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Unread 04-20-2017, 02:51 PM   #1
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Did The NT Authors Know They Were Writing Scripture?

I saw this in my Facebook feed this morning. It got me to thinking. What do you all think?

Did New Testament Authors See Their Writings as Inspired?

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Unread 04-20-2017, 03:23 PM   #2
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I don't think so. I think they were just writing stuff down and that stuff ended up being placed into the canon of scripture. Most of Paul's writings were just letters to churches. Luke wrote his gospel, but Acts was likely written as a court defense for Paul. I doubt any of it was intended to become Scripture by the writers.

But, FWIW, I think the only person who knew what they were writing was intended to be "scripture" was Moses when he wrote (at least the majority of) the Pentateuch.
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Unread 04-20-2017, 03:33 PM   #3
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I don't think so. I think they were just writing stuff down and that stuff ended up being placed into the canon of scripture. Most of Paul's writings were just letters to churches. Luke wrote his gospel, but Acts was likely written as a court defense for Paul. I doubt any of it was intended to become Scripture by the writers.

But, FWIW, I think the only person who knew what they were writing was intended to be "scripture" was Moses when he wrote (at least the majority of) the Pentateuch.
Do you believe they knew they were being inspired by the Holy Spirit while writing?
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Unread 04-20-2017, 04:53 PM   #4
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This seems like one of those enduring questions.

I lean towards 'no'. I'd expect them to have been a little better taken care of if that was the case! (Thinking of the probability of 2 Corinth. being two separate letters excised and mashed together).

It also would have been nice if they had been a bit more clear. Especially Peter. He was a pretty sucky writer.
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Unread 04-21-2017, 10:06 AM   #5
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Perhaps a better question would be to ask the same question of the prophets of the OT, and then see whether the NT writers were of a similar mind. That is, maybe we should work from paradigm cases, where it is clear that they were self-conscious that they were carried along by the Holy Spirit and that they were writing Scripture.

Like Micah and Jeremiah seem to be self-conscious of it. They mention receiving a word from the Lord, or an oracle.

Revelation (John) might have been self-conscious to a similar degree as Ezekiel and Daniel.

Ezra/Nehemiah seems to be self-conscious, but to a far lesser degree. Matthew and Mark seem to be just as self-conscious as Ezra/Nehemiah.

Does genre matter for determining this? Because, like, we notice that we don't really have a Psalms or Proverbs analogue in the NT; likewise, we don't have a letter/epistle analogue in the OT. Are these reasons to think they were not self-conscious of their act of Scripture writing because the genre seems so informal to us? That might be steering our intuitions.

Okay, now, an entirely separate question: did any of the authors recognize that they were carried along by the Holy Spirit in a special way as they wrote? I think yes. Does that guarantee that they meant to be writing Scripture? Some yes, some it is quite debatable.
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Unread 04-21-2017, 12:07 PM   #6
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This isn't an enduring question or a hard one. Ignorance and unbelief are what perpetuate it, not ambiguity in the New Testament. I find it depressing to see theological questions answered in this forum over and over by people who don't even bother to consult the Scriptures. If you want to know what the apostles thought, why not look at what they've told us they think? Remember the words of the Lord to Job's friends in Job 42:7-8.

At least Paul and John declare in clear terms that they are conveying in writing the very message which they have received from God, which puts them unambiguously in the realm of declaring that their words are to be equated with the same types of message in the Old Testament, namely, the prophets:

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5 ESV)

If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. (1 Corinthians 14:37-38 ESV)

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3 ESV)


At least Peter and Luke clearly state that the words of the apostles, written down, are words from God:

just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, (Luke 1:2 ESV)

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16 ESV)


John's gospel quotes Peter saying that Jesus "has the words of life," and then states that he has written his account in order that the reader may believe in Jesus and thereby find life. This is not an explicit statement that he is conscious of writing Scripture, but taken with 1 John and Revelation, points us to that awareness.

