Could people know what Scripture was before the Church?



I’m new to the forums so please bear with me. My question is this.

Since the Romans Catholic Church gave us the Scriptures, and we could not know what was Scripture without Her authority, how could the people in the old testament or know what the Scriptures were?

How could Jesup quote them as Scripture if no one defined them ad Scripture?

Best regards


I don’t have a lot of details for you, but I know that there is no set cannon for the Jews. They argued about it among themselves. Jesus was likely aware of this and used only the scriptures the group he was speaking to accepted.


But Jesus quoted Scriptures as did the Apostles before they were defined. Also, how could the Ethiopian Eunuch know he was reading from the Scriptures if there was none given yet by the Church? How could Scriptures be read in the synogoges ect.?

Please help! What is the official Catholic position I should hold?


They didn’t know. It’s really that simple. Jews argued about which books were scripture. Thus I imagine what you might hear being taught from in one place would be different in another.

Your question is a bit like asking “How could the early church know they were preaching the correct thing about the dual nature of Christ?” Well, they didn’t. In fact, some were wrong. That’s why we had councils. Nobody knew for sure until the Holy Spirit defined it through the church. Same with the canon of scripture.


Are you sure that’s what the official position of the Catholic Church is?

Are we saying that we didn’t know the book of Isaiah was Scripture until an ecumenical coucil?


Know in the sense of absolute certainty and every catholic must believe it, yeah, pretty much. There’s other ways doctrine can be defined such as directly by the Pope or by complete agreement in the church but yeah, that basically summarizes it.

Things aren’t defined infallibly until they need to be. For the canon of scripture this was actually as late as the councils of Trent and Florence if I’m not mistaken. I don’t have all the details for you, unfortunately.

This is all the layman’s version and I find this topic confusing myself sometimes, but I’m pretty sure of what I’ve indicated here.


Thank you for your responses!! I reallyappreciateit!

I would however like to possibly get a more official answer? (By you or someone else). If the Apostles were using the old testament as Scripture (as well as Jesus), isn’t it already defined as Scripture by that time? Jesus and the Apostles would never use Scripture as Scripture that they didn’t know was Scripture would they?

And if they were already defined as Scripture at that time does that mean the Church did not give us the Old Testament?

Please Help!


Yeah no problem. This has everything you could want to know regarding the history of the definition of the canon (below). I would again reiterate, that it is likely that the apostles knew which books where inspired due to Jewish tradition etc. But in terms of absolute infallible certainty that came from the church alone.

Knock yourself out, it’s a little dry for me:


Thank you! But I just can’t seem to believe (without more official proof) that the official position of the Catholic Church is that the Apostles did not infallibly (or absolutely) know that the Scriptures were the Scriptures for sure when they quoted from them!

Is this what we are to believe as Catholics?


There was never a total consensus on what books were considered inspired by God. The Pentateuch was accepted by pretty much every Jew otherwise they would be non-practicing.

The book of Tobit, for example, isn’t a part of canon for contemporary Jews or for most protestants. It is for Catholics and Orthodox.

The Levite priesthood foreshadows the greater Apostolic priesthood, including having a high priest, but things weren’t as concretely defined as they are in the modern Catholic Church. There was never all of the modern-day scripture collected into a single & cohesive scroll/codex. That came much later.


Again it wasn’t defined until much later. I don’t know how much more official of an answer you want.

Have a good one.


So are we saying that some books didn’t need the Catholic Church to affirm their inspiration but on the “on the fence” ones did? Does that mean there is a way to know what is inspired without the Catholic Church? I’m confused.


I understand that but it also wasn’t like they didn’t knowwhat the Scriptures were since they were quoting them right?

Thank you for your input!


We (contemporary Catholics) know what is inspired because the Magisterium said so.

There was no exact equivalent to the Magisterium among the ancient Jews. Aaron was the high priest during the 1st generation when the Jews were led out of Egypt. Only Aaron’s biological sons could be priests (and their sons, and so forth). Only Levites could assist the priests in the temple. The original group transmitted what was given by Moses from one generation to the next. God affirmed their authority through miracles and providing divine protection from their enemies. The Jews generally accepted certain books as inspired by God. Such writings were known as scripture.

This is all explained in the first five books of the Bible.


There is a lot of varying scholarship on the development of the Hebrew Scriptures, and it would be easy to wax long on who says what. Bottom line is that the Tanakh (Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketubim) is comprised of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deut), the Prophets and the Writings. The Torah was the first to be canonized, as it were. Then the prophets. The Writings were later and more debated. During the Second Temple Period and a bit after, when Jews prayed and recited Scripture, the always used the Torah (as they do today) and then the Prophets. These texts were/are holy and revealed to Moses by God.


By the lived out Tradition


Forgive me if I’m not understanding. So are we saying that they knew what was Scripture without the need of the Catholic Church?


Great book


The Hebrew Bible, in Jewish use, is divided into three sections. The first two sections, known as the Law and the Prophets, were already set in canonical form in the Herodian period, before Jesus began his ministry. Only the third section, the Writings, was formally added many years later. That doesn’t mean, however, that individual books in that section were held to be unsuitable in any way. The first book in the Writings section is Psalms, frequently quoted in the NT, even though, as far as anyone knows, it had not yet been formally incorporated into the Biblical canon in the time of Jesus.

The Law (Torah): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.

The Prophets (Nevi’im): Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve (the minor prophets from Hosea to Malachi)

The Writings (Ketuvim): Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and at the very end, 1 & 2 Chronicles.


I understand that the Catholic Church gave us the Bible, but the Old Testament was being used as authoritative Scripture by Jesus, John the Baptist and the Apostles before the Church ever said what Scripture was. My questions is are we (The Catholic Church) saying it is possible to know what is inspired Scripture without the Church?

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