Did the Catholic Church put the Bible together?


I know (or at least believe I know) that the answer is yes. I’m talking with a fundamentalist, who knows history very well, that claims that the Bible was put together by a synod of Church leaders, many of whom were not Catholic (according to her, the Catholic Church was just one among many prior to the Roman Empire), and I’m not able to respond well. Her argument is partially based on the claim that there was not a centralized church until Edict of Thessalonica.

I don’t think Bible passages aren’t the trick. I’ve pointed out many regarding one church (response is the typical protestant response that the people make the Church, not the organization), apostolic, authoritative and am getting nowhere by using such Bible verses.

Can anyone help me with some history to make the case that it was the Catholic Church (and that this Catholic Church was consistent in beliefs as today’s Catholic Church) that gave the world the Bible?


Hi Bernie.

I think if you search “canon of scripture” on the CA website you’ll find quite a number of articles to help you out.

Also, there is a decent book out there called “Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger”. I think by Gary Michuta that addresses this also.

What does she say are the names and beliefs of these “many” other churches that were not Catholic in the first few centuries? I would ask her for some specifics there.

God bless.



There were many church leaders (just as there are many bishops today), but there was only one Church. They were all in communion with the Bishop of Rome, and those that weren’t would often fall into heresy. Staying in Communion with the Pope was a way to ensure orthodoxy because Jesus promised to protect His Church. And there were of course letters written and councils to answer questions and resolve confusion.


First of all, you have already shown that she does not know history at all, much less “very well” – there were no churches at all, not even the Catholic Church, “prior to the Roman Empire.”

I’d ask her how I can believe anything else she says, when she is so wrong on such a basic historical fact.


Hi Bernie

It might be worth distinguishing what you meant by “Catholic Church”. Certainly the Bishops present in those early Church councils would, in today’s taxonomy of churches, be classified as “Eastern Orthodox” or “Coptic” as well as what today we might call “Roman Catholic”. The syndos back then were more “Catholic” or “Ecumenical” than is readily possible today and what we call the Roman Catholic (or simply Catholic) Church today forms a large part, but not the entirety, of the early ecumenical councils by membership of bishops.

So, yes, if you are looking at aligning bishops with modern Church taxonomy then many bishops would not be Roman Catholic in today’s divisions, yet were clearly part of a Church that was unified enough to hold a synod together.

I think part of the problem is the occurrence of anachronisms when comparing the Church of the early centuries with the Church as we have it today. Also there is always the confusion about what “Catholic” means in these discussions - are we talking just about the sees that are in communion with the Bishop of Rome today, or are we including other sees such as those belonging to the Orthodox and Coptic churches. Many disagreements may simply occur because of differences in definitions of terms which may get confused across the different ages.

As for the canon generally - clearly there was not full agreement on the books of the ‘Old Testament’ as the Roman Catholic Church recognizes fewer books as Canonical than the Orthodox and Coptic Churches. The Orthodox Church, as I understand it, recognizes all the books of the LXX whereas the Catholic Church does not recognize all LXX books as being part of the canon.

But the main warning is - always watch out for anachronisms, and remember that the “Catholic” Church in the first few centuries may not easily map to what is commonly recognized as the “Catholic” Church of today. This is perhaps why “Roman Catholic” is often a better term if discussing a time where you want to distinguish between Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic Churches (and, I would say, others) who together form the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church - the body of Christ.

God bless +

Michael +


She doesn’t know history that well since the Roman Empire predates the birth of Christ.


I agree with the others that she needs bring some evidence to the table that demonstrates her assertion. Who were these “many” churches - how did their beliefs vary…etc. It would be interesting to see what she comes up with.

I don’t think Bible passages aren’t the trick. I’ve pointed out many regarding one church (response is the typical protestant response that the people make the Church, not the organization), apostolic, authoritative and am getting nowhere by using such Bible verses.

This is not at all uncommon…
If I may suggest - agree with her that the Church (ekklesia) is the people…Yet it is also more than that. As to the hierarchy, she (and many) tend to view the hierarchy as something imposed. However if you look and think about it logically and historically (and biblically), the structure of the Church Hierarchy is much more of an organic growth than something imposed.
It stems from a desire on the part of the body of believers to fulfill Christ’s prayer in John 17:20-21 as well as the many exhortations to unity found in the NT like:

Rom 15:5-6
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor 1:10
I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

2 Cor 13:11
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Php 1:27
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

1 Pet 3:8
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

A while back I was in discussion on another board on this subject and in response to a question about the necessity for a universal authority…I wrote THIS BLOG - Maybe not the most cohesive since it was written as a response to someone, but it might give you some ideas on how to approach this aspect of the discussion.

Can anyone help me with some history to make the case that it was the Catholic Church (and that this Catholic Church was consistent in beliefs as today’s Catholic Church) that gave the world the Bible?

