What does "tota scriptura" mean?

Tota scriptura, a Latin phrase, means "Scripture wholly" or "every part of Scripture." Some Christians use the phrase to contend that all of the Bible is as inspired by God as some of the Bible. In other words, the entire thing, all sixty-six books, every word, is from God. Nothing should be omitted. This is also called the plenary inspiration of the Bible.

Tota scriptura is a bit different from sola scriptura. Sola Sciptura claims that the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice, separate from any other historical, religious, or philosophical writings. Sola scriptura speaks to the Bible being the only inspired Word of God. It also claims the Bible is complete and therefore prohibits any addition to the Bible.

Tota Sciptura emphasizes that the entire Bible is God's Word and to be taken as a whole. Whereas sola scriptura keeps people from adding to the Bible, tota scriptura keeps people from subtracting from the Bible. The entire Bible, not just parts of it, is important. Tota scriptura and sola scriptura balance one another to keep us focused on the inspired sixty-six books of the Bible.

Some thinkers want to extract portions of the Bible they agree with, such as Thomas Jefferson who constructed his own Bible from parts of the Gospels. Others want to add what they call divinely inspired or delivered words to the Bible, such as the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). In contemporary, Western culture, many want to keep the parts of the Bible about faith and religion, but toss out the parts that address science.

When people pick and choose what portions of the Bible they'd like to adopt and what parts they just don't or won't agree with, they are putting themselves in a position of authority above the Bible's author—God Himself. The principles of tota scriptura and sola scriptura help keep us from mishandling God's Word.

Paul addressed this issue in Acts 20:26–27: "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." The idea of the "whole counsel of God" is the same as tota scriptura. We do not choose bits and pieces that are to our liking, but rely on the entirety of Scripture. All of us have favorite portions of the Bible, but we cannot ignore the rest of it. We should strive to allow the Bible to judge and transform us, not the other way around.

Proverbs 30:5 says that "Every word of God proves true …" That is tota scriptura.

Related Truth:

What does "sola scriptura" mean?

What is meant by the sufficiency of Scripture? How is the Bible sufficient?

Why should we study the Bible?

Which parts of the Bible apply to us today? How can we know?

What sort of influence should the Bible have on society?

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