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When reading the introduction of the Gospel of Luke, it seems very clear that he isn't really claiming to be inspired by God or anything. Rather he is saying that he thinks himself to be more worthy of writing these accounts because he knows the story from the beginning (and probably also because he is educated and not some unlettered person).

Luke 1:1-4 (KJV)
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

What really gets me is his statement:

It seemed good to me also

And another interesting point is that he mentions that many people have written Gospels (which we have only basically 4 now):

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration

So I am interested to know, on what basis do the Catholics say these accounts are inspired or the word of God? The author sure doesn't sound to come off as that to me, it seems more like a historical account, albeit one that is theologically based, and not something that sounds inspired.

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Are you assuming that a divinely inspired author necessarily knows that he's inspired? Is there a basis for such an assumption? –  Andreas Blass Jan 27 '14 at 4:46

2 Answers 2

Christians do not believe that the Bible was dictated by God in the same sense that Muslims believe the Quran was dictated to Muhammed. They believe that God inspired the writers, through their own knowledge and personalities, to write the things that God wanted his people to know and remember. Because of this it is possible for an author to write inspired scripture without even being aware of it. It is also true that the early church spent hundreds of years in prayer, in research, and in consideration before choosing the books that today make up the Bible, and the belief is that the process was also inspired by God through his Spirit.

The introduction to Luke does not in any way contradict this. Luke (and it's sister book, Acts) is a carefully researched and collated story of the Life of Jesus and the early church. It is also inspired by God, who worked within the life and thoughts of Luke to bring these writing to fruition. This issue is not restricted to Luke. Many of the other books are letters written by Christian leaders to their churches. It is likely that they did not know of God's working through them, or that their writings would one day become holy scripture. However that does not make it any less true.

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Good answer, but I'd take issue with the line "[I]t is possible for an author to write inspired scripture without even being aware of it." I'd say the authors (Paul, Matthew, et al.) were intentional and aware that they were writing authoritative documents. Compare Michael Kruger's posts on the NT authors self-conception in general and Matthew's in particular, which is analogous here. –  metal Jan 27 '14 at 16:20
Many scholars (conservative and liberal) think, for instance, that Paul probably selected some of his letters to be preserved, thus creating the core NT canon. He also likely had a hand in using and promoting Luke's gospel as an accurate representation of the apostolic teaching. Compare Who Chose the Gospels?. –  metal Jan 27 '14 at 16:23
@metal The NT authors may have been intentional about writing scripture, but it's also possible that at least some of them weren't. –  DJClayworth Jan 28 '14 at 18:06
Ok, you've stated that you disagree with my comment, which is fine, but why do you disagree? Also, the word "possible" (from your comment) is different than the word "likely" (from your answer). Do you think it is possible, probable, or nigh unto certain that they knew they were writing authoritative documents intended to last beyond the immediate recipients in the case of, say, Matthew, Luke, John, and Paul (cf. Kruger's arguments)? –  metal Jan 28 '14 at 20:03
I don't want to get into a discussion in comments. Suffice it to say that authors knowing they were writing scripture (or not) has no bearing on whether or not it is scripture. –  DJClayworth Jan 28 '14 at 21:39

I think you are correct, Luke did not write his books believing that they were on the same level as the Holy Scriptures he was taught as a child. But I don't think this makes the Bible (or his two books) any less "inspired" by God. I imagine that many authors did not write their books with the intent that they become part of some "holy compilation." Psalms is a compilation of David's (and a few others) song lyrics. Proverbs could have been written by Solomon just to share what he believed to be sound advice. To me, and I think most Christians, calling the Bible the word of God is merely recognizing the authority of its authorship: leaders appointed by God, or men chosen by God to speak on His behalf, who felt compelled to write down their experiences that were very much influenced by God.

But I think no discussion of what the Bible is and how it ought to be used and perceived is complete without mentioning what Paul said about the Scriptures:

2 Timothy 3:14-17
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So according to Paul, an authority on Christianity, the Bible is a foundation upon which to teach and train men in "righteousness". He also says that it is "God-breathed," which is important because the word "inspire" derives from the phrase "to breathe life into". The words within the Bible are those of men, but it is God who "breathes" life into them. So when we say that the Bible is the inspired word of God it is because the words themselves are useless and meaningless without God to breathe life into them. And I find that He continues to breathe life into old scriptures; as it is written: "Behold, I make all things new!"

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