I’m sorry that I cannot give you a lot other than possibly another book recommendation.
“Four Witnesses” is of and about some of the ECF’s and how their writings are highly "Catholic’ in nature. It also contains a nice little timeline that shows how each of the Fathers overlaps the other and that a couple were actually contemporaries of the Apostles.

I hope the above helps in some small way…



I would agree with Michael Allen, but add, none of these “other” churches looked like Fundamentalism or even Protestantism! So, while your friend may be arguing semantics, they do nothing to support her cause that bible was non-catholic. They may not have had the developed doctrine that the Churches in communion with the Pope have to day, but it was ALL consistent with current Catholic theology - sacraments, priesthood, Petrine Authority, purgatory, Mariology, etc, etc. I also find it difficult that your friend really knows history. She has probably read of a lot of anti catholic propaganda that parades as history but is really just a string of poorly connected dots made to look like history and support anti catholic beliefs. But , when held up to real scholarship its nothing more than a house of cards. If she is interested in real history ,have her read the Church Fathers. With the Fathers you can see Catholic doctrine developed as early as the death of the Apostles. God bless in your efforts to evangelize her.


Start here:



That link didn’t work. Is this the same article?



*]Jesus says to Peter He will build His Church. Matthew 16:13-19. The gospel is thought to have been written ~40 a.d. Jesus would have spoken those words ~30 to ~33 a.d.
*]St Ignatius Bishop of Antioch, ordained by apostles, and direct disciple of St John, refers to “Christians” (ch 2) and “Catholic Church” (ch 8) in the same letter Epistle to the Smyrnæans . And because there is such a strong condemnation of schism from the Church Epistle to the Philadelphians[/FONT] , it’s alread the established Chuirch. [/FONT]This is how he spoke, this is how he believed. Ignatius wrote his letter ~107 a.d. He has already been bishop of Antioch for ~40 years at the time of the writing. Which means he has been using those terms during his episcopate.
[/LIST]The only Church Jesus establishes and promises to build is the Catholic Church. Which means, Peter, Paul, James, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, etc are all in the same Church they write to and for. That Catholic Church



Weird…the link worked for me.



That worked.

I’ve found on some articles, one has to go to the actual web page each time, and copy the address each time from the web page. I don’t know why sometimes copying addresses from previous posts don’t always work. Maybe it has to do with the way an address is shortened. It doesn’t recopy the address fully. I’m no expert on this by any means:confused:


Thank you all for your help. Most of you had some fantastic advice. I’m combing through it now- looking at links and such- to determine what I’ll use.

Let me follow up with a more specific question that I’ve come across as I’ve studied this…
As far as I know, we claim that the Catholic Church established the canon in the 4th Century (Synod of Rome, Counsels of Hippo & Carthage). Were these counsels ecumenical (& thus universally authoritative) or provincial (and thus lacking universal authority)? If they were provincial, can we still make the claim that the Church settled the canon prior to Trent?

Edited to add- And, is it established that everyone at these synods/counsels was in communion with the Bishop of Rome? If so, what can I point to to demonstrate that?


I believe the following is accurate, but I’m not as expert as it may appear. :stuck_out_tongue:

The Canon and the Councils

Council of Rome (382 A.D.)

Convoked by Pope Damasus, this council produced the Roman Code. The Roman Code identified a list of scriptural books identical to the Council of Trent’s formally defined canon. Pope Damasus I approved the work of the first Council of Constantinople, accepting St. Athanasius’ list as divinely inspired, and indicated that if any bishop used a list of books inconsistent with the Roman canon he would need a convincing explanation.

Council of Hippo (393 A.D.)

This council reiterated the list of books established by the Council of Rome.

First Council of Carthage (397 A.D.)

This council reiterated the list of books established by the Council of Rome and also affirmed the Decree of Damasus issued in 382 A.D. Carthage, unlike Hippo, sent its decisions to Rome for ratification.

Pope Innocent I (405 A.D.)

In a letter to Exsuperius, the Bishop of Toulouse, Pope Innocent listed the same books established by the Council of Rome.

Second Council of Carthage (419 A.D.)

This council, presided over by Augustine, reiterated the list of books established by the Council of Rome and notified Pope Boniface of its action…

Pope Boniface (ca. 420 A.D.)

Pope St. Boniface I (418-422) ratified the decision of the Council of Carthage and declared the canon settled for the Western Patriarchate. Boniface also sent the decision to the Eastern patriarchs in Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. At that point, the Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture was informally accepted worldwide.

Second Council of Nicaea (787 A.D.)

This council formally ratified the African Code which contained the same list of books that Trent would name “canonical”.

Council of Florence (1441 A.D.)

This council defined a list of inspired books identical to those defined by the African Code and the Second Council of Nicaea.

