How does 2 Timothy 3:16 support Sola Scriptura?


I have a Fundamentalist friend who asserts that 2 Timothy 3:16 supports Sola Scriptura!

He also asserts that the word “useful” is not correct and that the proper translation is “profitable”. I don’t see how either word or 2 Timothy 3:16 in any way supports Sola Scriptura.

What am I missing?

Thank you for your help!


You’re not missing anything. It doesn’t!



This verse says that ALL Scripture is useful. It does not say that ONLY Scripture is useful.


Let’s look at the context. 2 Timothy 3:10-17 NRSVCE:

Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is** useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

We can tell from the context here that Paul is referring to the Septuagint, because he says in 2Tim 3:15 that Timothy had known the scriptures from childhood. When this was written, much of the New Testament hadn’t been written yet. So if Paul was saying here that scripture is sufficient, we would have to rely on solely the Septuagint (which, by the way, includes the 7 deuterocanonical books).**


Here is why it does not support Sola Scripture, to my understanding: Paul’s letter to Timothy was not Scripture when he wrote it, so Paul was referring to the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint, which includes books that Protestants refuse to call Scripture, so they are not obeying Paul), since Timothy did not read Hebrew. So Paul was saying, "All the Septuagint is inspired by God and profitable for … "

But the next, even bigger, point is that Paul was acting out Tradition when he wrote this to Timothy - he was not an original Apostle but was added to the Church by Ananias of Damascus, and finally confirmed by the Apostles in Jerusalem, granting him authority and apostleship. And Paul, using his apostolic authority made Timothy a bishop also. If Paul’s writing carries any weight or validity, it is because he is the Authority of Tradition in Action and in Person. This makes Paul’s statement to Timothy really say this: “Timothy, I, Paul, by my Authority to define what teaching you follow say to you that you must also give authority over yourself to all the Septuagint like you have me as an authority over you in Christ, since it is profitable for …”

Every bishop, acting in accord with this Tradition carries the same authority today as Paul did. We trust the Bible BECAUSE WE ARE OBEDIENT TO OUR BISHOPS, OBEDIENT TO THE MAGISTERIUM, OBEDIENT TO OUR HOLY FATHER, AND THESE LIVING PEOPLE TELL US WHAT SCRIPTURE WE CAN TEACH FROM, CORRECT WITH, AND TRAIN IN RIGHTEOUSNESS WITH. We trust the Bible because the leadership we trust gives it to us, not because of some stand-alone idea about a book that came from the sky.

John Martin


The easiest answer for me to give and one I’ve used more than once when this particular Scripture passage gets cited to “prove” the Sola Scriptura stuff is point out that the “scriptures” that St. Paul is referring to is the Old Testament, not the New Testament, so if the SS’s want to say this proves their notion, then the New Testament not having been written yet would have to pitched in it’s entirety as “scripture that is useful for teaching…” Ummmmm…It really doesn’t hold much water after that.

Fact is Sola Scriptura is a false doctrine invented not too long ago by those who left the Church and wanted to have something to cling to. Oh well. Anyone can read the Bible and see for themselves that much of what they teach isn’t supported by Scripture itself.



Scripture rule #1: Nothing in scripture supports sola scriptura. If it appears to, it is only via misreading that scripture, or taking it out of context.


What you appear to be missing in this case is something called Motivated Cognition, the function in which a person’s brain rearranges what they perceive and how they think, so as to match their preconceptions. :wink:

It is not a translation issue: ωφελιμος is essentially “having properties which bring aid or benefit”. That makes “useful” a slightly better translation than “profitable”, since the latter will generally be read as having financial implications.

Further, what the text says is, “The Scriptures are great things”. It does not say, “Nothing else is great”. It does not support sola scriptura.


When I point out to my friend that when Saint Paul refers to “all scripture” he surely was referring to the Old Testament because there was no New Testament at the time when 2 Timothy was written he simply claims that the “Bible is a forever book” and therefore he is referring to the New Testament as well.

To me it says that he is applying “Motivated Cognition” as Mystophilus has described and ignoring what Saint Paul truly intended.


He can actually claim some textual justification for that idea: in non-Biblical Greek, γραφη means “writings”, without any implication of sacredness; Galatians 3:8 refers to γραφη as being able to anticipate events, and 2 Peter 3:16 pairs St. Paul’s letters with “the other γραφη”, apparently referring to the OT Scriptures, thus apparently putting St. Paul’s letters on a par with the OT. It is thus possible that 2 Tim 3:16 is effectively talking about itself by anticipating canonization. However, it still does not say that Scripture is all that is useful, which is what the sola in sola scriptura means.

To me it says that he is applying “Motivated Cognition” as Mystophilus has described and ignoring what Saint Paul truly intended.

It is a ubiquitous phoenomenon, sometimes quite amusing in political discussions, and annoyingly hard to detect in oneself. :o


Whether this verse refers only to the LXX Old Testament or to both the Old and the (uncompleted at that time) New Testaments is not even relevant. This verse still does not say that ONLY Scripture is profitable/useful/whatever.

Your friend is taking the statement that “all dogs have four legs and a tail” and twisting it to mean that “only dogs have four legs and a tail.”


Isn’t it odd that Paul did not begin any of his letters with, “And here I begin writing scripture…”?

Neither Paul nor anyone else but the Church declared it to be scripture. To declare something scripture or not scripture, one must have God-giuven authority. Even Paul did not have that. Only the Church did, and that is why Paul went to the Church in Acts 15 for her decision on the circumcision question.


You can’t even appeal to 2 Timothy 3:16 without already knowing it is scripture.

You might want to ask your friend to quote book, chapter, and verse that says 2 Timothy is scripture. If he can’t (and he can’t), then he is appealing to an authority outside the Bible, which, of course, destroys his notion of sola scriptura.


Ask him how the canon of scripture came to be?


Fr. Mitch Pacwa aks, “Where did the Sacred Table of Contents” come from?


Hello Pablope.

No kidding - I once asked that question to a SS adherent and he looked at me and blinked and said “Why Martin Luther gave us the Bible!” as if it were a given and there was something seriously wrong with me if I didn’t* know *that. He went on to explain that Catholics chained Bibles, if they actually had one in a Church, to posts so no one could read them and it was Martin Luther and his friends who copied them and gave them to everyone and that is what started everyone getting them. He actually believes that if it weren’t for Martin Luther, no one would have a Bible. I had nothing else to say to that poor man and walked away praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for him that his eyes might be opened to the bunk he’s been falling for.




Although my next thought is about the arguments: “Your Sacred Table of Contents is heretical, because it lists different books / it lists the same books in a different order / it is written in a different font!!!”


And it’s not the King James Version. Someone actually said, “The King James Version was good enough for the apostles, so it’s good enough for me!” :smiley:


Hello Kay.




Well, since heresy is defined as a departure from Catholic teaching, that is quite amusing. Psychological projection. There is, and can be no such thing as heresy in the non-Catholic/Orthodox world, as one simply forms their own denomination. Even the Catholic Church does not call them heretics, if they were never Catholic. They are simply spiritual innovators.

The entropic nature of Bible Christianity is rapidly leading it to a motley collection of parallel religions. Some of it is no longer Christian, denying the trinity or the Sacrament of Baptism.

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