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Did the Catholic Church really give us the Bible. (Basic version)
One claim made by many Catholics as evidence that the Catholic Church is the only correct and historically true Church, is that it was the Catholic Church that gave the world the Bible. Having engaged many times with many Catholics regarding the authority of the church it is usually not long before the claim “you would not have a Bible if it wasn’t for the Catholic church” or words to this effect, are offered as an argument.
There are literally hundreds of written attestations to this claim. Below are just a couple of examples.
“The only authority which non-Catholics have for the inspiration of the Scriptures is the authority of the Catholic Church.” (The Faith of Millions, p. 145)
“It was the Catholic Church and no other which selected and listed the inspired books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament…If you can accept the Bible or any part of it as inspired Word of God, you can do so only because the Catholic Church says it is.” (The Bible is a Catholic Book, p. 4).
So how accurate is this claim? Did the Catholic Church really give us the Bible?
The first and most important fact to understand before we start examining the facts that revolve around the collation of the Canon is that the books of the Bible are inspired by God. They are given to us by the God inspired writers.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
The books of the Bible were authoritative when they were written. They are inspired and therefore scripture because God inspired them as scripture. They are not inspired and scripture because the Catholic Church or anyone else for that matter, deemed them to be inspired. They would be inspired scripture even if we did not know that they were. Even when they are rejected (by Jews, Muslims atheists ect) they remain God inspired scripture. The Catholic Church could not and cannot not take a writing that was not inspired by God and declare it as scripture and that writing become authoritative inspired scripture because the Catholic Church declared it to be. Nether could the Catholic church take an authoritative book inspired by God and deem it non inspired and non authoritative. A book is not inspired by God when it is accepted as inspired scripture and no book becomes uninspired if it is rejected as scripture.
Scripture either is or is not inspired by God and it will always remain inspired or non inspired. NOBODY can deem it inspired or not. God has already done so.
The BEST that the Catholic church can actually assert to would be that the Catholic Church was the first to take the already God inspired books and correlate them together into one book. We must here point out that recognition of what is inspired is very different than deeming something to be inspired. Correlation, which is the best the Catholic church can attest to, is not in anyway deeming a scripture inspired. NOBODY has the power to deem what is scripture other than God himself.
We must also note that had the books of the Bible not been collated into one book then all this would mean is that we would simply have singular individual books that are inspired by God but would still remain inspired scripture.
If the scriptures were inspired because the Catholic Church had declared them so and the Catholic Church did decide what was scripture and what was not then that would make the Catholic Church superior to God. Such an idea should correctly be rejected.
The scriptures were given by men through inspiration to be used BY the Church which is actually the people, the members. The organisation of the Church did not give us the scriptures.
I guess it has to be pointed out, even though it’s a pretty basic statement, the Bible that I use and believe is the word of God, is different than the Bible that the Catholic church uses. There are 7 more books in the Catholic Bible, all contained within the Old Testament, than there are in the Bible that I believe to be correct. Therefore the Catholic church could not have given me my Bible seeing that my Bible is not the same as the Catholic Bible. They include as scripture books that I do not believe are inspired scripture. The Catholic church may claim that these 7 books were removed during the reformation I rather think they were added by the Catholic church a long time ago, were never scripture and were correctly taken out of the Bible as they don’t belong and never did. So NO I do not have a Bible that the Catholic Church gave me. I have a Bible that was given by God and correctly assembled by the reformers.
When it comes to the canon of the Old Testament it cannot be ignored that the writings of the Old Testament, the Tanakh were all completed some 400 years before Jesus was born and many written a long long time before this, which is at least 700 years before the Christian integration into the Roman empire and over 350 years BEFORE the Roman empire even started. The Catholic Church had absolutely nothing to do with the writing, inspiration or compiling of the canon of the Jewish scriptures.
Jesus himself said to search the scriptures as they testified of him.
John 5-39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
Jesus could not have made this statement had the Jewish scriptures not yet been selected.
Paul said the oracles of God had been given to the Jews. For the scriptures to have not yet been settled this would have had to have meant that the Jews did not in fact have the true scriptures.
The books that the Catholic church added to the Old Testament were not authoritative and not inspired. They did not become inspired because the Catholic church decreed them so. When the Protestants removed these books from the Bible they were not removing inspired scripture from the Bible but uninspired books that had been added to the Bible but were not in fact part of the inspired scriptures of the Bible.
