From "Answers To Your Bible Version Questions" ©2003 by David W. Daniels.
Reproduced by permission
Question: Why does the KJV translate "theopneustos" in 2 Ti. 3:16 as "inspired" rather than "God-breathed"? "God-breathed" is a more literal and accurate translation, it seems to me, as per the NIV. Any thoughts?
Answer: You are close, but not quite correct. The KJV correctly translates theopneustos as “given by inspiration of God,” not "inspired." Here's the verse:
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Simply because pneustos could be translated “breathed” does not mean it should be translated that way. The King James Bible gives the accurate meaning of the word. What did God do? Did He breathe the scriptures onto scrolls? No, but He inspired every word that His specially chosen people wrote. The word “inspired” (Latin for “in-breathed,” similar to pneustos) is more easily understood. Here is Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary for example:
INSPIRA'TION, n. [L. inspiro.]
1. The act of drawing air into the lungs; the inhaling of air; a branch of respiration, and opposed to expiration.
2. The act of breathing into any thing.
3. The infusion of ideas into the mind by the Holy Spirit; the conveying into the minds of men, ideas, notices or monitions by extraordinary or supernatural influence; or the communication of the divine will to the understanding by suggestions or impressions on the mind, which leave no room to doubt the reality of their supernatural origin.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 2 Timothy 3.
4. The infusion of ideas or directions by the supposed deities of pagans.
5. The infusion or communication of ideas or poetic spirit, by a superior being or supposed presiding power; as the inspiration of Homer or other poet.
When we call a book “inspired” we mean it is special, as if some spirit (or God) put the great ideas in the author’s mind. When it is “given by inspiration of God,” we easily understand the unique meaning. God put the truth into the minds and writing hands of the authors of the Bible.
The best translation is one that gives the clear sense of what God said. The King James Bible does just that. All scripture is “given by inspiration of God.” That’s what God meant, clearly expressed in English.
May God bless you as you trust and understand what God said and preserved perfectly in English in the King James Bible.