Need help: Authority and the Canon of Scripture

Hi there everyone,

I am writing a response to an article that seeks to prove the Bible to be the Word of God from several arguments. It’s by the Jehovah’s Witnesses (once again…), and so they cannot say that the Bible is inspired because the Catholic Church says so. Neither do they say “Because we say so”.

Their arguments are five:

[LIST=1]
*]The Bible is harmonious in itself. That is evidence of God’s inspiration, because so many different writers of such a long time couldn’t paint an harmonious picture of Him.

Imagine that 40 people were asked to write sections of a book. …] Some were well educated, while others were humble farmers or shepherds. Further, not all of them knew one another. In fact, most of them lived at different times in history and in different places. What do you think would be the chances that their writings would all harmonize, even in the smallest details? ‘Impossible!’ you say? Well, these are the very circumstances surrounding the writing of the Bible.

*]It is scientifically accurate.

Now let us consider one or two of the Bible’s comments on scientific matters. Why are these significant? For several reasons: (1)*They harmonize with scientific facts; (2)*they reflect knowledge that was beyond the available human knowledge at the time they were written; and (3)*they are completely free from the mistaken views held at the time.

*]The writers admit their own personal faults and thus make their message about God trustworthy.

Something else that identifies the Bible as coming from God is the candor of its writers. Why? For one thing, it is contrary to fallen human nature to admit one’s mistakes, especially in writing. In this, the Bible is distinguished from other ancient books. But, more than that, the candor of its writers assures us of their overall honesty. After all, they would not likely reveal their weaknesses and then make false claims about other things, would they? If they were going to falsify anything, would it not be unfavorable information about themselves? So, then, the candor of the Bible writers adds weight to their claim that God guided them in what they wrote down.

*]The Bible was preserved through trials and many centuries, accurately.

No other book in human history has survived with accuracy despite repeated recopying by imperfect humans and centuries of bitter attacks by enemies. Is this not convincing proof that the Bible contains “the saying of Jehovah,” which “endures forever”?

*]Prophecy.

The Bible contains scores of other long-range prophecies that were fulfilled. More than that, a study of the Bible reveals that it contains prophecies that you are seeing fulfilled today. …] Can there be any doubt that the Bible writers spoke from God?

[/LIST]

I have come up with some responses to the individual arguments, but I would greatly appreciate further input on whether I’m correct and on whether the Watchtower’s arguments lead to the conclusion that the Bible is inspired, especially if they are taken together as probabilities. Perhaps you can put this in relation to the argument Catholics use that we can only know its inspiration because the Church says so? I’m not quite sure I actually understand/agree with that argument. :shrug:

My responses:

  1. It is harmonious only because the books in the Bible were chosen so that they would be harmonious. It’s an anachronism.

  2. Not all books make scientific statements, plus that the writers could theoretically have been lucky and guessed correctly.

  3. Not all books, and probably only a few, would include such statements, most of the New Testament (i.e. James, Philemon) wouldn’t.

  4. That argument might also prove that the Greek philosophers were inspired as well. Secondly, the books don’t suddenly become the Word of God after they have been preserved, either they are from the beginning, or not. Thirdly, it is a circular argument to say “The Bible is the Word of God because it was preserved, and it was preserved by God because it was His Word.”

  5. Sure, prophecy is a remarkable thing, but not all books (particularly the New Testament) include it. And even then: It is still theoretically possible the people had a lucky guess.

Thanks for helping me out. :slight_smile:

For this: 1. It is harmonious only because the books in the Bible were chosen so that they would be harmonious. It’s an anachronism.

I would add the various lists prior the the final canon being settled. It was not harmonious at all, and that several writings considered scripture did not make it, and writings not considered scripture are in the final canon, like Revelations.

I would say it is harmonious because the Catholic Church chose the final writings to reflect Catholic teaching and to have a standard set of readings for our Divine Liturgy.

For this: *]The writers admit their own personal faults and thus make their message about God trustworthy.

There are books, like Mark and Hebrew, or Matthew, where the authors attributed to them do not even claim they wrote the gospel, in that there is no chapter and verse who wrote them. So how about those books? How can we be sure Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark?

*]The Bible was preserved through trials and many centuries, accurately.

And who did the preserving? Who did God guide in settling on the final canon? I would also cite here some how some considered scripture first did not make the final list and vice versa.

Thanks for the post! :slight_smile:

I’ll give you a quote from what they say about the preserving, which is obviously misleading, but worth mentioning nonetheless.

The preservation of the Scriptures also indicates that the Bible really is from God. Consider these two reasons:

(1)*Since the Bible writers originally wrote on perishable material, the Scriptures had to be recopied by hand numerous times throughout the centuries in order to be preserved for future generations. Why is this so remarkable? Not only because there was the risk of human error but also because there were deliberate efforts to tamper with the text. Yet the Bible has come down to us with amazing accuracy, as the discovery of ancient Bible manuscripts confirms.

