Sometimes, even in the academic world, things get said so many times that people assume they are true. And when that happens, no one bothers to look at the historical evidence in a fresh way.
One example, which is fairly routine these days, is to assert that the New Testament authors certainly did not think they were writing Scripture, nor had any awareness of their own authority. Mark Allan Powell, in his New Testament introduction, affirms this view plainly, “The authors of our New Testament books did not know that they were writing scripture.” Gamble takes the same approach, “None of the writings which belong to the NT was composed as scripture…[they] were written for immediate and practical purposes within the early churches, and only gradually did they come to be valued and to be spoken of as ‘scripture’.”
Now, from one perspective, I understand what these authors are trying to say. Certainly none of the NT authors wrote with an awareness of a 27 book canon and understood their place in it. They could not have fully foreseen the shape and scope of this collection. But, these scholars imply that there was no authoritative intent when the NT authors wrote—and that is a very different thing.
But, is it true that the NT authors had no awareness of their own authority? I think not. The NT authors show evidence that they understood their writings to contain authoritative apostolic tradition. Since the apostles were commissioned by Christ to speak for him, and were empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so, then these writings would have borne the authority of Christ himself.
Thus, whether we call these books “Scripture” is a bit beside the point. To the earliest Christians, they were “the word of God.”
Now, in a blog post such as this we can hardly work through each book of the NT (nor would we need to do so in order to establish the overall point). So, we will offer a brief comment on a few select passages: [Read more…]