You are on page 1of 64



David P. Scaer
Copyright by David P. Scaer
Printed by
Concordia Theological Seminary Press
hrt Wayne, Indiana
To Paul H. Scaer, father,
father in Christ, and now father with Christ
my students at Concordia Theological Seminary,
Springfield, Illinois

The question of the exact nature of the Holy Scriptures continues to

be acute in the church today. The Lutheran Church, from the time
of its conception in the 16th century, has been very sensitive about
this issue, since the Holy Scriptures are the only source and norm of
faith. Questions concerning the Scriptures have not been the same in
every generation. In the Reformation and post-Reformation periods
Lutherans maintained the sole and unique authority of the Bible. In
contrast to the Roman Catholic Church, which held that the church
as an institution is the final interpreter of what the Bible means, Lu-
therans maintained that the Bible is its own interpreter. Today the
conflict over the Scriptures centers in the question of origin. Are the
Scriptures the product of the Holy Spirit given in a unique manner,
or are they products of the early church? Do they differ in any way
from other Christian writings except in their obvious proximity to
the events of Jesus' life?
The older point of view concerning the origin of the Scriptures
was not an article of debate between Lutherans and Roman Catholics.
Both acknowledged that the Bible was given by the unique operation
of the Holy Spirit. The technical term for this activity has been "in-
spiration." Many problems have since arisen concerning this word.
Somc say that the Bible is inspired, but by "inspired" they mean
something entirely different from what has beer; traditional in Chris-
tianity. In fact all marks of direct divine influence are removed. Some
who have tended to a more traditional understanding of inspiration
lapse into a type of mechanical inspiration. They d o this in spite of
their own insistent disclaimers to such a belief. It is a caricature of
verbal inspiration to say that the Holy Spirit actually dictated the
words to the writer. A painting that comes to mind is one of Saint
Matthew taking dictation irom an angel talking into his ear. There is
then also the question of determining the object of t h e inspiration.
Were only the authors inspired when they wrote, or were their writings
inspired? Some claim that the men were inspired but not their writings.
Others take the reverse position: the writings were inspired but not
the men.
In the following pages the difficulties concerning the word "in-
spiration" are discussed. The suggestion i s made that, at least in re-
gard to the New T e s t a m r ~ ~i t ,is proper-and in certain contexts even
preferable- to use "apostolic Scriptures" as a term for "inspired Scrip-
tures." This is in no way to deny inspiration or to question the Scrip-
tures as uniquely-given divine writings through which God guides
His church by the Holy Spirit till Jesus come again. Rather it is an
attempt to express accurately what the church has always believed.
This is not a new or radical suggestion, since our Lutheran Con-
fessions speak of the "prophetic and apostolic Scriptures." The Epitome
of the Formula of Concord, for example, begins with this statement:
"We believe, teach, and confess that the prophetic and apostolic writ-
ings of the Old and the New Testaments are the only rule and norm
according to which all doctrines and teachers alike must be appraised
and judged."
The reader will immediately recognize that the title and subject
are somewhat truncated. Due to the lack of space this study concen-
trates on the New Testament as the apostolic Scriptures, and the Old
Testament is only used in the way of substantiating certain arguments.
It will be shown that the office of the apostle takes the place of the office
of the prophet in the Old Testament, a fact of which the apostles them-
selves were quite conscious. They knew that they were accepting the
burden of the prophets. Therefore much that applies to the apostles
and the apostolic Scriptures will apply also to the Old Testament
prophets and the prophetic Scriptures. A fuller examination of the
specific issue of the prophetic Scriptures must be left to another study:
It is hoped that this study on the "apostolic Scriptures" will lead
to a clearer understanding of what the Scriptures really are and that
they will continue to be revered as God's Word to men in every age.
To do this, the following thesis is offered: O u r understanding of the
Scriptures will be deepened and enriched when w e consider them not only
as inspired but also as apostolic. Jesus chose the apostles not only to be
first-century missionaries and to establish the church at that time but
also to be the teachers of the church today. Their teachings recorded
in the Bible are the standard of divine truth for all time.

Chapter 1 Inspiration and Apostolicity
Chapter 2 The Prominence of the Apostolic Office
Chapter 3 The Use of Letters as the Extension
of Apostolic Authority
Chapter 4 What Is an Apostle?
Chapter 5 Limitation and Extent of Apostolic Authority
Chapter 6 The Nature of the Apostolic Word as the
Word of God
Chapter 7 The Apostolic Office and the Canonical Question
Chapter 8 The Apostolic Scriptures and Literary Criticism
Conclusion Apostolicity and Related Problems
Chapter 1
Inspiration and Apostolicity

The key word in explaining the unique quality of the Holy Scriptures
has been the word "inspiration." One of the ways to determine whether
or not a person accepts the traditional Christian faith is to determine
his attitude to the inspired Scriptures. In this brief study I would like
to show, at least in regard to the New Testament, that it would be help-
ful to speak about the "inspired Scriptures" also in terms of the "apos-
tolic Scriptures."


Those who have accepted the Bible as inspired have approached

the question from two passages in the New Testament. The one most
frequently used is 2 Timothy 3:15-16: "From childhood you have been
acquainted with the Sacred Writings which are able to instruct you for
salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Al! Scripture is inspired by
Most New Testament scholars firmly believe that the writer of
these words was teaching that the Old Testament Scripture was a
unique writing and that it originated by direct divine intervention.
This does not mean, however, that for some there are no problems
here. Some scholars, going against the evident claim of the document,
teach that this letter did not come from the hand of Paul but that it
was written some time after his death when church doctrine was be-
coming formalized. Regardless of how a Christian feels personally
about this problem, the entire letter, along with Second Timothy and
Titus, is suspect in some circles. Consequently all arguments based on
these books are tenuous at best for such scholars. There is also a prob-
lem in the text. Most of the ancient manuscripts and practically all
translations give this passage the meaning tliai "all Scripture is in-
spired by God and profitable etc." But there are some manuscripts
that do not include the little word "and." Id the " a n d is taken out,
the passage reads: "Every Scripture, inspired by God, is profitable."
Some theologians have used this translation to teach partial inspiration.
It is quite clear that St. Paul or any pious Christian or Jew living in the
first century never believed in any theory of partial inspiration. This
has been posed as an option only in more modem times, when there
has been a tendency to question the divine authorship and to weaken
the authority of the Bible. Regardless of what seems quite obvious,
some interpret this passage to mean that not all sections of the Bible
are products of God's direct intervention.
In the view of some there is still another problem connected with
2 Timothy 3:15-16, and that has to d o with the infrequent use of "in-
spired." Here is the only place where the word "inspired by God"
(theopneustos) is used in the entire Bible, There seems no reason to
question how the church has always understood this expression. The
lack of parallel uses in Scripture has led some theologians to suggest
that there can be n o absolute definiteness as to what it means. Still
others have changed the passive form of the word to an active one and
have given this kind of meaning to the text: "All Scripture inspires
in a divine way."
If any of these arguments used against this passage had any valid-
ity at all, the traditional doctrine of the Biblc as God's Word would
begin to crumble. But the arguments have yet to be sustained.
The other key passage for demonstrating Biblical inspiration is
2 Peter 1:20-21: "First of all you must understand this, that n o prophecy
of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no proph-
ecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy
Spirit spoke from God." Also with regard to this passage other readings
and translations have been deemed possible. Some claim that the writer
of Second Peter is only referring to inspired or ecstatic oral prophecies.
Another problem is that some think that Peter did not write this letter
and that it has no place in the New Testament canon at all. This opinion
has been expressed not only by contemporary scholars but also by some
reputable theologians in the post-apostolic church. Origen of Alexan-
dria for example, had no firm convictions on who the author was. To
this day some conservative theologians assign this letter to the anti-
legomena, a category for books which Christians may legitimately
question and still in no way jeopardize their standing in the church.
Without going any further into these problems, it becomes obvious
that if the doctrine of the divine origin of the Scriptures rests on these
two passages alone, then this doctrine would in the minds of some be
open to criticism. Since the Protestant church acknowledges the Bible
as its only source and norm of faith and life, the very authority in the
church would then seem to be weakened. Of course, there are other
passages which refer to the Scriptures as the words of the Holy Spirit
and the Word of God. Either explicitly or by inference they teach the
uniquely divine origin of the Bible. The two passages mentioned,
especially 2 Timothy 3:15-16, are still valid to demonstrate what has
been called the inspiration of the Bible.


The concept of Biblical inspiration is confusing to some because
"inspiration" has a variety of meanings not only in the church but
also in common parlance. The term has been used traditionally in theol-
ogy with reference to the origin and nature of the Holy Scriptures. But
this has in no way prevented other uses in both secular and theological
fields. Great works of art, literature, and music can legitimately be
called inspired. Men inspired in this way experience flashes of genius.
They produce works that because of a certain inherent genius become
immortal. Such inspired men can even have levels of inspiration.
Brahm's Fourth Symphony displays greater genius than do his other
works. George Handel had flashes of genius, even mystical encounters,
in writing his Messiah. Looking at the Scriptures, both the believer
and unbeliever recognize a higher level of this type of "inspiration"
in Paul's sonnet on Christian love in 1 Corinthians 13 than in perhaps
the list of the clean and unclean animals in Leviticus. Yet both are
equally the Word of God.
The term is batted around in Christian congregations in a similar
way. Sermons, choir selections, and works of church art such as stained-
glass windows can be said to be "inspired." Two thoughts are gen-
erally interwoven in such a remark: the element of genius, which lifts
our emotions to higher than usual levels, and the creation of a deeper,
more profound commitment to Jesus. At this point the problem be-
comes obvious. Try to differentiate between an inspired sermon and
an inspired Bible! Both are products of the Holy Spirit, but in a dif-
ference sense. But what exactly is the difference? Some hymns even ask
God to inspire our tongues. Whatever the difference, the Bible is a
unique document that continues to exert a permanent force in the
church which no other writing, including the creeds and confessions,
will ever have.


The concept of inspiration is not to be confused with the fact that
the Holy Spirit has been active in other areas of the church's work
outside of the writing of the Bible. The Bible is the Spirit's unique
gift to the church, but there are other activities which are no less His
work and for which He is both directly and ultimately responsible.
All faith is inspired by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul's words are clear when
he says: "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit"
(1 Cor. 12:3). In this area of the Spirit's activity all Christians are
equal. There are strong and weak faiths, but the Spirit is possessed by
all who confess Jesus as Lord. Defining inspiration in this way would
allow every Christian to stand on the same level with the apostles
and prophets. That would be true also of Christians living today, for
birth in the first century is not a requirement for having great faith
and for being an object of the Spirit's activity.
In fact, the entire activity of the church as it confesses Jesus and
does His work can be called the Spirit's work. The church has the same
guidance or inspiration in opening and maintaining mission stations
that St. Paul had when he was prevented by the Spirit from preaching
in Asia Minor and was led to Macedonia. The lack of a literary ending
to Acts buggests that the Spirit continued working in the church
through the disciples' preaching. The "other Comforter" whom Jesus
promised is inspiring the church in all comers of the world today and
is doing the same kind of work the church was doing when it was
first established. The church is inspired by the Spirit and is the form of
the Spirit's permanent presence in the world. The Book of Acts de-
scribes in great detail how the Spirit established the church and how He
continued to guide it. Jesus gave His promise that this type of inspira-
tion or inspired guidance would not end till He would come again.
Besides this general type of inspiration, whereby the Spirit is
present and active i n the church, there is an individual type of inspira-
tion through which certain persons are given certain gifts to do special
services. These individual gifts may be described as inspired by the
Spirit. In the Old Testament, leaders of the Jewish people were inspired
by the Spirit to carry out their tasks. Some of the judges (like Samson
and Gideon), King David, and some of the nonliterary prophets were
said to be inspired by the Spirit. Not all those who were inspired in
this sense, including such prophets as Azariah, did any writing. Here
inspiration means special illumination. As a case in point, Bezalel is
given a special possession of the Spirit to build the ark of the covenant.
(Ex. 3530 f.)
In the New Testament church many tasks were performed in the
congregation by the various members. Some of these have fallen into
disuse today. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul gives a list of these activities: 1
the utterance of knowledge, the utterance of wisdom, healing, working
of miracles, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, speaking in tongues and
interpreting them. In the same section Paul speaks about the various -
offices in the church. The gifts and offices are said to be given to
individuals by the Spirit.
This type of inspiration, whereby the Spirit in the Old and New
Testaments chose certain individuals to build up His church, continues
today. Our congregations pray for the Spirit's blessing on their pastors
at the time of their installation, and special annual services of consecra-
tion are held for church officers, Sunday school teachers, and those
performing other tasks associated with the church. We do not need to
be disturbed because our gifts and offices might be different from
those of the early church. God supplies these gifts and offices accord-
ing to His purpose and the needs of the church. Just as there were
obvious differences between the tasks of God's people in the Old and
New Testaments, so there are differences between our churches and
the early churches. These gifts are the result of an individual type of
inspiration, because the Spirit apportions His gifts "to each one in-
dividually as He wills." Here the emphasis is on the job which the
Spirit bestows on the individual.
Sometimes the Spirit even acts on an unbeliever. Balaam blessed
Israel as it passed through the plains of Moab. Cyrus, the Persian
king, issued an edict to release the Jews from their Babylonian captivity
and to return them to Palestine (Ezra 1:l ff.). Caiaphas said of Jesus that
it would be expedient for one man to die for the people (John 11:50).
In most cases, however, the Spirit inspires those who believe and who
work for the benefit of other believers.
The Scriptures exemplify still another type of inspiration when
they speak oi individuals as illled with the Holy Spirit and as praising
God. Zacharias said the Benedictus as he was filled with the Holy Spirit
(Luke 1:67). Something similar happened to Simeon when he was
informed by the Spirit concerning the birth of the Messiah and sang
the Nunc Dimittis under the Spirit's guidance (Luke 2:25-35). John
the Baptist was said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit for his entire
life (Luke 1:15). The Book of Acts is replete with similar examples.
On Pentecost Day all of the followers of Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit,
preached about the wonderful things of God (Acts 2:4). Peter was
filled by the Holy Spirit when he preached about Jesus (Acts 4:8), as
was Stephen in his speech just before his martyrdom (Acts 7:55).
Just a casual look at the Bible will show that the Spirit's activity was
not merely limited to the writing of what we know today as our Bible.
Much of what the Bible says about the Spirit's activity is not applicable
to what we call the inspiration of the Bible, except maybe in an in-
direct way. The possession ol the Spirit either for faith or lor the special
proclamation of Jesus as recorded in Acts, for example, is different from
the Spirit's activity in the writing of the Scriptures. Mere possession of
the Spirit does not raise a person or his writings to a position of
permanent authority in the church. For if this were the case, then any-
one inspired-and this would include all believers- would be an
authority in matters of Christian truth. The church, even in apostolic
times, did not recognize everyone with the Spirit as an authority. Take
for an example the Corinthian congregation, where the Spirit was
manifesting Himself with all sorts of gifts in addition to faith. Paul
asserts his authority as an apostle on the basis of something beyond
the types of the Spirit's inspiration mentioned. (1 Cor. 12 and 14)


The use of the term "inspiration" has been complicated by recent
theological developments in our century. The theology of neoorthodoxy
makes no qualitative distinction between the inspiration of the Bible
and the inspiration of Christians today. The only difference, it says, is
that the writcrs of thc Biblc stood closcr to the evcnts of Jesus' life than
we do. What neoorthodoxy calls inspiration may be explained by the
word "encounter." When our minds receive an impact from an event
in the life of Jesus, this then is the moment of encounter, or inspiration.
Now the Bible knows of no such inspiration. The "inspiration" of neo-
orthodoxy is a psychological phenomenon that can be explained within
the context of the ordinary events of this world.
Today when many theologians speak about the inspiration of the
Bible, they only mean that the writers experienced something extra-
ordinary from the life of Jesus and that they wrote it down. For the
Bible, inspiration, whether it be for faith or for a special task in the
church, is a direct personal activity of the Spirit. The late Paul Tillich,
whose influence on today's theology is considerable, also speaks of
inspiration, but he means an ecstatic experience explainable by psycho-
logical phenomena. The Bible also knows of ecstatic experience, but this
is instigated by the Spirit and cannot be explained psychologically.
Tillich also interprets inspiration as creative response to potentially
revelatory facts. Isaiah sees the vision of heaven. Paul is taken up
into the third heaven. John sees the celestial kingdom and its final
victory. But all these are supernatural or "extraterritorial" in nature.
Generally the Spirit's operation in people to create faith or to grant
special gifts does not involve ecstatic experiences. The doctrine of the
origin or the inspiration of the Scriptures as taught in the church has
not included the idea that the writers penned their writings in an
ecstatic or any other kind of psychologically abnormal state. Both Paul
and John, who did experience visions of heaven in a state of ecstasy
before their death, did not however record their experiences in a state
of ecstasy.
Lutheran theology has called that section of its dogmatics which
deals with the origin of Bible "inspiration," but since this term has
other legitimate meanings, both in religious and secular vocabularies,
there are inevitably some difficulties connected with it. In explaining
what is meant by the inspiration of the Bible, the church must first
explain what is not meant. The respected and still influential 13th-
century Roman Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas, who held to
a very strict and conservative sola Scriptura principle, did not even use
the term "inspiration" in his explanation of the Bible. Still his doc-
trine of the Bible as the Word of God is firm. For him the term meant
an event within the soul through which revelation, unobtainable by
human means, is given to the individual. Luther and the Confessions
also do not use the term. They do, however, adhere firmly to the Scrip-
ture as the work and the words of the Holy Spirit. In his Large Cate-
chism Luther declares that the Scripture "will not lie to you." With
regard to Scriptural passages, Melanchthon asks in his Apology: "Do
you suppose that these words fell from the Holy Spirit unawares?"
And the signers of the Formula of Concord say: "We pledge ourselves
to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testament
as the pure and clear fountain of Israel."
Chapter 2
The Prominence
of the Apostolic Office

In the last two centuries there have been many doubts about the
historical Jesus. Did Jesus live? And if there really was a Jesus, what
can we know about Him? Historically speaking, there have been fewer
doubts and questions about the apostles of Jesus. In the second half
of the first century great changes occurred in the western world be-
cause Christianity was stirring. Some people have doubts about
Jesus, but no one can doubt that by the end of the first century Chris-
tians were gathering into groups called churches. These churches
claimed to have been started by the followers of Jesus whose official
title, that of "apostles," bespoke their authority in the early church.
Some other churches claimed to have been started by people who were
the apostles' assistants. In the second century it was considered a
great honor to have known an apostle and in turn to know someone
who had known an apostle. Polycarp, one of the earliest church fathers,
claimed to have had such a relationship with John, the disciple whom
Jesus loved.

