Pauline Epistles.Attributed to Paul or not?

This form of argumentation strikes me as very similar to the people who think that scientific consensus doesn’t matter and that everything they don’t intuitively “agree” with, is open to their own (usually not expert) renegotiation. That gets you to views that are not science. Similarly with theology, there is a process the church has engaged in both to receive theological knowledge (and that involves ways of knowing that are spiritual, not just rational) and to come to consensus. If any individual thinks that he or she can just renegotiate the consensus for themselves, that strikes me as more hubris than virtue. And I think it leads to places that are not orthodox theology and not truth. Theology is no more closed to new interpretations than science is, but there is a process for challenging consensus and it isn’t something people do outside of an established community. So more power to the Christians involved in theological and biblical scholarship. But let’s not conflate everyone with Logos on their computer with a biblical scholar and every personal conclusion with a legitimate challenge.


That’s fine. You don’t want to take my position seriously that’s up to you. I understand that you have no reason to take me seriously and can easily sweep me aside as some dude on the internet (maybe using Logos).

I will state that my position isn’t idiosyncratic (it may be a minority in today’s world I don’t know). I don’t see any substantial difference between my basic position and those of John Goldingay and N. T. Wright.

N. T. Wright summarizes his stance like this,

“[W]ithout history there is no guarantee that the church will not reinvent yet more Jesus figures, which turn out to be projections or embodiments of this or that ideology.
That remains my worry about the appeal to canon or tradition over history. I believe in canon, and I believe in the Holy Spirit. But history has shown again and again that the church is well capable of misreading canon, and that tradition can drift in many directions, some less than helpful, some decidedly destructive. To appeal to tradition and dogma as the framework for understanding Jesus is to say that not only the entire enterprise of biblical scholarship but also the entire Reformation has been a mistake.”

Jesus Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright, p. 122

John Goldingay provocatively summarizes his position in the title of a chapter in Do we need the New Testament?. The title of the chapter is “Theological Interpretation: Don’t be Christ Centered, Don’t be Trinitarian, Don’t be Constrained by the Rule of Faith”

I am not saying that X said it therefore I am correct. I am just pointing out that I am not alone in my approach whether right or wrong.

Thank you for your concern.

To be clear, I’m not objecting to your position on canonicity per se, I’m objecting to the idea that every individual is in a position to critically evaluate and renegotiate things the church has already authoritatively decided.

N.T. write produces scholarship, which is evaluated by a scholarly community, and some of which has changed consensus. I’m all for that. But like I said, that is not done in isolation and it is done in one area of expertise at a time. N.T. Wright has certainly not personally re-litigated and validated every historic teaching of the church.


Of course every individual is not equipped to do so. We can’t stop people from doing so however. People will do whatever it is they do.

No but I don’t there’s anything in principle to stop him from doing so. This is my primary point and position. If I found that there were reasonable grounds to doubt something I don’t mind looking into it. I’m not saying everyone has to or should.

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Somewhat of a tangent, but that can lead to problems, as you know. I have been in discussion with some who advocate house churches, and while agreeing that they are attractive on many accounts, they also lead to people going off into false teachings and weird theology, as there is a lack of accountability and a disdain for formal education of the leaders in many cases. With Covid, I expect home churches to grow more, but just from experience in our own community can see how easy it is for them to get off track.


Yeah, because it was pretty much known as a forgery.

We actually know a lot. Nobody is shutting down critical inquiry. Believe what you wish.

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Inspiration was not a criterion for canonicity, and the early church leaders considered many writings inspired which were not included in the canon.

“It will have been noticed that in the preceding discussion concerning criteria used by early Christians in discerning the limits of the canon, nothing was said concerning inspiration. Though this silence may at first sight seem to be strange, the reason for it arises from the circumstance that, while the Fathers certainly agreed that the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments were inspired, they did not seem to have regarded inspiration as the ground of the Bible’s uniqueness.”

Excerpt From
The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance
Bruce M Metzger

This material may be protected by copyright.

I agree that there are multiple canons from which a believer can choose, and I think it is unreasonable and irresponsible just to take the first one that you are shown and embrace it to the exclusion of all others.

On the other hand, it appears to be overly bold and divisive to declare that every church group got it wrong and to create a new, personal canon.

So I think choosing a canon from the several accepted historical options is reasonable.

In all the extant, accepted canons, the fundamentals of the faith are evident.

We went over this ground and debated whether Metzger is correct ad nausium here:

And here:

Unless there is some new insight to be gained, do we really need to dig up those bodies all over again? :see_no_evil:

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Because Tristan wasn’t part of the earlier conversation, if I recall correctly.

Sure, perhaps next time consider directing a user to a quote/post in the original discussion.* That way they can read your post/quote in context, and others thoughts/comments about it too. If said user then feels they have something of value to add they can ask a mod to reopen the thread. This helps prevent old discussions from being infinitely rehashed (especially those that are likely to produce more heat than light) whilst also preventing new discussions from going off-topic. :slight_smile:

*This really isn’t all that arduous since the search function on the forum is very, very good. In most cases, one can search for the post and link to it quicker than they can find a quote on their computer and paste it into their reply.

