Timothy 3:16-17 ASV
16 Every Scripture inspired of God [is] also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.
17 That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.
If we will think about it, it makes a huge difference whether all of Shaul’s writings are inspired (i.e., they come directly from Elohim), or if Shaul’s writings are only the words of a man who was trying to do his best to serve Elohim. If the latter is the case then certainly, while Shaul’s words would have enduring value, they could never be on par with Elohim’s words.
We want to get at the truth here, so let us dig into both the Peshitta Aramaic and the Greek. The reason for including the Greek is that while I believe in a Semitic (Hebrew or Aramaic) inspiration of the Renewed Covenant (New Testament), the Peshitta does not seem to be the inspired original, as it contains a great many Hellenisms and other corruptions. Instead, the Peshitta seems to be a backwards translation from the early Greek texts, which makes the older Greek more valuable for textual analysis.
The Peshitta Aramaic seems to support the ASV rendering of this passage. It does not tell us that “all” Scripture is inspired. Rather, it tells us only that those things which were written by the Spirit are profitable for matters of doctrine.
|2 Timothy 3:16
All writing that by the Spirit was written, profitable is for teaching, and for reproof, and for correction, and for instruction that is about uprightness….
|PEH 2 Timothy 3:16
כל כתב דברוחא אתכתב מותרנא הו ליולפנא ולכוונא ולתורצא ולמרדותא דבכאנותא׃
This begs the question, “How do we know what has been written by the Spirit?” What makes sense is that the words of Yahweh and Yeshua are inspired, and also those words Yahweh spoke through the prophets. In other words, everything Elohim says is profitable for doctrine. However, this does not justify the conclusion that every single word that the apostles ever spoke was inspired.
Since the Peshitta is probably a translation from the more ancient Greek, let us take a look at the Greek. It will also read closer to the ASV, so long as we are careful to translate correctly. I have made bold the Greek word καὶ to draw your attention.
|2 Timothy 3:16
16 All Scripture given by inspiration of Elohim, [is also] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness….
|BGT 2 Timothy 3:16
πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν, πρὸς ἐλεγμόν, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν, πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ,
The New King James translators chose to translate the word καὶ as a simple “and.” However, while this word does mean “and,” it probably does not mean a simple “and.” Rather, in this context it probably translates more like “and therefore” or “so then.”
NT:2532 kai (kahee); apparently, a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force; and, also, even, so then, too, etc.; often used in connection (or composition) with other particles or small words:
KJV – and, also, both, but, even, for, if, or, so, that, then, therefore, when, yet.
The ASV translation, “is also” is much more accurate. It does not elevate Shaul to demigod status. Rather, it lets us conclude that while Shaul’s words are indeed set-apart Scripture, and while they have been preserved for our instruction, they are not (in fact) equal to (or greater than) the words of Yahweh or Yeshua.
If this conclusion is accurate, it would help us to make sense of passages in which Shaul first tells us what Yahweh says, and then also tells us his opinion (and identifies the two as being different from each other).
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 7:10-12
10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but Yahweh: A wife is not to depart from her husband.
11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
12 But to the rest I, not Yahweh, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.
This distinction allows us to resolve a lot of other issues as well. For example, if literally every single word the apostles ever spoke was inspired, then how do we explain Kepha’s denials of Yeshua?
Marqaus (Mark) 14:29-30
29 Kepha said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”
30 Yeshua said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”
One can explain Kepha’s error away on the basis that the Spirit had not yet been poured out. However, if everything Kepha ever spoke after the Day of Pentecost was inspired, then how do we explain the fact that Shaul was able to rebuke Kepha to his face when he came to Antioch, because he was to be blamed?
Galatim (Galatians) 2:11-13
11 Now when Kepha had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be
12 for before certain men came from Ya’akov, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.
13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Bar Naba was carried away with their hypocrisy.
If we understand that it is only Elohim’s words that are inspired of the Spirit, then it makes it much easier to understand how elect men such as Kepha and Bar Naba (Barnabas), could be led away in hypocrisy. It would also make it easier to understand how it was that Ya’akov (James) could call Shaul to account over the widespread misinterpretation of his epistles.
Ma’asei (Acts) 21:18-24
18 On the following day Shaul went in with us to Ya’akov, and all the elders were present.
19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which Elohim had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
20 And when they heard it, they glorified Yahweh. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Torah;
21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake [the Torah of] Moshe, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come.
23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have [also] taken a [Nazirite] vow.
24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads [to end their vows], and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the Torah.”
Even if we set aside questions about the Renewed Covenant (New Testament) for the moment, it helps to understand that Iyov’s (Job’s) wife was not speaking according to the Spirit when she said Iyov should just curse Elohim and die.
Iyov (Job) 2:9
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse Elohim and die!”
Iyov’s wife’s words are undeniably Scripture. However, because her words were not inspired of the Spirit they are not profitable for doctrine.
The words of Korah and his men are likewise Scripture, but are not profitable for doctrine.
Bemidbar (Numbers) 16:3
3 They gathered together against Moshe and Aharon, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is set apart, every one of them, and Yahweh is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of Yahweh?”
