theopneustos or theo pneustos?

A BBB visitor has asked:

Question: didn’t early Greek manuscripts eschew spaces between words?

Yes, that Greek was written without spaces between words.

How do we know that 2 Timothy 3:16 says “pasa graphe theopneustos” instead of “pasa graphe theo pneustos”? That last one would make the English translation something like “God inflates every writing”.

It’s interesting to think of alternate meanings for the biblical text if the word breaks were different. But in each case the alternate must be possible according to Greek grammar. In this case the alternate is not possible because it is ungrammatical in Greek. The word for ‘God’ would need to be in the nominative case which is spelled “theos”. There is no Greek word spelled just as “theo”, even though there are some Internet webpages which erroneously state that “theopneustos” is made up of two words, “theo” meaning ‘God’ and “pneustos” meaning ‘breathed.’ What these webpages are trying to say is that “theo-” can appear as part (a bound morpheme) of a compound word. (This is another warning not to believe everything claimed on the Internet. We have to check out our sources to see if they are reliable, credible.)

“Pneustos” would be a word but it would not mean ‘inflated’ but, rather, ‘breathed.’

3 Comments

  1. Mike Tisdell
    Posted August 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Even when alternative word breaks are grammatically permissible for the same verse, often other sources of information like ancient translations, quotes, ancient commentaries, etc… can provide a wealth of information about how the passage was originally understood that eliminates these alternate word divisions as valid possibilities.

    Wayne Leman said:

    “There is no Greek word spelled just as “theo”, even though there are some Internet webpages which erroneously state that “theopneustos” is made up of two words, “theo” meaning ‘God’ and “pneustos” meaning ‘breathed.’”

    Your post demonstrates one of the weaknesses of using a Latin alphabet when discussing issues of Greek or Hebrew. While I accept the argument you have put forth, I also recognize there is in fact a word that is transliterated “theo” in English i.e. “θεῷ” although it is spelled with an Omega and your example is spelled with an Omicron. One of the difficulties with English transliterations is that there can be a lot of confusion about what Hebrew or Greek letters are represented in a Latin transliteration. While there are standardized transliterations that are used in scholarly work, these are often difficult to use.

  2. Iver Larsen
    Posted August 9, 2012 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    An interesting word division option is found in Rom 7:14 where the Greek text is normally written as oidamen gar hoti (for we know that…). An alternative rendering is oida men gar hoti (for while I know that …). The last one fits the context better.

  3. Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    RE: “Pneustos” would be a word but it would not mean ‘inflated’ but, rather, ‘breathed.’

    Actually, a better rendering would be “spirited”. If Paul meant “breathed”, the Greek word “enephysesen” was readily accessible; whereas in order to say “inspired by”, theopneustos as “God-spirited” is probably about the best he could do (there is no Greek word that directly translates to “inspired by”). I believe the modern translators who want to render 2 Timothy 3:16 as “God-breathed” are incorrect, and that the older translators got it right with “inspired by God”.

    But you’re right about one thing: “Inflates” isn’t even in the picture. :-)


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