Council of Trent (1546 A.D.)

On April 8, 1546, this council produced a decree, Sacrosancta, which was the first, formal canonical definition of Old and New Testament scripture. This was the third formal affirmation of the list by an ecumenical council and at least the eighth overall.


I got the following in an email from Gary Michuta, who is an expert on these matters:

The Canon and the Council
Refuting the Argument that Canon was not established until the Council of Trent
By Gary Michuta

Today, some Protestants are arguing that Luther did not subtract books from the Canon of Scripture, because the canon was not officially adopted until the Council of Trent which began in 1545. Since the canon was not formally recognized prior to Luther’s rejection of the Deuterocanonicals, it is not correct to say that he subtracted books from the Bible.

This type of argument is quickly beginning to become a favorite among our separated brethren. They want to divert attention away from how these books were accepted within Christianity and focus instead on technical language in regards to their definition by the Church.

The fact of the matter is that even if something like the definition given at Trent had happened before Luther’s day, Luther would have rejected it as being in error, and Protestants wouldn’t have abandoned Luther because of his position any more than they abandoned Luther when he brushed aside other councils. In other words, this argument really isn’t about the legitimacy of the Protestant position, but rather it is a form of propaganda to make it look like the Church is dishonest.

However, what about the claim? Here is my two cents on the matter: After St. Jerome became the first Christian to cause a major stir by attempting to reject the Deuterocanon as Apocrypha, there were a series of local councils that met in North Africa to reaffirm the Christian Old Testament and New Testament. These were the councils of Hippo (393), Carthage I (397), and Carthage IV (419). All three of these reaffirmed the Catholic canon as canonical and divine Scripture. However, they were local councils that were confirmed by the Pope. Therefore, they were authoritatively defined but not with the solemnity of that of an Ecumenical Council. You must remember, however, that solemnity does not effect the authority of the definition given. Usually Ecumenical Councils met to address something that has disturbed the universal Church. By the end of the fourth century, Jerome’s views had caused trouble mainly in North Africa. Regardless of their solemnity these councils are the first to authoritatively define the canon. After them, Innocent I (417) was questioned by a bishop as to the canon and Innocent’s reply repeats the decree of Hippo / Carthage. This is the first Papal decision on the canon. There were a series of decrees attributed to Popes Damasus, Gelasius, and Hormisdas between 266-523 that also reaffirmed the canon as well. By the end of the ninth century, Pope Innocent I could write to the bishops of Gaul (modern day France) that the letter of Pope Innocent I on the canon was the “universal law of the Church.” To this, we could add that there are about a dozen local and regional councils (not to mention popes) during this period who issued decrees that quoted the Deutero’s to confirm doctrine and with the formal introduction normally given to Scripture showing that the issue was largely settled and that bishops throughout the world were confident in appealing to these texts.

Probably the most important council to bring up is the Council of Florence, which promulgated a decreed on canon of Scripture on Feb. 4, 1441. Florence’s decree states that the Catholic canon is given by the Holy Spirit and the Church accepts and venerates them. In terms of solemnity, this decree is greater than the previous ones. However, in terms of authority it is just as authoritative as the rest.

In 1519, Johann Eck debated Luther and pointed out to him that the Church had already confirmed that the Deuterocanon was canonical Scripture and he explicitly cited Florence as a proof of this. What was Luther’s response? Was it that the Church has authoritatively defined the canon yet so everything is still up for grabs? This is what the Protestant historian H. H. Howorth says about what Luther said:

“He [Luther] says he knows that he Church had accepted this book [2 Maccabees], but the Church could not give a greater authority and strength to a book than it already possessed by its own virtue.” (Gary Michuta, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger, p. 251).

So, Luther knew the Church accepted the Deuterocanon as canonical Scripture. He was aware of Florence and the other decrees (apparently), but by this point he believed that Church councils could err. Moreover, Luther seems to have been working on a principle that he would more explicitly develop a few years later; namely, that a book is canonical and authoritative to the extent that Luther heard “Christ preached” in it.

Now what about Trent? Why do all these sources say that it wasn’t until Trent that we had a definitive decision on the canon? First, the fathers at Trent decided early on to adopt the canon of Florence without comment. For them, the issue was already closed in previous councils. However, since some otherwise solid Catholics have seem to adopted Jerome’s views on the Deuterocanonicals over and against these previous councils something more was necessary to drive the point home that the matter has already been closed hundreds of years early. So, Trent attached an anathema to its decree on the canon. Trent wasn’t the first council or Church authority to define the canon, but it was the first to anathematize those who did not follow the canon. In terms of the authority of the canon, nothing was really changed, but the solemnity of Trent’s definition was, because of the anathema, far greater than any previous council.


Thank you, Randy. That was a big help.


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