Sola Scriptura part 2: History of the Bible
In my last post, I quoted the following passages from the New Testament:
2 Thessalonians 2:15 says “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or letter.”
1 Peter 1:25 says “but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word that was preached to you.”
Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.”
2 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
1 Timothy 3:15 says, “If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
Remember, all of scripture wasn’t even written yet when the apostles were writing these letters.
Imagine you are a Christian apart of the early Church in the 1st century, one of the many people to whom the apostles were writing these letters. The Bible, as we know it today, did not exist. The sacred Scriptures the apostles speak of refer to the Jewish books, the Old Testament. If two Christians had a dispute, they couldn’t go to the Bible. They went to the apostles and leaders of the Church. They learned about Christian Truths from the apostles and Church leaders, NOT from the New Testament, because it didn’t exist yet. Christian life operated like this for nearly 400 years! When the New Testament was canonized in 397 AD it was never meant to replace the leaders of the Church. The early Christians didn’t canonize the Bible so they could do away with the pope and magisterium.
Now, fast forward to the 16th century, when Martin Luther is making famous the slogan, sola scriptura, and preaching “The true rule is this: God’s Word shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel can do so.” (Martin Luther, Smalcald Articles II, 15).
If sola scriptura was a truth God wanted us to believe, what about the Christians who lived during the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries, before the Bible was canonized? How did they know how to be saved? What to do on Sundays? How to please God? If sola scriptura is true, those poor Christians were really at a loss as to know which writing was inspired.
Or worse yet, what about the Christians who lived in the 1st century? Much of the New Testament wasn’t even written yet. Even so, these Christians were burned at the stake, eaten by lions, died by crucifixion, put in prison, stoned, beheaded, whipped, and suffered much for the sake of Christ. Their faith was great. Their faith was true, if any faith is. How could they follow Christ so faithfully without the “Bible alone”? (Ray, blog)
If sola scriptura is true, how do we know that we have all the Scripture inspired by God? Not missing any, or have added any? How do we know what the canon of Scripture is by using the principle of sola scriptura?
If sola scriptura is true, we would expect to see, within the pages of Scripture, a list of which books are inspired. But no such list exists inside the pages of Scripture. Instead, we have to look outside the pages of Scripture to find which Scripture was inspired by God.
The Bible was canonized around the turn of the 5th century, some 300 years after the last apostle died. But even then, the printing press had not been invented yet, so the Bible still was not available for the average Christian. So, again, how did those Christians (from 397 to 1440) learn how to be saved, what to do on Sunday’s, how to please God, and much more?
The Church was the authority from the beginning. It had to be.
The early Church, those living in the first four centuries, had apostolic tradition, and bishops and priests in the apostolic succession, and only later a gradually recognized and collected New Testament. And where did the authority to choose and close the canon of Scripture come from? As St. Augustine said in the 4th century, “I would not believe the holy Gospels if it were not for the authority of the Holy Catholic Church (Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental, 5,6). (Steve Ray, conversion story, www.whyimcatholic.com)
Who wrote the New Testament? The apostles, the head of the early Church, wrote the New Testament.
Who canonized the Bible? The head of the Church put together the list of inspired books and letters.
If, two thousand years ago, the Church had the authority to write the Bible, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and if the Church also had the authority to make the infallible decisions as to which books were inspired, again under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; then what is preventing the Church from continuing to have that same authority and infallibility today, still under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?
The Church wrote the Bible and also put together the Bible. Did the Church happen to be lucky and get it right twice?
I believe God gave the Catholic Church authority to write and put together the Bible. I believed this as a Protestant, as do most Protestants.
Who has the authority, the Bible or the Church?
It occurred to me that it must be the Bible and the Church –both or neither!
The Bible does not have authority because the Bible says so. The Bible has authority because the Church says so.
If you are interested in reading more, here are my sources and suggestions:
Albert Little, The Cordial Catholic– Evangelical convert
Steve Ray, Why I’m Catholic – Baptist convert
Currie, David. Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996. Book. (order it on amazon)
Rose, Devin. The Protestants Dilemma: How the Reformations shocking consequences points to the truth of Catholicism. Catholic Answers, 2014. Book. (order it on amazon)
Hahn, Scott & Kimberly. Rome Sweet Home, Our Journey to Catholicism. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993. Book. (order it on amazon)
Gibbons, James. The Faith of our Fathers. (Free on Project Gutenberg)