Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"God-breathed" = "living words"?

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(Image from Blue Letter Bible)

In my Bible study class Sunday morning, I noticed the adjective "theopneustos" (θεόπνευστος) in 2 Timothy 3:16, which the Blue Letter Bible site informs us literally means "God-breathed," from "theos" (θεός, God) and an apparant derivative of "pneō" (πνέω, breathe), resulting in the following NIV translation:
All Scripture is God‑breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
The original Greek is:
πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν πρὸς ἔλεγχον, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ.
Presumably, the writer was thinking of the Old Testament, since there was yet no New Testament, and this emphasis upon scripture as "God-breathed" called to mind -- to my mind, anyway -- Genesis 2:7:
The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (NIV)
Hebrew original:
וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָֽאָדָם עָפָר מִן־הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים וַֽיְהִי הָֽאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּֽה׃
Greek translation (Septuagint):
καὶ ἔπλασεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον χοῦν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐνεφύσησεν εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ πνοὴν ζωῆς καὶ ἐγένετο ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν.
The Hebrew term here for "breathed" (יִּפַּח) is from "naphach" (נפח, breathe). The Greek term here for "breathed" (ἐνεφύσησεν) is from "emphusaō," meaning "to breathe into or upon," derived from from "en" (in) and "phusaó" (to blow). The Septuagint Greek of Genesis 2:7 thus differs in terminology from the Greek of 2 Timothy 3:16, and the Hebrew of Genesis 2:7 is, of course, an entirely different language. I find no striking linguistic similarity Greek, but I can't nevertheless help feeling that some sort of allusion is being made.

When Genesis 2:7 describes the Lord God as breathing into Adam's nostrils, the consequence is that Adam becomes a "living being" (לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּֽה; ψυχὴν ζῶσαν). One would therefore expect that such a conception of scripture as "God-breathed" would imply that scripture become "living words," but my cursory search finds only Acts 7:38, with a reference to Moses receiving the commandments of God:
He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us.
Greek original:
οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ γενόμενος ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ μετὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου τοῦ λαλοῦντος αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ ὄρει Σινᾶ καὶ τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν ὃς ἐδέξατο λόγια ζῶντα δοῦναι ἡμῖν.
The Greek here for "living words" is "logia zōnta" (λόγια ζῶντα), from "logion" (λόγιον, brief utterance, words) and "zaō" (ζάω, live). Since the Septuagint for Genesis 2:7 has "zōsan" (ζῶσαν), which is also from "zaō" (ζάω, live), then we find a closer lexical term, but the case for a connection among 2 Timothy 3:16, Genesis 2:7, and Acts 7:38 is relatively weak, especially since 2 Timothy and Acts were written by different authors.

This little superficial exercise hasn't gotten us very far, except to note that no clear allusion to Genesis 2:7 is being made in 2 Timothy 3:16, but I promised the Bible study leader that I'd look into this point.

Only scholarly commentaries would get me further now, but I don't have any relevant ones at hand, unless there are some online . . .

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At 1:50 AM, Blogger Skryfblok said...

Most interesting. The KJV translates it as God "inspired", suggesting that the ideas were breathed into the minds of these authors.

This discussion made me think of the meme-theory that suggests that ideas are alive and propagate from one mind to another like genes from one generation to the next. In this case, the original idea came from the Great Mind, was passed on ("breathed" into) the minds of the Biblical authors, and then propagated onto us -- the readers.

Atheist Richard Dawkins who came up with the meme-idea in his book Selfish Gene would actually agree with this idea of religious thoughts being "alive"; he actually calls such ideas viruses that propagate from mind to mind.

Do keep us updated with your further findings.

At 4:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the interest.

I've posted on this again today, for I found another commentator who noticed the possible allusion to Genesis 2:7 in 2 Timothy 3:16. But I still see no strong evidence that an allusion is a certainty.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:21 AM, Blogger Skryfblok said...

I read your post close to 2AM and was shocked to see a response to my comment just a few hours later -- just before 5AM. Then I looked at the time stamp for you other posts. Almost all of them are posted between 3AM and 5AM.

When do you sleep?!

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sleep? Me? I do not so much sleep as assume a trance state during the daylight hours, during which I repose in a tiny space undisturbed by sunlight, which is -- so to speak -- 'deadly' to one of my disposition . . . a somber, solitary existence, but much is at 'stake' if I mix too often among human society.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have gotten off topic

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You forgot the period.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:46 AM, Blogger river song said...

thanks so much! In the absence of senior pastor, I'm preparing our adult Thursday evening bible study for this week, and needed some help on John 20:19-31, specifically "ἐνεφύσησεν" with the following verses 23 and 24.

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You're welcome!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:24 AM, Blogger Bienvenido Bones said...

I believe that I have a faith in God words, without the four letter from Hebrew, the Most Holy Name- YHWH translate to "He Causes to Become" , but blessed with a strong faith and only chosen people who are blessing. *Bones*

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Bones.

Jeffery Hodges

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