If the Church Fathers knew Sola Scriptura would become a thing would they have put more books in the New Testament?

At first this may seem odd.
But think about it, Protestants deny anything not in the Bible.
Many of the Apocryphal orthodox books were not accepted not because they were heretical but because they weren’t thought to be genuine and psedenonomous.
However many of the teachings and stories in them reflect tradition and thought of the early Christians .

With that said, do you think when the Church Fathers in the 4th century formalized the New Testament Canon, if they had known 1100 years later these groups would emerge who believe the Bible is the only source of any doctrine, would they have expanded the Canon to put in these books that justify so many Catholic beliefs that Protestants deny because it isn’t in the Bible?

I was thinking about this recently and wanted some opinions. I think it is interesting to ponder.

Hey jas!

What other books not in the Catholic Canon are you referring to?

Say the Protoevangelium of James, some of the Apocryphal Acts, maybe the Apocalypse of Peter and the Didache, letters of Clement and Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas… etc.

The Apostolic Fathers for sure. They teach us so much. If Protestants even were aware of them…

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This shows books that were cited as scripture by some early Church Fathers. The New Testament didn’t fall out of the sky as much as Protestants like to believe.

Okay but what kind of teachings would be confirmed in these books then?

You mean, that the Church could have included books as Scripture that more explicitly spelled out Catholic doctrine?

It’s an interesting thought experiment. In one respect, what is in the canon was at the direction of the Holy Spirit, so it never could have turned out differently. The canon is what the canon is. But, I don’t think it would have prevented fracturing. Here is why:

We already know from experience that some Old Testament canon was taken out of protestant scripture, and that is because some of the books did not suit well with new protestant doctrines.

James and Revelation were nearly taken out of protestant canon as well. If books that spelled out Catholic doctrine even more explicitly were in the canon of scripture, it is safe to say at some point they would have been rejected.

The only reason we have the Bible to begin with is because of Church councils. The Church existed for many generations before that and so it is abundantly obvious that truth was transmitted through the people of God and not just a set of documents. It is also how truth was transmitted through the Jewish people for centuries. The tribe of priests were the Levites, who weren’t assigned any particular stretch of land after Joshua’s conquest, but were directed to live in the cities throughout Israel.

*So ultimately, some people are going to believe whatever they want to believe, and there is no amount of carefully constructed apologetics that are going to stop them. We can then resign ourselves to prayer to change them, but that too ultimately depends on the creature giving their consent to God’s inspirations within them. As creatures we are a mixing of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual, and all of those things affect our decision-making.


The Church Fathers did not have the authority to include more books in the New Testament. They didn’t make the Bible, the apostles did. In formally canonizing the Bible, they defined formally what it was they had received from the apostles. In other words, they applied the rule of faith in determining what was truly Catholic (kata holos, throughout the whole). This pertains to what has been accepted by the universal Church, as distinct from novel or factional beliefs, or what was considered only regionally asserted.

It was an application of what would be later called the Rule of St. Vincent de Lerins…

When applying this rule of faith, we get the Catholic Bible, which omitted things factional, novel, or simply regionally observed.

I think this is what Paul VI was trying to affirm when he stated,

God bless,

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No because sola scriptura never became a thing for us

I suppose the question could be rephrased as…

If God had known Sola Scriptura would become a thing would he have inspired the Apostles and Church Fathers to put more books in the New Testament?

Doesn’t a question that begins with, “If God had known…” make you just a little uneasy?

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The Church Fathers were not the ones who decided what would be canon. The Holy Spirit instructed them which books must be included.
The Holy Spirit knows past, present and future as one.

What reason have you to think the Reformers would accept Catholic teachings if there were more books of Scripture affirming those teachings?

Protestants today deny many Catholic teachings that are in the Bible. They dispute the interpretation of existing texts. John 6: “I am the bread of life.” Later in the same chapter: “My flesh is real food, My blood is real drink.” Yet I know of no Protestant denomination that agrees that the Eucharist is truly Christ’s body and blood.

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You do know the Lutherans and the Anglicans are going to comment on that?

If I’m wrong then I want to be corrected. How else can I learn? :slight_smile:

That is cool.

Your reply did say belief. And that would be agreed upon totally.

As for the more intricate details revolving around those, we would have to wait for a Lutheran and Anglican.

But also that wasn’t the purpose of this thread. So maybe start one if that’s a question from yourself.

I don’t wish to argue others’ beliefs on a specific doctrine.
I mean to make the point that adding more books to Scripture describing a given doctrine wouldn’t mean the doctrine would not be disputed.

Very very true.

Although the poster didn’t appeal to how the scriptures were composed. So that again would be another 1000 post thread. So maybe understanding that part and that those Protestants won’t just accept “The Catholics wrote the Bible” as that would be another 1000 post thread without much agreement.

What I am saying is, I have no idea why this was even asked. What teachings could be confirmed by other books that are not in the Catholic Canon?

The books of the Bible are in the Bible because the Church believed them to be the word of God. That is, the Church held that what they say is inspired by God. The Church knew that there were other writings that were true sources of doctrine, such as the Apostolic Fathers, but they didn’t put writings in the Bible for this reason. They were put into the Bible because God is their author (though men who were inspired by God are also their authors).

Furthermore, to speak more closely to the question of the opening post, the Epistle of James already says faith without works is dead. This didn’t prevent the rise of the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Nor would I think a line there speaking against sola scripture would have had much effect on the rise of Protestantism.

I agree.

My point however is that there is a wealth of writings such as the Apostolic Fathers who were one generation removed from the Apostles. Such as Clement who was a follower of Peter, Barnabas followed Paul. Ignatius and Polycarp etc. Some believe the Didache could be directly from the Church in Jerusalem. Actually even in the GIRM, the Didache is cited as a source for how Mass was to be celebrated.

Many Protestants, and Anglicans ( whether they are to be grouped together is for another post), have no idea of the early Church Fathers writings. I will say writers such as Justin Martyr and Iraneus whose writings are very important were to far after to be up for debate. The Shepherd of Hermas, 1 Clement, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter and others were cited as scripture. Actually the Shepherd and the Apocalypse of Peter both are mentioned in the Muratorian Fragment, our oldest list of what was thought to be scripture.

The Protoevangelium of James justifies the Immaculate Conception. It’s where we get the story of Joakhim and Anna.
The crucifixion of Peter upside down is in the Acts of Peter.
They were not accepted because of the date. I am not referring to Gnostic writings that were heretical. There are Orthodox apocryphal writings that were excluded mainly because of the dating of the writing however there is a wealth of information of tradition in these writings.

I am not including the Orthodox because they are in Schism with us and thus also have a belief in tradition. Actually Orthodox Bibles are bigger than Catholics but that’s not this discussion.

We should promote the Apostolic Fathers collection more than we do. The Bible is from God but the Apostolic Fathers collection are writings by those who followed those who wrote the writings that became the New Testament. They obviously knew and were somewhat inspired as well.

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