Where the Bible came from

I’ve been involved in an email dialogue with a non-Catholic, and thought I’d share some of my messages on this blog and in the Essays section. Here is one recent writing:

Just as God worked through men to write individual books of inspired Scripture, He worked through the authority of the Catholic Church’s Bishops to determine for us what books belong in the Bible.

All Christians must admit that their confidence that the Bible is Sacred Scripture – the inerrant and divinely inspired Word of God – stems from the authority of the Catholic Church. God made Scripture holy…but we know this because He revealed it to us through the Catholic Church.

No Consensus In the Early Church

The Bible as we have it today did not exist when the Church was first founded (circa A.D. 33). For the first decade, no book of the New Testament was written, and it was at least thirty years (perhaps several decades longer) after the Church’s founding before all of the New Testament writings were completed.

For the first several centuries, there was disagreement among Christians about which books belonged in the New Testament. Some Christians thought that certain books that are regarded today as Scripture were not inspired – such as Revelation, Hebrews, Jude and 2 Peter. Others thought that certain books were inspired, which are not considered inspired today – these included St. Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.

The Catholic Church Decided the Matter

To settle the matter about which books were Scripture and which were not, the Bishops of the Catholic Church met in the 4th Century and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, determined the canon. At the Synod of Rome (A.D. 382), the Council of Hippo (393) and the Council of Carthage (397), the Bishops of the Catholic Church defined the canon of Scripture to be that which Catholics use today: 46 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament, totaling 73 books. In A.D. 405, Pope Innocent I approved the 73-book canon, closing discussion on the matter.

Protestants cite the Council of Carthage as the authority for the New Testament canon, yet most don’t realize that the 46-book Old Testament (the Alexandrian canon) was canonized at the same time.

Protestants Violated Scripture by Removing Books

The 73-book canon of Scripture was uncontested for the next 1,100 years until Protestants began publishing Bibles that contained only 39 Old Testament books. Even among Protestants, however, there was disagreement. Martin Luther included 73 books in his edition of the Bible (he placed the seven so-called apocryphal OT books in an appendix between the OT and NT), while his contemporary Ulrich Zwingli produced a Bible with only 66 books. The Gutenberg Bible – the first printed Bible – was a complete 73-book Catholic edition.

In English, the 73-book Bible was the norm until the 1800s. The first edition of the King James Bible in 1611 contained the so-called apocrypha (treated as an appendix between the OT and NT, but nevertheless included). It wasn’t until 1827 – more than 300 years after the Reformation – that the first major edition, published by the British and Foreign Bible Society, eliminated the deuterocanon/apocrypha altogether. It wasn’t until 1885 that the King James Bible was published as a 66-book edition.

God Used the Catholic Church’s Leadership

God worked through the Bishops of the Catholic Church, meeting at the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), to authoritatively determine what books belong in the Bible.

One must admit that the Bible does not in and of itself tell us which books belong to it. An outside authority is necessary to determine the canon of Scripture. Fortunately, Christ left us the Catholic Church to serve as that authority.

The existence of the Bible proves the necessary authority of the Catholic Church.

Why belong to a group of Christians (Protestants) who tampered with the canon of Scripture and removed books, when you can belong to the Catholic Church, which not only codified what books are in the Bible but has protected the complete Bible down through the ages?

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12 Responses to Where the Bible came from

  1. dbonneville says:

    Many Protestants I’ve spoken to have a vague concept that somehow God “protected” the “true” books of the Bible, apart from the several hundred years of usage, discussion and deliberation by the Catholic Church. Somehow, the Church’s attempt to “control” and “censor” just happened to line up with the books that God knew were the Scriptures anyway, protected by the Holy Spirit. Well, how did God accomplish this protection? It was the Catholic Church. It’s nearly impossible for some to, in a very simple way, just give credit where credit is due: to the early defenders of the faith – the bishops, the priests, the faithful – that groaned to discern the hand of God in the various writings that were circulated for decades and hundreds of years and arriving at a conclusion to the matter.

  2. jack flood says:

    When Jesus established His Church upon Peter ( who wrote two books of the New testament ) and as our first Pope, He gave Peter the Keys to the Kingdon of Heaven. Those keys open the doors of the Catolic Church and the gates of Heaven. We had about 32 Popes before we ever had a complete Bible, and about 400 years A D
    after the birth of Christ the Bible was born. During the first 400 years the Catholic Church was , as itisthis very day guided by the Holy Spirit to be inerrant in matters of FAITH and MORALS Now here
    is something to ponder. It makes sense to believe that the founder of the Baptist Church would likely be a Baptist, that the founder of the Presbterian Church would be a presbyterian and the founder of the methodist Church would be a Methodist. Using that common sense approach that since Jesus founded the Catholic Church wouldnt it follow that He was a Catholic, His Mother Mary the Blessed Lady Saint Mary, and Saint Joseph, the foster father of Jesus ( both of whom were made Saints of thje Catolic Church, and does it not make sense Catholic Church would be favored by Her founder.