What shall we say then? When Yahweh or Yeshua speak, it is profitable for doctrine. Likewise, when Yahweh speaks through His servants the prophets, it is likewise profitable for doctrine. However, at other times we have to understand that we are reading the words of men. While their words are a part of Scripture, and while their words are certainly valuable, we cannot always base doctrine on them.
For example, consider the four species that Yahweh says we are to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) with.
Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:40
40 “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your Elohim for seven days.”
In the days of Ezra and Nehemia they told the people to perform the commandment, but they got some of the details wrong. They named five species instead of four (and only two of them were the same).
14 And they found written in the Torah, which Yahweh had commanded by Moshe, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month,
15 and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.”
Are these words Scripture? Unquestionably, yes. However, are they profitable for doctrine? No, they are not, because Yahweh was not actively speaking through Nehemia when he was writing it (at least not as He speaks through one of His prophets). It is in this context that we should bring up the question of the Talmud and the so-called Oral Torah.
Scripture tells us that when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai, “Moshe wrote all the words of Yahweh.” All the words Moshe received, he wrote.
Shemote (Exodus) 24:4
4 And Moshe wrote all the words of Yahweh. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
In contrast to this, Judaism teaches that Moshe only wrote down some of the words Yahweh spoke; but that for some reason, the rest was transmitted orally.
Pirkei Avot (Verses of our Fathers) 1:1
Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the men of the Great Assembly] said three things: Be deliberate in judgment; develop many disciples; and make a fence for the Torah.
The phrase “make a fence” for the Torah means to add to the Torah, to make sure that no one transgresses it. However, this doctrine violates Yahweh’s Torah in and of itself because Yahweh tells us not to add anything, or take anything away.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:2
2 “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim, which I command you.”
The way Yahweh words things, He seems to imply that if we want to keep His commandments, then we have to be careful not to alter them in any way. This makes sense, for it goes without saying that a servant obeys his master. Whoever the servant believes his master to be, the servant will seek to keep his commands.
If we truly believe that we are Yahweh’s servants, then we will seek to fulfill His desires. However, if in fact we truly believe that the rabbis are our masters, then we will seek to keep their commandments (i.e., Talmud). In this light, let us note that the rabbis tell us to be more careful to obey the Talmud than the Torah. (Note: the numbers in the passage below are for footnotes.)
Talmud – Mas. Eruvin 21b
My son, be more careful 14 in [the observance of] the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah, for in the laws of the Torah there are positive and negative precepts; 15 but, as to the laws of the Scribes, whoever transgresses any of the enactments of the Scribes incurs the penalty of death.
The rabbis teach it is more important to obey Talmud than Torah because they believe that when Yahweh gave the Torah to Israel, He also bestowed full power to change the Torah however they deem necessary. They consider their authority so complete that they have no need to listen to heaven (Yahweh) anymore.
Talmud – Mas. Baba Metzia 59b
Said R. Jeremiah: [Because] the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because Thou hast long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline. 5
The rabbis believe they have the authority to establish a new “Torah law” in each generation. For this reason, rather than look to Yahweh’s Torah, they believe the majority opinion of the rabbis is literal “Torah law” for their generation. However, this is the exact opposite of what Yahweh says in Exodus 23:2, where He tells us not to follow after the majority “to do evil.”
Shemote (Exodus) 23:2
2 You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.
To alter the Torah (or even make up one’s own Torah) is the opposite of what Yahweh says to do.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:32
32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it, nor take away from it.”
While the Oral Torah was not formally compiled until 220 CE, many of the same traditions already existed in Yeshua’s day. Yeshua had never said anything good about these traditions. Instead, He gave the scribes (Karaites) and the Pharisees (Orthodox) a scathing rebuke for pretending to worship Yahweh, while making up their own commandments.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 15:1-9
1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Yeshua, saying,
2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders [i.e., the oral traditions and the Talmud]? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of Elohim because of your tradition?
4 For Elohim commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’
5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to Elohim” —
6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of Elohim of no effect by your tradition.
7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
8 “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
In addition to the examples we have already seen, there are many truly sickening “right rulings” in the Talmud, which fly in the face of all that is decent and good. For example, the Talmud tells us that a woman may have sex with beasts and still marry a high priest (Yevamot 59b). The Talmud also tells us that if a man has sex with a boy nine years of age or less, it does not qualify as sin (Sanhedrin 54b). Furthermore, it teaches us that “When a grown-up man has intercourse with a little girl, it is nothing” (Ketuvot 11b).
While we love our Jewish brothers and want only the best for them, we should also recognize that there was a reason Yeshua called those who teach Talmud “sons of hell” who appear as “whitewashed tombs” before men. To teach that Yahweh’s instructions should take a back seat to the commandments of men is evil.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 23:15-28
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’
17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?
18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’
19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?
20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it.
21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.
22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of Elohim and by Him who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
It should be obvious that anything that contradicts the words of Yahweh does not come from Yahweh. (Not only is it not inspired, it is not Scripture.)
So what have we said? There is Scripture, and then there is inspired Scripture. In order to qualify as being inspired, the passage has to record either Yahweh or Yeshua speaking, either directly or through the mouth of a prophet.
While all Scripture that is not inspired still has value, the words of men must always take a secondary place to the words of Yahweh and His Son. If we approach Scripture with this in mind, then we can understand how to reconcile difficult passages, where the words of men do not seem to line up with the words of Elohim.