Peter Ruckman has a unique interpretation for 2 Timothy 3:16 in order to read into it his view that the KJV is “given by inspiration of God.” Before bringing up 2 Tim. 3:16, Ruckman will often start by asking the trick question, “Do you believe the KJV is Scripture?” (Bible Believers’ Bulletin May 2005, pp. 1, 4, 6). Once a person answers in the affirmative, Ruckman follows up with something like, “Then you have to believe the KJV is given by inspiration because 2 Tim. 3:16 says ‘all Scripture is given by inspiration!’” The trickiness lies in the fact that the KJV is indeed a translation of Scripture (and in our view the best), so it is common and proper to refer to the KJV as Scripture with that understanding. But if a person does not maintain the distinction in his mind about the KJV being technically a translation of Scripture, he could be swayed by Ruckman’s baited questions.
The following quote by Ruckman indicates how radical his interpretation is, stated in his typical arrogant “us-versus-them” mentality: “…there is not one fundamentalist who ever lived that could tell the truth about 2 Timothy 3:16.” (Ruckman, Peter. Theological Studies, booklet 15, p. 6)
In order to portray Ruckman’s teachings on this matter fairly, we will quote the entire footnote from 2 Tim. 3:15-16 from his Ruckman Reference Bible:
(3:15) “Holy Scriptures,” here, are the Old Testament (Rom. 1:2). They are the “all scripture” of the next verse. The Old Testament “scriptures” Timothy had, were said to be “given by inspiration of God.” Not one of them was an original autograph. The words “scripture” and “scriptures” in the Scripture are never a reference to original autographs (see note on Acts 8:32). The fable (see comments on 2 Tim. 4:4) invented at Princeton University around 1880 that the term “scripture” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is a reference to some verbally inspired, infallible, plenarily inspired “autographs” is a fairytale as big as any taught by Darwin and Einstein (see App. 73).
(3:16) The process of “inspiration” is the Holy Spirit breathing His words through somebody’s mouth (2 Pet. 1:21; see also note on Job 32:8) and those words then being written down (see notes on Jer. 36:32, 4, 11). God can inspire a copy that doesn’t match the original (see note on Jer. 36:32), and He can certainly inspire a translation (see note on Matt. 2:18). Most Christian scholars don’t know what they are talking about in this regard. We have “the scripture of truth” (Dan. 10:21). By their own profession, they don’t.
To begin with, there are several problems with this view:
- The term “Scripture” in 2 Tim. 3:15 and 2 Tim. 3:16 are two different Greek words. The Scriptures Timothy had were referred to as gramma, while in the next verse dealing with inspiration the Greek word graphe is used. Gramma, a general term, was diversely translated also as “bill,” “learning,” “letter,” “writing,” and “written.” Graphe in turn was consistently translated as Scripture in the KJV.
- “Is given by” is not in the Greek, but the translators of the KJV and several Reformation Bibles added it to express what the Greek implies. “Is given by” obviously refers to the original origin, not subsequent translations. It does not affirm “all Scripture is copied by inspiration of God” nor “all Scripture is translated by inspiration of God.”
- The common, historic, conservative interpretation is that “all Scripture” is a reference to the all of Scripture; that is, every book, every chapter, every verse and every word in the Bible was given by inspiration of God, which refutes contrary inspiration theories. The Greek word translated “all” here was sometimes translated as “the whole” in the KJV. Ruckmanism instead takes the view that this verse proves that whatever translation he chooses to be Scripture is “given by inspiration of God.”
If we follow Ruckman’s logic, we would have to believe one of three things regarding English Bible translations:
A. Reformation Bibles such as Tyndale, Geneva, etc. being Scripture, were “given by inspiration of God.” This would result in multiple Bibles in English with different readings (a few times not synonymous) which are all supposed to be inspired. If the forerunners of the KJV (Bishops, Geneva, etc.) would be “given by inspiration of God,” why does Ruckman not refer to them as given by inspiration? If both the forerunners of the KJV and the KJV itself are inspired, how could there be differences between them? If Bibles such as the Geneva are inspired, why does Ruckman’s bookstore sell a book against an attempt to reprint the Geneva Bible?
