by Lawson “Trip” Cox III
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?