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Don Stewart :: Were There Some Divinely Authoritative Writings That Were Not Included in Holy Scripture? (Other Letters from Paul)

Don Stewart

Apparently yes. There seems to be some writings of the apostles that were not placed in Scripture. These writings would have carried their apostolic authority, which, in turn, carried Jesus authority.

There May Have Been A Letter Before First Corinthians

For example, Paul seemingly spoke of a letter that he had written to the Corinthians.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons (1 Corinthians 5:9).

It is argued that this letter was composed before Paul wrote the book of First Corinthians. Since the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to a church in his position as an Apostle, it would have been considered divinely authoritative.

However this is not the only possible way to understand this verse. Paul may have been referring to the letter they were reading - First Corinthians. If this is not the case, then there is no lost letter.

There Seem To Be Other Letters From Paul

We also have other references to further letters from Paul. He spoke of letters of recommendation.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? (2 Corinthians 3:1).

This may refer to letters that he himself had written to others.

There is another reference to a previous letter.

This is the very thing I wrote you, so that when I came, I would not have sorrow from those who ought to make me rejoice; having confidence in you all that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. (2 Corinthians 2:3,4).

This may refer to a letter written to the Corinthian church after First Corinthians but before Second Corinthians. Consequently there may have been correspondence by Paul to the Corinthian church between the time he wrote these two letters that are part of Scripture - First and Second Corinthians. We also read.

For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I did regret it, for I see that I grieved you with that letter, though only briefly) (2 Corinthians 7:8).

There May Have Been An Earlier Letter To The Philippians

There may have been an earlier letter written to the Philippians.

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you (Philippians 3:1).

Some see this as a reference to a previous letter to the Philippians rather than a reference to the same letter that he was in the process of writing.

Other Traditions Are Mentioned By The Apostle Paul

Paul also mentioned another letter that he had written to the Thessalonians.

Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Most likely this refers to First Thessalonians.

Paul Spoke Of A Letter To The Laodiceans

There is also a letter that Paul wrote to the Laodiceans. This is another unknown writing of Paul.

And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea (Colossians 4:16).

Some, however, see this as a reference to the Book of Ephesians. There is evidence that Ephesians originally circulated without an address to a particular church and the address, "to the Ephesians" was added later. There is also the fact that when the heretic Marcion drew up his list of Paul's letters he titled Ephesians, "Paul's Letter to the Laodiceans."

Not Everything That God Said Was Recorded In Scripture

Not every divine word that God gave to humanity was recorded in Scripture. There were many things that the Jesus taught, or that the apostles preached, that were divinely authoritative but, for some reason, have not been recorded in Scripture. John alluded to some of these things that Jesus taught.

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30,31).

He also said.

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21:25).

From this statement of John we understand that only a small portion of the words and deeds of Jesus were recorded for us.

Paul Gives Us An Unknown Saying Of Jesus

We know of at least one saying of Jesus that was not preserved in the four gospels but is found in the Book of Acts. The Apostle Paul said.

In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

This illustrates that what we find in Scripture is highly selective.

That Which Is Found In Scripture Was Purposefully Preserved

Consequently to become part of Holy Scripture a work of an Apostle must have been purposefully preserved. Why certain apostolic letters to churches, if indeed they were written, were not preserved is not known. It would be fruitless to speculate as to why this is so.

Summary

There seems to be a few letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to churches that, for whatever reason, were not collected and placed in the New Testament canon. This includes a previous letter that he wrote to the Corinthians before First Corinthians, a letter that he wrote after First Corinthians but before Second Corinthians, and a letter he wrote to the Laodiceans. There is also the possibility of an earlier letter that he wrote to the Philippians.

However the existence of all of these "lost letters" is by no means certain. The statement First Corinthians could refer to that same letter. In addition, the letter to the Laodiceans may refer to the Book of Ephesians. There is not enough evidence to be certain.

We do know that there was a number of things Jesus said and did that were not recorded. Consequently there had to be some type of effort to preserve the writings of the Apostles that became Holy Scripture. If there were other writings by the Apostles that did not become part of the New Testament canon, then we have no knowledge as to why they were not included.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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