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, (John 6:68 ESV)

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 ESV)


This is all to be expected, since the prophets (including Moses) knew exactly what they were writing down. Why would it be surprising at all that the apostles knew they were writing Scripture?

One might object regarding Johannine or Petrine authorship, but that misses the point on three counts: First, 1 Thess and 1 Cor are indisputably Pauline and early; second, there's no actually decent argument against apostolic authorship for any NT document that claims apostolic authorship; and third, the continuity of thought, from Paul & Luke (Luke calls the words of the apostles the message of the ministers of the word) through Revelation shows no deviation from the earliest to the latest documents. The NT authors were as self-conscious as Moses.

I said in the beginning that ignorance and unbelief are what perpetuate this misconception. Ignorance, because people don't actually know what the NT writers say about their own writings. This would be a shameful accusation for people claiming to be knowledgeable of the Word. Unbelief, because it suits our vices to insert doubt into the narrative concerning the authorship and formulation of the canon. These two often go hand-in-hand, a reality most clearly seen in the fact that I can spend hundreds of hours in careful study of a book in the Bible, and spend a week away, and when I return to that same book, it's as if large chunks of the knowledge I had carefully cultivated vanished like the dew. The old man does not want to be taught - a fool despises instruction. I've discussed this fact with many pastors and they report the same phenomenon. Again and again, when I turn back to the book that I had previously been studying, I find that my own sin is laid bare in precisely the places where I have set that knowledge aside. In unbelief, we drift back into ignorance.
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Unread 04-21-2017, 12:33 PM   #7
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Ignorance and unbelief?

Geez. That was a bit harsh, and maybe a little rude as well.
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Unread 04-21-2017, 01:35 PM   #8
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Aaron: That's actually a fair critique.

As soon as this discussion comes up, I immediately thought of the 2 Peter quotation you gave, which Peter asserts that Paul was writing Scripture. There is no reason not to accept that all of the works attributed to Paul in our a canon are Scripture. But it does not answer whether Paul was aware of it while in the act, or that Peter was aware that his claim was Scripture.

But I think my wording, with intentional verbal parallel with 2 Peter 1:21, was to shift the discussion on the process of Scripture creating.

16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”
18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
19And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,
20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.
21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

(emphasis mine)

So, Scripture arises not by people later picking which ones they thought to include, but by the act of the Holy Spirit writing through men in a special way, as if they were an instrument. (Fallible analogy: the Holy Spirit blows into his instrument, but through whom he uses, there are characteristics that emerge unique to the instrument, whether a flute or a trumpet -- in the same act we can say that the Holy Spirit and the instrument made the notes of music)

Since the Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God and inspires in a manner as I have described above, we can expect simultaneously that the Scriptures have an extension of meaning greater than the human author alone and that the full significance of the Scripture may be only partially revealed to the prophet.

For this reason, I am quite willing to say that the author is cognizant of the Holy Spirit's working, but it is at least debatable in some cases that the author was not fully aware that it was to be considered for canon-inclusion. (Is it a category mistake to frame it this way?)

[edit]
P.S. Methodologically, I am taking the canon as what we have received from God, handed down by the church. As such, it is correct, self-attesting, and to be taken as Scripture --God's word. Thus, whatever account we are giving, it is to give an explanation for this bedrock claim. Faith that the Bible we have is Scripture, seeking understanding why it is the case. As such, I am interested in showing something that is true why it is true, but not interested in making a case that it is true with no prior commitments or being open to establishing that it is not the case. That is effectively to set up on a different foundation.
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Last edited by athanatos; 04-21-2017 at 02:46 PM.
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Unread 04-21-2017, 02:48 PM   #9
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This talk by Greg Beale is pretty good.

https://vimeo.com/75801356 - "The Cognitive Peripheral Vision of the Biblical Writers"

