that Jesus’ teachings were to be viewed in some sense as being authoritative or canonical.
A major question here concerns whether citations such as the one in 1 Timothy 5:18(as well as many others in the early church) make reference to the remembered oralteachings of Jesus (perhaps in early written form) or to the Gospels themselves. We will return to this issue later. We will just note here that we are at least presented with the possibility that it was the Gospel text in Luke itself which was being cited. If so, such could well be an implicit recognition of the principle that texts which authoritatively recount the life of Jesus could at least potentially be viewed as Scripture. But even if this is not the case, we will endeavor to indicate that Jesus’ oral teachings had already attained a similarly authoritative status.
Additionally, 2 Peter 3:15–16 refers to Paul’s epistles as Scripture. Such a text testifies to the existence of a certain Pauline corpus which was also recognized, at least by some, as being authoritative.
So very early, even before the last canonical New Testament book was written, at least two groupings were already being recognized and referred to as authoritative. These were the Gospels and/or the tradition of Jesus’ oral teachings on the one hand and Paul’s epistles on the other. Such conclusions are also supported by a number of other very early sources as well.^25 Testimony of Apostolic Fathers
In his Epistle to the Corinthians, usually dated about AD 95, Clement of Rome made an important reference to the “Gospel,” which was the central message that the apostles had received from Jesus Christ himself and had passed on to their hearers (42). On other occasions, Clement cited various teachings of Jesus which are found in all three synoptic Gospels, introducing them as “the words of the Lord Jesus” and “His hallowed words” (13) or as “the words of Jesus our Lord” (46).
Here we have an early, first century reference either more generally to the teachings of Jesus or to the text of one or more of the canonical Gospels themselves, which were recognized in either case as the words of Jesus.
Ignatius, writing seven epistles around AD 110–115 on his way to Rome to suffer martyrdom, quoted the statement found in Luke 24:39 as the words of Jesus (Smyrnaeans3). Polycarp wrote his Epistle to the Philippiansabout AD 115, shortly after Ignatius’ letters, to which he makes reference (13). Polycarp also cites sayings found in all of the synoptic Gospels and, again, identifies them as the words of the Lord (2, 7).
The Didache, an ancient Christian manual, is usually dated somewhere between the end of the first century and the early second century AD. It frequently cites the words of Jesus as being authoritative, sometimes without reference to whose comments they are (1, 3, 16), once as the words of the Lord (9), and twice as the
25 The division citations in our text follow J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1971).
Gospel of the Lord (8, 15). In almost every case, the text contains teachings found in the synoptic Gospels (8, 15–16).