Did Paul know he was writing scripture?

I was discussing Sola Scriptura with my wife, and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 was brought up. I told her that if Paul had been teaching Sola Scriptura at this point, we would have to throw out the entire New Testament, as only the Old Testament was scripture when Timothy was a child.

Her response was “What if Paul already knew that what he and others were writing would be scripture? He and Peter called each others writings scripture at points.”

I had no objection to this but I know it can’t be true. Do any of you know of a good response?

She’s the one claiming he was knowingly writing scripture. I’d make her prove her claim. Where does it say in the Bible that Paul wrote what he wrote knowing it would be scripture? Paul also calls his teachings traditions, so what would she make of that?

I’ll do that, but she’ll remain resistant. I’m having a rough time getting around her argument that scripture is sufficient to equip us for every good work.

Peter referred to Paul’s writings as Scripture, but then, as the first pope, he had the authority to do that. :slight_smile:

Scripture is sufficient in that it’s God word, all right, but it doesn’t mean it’s all we need. If that were the case, each of us could simply read the Bible and stay at home. No need for preachers and teachers. But I’m sure your wife believes what her pastor says and let’s herself be taught in Bible classes, yes?

Besides, no one verse is the end-all and be-all of Scripture. If that were the case we’d only need a handful of verses not the whole thing. But we do need the whole thing, and on balance the Bible doesn’t say it’s the sole arbiter of faith and morals. She is reading that into the verse, but it doesn’t say that.


minorsecond #1
Her response was “What if Paul already knew that what he and others were writing would be scripture? He and Peter called each others writings scripture at points.”

SCRIPTURES. (Etym. Latin scriptural, act of writing.).
Modern Catholic Dictionary
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The only way that we know that any writing is “Scripture” – is the Word of God – is precisely because the Catholic Church specifically founded by Christ “to teach all nations” declared certain writings, and no others, to be inspired by God, and teach no error. She gave the world the Sacred Scriptures by defining which books (writings), no more no less, are the Sacred Scriptures.

The books that actually are declared the inspired Word of God were authorized by Pope Damasus at a Council of Rome in 382, confirmed at the Councils of Hippo, 393, Carthage III 397, Carthage IV in 419 and canonised at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) – 46 books in the Old Testament, 27 books in the New Testament – clearly showing the authority of Christ’s Church, and culminating in the defined Canon of Sacred Scriptures at the Council of Trent.

Personally I think Paul simply wrote a bunch of letters, inspired by his intimate knowledge of the Son of God Whom he’d met and Whose light grew more and more brilliant within him over the years prior to beginning his ministry-as he pondered and was changed by the experience. Later he would overflow with that knowledge, tailoring it to address the specific needs at hand. The Church almost instantly recognized the inspired brilliance of those words -and the voice of God behind them.

The Akin article linked to is very good. The main thrust of it deals with how Paul’s letters tended to be MASSIVE in comparison to the average letter at the time. Put a sticky note next to a copy of Romans and you get the idea.

Maybe that works for Paul (maybe…). It doesn’t seem to work for the catholic letters, some of which are pretty darn short (albeit admittedly larger than the normal).

Even if it did, they still would not have known what they were doing the way we know it, inasmuch as they are part of “the Bible.” Anyway, what gives Peter or Paul or John or Luke (who was not an apostle) the authority to write this thing called “scripture?” What if I claimed to see the Lord and wrote some good moral admonitions? Why can’t that be included? Why wasn’t “The Shepherd of Hermas” included in Scripture? The apocryphal Gospels? Why did Luther decide he could throw a few books out? Why would Paul point to the oral tradition if it didn’t matter? Why did sola scriptura only become a thing in the 16th century? Etc.

Also, the Jewish canon wasn’t settled at that time. The crucial point in that discussion came at the Council of Jamnia, but if I remember correctly that didn’t settle everything.

One way to respond is to have her read the verses prior, starting at around v14…and here it is…

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

With V14, the meaning is totally different, ain’t it?

In 2 Tim 3:14 Paul tells Timothy to remain faithful to what he learned likely from his own mother and grandmother (1:5) and no doubt from Paul’s preaching, which earlier (2:2) he told Timothy to share orally with others who should in turn share it orally with yet others (also 1 Thess 1:8). After this in (3:15) he says “AND from infancy you have known the sacred scriptures” which could only refer to books of the OT. He follows (3:16) by telling Timothy that scripture is inspired and is suitable for teaching, etc. so that having both Paul’s teaching AND scripture (OT) he will be fully equipped (3:17). A few verses later (4:1-2) Paul charges Timothy to “proclaim the word . . . through teaching.”

I would ask her where does Scripture say that it is sufficient? Then explain that it doesn’t:

2Tim 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

Then I would define “profitable”:

affording profits : bringing or yielding benefits or gains : HELPFUL, LUCRATIVE, REMUNERATIVE, USEFUL he had an instinct for noting and retaining profitable detail— Audrey Barker cotton growing became increasingly profitable— American Guide Series: Louisiana the Press Conference T was a political innovation and a profitable one— Frances Perkins
synonyms see BENEFICIAL

and then define “sufficient” and clearly point out the difference between the terms.


Where does sufficient come from? Paul just says it’s profitable, while in the same letter exhorting him to keep to the traditions and teachings he received in person…

To claim that scripture is sufficient is itself an extra-Biblical tradition that’s at odd with other exhortations in the Bible.

Even if Paul did – what about the others?

Luke, for example, tells us why he was writing:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

He didn’t seem to think he was writing under God’s inspiration.

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