The apostles were regarded so highly in the church that cults

grew u p around their memory. The worship of the apostles was a
perversion of Christianity as the apostles themselves had taught it,
but it was a perversion that accentuated the importance of their office.
Scratched on the walls of the catacombs in Rome are prayers addressed
t o Peter and Paul, asking them in turn to pray to Jesus. Such prayers
can be easily explained. If these men were highly regarded while they
were alive because of their association with Jesus, it was assumed that
even after their death they would continue to be of some benefit to
the church. The bones of the apostles were considered prize trophies
f o r any church, and soon shrines sprang up around these relics. Some
of these, if not most, were obvious frauds. Luther in a lighthearted
manner remarked that of the Lord's 12 disciples 15 were buried in
Gennany. No cult grew up around the bones of Jesus, for Jesus through
t h e resurrection had taken His body into the sphere of God. The words
of the angel still inform us: "He has risen, He is not here." But the
apostles died and were buried by Christians. There is no tradition
that they were carried into heaven bodily. It was assumed that their
bodies were buried, and thus frequently church edifices were con-
structed on the reputed places of bunal.
When a church could not get the bones of an apostle, it was fre-
quently satisfied with those of one of the apostolic assistants. The
church at Venice sent a military expedition to Alexandria to fetch the
bones of Mark. Visitors to the city of Venice know that the cathedral
is named in his honor and that the winged lion, the ecclesiastical
symbol for this Gospel writer, is the emblem of the city.
Some of the claims concerning apostolic residence have a high
degree of historical probability. Peter and Paul are of course associ-
ated with Rome. John is associated with Asia Minor and the island
of Patmos. There is no reason for doubting that Thomas preached in
India. To this very day Christians who revere his name and memory
there are called "Thomas Christians." Some traditions are not so cred-
ible. Andrew is associated most improbably with the churches in
Scotland and Russia. All in all, fanciful tales and legends grew up
among the people, who though highly credulous still gave honor to
men whom the church recognized as its first teachers. Although abuses
were connected with the honoring of saints, the church was not ma-
licious i n its intent.
The Protestant Reformation swept away much of the abuse and
misunderstanding concerning the apostles. Nevertheless the Lutheran
Church and the Anglican Church to this very day include the names
of all the apostles in their liturgical calendars. The honoring of the
apostles on certain prescribed days predates even the universal cele-
bration of Christmas. This custom still exists in the Lutheran Church,
where each of the apostles is honored with a minor festival. The Lu-
theran churches have not deviated from the ancient church in honoring
the apostles. Among other things, they name their churches in mem-
ory of the apostles. "Trinity" is an all-time favorite name for Lutheran
churches, but also extremely popular are "St. Paul," "St. John," and
"St. Peter." The Lutheran affinity for St. Paul can easily be explained,
for this apostle so clearly enunciated the doctrine of justification by
faith. Churches with the names of apostles are dedicated to the per-
petuation of their memory. Many people are not aware of this. But
even when they are not conscious of it, the respective apostle is hon-
ored and his name perpetuated. Passing note should also be taken of
the cities named i n the apostles' honor, like Minnesota's St. Paul,
St. Peter, St. James, and the like.
For the Christian the importance of an apostle lies in his relation-
ship to Jesus Christ, as such relationship is recorded in the various
books of the New Testament. St. Paul, as he does in other points of
Christian doctrine, gives the most explicit description of the office
of the apostle. Also the four gospels, under a closer examination, tell
us who ihe apostles were, how they were chosen, and what their tasks
were to be in the future church.


During the lifetime of Jesus many followers gathered around
Him. At least 500 persons were said to have been witnesses of the
resurrected Lord (1 Cor. 15:6). Out of this large following, the Twelve
were singled out from the rest. They were not men of particularly
great or outstanding faith. In fact, in comparison with some of the
other followers of Jesus, they are frequently pictured as men of little
faith, limited vision, and various degrees of disloyalty. Judas i s ?he
synonym for a traitor, and Thomas i s the symbol of doubt. Peter i*
the denier. More examples could be given. Still these Twelve, who
are called both disciples and apostles, receive special attention from
All of the gospels discuss the apostles' relationship to Jesus and
carry their imprint. All of the gospels are apostolic, not in the sense
that each gospel was actually penned by an apostle but that they all
contain the apostolic recollections of Jesus and conta~nthe apostolic
teaching. Jesus in all the gospels appears as the teacher, or as the Jews
would say, as the rabbi of the disciples. It is to them that He preaches
the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is the teller of parables which are in-
tended first only for their ears (Matt. 13:11, Mark 4:11, Luke 8:lOj. The
apostles are given the grace to understand the divine mysteries taught
in the apparently ordinary parables. The f ~ n a ldiscourses in John 13
to 17, unparalleled in the synoptic gospels, are also Jesus' teachings
to the apostles.
There are many ways in which the four gospels may be described.
One very adequate description is that the gospels are the record of
Jesus' instruction of the disciples. This instmction helped give them
the special status that they would later enjoy more fully as apostles
in the church. The instruction contained in the gospels, while of benefit
to everyone, seems to be intended especially for those who, like Jesus,
were to be teachers. Just as Jesus had taught His disciples about His
Father, so in turn the disciples would teach the church about Jesus.
The lesson material to be passed on by and through the apostles was
to include not only the oral instruction given by Jesus in HIS preaching
but also the very life and deeds of Jesus. It was not insignificant that
the apostles were witnesses of His miracles and dealings with men.
Much more important, they were witnesses of His suffering, crucifixion,
death, and resurrection. The purpose of the gospels was to tell the
church who Jesus is and what He did. But as the apostles and their
assistants retold their experiences with Him, their own authority and
reactions shine through clearly.
A p 0 s ~ AS
Lutherart orthodoxy very well understood and faithfully repro-
duced the concept that the Holy Spirit had given the Scriptures. This
unique working of the Spirit in the writing of the Scripture must
first be understood as the Spirit's working through the apostles. This
all of the gospels teach.
John makes it evident that the Spirit would be operative in the
apostolic preaching. The Holy Spirit would assist the apostolic mem-
ory in repeating and reapplying the words of Jesus in their own preach-
ing (John 1426). This special assistance of the Spirit In teaching all
things to the apostles applies directly only to them, not to anyone else.
The church does have access to the fullness and completeness of the
Spirit's knowledge, b u t that only through the apostolic message.
The apostles alone received the promise to be led into all truth (John
16:13), and this truth i s perpetuated alone in their message. (John 17:20).
This concept of the Spirit's assistance is found in the other three
gospels also. In Matthew 10:20, in connection with the call of the dis-
ciples, this truth appears in an even more intense form. In this instance
the Spirit of the Father i s said not only to assist the apostles but acfually
to spenk thrvllgh them, supplying the w o r k In a parallel context Mark
states that the words of the apostles are to come from the Spirit (13:ll).
Luke, in a section parallel to Mark, has Jesus Himself, rather than the
Spirit, supplying the words to the apostles (21:15). Those acquainted
with the style of Luke-Acts are not surprised at tne statement that Jesus,
rather than the Spirit, is active in the apostolic activity. (Cf. Acts 2:47;
In John's Gospel the Spirit assists, but in the three synoptic gospels
t h e Spirit (or Jesus) actually gives the words to the apostles. This in-
tensification of the Spirit's assistance in the synoptic gospels is espe-
cially noteworthy, since it is the shibboleth of contemporary New
Testament scholarship to say that John's is the most theologically
developed of all the gospels. The earlier-written synoptic gospels, con-
stituting what is said to be the older tradition, really have a "stricter"
doctrine of verbal inspiration than does John. As mentioned above,
this concept has been faithfully reproduced in the classical theology
of Lutheran orthodoxy.

Each of the gospel writers records the calling of the disciples as

o n e of the first official acts which Jesus did after He publicly assumed
His Messianic obligations by being baptized by His relative, John the
Baptist. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that Peter and his brother
Andrew, James and his brother John were called to be disciples as they
were engaged in their fishing trade on the Sea of Galilee. It seems as
if this happened after Jesus had been tempted by the devil. John's
Gospel locates the scene of the first contact with Jesus further to the
south, not far from Jerusalem where John the Baptist was baptizing
in the Jordan River. This was probably near the Dead Sea and the
Qumran community, the seat of Essene activity. At least Peter and
Andrew, maybe more, originally were disciples of John the Baptist
before they switched their allegiance to Jesus. Their first contact with
Jesus was at the time of His baptism, and a more formal relationship
of teacher-student was established when Jesus later went north to
Galilee. Here they forsook all and followed Jesus.
Regardless of the exact chronological order of details, the im-
portant fact is that all four gospels record that Jesus called all of His
disciples in the early part of His public ministry. This becomes ex-
tremely important because in Acts 1:15 ff., where Peter speaks about
a replacement for Judas, he mentions that one of the requirements for
completing the depleted inner circle (called the Twelve) was association
with Jesus from the time of His baptism (v. 22). The life of Jesus before
His baptism certainly has significance for Christian faith, as is quite
clear from the first two chapters in both Matthew and Luke; but the
ministry through which Jesus would teach the world about the Father
and His own mission begins only with His baptism by John. The
inclusion of the call of the disciples in the earliest parts of the gospels
may be considered as the apostles presenting their own credentials
to the church of the first century. They were telling the Christians
that they had a special association with Jesus. This gave them a status
in the church that other Christians simply did not have.
The church is under no obligation to reconstruct in exact order
the events in the life of Jesus. On the basis of the literary evidence in
the gospels themselves, this is frequently an impossible, dubious, and,
in almost all cases, a thankless task. In regard to the call of the dis-
ciples, however, a certain pattern emerges in all of the gospels. As
was previously mentioned, Jesus made the call of the disciples one of
the first acts, if not the very first act, of His public ministry. Mark and
John record no miracles nor public teaching of Jesus before the call of
the Twelve. This is not stated so delinitely as to rule out the possibility
of such public activity, but the writers certainly want to leave the
impression that the call of disciples was the first order of business.
The call of the disciples is not only for their benefit but also for the
benefit of the church that would be more universally established by
their preaching.

In all cases Peter is singled out from the other disciples for special
attention. Andrew first made the acquaintance with Jesus, according
to John's Gospel (1:41), but the call of Peter is in every instance de-
scribed with more embellishment. In John's Gospel his name is changed
from Simon to Cephas, or Peter. In the other gospels, where the actual
call into the formal discipleship is described, Peter is mentioned first.
Right after this call there is the inclusion of the healing of Peter's
mother-in-law, an incident which occurred in his house.
The importance of Peter can be seen from even a casual perusal
of the gospels. The disciples are called "Simon and those with him"
(Mark 1:36). He is the one who confesses that Jesus is the Christ (Matt
16:16). While all the disciples desert Jesus at His arrest, Peter's deser-
tion is singled out for particular condemnation. With James and John
he witnesses the raising of Jairus' daughter, the transfiguration of
Jesus, and His passion in Gethsemane. In Mark's Gospel the angel
tells the women to inform "the disciples and Peter" that Jesus is risen
from the dead (16:7). In John's Gospel he gets special attention of a
different kind. While fishing on the Sea of Galilee he jumps overboard
and swims to the shore. He must acknowledge his loyalty to Jesus
three times, and he is pictured as being concerned about receiving at
least the same type of treatment as did the "disciple whom Jesus
loved" (John 21:20-23). The prominence of Peter before Jesus' death
continues also after His death and carries over into the early church.

Lack of space prevents us from showing all of the footprints the
several apostles have left in the gospels. But the personality of each
disciple, especially Peter's, is woven as golden thread throughout the
fabric of the gospels. The church has always recognized the clues that
the apostles left behind in the gospels. Let us look at some examples.
All the gospels contain the list of the Twelve, and all contain Matthew's
name. But only the gospel associated with Matthew adds "tax collector"
to his name (10:3). John's Gospel has the cryptic remark: "the disciple
whom Jesus loved" (21:20). It never mentions John by name, although
his is a very prominent name in the other three gospels. Church tra-
dition has taught the connection of Mark with Peter. Even without
this tradition, Peter- he is frequently caIled Simon in Mark's Gospel
-has left clues in Mark which are easily detected.
Luke presents a somewhat different problem, which we will
discuss later in connection with Paul. (Paul had a problem with his
apostleship, causing him difficulty during his life; it needs special
consideration.) Luke speaks of working with "those who from the
beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word" (Luke 1:2).
Here Luke refers to his direct contact with the apostles. His reference
to eyewitnesses-from-the-beginning is to the disciples of Jesus w h o
had been chosen near the time of His baptism by John the Baptist.
The gospels, for Christians the most important part of the Scrip-
tures because they tell us about Jesus who is Himself the Good News,
are authoritative documents. Because they are writings associated with
the apostles, they are as authoritative today as they were in the early
church. They are the writings of men appointed by Jesus to be religious
authorities over God's people, just as Jesus Himself had been given
teaching authority by the Father.
The authority of an apostle is quite evident in the Book of Acts and
in the epistles of St. Paul. The apostles conduct a council in Jerusalem
to solve difficulties in doctrine and practice (Acts 15). Paul refers to the
apostles who carried on their work in this city as "pillars" of the
church. (Gal. 2:9)

In the early church the apostles were commonly called the Twelve.
This is evident from 1 Corinthians 15:5, where Paul refers to the ap-
pearance of the resurrected Christ first to Peter and then to the Twelve.
When Paul used the term "Twelve," he referred to the apostolic group,
or "college." His emphasis is not on the number itself. After Easter, and
just prior to Pentecost, there were really only I1 disciples, as Judas had
taken his own life. The way in which Paul refers to Peter and the Twelve
seems to indicate that he means Peter and the other disciples (1 Ccr.
15:5). Then the number of "the other disciples" should be 10, for Judas'
replacement, Matthias, had not yet been appointed.
After Paul's conversion there were 13 apostles, with the inclusion
of Matthias and Paul. "Twelve" takes on an institutional significance.
Jesus had promised the disciples that they would sit on the 12 thrones
of Israel judging the 12 tribes. And in the Book of Revelation the
heavenly Jerusalem is pictured as resting on 12 foundations, each with
the name of an apostle on it (Rev. 21:12-14). The emphasis on 12 as
representative of an institution rather than having exact numerical
significance can be traced back to the Old Testament. There the He-
brews are called the 12 tribes even though there were actually 13 units.
The custom persisted down to Jesus' day even when there were only
three tribes: Judah, Benjamin, and Levi.
Regardless of the theological significance of the number 12 as an
institution, the ruling Twelve of the later church had direct historical
back reference to actual 12 men whom Jesus had chosen to be His
disciples. These men paralleled the actual 12 sons of Jacob. So in the
days of Jesus the emphasis on 12 was to the exact number, although
after the resurrection Thomas is called one of the 12 when in fact there
were only 11 at this time. All of the gospel writers list the names of the
12 men, and all, with the exception of John, preface the list with the
statement that Jesus called to Himself the Twelve. John does however
know the term "Twelve" and uses it in other instances (john 6:67) as d o
the other writers. In using the word "Twelve" Jesus is indicating that
these men would have a task which others, for example, the Seventy,
would not have.
Jesus indicates several times in the gospels that this task would
become fully clear only after His resurrection and with the coming of
the Holy Spirit. Except for rare moments of great faith, the disciples are
pictured as sincere followers of Jesus who unfortunately seldom under-
stand His mission. Peter, who reaches the epitome of discipleship in
calling Jesus "the Christ, the Son of the living God," is later called
"Satan" because, even though he recognizes Jesus as Cod's Son, he
does not recognize His mission (Matt. 16:23). As yet inept students,
they are instructed by Jesus on how to carry out the work of the King-
dom after His departure. The three synoptic writers picture Jesus as
calling the disciples together for special instruction intended only for
their benefit. Such special instruction anticipates that they will have
responsibilities and tasks and also accompanying hardships which
will not be common to all Christians.

In Matthew 10, which has paraIlels in the other three gospels, we

have the most systematic presentation of the apostolic task, a task given
to them before Christ's resurrection and the special coming of the
Spirit on Pentecost. Some of the things Jesus says here apply to all
Christians, for example, the exhortation to confess Him before men
(v. 32). But other things apply only to the disciples and cannot be ex-
perienced or expected by those outside the apostolic circle. This is
evident because Jesus specifically calls the Twelve, and the writer lists
their names. The mention of Judas in the list is a clear indication that
neither the disciples nor anyone else in the early church invented this
story to promote a fictitious type of apostolic authority in the church. To
say that also Judas, an apostate and traitor, was a recipient of the great
authority Jesus gives these men would hardly enhance the reputation
of Lht. aposlles slill living when these gospels were written. This factor
alonc points to the authenticity of these words as being original with

The mission of the disciples is to be accompanied by miraculous

signs: healing the sick, raising thedead, cleansing the lepers, and cast-
ing out demons. Here are shades of Moses, who also was given miracu-
lous signs to assert his prophetic leadership over the Israelites. But not
the doing of miracles but preaching is the major task of the apostles. It
is not ordinary preaching, since it is to be a witness to people and
against people. Jesus says that it will become the standard of the
eschatological judgment. Sodom and Gomorrah, which still have a uni-
versal reputation for perversion and are subject to consequent judg-
ment, will have it better than would-be Christians at the end time
(Matt. 10:IS). This preaching will have a disruptive effect, causing
imprisonment, the breakup of the family as the closest-knit unit of
society, and even death to the preacher and to those who accept him at
his word (v. 21). The disciples do not carry out this task by themselves;
their words are actually the words of the Holy Spirit, for Jesus says:
"It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through
you" (v. 20). They are not to fear violent death; rather they are to obey
Cod so that they do not fall into the power of the One who will eter-
nally torture body and soul in hell (w.26-28). At the end of the dis-
course Jesus promises them the prophets' reward. Just as God honored
Moses, Elijah, and all the other prophets, so Jesus will hold these 12
disciples i n high regard i n His kingdom.
The task of the disciples in the later church depends on the in-
structions of Jesus. Before His resurrection they preach that the king-
dom of heaven is at hand. Later they preach that the kingdom has in-
deed come through Christ's sacrificial death on the cross and His rising
from the grave. Through the Easter and Pentecost events the disciples
have become apostles. Just as the Old Testament prophets were perma-
nent announcers of the coming kingdom in the Messiah, so the apos-
tles are permanent witnesses to the kingdom which is now here be-
cause it has come in Jesus of Nazareth. Because they are chosen by
Jesus to witness to Him and to represent Him before men, their words
are eternally valid and thus unlike other words.
The church has always taught that the Holy Spirit inspired the
writing of the Scriptures after Jesus' departure. This is indeed true.
What is also significant is that even before His death Jesus prepared
these men for their work and promised them the full measure of the
Holy Spirit. Their writing of the Scriptures by inspiration is thus to be
seen in the context of their apostolic office. The inspiration of the
Scriptures is closely associated with the office that Jesus committed to
the apostles and that the Holy Spirit enabled them to carry out. The
office was given to the Twelve before they fully knew or understood the
mission of Jesus. The final and full bestowal of the apostolic office on
Pentecost did not come as a surprise to them, as Jesus before and after
His resurrection had promised a greater dispensation of the Holy
Spirit for His work. What they did before Jesus' death in proclaiming
the nearness of the kingdom of heaven in Jesus, that, after Pentecost,
they did with all the perfection that Jesus had promised.
After the resurrection of Jesus and after Pentecost the authority of
the apostles became clear. This does not mean that their authority was
never challenged. Paul speaks about "false apostles," and some of his
writings show a very defensive attitude about his own apostolic office.
Rut to the apostles themselves their authority was now certain. As long
as Jesus was with them on earth, their authority was always secondary
and always subject to His. He was the final arbiter in making decisions.
After His departure they became the ultimate available authorities in
the church, and their former hesitancy to act was replaced by a confi-
dence which the Holy Spirit had given them in their apostolic offices.
The Spirit was the vicar of Christ, and they were the Spirit's instru-