B. There was no Scripture in English before 1611. If there was no Scripture in English before 1611, then Ruckman’s cruel mockery of those who supposedly have “no Scripture” would apply to them.
C. Some modern English translations translate 2 Tim. 3:16 basically the same as the KJV. Following Ruckman’s logic, they would also be “given by inspiration of God” since a good number of modern version users would look upon their translation as “Scripture.” If Ruckman’s logic can be applied to some modern translations he so despises that others refer to as Scripture and conclude that they are “given by inspiration of God,” then his logic is seriously flawed. He applies it in a self-serving manner only to the KJV.
The Bible was not yet complete when 2 Tim. 3:16 was written. This verse teaches that the Bible is completely inspired in all its parts, and all the parts that were yet to come would be inspired as well. If we accept Ruckman’s interpretation of the verse, it ceases to be the best proof text against the modernist partial inspiration theory.
As to Ruckman’s allegation that teaching that 2 Tim. 3:16 is a reference to the originals was invented around 1880, we have several quotes to the contrary. The following is an example from 1796, with key words referring to the originals in bold for your convenience:
… that is, by inspiration of God, 2 Tim. iii. 16, But then,
iv. This is to be understood of the scriptures, as in the original languages in which they were written, and not of translations; unless it could be thought, that the translators of the Bible into the several languages of the nations into which it has been translated, were under the divine inspiration also in translating, and were directed of God to the use of words they have rendered the original by; but this is not reasonable to suppose, The books of the Old Testament were written chiefly in the Hebrew language, unless some few passages in Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Esther, in the Chaldee language; and the New Testament in Greek: in which languages they can only be reckoned canonical and authentic; for this is like the charters and diplomas of princes; the wills or testaments of men; or any deeds made by them; only the original exemplar is authentic; and not translations, and transcriptions, and copies of them, though ever so perfect; and to the Bible, in its original languages, is every translation to be brought, and by it to be examined, tried and judged, and to be corrected and amended: and if this was not the case, we should have no certain and infallible rule to go by; for it must be either all the translations together, or some one of them; not all of them, because they agree not in all things: not one; for then the contest would be between one nation and another which it should be, whether English, Dutch, French, &c, and could one be agreed upon, it could not be read and understood by all: so the papists, they plead for their vulgate Latin version; which has been decreed authentic by the council of Trent; though it abounds with innumerable errors and mistakes; nay, so far do they carry this affair, that they even assert that the scriptures, in their originals, ought to submit to, and be corrected by their version; which is absurd and ridiculous. Let not now any be uneasy in their minds about translations on this account, because they are not upon an equality with the original text, and especially about our own; for as it has been the will of God, and appears absolutely necessary that so it should be, that the Bible should be translated into different languages, that all may read it, and some particularly may receive benefit by it; he has taken care, in his providence, to raise up men capable of such a performance, in various nations, and particularly in ours; for whenever a set of men have been engaged in this work, as were in our nation, men well skilled in the languages, and partakers of the grace of God; of sound principles, and of integrity and faithfulness, having the fear of God before their eyes; they have never failed of producing a translation worthy of acceptation; and in which, though they have mistook some words and phrases, and erred in some lesser and lighter matters; yet not so as to affect any momentous article of faith or practice; and therefore such translations as ours may be regarded as the rule of faith. (Gill, John. A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity. 1796, Vol. 1, London: Wintereotham, pp. 18-19).
More documentation demonstrating that Ruckman is wrong in alleging that 2 Tim. 3:16 being a reference to the originals was not taught till around 1880 can be found in the following books:
Ruckman asks foolish questions similar to “what verse tells you the originals were inspired?” (The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship. 1999, p. 217) But he will not apply the same logic to ask what verse in the Bible teaches the KJV is inspired. Of course, Ruckman will turn that around and ask why we demand a verse for KJV inspiration when we accept originals inspiration without a verse. The reason we consider it a foolish question is because if the Scripture is inspired (which is what the Bible teaches) then the original exemplar of the Scriptures would of necessity have to be inspired. If anything after the original could even be inspired, it would not be if the original was not inspired. This is the simplest of logic. It seems that Ruckman only asks these questions in order to distract and attempt to confuse.