It touches on this topic.
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Unread 04-21-2017, 03:49 PM   #10
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Taylor, I'm sorry for sounding harsh.
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Unread 04-21-2017, 07:04 PM   #11
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Ted, I'm glad you expounded! I guess I had never thought about this topic, but I'm enjoying chewing on it and what you're saying.
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Unread 05-28-2017, 10:28 PM   #12
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On some level they had to know.
Partly I base that on Peter referring to Paul's writings as scripture
(2 Peter 3:15-16)
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Unread 05-29-2017, 02:17 PM   #13
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In the NT God reveals that Abraham, Moses, David, and others had a much more profound understanding of their prophetic and mediatorial ministry than is apparent if you think of them as strictly time-bound, culture-bound individuals with little to no understanding of how their words would be understood later, let alone the nature of the Messiah or the heavenly kingdom to come.

Abraham, though he walked the borders of the promised land, knew that his inheritance was not some hunk of land in the Levant, but rather a city in heaven, built by God himself.

Heb 11 "13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."

That is, Abraham's faith seems anachronistic, since how much could he have understood about the heavenly kingdom and eternal reward? It is clear that the passage says that Abraham's faith was so engendered with confidence that conquest of earth was not the punchline, that he looked forward to the city in the new heavens and new earth. I presume that he could *not* have had this information apart from divine revelation.

David prophesied about Christ's resurrection

Acts 2:29-32 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, band of that we all are witnesses." (apostle's commentary on Psalm 16)

That is, Peter says that David knew Christ would be raised from the dead, about 1000 years before it happened.

Here's one that makes my head spin: going back to what I quoted above, it appears that Peter regarded Scripture as more sure or more reliable than his own eye-witness experience of Christ's transfiguration. (2 Peter 1) If this is evident as I think it is, then the huge import for our discussion is that we ought to have an extremely high view of the prophet's ministry and self-conscious understanding of their writing:
2 Peter 1:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,9 with whom I am well pleased,”
18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain
19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention has to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.
21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.


That is, he claims
  • He was an eyewitness to what he is claiming, not just passing on stories he was told; moreover, he confirms the Synoptic Gospel accounts
  • But even if eye witness testimony were not enough, Scripture is of greater importance. Scripture is even more "confirmed"; alternative translations... NIV: "We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable"; NASB: "So we have the prophetic word made more sure"; KJV: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy"; YLT: "And we have more firm the prophetic word"). That is, insofar as eyewitness may be reliable, it doesn't trump Scripture, which is more certain.*
  • Scriptural prophecy is not merely man's interpretation and writing; the nature (or what is characteristic) of Scripture is its sui generis source.
  • ...Which, in particular, is its divine source. Namely, prophecy is effectively God speaking. It is (a) Not produced by the will of man, (b) Bur rather God speaking, (c) and thus man's prophetic speech is prophetic only insofar as it is a process of being "carried" by God
  • Yet men obvious wrote the texts. So, either they wrote blind, or they understood the meaning from a partial-disclosed divine perspective. It is implausible that they wrote blind (as is evident from Abraham and David examples I gave above), so they had a self-conscious experience in which they were aware of what God meant for the text.

* one might take issue with my reading, arguing that Scripture is not actually as certain as first-hand experience, because the the experience of the transfiguration actually confirms the Scripture, not the other way around. If so, Peter would be claiming something about how his experience confirms the prophetic word. If so, then he need to be confirming either the Gospels (which means the dating of writing would be pretty darn early, and that he regarded the gospels as Scripture), or the OT Scriptures prophesying the transfiguration (of which I know not any) or perhaps Christ's glorious ministry (which, I guess, the OT has plenty of reference). But supposing this were true, then we have another case in which we should take Scriptures to be confirmed, reliable, and authoritative regarding the truth. Peter in this case has no low view of prophecy, but rather all the more reason to take it as God's word -- Jesus himself testifies that the Scriptures have God as their source, not merely that God appropriated certain texts for his purposes later, irrespective of the prophetic speech in history.

In any case, the kai at the beginning of v19 is probably exegetically significant.
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Last edited by athanatos; 05-30-2017 at 08:43 AM.
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