In Matthew Ramage’s book Dark Passages of the Bible, pages 55-56 really struck me when it quoted St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete for every good work.” (Ramage, Dark Passages of the Bible, p. 55-56)
At this juncture, I think it’s important to examine a much larger periscope or the context surrounding that particular passage:
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:10-17 ESVCE)
The importance of expanding the periscope is to further understand the context of the particular passage cited by Dr. Ramage above, as well as biblical Christian exegetes like James White, who attempt to use the passage for a proof text for Sola Scriptura, where as these words of St. Paul in Sacred Scripture point toward a deeper truth which is the sufficiency of God’s revelation passed down by teaching and Sacred Scripture through which humanity is saved by the twofold act of faith and love.
The New Collegeville Bible Commentary on the New Testament gives a bit of a deeper explanation of St. Timothy’s understanding and context of the passage and what he, Timothy, is suppose to do with scripture:
He is to use the Scriptures in teaching the sound doctrine he has received from Paul, handing it on to other faithful ministers (2:2). He is to use the Scriptures to refute the false teachers who have already become active (2:14) and whose activity will intensify in the final days (3:5). He is to use the Scriptures to correct his “opponents with kindness” when it is possible to lead them “to knowledge of the truth” (2:25). Finally, he is to use the Scriptures for training in righteousness. In order to accomplish his ministry, (Terence J. Keegan, “The Second Letter to Timothy,” in New Testament, ed. Daniel Durken, The New Collegeville Bible Commentary (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009), 709.
There is a few point points I’d like to dialogue with this particular passage. The first is what is the purpose of following the teachings of St. Paul, the importance of all scripture being breathed out by God, its profitableness for reproof, for correction, and for training. The second is the phrase “man of God,” and finally, the usage of this particular passage is not an argument for the total sufficiency of Sacred Scripture explicitly, bur rather points toward the sufficiency of revelation of God in its entirety from the witness of St. Paul’s example of his witness (persecution), teaching (tradition) and apostolic authority (Magisterium), and Sacred Scripture. Keegan explains, “Timothy is also aware of Paul’s way of life and purpose. Timothy is aware as well of the six qualities that characterized Paul’s life: the Christian virtues of faith, patience, love, and endurance (3:10), which were the basis of his teaching, life, and purpose, and the persecutions and suffering (3:11) that were the inevitable result.” (Terence J. Keegan, “The Second Letter to Timothy,” in New Testament, 709.)
The 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time is now known as Sunday of the Word of God promulgated by Pope Francis on the feast of St. Jerome in 2019. I think the first aspect to examine is the purpose of God’s revelation or end. Naturally, the purpose or end of Man is the beatific vision, simply heaven. It can quite simply be described that humanity has sinned against God in a corporate sense and individual sense. God, Who is merciful, by means of salvation history and the Jewish people sent His only Son to reconcile humanity to Himself by his free gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son. Our salvation comes by means of faith in Jesus Christ, a twofold act of the will assenting to an act of faith and the act of love as explained by St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians. (Gal. 5:6)
The exegete, who is a man of God, or rather one who has assented to faith in Christ Jesus, should be equipped with a proper understanding of what faith is in the traditional Catholic understanding by an assent to things not self-evident, which is included in the method of Theological Exegesis (Method A)—for that is faith. It is through the teaching of the Magisterium, Sacred Tradition, with Sacred Scripture that gives us proper understanding of Sacred Scripture to use for teaching. Naturally, this is something a strict Historical Critical (Method B) exegete could not do or can they? Philosophically, what is the purpose or end of Sacred Scripture? Can both strictly Method A and Method B exegetes come to an agreement on the purpose of Sacred Scripture? Or I shall reframe the question, Can it be recognized that the historical intention of the historical author is the same as the Divine author?
The man of God’s perspective is first ‘teaching,’ as it was with St. Paul who taught Timothy. The teaching of Sacred Scripture should be framed within the context of the great commission (Mt. 28) for the purpose, in the office of prophet, to spread the good news that those of us who are condemned by the sin and the law and then through the blood of the lamb, Jesus Christ, are given the grace to be eternally saved. If an exegete examines the Prophetic literature such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, do the calls for repentance for the same purpose? A Method B exegete can reasonably object that the Jewish people in Isaiah’s time were far more concerned with the material aspect of land and progeny. There is a theme that runs through the Prophets to St. Paul, which is the concern with God’s righteousness, which can be labeled as His justice. The prophets rebuke the people of Israel for their idolatry, so does St. Paul. The prophets rebuke the people of Israel for immorality being condemned by the law, so does St. Paul. The prophets also rebuke the people of Israel for their mistreatment of the poor, so does St. Paul in first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11). And so, there is a basic foundation of the purpose of the tradition, teaching, and Scripture to which St. Paul alludes, the righteousness of God. It is only through the pedagogy of God’s revelation does humanity learn more about God’s kingship and kingdom to which he refers in the Prophetic literature.
St. John Henry Newman’s Essay on the Grammar of Assent, the man of God can only propose the probability of the propositions much in the image of weights tipping a scale to one side or another. After the proposition and the evidence is presented in the Method B approach, otherwise known as preambles of faith then it up to the person whether or not they can assent to the probability of things not self-evident that found more in the Method A approach through signs or motives of credibility. Method B can only ever exhaust the argument of probability, so it is naturally incomplete and will always come to incomplete conclusions with some propositions, therefore; the man of God needs to rely on the unified tradition and memory of the Church to assent to a certitude. The goal of Method C (a combination of the Method A&B) is to develop the assent of one who has assented to the probability of the faith through Method B by Method A. Method C, an approach that is promoted through the scholarly work of Pope Benedict XVI, is an important approach for evangelization in our post-Enlightenment skeptical world. As concluded by Dr. Ramage , “Method B exegesis may therefore come first in order of execution, but it is not first in an absolute sense, What is first absolutely is something the historical-critical method can only examine on a material level…Method A gives the exegete the real reason for his investigation because it gives him God’s word.” (Ramage, Dark Passage of the Bible, p. 87)