It therefore can ONLY refer to the New Testament when a Catholic asserts that they gave the world the Bible. Seeing it is only the New Testament books that is shared by both the Catholics and the Protestants.
Now when it comes to the New Testament we must note that ALL the books of the NT scriptures had been written by around the year 100 AD which is at least 200+ years before Christianity would be accepted by the Roman empire. Therefore the 27 New Testament books were already selected and inspired by God at least 200+ years before the Catholic Church claims that they themselves selected them. The Catholic Church therefore gave us nothing that God had not already given.
Now let’s look at some facts regarding the correlation of the scriptures.
A “fact” that many seem to make is that the books of the Bible were chosen at the council of Nicea. Unlike the “claim” of Dan Brown in the Da vinci code which is so often regurgitated without investigation, the books of the Bible were not determined at the council of Nicea in 325 AD. The Canon of the Bible wasn’t even discussed at the council of Nicea. The Canon was NOT an issue
As Bart Ehrman said “If you want to know about the history of the middle ages the way to earn that is to not watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and if you want to know about the history of early christianity the way to do that is not to read Dan Brown’s the Da Vinci code.”
The ONLY ancient source that makes this claim, the claim that Dan Brown asserts, that the books of the Bible were decided at the council of Nicea is The Synodicon Vetus or Libellus Synodicus. ( I will do a separate writing on the authenticity of this source in another writing) It was French Enlightenment writer Voltaire who popularized the belief in the 18th Century.
The Catholic church does not itself assert this claim.
Rather they appeal to the council of Hippo in 393 AD and the council of Carthage in 397 AD. It is claimed by the Catholic Church that it was at the council of Hippo and further confirmed at the council of Carthage , not the council of Nicea, that the books of the Bible were officially decreed.
“It was not until the Council of Hippo in 390 that the Church gathered these gospels and epistles, scattered about in different churches, and placed them within the covers of a single book, giving the Bible to the world.” (The Faith of Millions, p. 152).
Again gathering and placing into one book, the already inspired books into one book in no way means authorising or inspiring those already inspired books. It means exactly what it says, GATHERING and PLACING INTO ONE BOOK.
It does not mean the Church gave us the inspired books it simply means that rather than needing 39 single OT books and 27 single New Testament books we have 1 single book. ALL the Catholic church can attest to is correlating the inspired scriptures into one book. THAT’S IT>>>> Remember that the Catholic Old Testament contains 46 books.
So let’s investigate the council of Hippo in a little more detail. The first thing we need to know is that this was It was not an ecumenical council it wasn’t even a council at all, but actually a synod. It was hosted in Hippo in Northern Africa and was attended by the bishops of North Africa. At this synod the bishops did list the books of the Bible that they considered scripture.
The books they listed of the Old Testament were as follows
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, The Judges, Ruth, Kings iv books, The Chronicles ii books, Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon, the Twelve Books of the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Ezra ii books, Maccabees ii books.
This list includes books that are not considered inspired scripture in the Protestant Old Testament and were also not considered scripture by the Jews themselves. The same Jews who had been given the scriptures by God long before the Catholic Church existed.
The New Testament list included all 27 books that are contained within both the Catholic and Protestant Bibles.
The Gospels iv books, Acts of the Apostles i book, Epistles of Paul xiv, Epistles of Peter, the Apostle ii, Epistles of John the Apostle iii, Epistles of James the Apostle i, one of Epistle of Jude the Apostle, Revelation of John,
The “five books of Solomon”, according to Augustine, were Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus.
So we can see that by 393 AD the 27 inspired books of the New Testament had been documented
Then we come to the council of Carthage on 28 August 397 AD
Again at this council the scriptures were listed and documented.
The Old Testament list again included books that were not included in the Jewish canon and were rejected in the Protestant Bible.
The Canonical Scriptures are these: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two books of Paraleipomena, Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon, the books of the twelve prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two Books of the Maccabees.
The new testament again was listed as being 27 books, the same 27 books that were included in the synod at Hippo and that are included in both the Catholic and Protestant Bibles.
: four books of the Gospels, one book of the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul, one epistle of the same [writer] to the Hebrews, two Epistles of the Apostle Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, one book of the Apocalypse of John.