The New Testament epistles, especially in their salutations, give

clear evidence of apostolic confidence and assertion. The gospels differ
from the epistles in this respect. While the entire New Testament,
gospels and epistles, may be considered letters to early churches, the
gospels never contain direct references to the authors. But the epistles
almost always do. The Epistle to the Hebrews is an exception and, as in
other matters, presents its own set of problems which will be discussed
While the gospels do show the apostolic imprint, their apostolic
authority is not as explicit as in the epistles. The latter writings fre-
quently give the author's name, the destination of the letter, and other
details. The hypothesis could be hazarded that the gospel writers could
not forget that they were the disciples of Jesus and that the disciple is
never above his teacher. Their authority came from Jesus, for H e had
called them. Therefore, in presenting the life and words of Jesus for the
church, they did not want to give the impression that the authority of
Jesus was in any way dependent on them, for the reverse was true:
they were dependent on the authority of Jesus.
The epistles show no hesitancy in asserting apostolic authority
over the churches. In their salutations Paul's letters presuppose a claim
to apostolic authority. The words in his letters are to be accepted by the
congregations as the Word of God, because God has chosen him as an
apostle. (More will be said later about Paul's unique problems as an
apostle.) His salutations or greetings leave no doubt in the mind of the
reader that Paul considered himself an authority in religious matters
and that his words qualified as God's own Word. In his letters Paul
asserts over and over that he is an apostle. The Pauline salutations
provide a clear understanding of what it means for these apostolic
writings to be accepted as the Word of God.
In the salutation of his epistle to the Romans Paul sets forth all the
requisites of the apostolic office (1:l-6). His apostleship is not of his
own devising or choosing but is of God. It came about through an a d
of premeditated, divine grace and election. His apostolic task centers in
Jesus Christ, who has proved Himself to be God by His resurrection
and who is man through His lineal descenl from David. Jesus Himself
is indeed the center of Gospel, but the perpetuation of this Gospel de-
pends on the apostolic proclamation. Paul's apostolic office exists not
for his own good but for the benetit of the Gentiles. Since God has
given him the special task of establishing the church among the Gen-
tiles, he does have the right of supervision over the congregation of
Rome. In this case he exercises the right of doctrinal supervision by
means of a letter.
In his letters to Corinth and Colossae, Paul states that his office
exists because of the will of God. In Second Timothy h e makes a similar
defense. (This is a pattern which had been established when Jesus was
with the original Twelve. The gospels are unanimous in declaring that
Jesus had called them into the office, and not that they had aspired to it.)
In First Timothy Paul claims that his office exists by the command of
God. In Galatians he adopts an obviously aggressive tone, asserting that
his office comes from God and not from men. It was not that the other
apostles had come together to choose him, but his choice as an apostle
was made directly by Jesus. For Paul a formal requirement for the office
of an apostle is that he be directly chosen by Jesus. Paul is very much
aware of the claims of some that he was self-appointed and therefore a
fraud, or that perhaps Peter, then in Jerusalem, had given him the office.
In some of the epistles Paul tones down his claim to the apostolic
office and advances his arguments on a lower key. In both letters to the
church at Thessalonica he omits explicit reference to his apostolic office
in the opening greeting. In this church the situation was different than,
for example, in Corinth. At Corinth Paul was fighting for his apostolic
life. Men claiming to be apostles were disrupting congregational life
there by casting doubts on Paul's office (2 Cor. 11:13). The situation at
Thessalonica was different. He had established this congregation, and
no other apostle had visited this congregation in the time between his
last visit and the writing of the two letters. For them Paul was the only
As for other apostolic writings, the two letters attributed to Peter
show none of the great concern with the apostolic office so obvious in
some of Paul's salutations. (This is assuming, at least for the sake of
argument, that both can be attributed to Peter in some way.) Both in-
clude self-references to Peter as an apostle, but no more.
There are five writings in the New Testament associated with
John: one gospel, three epistles, and Revelation. The three epistles
bearing the name of John are written on the same low key and with the
same non-self-assertive attitude that is seen in the gospel. John assumes
that his readers know who he is and are ready to accept his authority
without any questioning. As the last surviving disciple of Jesusand the
only remaining living authority from the apostolic circle, he expects
people to know who he is. In the gospel h e refers to himself as "the
disciple whom Jesus loved." In Second and Third John he is simply
"the elder." This is somewhat akin to the case of Frederick the Great of
Prussia, who was fondly known among his subjects as "der Alte,"
a term which applied in a similar way to the late chancellor of Germany,
Konrad Adenauer. In First John the apostle refers to himself merely as
"I." This is not a mere biographical reference but is the authoritative
"I," which is also quite obvious in Paul's writings. The apostolic
"I" designates a person answerable to no one in the church but to Jesus
alone. In the Book of Revelation the name "John" is found directly in
the text. Even here the biographical reference is basically low key.
There is only one "John" of such importance in the church, and his
authority has universal validity in the church. The book closes with a n
eschatological warning not to tamper with the manuscript. These words
have all the hallmarks of an apostolic warning, similar to Paul's in
Galatians 1:6-9.

,411 apostolic references in the salutations of New Testament

writings have one thing in common: They all assert the authority of the
writer over the readers. The salutations serve not only as introductions
but also as claims upon the readers. The question which forces itself
upon every reader who takes the New Testament seriously is not only
whether a given writing is inspired but whether it adequately reflects
the apostolic message. This is reasoning in a circle, to be sure. But an
apostle never possesses his office in a vacuum. He possesses the office
to preach the Gospel. This Gospel nourishes the faith and life of Chris-
tian congregations.
All of the apostles possess this office equally. None is before or
after another. They all bear witness and testimony to Jesus, but each i n
his own style. From this it follows that their testimonies cannot con-
tradict each other, as their office is one. Regardless of this circular rea-
soning to determine the apostle's office, the argument has merit. Ncw
Testament Scriptures must in every instance prove themselves to be
apostolic. Where there is doubt about apostolic association, there the
question of Gospel content may be asked as a criterion. The pseudo-
gospels of Peter and Thomas possess firm apostolic self-confidence, hut
their content is hardly in harmony with the extant apostolic message in
the Scriptures which has always been available to the church.
Many noncanonical writings preach the Gospel with clarity, per-
haps equal to that of the New Testament writings. But only those writ-
ings which come from men chosen by Jesus to be the teachers of His
and his office. Paul w a n t s to line up as many witnesses as he possibly
can to establish the resurrection of Jesus as an event within history. He
is so conscious of his apostolic office that he has to include himself in
the long line of witnesses. Momentarily he loses his train of thought,
as he frequently does, a n d tells the congregation that his apostolic
office is a special grace given to him from God. By verse 12 he has
pulled himself together a n d continues with his magnificent presenta-
tion of the meaning of Jesus' resurrection.
Whether Paul is discussing justification, as he is in Galatians, or
the resurrection in First Corinthians- two of the loftiest doctrines in
the Scriptures-he cannot resist taking the opportunity of using his
apostolic office as a m e a n s of furthering his arguments. Justification
and resurrection are part of the basic kerygma, the proclamation of the
early church, but they d o not have an entirely independent meaning
and validity. Paul claims that he is a link between these fundamental
truths of the Christian faith and God Himself.
Even the slight demonstration of patience and restraint shown in
First Corinthians is totally missing in Second Corinthians. In First
Corinthians he underplays his apostolic authority by asserting that he
is a team member with Peter and Apollos. This apostolic collegiality is
shown in 1 Corinthians 15, where he mentions the other apostles as
witnesses of the resurrection before himself. This apostolic restraint
cannot be detected i n Second Corinthians. At the end of the letter his
pent-up anger over t h e unwillingness of the Corinthian Christians to
acknowledge his authority over this congregation breaks out like water
backed up by a dam. For nine chapters, at least in our English Bibles,
he keeps his emotions u n d e r control. Then in chapters 10 through 12 he
cannot prevent himself from exulting in his apostolic qualifications. The
gentle pastoral tone i n h i s first letter to this congregation turns into
irony in the second.
These chapters, m o r e than others in the New Testament, reveal
what the apostles think of themselves and their office. The office of an
apostle is not something incidental or accidental but is part of their
very existence. There i s n o cool objectivity on the part of Paul whereby
he can stand away from h i s office and view it with scientific detach-
ment. The rejection of Paul meant the rejection of Jesus Christ. Only
these very strong feelings can explain Paul's anger. A parallel thought
in the gospels is that t h e rejection of the words of Jesus means the re-
jection not only of Him b u t also of the Father. Paul, as were the other
apostles, was the embodiment of the Gospel and the standard of divine
truth in the church. Twice in this section in Second Corinthians he
asserts that he is not inferior to the "superlative apostles" of the Corin-
thians (11:5; 12:ll). T h e r e is no hesitancy in his ironic self-assertion
(11:16 ff.) as he lists what h e personally suffered for the sake of the Gos-
pel. The same is true of his enumeration of revelatory, ecstatic experi-
ences by which he directly experienced God Himself. This direct com-
munication with God or with Jesus, which Paul experienced several
times and which was the basis of his apostolic office, can be detected in
Paul's use of the word "I."
Paul's apostolic self-consciousness is evident in all his letters.
Implicit apostolic consciousness turns into an explicit apostolic defense
in letters to those congregations where his authority has been openly
challenged. He suffers because of the tension between his high office
and his personal humility.
A number of conclusions can be drawn from Paul's many self-
references. He considers himself an authority in the church. In the
administration of this authority he is responsible to Jesus alone and not
to the congregation, not even to any of the other apostles, including
Peter. There is not the slightest suggestion in any of his writings that
he looks to any other person or group of persons in the church for per-
mission or approval to carry out the apostolic commission. Even before
Paul writes any letters, he is exercising this authority. As he works
with his assistants, some of whose names are known-Timothy, Silas,
Titus- he never consults with them concerning his authority. These
men assist him in his task at his request, and the congregations are
required to provide funds for these apostolic mission endeavors.
But none of them possesses any authority over Paul.
Paul's reference to the wisdom of the Corinthians and his own
foolishness (1 Cor. 4:lO) is a biting attempt to shame these Christians,
who had forgotten their subservient relationship to the apostle. His
authority is in no way limited to his personal presence; it is valid also
during his absence. In several of his letters he mentions that he would
like to be with the congregations personally. If at all possible, he wlll
try to visit them. From the earliest apostolic times the letters of the
apostles were recognized as legitimate substitutes for the actual apos-
tolic presence and thus possessed the same authority.
Sometimes the apostolic authority was carried out in some congre-
gations through an assistant. Paul makes frequent menticn of sending
Timothy or Titus to a congregation to help put affairs in order. At least
by the middle of the first century Paul's apostolic office, exercised per-
sonally or through assistants, had made a deep impression on Chris-
tian churches in the western half of the Roman Empire. He held him-
self personally responsible for their establishment and fought to
maintain his authority over them. Some congregations, like the one irl
Rome, were not established by Paul. But his authority was of such
a nature that he could affirm it for this congregation also.
Prior to writing his letters, which we recognize as inspired Scrip-
tures, Paul affirmed his office as an apostle. Through individual con-
tact in the congregations he showed hiniselt t(1 be an apostle, undoubt.
edl~ h e worked several YCJrS exercising the apostolic office befort. h r
wrote a n y letters. All of' his letters, with t h ~cxccption Q { the 0 ° C
written to Rome, were addressed to congreg'~(ionshe hdd bccn ~ n s t r u -
mental in founding and which knew him personally. These letters h,jd
force a n d validity in the early churches h e c a u s ~oi thelr apostolic a u -
thorship. This is not to deny but to affirm these letters as the Word of
God. They are the Word of God because the Sp1rlt.s s u ~ r r v i s ~ oofn the
entire apostolic task applied in a special way to t h e ~ wrrtings
r They arc
the Word of God not only b e c a ~ ~ I'aul
s e spokeand wrctc words "taught
by the Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:13) but because tic acted In the sfc'ici and at the
express command of Jesus.
These letters of Paul were immediately read tu ~ h C c h r ~ s t ~ acon.
gregations, and there has bee11 no break in ma~nr;lln~ng t h ~ ruqtnm
s in
the Christian church to this day. For ivhcnever the Ictrcr5 of Paul arc
read to the people today, I'aul's apostolic au~hurityI S reasserted over
the church. As Jesus worked through llalll d u r i n ~the first century, so
lesus works through I'aul's letters today

This apostolic consciousness can also t y e ticrcctcd i ~ tot a ic~ssc~r

degree, in the writirlgs of Peter and John lnhn In ills !hrcc It\lttrs uses
the word "1" frequently. In the prc,ln!: tc, the Ep~btlch,: bascs h15
authority o n direct personal conncctlon 'lnd J>snclatlc>n~ ; ~ rlest15 h
(1 John 1:l-4). While Paul bastrs hra iluthar~tyor1 thC ~3~r.<c>n,ii revrl,~-
tions of Jesus to hirn,]ohn makcs a big porr~tol h,lv~ngsc.cSn,h > a r J .and
touched the Word oi L.iip, a very I ~ t t l nscli-d(>>ir
~ iI>t~r,r> tor thc d ~ s i ~ p l r
who had lain on Jesus' breast. (john 21 ?(I!
The elements of the eternal and c~ch,~rolc>g:cal 'Irc: clc..~rI n jrshn's
writings as Paul's. John's nless.lge g ~ v c sc ( , n t i i i c ~ ~r n~ tcl l t . J J ~~. 1 ~t.r<li:-

merit ( 1 john 4;17) and will be thc I:,I>I> ( 1 1 ctei:~.>Iii!c i s I ? j \t:,in~c a!.
it might seem, apostolic sell-concern so c v ~ d c n tIn I'Ju~ 1 5 not u n -
common to John. jn the hc. z y e a ~ 5of 1115 r l ~ ~ ~ b ldnd ~lty
truthfulness (21:?4), as if some in the c h u r ~ h not , linllhc. the. false apus-
ties who plagued Paul Ca;irl~h, arr. qucstlonrng I t . In the 5ccond
~ ~ ihe ~speaks t l of~necrivrrs cnfcrin,q fit(! C ~ I L I ~ tCi ~~ . ~ d ( ~ ~ ~ tp~r o t i-' c f l ~
who were both thc apc.l>fc>iii~ ~ H I a
C nC d mr.5s.lsr i u 7 )
The Third Epistle gives us the name ot a ccrtdirl Vrofrc;7hc ' ~ h o n lI t
is explicitly said that he does not .~ckrla,.\,!cd$cJohn'., .1~lth0ritv!v y!
surfacing througl, John's usual love and c a l m 15 his rcprc5scd a n w
over any of tlis r p o l t c ~ i iauthor~tv
~ and ,uprrrl~l1.lnin thl'
Peter had a supremacy ,n the church wh:i'h ' - v < ~ \ vcrr, rdrciy clue<
tloned Paul had to detend his aposfulri~t>b ~ l lLb lth I'rx!c:r \ u t h 'iuthor
ity was self-evident. This sure, calm apostolic confidence marks the
letters attributed to him. The apostolic "1" is used infrequently in his
two epistles. With Peter the apostolic self-consciousness is set forth not
in a statement of self-defense but in the context of the future. While
Peter neither questions nor has to defend his apostolic office, he has
concern for the church after his death. Paul is concerned with the
spreading of his authority throughout the western world during his
own life time. Peter shows great interest in perpetuating the apostolic
office and message after his demise. In the second letter (2 Peter 1:13 ff.)
he mentions his own impending death and the necessity of preserving
the apostolic message when he is no longer with the church to give it
personal guidance.
If Peter did actually write the second letter, then there is very good
reason to believe that hc is making reference to the gospel which is
known today as Mark. Regardless of the exact reference, he must be
referring to a manuscript of some sort. Only a manuscript could fit these
words: "And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at
any time to recall these things." (2 Peter 1:15). He considers it important
that even after he dies his office will continue to have a unique force and
validity in the church. Peter's self-confidence does not mean that he has
n o polemical concerns in his apostolic office. Quite to the contrary, he
speaks about false teachers heading for destruction (2 Peter 2:1 ff.) and
about unstable individuals who twist the writings of Paul (2 Peter
315 ff.). This casual reference to Paul shows that already in the first
century the writings of the apostles were recognized as authoritative in
the church. Even if Second Peter should prove to be a pseudograph,
this ancient writing would clearly show in what high regard the early
church held the writings of Paul. All this shows that the important
question of what was "Bible" and what was not was largely determined
by apostolicity, for the early church knew that what was spoken by the
apostles came from God Himself.
The reading of the epistles in the regular liturgies of the church
today can be traced back to the early church, which treasured the
apostolic messages and incorporated .them immediately into their
worship services. Paul tells the Colossians (4:16) to exchange le:ters
with the Laodiceans and to read them publicly. Whenever the church
reads Paul's letters in a public worship, it indicates its willingness to
accept his apostolic authority. In the first century the apostolic office
permeated the church through the personal Presence of the a~ostlesl
their assistants, and their letters. Today whenever the apostolic letters
are read, their authority is still recognized- It is the only basis for the
church and for its theology.
Chapter 3
The Use of Letters as the Extension
of Apostolic Authority

In the world of the first century, letters were commonly used to exer-
cise authority. For example, Saul carries letters from-the high priest
(Acts 9:1 ff.). The New Testament Scriptures themselves consist i n part
of letters. What is more, they make reference to other letters, sonle ot
which we have and others which we do not have. 1.etters were used in
the church earlier than is usually supposed. The decisions of the apos-
tolic council in Jerusalem, which met probably some time during the
fifth decade of the first century, were carried by letter to the congrega-
tion in Antioch. The content o[ this letter, containing largely the words
of James, is recorded in Acts 15:23-29. At the reception of the letter in
Antioch, the congregation there is said to have rejoiced at the cxhorta-
tion. (V. 31)
The two letters addressed to the Corinthian congregdtion indicate
that there was considerable correspondence between if and Paul (1 Cor.
5 9 ; 163). Some have posited four letters to the church at Corinth. This
might even be a low estimate. (According to some scholars there are
"lost" letters which today are not in our New Testament canon. Thc
congregation at Laodicea received a letter-so i t would scern according
to Colossians 4:16-which is not extant today, unless i t is Ephesians.)
In Second Corinthians 10 Paul, in defending his own absence from the
congregation, states that Christians there might be inclined to believe
that he likes to send letters because he is fearful of making a personal
appearance in the congregation. Such a remark points to letters as an
accepted means of expressing apostolic authority. (V. 9 ff.)
At the end of the first century, John is ordered to write a letter to
each of the seven churches in Asia Minor. Thesc letters can be found in
the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation. I t is quite possible
that these letters were individually sent to each of these congregations.
Each letter had obvious apostolic force. The frequent warnings of judg-
ment yet to come and the eschatological references are quite obviously
the words of an apostle, for a mark of the apostolic message is that i t
does not only have force for the time when i t was written but that i t is
valid till Jesus comes.
The entire church in all times is to thrive on the apostoljc message
The apostolic message, in word and letter, is eschatological. The point
that should be made clear here is that in the apostolic age letters were
not only a legitimate but also a common mear.s of spreading the apos-
tolic message and of asserting apostolic authority. The Scriptures which
we call the New Testament today are copies and translations of these
apostolic letters.
The various questions pertaining to the number and nature of
letters written can be left to more thoroughgoing New Testament
studies. There are however two questions that must be discussed here
because they could cause difficulty. The first question is: What about
the "lost letters" of the apostles? Why didn't some of the extant letters
get into our Bibles? The second question deals with alleged forgeries.
The question about "lost" apostolic letters is a moot one. The very
fact that they are "lost" precludes the possibility of discussing their
contents. There is no definite reason why some written material sur-
vived and other material was eventually lost. While there is no firm
evidence that there were writings of the other apostles other than those
represented in the New Testament canon, it still cannot be denied that
the apostles exerted their mission and authority through both oral
preaching and written letters.
What can be said of Paul can possibly be said of the other apostles,
and surely of Peter and John. Since we do not know the nature of the
"lost" letters, we can not know why they were not preserved. Both the
questions and the answers are highly speculative. In some cases it
appears that some of the known letters were incorporated in other
material. For example, the letter from the apostolic council in Jerusalem
to the congregation at Antioch was at least partially recorded in Acts 15;
and John's letters to the seven churches can be found in the Book of
Revelation. Rather than have individual copies made of each of the
seven letters, the entire Book of Revelation was copied. This was simply
a matter of convenience.
The letters which did survive might have had a literary excellence
that :he other material did not have. Lukc in :he prolog to his Gospc!
indicates a type of literary profusion ill the early church which he at-
tempts to put in order. Thus Luke's life of Jesus might have survived
simply because of its lucid style. Given the hypothesis that today an
apostolic writing should be found, a writing which has all the marks of
apostolic authenticity, including doctrinal agreement with the extant
canon, this writing would be a totally valid authority for the church and
its theology. Since no such writing has been found to date, little time
should be spent on this hypothetical question.
The second question has to do with forgeries. There are gospels
attributed to Peter and Thomas, and the latter one has been recently
found. Most of these apocryphal writings date from the second century
or later. Even though the apostolic forgeries extant today come from the
post-apostolic period, there was a type of forgery even during the life-
time of the apostles. In 2 Corinthians 11:13 Paul speaks about "false
apostles . . . disguising themselves as apostles of Christ." Without the
benefit of photographs, apostolic credentials could easily be forged and
used by anyone so inclined. Apparently the Corinthian congregation
had recognized as apostles men who were obviously impostors.
The false apostles were parallel to the false prophets in the Old
Testament. They were men who claimed all the authority that belonged
only to Jesus' legitimate representatives. They were engaged in the
same ecclesiastical activity as though they were real apostles, but they
did it without a legitimate commission and they preached a false
gospel. If the real apostles preached and wrote, so did the false apostles.
Many congregations in the early church were probably taken in by the
forged credentials, but they immediately expelled them when they
found them to be impostors. For the same reason the apocryphal litera-
ture did not make it into our New Testament. In some places the
churches accepted these writings because they had the apparent marks
of apostolicity. But when the forgery was detected, such literature was
immediately eliminated. The critical question which the earliest Chris-
tian congregations asked of these writings was one of apostolicity.
What was apostolic was a product of the Holy Spirit. The reverse was
not necessarily true.
no mention of the intermediaries. Luke, a Gentile, on the other hand,
graphically describes the situation as it took place. Matthew describes
it as a business transaction involving only Jesus and the centurion.
Also the parable of the unjust steward is the story of a shaliach who is
in charge of the financial affairs for a certain business man. At the news
of his dismissal h e cleverly reduces the amounts of money on the bills
owed his employer. After it is done, there is nothing that the employer
can do, because the word of the shaliach, as long as he holds the office,
is final (Luke 16:l-10). The employer is bound to it.
Paul is perhaps the most famous shaliach, or apostle, of Jesus
Christ. His call to the apostleship provides an interesting case study. At
the time of his conversion o n the road between Jerusalem and Damas-
cus he was acting as the emissary, or shaliach, of the high priest with
full authority to carry out persecutions against the Christians (Acts 9:
1-2). From being an "apostle" of the enemies of Christ, the Jewish rulers
in Jerusalem, he is turned into an apostle of Christ. Ironically, the same
man who carried letters from the high priest for the destruction of the
church now writes letters for the establishment, instruction, and edi-
fication of the church.


