Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Superficial study?

Some of you get the local paper, here in Covington VA.  Some of you even read it.  I am a regular reader.  If you are, then you know there has been a lot of news and comment about the upcoming vote on consolidation.  A ministerial colleague wrote a letter to the editor, on Sept. 23, about truth-telling and fact-checking in regard to public discourse.
A good word of caution.
I'm not commenting on whether I agree or disagree with Rev. Caperton.
I would not have written a letter in reply to his letter to the editor if his comments had only been political.  However, as you will see in my letter, in getting to his main point, he made an unfortunate comment about the authorship of the New Testament.
I'm not sure if my letter will make it to the pages of the Virginian Review, and for those of you who don't get the paper, I post it here.

A letter to the editor, September 23, sounds an important warning.  Be sure of our facts, when entering into public discourse.  It is counsel that the writer should heed.  He states, ". . . a superficial study [of the New Testament] would indicate that we do not really know who was responsible for writing letters and books identified as by someone, for example, like Paul."  [sic] If he means there is not universal agreement among scholars, he is right.  To imply that confidently holding that the authors named in New Testament books were, indeed, the human authors of those books, indicates inadequate study, is simply incorrect.
A few examples will suffice to show the fallacy of this contention.  One might disagree with these scholars, but that they have done more than superficial study is beyond doubt.  
  • A. R. Fausset (of Jamison Fausset and Brown) The . . . evidence for Paul’s authorship [Galatians] is conclusive."  He references Irenaeus, Polycarp, and Jusin Martyr.
  • Everett F. Harrison, Senior Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary calls the Pauline authorship of 1 Thessalonians the "accepted view."  He likewise holds that Paul is the author of 2 Thessalonians.
  • Concerning 1 Corinthians 1:12, Clement of Rome wrote, "Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle."  (First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. c. 100 AD)
  • William Hendriksen, Th.D., Princeton Theological Seminary professor of New Testament literature at Calvin Theological Seminary, said “the attempt to disprove their [1&2 Timothy & Titus] Pauline authorship must be considered a failure.”
    “[T]he [early] church . . . with one accord named Paul as the author [of Ephesians] . . . There was no doubt or dissent. . . .There is no reason to depart from these traditional convictions.
  • Leon Morris, Principle, Ridley College, Melbourne, said about his commentary on John, that for a period of ten years it "has been constantly in my thoughts."  Well beyond superficial.  After 20 pages discussing pro and con as to John's authorship of the Gospel.  (John is not named as author in the book, but early tradition, including Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, considered John to be the author.)  Morris concludes: "I accept the view that John the Apostle was the author."  
Similar statements can be found concerning the authorship of the other books of the New Testament.  There is no doubt that substantial evidence has been raised that would oppose the references I offer.  It is not my purpose here to argue the matter.  I do hope that I have made the point that some of us who claim with confidence to know the identity of most of the human authors of the New Testament are not guilty of holding those views because our study has not achieved the level of superficiality.
As to the other points in the 9/23 letter, I make no comment and none should be inferred.  
I thank the writer for his appeal for careful, truthful consideration of the consolidation decision.

Rev. Howard Merrell

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