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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are the Right Books in the New Testament?

Don Stewart :: Does the New Testament Ever Quote Itself as Authoritative Scripture?

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Does the New Testament Ever Quote Itself as Authoritative Scripture?

Are the Right Books in the New Testament? – Question 3

Yes. On two separate occasions we find one part of the New Testament quoting another part of the New Testament as authoritative Scripture. On the first occasion, we have Peter recognizing Paul, while on the second occasion we find Paul quoting Luke.

1. Peter Recognizes Paul as Writing Scripture

Peter recognized the writings of the Apostle Paul as Holy Scripture. He wrote the following to the believers:

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, 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)

This statement of Peter tells us several things.

First there were a number of Paul’s letters that were circulating. Peter speaks of his “letters.” While he does not give the exact number of these letters, they were circulating as a group.

Second, these writings of Paul were well-known by Peter and the other believers. The fact that he could speak of these letters to his audience in this particular way assumes that they were familiar with them.

Third, Peter placed these writings of Paul on the same level as the Old Testament Scripture. He used the Greek word graphe to refer to Paul’s writings. This Greek word is used fifty-one times in the New Testament, and it refers to the Old Testament writings in every other occurrence. Consequently, “Scripture” was a technical term that the New Testament used to refer to God’s authoritative writings.

2. Paul Quotes the Gospel of Luke as Scripture

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he quoted a passage from Luke and called it “Scripture.”

We read the following passage:

For the Scripture says, “Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!” (1 Timothy 5:18 NLT)

There are two verses that Paul quotes here when he cites Scripture. The first one quoted is from Deuteronomy 25:4. However, the second verse is a quotation of one of our Lord’s statements recorded by Luke. It reads as follows:

Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. (Luke 10:7 NRSV)

This saying of Jesus, variously translated, “those who work deserve their pay,” or “the laborer deserves to be paid,” is not found in the Old Testament—it is a unique saying of Jesus. In citing the phrase, Paul uses the exact same Greek words that Luke used. Consequently, it seems that Paul knew of Luke’s written gospel at this time, and considered it Scripture. If true, then Paul quotes Luke’s gospel on the same level as the writings of Moses. This implied equivalence between the two writings.

There is something else. On another occasion Paul quotes this same verse, Deuteronomy 25:4, and describes it as follows:

For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? (1 Corinthians 9:9 NKJV)

Here, when writing to the Corinthians, Paul attributes this saying to the Law of Moses. When he quoted this Old Testament verse to Timothy, along with the other phrase, “the laborer is worthy of his wages.”

Paul attributed both of these phrases to “Scripture.” This is another indication that he considered the writings of Luke to be sacred Scripture like the Law of Moses.

There is still more. This is a second instance of a New Testament writer using the technical term graphe when referring to another New Testament work.

This is significant because neither Paul nor Luke were among the Twelve Apostles. Yet the writings of both of them are called Scripture by other New Testament writers. Thus, from these two passages, we have the letters of Paul, and the writings of Luke (Luke/Acts) considered Scripture.

Some Disagree That Paul Called Luke’s Writing Scripture

We must note that there are those who do not believe Paul is calling Luke’s writing Scripture. They see the phrase, “the Scripture says” as referring to the first quotation from Deuteronomy. The second statement, they say, is merely an explanation of the first statement, and not a citing of Luke’s gospel as Scripture. However, this does not seem to be the natural way of understanding the quotation. It seems much better to see this as Paul quoting Luke.

Some say that even if Paul is not directly quoting Luke’s gospel, he is directly quoting the exact words of Jesus. This shows, that at an early date, the words of Jesus were given the same authority as the Old Testament Scripture.

However, since the word Scripture is used, it refers to something written. There is no example of oral tradition being called Scripture. The word Scripture, when used in the New Testament, always refers to something written.

3. There Was Early Acceptance of the Idea of a New Testament Canon

The evidence, therefore, is that very early in the history of the church the concept of a New Testament canon appeared. The believers were accepting new writings as Holy Scripture. These writings held absolute authority for them.

Finally, it also shows that more Scripture is to be expected. Additional writings were in the process of being made. Thus, the sacred writings of the Old Testament will have additions in a “New” Testament. Each testament would have God’s authority behind it.

Summary – Question 3
Does the New Testament Ever Quote Itself as Authoritative Scripture?

The New Testament is quoted twice as Scripture. Peter acknowledged the writings of Paul were considered to be Holy Scripture. Paul quoted a saying of Jesus from Luke’s gospel and called it Scripture.

While there are some who dispute this second reference, it seems best to see it as a direct quotation of Jesus’ words. There are two things we can learn from this. First, it shows that the idea of adding new Scripture, apart from the Old Testament, was already occurring in the early years of the church. Second, it also tells us that Christians were expecting more Scripture to be added.

What Do We Learn from the New Testament Itself about the Need for a New Testament Canon? ← Prior Section
Does Each Book of the New Testament Claim to Be the Authoritative Word of God? Next Section →
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