In my experience, your groups refer to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 more than any other Bible passage as a proof for sola Scriptura or “Bible-only” Christianity. This passage, you think, is the silver bullet, the cleanup hitter, the biblical proof of all proofs! The passage reads:
All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
You interpret the passage as, essentially, “The Bible is all Scripture, and the Bible alone contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness.” And as your most often-used proof for sola Scriptura or “Bible-only” Christianity, I will give it more attention than your others. (I’ve addressed your lesser-used passages here, here, and here.) Let us begin by addressing the full passage beginning from verse 14 through verse 17.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
To properly understand the passage, you will need to sedate your Protestant individualism; please try to think “Catholic-ly” and not “Private-ly”, contextually and not proof-textually, and with an open mind. The passage (vs. 14-17), not the proof-text that your group focuses on (vs. 16-17 only), is a literary unit that is comprised of seven parts. I will review each part of the passage, show how its very structure presupposes Catholic ecclesiastical order, show how the subject of the passage is not about Scripture, but salvation in Christ Jesus, and how it in no way supports sola Scriptura or “Bible-only” Christianity. I will then bring all of the passage’s parts back together, and hope that you are able to understand St. Paul’s message for the beauty that it truly is, and for the beauty that it truly reflects: that together, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition act in concert for the salvation of souls. And to best illustrate the passage, I will assign to each part a symbol (A through AA), which will expose the passage’s chiastic (symmetrical) structure of St. Paul’s words to St. Timothy, and which I think is a useful way to illustrate the elements and the apex of the passage. Continue reading