This will be our last class on the Catholic view of biblical authority. Next week we will go on to look at other doctrinal positions of the Catholic Church in comparison with what the Bible says.
Today’s lesson will finish up some points from the previous classes and briefly cover the Catholic view regarding Canonicity and Interpretation of the Scriptures.
John Smith says
Another interesting video. Some issues though:
The New Testament church commenced in ca. 33 AD. At that time, not a single word of the 27 books comprising what we know as the New Testament had been committed to writing. Each one of the authors of each of these books was a Christian (i.e. member of the church).
In view of these facts, simple logic dictates that the notion that “The Bible (if by this one means the NT) came before the church” is incorrect.
Also, by the same token, given the above noted fact that each NT book was written by a church member, the statement that “The church (i.e. the NT body of believers–under God’s inspiration of course) gave us the Bible (again, meaning the NT)” would seem to be beyond dispute.
Same with the Old Testament, God used the prophets of national Israel to bring His revelation. The written OT did not come first.
In both OT and NT times, the “faith community” (whether OT national Israel or the NT church) was the “vehicle” through which God’s Word came into the world and each respective “community” was the divinely appointed “custodian” of said revelation (as the NT itself notes, God gave pastors, teachers, etc. to the body of Christ, i.e. His church).
Yes, individuals may read (if they are able to) Scripture (to the extent to which they have personal access to it) but the church Christ founded (which ever one it is or whereever it is) is most definitely a “group effort”.
I am looking forward to hearing a discussion of the canon of Scripture.
For example, how would someone in post-apostolic times (say, the 2nd or 3rd centuries) be able to discern this?
You cited Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, etc.. And you are correct that they cited many OT and NT books.
But it is a fact that a number of NT books were hotly contested in these earliest centuries of the post-apostolic period.
And, these men that you mentioned also used (and cited as Scripture) a number of books (e.g. Tobit, Sirach, Wisdom) in their apologetical writings which many today do not have in their Bibles (this longer OT canon was the norm in these earliest centuries of Christianity–as far as I can tell, it was used almost completely without exception).
Anyway, I again appreciate your time and look forward to hearing these areas dealt with.
John, I’m glad you’re watching and that you’re interested in studying with us.
With that said, I think you may have misunderstood what I said. Either you weren’t paying attention or I didn’t make it clear. I didn’t say that the church came from the Bible and I certainly didn’t mean to give that impression. I haven’t gone back and watched the video but I’m pretty sure that I said once we had the written word given and distributed to the first century congregations, apostolic authority continued in that written word. Therefore, the planting and governing of local congregations from the close of the first century to this day had to come from the written word. I was contrasting the position of the Catholic Church with the reality of God’s word. They say that they have the authority to legislate doctrine through the magisterium and/or Papal authority. They claim that doctrine is at the prerogative of “The Church.” The fact is that such a view is the opposite of the truth. Before a congregation can be planted and grow in any given area, the word must be sown in that place.
I realize, and I know you know that I know, that the church was established before the completion of the written word. So, obviously, I wasn’t saying that the “church came from the Bible,” in the sense of which one came first. I’m pretty sure you would agree that the church was established by the preaching of the word (Matt. 16:18-19; Acts 2:41). That word, and the inherent authority of that word, was written down. It is through the authority of that written word that the church continues today.
While it is true that there were other writings quoted by early Christian writings, none of those books were ever quoted by Jesus or any of the apostles in their inspired works. However, there are many examples of Jesus and the other New Testament writers quoting from the commonly accepted books of the Old Testament and referring to them as Scripture. Accept for the arrangement and devision of the books, the Old Testament we use today is basically the same as that of the ancient Hebrews. Regarding the rejected letters that claimed to be New Testament writings, most of them are clearly Gnostic works that contradict Jesus and the apostles. Please see my articles on this subject here:
Again, Paul even warned about others claiming to be apostles sending letters around as authoritative (2 Cor. 11:12-15; Gal. 1:7; 2 Pet. 2:1; Rev. 2:2). In the first century church, before the completion of the written word, the disciples had the spiritual gift of discerning spirits (1 Cor. 12:10; 1 Jn. 4:1). After the completion of the written word the disciples could “test the spirits” by comparing what was being taught, by preaching or in writing, by what had been written by the inspired apostles and prophets. The point being that “The Church” (i.e. The Catholic Church) didn’t give us the Bible. It was in the hands of the first century church, I believe, by the time Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70.
