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Greek words Artios, Telios, and holokleroi
Question from Greg on 3/18/2002:


Do the Greek words artios, telios, and holokleroi mean the same thing? It is my understanding that they do.

I've often times heard Protestant apologists use the fact that 2Tim 3:16 uses the word atios to descirbe sufficiency whereas other verses, such as James 1:4, Matt. 19:21, Colossians 1:21 and 4:12 use the words telios and holokleroi as means to deflect the Catholic counter argument that 2Tim. 3:16 doesn't mean sufficient anymore that those other verses do.

What's the actual story on that?

Thank You, Greg

Answer by Catholic Answers on 3/19/2002:

There's a substantial amount of overlap in the semantic ranges of the words, though there are different nuances to them.

I'm not very persuaded either by the use of passages like James 1:4, etc., as a rejoinder to the sola scriptura interpretation of 2 Tim. 3:16 or by the reply Protestant apologists make to this (i.e., it's different Greek words in the passages).

The fact is that there are different Greek words, which dramatically weakens the force of the argument for the Catholic side. Yet they are also words that have a good bit of overlap in meaning, which weakens the force of the Protestant rejoinder. The results of the argument and counter-argument thus become muddled and inconclusive. Neither side has a decisive argument here. The James 1:4, etc., argument is inconclusive, and the Protestant rejoinder to it is also inconclusive.

As a result, I don't use that argument regarding 2 Tim. 3:16. I think there are better, stronger arguments to use.

For example, the Greek phrase commonly translated "All Scripture" is "pasa graphe." When the word pas/pasa/pan is used in the singular and the noun it modifies does not have the definite article, it is better translated "every." That's what we have here: Pasa is singular and there is no definite article. The phrase is better translated "every Scripture" rather than "all Scripture."

As a result, the focus is on each individual Scripture, not the totality of the Scriptures (also note that the NT speaks of "the Scriptures" in the plural when it wants to refer to them as a whole; then it speaks of just "the Scripture" in the singular, it means a particular book or passage of a book).

Because of the focus on each individual Scripture, if the passage had a "nothing else is required" meaning, it would mean that nothing else is required besides *each individual Scripture*, so you could do theology sola Matthew, sola Mark, or sola 3 John if you wanted to. You wouldn't need all of the books. Yet that clearly is preposterous, therefore, the passage simply does not have the "nothing else is required" meaning that the Protestant apologist is trying to squeeze into it.

James Akin

Catholic Answers


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