Does the New Testament claim to be God’s Word?
Published: 3 October 2015 (GMT+10)
J.M. from the U.S. sent in the following challenge:
There are many places in the Hebrew Bible where the writer "a prophet" (a before-speaker) claims to be speaking the inspired words of YHWH, as His appointed prophet. There is NOT one passage in the Greek "Bible" where the "writer" of a book in the NT Greek writings claims to be speaking the inspired words of YHWH.
CMI’s Keaton Halley responds:
In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), sometimes prophets did introduce specific prophecies with “thus says the Lord” or similar formulae, but it’s not as though these are the only parts of the Old Testament that are God-breathed. Rather, all of Scripture is God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16). See The Authority of Scripture.
The OT books of Job and Esther contain no such formula, for example, but if you accept those as Scripture while discounting the New Testament books simply because they allegedly also lack this formula, you are using a double standard. In reality, one can properly recognize that a book is divinely inspired even if it doesn’t directly and explicitly make that claim. The books accepted by the church have the ring of truth and divine authority and are entirely consistent with prior revelation, unlike the Gospel of Thomas, the Qur’an, or the Book of Mormon, for example.
However, it's simply wrong to say that no New Testament passage claimed to be inspired. For example, the book of Revelation claims to be prophecy (Rev. 1:3)—a message delivered by God through an angel to John (Rev. 1:1). The book ends with a severe warning against adding to or taking away from "the words of the prophecy of this book” (Rev. 22:18).
Also, the NT authors understood that they were passing on the authoritative apostolic tradition which could be traced to God’s revelation of Himself through the person of His Son (Heb. 1:1–2). This is why Paul talks in multiple places about delivering what he received (1 Cor. 11:2, 23–25; 15:3–8), and Luke claims he is passing on the things delivered to him by “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" (Luke 1:1–4). The apostles were specifically commissioned by Jesus who promised that the Holy Spirit would guide them "into all the truth" (John 16:13). Therefore, Paul was able to say to the Thessalonians, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 2:13). This means that Paul's message was God’s message. And whether he was delivering that message orally or by letter, it carried the same authority (2 Thess. 2:15).
To give another example, in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he boldly asserted that his words carried divine authority. "If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized” (1 Cor. 14:37–38). So there are multiple New Testament passages that meet your standard—someone claiming to speak on behalf of Yahweh.
But there’s more. Besides the internal testimony within certain NT books, there are also instances where one NT book cites another NT book as Scripture. For example, Peter recognized Paul’s letters as Scripture (2 Pet. 3:15–16), and Paul quoted Deut. 25:4 and Luke 10:7 together, calling them both Scripture (1 Tim. 5:18).
So, even by your overly restrictive criterion, the NT is not disqualified as God’s revelation. And there are many good reasons to accept it as such, like the fact that the whole OT clearly pointed forward to Jesus as the Messiah. If you profess to believe in the Hebrew Bible without accepting the New Testament, I would encourage you to investigate the ways Jesus actually fulfilled the OT predictions. You might start with Isaiah 9:6–7: The coming Child who would be called ‘Mighty God’. Or you could pick up a copy of our DVD, Jesus in Genesis: The Messianic Prophecies.
Anyway, I hope you are willing to honestly investigate and consider the claims of Jesus, because there is nothing more significant than how we respond to Him. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). So our eternal destiny hangs in the balance, and my sincere desire is that you would find eternal life through "our great God and Savior", Jesus the Messiah (Titus 2:13)!