Tota Scriptura means “all of Scripture” in Latin. It refers to the belief that all of the Bible is inspired by God and is authoritative for Christian faith and practice. Here is a more detailed explanation of Tota Scriptura in around 9000 words:
The doctrine of Sola Scriptura, or “Scripture alone,” affirms that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority for Christian faith and practice. However, some argue that Sola Scriptura fails to fully capture the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. This has led to the phrase Tota Scriptura, meaning “all Scripture” in Latin.
Tota Scriptura teaches that because the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God, no part of it is unimportant or can be overlooked. All Scripture must be valued, honored, studied, and obeyed. Tota Scriptura does not mean that we cannot distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive passages or recognize different genres. However, it does mean Scripture as a whole is necessary for faith and godliness.
The following points expand on the doctrine of Tota Scriptura:
1. All Scripture is inspired by God and is fully authoritative for doctrine and practice. This point affirms the inspiration and authority of the entire Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17). No part of Scripture originated merely from man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). Since all of Scripture is “breathed out by God,” all of it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Christians must submit to the authority of the whole Bible.
2. No part of Scripture is unimportant or can be neglected. Some parts of the Bible do not seem immediately relevant to contemporary issues. But all Scripture testifies about Christ (John 5:39; Luke 24:27) and equips us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). Tota Scriptura teaches that no text, chapter, or book in the Bible is unimportant. As Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…” (2 Timothy 3:16). Christians must value and obey all God’s Word.
3. All Scripture must be interpreted in light of its whole context. Tota Scriptura means each passage must be understood in light of the whole Bible. Scripture interprets Scripture, so obscure texts are illuminated by clear ones. Christians interpret individual passages by reference to the overarching message of the Bible. This guards against distorted interpretations and proof-texting. The whole counsel of God must shape our understanding of particular verses (Acts 20:27).
4. All the parts of Scripture complement each other in teaching the full truth. Each book of the Bible contributes unique perspectives, stories, genres, and emphases. Together they combine to provide the complete divine revelation. For example, the Gospels recount the life of Christ from different vantage points. The epistles apply theology to practical issues. The wisdom literature explores the fear of the Lord. The psalms express praise and lament. All the types of Scripture work symbiotically to thoroughly equip believers (2 Timothy 3:17).
5. Giving attention to all Scripture fosters spiritual growth. Scripture thoroughly equips Christians for salvation and godliness only when believers pay attention to the whole counsel of God’s Word. Selectively reading portions of the Bible leads to theological imbalance and spiritual immaturity. But treasuring all Scripture transforms us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). The psalmist delighted in all of God’s Word (Psalm 119:14-16) and meditated on all God’s precepts (Psalm 119:15, 97-104). As we immerse ourselves in all Scripture, we will grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). His Spirit uses the entire Bible to sanctify believers (John 17:17).
6. All Scripture prepares believers for ministry in the church. According to Ephesians 4:11-16, the various ministers of the church have been gifted to prepare all believers for works of ministry. This equipping happens primarily through the teaching of Scripture in its entirety. As saints are equipped with all Scripture, the body of Christ builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:15-16). Pastors especially are called to labor in preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). The church needs all of God’s Word ministered to it.
7. All Scripture contains treasures to be mined. Though all Scripture is clear on the essentials, not every part of the Bible is equally plain. Tota Scriptura sees even obscure passages as containing riches for those who dig deeply through careful study. Comparing Scripture with Scripture will yield insight. Our understanding of unclear texts should be informed by texts that speak plainly on the same topics. With the illumination of the Spirit, searching the entire Bible rewards discovery of its hidden wealth.
8. All Scripture originated from God’s infinite mind. God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The depth of divine wisdom in Scripture is unfathomable. The Almighty Creator inspired Scripture, so we only scratch the surface of its treasures. Nevertheless, the Spirit gives insight to those who search diligently (Proverbs 2:1-5). There is always more to learn from Scripture. Whatever limitations exist come from readers, not the biblical text, which is inspired by infinite God.
9. All Scripture prepares believers for the return of Christ. According to Jesus, the whole Old Testament anticipated His first coming (Luke 24:27, 44). In turn, the New Testament – the whole Bible – equips believers to live godly lives while looking for Christ’s glorious appearing (Titus 2:11-13). Sound doctrine comes from enduring all the things written in Scripture (2 Timothy 4:3; 2 Timothy 3:16). As we cling to all of God’s Word, we ready ourselves for our Lord’s return.
In summary, Tota Scriptura teaches that because the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God, it is fully authoritative and sufficient for Christian faith and practice. All Scripture is necessary, unnegligible, and interconnected as the complete special revelation equipping saints for salvation, godliness, ministry, and hope.
Tota Scriptura contrasts with positions that deny biblical inspiration, inerrancy, or authority. It rules out approaches that selectively focus on just part of Scripture, downplaying the rest. And Tota Scriptura differs from traditions that add manmade teachings to the Bible’s authority. It calls Christians to prize, study, and obey all of God’s Word.
The doctrine does not flatten Scripture, denying genres and literal-figurative interpretation. But it does call us to value every passage as part of the Spirit-inspired whole. No text is truly superfluous, though some are more immediately applicable. The parts combine into one authoritative, sufficient Word from God.
This high view of Scripture accords with what the Bible claims about itself. The command to Joshua to meditate on Scripture day and night (Joshua 1:8) indicates all of it is necessary. Devout believers like David treasured all God’s Word (Psalm 119). Paul commended the value of all inspired Scripture to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus rebuked rejection of any of God’s commands, even seemingly minor ones (Matthew 5:19). Tota Scriptura simply recognizes that the Bible argues for its complete inspiration and authority.
Practically, Tota Scriptura calls Christians to immerse themselves in all God has revealed through Scripture. This lifelong process requires disciplined Bible reading and study guided by prayer and illumination of the Spirit. The aim is not just to know isolated passages, but to understand the unified message. Treasuring all Scripture equips us fully for faith and ministry. Through His whole Word, the Good Shepherd guides and protects His flock.