A Greek Word You Need to Know: θεόπνευστος

There is a great verse in the Bible found in 2 Tim 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (NIV). The hyphenated word above, “God-breathed,” is a translation of the Greek θεόπνευστος. Some translations will render this as “inspired by God” (NLT, HCSB, and NASB) or “breathed out by God” (ESV). I personally like the NIV: “God-breathed.” It’s simple, concise, and captures the mystery that is Holy Scripture.

1. θεόπνευστος – theopneustos. You pronounce it “the-op-noo-stos.” It’s a compound word, where the Greek words theos (God) and pneo (I blow/breathe) have been joined to form one word. (The noun pneuma means spirit, wind, or breath.)

2. The word, θεόπνευστος, is found only in 2 Tim 3:16. A lot of scholars think the word was actually created by Paul in order to convey the divine origin of Scripture. It’s a fascinating word, really.

3. Why should you know this word? The reason is because I think it invites a person to ponder the mystery, as I said above, of the Bible–a “God-breathed,” divinely inspired book. But as we all know, the Bible did not simply fall from heaven in printed form, made up of gold binding and glittering pages. That’s not how God chose to bring his Word to us. He chose to be more earthly than that. After all, Scripture was composed over many centuries by different sorts of people. These were real people, furthermore–people whose specific traits, gifts, motivations, and talents can be seen coming through the pages of Scripture (e.g., compare Paul with Mark and Isaiah with Amos).

The word θεόπνευστος reminds me of an earlier story where it was said that God “breathed into” humans “the breath of life” (Gen 2:7). I suppose Scripture is similar to humanity itself: like a composition of dust endowed with the divine image, so is the Bible: a collection of earthly ink, in which rests the divine breath.

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