  3. Christian says:

    This is all incorrect!

    Rome added 7 books to ancient Hebrew Scripture. If you look at any Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) it consists of 39 Books.

    Romes bible has 46 (Old Testament) but the TRUE HEBREW SCRIPTURE HAS 39!

    Rome, The Catholic Church and The Vatican are NOT of The Living God!

    BEWARE PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!

    Salvation comes through FAITH in Jesus Christ ALONE

  4. Christian,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Catholics did not add 7 books to the Jewish scriptures: the Jews themselves included these books in their Greek translation, known as the Septuagint, long before the birth of Christ. The Christian Church has recognized the Septuagint as the official Old Testament from its beginning.

    A Protestant book entitled “Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey” by Gleason Archer and G. C. Chirichigno points out that the vast majority of OT quotations in the NT (340 quotes) are directly from the Septuagint, compared to only 33 citations from the Hebrew canon. This Greek version of the Jewish scriptures — which matches the 46-book OT Catholics use — was the “Bible” of Jesus, the New Testament writers and the early Christian Church. That’s why we Catholics continue to accept a 46-book OT today.

    If you don’t take my word for it, do the research yourself. Try to find a Christian Bible prior to the rise of Protestantism in 16th Century that had a 39-book OT and a 27-book NT. When I was a Protestant, I did the research and found that the Catholics were correct.

    God bless,

    Trip

  5. Jim says:

    There are no Hebrew versions that contain 46 books as previously mentioned only in the Septuagint/Greek translations and the aporcypha was explicitly excluded from the Jewish canon. The Greeks added it not the Jews

    Josephus one of the greatest Jewish historians born in A.D. 37/38 considered them not to be part of scripture and “not…worthy of equal credit” To his view point “no more words of God” after about 435BC.

    The earliest Christian list of OT books we have today by Melito, bishop or Sardis (approx 170 AD) lists no Apocrypha books in the canon.

    Jerome in his Latin Vulgate translation gave support to there inclusion but he himself said they were not “books of the canon” but merely “books of the church”

    Jesus and the New Testament authors quoted the OT approximately 295 times, never once mentioning the Apocrypha or any other writings having divine authority. There is no known disagreement between Jesus and the Jewish leaders as to the extent of the OT which had ceased after the time of Ezra, Nehemiah etc. Closed between 300-100 BC.

    Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 263 – c. 339 estimated) Bishop of Caesarea Palaestina, often referred to as the Father of Church History because of his work in recording the history of the early Christian church, quotes “Origen” ST. Pamphilus of Caesarea in listing most of our OT canon but does not include any books of the Apocrypha and explicitly lists Maccabees as to be “outside of these [canonical books]”

    Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria wrote in his Paschal Letter books of the Apocrypha such as the Wisdom of Solomon, The Wisdom of Sirach, Judith and others were “not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness”

    Some reasons for Apocrypha not being equal to Scripture, Judith, Maccabees and Tobit contain historical, chronological and or geographical errors. The books justify falsehood and deception and make salvation to depend on merit. Wisdom teaches the creation of the world out of pre-existent matter; Ecclesiasticus teaches that giving of alms makes atonement for sins which contradicts Christ’s teachings; Baruch says that God hears the prayers of the dead.

    The Apocrypha are listed by many early Jewish and Christian leaders as books of wisdom or could and maybe should be read etc. but not considered at the same level as scripture i.e. divinely inspired. Deuterocanonical: a term used since the sixteenth century in the Roman Catholic Church to describe certain books and passages of the Christian Old Testament that are not part of the Jewish Bible. Take them for what they are possibly good books but when a conflict or contrast presents itself scripture trumps it. There are many good books used today, books of wisdom, help, guidance, interpretation which are helpful but all should be held up to scripture not as scripture.

    Not of man or church but of God.

  6. Jim,

    Thanks for the comment.