The office of the shaliach or "apostle" can be traced back into the
religious context o f the Old Testament world also. Both of these words
come from verbs which mean "send," and the noun forms of both have
the general meaning of "sent one." A term used for the commission-
ing of a prophet is shalach, "to send." The call of Moses, described in
Exodus 3, uses a form of shalach, or "send." The word has both his-
torical and theological significance. At a given time in history God
calls Moses and sends him to lead Israel. The sending of Moses has also
a theological meaning. By being sent by God Moses becomes God's
representative almost in the same sense that the apostles later become
the representatives of Jesus. The point here is not that the commission-
ing of Moses should be understood in the light of the later apostolic
call, but that the apostolic commissioning is in a sense parallel to the
commissioning of Moses. In other words, an apostle became what
Moses once was: a "sent one."
The actual commissioning of Moses as the first prophet to the
nation of Israel is found in Exodus 3:13-15. Moses is to be received by
the Hebrews because the "I AM," who also identifies Himself as the
God of the patriarchs, has sent him. The actual authority of Moses is
found in his being sent from God. Like the shaliach, deputy, or am-
bassador in later Judaic life and culture, Moses speaks and acts in the
name of the One w h o sent him, in this case, God. What is important is
that from this time on the words of Moses will qualify as the words of
God because of the commission which Moses has received. Moses'
office as shaliach or "apostle" is essentially a speaking one, and Moses
is quite obviously disturbed about his own speaking ability, an abso-
lute necessity in carrying out the office (Ex. 4:lO-17). God solves this
problem by saying that the words He puts into Moses' mouth he can in
turn put in Aaron's mouth. Moses becomes "god" to Aaron; Aaron
becomes "apostle" for Moses. The speaking for another includes both
message and commission. The thought of sharing the prophetic com-
mission will become important later in the New Testament, where men
like Timothy, Titus, Luke, and Mark share in the apostolic commission
of Peter and Paul.
The other prophets in the Old Testament are pictured as being
sent directly by God, as was Moses. Just in passing, reference could be
made to the call of Isaiah, with the prophet responding to the request
of God with: "Send me" (6%). Here Isaiah places himself willingly
under God's commission to be a prophet. Later Judaism, as was men-
tioned previously, always considered the shaliach just as if the person
who sent him were actually there. The prophet is sent by God as His
own personal representative. The prophetic Word is by definition the
Word of God. The etymology for the word "prophet" suggests one who
speaks for God. Jesus endorses this by saying: "For he whom God has
sent utters the words of G o d (John 3:34). If the concern in the New
Testament was: "Which writings are of apostolic origin?" the question
for the Old Testament people of God was: "Which writings are of
prophetic origin?'The question is not only whether a writing was
inspired but also whethcr it came from a prophet.
Though the Old Testament understood the prophets as being sent
from God, it never explicitly gives them the title shaliachs, "the sent
ones." In later Judaism it was a quite normal and natural development
that some of the prophets would actually be called shaliachs. The rabbis
gave Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and Ezekiel the honorary title of shaliach,
because as ambassadors of God they had done miracles which God had
reserved for Himself.
Many other references could be taken from Biblica! and extra-
Biblical material to demonstrate the familiarity that the Jews had with
this office. It was part of both their religious and secular history. For
example, in 2 Chronicles 17:7-9 Jehoshaphat is pictured as sending
princes and Levites to instruct the inhabitants of Judah in the Torah. In
Esther 9:20 Mordecai sends letters to the Jews in Babylon to celebrate
a feast. Such cases can be multiplied. When Jesus sent the Twelve as
His apostles, He was following a procedure that the Jews knew very
well. First they were called, then sent.
In His preaching Jesus seems to indicate that the prophets of the
Old Testament were "apostles," or those sent. In the parable of the
rebellious workers in the vineyard (Matt. 21:33-41) the word "send" is
used prominently in connection with the servants. The vineyard is
Israel, the servants are the prophets, the workers are Jews, and the son
is Jesus. Both the servants and the son are described as being sent.
They are, in other words, "apostles" of God, acting in God's stead
and with His authority. In His lament over Jerusalem Jesus speaks
about the Jews who have killed the prophets and stoned those who
were sent. Here is a Hebrew parallelisn~;by those killed and stoned
Jesus means the prophets, the "sent ones." When the writer to the
Hebrews calls Jesus an Apostle (3:l) he is only developing a designa-
tion which Jesus applied to Himself and the prophetsin the parable of
the rebellious workers.


At the time of Jesus the Jews without any question recognized the
authority of Old Testament prophets. Jesus, at least according to the
picture that Matthew paints of Him, linked Himself to the authority of
the prophets. Even those who hold the unsatisfactory theory that the
life and words of Jesus were in part fabricated by Matthew still hold
that Jesus' life and message fulfilled prophetic hopes. In John's Gospel
Jesus used the Jews' dependency on the prophets to His own advantage,
saying that they are on the right path in finding out who He is by
searching the prophetic Scriptures (John 5:39). All of the gospels in one
way or another acknowledge the importance and absolutely vital sig-
nificance of the prophets for the church.
When Jesus called His disciples "apostles," He was implicitly
making them the successors of the prophets. This suggestion of Jesus
was not wasted on the disciples, because in the early church they were
given all the prerogatives that the prophets once had in guiding the
religious life of the Jews, God's people. Like the prophets, the apostles
were chosen and endowed by God. A self-designation of the prophet in
the Old 'Testament, which the New Testament apostles directly apply
to themselves, is the word "servant" (doulos).Paul, Peter, James, Jude,
and John all call themselves servants (douloi). Frequently in sermons
today "servant" is used for urglng the sanctification of Christian lile.
The thought is that in his life the Christian is to be totally subservient
to the will of God. This is not false. But when the apostles called them-
selves servants, they were attaching themselves to their prophetic
predecessors. The apostles never called themselves "prophets," in the
same sense that Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others were prophets, because
this tern applied only to those who preached Christ before He came in
the flesh. They could and did call themselves "servants" because they
were God's own appointed supervisors over His people. There is a
parallel in one of the titles of the pope: "the servant of servants." This
title is only used by the pope of himself; others could hardly use it as
a form of address to him.
In the Old Testament, "servants" does occur in connection with
"prophets." 2 Kings 17 contains the lament of God over the Jews in the
Northern Kingdom because they had refused His "servants the proph-
ets" (vv. 13, 23). Jesus in the parable of the rebellious workers uses the
word "servant" in the same way to refer to the prophets of the Old
Testament. In a special sense the term is used most frequently of
Abraham, Moses, and David. Abraham was the father of the nation;
Moses had established the Israelites as a nation for God; and David was
the father of the Messianic royal line through which God would even-
tually bring salvation to Israel. The Scriptures are frequently referred to
as the "Law of Moses, Thy servant."
The apostles applied to themselves the word "servant" in a similar
way. Just as the prophets were in one sense or another the spiritual
leaders of the Old Testament people of God, so the apostles were the
leaders of the New Testament church. Through them God's own people
were renewed. The word "servant" as a self-designation of the apostles
is the self-recognition that God is building the church through them.
This thought is most clear in the Book of Revelation. There the heavenly
Jerusalem is shown as built on 12 foundations, each bearing the name
of one of the 12 apostles. Resting on these 12 foundations, the church is
pictured as the restored 12 tribes.(21:9-14)
Since the term "servant" is found in the greetings of several New
Testament letters, it becomes clear that it is used in a technical sense. In
certain cases the designation "servant" appears with the name of the
author without any additional reference to the apostolic office, as in
Philippians, James, and Jude. In other cases it precedes the word "apos-
tle," that is, when both are used in the greeting.
A more minute point can be made here concerning Moses as the
servant of God. The Hebrew word for "servant" is the same for both
Moses and the other prophets. The same can be said of the Greek lan-
guage in the New Testament. Frequently in the Septuagint, the Greek
translation of the Old Testament, and in the Book of Hebrews the
special word therapon (servant) is used for Moses, a word never used
for any of the prophets or apostles. The special title given to Moses
indicates the high position to which none of the other called servants
of God could approach.
When the term "servant" is used of the prophets and apostles, it
means more than the sanctified life lived in obedience to God. Rather
it means that these men are God's representatives, somewhat in the
sense of the shaliach, the one who is sent. The idea in shaliach puts the
stress on the man's authority and even freedom in carrying out his
assigned task. The designation "servant" puts the stress on the man's
relation to God. In the last analysis Cod's servants are responsible to
Him; they will be I~eldaccountable for all their words and actions. They
are under limitation. As God's servants the prophets and apostles can-
not transgress the boundaries established by Cod Himself. This could
possibly explain why the writers of the New Testament, wherever they
call themselves servants and apostles, always mention their being ser-
vants first and apostles second. In point of time and priority, their
relationship to God is first and their relationship to the congregation is
second. They are not autonomous authorities in the congregation; they
are responsible to God. Their authority, unlike God's, is not self-
The connection between prophet and apostle is clearly stated at the
end of Matthew 10, the chapter that describes the commissioning of the
Twelve. Jesus lays the foundation for the apostleship by stating that
they would represent Him as He in turn had represented the Father.
Then there comes a promise that whoever receives their message as
prophetic or authoritative will receive "a prophet's reward." The Old
Testament blessings associated with believing the prophets' message
are now associated with the apostolic message. (V. 41 f.)

In becoming apostles, the disciples were not only following in the

tradition of the Old Testament prophets and paralleling a secular Jew-
ish function but were also following in the footsteps of Jesus Himself.
Hebrews 3:l is the only place in the New T e s t a ~ n e ~ where
~ t jesus is
called the "Apostle" of the Father. In the context here jesus is compared
to Moses, and that suggests that also Moses was an apostle of God.
Though Jesus never specifically used the word "apostle" of Himself,
He was obviously quite conscious of the fact that the Father had sent
Him to perform a special task assigned to Him. Jesus is the Father's
deputy, ambassador, and attorney, for the Father has sent Him. He
speaks God's words (John 3:34).Frequently Jesus is said to act o n the
basis of His own authority. These passages refer t o His own inherent
There are other passages dealing specifically with His Messianic
task of redemption, which He refers to as the work of the Father. Two
words are used here. The one, apostellein, the root for our word "apos-
tle," and the other, yempein, which also means to send, are both associ-
ated with the Hebrew shaliach. Jesus speaks about performing the
works of Him who sent Him. In the high-priestly prayer He mentions
finishing the work which the Father has sent Him to d o (John 17:4).
In Matthew 10 H e states that to receive an apostle is to receive Him and
thus in turn to receive the Father who sent Him (v. 40). In john 20 He
again makes this close correlation by stating that whoever receives Him
receives the One who sent Him. (V. 21)
At !he end of Matthew's Gospel Jesus sends the apostles to make
disciples of all nations, saying that the authority to d o this has been
given to Him. Here He pictures Himself as the Father's "apostle," or
slra:iach, who then a p p ~ i n t sHis own apostles. The close connection
between Jesus and the apostles is parallel to the close connection be-
tween the Father and Jesus in His Messianic task (28:18 ff.). This con-
nection, however, should not be confused with the intertrinitarian
relationship between the Father and the Son. This latter is unique, and
nothing in our sphere approximates it.
In their own way the prophets, Jesus, and the 12 disciples are
"apostles." As such they have in common that they act with the full
aull~orilyof God, who sent them. But their tasks and responsibilities
should not be confused with each other even though they are definitely
related to each other. The prophets are commissioned by God to es-
tablish and maintain the Israelites as a nation, so that through this
nation God can carry out His purposes. Jesus describes His task as
seeking "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" and as giving "His soul
a ransom for many." The disciples are the witnesses of Jesus' saving
activity and are to give testimony of it in all the world and in all time.
Jesus gains the salvation of Israel and the Gentiles by His life, death,
and resurrection. The disciples do not gain the salvation, but they see
this salvation taking place and declare it to others. This in a nutshell is
the apostolic task of Jesus' disciples.

The most concise summary of the apostolic qualifications can be

found in Acts 1:21-26, a passage that covers the period between the
ascension of our Lord and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Now that
Judas has taken his own life, the surviving 11 disciples realize the
necessity and sanctity of the number 12 for the apostolic college.
Candidates for this office must have been with Jests from the time of
His baptism by john through the iime of His crucifixion, resurrection,
and ascension. As apostles they had to be more than spectators. They
are to be the bearers of the Gospel, and the Gospel centers in Jesus
There is here, to be sure, the legal idea of witnessifig what actually
took place. Salvation took place within history. What is equally im-
portant is that they should become the embodiment of the Gospel.
What Jesus was and did must take verbal form, first in their mouths
(Acts 12%)and then Irom their pens later. The historical Jesus, if we dare
to use this term, would assume a different existence lor the church in
the dpoqlcriic \Lor& ic.>l15 i!o:r+. ::-ilh !he F ~ : h c > r.lnJ Ill?9 p 1 r l l
1 1 ~ t b f i i n

b u t H e r u l c s tilc c.hurch t h r c ? ~ i g htht. \ t ' t ? ~ c lI I l c y p r o c l c ~ i m .

T h e writ~n:; c,t :lie N r w I ' c s t ~ n ? c , r ti.; i l s c i l ,j t c s l i m o n y to t h c Im-
portance of the a p o s i i r l i i W o r d Irr;:~s I-!:n?zcl! scenls l o 17~1
1013 p r ~ o r i t y
or1 H i s e x ~ s t c n c c!n thtr l t ' o r d v.,!~c'r: tie s ~ y st o 'Thurn.15 "Hlcssed are
those w h o h,l;,c i1o: set." ,1!1d . c t t?~-!"!lohr? 20:2C)). Sirice Jesus
w o l ~ i dbc, present 11; ti,c. \ \ L , I - ~ ot :hC .~p(?:!!t'; fc31. I h c c.11i11ch.t l l c t r closc
n s s o c i a t ~ o n\ v ~ l hle?;~!.:d ~ : r ~ nI &
{ ; > i~:~ni.;try 15 n l > l o n l v ~ m p ~ r t a n
b ut t
at~snlutcl!. \ ,,:id t~s,c11:1,?l l ' h c r . L l i ~ ~ thil ~ \ t un r y loc>L placr In t l m c
o n l y once, but i t w c ! ~ ~ l ch.1~1:
i ,I ic>nt~nuc:dcifcct \vhercvt.r the J ~ O S ~ O I I L
W o r d would SC). It t,,oi~lc! in .I .;c3r:stS i.t. r c p c . l t t d ill c lit. I~c.;lr:n,: ~i all
those w h o ht>.lrci the \l;~.>r.d i o r l t i ( s itr-..: t l m c

T h e C h ~ l s t i r r nc h i i r r h A S t\.ts L~II,\V i t t o d ~ )i n t h e \ v c \ t r r n i ~ o r l d1s

to a I ' i r ~ cextent dcpc.ndcnt, ! ~ i ~ : ~ i , l n.;peakin$, Iv on t h e m i s s i c i n a ~ work
o i St. I'aul. Ivlorc writing. III lhc. N C \ ~- i ' c s t , ~ m c n ,rrc t .13ilibtd to h i m
t h a n t o 'in? other per>c!n Ibis iniil:c:di,l!cIy .I
c ~ l u \ c s prc>blt*m.s i i i c c
tills 2pc15tle does rle>t i:11!1!! ttlc LI;LI~.I~ , ~ p i l ~ t r~v c~j ~ ~i icr i : ~ ~ i < 111
~ l l !~!J, \ I I I I K
been w ~ t h lcsu.; t i u r l n ~1115 c<lr.thlv : l ~ ~ n ~ ; t r {vi \ t le.15: Ihcsc w c r c t h c
req~lil-crnentsbet c l o w n tor Matth:,!;. n t Juil,~s.)l',~irI
t i l e ' r c ~ i ~ ~ c c r r i e101-
l i ~ r n s c l LVJS
l quit(. ~1w.lrc th,it .In e~nct.;>liitnhaci b e c n n~acic.ili h i s c t l . i ,
Yet i ~ ehacl to i ~ i ! l i ! lc c r t a ~ i ! :c~.lLrlrcmcnr I I(,iva3 ci1uqc.n dlrclctly by
jcqc~son the I;)arnL1scc~sro,lJ ,inti w,~, thcrcforc a n c , y c w ~ t i ~ c so$f I - ~ i ~ s
rcsur-rt,clic):~ i j u t t h i > c,ii~.\c.d.I pro't.!crn i n thc t*.,rl!. cl>~!rc.l?, for n o n t - ot
the 3p(>:..!!c5 or c~!!!!,!. t : . > l l ~ ~ ; ~{:(~ ~lc:c,:is
~ r ~ . l,.vrt: .,VI!~~.<~;I:~.I>I' I l l \ t-i>nt:c,r-
sion a11c1 c , ~ I li c ? tiltt , ~ ; ~ c ) ~ l I cI;L%C
~ ~ JLIt<;Ii: ~ ~id
~ .th15. 1',1:11 \ ~ ~ i f c r }~crsi)n~:l
abuse. C;o~?lc.d i d not r c c l ! g c i i c ii:? c?tfic.c, c l a i m i n s that ilc, ~ ~ 1 .~ ;r - I
apostle It-oi:: ;:;t.n : r ; ~ i I. l i i l c ac:i.u>rd elf b e i n s a !al>r .lpos:le.
.;lnce a t 1 . u ~,~postlc~ ii,rd t i > !>c chiiscn b y Jcsilr: 14inlself .ind t11.1t b y .;om:.
i l u m a n be1n.s I n the. ic.lsc' oi,:\: the apc?>tles off(:rc.d c,lnd~d.ltcs.
b u t left the ch<>tcc.u p !o the L o r d .
rat11 laid c l ' i ~ i it~o vthi:r , l ~ ~ > ~ . tcrcdentlals
~~ili .l.ljr o t h c r apnstlcs
\\.ere L\ i t r i f i i c ~ oi t h c r.uircrlng or ic.u. i b ~ i~i ct c ~ i > ~ ; ; i . n c cthe
d suHer-
l n g s Q { jcsu, in ?ti5 I!i!Jy ( 2 C ' c ~ r i 3 - ! ? J'Thc O~~II:I cn!itihtic~c r n f c r r c d
tb,ith lesus on cartti. thut I"1i:i 15 !ahen tip i ! l t r ~1 1 c . a :a ~ ~cornn.lunc
~ w ~ t h
[esus ( 2 Cor i2 1-7;. Ct:nct.rn~ng hl? rcl,~tir>nahipt o tiw rc5urrcctc.d
iesus, I'aui put.: iir;nsc~lfc j r j the s;itnii levc! bvith thtl o t h e r apostles T h r
w o r d lor the appc.,lr:n~ of Lhc r c s u r r c i t e d C'lirist to I'aul i\ th(, same o n e
that 1 5 uscd !or I l i s a p p e ~ i r a n c c . to I'ctcr a n d t h c I ' \ v c l v e ~opi~ilrt..
appeared. I n I ' a ~ ~ l 'ssi ~ l i tllrcrc tvas no q ~ l a l ~ t ~ : idifference
vt. twtwcen
tile appearances nr,ldc, tv tht. clthcrb in !hc i o r t y - d d ) i period J I I ~t h c onc
Inade sevcr:~i vcar? latcr !u hlrr..
Chapter 5
Limitation and Extent
of Apostolic Authority

The authority given by Jesus to the 12 apostles was unique- unmatched

again by any period in church or secular history. The apostles' words
had validity in heaven and would reach eschatologically into the future.
Their authority was to be in effect for all time and would be terminated
only by the coming of Jesus in judgment. Does this mean that the apos-
tles were authorities in all sorts of secular matters? They were by no
means appointed to be authorities in scientific, academic, and philo-
sophical matters. Theirs was a circumscribed authority in that not
every area of human existence was covered.

