Hey, discussions with a family member again. He posed me with these questions that I have no idea how to respond to. Please help!!! Here is the first one:
He asked, "If the Roman Catholic Church gave the world the Bible, being infallible, then why did Rome reject or question the inspiration of James and Hebrews, then later accept it? If the Catholic CHurch really is illuminated by the Holy Spirit so that men can trust her as “God’s organization” why was she so wrong about something so simple? Should not the “Holy See” have known?
Not sure where your relative is getting this from.
The earliest possible “canon”, the “Muratorian Fragment”, does omit James and Hebrews, but it also includes the Apocalypse of Peter.
The Church Father Origen, writing c. 250 AD, accepts James as canonical, and counts 14 epistles (i.e., including Hebrews) as authentically Pauline.
The early Church historian Eusebius, writing c. 300-325 AD, notes that James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 John and 3 John are “disputed”, but does not dismiss them as uncanonical. He notes the controversy over Hebrews, but counts it as “obvious and certain”.
The Council of Laodicea (c. 340-380 AD) accepts James, 2 Peter and Hebrews but omits Revelation.
St. Athanasius, writing c. 367 AD, has a New Testament canon that is identical to ours. It was around this time, and thereafter, that the Canon was closed.
(source: William F. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1.]
Note that “disputed” was not equivalent to “heretical”; it was more related to questions of authorship (which still preoccupy modern scholars) and whether the books were worth reading in Church assemblies.
And let’s not forget that it was Martin Luther who wanted to “throw Jimmy (the Epistle of St. James) in the fireplace” and called it “an Epistle of straw.”
By the time the canon was settled in the 4th century, James and Hebrew WERE NOT being questioned.
DURING THE PROCESS all of the books were under scrutiny, and what your family member is confusing this with is the fact that James and Hebrews were some of the latest to be accepted.
WHEN the books finally got accepted is not the point–especially in a world without a postal service, printing, radio, telephone, or other ways to check with all other Christians around the world to see what was being read during Church liturgies (which is one of the requisites used to decide).
The whole problem with your family member’s approach is that they don’t know history. The early Christians did not base their beliefs on written texts nor did they even know there was going to be a collection of Christian Scriptures to add to the Hebrew canon.
It was a Gnostic, the heretic Marcion of Sinope (c. 85 – c. 160) who promoted the idea of making a closed canon of Scriptures upon which to base Christianity upon.
Marcion believed like the Gnostics that true knowledge of God could only be found in written revelation. This meant that a rule or “canon” as to what was written revelation and the basis for truth had to be developed by Marcion.
The first canon was then introduced which rejected all the Hebrew Scriptures, and included a select collection of some of Paul’s epistles, and an edited form of Luke.
The Church excommunicated Marcion as a result (he had been a bishop up to this time). But his issues raised the question regarding the Hebrew Scriptures. Also, were any writings by Church members equivalent as Marcion claimed? The Church would spend the next 200 years studying and deciding the issue.
There was a good amount of debate in the early Church over what would make up the canon. After all there were no lists left behind by Jesus or in the Hebrew Scriptures that said what should be included or not. Without a written set of guidelines to follow, the Church would have to make such a canon by her own authority following her own Tradition.
The canon as we have today was generally accepted by almost all Christians by the middle of the 3rd/early 4th century. The Scriptures chosen had to be a reflection of what the Church taught (it couldn’t be the source of beliefs like Marcion claimed because that would mean the Church couldn’t exist until the canon was decided, and in order for the canon to be decided would require a living and functioning Church that already had doctrines).
Tell your family member to first study up on Marcion and the history of how things unfolded instead of asking why the Church doesn’t fit his own preconceived ideas of the matter.
This is what gets us in so much trouble with non-Catholics, and why they look at us with such confusion, because we throw out phrases and ideas like “The Church gave us the Bible” so flippantly without stopping to think about what we are actually saying.
First of all, the Old Testament was written before the Church existed. Let’s get that out of the way.
The Old and New Testaments were compiled into the Bible by the Church. It is correct to say that the Canon of Scripture came form the Church but it is not correct so say that the Church gave us the Bible. The inspired word of God came from God. God breathed it. God inspired the authors to write it. God is its source and its end, not the Church. The Magisterium of the Church is its servant and protector, but the inspired word of God came from God.
The best anyone can say is that God gave us the Bible through the Church.
I’m with the others here. get details. When and who supposedly doubted or rejected James and Hebrews?
The details would allow you to better frame your response.
This also tends to reveal a lack of understanding about how such things work in the Church. Something I see a lot in talking with non-Catholics.
The reference to the “Holy See” looks like an effort to trap you on the matter of Papal infallibility.
If this is the case, you can counter it by emphasizing the councilor history of the Church - based on the biblical model in Mt 18:15-18 and Acts 15. Councils will naturally have debate. That is to be expected. But the decisions of a council (binding or loosing) can be trusted…as we see in Mt 18.
The Bible canon was set - and repeatedly confirmed - by multiple councils.
You might then ask him which - spirit guided - bible based - protestant council decided to remove 7 books, plus parts of two other, from the OT canon.
I know that this is somewhat off topic to the question - and you should definitely ask for details on this supposed rejection of James and Hebrews - but do keep in mind that protestants very often have wrong understandings on things actually work in the Church.