    There were two versions of scripture in use by Jews in the first century: a Hebrew version (39 books) used by Jews in Jerusalem and a Greek version (the 46-book Septuagint) used by Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere throughout the Roman Empire. I don’t recall making the claim that the Hebrew version contained the deuterocanonical books, only that they were included by Greek-speaking Jews when these Jews created the Septuagint. You are wrong in stating that the Greeks (if you mean “non-Jews”) added these books: Greek-speaking Jews included them in their Greek version of scripture many years before Christ was born. Even based on Protestant scholarship, it was this 46-book Septuagint that was used by Christians who wrote the New Testament.

    You cite a range of opinion in the early centuries of the church. This makes my point: there was debate and no universal consensus on what books belonged in the Old or New Testaments during these years. The Church, using the authority given to its bishops by Christ, settled the matter by meeting in council. The version of the Old Testament they selected under the guidance of the Holy Spirit was the Septuagint, which corresponds to the 46-book OT Catholics continue to use today.

    The Bible is indeed “of God” as you wrote. It was given to us by God through his Church.

    Blessings to you,

    Trip

  7. Jim says:

    “It was given to us by God through his Church.”

    This is an area where I have to disagree with you. Christ gives us direct access to God scripture was given to man through the Holy Spirit so that His people would know Him and they would no longer have to have any intercessor.

    “using the authority given to its bishops by Christ” Where is this written in scripture, this sounds like something the Pharisees would say to control the masses, I believe Christ spoke out pretty definitively against this, the relationship is between Christ and the individual. His people have direct access and the individual should hold all things up to Christ’s teachings 2Timothy 3:16-17.

    There originally was no church council to decide what books were to be included in the canon. They were recognized by the consensus of the entire body of the church not by a council of bishops.

    The books were written under the inspiration of God, they were canonical the moment they were written. A council was not necessary to affirm what was already true.
    No book became canonical by the action of a church council in the same way the Old Testament books were not decided upon by the Sanhedrin.

    What the council did was to determine which books did not meet the tests for canonicity brought about by heretical beliefs such as Gnosticism, which I believe was a major reason for the Council of Carthage.

    The New Testament began to be penned down approximately 15-20 years after the ascension. Initially the church believed in a 2nd coming within there own generation, when the church had its first martyr Stephen and it was persecuted and scattered, the churches began to write the teachings down. It was from this event that letters were copied and circulated so that the teachings would not be lost or changed. As the apostles went out they shared the writings and commanded them to be passed on to others.

    By 170 A.D. most of the Bible had already been approved and read by the church (Not meaning Catholic) and the term New Testament was in use. This was long before any council.

    We can produce almost all the New Testament from the church fathers writings and quotations of sermons before the year 150 A.D. proving that there was no church government to approve of what was in or out.

    The Scripture is God breathed, its origin is with God, it is not man given or through a Church (2 Pt.1:21). 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Adding through the church is adding to scripture to make it fit a personal belief.

    The churches (i.e. those who believe in Christ) commission is to protect and promote the word as she is the pillar and ground of truth. The Church is also Gods people (John 1:12, not a Man made institution and no man or church can determine a person’s salvation or how they should worship. For only God knows a persons hidden thoughts and intent. I believe there are saved & unsaved people within and outside of the Catholic Church.

    Your argument still doesn’t answer major contradictions the Apocrypha bring such as;
    Hebrwes 9:27 “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,” not a form of purgatory. I believe that God being all powerful would not speak in contradiction to Himself in the vehicle He has chosen to reveal Himself to man.

    I personally do not accept any individuals or Churches theology, minister, pope, priest, theologian without having it first stand up to scripture when I have a question in a translation, I look at concordances, context and original language to try and determine truth. Of course computers have made this much easier.

    Sorry to be so long winded,

    God Bless

  8. Jim,

    Yes, men wrote individual books under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But without conciliar decisions of the Catholic Church, you would not know what books met the “tests for canonicity” as you put it. It’s a fact of history. If it were clear which books were divinely inspired scripture and which were not, there would have been no uncertainty in the early church and no need for the leaders of the church to compile an authoritative list or canon.

    Christ gave his authority to legislate (or “bind and loose”) to the apostles (Matthew 18:18). The apostles exercised this authority by meeting in council to decide an important doctrine (see the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15). We know that the apostles’ office of bishop was handed down following their deaths (Acts 1:20 “let his bishopric another take”). Their office and authority did not die with them.

    As the successors of the apostles, the bishops have followed the apostolic conciliar model at certain points in history. At various councils, the bishops of the church used their God-given authority of binding and loosing to authoritatively declare what books are to be regarded as sacred scripture. Ultimately, it was God conveying to us which books were canonical. But you must admit that God did this by working through the visible structure of the Catholic Church which He established. The Catholic Church is not a manmade institution: Jesus established it (Matthew 16:18 – “…I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it”).