The question arises as to whether an apostle could evcr be wrong.

Examples brought up in this regard might be considered trite, but
they are of some significance. For instance, was the apostle an authority
in bringing up his own children? Could he be considered to have the
final word in the scientific and philosophical matters of the Greek
world? Was he subject to fault in carrying out a business deal?
These seemingly trite- and perhaps to some, irreverent - questions
can be answered easily when the office of the shaliach is reconsidered.
The shaliach, as the deputy of the man who commissioned him, had
absolute and final authority only in the matter with which he was
explicitly entrusted. He did not have authority in other spheres. Thus,
for example, a shaliach commissioned to obtain a wife could not go
out and buy and sell property. The commission of the shaliach was in
each case carefully delineated.
If it is hard to understand this principle of limi!ations a s applied
to an apostle of Jesus, i l should be remembered that even !oday all of
us operate within several spheres of authority. In Great Britain the
Prince Consort must pay public allegiance to the Queen in affairs per-
taining to the state, but al home there is the usual relationship between
a man and his wife. A businessman might command the highest re-
spect in his office, but at home he plays with his children and performs
very menial tasks for them. A military officer has a chauffeur while on
official business, but at home he drives his car as he takes his wife
shopping. The different situations in life demand that we all play differ-
ent roles. Authority in one area in n o way implies authority in another
area. Great men, leader5 o f nations, are still caliird b y tlirir first names
by their mothers.

rlpostolic a u t h o r ~ t vis given for the hole purpose of establishing

and burldirip up tile cnurcil 011 lhe Sasis of thc Lospcl uf lcsus Christ.
111 their relationship to t h e church tile aposties must qpcak the Gospel.
that is. G o d ' s rcveciled plan of scilvat~onincluding the Law. Under this
compuision of oitlce I'JLII sayb, "\.Votl t c l mt. 1 1 I d o not pre'ich the
Gospel!" ( ! Cor. 9:16) In c ~ r r y i n sOut tnerr comrnisssion the apostles
are primarily concerned with the c ~ t a ~ l i s h n i e oi n t c o n ~ r c g a t i o n sJesus
lays d o w n ,I cer-tain pattern tor this ait~vit!. by s a y i n s th'lt the worL
should b e g ~ nIn l e r u s a l e ~ nand then bc estrnded to 1~1dc.1.5,iniaria.
and all t h e corner5 ot the world (Acts i:X!. i ' ~ u 1 . oi course. is sivcn 1'
special cornmrcsion to thc Gentile world, but ill..; malor tash. still is
doing misslonary cvori , ~ n destCibii.;hinsconsr-cgatrons. ,411 oi I'aul's
letters s h o x ~111.; prlmc concern for e ~ t a b l ~ s t i consresations.
in~ A part
ot this congreg;itic~n~il super-vision is the writins of his N c w Testament
epistles. The Xew Tcstanicnt 1s '1 sprcral ,~postolicproduct, biit i t is a
prodiict that rnt~sthe con..; ' s part of the ~ c n c r - JaI p o s t a ! ~
1 activity.
r t i e Scl-~pturesarc not 'in rsolatcd product ot the t-1oIy Spirit; their
signiiicance for tlircliurcti, then ,3nd now, rests in their conncct~onwith
the apostles and thcrr churches The New Tfitamcnt writings are tor
the rnost part letters from ~po>tlc.;.;peaking In the name ot Icsus to
i o ~ i g r e g a t ~ o ntos c n r o u r a s e Clirr>ti~ini'llth a n d !:ie 7-ht: chiircti is t h u s
apo.stolic, a s the Crccd rndic'~tes when ~t ..;pr.'iCs of '.one holy
Christian , ~ n daposlolic chiirch." l-icrc the wold "ripostolir" is used I n
the correct zense I^hc retercncc I S lirrc l o thc speaking ~ n wrrtins d
activities o i t h e apo~tit:s. Thc.;c ~ p o s t o l r cwords were ,~ndstill are ac-
cepted by tile L l l u f r h ..\t tiic end of tinic the aportnlic \%'old w ~ l lh'ive
a universal validity, srticc i t wili bc the standard for the unrverscrl judg-
ment. Men wrll b r judged o n whethei they nave acccptvd or rcjccted
this Word.
In secular n~attcrc,that is. in concerns not incorporated 11-1 at i o n -
nccted \\.it11 the Gospel a n d having n o t h i n s to d o w l t l ! the chiirch. t h e
l+,ords o f I'ttcr. I'aul. and their colleagues d l 3 not possess .ip(>stol:c
validity. The apostolrc ~ t f l c cf u n c t i ~ n c d~ 1 1 1 2 ;In regard to the church.
bium1,3n scicnccs ' ~ n dknowicdge. 2s long '15 thcv are separate from re-
ligious a n d rcveaied truth, d o no: ncccssarilp have to be judged by the
aFo"olic Word. The ~ p ~ t l ccso 'm m ~ s s i o ndid not extend beyond thelr
ecclesiastical functions

The concept of the s p h c r t ! ~of a u t h o r ~ t ) ;should riot be riiisunder-

stood. There is overlapping in thcsc sphere>, snrf the d ~ s t i n c t i o nin t h e
mind ot the F ~ O F ~isC not always clear. PI problen~frequently arising
in the m ~ n l s t r ynf Jesuz has to do with His dealings with people who
have a claim on Him outside of the kingdom r r l a t ~ o n s h ~ p .
There are at least three recorded incident.: of Mary attempting t o
inject her n~otherly authority ~ n k ?jcsu:' ? . ? e s s ~ . ~ n >~Cc! I V I ~ Y In the
pericope o f the 12-year-old Jesus in thc temple of jcrusalcm, M a r y a n d
loseph do not understand that their son. as the Messiah. has a relation-
ship to God af which they have no part IL.ul\e 2 46 ff ) At Cand's w e d -
ding M a r y 1s gently rehuhed by Jesus ior using her maternal influence
and authority in opposition to I ~ IMessianic S task ( J o h n 2:3 if.). O n a n -
other occasion Mary and the brothers and sistcrs of Icqus expect d s p e -
cial audience with Him. lesus scen)s to lgrlore the request by s t a t i n s
that 131s retatlonship with beiievers t'l'hes prc<?deliit clvc; f2:nily
bonds. In tact, the believers are t11c m o t h t r , sisters, a n d brothers (Matt.
12:4hff.). Jesus tlin~selt niovcs within scvcral splicrcs oi ,iuthority
which His own f'1miIy J l d n ~ l talw.1~5understand t-Ie I S ~ u b s c r v i e n tto
His parents as ,I srm, bill as Mess~aht i c c x c r ! ~t l 1 5< > ~ l l h ~ i rover
i t y thcm
The confusion over- thc disllnstion c.)t thc sphcsrcz of J~rlhorityc x p l a ~ n s
In part jesus' r e l e c t ~ o ~Ini 111s o b v n !li)n)etor\.~i. A homctown product,
it was thought. sirnpi). could not h ~ v t ,the autnoritv of a prophet.
Hence the saying u i lcsus t h , ~ t,I p : c > ~ l ~ cist w l t h o ~ l thonor in his o w n
c o u n t q . It is diff~cultfor ~c,oplc,I n Nazarrth to rccognizc. a person as
anauthol-lty whom thev h;l?:c hnown o n iirst.n,lmr b ~ s ~(P~latt. s 13:
jesus' refusal to i n t e n c n r i n .III ~nhcrlt'lnrcq ~ i ~ i r rbctwr:en
cl a man
and his brother shorz.; that tic. r e i ~ g : ~ : ~ .that c d 111s taik was ilrnited to
the Messianic work oi rtldt!n:pt~or~~ n did d r i i ~ tt:xtenii intc~the sccuiar
spheres (Lukt. 12-13ff.) Also ti^.; bchavior d ~ r r ~ n Hi5 , q ~ ~ r r e stnal,
t , and
sentencing s h o t ~ sJ 14es1t~nc.yto inttarrupt the pulitrc~~i order. This rs
not to den); the 'luthor~ty1 2 i ovcr ali th111gs.Our as the "apostle."
shaljach. or dcputy of Ihc f ~ t h v rl i e con:lnct; H~rnselfto the mjssron
a s s i ~ n e dH ~ n i .
As with ]esus, thc t ~ s ko! the ~ p o s t l e stakcs them into olhcr.
spheres. T } I ~ )arc . always ,~pOstic.;,i.u! thev di.1 :rc)l 'tlw<r);s r X C r C i S F t h ~
aPo"olic authnritv. S i m ~ l ~ ~I rCi p~ L I1 5~ a!w,iy> thc Mcc51rlh: h ~ f ~ i e does
,lot exercise flis .Vess~an!cp r t r o g a t ~ v c s'Therc rr no Messianic
o r apostniic wa! of eJtrng, ',iccplr:g, or w ~ l h l n '~M c s s i a h ' a n d
"apostie" have mt.Anlng only ; I > thc coctex: ot thv ch11rc.h.
What flappens i n onc sphcrc oi a u t h o r ~ t yc~~1ninfluence what
happens in anothcxr /? c'lse i n pain: I, t h e p r ~ v a t clit<, of I'rter (Gal.
2:11-]4) I'etpr reputedly hdd J pui'll(: rnlnlstr): with the Cicntiles a n d
was active in b r ~ n g i n gthcm into the church. In h ~ sp r ~ v a t elife he
associated more wlth the ~ C L V I S J I elcmcnt in !he church. H I S private
llfe d i d not belong to hi.; ,>postoi~cr e s p o n > ~ l l ~ l ~ tdnd ~ c . s;iuthority, b u t
his uniortu11~3te L>eh,lvio~- iiatl Ie'ld sonic to !vlieve that n1,lybc the Jews
J l J ildve p~.ic!r~ty ovcr rhc i ; e n t ~ l e >111 tile cilurcli I'cter wl15 nclt guilty
of p r t a c h i n g another C o s p c l o r ot unsanctiiied behavior. His p o o r
judgment in his pcrson'il l ~ l cd i d , h o w c v c r . rctlect o n the cxercise of
nls apostc?ilc oti'lce. In n o way i i ~ dl'ctcr ior ,I m o m e n t s u r r e n d e r h i s
apostolic m i s s ~ o nnor \v,I.; 1i1>ofiiic tclLc:i ~ ~ w ' l ~vI , ( . I I Ih~ i m by Paul's
censure of h i s priv,ltc. lifc~.t1c. w ; ~ s0171): rem:ndt.c! iiow h ~ . ;a c t ~ o nIn o n e
spliere w a s destroying h i s c ~ ~ t i ~i l l~ t lh cl rlp~?'rtolii c ~ sphere, a sphere
w h i c h w a s niuch m o r r i:iiportan:.
3-hc ' l p ~ s t 0 i l ia u t h o r ~ t v15 : ~ ; ) t o p e n to .lny typc of J ~ s s c c t i o nw h e n
1-ised i n the n'lnic o! ) c s u s T h c cipostlcs arc a u t h o r i t ~ c . ;c)nly In their
r e i a t i o n s h ~to~ tnc! [:hurcil i\li t h c ~ r~.ol-ii.;~ r tc,tally c . l u t t i o r i t a t ~ v cin
the c h u r c h . Phcir exclusion t ~ . ~ > [r n~ t h c rspheres s h o ~ ~ l cnot l hc inter-
preted to nielln th'~: tht. dpostolic r n c ~ s s ~~~ n~ ttd.~ r i .c,ln 1.c d i v ~ d e di n t o
spiritual ' ~ n dsetruiar ~ ~ I I E ~ c s'1,s !hougbI. they 'Ire r c l ~ , ~ ! ~Inl c the tirst but
not in the second. In C h r i s t i a n ~ t ) ;tile . sh'trp distinction I > r l w e e n ~ F II - I
:uaI a n d sccuiar in the abovt, sc,nsc is nu: p o s 3 1 l l c . I f t l i c i n c a r n ~ t l o n
m e a n s a n y t h i n g . i t rnc'lns th'it s , i l b , i t ~ ot~~~o kpI,lcc> i n oi.11 h~stc!~);
From the first c1.11titr;i thv c.hurc:h had to i~i:nt r ~ ! : . i ~ ~ f i t tht, " s p ~ r i -
t u a l ~ z l n p "r ? i 11s n~cs>,lgt:.I t h ~ to d c o n t e n d with t h c i'1c.t t h ~ sc?nie t peo-
pie were cicn\ing t h ~ ILY,LIS t c\;t.l. too; c j r l fle5Ii ( I /i?hn 4 . 7 ) . 'I'llt! ' l p ~ x t i e s
h a d t h c task ( > ! dcsr:-~b!r?i;J s'ilv,ltion w h ~ c htook ~ l ~ c tt~r.ouxh c! ;t c r r -

tain M a n w h o Ii~c'dM , I ~ / ~i ~c rI tI' l ~ ng e o ~ r , ~ p h ~ ih, ~t ls,t i ~ r i i . , ,lndll, chrono-

logical bnundaric,.; ! n ! , l i t , tlic aj?nstlcs w c r r itlllctl t o lw w ~ t hl e s u s
from t h e tlc,r). I i t ~ + ; ~ n ~ofi ~ H n ~i <; ministry s o th'lt they wouid b e con-
vinced th,lt \v!la! d i d h a p p e n I ~ , ~ l ? p c n ewithin d t ~ n r c,.lnci 5pac.v 'The!
were to b c W I tncsrcs In the It.,gal scnst.. They staked t h c ~ rl ~ v ot n the
proposjtiisn tiiclc what thcy prc:(ichcc! '~ctuaiiy hdd t,lkt.n p l . 1 ~ ~J.u s t
a s little 35 t!lc II!C o i J C . S L I ~ i ~ 1 b1e sep,lrated i n t o spir~tu'il , ~ n dsecuI,lr
s p h c i c s . a, t.c.~mc talrct tt:<tch~:rs had J o n c In the f ~ r s tccllti~r:,.;)nu w e r e
c o n d e m n e d by i o h n , >o also the L ~ p o . ; t o lrnc,.;sdge ~c c'lnnclt 1.t. dlsscctcd.
l'hc apostles w r r c ~ u t h c ~ r ~ it : ~~ail c s t?ic words that t h e y clnployed to
exercise their L ~ u t h o r i t vin c s t a h l ~ s l i i n gthc c h ~ ~ r c lW i h a l e v r r they d i d
in f s t a l ~ l i s h i n gthe c h ~ j r c l ithcy did a u t h o r i t ~ t ~ v c l A y s s h o w n abovc.
t h e apostoiic rnes5ay>c i.; b e y o n d q u c s t ~ o n ~ ni rg, the church.
Chnyttr 6

The N a t u r e of the Apostolic Word

as the Word of God

The v a i ~ d i t yof the Scrlpturt!~today rests on t h e ~ rcc.nncc11c~nw ~ t hthe

apostolic circ-It.. All nt w h ~ 1t 5 n o w In the New Te~t,lmt-ntI S authorita-
t ~ v efor the church b c c c ~ u s these
c w r i t i n p arc thc product of .~postolic
responsib~lity 1-hc r1urst:on n o w posed is whcthcr thcrc I S one-for-
one equation betwec,n thc a p n s t o i ~ cword ' ~ n dwhat I.; c:,illcd the Word
of Cod Eve? apostc>l~cword qu.\iifics '1s thc 1L'ord of C o d . slncc a11
apostle I S God's reprcentC>tluc:to 111.; church. Co~lslJcsiny:that Cod
spoke other. n o n a p n s t o i ~ iwords, can w e;r thc tcl-nr:. , ~ n ds ~ th'lt
every word of God 1 5 ,lisn I ~ p o > t o I ~We ~ : 7c..ln rlo br!. bat w ~ l hthe undcr-
standing that our knowlcdgc tc>da;i. of C;r.d's other wr)rd> 1s comrrluni-
cntcd only through thc p r o p h c t ~ c~ n apostol~c
d Scr1pturc5


For c x a m ~ l e ,the c r e a t ~ v cLVord of Cod through wI11il1 ( h e worlds

come lnto b e ~ n gi q neitht,r (1 p r o p h c t ~ cnor an ,~po.;tolic.word. Rcfercncc
to this divine Word is not only found in C;enesi~ lor also I'JuI refers
to ~ I I I S cl.eatiVt. s p c a h i n l ; o f Cad ( 2 Car 16) Crrt'l~nl;. thr .lposto!~c
w:!!d ra1? In no w a y bc equatf;;l rvith th1.i onc!imc- crc.:!~v:: Word o !
God. This Word of C;od continut-:, to k,,lvc. influcncc In of nature.
since by I! Ihe world is s ~ s t ~ i ~ ntoc dthe d,~! of !~~d:i:r;~t,nt ( 2 r'ctcr
3 5 - 7 ) . Fut in n o N a y d ~ the d apostoilc wnrd creatc A:; Ciod'.; Word once
The Fourth Gospel speaks about the Word of Cod t h ~ becarne t flesh
In J e s u s o i saznreth ( j o h n 1.1-is).'Fills 'iGrj1.d. the :CX! i i i d k C ~~ 1 ~ 3 : .
is the Son "i (,od, tht. Second Person of :hc Trinity -i'i!e!-e call be no
confusion between t l ~ eeternal Word o i Cod who I S .llways ~ l t hthe
Father a n d the apostolic word Iesus, the Father's ettrnnl Word, is
proclaimed in the apostolic word, but a clcar d r s t ~ n c t ~ omustn be nladc..

The problem \\ hlch must be solved h t r c 1s whether thc direct
speaking 01 Cod w ~ t h~ n d i v ~ d u a lins a type of convers,lt~nncan be
separated from the a p 0 5 f @ h word
~ Prophets In lhc {Jld -[citamt.nt arc
frequently p~ctured as h o l d ~ n gconversat~ons with C j r d (Exodus 3,
Isaiah 6). In many other places there is the reference that "the Word
of the Lord came" to a certain prophet. This is a clue that, as there
must be a Liistinctioil brtwettn the propiletic word and the direct Word
of God to the prophet, so there must be a similar distinction between
the direct Word of God and the apostolic word.
if the prophetic or apostolic word is always the Word of God in the
same sense as the direct speaking of God is His Word, then in every
conversatioi~between God and a prophet God would be speaking with
Himself. This is not only a somewhat ludicrous thought but it also
overlooks that the Scriptures in every case teach clearly the individual-
ity of the prophet or apostIe in his dealings with God. Frequently the
passages speaking about the Word of God coming to a prophet are
used to demonstrate that the Scriptures are the Word of God. Certainly
the Scriptures are the Word of God, but the use of such passages has
sometimes served to cloud the issue and to obscure a distinction which
the Scriptures themselves make.