One also should be careful to add that what is often referred to as the Hebrew canon not be limited to the definition of canonization used by Christians.
The Hebrew compilations of holy writ are gathered together by completely different standards, such a period, language, subject matter, etc., and etymologically speaking they were not “canonized,” as the term comes from the Gentile world, the current meaning stemming from Marcion’s use that a “rule” existed or should exist to determine which writings come from God.
This is just rich! Your family member is actually speaking of Martin Luther! He did not like either book and thought of excluding them from his bible, but fellow reformer Philipp Melanchthon persuaded him to retain them. Oh, the irony of it all!
In truth, the Church tested each and every writing that is in the bible, as well as many others that are not. Since your family member is making the unfounded accusation, ask them to show you the money! Where did they hear this?
I was thinking about this further while at lunch. The Church can take no credit.
Not only is the inspired word of God from God alone, but it was God who determined what books should be in the Bible. The Catholic Church did not determine the canon of scripture apart from God but that determination rather, was dependent upon God. The Holy Spirit did the work through men.
It is like saying that a scalpel performs surgery. What really happens is that a surgeon performs surgery while the scalpel is the instrument. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Church the “Instrument of God’s Salvation on Earth” and this is certainly true with the Bible. The Church is the instrument. The one performing the action is God.
God the Holy Spirit did it all - breathed it, inspired men to write it, guided men to correctly determine which books were inspired, uses men to protect it against error. We - the Church - can take no credit because as Christ told us, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
It is God alone who does it. We are the instrument. The instrument does not take credit for the action of the one who wields it.
Nope, Rome didn’t. But yes, the Church DID examine the authenticity and inspiration of HUNDREDS of books/letters and eventually included authentic and inspired books in a Canon (called the Bible).
“Rome” didn’t reject those books. There was some degree of disagreement about which books/letters were to be used as Scripture (check out those links provided earlier) in the Church, and this had NOTHING to do with infallibility, because no one at this time was setting out to make an official pronouncement of which books were the inspired Word of God. The first Council that set out to do this was in 382 when Damasas made that pronouncement…which was upheld every time it came up for discussion thereafter.
As mentioned above as well, Luther wanted to toss out James, Revelation, and a couple others if I recall correctly. He also wanted to adopt only those OT books that the Hebrews Jews used (you know…the ones that denied Christ’s Divinity) and so he placed the Deutero-Canon in the back as an appendix…which later simply ceased to be printed by publishing companies. The original KJV (1619?) has those books within it.
Actually Tim, it is official Church doctrine that the canon was compiled by the Church itself. While the Church admits that it was under the direction of the Holy Spirit as it did so, it is not doctrinally incorrect to say that we owe our canon and the preservation due to the faithful work of the Church.
To say that the Church had no part in the finalization in the canon would definitely be incorrect. You should verify this by discussing it with your local bishop.
That’s true, of course. But when we argue that the Bible came to the world through the Church, we are not disputing the Holy Spirit’s role but arguing against those who take the Bible as their foundation but reject the Church. Often they seem to have given little thought to the process by which Christians came to recognize inspired Scripture or assume that each individual Christian would “just know” which books are inspired via the direct guidance of the HS.
The fact that some books we now hold to be canonical were under dispute for a time, as the OP mentions, is actually evidence for a process of canonization that involved actual human review and argument rather than an act of God alone.
The true error of incautious Catholic apologists, I’d say, is speaking as if no written Scriptures existed at all until the late fourth century, when in fact the NT was complete by the end of the first century and was in widespread use in the churches for centuries before it became necessary for bishops to settle exactly where the line was to be drawn.
I’m not talking about Church doctrine. I’m talking about Catholics looking like a bunch of idiots when we say “The Church gave the world the Bible” to Baptists or Evangelicals. It makes us look stupid.
Sometimes we are our worst enemies when it comes to dialog with other Christians. We say things like that and don’t stop to think about how it sounds to those who know nothing about Church doctrine or history.
I am going to see the Archbishop of Atlanta tomorrow. I wouldn’t waste his time with this topic.
For being docile to the Holy Spirit, I believe that the Church, Christ’s mystical Body, can take a humble measure of credit. However, one may counter this with our Lord’s words in Luke 17:10
"So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
… it is not correct so say that the Church gave us the Bible.
How about this.
If it weren’t for the catholic church, the world would not have the bible today…true ?
Because it was the catholic church who handed down the bible or gave us the bible.
The church defined what was to be included in the bible, and made copies of bible down thru the centuries. And the one we have today is here because of them and no other church. They were it’s guardians, protectors, translators, and propagators.
I believe it is important to know that the church gave us the bible as well as the Holy Spirit, even tho in different ways.
I really don’t know that anyone would take seriously any one claiming, which includes any church, to have written the bible. I have never heard anyone to claim that. Both protestants and catholics know full well that God and man wrote the bible. And I have never heard this contended. This is an idea that isn’t debated. So why should we be concerned about it?
It is perfectly valid to say that the catholic church gave us the bible. And I don’t mean to rub anyone the wrong way. My apologies if I have.
May God bless us one and all.
Ps. Bible History by Henry G Graham is a good history of the bible.