Written by: Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.
Historians and scholars raise a lot of questions as to just when the New Testament writings became recognized as authoritative Scripture by Christians – some say this council and some another. However, the New Testament itself leaves little doubt that they were recognized as such from their beginning.
The word “Scripture(s)” is in 52 verses in the New Testament. In all but one it is from graphe, defined by Strong as “a document, i.e. holy Writ (or its contents or a statement in it):– scripture.” In most of these references the context shows that only Old Testament writings are meant. However, there are other cases where it is clear that the New Testament writings are included. Then there are cases where it may not be as clear, but we cannot rule out that New Testament writings may have been included.
Peter recognized the writings of Paul as Scriptures along with the others:
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15-16 KJV) (Italics mine – EOB)
Paul quoted both Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 as Scripture:
“For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” (1 Timothy 5:18 KJV). (Italics mine – EOB)
In view of these passages, I don’t see how one can say, with any degree of confidence, that some other references to “Scripture” did not also include the contemporary writings of the apostles and New Testament prophets.
Not only did Peter include the epistles of Paul as Scripture, it is quite reasonable to think that the “other Scriptures” included other New Testament writings as well. When Paul said that “all Scripture” is inspired of God it is more than likely that New Testament writings are included (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul even told the Corinthians up front that his writings to them were to be considered as the “the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37), giving them the authority of Scripture.
When Paul wrote of “according to the Scriptures,” in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, why could he have not been referring to both Old and New Testament writings? There is no doubt that there are Old Testament prophecies, rightly understood, referring to the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah, but given the fact that Paul in another place includes New Testament writings in his term, “Scriptures,” it is not beyond reason to think that least some of the gospel accounts would be included in the term.
At any rate, all of this shows that the New Testament writings were recognized immediately as being Holy Scriptures rather than many years after the death of the Apostles as many affirm. It also shows that the term “Scripture” in the New Testament is not limited to the Old Testament unless demanded by the context.
So, we can be confident that when we call for patterning our faith and practice after the writings of the apostles and prophets (cf. Ephesians 3:5) that we are on good and solid ground, rather than what “the church” may have done or taught years after the last apostle or prophet died. When they died the “canon” was closed. Also Jude, among the last of the New Testament writers, declared that “the faith” had once for all been delivered to the saints. (Jude 3).