Of interest to students of the Pastorals, and particularly those who study the theology of the letters: I received notice of a new volume forthcoming in the LNTS series, which mounts a challenge to the traditional understanding of θεόπνευστος in 2 Tim 3:16 and elsewhere in the early centuries of Christianity, advocating a meaning of “life-giving.”
Poirier, John C. The Invention of the Inspired Text: Philological Windows on the Theopneustia of Scripture. Library of New Testament Studies 640. New York: T&T Clark, 2021.
Here is the publisher’s overview of the book: “John C. Poirier examines the ‘theopneustic’ nature of the Scripture, as a response to the view that ‘inspiration’ lies at the heart of most contemporary Christian theology. In contrast to the traditional rendering of the Greek word theopneustos as ‘God-inspired’ in 2 Tim 3:16, Poirier argues that a close look at first- and second-century uses of theopneustos reveals that the traditional inspirationist understanding of the term did not arise until the time of Origen in the early third century CE, and that in every pre-Origen use of theopneustos the word instead means ‘life-giving.’
“Poirier thus conducts a detailed investigation of theopneustos as it appears in the fifth Sibylline Oracle, the Testament of Abraham, Vettius Valens, Pseudo-Plutarch (Placita Philosophorum), and Pseudo-Phocylides, all of whom understand the word to mean ‘life-giving.’ He also studies the use of the cognate term theopnous in Numenius, the Corpus Hermeticum, on an inscription at the Great Sphinx of Giza, and on an inscription at a nymphaeum at Laodicea on the Lycus. Poirier argues that a rendering of ‘life-giving’ also fits better within the context of 2 Tim 3:16, and that this meaning survived late enough to figure in a fifth-century work by Nonnus of Panopolis. He further traces the pre-Origen use of theopneustos among the Church Fathers. Poirier concludes by addressing the implication of rethinking the traditional understanding of Scripture, stressing that the lack of ‘God-inspired’ scripture ultimately does not affect the truth status of the gospel as preached by the apostles.”
The entire first chapter appears to focus on the seminal text, being titled “Is ‘All Scripture … Inspired’? The Meaning of Theopneustia in 2 Timothy 3:16.”
Abstract: “The understanding of the term Scripture in early Christianity is best described as an evolving concept that can be categorised into various stages. This can best be seen in the most popular Greek term the NT uses in designating Scripture, γραφή and its cognates. Γραφή was used 50 times in the NT to represent Scripture, and in each of these instances, it refers to more than just a mere writing which is what the term originally meant in Greek prior to the NT’s consistent use of it as a technical term for sacred writing. “This study attempts to reflect briefly on (part of) the evolution γραφή underwent on the pages of the NT especially within the Pastoral Epistles (PE) – a product of the early second century CE. This study bears in mind that the recognition of books as Scripture is not a series of clearly defined steps, but rather a long and complicated process involving creativity and powerplay. This study therefore serves to enhance a more accurate understanding of the transition the concept of Scripture in the PE, most especially pertaining to the use of the term γραφή. “The question regarding the scope of the term γραφή in the NT and especially in the PE is open to debate – especially the use of the two different words, ἱερὰ γράμματα and γραφή for Scripture in 2 Tim. 3:15–16. So is the reference to Jesus’ words as Scripture in 1 Tim. 5:18. These have raised questions of a possible shift in the PE’s understanding of γραφή. “Findings from this research include the extensive use of γραφή in the PE to accommodate more than just the Jewish Scripture, as it has evolved to include emerging earlier writings of the NT; the author of the PE was creative in adopting and adapting to a new understanding of sacred writings which serves the context of his time. “This unveils the influence a community exerts on recognition of authoritative Scripture while teasing out the politics intertwined in the recognition of Scripture and the identity of a people, as this later became the path to canonicity of Scripture.”