A plea is made here for the distinction between the direct Word
of God to prophets or apostles and the authoritative proclamation of
this Word to God's people by these men. Many of the direct commands
of God to His spokesmen are repeated authoritatively in the apostolic
Scriptures. I t inight be safe to hazard the opinion that God spoke more
to these men than what is recorded. In repeating these words from God,
the writers expressed them in the idiom most common to them. The
Scriptures therefore repeat direct words of God along with the authori-
tative explanation of these words. The application of these words is the
task of an apostle. The supervision of the church is his obligation, and
he carries it out with the personal freedom allowable within the
limitations of his office. Paul in First Corinthians makes the distinction
between directly revealed words of God and his own interpretation,
which is the authoritative Word of God tor the church. In chapters
9 through 15 he speaks about receiving directives from the Lord o n
matters dealing with his salary (9:14), the silence of women (14:34-39),
the Lord's Supper (11:23),and the resurrection of Jesus (15:3).What w e
have then in the letter itself is the direct Word of God to I'aul applied
to particular situations in the congregation. Though a distinction is
made between the direct Word of God to the apostle and the authorita-
tive explanation to the congregation, the Christian congregation, in
the first century and now, must satisfy itself with the apostolic Word to
find God. Paul as an apostle or shaliack is God's final court of appeals
for His church.
A somewhat more ticklish problem is that of "apostolic advice."
In certain places Paul makes suggestions concerning which he has
very strong personal feelings, but he in no way absolutely insists that
these things be done. Chapter 7 of First Corinthians is full of mar-
ital and conjugal advice. After a few words on limited abstinence in
marriage, Paul says: "I say this by way of concession, not command"
(v.6). The questions of il~arriageand celibacy are handled in a similar
way in the rest of the chapter. Paul has strong feelings o n these matters,
but he does not raise his opinions to the level on which eschatologica!
judgment will be made. The covering of the head of women would also
fit into the category of apostolic advice (11:16). Now apostolic advice,
like all other types of advice, is neither right nor wrong. Paul is merely
exercising the pastoral part of his apostolic office and is making sugges-
tions for a given situation on the basis of his own experience. H e does
not condemn Peter for having a wife ( 9 5 ) .In fact, Paul says that he him-
self has the right to a wife. When the church has passed from its start
in mission stations to a more settled congregational life, he even sug-
gests marriage for the clergy in First Tirnothy and Titus.
Paul recognizes that in certain situations some things are prefer-
able to others. Jesus gives a warning concerning women with infants
at the breast when Jerusalem would b e destroyed (Matt. 24:19). Still
these words should not be considered an absolute prohibition against
having children. Several words of Jesus and His apostles are simply
advice. Today too a pastor or Christian layman endowed with wisdom
can offer sound advice in keeping with the principles given by God and
the circumstances of the present situation. 'The Messianic office of
Jesus and the apostolic office of the disciples enable them to give advice
more in keeping with God's will, but this advice should never be made
a matter of conscience. While the apostolic Scripture records for us this
advice in an authoritative way,,advice remains advice.


The Word of God is still present in the church even when the di-
rect words of God and the apostles are not spoken. The Word of Christ
dwells in Christians as they teach, admonish, and sing (Col. 3:16). The
activity of preaching is still going on in the church today, and the Holy
Spirit is active in it. But the words preached are in every instance
dependent on and subject to the authoritative apostolic Word in the
The Apostolic Office
and the Canonical Question

The word "canon" is the technical term for the number of books in our
Bible. Frequently i t is contended that the canon was not determined
till the Council of Carthage in A. D. 393. The impression is left that this
was a decision of the church and that the church determined what the
Bible is. This is a throwback to the rontroversies of the post-Reforma-
tion period when Roman Catholics used such arguments to assert the
church's supremacy over Biblical interpretation. They argued that it
was the church which determined the canon. Much of New Testament
literary criticism finds this view very compatible, since it views the
New Testament as a literary production of the early church. Rudolf
Bultmann's idea that prraching is the basis of Christian thrology fits
quite comfortably into the claim that the church established the canon.

According to church history the canon was formed before the e n d

of the fourth century. Already in the middle of the second century the
church, in the face of Marcion's heresy, had to state which books were
the Scriptures. Marcion's anti-Semitic bent caused him to reject the
Old Testament and large sections of the New Testament. In his view
these writings were too Jewish.
The mark by which the church accepted certain books as Scrip-
tures was their apostolicity. Of course, this process began even before
the second century. In the first century the principle was already ac-
cepted that whatever was apostolic was also Scripture. Regardless of
the authenticity of Second Peter, this writing is early historical evidence
that Paul's letters were considered Scriptures in the sense oi the Old
Testament canon (315). The New Testament writings were irnmedi-
ately included in the worship life of the church, and here the rule of
thumb can be applied that the liturgical life of the church becomes the
basis of later doctrinal formulations. As with all doctrines which re-
ceived more exact formulation later in the church's life, canonicity was
more formalIy stated in A . D. 393 at Carthage. But even before that time
the apostolic writings were considered the authoritative Word of God
in those churches where they were used in the worship services. The
"ritings themselves indicate that they were in use in the first century.
The basic criterion was connection with the apostolic circle.
Certain writings, i f iaken at face value, sllow a clear a p o s t ~ l i c
authorship. The epistles as a rule give the nc1me of the author a n d his
office. Two of the gospels, hlatthew's and John's, are traditionally
assigned to these disciples of lesus, arid there is intcrcal cvidence
pointing to the same. I'herc arc more acute problems in connection
with Mark, Luke-Acts, Hebrews, lames, and Jude. It is questionable
whether all these writings have apostles as authors. Quenstcdt, a repre-
sentative of Lutheran orthodoxy, held that all men who wrote Scrip-
tures are therefore "apostles." This, however, is without sufficient
New Testament evidence. O n e of the criteria for an apostle is not that
he wrote or, for that matter, that h e could write. Defining New Tesla-
ment apostles as writers is not only reasonit~gin a hopeless circle but
also does not tell us anything. To explain two synonyms by each other
tells u s nothing. Chemnitz suggests that a special authority, outside of
apostolic authority, was given to men like Mark and Luke. l'he New
Testament knows only o i apostolic authority; t h u s this theory is not


Here the discussion must go back to the office of the sllaliach,

which is basic lor the understanding of New Tcstamcnt apostle. An
ambassador or deputy could not pass his authority and responsibility
on to another person. He could not appoint other slir~liaclis. Paul in
Galatians 2 realizes that if his office came from Peter and thc apostles
in Jerusalem, it would hc an invalid one. A slralicrh could appoint others
to assist him in carrying out his task. Saul had letters from t h e high
priest i n Jerusalem to carry out the persecution of Christians in Damas-
cus, but there was an entire retinue of soldiers a n d perhaps of lesser
political and ecclesiastical officials that accompanied him to provide
assistance in carrying out the task. (Acts 917)
There is almost n o phase of business, economic, or political life
which is not carried out by assistants. Letters from high government
officials are very rarely written by them or even signed by them. Still
these ~ 5 i c i a l smust bare the ultimate responsibility for what is said.
The larger the task, thc more assistants are needed. The chief execu-
tives of our country d o not write o r even read their financial messages
to Congress. The presidents and not their assistants are responsible
to the people through an election. Regardless of h o w far the responsibil-
ity i s delegated away from the source, the person given t h e authority
in the first place is responsible. Recently one of the students a t Con-
cordia Seminary, Springfield, Ill., was waiting for a n appointment with
Governor Ogilvie. As h e was waiting an assistant showed the governor
a letter from a foreign country a n d asked him to dictate a reply to
a secretary. The secretary typed u p the letter a n d t h e assistant affixed
the governor's signature. Books, articles, speeches of prominent men
are produced in similar ways. I'he "ghost writer" is a part of our
culture. Moses was allowed by God to delegate some of his authority
to Aaron. (Exodus 4:10-16)

A similar situation prevailed in the early church. The decree of the
Council of Jerusalem was carried to Antioch not only by letter but by
personal emissaries sent by James (Acts 15:30; Gal. 212). The Book of
Acts a n d the writings of Paul give us the best exampies of how an apos-
tle worked through assistants. The apostles were given the task of es-
tablishing the church. But as their tasks grew, they gathered around
themselves a iarge group of assistants. On the journey taking Paul into
Europe, he was assisted by Timothy, Luke, and Silas (Acts 16). All of
these men with the exception of Luke are mentioned in several saluta-
tions of Paul's letters as co-authors. Membership in the apostolic circle
was not permanent, as was the office of an apostle. Mark was on the
first Pauline journey for a part of the time but was refused membership
in the apostolic circle for the second journey. L.att.r he joined both P'iul
and Peter in Rome. Titus and Timothy were later separated from Paul
and were made the pastors of congrega!ions. As pastors they did not
share in Paul's apostolic authority, but they certainly were under his
apostolic supervision. This is evident from the fact that Paul could
write letters to them with certain definite directives.
The first actual task of the apostolic circle around Paul and other
apostles was to help them establish the church. AII entire volume could
be written showing when and how often Paul sent Timothy and Titus
to Corinth to exercise apostolic supervision over a congregation which
showed an obvious need for it. The names of the other nien are scat-
tered throughout the writings of Paul and Peter. Romans 16 mentions
Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, along with Tertius who wrote Paul's
letter. Colossians lists Aristarchus, Mark, Tychicus, and Epaphras.
Silvanus, who is probably the Silas associated with Paul and Mark,
showed up in Romc with Peter and Mark. Paul i ~ Rome . had Luke wi!h
him but wanted Mark. The Epistles can be screened for more names.
All of these men at one time or another in their adult careers
assisted Paul and Peter in establishing and building up the church.
What was common practice for these apostles must have also been
common practice for the other apostles. There is n o definite knowledge
concerning the others. But this should not be disturbing, for even of
the apostolic careers of Peter and Paul only portions are given u s in
any detail. The close connection between the apostles, even when they
were not together, can be shown in that some of the same assistants
apPe2: with both Feter and Pau!. Thcic assistznts !nust !lave been
f o u n d in ever): corner o i tlic elnpirc '15 they engaged in missionary
work and handled eccles~asticaldifficulties In the name of thosc apostles
whose history i: not rccc>rdec!.
Along with the actual p r e ' i c h i n ~t,i+ics. t h e w men also assisted the
apostles in writing. Tertius wrote Roni,~n\i o ~Paul Sosthenes helped
write a letter to Corinth. and Timoth\. anotlicr The wrrtrl.ot Galatians
is not mentioned, but someone must have d o n e the writing for Paul
since h e wrote his greeting 1' 1 the cnd (6.11). N o helper i b mentioned
for Ephesians. 1-rniothy assrsted I'aul with I'l~ilippians,ind Colossians,
a n d along with S ~ l v a n u swrote the t w u lettei-s t i 1 'flics<nlon~ca.K o
assistants are namcld in connectron with tlie I',istor-nl Letters.
That Paul d i d not pen sorlle letter5 with h i s owrt hand IS not
disturbing, for tlie letters <ire still hls What is m o r t . ~t need not be
disturbing to allow a ~ ~ . e ' i t role
e r (beyond I7e1nl; mere secret~irres)tor
Paul's assistants, because hc also used otlicr-s in pcrson,tlly carrying
out the rest of his apostolic authority Tiic I ~ t c r a r ystylc of the f ' d ~ r i i ~ l ~
letters may have been ~nlluencedby thosc assisting I'aul at t h e time.
Timothy appeascd s o Irequently w ~ t hl'a~11ttt,tt r t [night br. s.tte to
hazard the theory that rnore of his own st\.lrstrc and terrn~nological
imprint can be found in the eplstles than previously ~-ecuy,nr~ecl,
for surely I'aul conferred wit11 his ,ts>istants beiore writing hi5 cpiitlcs
What they discussed tc>gcther may well have tounci its w,iy Into the
epistles Paul wrote. Some have sclught to explain tlrc dl-astrcall) differ-
ent styles btbtween Firs! and Second rcter by iayin): Ihat ttic influence
o f Silvarius is I-!aticeahlc in !he first letter, wllilc F'etc!- did t h r secolld
o n e by hin~seli.These are all thoughts that should righttully b e devel-
o p e d by the science of S e w l'estarncnt Iril~oilui-tion Clearlv many
persons had a h a n d in c,rrrying out thr apvstoiic actrvitv, rncluding
(at least indirectly) tlie writing of the Sci-ipturc:. a s the lasting products
of the apostles.
W i t h ~ nthis framework, answers pointing to apostoirs connection
can now b e supplied ior Mark and ~ . u k e - ~ c tpeter s. recerves an lln-
place in -Mark's Cospei. I-iis place 1s pl.ominent hut ni:t !=3
complimentary. Both Secortd '1'imo:hy (4: 1 1 ) and First Pet?!. (5.17 )
connect Mark with Ronie. Church Lradilion associatcs him pronilnentlv
with the death of I'eter. Peter's reference to leaving behind a n accounl
of Jesusr life after his own death could possibly indicate preparations
for the writing of the gospel attributed traditionally lo Mark. ( 2 Peter
T h e writer of Luke-Acts, generally thoclght to he L.~rke.1s int~mately
associated with Paul in Acts and in Second 'I lmothy. The w r ~ t e ro i
Acts accompanied Paul on the second missionary jo~irneyand o n the
trip to imprison~nentin Ronie. t4e was with Paul as h e awaited trial.
AS Paul faced almost certain d e , ~ t h .L u l r is cxpl~ritlymentioned as
being with him. Kegardless of whether .I man by the name oi Luke is
actually the author, which is highly probable, the ending of Acts
indicates that the book was written iron1 Rolne. T h r o u ~ hthe constant
u s e of "we," beginning at Acts 16, the w1.1tt.r clailns ic)r himsrlf intimate
association with Paul in the apostol~coffice. O l course. 311 this a s s u n ~ e s
that Luke and Acts are written by the a m t . author. a cl.lcn1 which the
prolog to Acts makes. Whether the reader accepts ttlesr c i a ~ m sI S
another question. Nevertheless the cla!m\ are made.

Hebrews has presented mnre ~x-nblc~n.; conccrnlng ,,uthorsllip thall

a n y other New Testament writing. In the case of lhc otilc.r t,uoks,
d o u b t s have had to d o with the nainc given as of the a u t h o r F<,r
example, some believe Second Peter was not Lvritten by r c t e r alttloul;h
h i s name is given as author. W ~ t hIlvbrcws tlicrc. I < not rvt:l, 2' name‘
to reject. Some consider the theology ol Hcb~.ewbto be the mnzl
nlagnificent in the New Testan~rsnt All a31-cc that ~t 1s bcdutliully
written and well organized. '[-he prc,blcm is that therr is nci lixed idea
o n w h o the author is. Many names hc1vr bren s i l g ~ c s t r d I ' J ~ I ' ~ name
w a s inserted into some nlanuso.ipiz, but ~ t style
s is dcirnltcly not Paul'>
Paul would never refer to himself ns ,I .;ccnnd g e n e l ~ t i o nC h r j s t ~ a n as
t h i s writer has (2:3). The author cnc[:ht or. might not b r clne uf the
apostolic assistants named in Arts in the P a ~ ~ l ~.ind n c Petrinc.
letters. Could the phrase, "Those w h o cumc i r o ~ nItaly" (13 24) c n d ~ c ~ ~ t i .
origin in Rome, the city of I'cLcI. ,?nd l'au17 A ch1c.1c~l>~i:ilion :o this !c:!cr
has been the lack of sure knowlcdgc. a b o ~ ,~~lnstolic
~t ,111thorsll I F There
are some definite clues In the Ic'ttc~.w h ~ r h i,t taken s c r ~ o u s \
. g ~ v f11
a firm place in the apostolic canon.
The author places himself into the sacnl' s i t ~ ~ a t ~that o n I uke does
i n his prolog. Just a s Luke claims acsoc-iat~onw ~ t hthe e.cwitnesses
(1:2), that is, the apostles, so the w r ~ t e roi Hebrews claims a s s o c ~ a t ~ o n
with those who ilearJ Jesus (?:3:. !!ebrc~v\, liki~I.ukc, ccjmcs from the
second generation of Christihns and riot from the o r ~ g l n adl l s r ~ p l c swho
knew jesus. The author is assoc~atedwith f l ~ n o t h y ,the \.vt.ll-krlown
of Paul, and calls him "our brother" (13,331. "Our brother''
seems to be a technical term used by members 0 1 thi. apostolic circle
to refer to thcmse]ves, More precisely. ~t is ~ ~ s eofdthe apostolic as-
sistants, l n the salutations o f Second Corinthians and of Colosslanq
paul calls himself a n and 7'intothy "our brother " Sosthene5
has the same designation i l l First Corinthians In ? Corlnthlans 8.
16-24 there Is to a mysterious person. farnol1s for 111s preach-
ing in the who is called "our brother." 'Ihe pec'-lllar Llsc of
this phrase in a highly technic.ll sense, crpr.riclIIy as i t is used o f
Timothy. indicates that it is i tit:? glvrll i o iilure w h o ore puelicly
recognized as having a type of junior p.irtnersh~p in the apostuIic
authority. The phrase is used also of ~ p o l l a11d ~ s ~ltus.
It is highly dnuhtfu! that ''bm:her" ~..,ls cvel 115c.d.IS a form o i
direct address. Rather I I is n title i n d i c a t l : ~a ~pos~tlollu i equality in
the church. Whoever wrote Hebrews trlt vm iire In d e r i p n a t l n s
Timothy as "our brother." Tlle writer of tiebrew\ could vel-v well
h a v e been that mysterious "b~-otl-i~.~- who is tarnous an-iong all the
churches for his preaching of the ~;esp(:l, !:! Coy. 8:1H), Lzecaose this
letter is an example of literal-y cscellcl:cc, a i j ~ ~ l l l t )n,~tur'~lly
: .i.ssoc~atr:d
w i t h a famous preacher. The third q11.1l1tythat ascocl.ltcs tlie w r ~ t e r
of this letter with the apostolic circic I.; t h c usc of ''1." n c ~ !unlike the
example of Paul. T h e writer d o e s have a c o n v ~ c t ~ occlncernlng
n hir;
office. A big question mark niay alw,l!;s hang o v r r Iic+rcrvs, b u t man),
of t h e early churches did accept i t 0s 'In a d e q ~ l a t cr c l l c ~ - t ~ ooi
n tl-ic
apostolic message.


