Did The Catholic Church Give Us The Bible?
Catholics contend that the whole world is indebted to the Roman Catholic church for the existence of the Bible. This is another of their attempts to exalt the church as an authority in addition to the Bible.
Please notice the following from Catholic sources:
- “If she had not scrutinized carefully the writings of her children, rejecting some and approving others as worthy of inclusion in the canon of the New Testament, there would be no New Testament today.
- “If she had not declared the books composing the New Testament to be inspired word of God, we would not know it.
- “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 is only by the divine authority of the Catholic Church that Christians know that the scripture is the word of God, and what books certainly belong to the Bible.” (The Question Box, p. 46)
- “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).
The Catholic writers quoted above state that one can accept the Bible as being inspired and as having authority only on the basis of the Catholic Church. In reality, the Bible is inspired and has authority, not because a church declared it so, but because God made it so. God delivered it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and declared that it would abide forever. “All scripture is inspired of God…” (2 Tim. 3:16). “…Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21). “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35). “The grass withered, and the flower has fallen–but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Pet. 1:24-25). The Catholics are wrong, therefore, in their assumption that the Bible is authoritative only because of the Catholic Church. The Bible does not owe its existence to the Catholic Church, but to the authority, power and providence of God.
It would seem unnecessary for the Catholic Church to make the boastful claim of giving the Bible to the world when both it and so-called Protestantism accept the Bible as a revelation from God. However, it is an attempt to weaken the Bible as the sole authority and to replace it with their man-made church. If it is true that we can accept the Bible only on the basis of the Catholic Church, doesn’t that make the Catholic Church superior to the Bible? This is exactly what Catholic officials want men to believe. Their only problem is that their doctrine comes from their own human reasoning rather than from God. Their logic is a classic example of their “circle reasoning.” They try to prove the Bible by the church (can accept the Bible only on the basis of the Catholic Church) and prove the church by the Bible (“has ever grounded her doctrines upon it”). Such is absurd reasoning which proves nothing. Either the New Testament is the sole authority or it is not. If it is the New Testament, it cannot be the church, and if it is the church, it cannot be the New Testament.
Notice, again, the following from Catholic sources:
- “Because it never was a Bible, till the infallible Church pronounced it to be so. The separate treatises, each of them inspired, were lying, as it were dispersedly; easy to confound with others, that were uninspired. The Church gathered them up, selected them, pronounced judgment on them; rejecting some, which she defined and declared not to be canonical, because not inspired; adopting others as being inspired, and therefore canonical.” (What Is the Bible? p. 6).
- “And since the books of the Bible constituting both the Old and the New Testament were determined solely by the authority of the Catholic Church, without the Church there would have been no Bible, and hence no Protestantism.” (The Faith of Millions, p. 10).
In addition to the above, Catholics often boast that the Bible was written by Catholics, e.g., “All the books of the New Testament were written by Catholics.” (The Bible is a Catholic Book, p. 14). When we consider the word “catholic” as meaning “universal,” we readily admit that the writers were “catholic” in that sense; they were members of the church universal–the church of Christ which is described in the New Testament Scriptures (Col. 1:18; Rom. 16:16). However, we firmly deny that the writers of the New Testament were members of the Roman Catholic Church as we know it today. The Roman Catholic Church was not fully developed until several hundred years after the New Testament was written. It is not the same institution as disclosed in the New Testament. The New Testament books were written by members of the Lord’s church, but they are not its author. God Himself is the author of the New Testament.
The Catholic officials above claim that without the Catholic Church there would be no Bible; they argue that mankind can accept the Scriptures only on the basis of the Catholic Church which gathered the books and determined which were inspired. Surely the Catholic Church cannot claim that it gave us the Old Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament came through the Jews (God’s chosen people of old) who had the holy oracles entrusted to them. Paul said, “What advantage then remains to the Jew, or what is the use of circumcision? Much in every respect. First, indeed, because the oracles of God were entrusted to them.” (Rom. 3:1-2; see also Rom. 9:4-5; Acts 7:38).
The Old Testament books were gathered into one volume and were translated from Hebrew into Greek long before Christ came to earth. The Septuagint Version was translated by seventy scholars at Alexandria, Egypt around the year 227 B.C., and this was the version Christ and His apostles used. Christ did not tell the people, as Catholics do today, that they could accept the Scriptures only on the basis of the authority of those who gathered them and declared them to be inspired. He urged the people of His day to follow the Old Testament Scriptures as the infallible guide, not because man or any group of men has sanctioned them as such, but because they came from God. Furthermore, He understood that God-fearing men and women would be able to discern by evidence (external and internal) which books were of God and which were not; thus, He never raised questions and doubts concerning the gathering of the inspired books.
If the Bible is a Catholic book, why does it nowhere mention the Catholic Church? Why is there no mention of a pope, a cardinal, an archbishop, a parish priest, a nun, or a member of any other Catholic order? If the Bible is a Catholic book, why is auricular confession, indulgences, prayers to the saints, adoration of Mary, veneration of relics and images, and many other rites and ceremonies of the Catholic Church, left out of it?