(2)*The Bible’s preservation is all the more amazing when you consider that it has survived fierce opposition. There were times when popes and councils prohibited the reading of the Bible under penalty of excommunication. Many Bible lovers were burned at the stake. But the Bible survived all this opposition and became the world’s best-seller.

No other book in human history has survived with accuracy despite repeated recopying by imperfect humans and centuries of bitter attacks by enemies. Is this not convincing proof that the Bible contains “the saying of Jehovah,” which “endures forever”?—1*Peter 1:24,*25.

I thought JWs believed in the Bible

"The Bible was preserved through trials and many centuries, accurately".

I find this statement a little funny considering that the JW’s radically changed the translation in some areas just to make it “fit” their theology such as John 1:1, and John 8:58 and many other problems with their translation. So yeah, the bible was preserved accurately through many trials and centuries until very recent “Christians” decided to change it, not to mention they leave out the 7 deuterocanonical books that were first removed by Luther a very recent approximate 500 years ago.

I just find this statement a little ironic.

I thought the Bible was the word of God? Am I missing something?

These many not prove inspiration but they are evidence of it. The Church has taught that 5000 fulfilled prophesies are one reason why the Bible is trustworthy. The Church has always taught the unity of Scripture. Again, I must be missing something because the Bible is the word of God and I agree with these two points.

The Bible isn’t the word of God because the Church says so. The Bible would be the breathed word of God with or without the Church declaring it as such. The Church is simply recognizing an already present truth - the divine origin of Scripture. The Bible didn’t start being divine when the Church finalized the canon of Scripture. The Scriptures were of divine origin when Moses wrote “In the beginning God created Heaven and earth.”

The Bible comes from God. Both Jehovah’s and Catholics agree on this. What am I missing?

-Tim-

I may have worded it badly. Of course I am not denying the inspiration of Scripture. My point is that the JWs cannot prove it to be so.

Two of their arguments are correct - unity and prophecy.

-Tim-

You don’t think then that to say “The Bible as we have it forms a harmonious whole, therefore it is the Word of God” is invalid, because harmony was a criterion in its compilation?

Or that “Some books contain accurate prophecy, therefore all of the books in the Bible are inspired” is a non sequitur?

I’m not saying the Bible is inharmonious or contains no prophecy.

These are certainly evidence of divine origin.

-Tim-

I think we’re missing what the other is saying. I agree with you, but only so far as you are referring to individual books of the Bible, not the entire Canon. For example, the divine inspiration of Isaiah has no bearing on whether Philemon is the Word of God. That some statements in the Old Testament are scientifically accurate does nothing toward establishing the inspiration of the epistle to the Galatians, and so forth.

But the Witnesses are treating it that way.

The Bible is not harmonious in itself. There are a number of contradictions, sometimes even within the same book. What is the exact ancestry of Mary? Which version of the Passion is most accurate? Did Noah bring two of each kind, or six of each kind onto the ark?

[quote=CutlerB]It is scientifically accurate…they reflect knowledge that was beyond the available human knowledge at the time they were writte
[/quote]

It is not always scientifically accurate. A mustard seed is not the smallest seed (Mark 4:31). Instead, this seems to reflect exactly the knowledge that was available at the time, not the future botanical knowledge humans would come to possess.

[quote=CutlerB]The writers admit their own personal faults and thus make their message about God trustworthy.
[/quote]

That’s fair as far as it goes, but a writer’s humility is not a guarantee of his accuracy, and as mentioned above we don’t always even know who the authors were - and not every book reflects this celebrated humility.

[quote=CutlerB]The Bible was preserved through trials and many centuries, accurately.
[/quote]

Not necessarily true. There are minor discrepancies over individual words, etc., and bigger discrepancies over the inclusion of sections of books and books themselves.

[quote=CutlerB]Prophecy.
[/quote]

This one is a little bit of a cop out, because it can be said for any prophecy not found to be true that we simply need to wait until some day in the future.

Neither is Philemon or Galatians the inspired word of God “because the Church says so.”

It is inspired because it is inspired. The Church’s proclamation that it is inspired does not make it so. “In the beginning God created heaven and earth” was inspired when Moses wrote it.

We can have surety that it is inspired because of the way the Holy Spirit works within the Church but that isn’t going to be a consolation to anyone other than Catholics. We can “prove” only that which people are willing to accept. If they don’t believe that the Catholic Church is protected against error by the Holy Spirit then nothing is proved.

That’s really my point. Surety is not proof. I really don’t think we can prove the inspiration of scripture but only recognize it.

I’m late to altar serve at a Novena with veneration of a relic of St. Jude and Benediction so I don’t think I’ll be able to respond. Nice chatting with y’all. Carry on without me. I’ll pray that St. Jude intercedes for everyone’s intentions tonight!

St. Jude pray for us. The JW’s really are a hopeless and desperate situation.

-Tim-

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