Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Inspired Grocery Lists

In discussions about the canon of the New Testament, it’s common to hear the sentiment that not everything an apostle wrote would have been considered inspired Scripture. After all, are we to think that even the apostle Paul’s grocery lists were inspired by God? Take these remarks from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, for example:
“Of course, this does not mean that everything an apostle wrote, including even grocery lists and receipts for business transactions, would be considered Scripture. We are speaking here of writings done when acting in the role of an apostle and giving apostolic instructions to churches and to individual Christians (such as Timothy or Philemon).” (p. 63, fn. 27)
I do think there’s an element of truth to be found in that sentiment. But at the same time, it’s plainly the case that there are parts of the New Testament, specifically in Paul’s letters, that are remarkably mundane. Take 2 Timothy 4:13, for example:
“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.”
What do we have in this verse? Well, essentially what we have is an inspired grocery list. It’s very ordinary. It doesn’t have an air of official apostolic authority. It’s not deeply spiritual or ecclesiastical. It’s just a simple request. And yet we believe that it’s inspired Scripture.

Here someone might say that this “grocery list” is inspired only by virtue of its being included as part of the whole letter to Timothy, and so we can still maintain that a stand-alone grocery list certainly wouldn’t have made the cut. And maybe that’s true, but it’s still interesting to me that something as mundane as a grocery list can be inspired.

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