old-new-testaments

The Bible has authority, even the “New Testament.”

I recently read a generally excellent book but something struck me as wrong. The book affirmed one must believe in the authority of Scripture, “especially the New Testament.” What can such a statement possibly mean?

At best, the authority of the NT can be contrasted with the Old if what is intended is direct applicability. The story of Abraham being given a covenant of circumcision is revealed to us with just as much authority as the Great Commission and the command to baptize, but Christians heed the authority of the Great Commission by baptizing disciples, not by circumcizing them.

Nevertheless, it is confusing to make a blanket statement about Biblical authority and then say, “especially the New Testament.” Consider our most obvious prooftexts for the authority of the New Testament:

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).

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:17-18 ESV).

What is the argument here? “Scripture” is a term used throughout the “New Testament” for what we call “the Old Testament”–the Hebrew Scriptures. In these two passages we find other “New Testament” writing being included as “Scripture.”

In other words, we never see any question about whether or not the “Old Testament” is especially authoritative. That is simply an understood premise. But what we find in these two cases is evidence that the “New Testament” is just as authoritative as the “Old Testament.”

How do we go from “New Testament” teaching that it is just as authoritative as the “Old Testament,” to saying that the Bible is authoritative, “especially the New Testament”?

I don’t see how that works.

Personally, I wish we would throw out the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” altogether.

 

3 thoughts on “The Bible has authority, even the “New Testament.”

  1. Daniel Buck

    The Great Commission requires us to go MAKE disciples of all nations. Once they’re made, there are some other things required, too, one of which is baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. But you’re right, circumcision isn’t on the list.

    Reply
  2. Matt Colvin

    Mark,

    I hear you regarding the point that no part of Scripture is more God-breathed than any other.

    Can we not say, however, that some parts of the Bible are more important than others? For instance, in many churches (including Anglican ones, and some liturgical Reformed ones), the reading of the Gospel lesson is accompanied by special ceremonial, antiphonal responses, hymns, etc. Do you think this is inappropriate?

    Reply
    1. mark Post author

      I think the Gospels as the culmination of the Bible, and the central interpetive matrix of all the Scriptures, warrant that sort of liturgical action. I’m not denying that there is a “concluding chapter,” as it were, that explains the mystery. I think that is different than the “two books” paradigm we use.

      Reply

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