James a n d Jude present u n i q u e pl.obIc.nl3 l,c,(:cll~sc.ncltI1c.r oi them,
a s w a s the case also with Paul, s e e m s to be part of the o r l g l n a l 1 2 djs.
ciples of Jesus. And there is n o ~ n d i c o t i ~that
n lames was a n apostolic
assistant in the sense that 'Sirnothy ,lnd Titus werr. Hc writcs w ~ t ht h ~
authority of an apostle, nlid lir doer. not seem to belons to the second
generation of Christians, as the writer ni I-lebl-P~S rloe, Thc yroblrrnt.
of James and J u d e arc put tog€-ther here simply bcinuse l u d e ( v . 1)
catis himself the brother o i ],imes. i t :hi- prnblein o i jamcs I bolied, a
satisfactory answer can be found for I ~ t d cRnth . writers dcs~griatr,thcm-
selves a s "servants" of God o r of jcsk~s(:hrist. As was pointed o u t , t h ~ s
is a self-designation of l'aul and Peter. I t cvprcsses t h c ~ uncierstalld~ng
of t h e function of their office as apostles and a s successors to the proph-
ets. T h u s the term "servant" can be ~:uns~dt!reda substitute for "ayos-
tle." At least it is in keeping with the apostolic conirniss~oningIn Mat-
t h ~ w 10 and with the Pauline a n d Petrinc s,ll~rtations
T h e problem is further 1,). the fact that t h r r e men are
called James. James, son of Zebedee and brother of Inhn, was martvred
early i n church history (Matt. 10:2; Acts I?:?). Another disciple h a d
the s a m e name, but h e is designated as the son of Alphaeus (3,latt. LU.3).
-rhere is a third James nlentiolled in Galatidns, Acts, First C o r ~ n t h ~ a n s ,
and the Letter of James, but with nu exp1anatot.y phrases. 111 he
as chairman of the Council of Jerusaletn and supervised thr
carrying out of the apostolic dt.cisio~Iin Antiocli through emissaries.
~i~ reputation had spread t h r o u g h o ~ ~the
t c\lurch. Paul'< reference to
hi, i n his ~ ~to t h et Galatians
t ~ indicates
~ that lalnes w a s known there.
This James was F'robahlY the s o n (,!Marv 'lnd josepll ,he haif-
Of lesus In M a t t h e w 13:55 Mar? I \ c,lllrd the mether ot ldmez,
Joseph, "nlon, a n d jucias T h e Jew5 trrqupntir named chlidrcn
their fathers. The fact that o n e Of the sons wa:, called lilscph indicates
that he and his bmthers w e r e the iilnr o f joacpli. [ . h e story o f the
crucifixion u s that Mar)., "the mothe: James a n d IpScph;, was
Present (Matt. 27:56). Since lohn reports tiiat Mc3ry, the m o t l l c r of lesus
was present a t t h e cruciiiwion, the st'ltrment In Matthew rc,uld t>e
reference to the s a m e Mary.
According to the .SosPels t h e l a n ~ e s~sscrci~>ted with bl,lry pljyed n<.)
Part in the n l i n i s t r ~of Jesus, b u t h ~ name > 1s m t n t l o n c j first in b(,th
references in Matthew. W h e n h l a t t i ~ e wwl.Otc, h i s cc,spt'l; the r c ,,
James Jerusalem w h o was recognlzed tar 111sa ~ ~ t l i u r l 111 t y the c)li!r<h
(Acts 1513 ff.). Then h e is mentioned w l t h ~ u tit~rthcrc r p i a n a t ~ c , ~ ~
W h e n in the crucifixion scene (Matt. 27 56) '1 cert'iln Mary 1 5 dex\Sncltcii
by her relationship to her son Jalnes, :t would 111d1c~l1t~ that I,~lnc>held
become famous in the church. Paul iiidkcs ,I cryptlc rct~:rtn;t. tv t!?!..
appearance of the resurrected C h r ~ s tio Icimcs i ! Cc)r 15 71 .l-Il~.p h r ~ s v
"Then H c appeared to lames, a n d then to ,111 itic' '1pc)stlcs ' lndrca!e~.
t h a t at the time of writing Jarneq H S ~ S 11icIt1tit:d 1irnc3ng t i l t . . I ~ U > ~ I C . L
T h e case seems to be clinched b y G,ll,~tians ( . I t ! , whtrc. i',lul s ~ y th.11 s
h e "saw n o n e of the other apostle.: l'l1nt5 thv Lord's brother "

Paul calls lames a pillar of t h e churcl7 ' l h ~ she ,%,lid117 ii~nnrxct:clrlM. iih
h i s trip to Jerusalem, the place wrth \\.hicIi the ~ninistryof 1~n1c.s1 5
associated, a t least according to tht, ,lc.iount oi tllc I t , r - u b i ~ l c ~Counrii m
ir. Acls 15.
How then 'lid Jalnes q u d l i f v J~ Lln. l ~ ~ ~ ~I tl tl dlL{ i ~ ' i~i!tnc>i on;?: 4.;
t h e events in the o f J e s u s and thus tult:i!s one r>l Iht' i l ~ L ' ~ t ~ l i ;
requirements set forth in ;\its 1 . U11t m o r c , l ~ k rI',Iu! ht' ~ ' 1 5(-,liic<li.1.
Christ to the apostolic office thc I . ( ? ~ U ~ ~ C C ~ I'l'h?
O ~ f,?it :il,ll ['el:;;
numbers himseli with Peter a n d Ialnci as rccciv~ni:s ~ I ! < . I ~I~

appearances of the Ciirl.;r Indicates t h ~ it ~ cw,lnts his dFL'b-

tieship ko he understood a s o n thts sarnc level rvitil theirs ]amps's
quick zscendancy to the of the Icrusalcm c h ~ r ~ c(:dn h be c.1-
plained by the fact that the J e w s , who formed thc n w r t o i ti:^ ihu;.ch
there, put a lot of on succc.jlnn throul;ll blood r t ? ; c ? t l o n ~ h l p
The high-priestly officr alnong the j ~ w s\+as always passed ' l i o ~ ; ~
blood lames'> letter 1s rccognlzlxi :IS verv " l c \ - ~ . -
ishe, character, bearing strol,g reicrnblnnce to the word5 o f l e ~ l ~ b
i n the Sermon o n the Mount.
the hypothesis ~ ~ bra< ,J e s u ~ s br-otller
~ 1, ~a c c r yst c d thl'n
] ~ d c.~iis e himself "a servant ot' l c s u s
becomes less
of lames.u ~ ~ i t j 3t 1~n ~wnor]trdc
s arcLp r i ~ ~ c l m i ' t ~ o u ~
Christ and
t h e d C t l l c ~ l brothers oi Jesus i i n i c ther Jld
enough to call
not associate themselves with His ministry during His Ilfetinle. Instead
J u d e calls himself jesus' "servani" i l l d bases his on his assocla-
tion with his quite famous brother James, thc " b i s l i ~ p "of the Jerusalem
congregation. There is no mention of when J u d e was called into the
apostolic circle as there is with others. I t can only be assumed that
there was a call. If James's letter to Antioch (Acts 1593-29)is reco~nlzed
b y the apostles (especially by Peter and Paul) as authoritative, then thc
letter with Jude's name can be given similar honor.
Those who have prc~blernswith Hebrews, James. and j ude, w h ~ c h
they think cannot b e solved, will find it hard to recognize these writings
as part of the apostolic canon. For them there can be llttle purpose to
discussing the authority and inspiration nt these epistle.;. I t r n i ~ h tbe
their view that thcse writings bcloiig to :he csr!ies: layer of church
tradition. Many sectors of the early ci~urchdid rccogn~tt.H s b r c w s
James, a n d J u d e a s apostolic on the b a s ~ sof the internal evidence i n
them. But the final choice with regard to these writings must be left
u p to thc judgment of the informed Christian.
Chapter 8
The Apostolic Scriptures
and Literary Criticism
Practically all N e w Testament >tuc!ics !c,d,lv ,>re cclnc'crnccl ~ v ~ tt h" e
literary criticism o f N e w l'estanlen: dc,i~::~lc~lt., p.~~.t~c~~l,l:!:j tt1c 3 0 -
pels. Does the view that the Ne\v Ic.t,in~c;nt ial-rich ,lrlcl FCrp(!tLlC3!Cs
apostolic authority to t h e c h u r c h tod,ly ,~lic,w i01-c.ontt!nlpc~!-.rr.~,I ! ~ t . r , ~ r v
criticism? T h i s question can b e ,lns\vc.:c!cl l-ottl F I . V . I ~ I V L > ~ V; I I I L ~ ! I C ~ , I -

T h e doctrine of in.;plr,~tion CIS i t l~~i:; bccn f r e c j l ~ r n t lpr-tsc*!ltc.d

~ h,l.\
p u t t h e e n i p h a s i s on God's 'ict~ial ~ . ~ ~ p y iot n ~\cords io iilc- pus-
y i:ht.
tles a n d othel. writers. ,-\c e r t n ~ nspcci,~lai:t~vityot thv tloly L ; I . ~ r ~WJ.; t
associated with t h e w r ~ t e r sin t h e \,t.~-v. ~ c ii l i w r i t ~ i ~ wh1c.h >: ~ i rlc.,t
~ d
seem to b e prcscnt d u l - ~ n gt l i e ~ otilcr r , ~ c t ~ v i t i 111
c < I~(~bLII!ot !hc zllurch
S o m e Lutheran t l w o l o ~ i ' l n :he , ~ c t ! \t);. ~of the J S s u p -
plying t h e i n ~ p u l s e , the thou!;ilt.;. o n ~ t thi,n t!ic vvrv wo~.d.\ i h l s
unfortunately tended to l i r n ~ t t h e < ~ i t i i\l y 01 !he '.!>ir~t to ti-ic 'lctual
writing l>rocess. T h e persoridlitv v ! t i l t . vvr:1~.r ' ~ n dth17 :c:<li lift s i t ~ 1 ~ 1 -
tion i n which h e wrote d i d not p1z.y 'in 111lrot.i'111t t)<~r:~ I J~\!.c.:-ii>l~i~;
~ I .I
g i v e n book T h e idea w ~ l snot s o much t h , l : t h c ~pcr~;tolr:-wr;ri:r I-cpre-
s e n t e d G o d , but that Gud s u p p l i e d tnc wor-el> t o [lit ~ r i t ~5, r;11:1~.i r il3c
writers w e r e c ~ l l e dthc ,>rn;lrlLlc'n_ic>~wcrct.~r-ic>.:) 01 the t iL)l: p i r i t
Regardless oi all cl;llm!? to tile central-;,I . ~ n dthe c3I,lt?orLrtc.;'ltc.!;~~;lrJ~
notwithst'lnding. the i!~nprcs.;~c.;~y>ivt?n % a \ tllal (.)! 1' r ~ ~ c ~ i : h ~ n ~ s a l
7'0 be sul-e, there are 5t.cti;,n~ i:? thc 5r1-ipt111-c~ wherc Iiod IS PIC-
tured as the only wri!cr.. Ihvici s'I!.~. t h j t '3s . I I I l i ~ b i , ~ ~ , l i C i -c;:i : :hi' ki::!;,
Spirit 111s t o n g u e !s t h e pen o f ,i ! c . ~ d rwrilcr. I r i i:lany piaw' I n ! 1 1 1 :
Scripture.; Lad 1 5 said to b c s p ~ ~ l k l ntj li i ~ - o ~ t h~c ~1vop11ct.
h (.;cnt.:.~l!;;
s p e a k i n g , theologians 1-c:~(~!;11izcclthat a!] o ! these pass~1St.s descrrbc.
r c ~ l l f l l h a p p e n e d . not : l i ~ ; ~ ;t
, hnppc*ned still the careiul J c l ~ n c ~ ~ l ro!~ c ~ n

t h e p r o w s 5 irllo 1 1 1 i p i r l i ~t h. e p r o v i d ~ n ) :ot t h e t h o t ~ g h t s ,a n d then the

s u p p l y i n g o f tile wc,l.ds citLild give to mdny thr? 1mpr6,ssion that this
a closctj systen,. lit el‘^^^ c.l-iticism o! course. would i13vc i!!t!e o r n o
place i n such a c 1 0 s e I v - d ~ f j ~ t .~d ~ . o r c s Isi . t h e 5l:riptur.c~ M-1.r~d i r e i t
w o r d s frOIm Cod i n a11 ; I b S ~ I scnsc, ~ ~ t ~ t h e n a n y ;ittempt t o ~ ~ u r l va rt
m e a n i n g through the stLld,; of hi.;!or~c,ll clrcumstanccs is ins1r:niflidnt
and relativelv i~nimportant.The theologians of Lutheran orthodoxy did
not attempt such ;1 radical stance in practice, since they d i d engage in
literary criticism and were aware of tlie historical circumstances.
When the Scriptures are regarded as ai~thoritativenot only because
of their inspiration, as rightlv
. . understood, but also because of their
apostolicity, a greater amount of freedom is allowed tor responsible
literary criticisrii. The inspired Scripti~resof t h e New Testament are to
be considered by-products o i the apostolic age. 'Through the Scriptures
Cod continues to exercise authority today.

O n e of the most populal forms or New Testament criticism today is

Rednktiorts~~sc/iiclrtc ns i t is app1ic.d to the gospels. Many ot its claims
are purely speculative. Like many otliel. theories, they will not stand
the test of time. I-iowcvrr, tlierc 1s ,]bout this method a teaturc that fits
well with tlie idea oi tlie Scriptures as apostolic authority. Rrdak-
tionsgrsclriclr~rputs thc emphasis c?nthe writer, somewhat in the sense
that the concept ol tlie apostolic Scriptures does. Willi Marxsen has
developed this theory with >,l;lri\'s (;ospel and I l a n s Conzelmann
with Luke's. While these men d o n ~ work t the idea of apostolicity into
their theories, they do place the emphasis o n the writcars. They do rr-
gard these gospels as productions of individual men w h o deliberately
set forth their ~uatcrialin such a way as to ttach a given theological
The idea of the apostolic S ~ r ~ p t u r allows
cs tor srrcli a p o s ~ t ~ o sno,
long as thc theologies of tile d11tc1-cntgospels are not held to contra-
dict each other. In c3ther M'~l.di.Ihc writers wrotc with different pur-
poses in mind. l'hey selectcd a n d arranged their materials to attain a
certain end. Sinccx the office o f an apostle i s one shared by several
like-niindcd nicii, contradictions In the basic theology as taught by
Marxsen and Conzclmann cannot be ~illowcd.Rut differences can be
allowed. In o t h e r words, ~t can be said that historic,d occurrences
serve theological purposes.
The estrcrne positron held by Ylnrxsrn a n d Corizelrnal~nthat his-
tory fc;esclriclitc~ chnnged a n d even 1nventc.d for thc sake of
theology is certainly a reversal of God's cntire plan in J e s u s Christ.
The office of a n apostle rests a n the premise that his authority flows
from a historical (hist@,-isc/~er.i lesus. who represcntcd a n d revealed the
Father to His disciples. The life o f icsus is the basis of apostolic preacl-,-
ing, as IS quite evident f r o m th:~ reqllircrncnt that t h e apostles niusi
have been with IPSLIS ~ U I - i nHI.; g critirc ~ n i n i ~ t rIyt will not d o to re-
verse the terms and say that yreaci~ingis the basis of the life of Jesus
a s recorded in t h e gospels. Such i111 approach eventually dissolves the
entire Ctlristlan message into r\,ords and makes its connection with
real events tcnuou.; at best Mc1rx.;en, C'onzc~lni.~nn, '2nd. of course,
Rudolf Hultmann wiruld ,111 ;~ckni~wli:dgc~ tlic possibilitv th,?t the e v e n t s
in )csus' liie. ebpcci<~ilyiii.; rt.?~ri-!ccrion,couid have .lctually been
i n v e r ~ t e dto .serve thc c~l.l;. c h u r c h ' s theology a n d p r ~ ~ i c h i n g .

S p ~ a k i n gof 'lp~?.\t(.~lii. d~1t)io1.%)1ip, iitv1-,1rvC-ritici5m.~ v h c > nr e s p o n -

sibly c o n d u c t e d , ,lliow> lor- grc'atc':. l'rccdain i n v c s t i ~ ~ ~In t i d~cnl e r -
m i n i n g the a c t u ~ li v r ~ t c ro t '2 cloc~ur;1t1nt.I t h ~ s s h o w n cib(:~vethat
t h e apilotolic c!tiicc i:>u!il !I(?\ b c p'1~sc.d cil<.)n;: 5). tht. ,!pc>stlc.-, b ~ i :I!
cou!d be s h a r c d Tiic t!p~.;tirs ot I.'ctci a n d l',iul r?:,ly s h o w t h e in!?ucncc
o f Si1ci.; Tlni(2thy. Pito::. ! ~ r t l u >hlclr-l-, , rlr. . ~ n v i>t the o t h e r !1,11:1cd (?i

u n n a r n r d ~nembcr:: ot tlic. ':pc!_ittliic iircI(:. Llttl-,~ry(.r:tl~isi?ih ~ ssc c n

various ievcls o! w r 1 ! 1 1 ?s~~ ~ I c ,! > O I. cxamplc. i n thv Ic'ttcis of l'ctcr a n d

Paul. h e w l'~'st~iiiic!ntc r i t ~ c s i.i i ? tht: b,r.;is 01 ru<.ii : n v r t i g L l t i c ? n 5 have ,

de\;eloped tlie i a t e g o r ~ c su i tiii: i',li.iiinc a n d L)t.~rtcrc~-I',luline letter.;
T h e m I,rio cot?;pcl'ing itXc~5c!r? ! I ) lic,n; t i i ' l t I ' , l ~ i i !s rc,xpon5iblc !or the-

actudl \+.r-lting(!l ,111 ot !hc>t. Icttci->. L?iffcrcnct.:; in writin!: stylt'can bt:

accounted f o r sin~p! t h c sui'!icit m,lttor, t h ~ ,' i u c l ~ c ~ n c t, ~ .n i i t i l t s
passing o! v c ~ ~ s\l"r~:crr
s. a r c u n c i ? n s c : o ~ ~ ch,i!is~n;:
~ly t h ~ - l .;!vlr.,.
r Tht.
passing of time a n d its effects ~ , I : . s:1i> i>lii! b v .
But the1.e is no rcosc.)n i c ~, > . \ > t . i t , on liic utt1t.r J I ~ I I t!lilt I ~ . !',ILI;d l J ..)I1
of tlie actual wr-it in^; witli h ~ v\+n \ !i,i.nd or :o d e n y t i i t . ~nf!uc.ncc! oi
PauI'.; ro-worCrr5 o n thc c r ~ ~ i t c ~ nr >! .i ;thp It!ttc-r. Ilr: it.rotc.. ~\c-c:i>rd~ng tn
s o m c N e w 7'csta1:1or1t c h o i a i - 5 . t i ~ r c l : t i ~ ~ ~ o r,iIcS sV;'oc!>iilic- iicrr. I i ; i'aul
dictatcd o r wrote c ~ c hI~:t!cr liirnhi.lf. -]'his is nc2t !crt$llly s:ttist,~ctorv.
since it Iravc.; nut of ,li-couni that otht:r rncmbcrs ot h i s party cl;1iined
to have had a p i r t in p r c p ~ s i n:hv ~ ivttcrr 1 2 ) I'a~rl dic.t,ltcd o r wr-ott.
w m c of ! h ~m;i:~ri'l!. ,i:id his ,.\s;.ist~ntt;h c l ~ c :ti ~ itlic cc>rnpo?.ition T h ~ s
is s o m e ~ r h a t~;1~115lk?ic( 3 ) 1';1(1I ,is.;igncd (>!her\ !(1 dn thi: :%,rltini; for
h i m after- lie h'1d q i v c r ~t h e m ~i s p v c i f i c assigni>lent. .? com1~1:iationot
all these t h e o r i t s m,ly tci! u s r v t ) ~ !really hdppcncil.