If the Bible is a Catholic book, how can Catholics account for the passage, “A bishop then, must be blameless, married but once, reserved, prudent, of good conduct, hospitable, a teacher…He should rule well his own household, keeping his children under control and perfectly respectful. For if a man cannot rule his own household, how is he to take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:2, 4-5). The Catholic Church does not allow a bishop to marry, while the Bible says “he must be married.” Furthermore, if the Bible is a Catholic book, why did they write the Bible as it is, and feel the necessity of putting footnotes at the bottom of the page in effort to keep their subject from believing what is in the text?
The following list give a summation of what we have been trying to emphasize. If the Bible is a Catholic book,
- 1. Why does it condemn clerical dress? (Matt. 23:5-6).
- 2. Why does it teach against the adoration of Mary? (Luke 11:27-28).
- 3. Why does it show that all Christians are priests? (1 Pet. 2:5,9).
- 4. Why does it condemn the observance of special days? (Gal. 4:9-11).
- 5. Why does it teach that all Christians are saints? (1 Cor. 1:2).
- 6. Why does it condemn the making and adoration of images? (Ex. 20:4-5).
- 7. Why does it teach that baptism is immersion instead of pouring? (Col. 2:12).
- 8. Why does it forbid us to address religious leaders as “father”? (Matt. 23:9).
- 9. Why does it teach that Christ is the only foundation and not the apostle Peter? (1 Cor. 3:11).
- 10. Why does it teach that there is one mediator instead of many? (1 Tim. 2:5).
- 11. Why does it teach that a bishop must be a married man? (1 Tim. 3:2, 4-5).
- 12. Why is it opposed to the primacy of Peter? (Luke 22:24-27).
- 13. Why does it oppose the idea of purgatory? (Luke 16:26).
- 14. Why is it completely silent about infant baptism, instrumental music in worship, indulgences, confession to priests, the rosary, the mass, and many other things in the Catholic Church?
Please notice further quotes from Catholic sources:
- “During those early times parts of the Bible were scattered among the various churches, no one of which had the complete Bible as we have it now. Then in A.D. 390, at the Council of Hippo, the Catholic Church gathered together the various books which claimed to be scripture, passed on the merits and claims of each and this council decided which were inspired and which were not. The Catholic Church put all the inspired books and epistles together in one volume and THAT is the Bible as we have it today. The Catholic Church therefore gave to the people and the World, the Bible as we have it today.” (From a magazine advertisement published by the Knights of Columbus bearing the title, “Who Gave the Bible to the People?“
- “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).
- “Indeed, when you accept the Bible as the Word of God, you are obliged to receive it on the authority of the Catholic Church, who was the sole Guardian of the Scriptures for fifteen hundred years.” (The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 68).
- “When were all these writings put together? The Catholic Church put all of them in one book between the years 350 and 405.” (A Catechism for Adults, p. 10).
Thus, Catholics argue that since the Council of Hippo in 390 A.D. proclaimed which books were actually inspired and placed them in one volume, all are indebted to the Catholic Church for the New Testament and can accept it only on the authority of the Catholic Church. There are several things wrong with this. First, it cannot be proven that the church which held the Council of Hippo in 390 A.D. was the same church which is now known as the Roman Catholic Church. For example, the church of 390 had no crucifixes and images because, “The first mention of Crucifixes are in the sixth century” and “The whole tradition of veneration holy images gradually and naturally developed” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VII, p. 667). The church of 390 took communion under both kinds because that was the prevailing practice until it was formally abolished in 1416 A.D. (See Lives and Times of the Roman Pontiffs, Vol. I, p. 111). The church of 390 was a church altogether different from the Roman Catholic Church today.
Furthermore, in the proceedings of the Council of Hippo, the bishops did not mention nor give the slightest hint that they were for the first time “officially” cataloging the books of he Bible for the world. It was not until the fourth session of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that the bishops and high ranking officials of the Catholic Church “officially” cataloged the books they thought should be included in the Bible and bound them upon the consciences of all Catholics. (See Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, pp. 17-18).
Secondly, God did not give councils the authority to select His sacred books, nor does He expect men to receive His sacred books only because of councils or on the basis of councils. It takes no vote or sanction of a council to make the books of the Bible authoritative. Men were able to rightly discern which books were inspired before the existence of ecclesiastical councils and men can do so today. A council of men in 390 with no divine authority whatever, supposedly took upon itself the right to state which books were inspired, and Catholics argue, “We can accept the Bible only on the authority of the Catholic Church.” Can we follow such reasoning?
Thirdly, it cannot be proven that the Catholic Church is solely responsible for the gathering and selection of the New Testament books. In fact, it can be shown that the New Testament books were gathered into one volume and were in circulation long before the Catholic Church claims to have taken its action in 390 at the council of Hippo. In the following we list some of the catalogues of the books of the Bible which are given by early Christian writers.