The “five books of Solomon”, according to Augustine, were Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus.
The council also stated that the Catholic Church would have to confirm this canon.
18 So let the church over the sea be consulted to confirm this canon. Let it also be allowed that The Passions of Martyrs be read when their festivals are kept.
20 Let this be made known also to our brother and fellow-priest Boniface, or to other bishops of those parts, for the purpose of confirming that Canon. Because we have received from our fathers that those books must be read in the Church.
This cannon was indeed accepted by the Catholic Church.
However it was not until the council of Trent in 1546 that the church officially decreed these books as the official Canon of the Catholic Church.
So if we say that the canon was chosen at the synod of Hippo then we have to say that the Catholic church did NOT in fact decide the books of the Bible but rather a few African bishops did and the Catholic church simply agreed with those Bishops.
Another fact to mention is that at no point did the synod at Hippo ever assert that they were formalising the official canon of the Bible, that it was at this synod that the canon would be decided and that from this point on the listed and documented books would be considered the official canon. It is very true that they did list and document what they believed was the canon but this in no way shows that what they listed and documented as canon was not already believed to be the canon before this time.
In fact the 27 books of the New Testament had already been listed and documented before this date.
Athanasius wrote a list of the books deemed part of the canon in 367 AD. They were included in the 39th of his 45 easter writings. This is some 26 years before the synod of hippo and 30 years before the council of Carthage.
Athanasius listed the full 27 books of the New Testament that are included in the Catholic and Protestant Bibles today, although not in the order that they are found today. It is certainly unlikely that he was listing them in the order he believed they should appear.
4 Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the 7 General Epistles (Which are listed in the order they are found today), the 14 Pauline Epistles (listed with the Letter to the Hebrews placed between those to the Thessalonians and the Pastoral Epistles), and the Book of Revelation.
So although the Synod of Hippo was the first time that the New Testament books had been recorded at a gathering of Bishops, the 27 books were not decided on, they were simply documented as being the 27 inspired book. Very clearly the 27 books had already been accepted before the synod. The 27 books may well have been gathered and correlated at this time but their acceptance as authoritative and inspired was not.
Furthermore, just because Athenaius recorded the scriptures of the new testament does not mean that they were not already considered the inspired scriptures even before Athanasius recorded them. He doesn’t say I am officially choosing and documenting them so from now on everyone will know what the scriptures are. He makes no claim to documenting an official canon only that he believed he must mention the 27 books which actually rather alludes to the fact that the 27 books were already well known and accepted at this time. Neither does Athenasis make any reference to the Church having deciding what these books were. The books that he mentions were already known by the time he listed them. Athanasius clearly believed the books of the New Testament had already been selected at the time he wrote his letter.
“Continuing, I must without hesitation mention the scriptures of the New Testament; they are the following: the four Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, after them the Acts of the Apostles and the seven so-called catholic epistles of the apostles — namely, one of James, two of Peter, then three of John and after these one of Jude. In addition there are fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul written in the following order: the first to the Romans, then two to the Corinthians and then after these the one to the Galatians, following it the one to the Ephesians, thereafter the one to the Philippians and the one to the Colossians and two to the Thessalonians and the epistle to the Hebrews and then immediately two to Timothy , one to Titus and lastly the one to Philemon. Yet further the Revelation of John
These are the springs of salvation, in order that he who is thirsty may fully refresh himself with the words contained in them. In them alone is the doctrine of piety proclaimed. Let no one add anything to them or take anything away from them…
He also continues on and mentions the books that were NOT considered scripture and not in the CANON ( a very clear attestation to the canon which already existed before the synod of Hippo and the council of Carthage.
But for the sake of greater accuracy I add, being constrained to write, that there are also other books besides these, which have not indeed been put in the canon, but have been appointed by the Fathers as reading-matter for those who have just come forward and which to be instructed in the doctrine of piety: the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobias, the so-called Teaching [Didache] of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. And although, beloved, the former are in the canon and the latter serve as reading matter, yet mention is nowhere made of the apocrypha; rather they are a fabrication of the heretics, who write them down when it pleases them and generously assign to them an early date of composition in order that they may be able to draw upon them as supposedly ancient writings and have in them occasion to deceive the guileless.
