In your teaching on the Corinthian letters, you indicated that there are at least two other letters written by Paul to these churches. Since those letters have not survived to be included in the Bible, I must presume that they were not divinely inspired. But how is that possible, that only half of what Paul wrote was inspired? How was the Corinthian church supposed to deal with receiving some inspired letters and some non-inspired ones? Or am I to assume that all four of Paul's Corinthian letters were inspired, and we're just missing half of them? That's a scary thought. -- Greg Van Arsdall (Dayton, Ohio)

Yes, Paul wrote many letters that are not in the Bible (as we have discussed elsewhere at this website). 1 Corinthians 5:9 explicitly refers to an earlier letter, one which some Corinthians had misunderstood. 2 Corinthians 7:8 seems to refer to another letter, written between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. (The situation is a poor fit with 1 Corinthians, as many Bible readers have noticed. Please look at the context, especially 2 Corinthians 2, which continues, after a digression, in chapter 7.)

I do not think it is a matter of "half" of what Paul wrote being inspired. If everything he wrote (and said?) were inspired, we would need millions of pages to contain all the apostolic words alone. The matter at issue is the function these letters serve in God's revelation to mankind. The letters are not "missing" unless they were supposed to be in the New Testament, right? In my home, there are a number of books in my bookcases: theology, history, and so forth. We also have some books in the family room. They are not "missing" from the more academic library, because (1) they never were there, and (2) they aren't needed there.

Your question does not distinguish between truth and inspiration. Paul may have written other letters that were good and right and true. But if they were not selected by the Spirit to be part of the canon, they are not inspired. Not everything that's true is inspired. Nor is everything that's inspired necessarily true. (The Bible, after all, contains the devil's words, too!)

For more on this interesting question, see my How We Got the Bible (a four-part study).

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