The author of 2 Timothy writes, "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work." (3:16-17)
This, along with Psalm 23, is actually our scripture verse for this Sunday's gathering.
And it is an oft-quoted verse when the question of whether or not a part of the 66 books of the Biblical canon is helpful comes up, as it does from time to time. Many will pull out this little gem from 2 Timothy, point to it and say, "See! It's all inspired by God and useful for teaching. You can't adjust any of it."
But you know what's funny about this verse?
At the time it was written, the "scriptures" for the ancient church were really just parts of the Hebrew scriptures. 2 Timothy itself wasn't even a part of the scriptures at that time, though it would come to be included.
So, what scriptures did the author mean? The ones used at the time, or the ones that would be added and even written after the writing of this letter?
Another favorite proof-verse for not cutting and pasting when it comes to scripture is the last part of the book of Revelation, chapter 22. When I was in college and coming to the end of my studies, a friend and I were having a heated discussion about Biblical literalism. He was a proponent of the inerrancy of scripture, and I am much more flexible in my view, having adopted the idea that I take scripture seriously but not literally.
He pulled out his Bible and pointed to Revelation 22:18-19, reading triumphantly,
"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this book."
"And this," he said, "is why you have to take everything in here literally. Nothing can be added or subtracted from this book!" He rested his case.
"Ok," I said, "but you do realize that the writer of Revelation was just talking about the book of Revelation there, right? He wasn't talking about the whole of the Bible...he couldn't have been. At that time there was no such thing."
And his eyes widened as if he had just realized something for the first time...the scriptures had been put into context for him in that moment. "I never thought of that..." he said.