Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Plenary inspiration

Sceptics sometimes point out that many Bible writers don’t claim to be inspired. The standard reply is 2 Tim 3:16.

But while this is fine as far as it goes, reliance on 2 Tim 3:16 can cause us to overlook other lines of evidence.

1. Paul makes a number of lofty claims about his apostolic authority. Why don’t the other apostles make similar claims?

The reason that Paul emphasizes his apostolic authority because he’s something of an outsider. He has to establish his credentials. He’s often under fire.

The only reason the other apostles don’t speak the same way about themselves is not because they have a lower view of their office, but because they don’t have much occasion to defend themselves within the church. Their apostolic authority is rarely challenged.

2. Moreover, there are more oblique ways in which an apostle might claim to be inspired.

i) Jn 14-16 carries an implicit claim of inspiration for the Forth Gospel.

ii) The Apocalypse, with its inscriptional curse (Rev 22:19), is self-consciously written in the tradition of Moses (with everything that implies).

3. NT writers don’t generally make an explicit claim to inspiration because they aren’t starting from scratch. Rather, they have the literary precedent of the OT. They are self-conscious heirs of the OT. They are already writing in a traditional, scriptural genre.

4. Here’s another line of evidence:

i) Many OT writers don’t explicitly claim to be inspired. Yet we know how NT writers treat OT writers. NT writers are very promiscuous in their appeal to the OT. They quote, cite, or allude to all parts of the OT, regardless of the author or genre. They treat all parts as equally normative. It’s absolutely authoritative throughout. It’s sufficient to quote any OT passage to settle an argument (assuming your interpretation is correct). So the plenary inspiration of the OT is the presupposition undergirding the NT appeal to the OT.

ii) A more explicit example of the same pattern is the way in which the author of Hebrews cites the OT. He attributes any OT statement to God, even if a human writer was the immediate speaker.

iii) The NT is analogous to the OT. It uses some analogous genres (e.g. historical narrative). And the NT writers have analogous roles to OT writers. For example, an Apostle is midway between a covenant mediator (e.g. Moses) and a prophet (e.g. Isaiah). Likewise, Luke is the equivalent of the Chronicler.

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