The word of the day is “Scripture.” In our reading of 2 Timothy 3:16-4:4, St. Paul declares that the Scriptures are effective for instructing the faithful. He states, “All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness” (vs. 16).
Paul’s execution is in sight. He says, “The time for my departure is at hand” (vs. 4:6). Knowing this, in 2 Timothy, Paul passes on the mantle of his authority to the young Bishop Timothy. As he transfers his apostolic ministry to Timothy, Paul foresees the primary challenge that the young preacher and pastor will face. He says, “the time will come when many will have “itching ears.” (vs. 4:3). They will reject the truth of “sound doctrine” and long to fill their ears with entertaining novelties. They will lust after false teachers who can enthrall them with stories, myths, and fables (Strong’s #3454, 168).
Continuing in the Traditions
Against such hunger for falsehoods, Paul reminds Timothy to continue in what he has learned from childhood. He should not only hold fast to these teachings. He should remember those who have taught them. His tutors have passed along the tradition that Paul refers to in 2 Thessalonians, “the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
At the center of these traditions are the Holy Scriptures. These “make you wise for salvation” (vs. 3:16). They are also “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (vs. 16). The word “doctrine” in the original Greek is more general than its current sense of “dogma.” It is a generic word for “teaching” just as its instructors are “teachers” (Strong’s #1319 and 1320, 68). The term for “reproof” refers to proof or the evidence that convicts (Strong’s #1651, 34 and #3809, 186). The basis for the word “correction” is the sense of “making straight again: (Strong’s #1882), and the word “instruction” has the connotation of training and the disciplining of children (Strong’s 3809). In summary, the Scriptures are the basis of teaching, setting one straight, presenting evidence of truth, and training.
The Scriptures Before the New Testament
But what Scriptures have Timothy learned that he must apply to the controversies of false teachers? The Orthodox Study Bible notes, “A part of this tradition, is Scripture. Paul, of course, speaks of the OT (Old Testament) as the NT (New Testament) did not exist yet” (OSB fn. on 3;14-17).
The authorization of the New Testament depended on the Church’s collection and selection of certain writings of the early Church. Moreover, the Church had to accept this specific set of writings as inspired Scripture, that is, “canon.” This process of canonization is beyond the scope of this commentary. Please consult reliable New Testament scholarship.
From the Viewpoint of the Resurrection
Throughout the writings of what came to be the New Testament, we find that Paul’s high estimation of the Old Testament was the norm for all writers. The books of the New Testament quote the Old Testament over 300 times and clearly allude to it almost 500 times. The Church has continued to claim the Old Testament as inspired.
However, the New Testament writings applied a distinctive interpretation (or interpretations) to the Hebrew scriptures. This way of reading the Old Testament is centered and grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah. As we see in the story of the “Walk to Emmaus,” the Risen Christ Himself taught the apostles how to comprehend the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). Moreover, the resurrection cast the life and teachings of Jesus in a new light. Only after Christ had risen did the disciples fully understand his life, teachings, and actions on earth (e,g. Mark 9:32) (John 12:16).
The faith that Jesus the Messiah (Christ) had fulfilled the Old Testament accompanied and illumined the teaching of the Scriptures before the New Testament came into being. It was this viewpoint on the Hebrew Scriptures that Paul referred to when he said, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).
In conclusion, from today’s reading, we learn the benefits of studying the Scriptures. For fruitful reading, we must open our ears to its message and our minds to its teaching. We must be willing to let it instruct, correct, convince, and train us that it might make us “wise unto salvation” (vs. 15).
St. Irenaeus said: “We have learned the plan of our salvation from no one else other than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us, for they did at one time proclaim the gospel in public. And, at a later period, by the will of God, they handed the gospel down to us in the Scripture to be the ‘ground and pillar of our faith’” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies).
Irenaeus suggests that we should not treat the Scriptures as if they were sheets of paper that stand between ourselves and the Lord, the object of our faith. Instead, when we read the Gospels, we should read them as if the disciples who witnessed the words and actions of our Christ were telling the story of our Savior directly to us. And when we read the writings of St. Paul, we should read them as if he were writing them specifically to us. Thus, we should believe that the Scriptures are not just so many words on a page. But the Holy Spirit addresses us through the living testimony of the eyewitness to the Lord’s majesty (2 Peter 1:16).
2 Timothy 3:16, Profitable for Doctrine, for Reproof, For Correction, for Instruction, Itching Ears, Scripture Inspired By God, Luke 24:45, The Old Testament From the Resurrection Viewpoint, Reading the Scriptures, St. Irenaeus, The Scripture Speak Directly to Us,