- 326. Athanasius, bishop at Alexandria, mentions all of the New Testament books.
- 315-386. Cyril, bishop at Jerusalem, gives a list of all New Testament books except Revelation.
- 270. Eusebius, bishop at Caesarea, called the Father of ecclesiastical history, gives an account of the persecution of Emperor Diocletian whose edict required that all churches be destroyed and the Scriptures burned. He lists all the books of the New Testament. He was commissioned by Constantine to have transcribed fifty copies of the Bible for use of the churches of Constantinople.
- 185-254. Origen, born at Alexandria, names all the books of both the Old and New Testaments.
- 165-220. Clement, of Alexandria, names all the books of the New Testament except Philemon, James, 2 Peter and 3 John. In addition we are told by Eusebius, who had the works of Clement, that he gave explanations and quotations from all the canonical books.
- 160-240. Turtullian, contemporary of Origen and Clement, mentions all the New Testament books except 2 Peter, James and 2 John.
- 135-200. Irenaeus, quoted from all New Testament books except Philemon, Jude, James and 3 John.
- 100-147. Justin Martyr, mentions the Gospels as being four in number and quotes from them and some of the epistles of Paul and Revelation.
- Besides the above, the early church fathers have handed down in their writings quotations from all the New Testament books so much so that it is said that the entire New Testament can be reproduced from their writings alone.
Thus, the New Testament books were in existence in their present form at the close of the apostolic age. As a matter of fact, the apostles themselves put their writings into circulation. “And when this letter has been read among you, see that it be read in the church of the Laodiceans also; and that you yourselves read the letter from Laodicea.” (Col. 4:16). “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.” (1 Thess. 5:27). The holy Scriptures were written for all (1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1) and all will be judged by them in the last day (Rev. 20:12; John 12:48). Jesus said that His Word will abide forever (Matt. 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23-25).
Fourthly, the Catholic claim of giving the Bible to the world cannot be true because they have not been the sole possessor of the Bible at any time. Some of the most valuable Greek Bibles and Versions have been handed down to us from non-Roman Catholic sources. A notable example of this is the Codex Sinaiticus which was found in the monastery of St. Catherine (of the Greek Orthodox Church) at Mount Sinai in 1844 and is now in the British Museum. It contains all of the books of the New Testament and all but small portions of the Old Testament. Scholars are certain that this manuscript was made early in the fourth century, not later than 350 A.D. This manuscript found by a German scholar named, Tishendorf, who was a Protestant, and this manuscript which is the most complete of all has never been in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church.
Another valuable manuscript that has never been possessed by the Roman Catholic Church is the Codex Alexandrianus. It, too, is now on exhibit in the manuscript room of the British Museum in London. It was a gift from the Patriarch of Constantinople (of the Greek Orthodox Church) to Charles I in 1628. It had been in possession of the Patriarchs for centuries and originally came from Alexandria, Egypt from which it gets its name. Scholars are certain that this manuscript was also made in the fourth century and, along with the Codex Sinaiticus, is thought to be one of the fifty Greek Bibles commissioned to be copied by Constantine.
In the light of the foregoing, the boastful claim of the Roman Catholic Church that it has been the sole guardian and preserver of the sacred Scriptures down to the present, is nothing but pure falsehood. The Bible is not a Catholic book. Catholics did not write it, nor does their doctrines and church meet the description of the doctrine and church of which it speaks. The New Testament was completed before the end of the first century, A.D. The things in it do not correspond to the Catholic Church which hundreds of years after the death of the apostles slowly evolved into what it now is. The Catholic Church is not the original and true church, but a “church” born of many departures and corruptions from the New Testament church. Even if the Catholic Church could prove that it alone is the sole deliverer of the Scriptures to man today, it still remains that the Catholic Church is not following the Bible and is contrary to the Bible. Furthermore, even if the Catholic Church could show conclusively that it alone is responsible for gathering the books, it does not prove that the Catholic Church is infallible, nor does it prove that it is the author of the Bible. God has at times used evil agencies to accomplish His purpose (Jer. 27:6-8; 43:10; Hab. 1:5-11; John 11:49-52).
We have studied, therefore, that the Catholic Church argues that since one of its councils in 390 selected the sacred books, one can accept them only on the basis of its authority. We have answered by showing: (1) The Bible is inspired and has authority, not because a church declared it so but because God made it so. (2) Jesus did not teach the people in His day that they could accept the Old Testament Scriptures only on the basis of those who placed the books into one volume. (3) It is a mere assumption that the Council of Hippo in 390 was a Council of the church which is now the Roman Catholic Church. (4) God did not give councils the authority to select His sacred books, nor does He expect men to receive His books only on the basis of councils. (5) The Catholic Church is not solely responsible for the gathering and selection of the New Testament books. (6) The Catholic Church has not been the sole possessor of the Bible at any time. (7) Even if it could be proven that the Catholic Church gathered the books into one volume, it still remains that it is not following the Bible today.