A number of years ago, Everett Kalin wrote a well-known doctoral dissertation arguing that the early church fathers did not see inspiration as something that was uniquely true of canonical books. Why? Because, according to Kalin, the early Church Fathers saw their own writings as inspired. Ever since, a number of scholars have repeated this claim (Sundberg, Allert, MacDonald, et al.), insisting that the early fathers saw nothing distinctive about the NT writings as compared to writings being produced in their own time period.
Well, despite the popularity of this position, I find it to be highly problematic. Indeed, my rebuttal will be the topic for the Sizemore Lectures this week (Feb 25-26) at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City. Moreover, my research on this topic will be a chapter in a multi-author volume on the NT canon, forthcoming with E.J. Brill.
Of course, there is not space here to lay out my full argument. But, here is a preview of my lectures:
Lecture #1: “Were the Church Fathers Inspired in the Same Way as Scripture?”
Kalin’s research was right about one thing, namely that early Christians did use inspiration-like language for sources outside the scriptural writings. It was not unusual, for example, for church fathers to claim that they were speaking or writing through the Holy Spirit.
But is such a phenomenon enough to warrant Kalin’s claim that there was no difference between the kind of inspiration present in the fathers and the kind of inspiration attributed to scriptural writings? I think not. In fact, several lines of evidence suggest church fathers used inspiration language in different ways, some of which was applicable to scripture and some of which was applicable to lower/lesser authorities. Consider the following: [Read more…]