In 1974, Ruckman admitted having changed his interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16. The change was based on an idea shared with him by Herb Evans. Ruckman had already been implying in his writings up to that time that the KJV was inspired, so he quickly seized on this idea for interpreting the key verse and popularized it by making it the cornerstone of his teaching that the KJV was “given by inspiration.”
I am indebted to Herb Evans for giving me some light on 2 Timothy 3:16, which frankly up until about 1974 I had never really considered. The context of the passage had escaped me exactly like it did most of the “Scholars’ Union.” Evans, a plain, ordinary Bible Believer (with no special Christian education), was the first one to call my attention that 2 Timothy 3:16 was NOT a reference to “original manuscripts.” …I had to do some “back tracking” on that one verse, even though I didn’t have to reverse my convictions about every word of the AV text… (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin Reprint #7 (Strictly Personal). 2004, pp. 32-33)
Second Timothy 3:16 is NOT a reference to the “originals.” I had to do some “back tracking” on that one verse… (Ibid, p. 33)
Ruckman’s admission that he had not thought of that interpretation before 1974 is revealing. He already had a doctorate from BJU for 20 years by then, and had been ordained for 24 years. He had already written his first book defending the KJV 10 years prior, and had written several more on the KJV by 1974. If Herb Evan’s idea for interpreting 2 Timothy 3:16 is supposed to be the natural interpretation upon reading it, why did Ruckman miss it for decades?
Another observation that could be made in light of Ruckman admitting that he once believed 2 Tim. 3:16 was a reference to the originals is how he treats Christians who believe what Ruckman believed for over 20 years. Notice the language Ruckman uses for them from just two pages of one of his books (Theological Studies, booklet 15, pp. 6-7): “modern apostate fundamentalist,” “refuses to tell the truth,” “poor deluded souls,” “lying against the Holy Ghost,” “greatest heresy,” “heretical and apostate teaching,” “lies about the verse,” “Alexandrian Cult members,” “a heretical cult.” Based on his own criteria, Ruckman would have been an apostate and a member of the Alexandrian Cult up to 1974!
In order to make his view apply to the KJV, Ruckman weakens the meaning of inspiration. Observe:
An account can be inspired without the “jots and tittles” present; (Ruckman, Peter. Ruckman’s Bible References: Personal Notes on Salient Verses in the Bible, 1997, p. 58)
…a translation can be inspired and not match word-for-word any original from which it came. ([No author listed, but it bears Ruckman’s unmistakable style] Bible Believers’ Bulletin, Jan. 2008, p. 10)
A copyist can “miscopy” a word and it still be INSPIRED. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Psalms Volume 1. 1997 reprint, p. 127)
…see why a translation can be given by inspiration and yet not match the original. (Ruckman Reference Bible. Note for Hab. 2:4)
You see, in Adam’s case (Gen. 2:7) and Ezekiel’s case (Ezek. 37) there was no “breath of God on any lifeless corpse until the corpse was FULLY assembled: flesh, bones, organs, and all. To be “given by inspiration” (2 Tim. 3:16) in 20,000 languages—if there were that many—all God had to do was guide the translators in their choice of words, in any particular language, and then BREATHE on the finished product! (Ruckman, Peter. General Epistles Vol. 2. 2004, p. 120)
One of the ways in which Ruckman feels justified in teaching that a translation can be inspired is because of the cases in which the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament do not always match word-for-word, even if you account for expected translation differences. Technically, Ruckman is right in the sense that such a “translation” done by the Holy Spirit is inspired; however, in those cases the Holy Spirit is the translator, and as sovereign God he has the right to translate any way he wishes (Ruckman agrees in The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship. 1999, p. 113) and it is still inspired Scripture. In contrast, the Holy Spirit is not the translator of Bible versions, which would include the KJV.
The view Ruckman promotes in the above quotes is dangerous because he does not distinguish between Holy Spirit translation and human translation. He implies that inspiration is still possible in a human translation even when it does not match the original. Ruckman is essentialy saying that if a Bible translation does not match the originals it does not matter, as long as one has a mystical belief that God has breathed on the finished product (double inspiration) which makes it inspired!
