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We see in 2nd Peter 3:15-16 (ESV):

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

Whether or not Jesus' disciple Peter wrote letter, it's strong evidence that Paul's letter were seen as Scripture at a very early stage in Christianity. But did Paul consider his letters as Scripture? He clearly thought himself an authority on the same level as John Zebedee, Peter and James the Just (see Galatians 2), but did he anticipate his letters be considered the Word of God?

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I'm building an argument to answer this question on the Christianity site. –  Jon Ericson Mar 16 '12 at 17:42
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I'm not sure that the concept of canonization was pressing authors like Paul into writing letters to people and churches around the known world. Also in 2nd Peter, we see that these authors were carried along by the Holy Spirit as they engaged specific circumstances. As these specific circumstances were addressed, so too were many future circumstances, with timeless truths. Also, I believe that I remember that the early conception of the apostle was one who saw Jesus. Thus, Paul had basis for such a claim. –  swasheck Mar 16 '12 at 18:48
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If I were answering on that question, I would encourage him to read on the canonization process where these questions were hashed out. We have the canon not because men choose it but because men could not stop these books from being recognized as inspired. No council declared the books to be inspired. Instead the early church fathers recognized God's spirit in certain books and that it was not in other books. They chose books that were both timely (speaking to certain situations) and timeless (universally applicable throughout time). This could require a book. –  Frank Luke Mar 16 '12 at 21:15
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2 Answers

Whether Paul anticipated that his letters would be collected together in the form we have them today we cannot know for sure (as he does not tell us). However I think it is clear that Paul believed that he was carried along by the Holy Spirit as he wrote his letters - this is indicated explicitly in 1 Corinthians 7:40

Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.ESV

Noting that this verse is in conclusion to the teaching he is giving on marriage that includes verses 10 and 12:

10To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. 12To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.ESV

Paul clearly claims to "have the Spirit of God" as he writes in verse 40, but the other important question is who the "too" refers to - "I too have the Spirit of God". Paul must either be referring to the Corinthians, or to Jesus himself, and given verses 10 and 12, I favour the latter.

Given Paul's bold claim to authority, I think it is fair to suggest that though he may have had no inkling of the exact form our modern Bibles would be bound together in, or exactly what they would contain, he would not be at all surprised to see his letters there along with the other scriptures.

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That's difficult to say. There are indications that Paul thought his letters were not to be taken as "gospel":

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.—Galatians 1:8-9 (ESV)

However, the meaning of this passage isn't completely clear and in the same letter Paul claims:

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers who are with me...—Galatians 1:1-2a (ESV)

Further the letter spends considerable words on the idea that Paul has equal authority to the leaders of the Jerusalem church. (See virtually all of Galatians 1 & 2.)

Meanwhile, Paul occasionally makes reference to teachings that are his opinion:

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.—1st Corinthians 7:12 (ESV)

He also talks in that letter several times of passing on things that were handed to him. For instance:

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.—1st Corinthians 11:2 (ESV)

We can extrapolate that Paul has three levels of communication:

  1. Traditions, whether oral or written down, that Paul holds in high esteem,
  2. Rules or commands that are his opinion, and
  3. Words that he did not designate in either category.

Since his words in category #3 are often strident, it would seem odd if Paul did not claim to have some authority from God. And if he has authority from God, what he writes might rise to the level of Scripture. On the other hand, Paul shifts without much fanfare from polite greetings to deep theological discussions to almost motherly advice to rich spiritual poems to attacks on his opponents to complex apologetic to friendly salutations. These happen all in the space of a single letter!

The evidence does not comport well with the popular assumption that when the writers of Scripture sat down to put God's Word to papyrus, they were ceased by the Holy Spirit and copied down exactly what the Lord dictated to them. At least in Paul's case, that doesn't seem the most appropriate model.

Paul's model of inspiration

Paul does at times refer to his own writings. An prime example is:

I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.—1st Corinthians 4:14-16 (ESV)

Even more striking is this transition for talking about what Paul himself does in his ministry and the traditions about head coverings, the Lord's Supper, and spiritual gifts:

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.—1st Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)

By Paul's model inspiration tends closer to what the church now calls Apostolic Succession or, less anachronistically, Rabbinical Judaism. But where Saul the Pharisee traced his semikhah to Moses the lawgiver, Paul traced his apostolic authority to Jesus the law fulfiller (see Matthew 5:17). Paul sees himself as a vital link between the Christ and his spiritual children.

It would also seem that Paul claimed spiritual authority via the Holy Spirit:

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,  
   nor the heart of man imagined,  
 what God has prepared for those who love him”

—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.—1st Corinthians 2:9-10 (ESV)

Summary

Paul certainly intended his readers to take his letters as authoritative. He also might have anticipated that they would be incorporated into some collection of teachings as the rabbinic Jews collected the wisdom of the sages, prophets and teachers into collections as sacred writings. But we can't know if Paul anticipated the creation of the New Testament nor can we know if he expected his letters to be represented in it.

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+1 for elaborate answer. –  Chris B Mar 21 '12 at 23:07
    
@Chris: I'm glad got something out of the answer. Feel free to ask and/or answer some questions yourself. And welcome to Hermeneutics.SE! –  Jon Ericson Mar 21 '12 at 23:34
    
Thanks :) Glad to be here! –  Chris B Mar 21 '12 at 23:44
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I looked at your profile, I thought I was the only Christian programmer! Glad to know that I have a brother who also into programming :) –  Chris B Mar 21 '12 at 23:46
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