Pondering the big picture - without the Bible

I was thinking about this earlier today.

It might stem from my pet peeve of some in-laws who think every significant (or non-significant) event in the family needs to be video recorded.

What if the bible never existed? Would the church that I am a part of be in existance?

Say world history is the same, but the canon was never closed because the books were not confirmed to be inspired, or compiled.

My thought is Yes, I think the Catholic church would be here today. I think some of the traditions would not exist, like reading the Bible’s books over a three year period wouldn’t be in the Mass as it is today if they were not inspired. In turn the Sunday Mass might be 20-30 minutes long and the daily Mass might be 15 minutes. (Excluding announcements!)

Yes, The truth is the same today yesterday and forever. Being created in the image of God it is written on our hearts. The Bible is part of God’s revealled truth which in his mercy he gave us to aid in our salvation and to further His plan for mankind. I suppose God did not have to create a Church as the pillar and foundation of His truth but He did. I suspect He knows what is best for us!

The Truth is and always will be constant. Even if the Bible was not made, religion would still exist. People would still believe in and seek God.

Even without any literary references, we humans have an imprint on our hearts from God. We know He exists; we can feel it. We would still seek the constants that are God: Justice, Love, Truth…etc. We would still seek His perfection. We would still know right from wrong.

But would the Church be the same as it is today? I don’t know. But I think it’s safe to say that people would still believe in the fundamental, innate Truths that Catholicism is based upon.

If the Church never complied the bible, I think a written catechism as to what the faith is would have been necessary. From what I’ve read of Church History, the way they proved orthodoxy (small o) before the bible was through discipleship. A teacher proved his credentials by claiming “I was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John”’ etc. I even think St Paul did this in one of his writings.

This can only last for so long…

The book I read was “Four Witnesses: The Early Church Fathers In Their Own Words” by Rod Bennet.

You know, the Church was founded and grew rapidly, according to Jesus’ plan, with no New Testament scripture at all. It grew on the preached word of he Apostles. There was not a single jot of Gospel scripture for 20+ years after Christ ascended, and even then it may have taken years to be copied and distributed to all existing Churches. John’s Gospel was not written until 60+ years after the Ascension, and again, it took years to be copied and distributed. It is quite possible that many had not seen the written Gospel for nearly 100 years after Christ ascended.

But, and this is the huge “but”, all Christians had heard the Gospel message as Jesus intended - preached by the Aposltes and their successors. That is how the conversion of sinners took place. Read the prologue to Luke (Luke 1:1-4). Four verses that absoutely establish the efficacy of the oral preaching Tradition. In those four short sentences, we learn that Theophilus, an early Christian, learned nothing - zero, zip, nada, from Luke’s Gospel. Luke wrote the Gospel only to confirm the oral teaching that Theophilus had already received.

Since coming to CAF and hearing the non-historical insistence by some of our guests that the bible is somehow a “foundation” or “sole rule” for faith, I have wondered just what role the “bible” (which did not exist as an agreed upon collection of books and letters until hundreds of years later) played in the early Church. Well, since there were some scriptures, but no “bible” for centuries, it clearly played a limited role.

Apostolic authority, which Jesus gave to His Apostles, and which was used to both form and grow the Church, was handed on - by the laying on of hands - which is the very definition of the word “tradition” In fact, the thing that most bible Christians will not admit is that the bible itself is a tradition, since it was “handed on” by the earlier Church to the current one. Anything that is handed on is a tradition. Without Apostolic succession, there would be no bible as we know it. King James Version loyalists, for example, would be wandering in a sullen fog today.

Yet, the Catholic and various Orthodox Churches would be preaching the Gospel just fine with no bible, as they did when unified in the early days. They alone have the Apostolic authority to continue the Church. Oh, the lack of collected scriptures would be a loss most certainly, but it did not impede the early Church from growing at fantastic rates.

Bible-based Churches, on the other hand, could not have existed for several hundred years after Christ, since there was no agreed-upon bible! As well, they would disintegrate today without the bible (even though they are disintegrating with the bible!) since their foundation would be lost. For this reason, Christ founded His Church on a living Apostolic Tradition, since the Word of God is living and cannot be confined to the pages of a book - no matter how inspired that book is. The earth is not large enough to contain either God, or His word. John tells us so in chapters 20 nd 21 of his Gospel.

Thanks all, and thanks for the book and bible references for future reading.

I guess I underestimated the number of non-catholic contributors. Posted this here for some non-Catholic insight on the subject question.

Thanks again and have a great weekend.

I think it would be an underestimation of the Holy Spirit to say the Church would not exist.
However, as the thought is speculative, I will say thank God for the written word.


Thanks Jon,

Interesting speculation with the HS underestimation. I wasn’t really estimating an HS effect when writing the question since I was assuming world history was the same with the one exception (no bible). Absolutely God can do anything.

I should have been more specific.

I think there are still reformation players simply because we question things and change heart. but I think there would be fewer but larger groups.

Agreed, thank God for the Good Book.

Have a great weekend.

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