• 2 Peter 3:15-16 reads:
So also our beloved Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.
Let us not be unstable, but rather, admit St. Peter was not establishing any sacred Table of Contents. St. Peter was the Pope. He was Catholic, so it is intellectually dishonest for a person to use St. Peter’s Letter as any sort of proof for the Catholic Church’s non-involvement with the canon’s formation. But your group does not acknowledge this historical fact, hopes its hearers are equally ignorant, and proceeds to interpret the passage to their own destruction. Your group twiststhe passage from what it reads to an interpretation that means, “All of St. Paul’s letters are inspired.” And since your already-established Bible contains letters written by St. Paul, your group convinces itself that a large portion of the New Testament is authenticated by the use of St. Peter’s Letter.
It is true that St. Peter was referring to St. Paul’s letters, and your apologists suggest St. Peter’s reference to St. Paul’s letters provides a self-authenticating proof for the inspiration of all of St. Paul’s letters that are now bound within the New Testament; but it is possible that not all of St. Paul’s letters are inspired, otherwise, the New Testament is missing a portion of God’s written word. The books we now recognize as 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians should probably be called 2 Corinthians and 3 Corinthians, because within 1 Corinthians, St. Paul referred to his previous letter to the Corinthians (cf. 5:9), which we no longer possess. He also referred to a letter to La-odice’a (cf. Colossians 4:16).3 And perhaps he wrote additional letters to the Corinthians we do not know about! So is the New Testament complete? And if your theory—that the Protestant Church of Christ is in fact the nascent Church—were correct, if the Protestant Church of Christ somehow existed prior to your 19th century formation, and if it were the true Church established by Christ as guardians of the true Deposit of Faith, then why did it not preserve St. Paul’s letters—letters that you, if consistent, must regard as inspired? If St. Peter called such writings scripture, then your stewardship, not the Catholic Church’s, should be questioned.
If all of St. Paul’s letters are inspired, which is the assumption your apologists must maintain when they submit this passage as a proof for a self-authenticating Pauline corpus, then should we not worry that the Bible is an imperfect and insufficient code? Has God’s word been lost, and shall it return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11)? Has an iota or a dot passed away (cf. Matthew 5:18)? Your members might then admit some of St. Paul’s letters were not inspired in order to gloss over such problems, but doing so suggests that your group knowingly presents this passage in a less than forthright manner. Have your converts and children considered these facts before they publicly confess that Jesus is Lord, before they get baptized (or “re-baptized”), prior to entering into a “Bible-only” paradigm? Have they rightly concluded that the very fact of an Apostle writing something down does not constitute his product as Holy Writ? Have your members considered how such proof demands that the writings of all the Apostles should be scrutinized, should be evaluated in some way, should be determined as inspired or not inspired by a means other than the fact that their Bibles now include them?
The reasonable interpretation of the passage at hand (2 Peter 3:15-16) does not call all of St. Paul’s letters inspired, but rather, calls specific letters by St. Paul scripture—that all of St. Paul’s letters that are scripture are indeed scripture. The passage does not provide a criterion for placement within the canon; it reveals, simply, that some of St. Paul’s letters are inspired and belong within the Christian canon of Scripture, and it does not explain which letters should or should not be included.
But why even discuss the Pauline corpus without first establishing the status of St. Peter’s Second Letter? Your group has not established how it knows St. Peter’s Second Letter is inspired! If your group could present any reason, and if it could somehow prove St. Peter meant only the letters from St. Paul that were later chosen to be placed within the canon are inspired (and that his other letters are not inspired), then this passage might serve as a sort of proof for a self-authenticating partial canon. Of course, it cannot, and it has no recourse, because your community, knowingly or not, ignores the only body that offered any input into the discussion.
Another example of your dependence as it relates to 2 Peter 3:15-16 is in regards to the Book of Hebrews. Your members believe the Book of Hebrews belongs in the Bible, but Hebrews, again, does not claim inspiration for itself; and no other book from the Bible refers to the Book of Hebrews as Scripture. You most likely believe St. Paul wrote the Book of Hebrews, and since you must believe St. Peter called all of St. Paul’s letters scripture, you accept the book of Hebrews as you assume St. Peter had. But St. Peter, within his Letter, did not communicate that the Book of Hebrews was authored by St. Paul. Nor does the Book of Hebrews itself reveal who its author is. In other words, the “Bible only” cannot, in any way, establish the status of the Book of Hebrews. So why do you believe the Book of Hebrews was written by St. Paul and is rightly included within the Christian canon? Could your belief root from the fact that the Catholic Church has a memory—a Sacred Tradition, other Catholic writings—and you have absorbed her teaching?
Are you aware the book the Church came to recognize as St. Peter’s Second Letter was one of the last books admitted to the Christian canon? The early Church Fathers debated its status more than most writings that are now in the New Testament; Martin Luther (a 16th century founder of Protestantism) was suspicious of 2 Peter as well, but not as much as Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation—all of which he tried to remove from the New Testament canon. As a thought experiment, imagine if Luther had his way and successfully removed four books from the New Testament. Would your group not have simply accepted his canon, which would be the canon your group would have been born under? If you think your group would not have blindly accepted Luther’s New Testament canon, then answer to yourself why your group in fact accepts Luther’s final Old Testament canon!
So how does the passage you present as proof for the Pauline corpus’ status hinge upon a passage that had not yet been regarded as inspired? Did your not-yet existing group privately interpret St. Peter’s Letter—a Letter that had not yet been recognized as inspired—to determine that St. Paul’s letters were inspired? If so, then was your group not consulting an “extra-biblical” source at least as authoritative as the Pauline portions it wished to verify? Of course, you would counter by stating that St. Peter’s Letter was inspired even if the Church had not come to know it as such, which is true. But the fact is that if your group existed, and if your group did consult St. Peter’s Letter for clues as to whether or not St. Paul’s letters are inspired, then your group would have in fact consciously consulted material that it did not recognize as inspired—what it knew as Scripture was not its ultimate authority because it consulted with, and relied upon, the assumed authority of an extra-biblical tradition.
Clearly, your apologists’ attempt to eradicate any Catholic input from the Bible’s formation, and its desire to establish a self-authenticating canon of Scripture is not aided by their use of 2 Peter 3:15-16. The very use of the passage to prove St. Paul’s letters are inspired presupposes the inspiration of St. Peter’s Second Letter, and inadvertently presupposes the authority of the first pope and the Catholic Church. Your group, however, must endure the embarrassment its position forces upon itself. Without it, the “Bible only” could not establish the status of a large portion of the New Testament; and your members would become vulnerable to a more reasonable—a more Catholic—alternative.
3 Some scholars argue that St. Paul’s letter to La-odice’a is his letter to the Ephesians.