Next we have the attestation of Codex Sinaiticus.
While I most certainly disagree with the authority of Codex Sinaiticus I will refer to it here as many do in fact hold to its authority. Sinaiticus dates from around the year 350 AD which is around 43 years before the council of Hippo and also BEFORE Athanasius. Sinaiticus contains ALL 27 books of the inspired scriptures. Sinaiticus has never been in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church yet the 27 books are already included and correlated in this manuscript before the Catholic Church agreed its Canon and outside of the authority of the Catholic Church.
Sinaiticus does however include 2 books in the New Testament that are not part of the Canon.
These two books are Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas
While it does show that other books were considered canon outside of the 27 at various times and that the Catholic Church did eventually reject these 2 books as Canon it also shows that these 27 books were already considered canon before they were accepted as Canon through the statement of a council.
Further attestation of the authoritative inspired books being known and accepted before the synod of Hippo comes from Cyril of Jerusalem.
Cyril the Bishop of Jerusalem listed 26 of the 27 books of the new testament around the year 350 AD. The only book that he did not list was Revelation. This may simply have been because the book of Revelation was under scrutiny amongst much of the church at this time.
“35. Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than thyself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench 6 thou not upon its statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if thou art desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first five, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next, Joshua the son of Nave, 7 and the book of Judges, including Ruth, counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and second books of the Kings 8 are among the Hebrews one book; also the third and fourth 8b one book. And in like manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and the first and second of Esdras 8c are counted one. Esther is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those which are written in verses are five, Job, and the book of Psalms, and Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: of the Twelve Prophets one book, of Isaiah one, of Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle; 9 then Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament.
36. Then of the New Testament there are the four Gospels only, for the rest have false titles 10 and are mischievous. The Manichaeans also wrote a Gospel according to Thomas, which being tinctured with the fragrance of the evangelic title corrupts the souls of the simple sort. Receive also the Acts of the Twelve Apostles; and in addition to these the seven Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; and as a seal upon them all, and the last work of the disciples, the fourteen Epistles of Paul . 11 But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank. And whatever books are not read in Churches, these read not even by thyself, as thou hast heard me say. Thus much of these subjects.”
From his Catechetical Lectures, iv. 33-37, about A.D. 350.
Eusebius of Caesarea also listed ALL 27 books of the New Testament.
Since we are dealing with this subject it is proper to sum up the writings of the New Testament which have been already mentioned. First then must be put the holy quaternion of the Gospels; following them the Acts of the Apostles. After this must be reckoned the epistles of Paul; next in order the extant former epistle of John, and likewise the epistle of Peter, must be maintained. After them is to be placed, if it really seem proper, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. These then belong among the accepted writings. Among the disputed writings, which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the second and third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name.
As we can see he states that the Apocalypse of John (revelation) was in doubt but Eusebius did include it in his list.
Eusebius also named books that should not be considered scripture.
Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books. And among these some have placed also the Gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews that have accepted Christ are especially delighted. And all these may be reckoned among the disputed books. But we have nevertheless felt compelled to give a catalogue of these also, distinguishing those works which according to ecclesiastical tradition are true and genuine and commonly accepted, from those others which, although not canonical but disputed, are yet at the same time known to most ecclesiastical writers—we have felt compelled to give this catalogue in order that we might be able to know both these works and those that are cited by the heretics under the name of the apostles, including, for instance, such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or of any others besides them, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles, which no one belonging to the succession of ecclesiastical writers has deemed worthy of mention in his writings. And further, the character of the style is at variance with apostolic usage, and both the thoughts and the purpose of the things that are related in them are so completely out of accord with true orthodoxy that they clearly show themselves to be the fictions of heretics. Wherefore they are not to be placed even among the rejected writings, but are all of them to be cast aside as absurd and impious. Let us now proceed with our history
Ecclesiastical History book 3 chapter 25.
Origen listed 23 of the 27 books in his canon. He left out James, 2nd Peter, and the 2nd and 3rd epistles of John.
This shows even this early the vast majority of the inspired New Testament books that were inspired when they were written and are included in the Bible were already accepted being as such.
Every single inspired book of the New Testament is quoted by the early church fathers.
The Catholic Church did not give us the Bible. They gave themselves the Bible that they accept as scripture.
The inspired books of the Bible are God given.