Saturday, June 25, 2016

Weekend Links: Autographs and Bible Formatting

A couple links for your weekend reading.

Timothy Mitchell whose blog I mentioned earlier has a fresh article in JETS on just what we mean by “autograph” in debates about inerrancy. He concludes that “in reference to the NT, the ‘autograph,’ as often discussed in biblical inerrancy doctrinal statements, should be defined as the completed authorial work which was released by the author for circulation and copying, not earlier draft versions or layers of composition.” I wonder what Tim thinks of suggestions that Paul edited his own letter collection with some possible changes. Would inerrancy apply to the first release or the release of the collection or both? I’m not sure we can distinguish such, but I still wonder. We need something like this for the OT, by the way. But good for Tim for taking the question on.

Tony Reinke interviews Glenn Paauw, the Executive Director of the Biblica Institute for Bible Reading about the history of “Bible clutter.” Paauw says that the Bible’s “central unit is not a verse, is not a chapter, it is a book. Those are the central units the Bible is built on, and I think we should read holistically first and then do our study in the context of that reading. And I think the modern Bible reverses those things.” A friend told me recently he is reading through Crossway’s Reader’s Gospel and really enjoys the lack of clutter.

Enjoy your weekend. If you live somewhere with sun, please send it my way.


  1. Peter, once again, a big thank you for mentioning the JETS article! Readers can find a link to the article here;

    I also appreciate your feedback with regard to the Pauline letter collection. If it is okay, I can give a brief response in the comments here.

  2. Please do. Sorry about the link. I was in a rush.

    1. Thank you Peter. I will respond sometime later this weekend.

      As far as Sun, we have plenty here in Arizona! It was over 40 degrees Celsius for most of last week! ;-)

  3. Thanks for drawing attention to my new e-books. Amazon reviews are welcome!

  4. Thank you Peter for your feedback with regard to the thesis of the article “What are the NT Autographs?” In this comment I would like to engage with your question and comments;
    “I wonder what Tim thinks of suggestions that Paul edited his own letter collection with some possible changes. Would inerrancy apply to the first release or the release of the collection or both? I’m not sure we can distinguish such, but I still wonder.”
    As I had mentioned in a comment on the ‘New Testament Textual Criticism’ Facebook page, the issue of a Pauline letter collection is a very big topic that deserves its own focused article and/or book, which, by the way, E. Randolf Richards has done in his excellent work “Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection” (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004) I had intended to include a section discussing a Pauline letter collection, but realized that this topic moved the article in a new direction, away from the thesis (at this point the paper was already 10,000 words!) So I chose to excise the discussion all together. Really, the paper is intended to specifically address the process leading up to publication, and not the collection/reception process, which is really where the discussion of an “inspired” Pauline letter collection belongs. It seems to me that speaking of an “inspired” or “inerrant” letter (or Gospel) collection conflates the inspiration of the scriptures as they were composed, with the reception and collection of these writings in the canonical process. Perhaps some see these developments as the same, but in my mind they are two very different phenomena. I see that inspiration is the inscripturation of God’s revelation to man and the canonical process is the reception, collection, and circulation of this revelation. With that said, E. Randolf Richard’s has argued that Paul archived his own letters in a personal notebook (pg. 218-223). I think that, considering what we know about letter writing, this was highly likely (we are dealing with probabilities here and nothing concrete). As people wrote and requested copies of Paul’s letters, (Polycarp Phil 13.2), either to Paul himself, or to his associates, then copies would be made at that time from these archived copies. More than likely, an “official edition” of Paul’s letters, created from these archived copies, would have been “published” posthumously (Richards, pg. 223). This would account for the varying manner in which his letters were gathered (single letters, varying order of collection, etc.) In my mind, releasing a collection in this way is not “composition“ but is really copying and circulation. Thus, I think that it falls outside the composition/inspiration process (the inscripturation of God’s revelation). Again, referring back to Richards’ discussion of inspiration (pg. 224-229), I think that it is better to envision inspiration as an event, one that includes the unique circumstances that each particular Christian community was experiencing, and Paul’s unique letter addressing these issues. Therefore, even if Paul did gather a collection and polish them up, and release them, I am not sure that we can call this an “inspiration event,” if you will. This is where one’s theological leanings come into play. If one believes that Paul was dissatisfied with his letters and wanted to “correct them,” then the first versions did not perfectly convey the message that God intended his Church to read. I think though, we should not draw hard and fast lines here, there is really no way to know for sure, and the conversation needs to continue!
    I hope that my comments are clear and have addressed your original question Peter. Please feel free to send more feedback my way!