John Smith says
Thank you for your response and clarification, Mr. Fields.
Regarding the canon of Scripture issue, I was not referring to the so-called “lost gospels” (Gnostic forgeries) which are much hyped by major media outlets in recent times.
Rather, I was thinking about works such the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache (which you mentioned in your video) that did enjoyed a wide usage in the earliest centuries and which appeared on at least some NT canon lists (books which were read in public worship).
I am familiar with the argument that neither Jesus nor His apostles quoted from the Apocrypha (although I’ve also heard claims by some that there are at least some indirect allusions).
The counterargument I have heard to that is that there are several OT books (e.g. Esther, Song of Solomon) which also are NOT quoted in the NT, so, the argument goes, why should we accept THESE if we reject those OTHER writings?
Also, you are aware, I am sure, that Paul quotes pagan Greek poets and that Jude quotes from what seems to be the Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch.
It would thus seem that the mere inclusion or exclusion of citations of certain writings in the NT does not, in itself, settle the issue of the canonicity (or non-canonicity) of said writings.
I have often considered the fact that Christ Himself spoke of “the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms”, which mirrored the traditional three-fold Jewish canon, the law (Torah), the prophets (Nevim) and the writings (Ketuvim–this final division began with the book of Psalms–and so could have been interchangably referred to as “the Psalms” as well as “the writings”) to settle the matter.
Also, the fact that In Matt 23:35, Jesus uses the phrase “from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah”, which again reflects the traditional Jewish canon, which goes from Genesis to 2 Chronicles. It would the functional equivalent of when someone today might use the expression “from Genesis to Revelation”. The hearer instantly knows that what is being poken of nothing else than the ENTIRE Bible.
While this is still my “default setting” on this issue, I have, in recent times, come across evidence that, during the time Christ and His apostles walked the earth, that final section of the Jewish canon (Ketuvim–“the writings”) was a bit more fluid (both inside and outside of Palestine) and at least some of the time included some of these other writings (Tobit, Sirach, Wisdom, etc.), especially among the Greek speaking Jews of the Diaspora who used the Septuagint (the Greek OT translation which is the OT version most often quoted by the NT writers–the Septuagint, in later editions, included the Apocrypha and may have during the first century–but this is disputed). This, combined with the widespread usage of the Apocrypha among the earliest Christians and in their apologetical writings (where they are, again, quoted as Scripture right along with Ezekiel, Jeremiah, etc.), has raised some major questions with me.
Anyway, I hope that you will perhaps do a series on this topic some time in the near future.
In the meantime, if you know of any books on this topic (canon of Scripture) which you would recommend, it would be very much appreciated.
Looking forward to your next video.
Have a great day.
Brother Bobby Gaton sent me the following message in response to this discussion.
Norm, I take the position that in the OT and NT that scribes worked in several differrent areas off which copying and dissemination of the scriptures. The church made copies of the books of the NT. See Acts 15:23, 30; Col. 4:16; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:14. They also exchanged their epistles. The NT writers had scribes to make copies for them. 1 Pet. 5:12; Acts 15:32 (Silas was a prophet). What does the word “perfect” mean in 1 Cor. 13:10 – if it means complete – what was completed. Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia; John wrote the the 7 churches of Asia. How many copies were made? For the scriptures to be “perfect” they had to be copies and disseminated so that the Gospel could be preached.
Thank you for your input, Bobby!