    – Trip

  9. Readers may also be interested in another post on this blog:

    Deuterocanonicals are “simply part of the Bible”
    http://www.optionc.net/2009/04/deuterocanonicals-simply-part-of-the-bible/

  10. Cheryl says:

    Trip,
    You should inform Mr Jim about the diference between the Hebrew Canon and the Christian Canon. If he wishes to go by the Hebrew canon then he would be a Jew and not a Christian. Also tnere are several scripture references from the so called “Apochrypha”. I dont understand why people dont do their homework before making judgements. I too left the Catholic Church due to ignorance of my own faith, Thanks to God for revealing Truth to me as only The Catholic Church can, and I returned Home to Rome. Now I have learned things the average person in the denominations will never know, its sad how many the masses that are being kept in the dark by these so called “churces”.

  11. Jim says:

    “If it were clear which books were divinely inspired scripture and which were not, there would have been no uncertainty in the early church and no need for the leaders of the church to compile an authoritative list or canon.”

    You are right and there was a need, that’s not in question. I believe the church leaders under God’s guidance did what they needed to which was to state their doctrine (this is what we believe) so all would know. You still have people questioning, creating or supposedly finding all sorts of different material today and it will never change.

    “(Acts 1:20 “let his bishopric another take”). Their office and authority did not die with them.”

    I believe the proper translation is office or authority, but I do believe the role of Apostle is gone and so is that particular authority. I would say that this particular replacement was due to Judas’ vacating his position referred to in Mth 19:28. We also have no record of any other replacement when the Apostles died as James did in Acts 12:2.

    “But you must admit that God did this by working through the visible structure of the Catholic Church which He established. The Catholic Church is not a manmade institution: Jesus established it (Matthew 16:18 – “…I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it”).”

    There is a difference in a body (structure, group etc.) that God decides to use and the meaning of Matthew 16:18! The dark ages themselves should teach us never to blindly accept an institution, church that is run by man no matter how good their intentions or how strong the belief is in what they are doing for “God”. Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” This is God’s Church; we are God’s church, His branches; direct from Him. God’s Church through Christ is not man made but any organization or group here on earth that claims to solely represent Him is.

  12. Jim says:

    Cheryl

    “diference between the Hebrew Canon and the Christian Canon. If he wishes to go by the Hebrew canon then he would be a Jew and not a Christian.”

    I am sorry but you do not understand the argument I was making. If you read the complete discussion you will see I was referring simply to the fact that the Jews at the time did not consider Apocrypha scripture nor did the main Christian Church Body at the time. The term itself Deuterocanonical books (or as I say Aphocrypha) has been used since the sixteenth century in the Catholic Church and Eastern Christianity to describe certain books and passages of the Christian Old Testament that are not part of the Hebrew Bible.

    There were however people that did question, as Trip mentioned, and people that choose to believe different things. There always are but that in and of itself means nothing.
    You have to understand the Hebrew Canon if you are to understand where a large part of the Christian one comes from. The Hebrew Canon is our OT, it is grouped different than it is in the Jewish Bible but that’s where the books come from. It wasn’t until the counsel of Trent from 1545-1563 that the Catholic Church officially recognized the Apocrypha as Scripture. The Apocrypha were books that were considered good or that had wisdom and were great to read and reference but they were not equal to scripture based on the records I have seen of the early church counsels.

    “ Also tnere are several scripture references You from the so called “Apochrypha”. I dont understand why people dont do their homework before making judgements.”

    No there are not and if you have some that you would like to put up for discussion then do so.

    “Now I have learned things the average person in the denominations will never know, its sad how many the masses that are being kept in the dark by these so called “churces”.”

    That statement actually sounds close to “Gnosticism”
    What I find hard about this is that it was the Catholic Churches that at one time kept people in what you say is darkness by not allowing the Bible to be translated into any common language and you could be put to death for even translating it for the commoner.

    I am glad God has guided you in your faith but I must be clear, it is faith in God not a person or in a church lead by a man no matter how great.
    I would seriously question your statement “that the average person in denominations will never know something”
    Some of the most prolific studiers, researchers and seekers are in the different denominations and in my personal experience, with the Catholics that I know, is that they typically know the least. I feel this is due to not being prodded to ask God and question scripture but rather just accept what is told to them. Scripture tells us to seek and ask for ourselves that we may grow in relationship with God. I am not saying there are not educated people within the Catholic Church, Trip alone would prove that statement incorrect; it’s just that in my experience I see such a lack of passion to personally study scripture from people within the Catholic Church

    God Bless,

    Jim

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