Ruckman refers to the originals with the degrading language expected only from a bitter atheist. Notice some examples from just one book (22 Years of the Bible Believer’s Bulletin Vol. 1 “The AV Holy Bible”) in which the originals are mentioned or implied: “plenary, verbally inspired Cabbage Patch dolls” (p. 173) “’verbal plenary inspiration’ of O.J. Simpson and Tony Dorsett” (p. 168) “verbally, plenary inspired, original pac man.” (p. 159) “verbal, plenary inspired rag bag” (p. 156) verbally, plenary inspired, clappety claps” (p. 149) “unseen, unread, unpreached, unhandled, untaught originals” (p. 146) “plenary, verbally inspired gassers” (p. 128) “’historic fundamental garbage stands’ on the ‘verbal plenary inspiration’ of nonexistent blanks” (p. 88) “Their pet gimmick, ‘the verbally inspired originals’” (p. 75) “verbal, plenary, inspired nothings” (p. 39).
Sometimes Ruckman is so careless with his denunciation of the originals as to give the impression that he did not believe the originals were inspired and inerrant. Notice the following:
Of course, I am dealing with problems of the King James text, not the original manuscripts. Therefore, all this effort to try to prove that the original manuscripts are inerrant and infallible, but the King James has errors in it, is nonsense. We are dealing with statements of the King James, and you don’t have the originals there to see whether they err or not. You say, “They couldn’t have erred.” What do you get for the authority? Second Timothy 3:16? That is not a reference to the original manuscripts. (Ruckman, Peter. Theological Studies, Booklet 15, p. 42)
…the absolute, infallible inerrancy of the plenary inspired “ORIGINAL autographs”…So does every cloned Christian robot who was cloned by the same Christian jackass. (Ruckman, Peter. General Epistles Vol. 2. 2004, p. 88)
…the word “verbal” before “inspiration,” because that’s his position on the “originals” and that position is anti-Scriptural. No Scriptures say anything was “verbally inspired,”—including the originals. [No author listed, but it bears Ruckman’s unmistakable style] (Bible Believers’ Bulletin Oct. 1998, p. 9)
…this nonsense about verbal, plenary inspiration of the original manuscripts. That’s not even a Bible doctrine. (Ruckman, Peter. How God opened my eyes to the KJV. No date. CD audio recording, about 10-11 minutes into track 1)
“…and that its original autographs were verbally inspired and completely free from error of any kind.” Proof? Don’t be silly. … There isn’t one verse in any version of any translation in any edition of any Bible on the face of this earth that says the “original autographs were completely free from error of any kind.” You just got the opinion of two men whose opinions are “facts” in their own way of thinking. (Ruckman, Peter. The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship. 1999, p. 252)
Very little could be located by other writers critical of Ruckman on this issue. The following is worth reading:
Certain over-zealous disciples of Ruckman have gone beyond their mentor and advanced the notion that the KJV was re-inspired in A.D. 1611. Ruckman’s position on this issue is similar, though ambiguous. He attempts unsuccessfully to distinguish between the expressions “inspired” and “given by inspiration” in 2 Tim. 3:16, claiming the KJV is “given by inspiration” but not “inspired.” This convoluted logic only serves to produce the same result: the KJV takes precedence over all available Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (including the Textus Receptus), a view surprisingly reminiscent of the established medieval view of the Latin Vulgate. (Rawlings, Harold. Trial by Fire: The Struggle to Get the Bible into English. Wellington, FL: The Rawlings Foundation. 2004, pp. 182-183)
In the following statement Ruckman reluctantly agrees that the original manuscripts were no doubt “given by inspiration”, and he lists 2 Timothy 3:16 as a proof verse, so all his efforts in repeatedly emphasizing that no verse stated the originals were inspired were simply a smokescreen:
Original manuscripts were written, and no doubt, they were “given by inspiration” (2 Tim. 3:16)—not “inspired”—even though no verse in either Testament says anything of the kind. (Ruckman, Peter. The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship. 1988, p. 97)
As has been demonstrated, Ruckman treats this verse with an unusual interpretation to make it fit within his system. It leads to a degraded view of the originals, and makes any Bible version regarded as Scripture to be “given by inspiration.” As has been documented Ruckman’s view weakens the meaning of inspiration, allowing for a version translated by humans to still be God-breathed even if it does not exactly match the originals.