I h c concept oi the '%~-ip!arc? J S ~ ; , , , s t o l ~ c,1150 F L I :I C~I . I O U S i~rnlr,i-

tion5 o n s o m e o i the thcol-ics romrnonly ; ~ s s o c ~ ~ ~wt ict .hJ i i t r r ~ r ycr-It i -
cism. T h i s concept t1c5 :he Scripture:? cfown t~.: hpc.~i!:c ,iuthor5 o r ,lt
least to ~i c i r c ~ i i n i t r i b c dc r o u p (11' rrlcn Lissoc~d:cdwl!h :ht- ~ : i ! > t i e ~
n a m e s mlj;ht not ,li\v,ly< 5c k n o w n to U S .I.. in !!cbrck;vi. !.ut thc
g r o ~ i pwith w h i c h t h r v \%.ere associatcc! h:as kncr~vn 1:orni c-ritic~sm2nd
[ < ~ d , ~ k l ; ~ ? ~ s ; p ~ c / iput
j ~ - i h,~rdb.:
~fi' ,In? ytrcss ~.)nd c t ~ ~ r i n i n i r ltlic
g L~uthvr'b
person o r position Fornl criticism tc'lchcs th.~!vc>rio~i.; tor-nis 01-tit3ts>
of l i t e r a t ~ i r c~ver.ctloating round in ti;[' c' cliilr(:h. S u c h t0r1:15 C V O L I ~ ~
include the \vords oi Icsus 2 n d m!r;tclc sl,.)i-icc in ~ , I : I O L I > c:,,~tc~~c>ric%
These ic)r-~ijsarc 11ic.n dcduccd I !o!ir or.,ii :r.,lll ltjiln ,lr?c! .lrr.lfiscJ ::omc
tilnes with purposc a n d son\ctlr::~.s wi!h Iitllr P U ~ F O S Cd .C ' p c r ~ d r017 ~i~
the c r i t ~ c )i n t o onc. of thc \i-rrtinss c > t 1s now thr T~~st~irnc~rt
'Then Lwrausc (11 inlr~lisirr e l i c j o i ! ~worth lht.5~ wrrtrn!;>, .;ch tlic. !hec!r;;
goes, art. rc.cok;nizcd <is vall~.:hic: fur. tlic car.l\: i o n l n i ~ ~ n i t y
Redok!in~~s~csr.i::r-ii!(. say.: '1 lor ,~!,clat t h e ;lutlir?r.'.q intt:nt~ori>'lnd h o w
h e a r c n m p l ~ s h c dthcm r:i thc. \rri t t c ~ i!:ospcl.;. t !! ~'i?,:,very little
bout wlin h c ~irt~rall):\vat; o r w h , ~ : 111s pcrs~tron rv.1.: -The systems
p o r n ~ n e n t i y d c v ~ l o p ~by d kiuitm,~nn ,lnd .<omc t)l hrs J ~ s c ~ p l earcs s
cjIIIte lnterestln; but ,11.<0 hrijhi! specalalivc
Thr concept oi I l ~ cc ~ p o s t i l ! :S~c i i p t ~ i r c srnahs-h I ~ L .cluc>t iur t h e
connection bctwccn the do~-u:i:c.~!t,1!1d tlio d i ~ ~ t h m6i~>datclr) ~.~!- I'he
~ r i i i i i gt j i~ Ihc ?<.;cwi'c?\,~ii)cnta x at~:l~or-il,iti\;e for l , i ; ! l ~ t~triaust.thcy
came from apost1t.h ~ ! rnlc:] a>scii1'1ted with 11icli1 I'hcsc n1c.n wtlre
intim.itelL. cunnccfcd w ~ t h!!:.sLI+ o n ~ i1 1 1 % wkii-h Ii\c,n I . t ~ h ~w.h o I S
obvrousl): not *in al~octlo,cla~m.;a.;~oc.ialro~l ~ v ~ tthc
l i "cyc.-\\.~I~ic~.;.scc "
A .;!milar cl.11r:i :: ::;.ii!c I~L. ,ii:,iilyl-rltlcl> . ~ ~ ~ lot l ~tji!hrc\>.~.,
oi lhe
concept ~ i lI l l c cljlc, % I - ~ p t u r c sL ~ I I C . ~not clllow ior ;Inr)nymou.;
aull~or-sin t h r .;trli.tcsi i~nr;i:ut tile \vord. 'I'l7cy rn.iy ilt, ,ino;ikmous
t ~ d ~ j but
y , thcy L\.cr.e not ,Inonynious lht* \~c'il~'lc w h o lirsl rciclved
these Icttcrs. ;In .Ini)nymol;> LV I i t iris Iihe tlic l l i d ~ c h c~\.ds In st?rnC'
places acccyted in !hc. <,inon ,]!?ti !hen rcjcctcli I~tcr..'lllr.rc \.crc n i l s -
takes i n accepting sori1c I c t t c r ~!?lit W ~ C I Ithi' i i ~ r ' . t ~ i / \ r : \ \,;~I-cdct(~i:tcd.
such w r i t i n s s d t d nut h'lve a . t . l n d ~ l l ~i n thc. i . ) : t r r t l ~ cln ~ C > I with the
h r i ~ ' ~~ ~ Xi J ~~ ~ ( > I Iwr~ii~i;>.
T'hc. itron!: o m p h . i i ~ so n lnc, .rpngto!~ccci11nC'c!!:):? :!! tht' .;utho:-
cannot bc c-01151Jt:r.c.dLI> putirrlg toi, !nut-11 oI ,i L>urd~:nor1 o u t i ~ i ~ r . s I i ~ p
to tlic ncglcc.t 01 thv >;lvlng rne>.;age. i)ct-,iu<r: 1111. . t ~ ~ r ~ iht i m o r t l i \*.as
the e m b o d i r n ~ ~ n,inil i \l.trldl~l.d of ! h ~ tr;.1vlnS i~icss.igc~ rn tht. i . h u r ~ h
'The apc,stle war the unli;uC ir!:tru::icnt o i C o d !or thf: ; ~ r c a d l n &of rhc
message. I l ~ was i not mcr-cly ~ O I . I I ~ ~ IOI ~ ~ I C C~t, wri<~iiirrn1~11offlcc whose
content was n o n e other than Jcsiis Chrrst
Apostolicity a n d Related Problems

Many pas,qagcs tll,: s ~ ~ ~ c..rl,ilc-i~lv ~ : : ~ reter~ - to~ themselves

. ~ o r to
other sectlons In th(: Scriptures '15 beins inspired hy the Spirit. TO
speak of the apcli;tol~cScrlpt(1rc-y ; n I;Q w a y destroys the concept of the
insylsed Scripture.;. ]<~tIlel- i! dirt?cts t h e discussion 'lccc~rdingto lines
which the ~ % . s I o ~ttlclli~t.lvc\
~;: ],I\; Tl?e Scriptures are not in-
spired in an isolated scnsc. They d(,l.ivc b o t h meaning a n d authority
from the o n e r v r ~ t ~ n\hem.g -T-i?+: :iorl\ a f t h e Spirit in giving 11s the
Scriptures is l i n t < t l ~ i t i ; spe,lki:l)i, .I direct o r immediate work. I t is
a work ext.~cisedt h l - o u ~ httic apos:ol~c oHico. First jcsus through the
Spirit gives thc oH~ceof tlic ,iyc>itlr ti^, t h e c h u r c h to direct a n d guide it,
a n d then tiirou!:li [hi? <.~ffic:t: t h C 5;iir-it ,qi\.cs tile church tile S c r i p t ~ ~ r e s .
Since the S p ~ r i test,ibli.;hes :!ir o!i';cc of t h c apostles, the Scriptures
writlcn by them arc ~ n s p i r e d .i\Ii silt<i n t h e church from l'entecost
to the end of time .ile in J scnr;r inspired bv the :Holy Spirit, but only
the gift oi apostollcitv c'irrlcs w111l~t C l i r ~ s t ' so w n authority.

In Matthew 10, ~.tit,rc.l e s ~ 1 c5 c ~ l ltlio i T w r l v c into the* apostleship,

Illere i.5 thc pl-uni~sc,that !lie Spit-il L ~ T tlie F a t h e r would speak through
them ( v . 2 0 ) . lie.~i,onsihi!i:y f;;r thc a p n ~ : o l i c LZ'o1.d wou!c? ultii:iatcly
belong to Ihc Sp11.11Tlic oHitc ot tllc < ~ p u s t lis r patterned after theofficc
of the s / ~ n / i ~ l r111 l r Icrv~slic ~ i i l u r cbut
. tlir oH~c-eot tlir 'TwPIv(~W O L I I ~ L>e
different, sincc the S1.lir.i: ot (;()ti ~ O l ~ a5.iist id them in thcir tash. Paul's
claim to hi:. I I . I V I I I ~the Splrii i 1 Co:. 7:JO) is 1' reference to this special
. \vho drt? S ~ It ?h. J I I ~L V I ~ I I Co~i'siluthori tv are i l ~ ~ i ~ t e d
a P ~ s t o l i cg ~ t t ill1
by His Spirit and hpoah God's words.
In rc~;lrd to Matthew 10, son?(: m i g h t s a y that J e s l ~ swas giving
thcrn only a Irm~tedrnmmls.;lon t\..hlch w a s t o he carried out only over
a short per~oclof lime i:tclo~e iiis Jc,~tir. A closer cxalnination of this
section indicate.; that t l ~ l sis hardiy t h e casc. 'The colnmission, tirst
glance seemingly lirnltcd to ihe lost s h e e p of the house of Israel, had a
further, u n i v e r s ~ lthrust. M.'hilt. the Trvelve ar-e corl~rr~anded not to g o to
the Gentiles i v . .5), the promise o f t h e S p i ~ . i t ' sintinlate activity is as-
sociated with their tfastln:ony brlorc govt?rnors, kings, a n d Gentiles
(v.18). This latter type of dpostoiic activity d i d not begin till after
Jesus' ascension. In fact, the rcal Gentiic m i n i s t r v of the church did not
begin till a generation later, that is. ' ~ f t c rthe Council oCjerusalem
a n d Pjul's first journey Nothing lndlcates t h a t there was a n y apostolic
testimony before rulers before jesus had mddc klis confession before
:he high priest a n d Pontius Pllatc. 'lho proniise of the Spirit's speaking
through them seenis to have its final fulfullment after the ascension of
Jesus. Also, Matthew wrote this gospel some time alter the ascension of
Jesus, and with this chapter h e was reflecting his own apostolic author-
ity over the church at this time. In verse 2 he called the Twelve "apos-
Whether Jesus called H i s disciples "apostles" at this time or later
is difficult to determine. tn any case, they did not have the same author-
ity before His death as they did after His resurrection. T h e fullrtess of
t h e apostolic gift was not given till after Christ's resurrection and
Pentecost. This entire sectioli of Matthew's Gospel meaning only
lor the titne when Jesus wouid no longer be with then1 personally. As
long as Jesus was with them in the flesh Fie was the ultimate authority
a n d their office was always that oi followers. The proniise o f the Spirit
h a d its real meaning for the time when lesus wo~rldnot he there. There-
fore this section was the basis oi the clntquc activitv o i the Spirit
through the apostolic office.
There is n o Independent gill t!i Scriptural inspiration; i t is a gift
which is only part of the Spirit's gift of apostolicity. Today the church
calls the Scriptures inspired, and perhaps little thought is givrn to the
men who were chosen Lly J e s ~ l s(throtrgh the Spirit) tor the office of
apostles. The apostles were not to procliiim themselves and their office,
they were to prorlaitn Christ (? Cor. 4.5) Still they as persons were
~rreplaceahlelinks in Christ's plan tor the preaching of the Cospcl.
Though their office is.ircquently not suiitcicniiy I-rco~riized, i t is still
being exercised wherever the (;ospel is preached. There the Spirit is
speaking with authority to the church.

Inherent in the apostolic office is also the element ot the Si.riptures'
infallibility. Cod is truthful a n d the Scriptures are Cod's Word; thcre-
fore the Scriptures are truthful or infdlIiblc. This is a perfectly good
theological syllogism. Consideratirrn of the office of the apostle czn
give this concept deeper meaning. An aposllc as Jesus' representative
never allows anyone to question his office and message. His message
i s above any questions that might cast doubt o n it. (The reference here
is to the apostolic activity in the church and not to the initial preaching
to the unbeIievcrs.) The apostles do not .lrgue their authority over the
church; they asscrt it. Paul does not argue his apostoiic authority but
states it. Once it is acknowledged, his word is not open to investiga-
tion. At Berea (Acts 17:10 ff.) his message is measured against the Old
Testament, but the Bereans at this time had not yet becollie Christians,
f o r they are described as "Jews." Among Christians there is no ques-
tioning of the .~pus!olicciHicc. :ilc ..::-1: '.: l a l s c .'apcs:!cs" ii' the
church at Corint!? s h c ! \ ~ r s tile i!nul,i-ta,;:-t- tilt' ofiirr,. I t .~lsoshows
0 '

Paul's awarcrless of ialsc doctrinr. ~i:l.lj3tU1.c:?; are inlallible rrot only

iecause of ihcil- i~it;~if,ltl.o:l
b u t also [>ecr!se :I,cy are a ef ice
ajostolic ofiict. which i s not ~ l i o \ t . ~!od i,c qllestic,ned i n the church.
This office s~3eal;sthe :i:it!?nrit,:i;uc. l.?ard :lfClod. To speak .lnainst t h e
infallibility of the Scriptu:-ec c i r - c\:cn ,:i.eqti~rt!icil inhcrent triith-
fuiness is not or?lv riline but l > l , l s ; . i ~ ~ : n ~Paul
, ~ ; ~ .i l l C.jlatians I:6-Y is
more t h a n c ~ n p h ~ ~,~bouf
t i c . ~ ~ i v , ! !d,irln::
i~ to rjll~?.;tion his message.
Even angels are cilblect lo thc 2.tIi,;icrl,,!:lt-,~i cLli.r;r li they attempt to d o

:C CONSC~S:;:;~:.~.:.
APOSTOI ; j i~xi.lil;.iMc. \,

Ideally th? J p ~ ~ t i l l l \",'c?i.ii

c- ,\ ,;~>CI\;,\ 2n! qi:e%f~o~ o r. ~doubts,
s hut
then as tilJ,ly th!s 11'1jliC\7cyI:cc;l !tic <,I.;V, i<<!tii tllc apostcilic: \Yord and
office have becn :zilLier ,i:tack - i ' i - i c s ;lj>,,.;tli.s' cask o l dcfvrlding t&
office snc! Wc~ril,i,,~iilj!:kc' ;ri:.;.!:c. ;;I iai.,:l:c,oll i . W c i un-
g n e r a l he,lciing oi irlcr;.;!iic\. Ti.,, , \ \ ~ c "f~ ~ ~ c % r r - , m ~ n r vm" t ht. t&
best and :he task ~111L I I I ! o : . ~ : I I ~ ; ~ ~ c 'i l i l i ' , i ~ V Vt ~ , I ! l i t ( ' i ~ p ( ? l r thad
l ~ ~t o de-
fend themsc:ves il!:dr:lst tilt. ~ l i . ~ ~ihat c t >I R C V ~ V I > I . C1 ~ 1 1 I 1l (~I ~ x ~ i ~ i t l i i d ~ i s
1.5 m a y he considtl-eii .I;..<c .;;;~il;>ttht, , . I , > ~ I I I ~ l ! ~](>SL:S ~ t h a d ncit
risen frorn the dcacl. \ I n t t i ~ ~.'Y- ~ :i ! ~ -1:; ~ ~i. -7 ,.iii~ila:dcfcn.;?. :or the.
apostlr presrnts 2.1: apolcigt~ti;.,qg.:;:?-.! i g who say
(!I$: (11c.n : > ~ t l iI ~ v i ~Itsws

that thc body ot Irs~ls':I.IL~ bcc.11 5tole1.ii,\ :;ilcficrs bril>cci b y the iocal
ecclesiastirai nificia!~.1 i ~ c ,~ r - l r t .oir !I!(: I ,,::!t!i i.;o>pclh ~ : ,O?'VIC)US fear
that sotneono might c;ili t1:i' c.nti1.c !JI>(I;. .1 ; i i ~ ~, ) ~ . I . . I I I . ; C a t !he :,c.r-y r:ld of
the book ( 2 l : l - l ) IIC cIc~!.;nsi~i;i: i : ; I - i : ( ~ k ~ , ' Illis 1 5 l h c d i s c i ~ . ~ who lc is
bc'jrin): witi; to !hcsc !hi:>:;, An:: cvi:o i,.li 1.: I llten the:;t> thr~lgs;a n d
we know tha! his tesiirnony ;:. : I - # I ~ > \.\;h<~t
some had yucstionrd i i ? ~rcliai,~i~ti
fj-re N e w Testaixclli c a n b c ci:r?2.:ci~':t:J

? i l i l f s , ~ ~ C I : . ~: O
i ~ ~ - ~
tra!: fhi5 incan except that
I I, ~C! ; ' I ~ CMuch
,;~1o;tc1lir,~l>c\lc,ge:icin this
? of

sense. The chtlrcil's dci-n.;c, i,:: h t x Ccrip::;?~'.it.x:l-.y I:, uni;, an extension

of the or~glna!apcstolic task and oi t n c ~>urtlc.r; w h ~ c hthose m c n once
apostolic S(:riptures 10 that of the 1r;~pl:ed ~ ~ : i ~ ; t ~ l Tr ch es .terminology
should b e retained, because n:uch of t h ~ o n the Bible has been
specifically o n its inspiration in the 5etlsc oi i t i u n i q ~ i edivine origin.
For this reason the term "inspiratiol:" toda,i is not a matter ot indif-
Lutheranism has always stressed :;l,?t ~ o works d through means.
This is the basis of our sacramental i h c ~ l o\r.jlich ~ ~ ~ ,places Baptisin and
the Lord's Supper In such high regard. In giving the Word, khc Holy
Spirit d i d n o t work immeciiately or without means, for the prophets and
the apostles were the agents or "sacia~nentalrncni:s" for conveying
God's revelation. The Spirit's nztivii: w,:r not di1.e~-to r in~inedi.lteas it
provided t h e New Testament \:.ritir?~s. sol. w a s i t limited to these
writings, for kit. \vns workirig :tirc~agh [lien appointed b y Christ io be
H i s representatives.
Scnie views of Biblical i n s p ~ r , i ~ t <circumvent ,n an entire period
i n a very important part oi worlil htstory - thr time w h e n Cod wds
dealing dircctly \vith Hi:; yi.o~!c;.5;,1vation took ~ l , ; c ?in h~stoi-yu n d e r
ordinary circumstances but i.:~th interventions 1311thc part of
God. A n d tile historic'ii events w;?i.e r.e~uillrrl1 1 1 Lhe i o ~ i l . s u r i !inie. The
Spirit w h o is responsible far the 5crip!ur-cs \ v i ~ si h r s a m e Spirit w h o
directed t h e 1srae:iics i n [!lei, itistor,. C1'11c\i is niole ~ n ~ p , ~ - t , llni et ,
descended o n Jcsus at H i s baptisrx !o .>nnint i i i m for Fit:; Llcssi,lnic
work. T h e Spirit so closely assuc-lz.ted s v ~ t ntht? ministry of Icslls tilled
the apostles with the capacity to dcclarr 141s toning worL..
.The Scriptures arc ni;t a book drcippcii frai:~hcaven; thry arc t h e
product of the Spirit who was asscciatrd with !!lc promises of !he Old
Testament a n d who v:;~s with lesus in pee- .: . , time of
His baptism. Are the Scripturcs i n s p ~ r e d ?Of roursc, they are. Hut they
>SG apostolic. And the s;irnr Spirit aitivr m the anoi&<' orcaching
is still sph.aking il~rouphthis \ t ' ~ r d!O the church t o w
. . .
r r h g r ~ h iuci;i:, ti!ra~.:c.h the Diblr. At the

same time I ~ l espeaks through tile ~ p o s t u l ~ofiice. c 20 i t is that Peter,

I-'aul, J o h n , and their assistants, i > l t h ~ ~ i gl:t:ried h long ago, are still
sppaklng, arid tiieir voices resoansi to tne C I : ~ ? 01 the earth. Jesus i-jim -
tfirnLjgh cc,(!pt.riornic;ci :h1, ii:r~S: ;.iillqLic' at:! O: divine grace
ill llulndn history, jlas ascer.ded in!(! I:e;rke!?. b u t Lhe apr)stlcs were
singled o u i to His c3uthnr~tatjvc.spo;.e.;mr-n the churcli a n d to
f j i m lo !he world. W h c n r v e i 3 p t n o n h e a r s t h e 13iblc read or
reads i t himself, the Spirit is p ~ : t j ii ~i :~~?~c!';tii:!. 'lnd their clsqistants
back into His ernplos, The '1~os:ie.; ai:J the ~'<)-\i-orkers in therr circle
are dead, b u t tticir vcliccis s : ~ l i A ! ! V C t 3 :L:L.P l i l t - t0 C,()C/'S })e(ij>lee V r r y -


'The theological issues and movements of our t ~ m eare cverv-

thing but dull and dry: pulsating. controversial, vibrant,
politically and culturally intluential. A n d tile Ctrnte~nporary
Theology Series provides theological ~nformaticjn,analvsis,
commentary, and perspect~veon today's t l l ~ ~ o l o g ~scene.
Each of the authors is a t l i e o l o ~ ~ awriting
n in his field of
interest, examining his topic and s u p p l v ~ n gthc necessary
information to equip you to validly an,ilvze ~ n evaluate
d it.
The Contc;iipori~:y Thco!og:; Scrirs I S dcsignrd to aiitic~patc
theological trendb, and i t is 1egu1,11-lvIvin!: cxtendrd. Now
you liavc 1-el1'1hlcmeans to cxarnlne ~ s > u cand s ni~vern~~~ts
that ,ire 'iffccting your lite ~ ~ h iyou
l c a r r rni-c>untcringttirni

Author David P. Scaer states. "l'he of i n p i r a t i o n as

it h<isbeen g e n e ~ ~ ~uncle~>loc)d
lly in thc clii~rt11 15 no1 i o n t r a ~y
to a n apostolic undcrst,ind~ngot thc S C ~ I ~ ~ Ihut I I -~t~ has
ciefin~tclyprcvcntcd .i iullcr a n ~ i c r ~ t ~ ~ n of d i nthe
! : Scr~p-
tures." 7'0 prov~ilea clcal-el-undcrstznding 01 what the Scrip-
tures rcallv arc. SO they ~ 1 1 C1 O I ~ ! ~ I ~ to
~ I Pbe rcvcred a s God's

o ~ looks ..,it the orlgln, tllc liaturc., and the

Word, ~ ~ u t l iScaer
authority oi Oie New 1'e~t.iiiic1itt\,r~ti~i);b

Concordin Publishing House

Saint I>ouis 1,ondon
l'ri~ilcd 11) b 5, I\. 12-7302