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Here is a little more background:

“It will have been noticed that in the preceding discussion concerning criteria used by early Christians in discerning the limits of the canon, nothing was said concerning inspiration. Though this silence may at first sight seem to be strange, the reason for it arises from the circumstance that, while the Fathers certainly agreed that the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments were inspired, they did not seem to have regarded inspiration as the ground of the Bible’s uniqueness. That is, the inspiration they ascribe to the Scriptures was only one facet of the inspiring activity of the Holy Spirit in many aspects of the Church’s life.7 For example, while Clement of Rome speaks of the sacred Scriptures (here referring to the Old Testament) as ‘true and given through the Holy Spirit’ (lxiii. 2), the author of the Epistle to Diognetus writes for his own part to his correspondent: ‘If you do not offend this grace, you will learn what the Word (λόγος) talks about through those through whom he wishes to talk, when he pleases. For whatever we have been moved painstakingly to utter by the will of the Word that commands us, it is out of love for the things revealed to us that we come to share them with you’ (xi. 7–8). Among the writings of Eusebius there is a sermon attributed to the Emperor Constantine; whether or not this attribution is correct, the preacher clearly does not consider inspiration to be confined only to the Scriptures. He begins his sermon with the prayer, ‘May the mighty inspiration of the Father and of his Son … be with me in speaking these things’ (Orat. Const. 2).

Not only do early ecclesiastical writers view themselves to be, in some degree at least, inspired, but also others affirm, in a rather broad sense, the inspiration of their predecessors, if not their contemporaries. In a letter that Augustine addressed to Jerome, the bishop of Hippo goes so far as to say (Epist. lxxxii. 2) not only that Jerome has been favoured with the divine grace, but also that he writes under the dictation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritu Sancto)—which may seem to be rather strong hyperbole applied to the often irascible Jerome. That Gregory the Great enjoyed the reputation of being inspired is easier to understand than is the case of Jerome, and Gregory’s biographer, Paul the Deacon, describes how the Holy Spirit, ‘under the form of a dove whiter than snow’, would explain to him the mysteries of Scripture (Vita S. Gregorii, 28).

That the early Church saw the inspiration of the Scriptures as but one aspect of a much broader activity of inspiration is clear from the use made of the word θεόπνενστος (‘divinely inspired’). This word, which is used in the affirmation that ‘all Scripture is given by inspiration of God’ (2 Tim. iii. 16), is chosen by Gregory of Nyssa in referring to his brother Basil’s commentary on the first six days of creation as an ‘exposition given by inspiration of God … [admired] no less than the words composed by Moses himself (Hexaemeron, proem.). The same word is used also in a synodical epistle from the Council of Ephesus to describe the council’s condemnation of Nestorius as ‘a decision given by inspiration of God’. Indeed, a still later writer even describes the epitaph on the grave of Bishop Abercius ‘as a commemorative inscription inspired of God’ (Vila Abercii 76). Thus, the Fathers do not hesitate to refer to non-Scriptural documents as ‘inspired’, a circumstance showing that they did not consider inspiration to be a unique characteristic of canonical writings. (See p. 211 n. 6 above.)

The same impression is conveyed when we examine patristic usage of the designation ‘non-inspired’. While the Fathers again and again use the concept of inspiration in reference to the Scriptures, they seldom describe non-Scriptural writings as non-“inspired. When, in fact, such a distinction is made, the designation ‘non-inspired’ is found to be applied to false and heretical writings, not to orthodox products of the Church’s life. In other words, the concept of inspiration was not used in the early Church as a basis of designation between canonical and non-canonical orthodox Christian writings.

In short, the Scriptures, according to the early Fathers, are indeed inspired, but that is not the reason they are authoritative. They are authoritative, and hence canonical, because they are the extant literary deposit of the direct and indirect apostolic witness on which the later witness of the Church depends.”

Excerpt From

The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance

Bruce M Metzger

This material may be protected by copyright…

Vance, this is not really a helpful tangent. No one said that inspiration was a criteria for inclusion in the canon. Canonicity is important in many people’s mind when thinking about inspiration. So, if a letter or book was hotly debated as to its place in the canon, some people consider it potentially “less inspired” than those Scriptures that were readily accepted as canonical by everyone.


I do think it is helpful to consider, in discussing canonicity, that the opinion of “less inspired” is a modern thought and appears not to have been a factor in the setting of the various canons.


I cannot say that the results of the assessment of scholarship on the likelihood of Paul’s authorship of the epistles greatly displease me. The epistles I like most are all classified as undisputed and the ones I dislike are in the disputed category. But I generally do not see much point in mentioning this authorship issue in the discussion of these epistles because it cannot change the fact of the canon by which Christianity has given authority to these as scripture.


To my knowledge, the early church since the 2nd century acknowledged all the letters of Paul to be taken as Scripture.

Scripture simply means writings. In the first and second century, the term referred to sacred as well as secular writings. Sometimes that distinction is lost in modern communication.

I think you mean “sacred scripture.”

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