2 Timothy has long been one of my favorite books in the Bible. I suppose that is the case because when I was a young man, planning to enter full time ministry, and then when I was a young pastor, I totally identified with the character of Timothy as Paul’s young protégé. I could imagine what he was like and I could picture myself in his place. Now that I am older, I think I look at and feel about this letter, in a different manner. But I think we all can benefit from the Bible by “putting ourselves in the picture,” by imagining what it would be like to be Timothy, or Paul, or Priscilla, or Deborah, or a hundred other characters in the Bible—even Jesus—because, after all, we are called to “put on” Jesus Christ.
One of the most memorized verses in 2 Timothy is 3:16-17, “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.”
The nature of the Bible’s inspiration has been debated for centuries, if not millennia. Personally, as you might imagine, I like C. S. Lewis’ approach to this difficult subject. In a letter to a correspondent named Janet Wise, Lewis wrote the following on October 5, 1955….
My own position is not Fundamentalist, if Fundamentalism means accepting as a point of faith at the outset the proposition “Every statement in the Bible is completely true in the literal, historical sense.” That wd. break down at once on the parables. All the same commonsense and general understanding of literary kinds wd. forbid anyone to take the parables as historical statements, carried a v. little further, wd. force us to distinquish between (1.) Books like Acts or the account of David’s reign, wh. are everywhere dovetailed into a known history, geography, & genealogies (2.) Books like Esther, or Jonah or Job which deal with otherwise unknown characters living in unspecified period, & pretty well proclaim themselves to be sacred fiction.
Such distinctions are not new. Calvin left the historicity of Job an open question and, from earlier, St. Jerome said that the whole Mosaic account of creation was done “after the method of a popular poet.” Of course I believe the composition, presentation, & selection for inclusion in the Bible, of allthe books to have been guided by the Holy Ghost. But I think He meant us to have sacred myth & sacred fiction as well as sacred history.
Mind you, I never think a story unhistorical because it is miraculous. I accept miracles. It’s almost the manner that distinguishes the fictions from the histories. Compare the “Once upon a time” opening of Job with the accounts of David, St. Paul, or Our Lord Himself. The basis of our Faith is not the Bible taken by itself but the agreed affirmation of all Christendom: to wh. we owe the Bible itself.