Sola Scriptura: The church recognized the books of the Bible?


Any good defenses for the idea that the church recognized the books of the Bible, instead of choosing them? The idea is that the Church only saw what everyone else did; they simply agreed. I’m discussing this tomorow with a Baptist professor. I already have a few arguments, but I was hoping to get some insight from you. Thanks!


Whether or not they “chose” or “recognised” is not really consequential. Personally, I think that recognised is probably a better word for it. Anyway, the more important issue is that it is a fact that God used the Catholic Church to “recognise” which books were inspired and which were not, therefore it is entirely inconsistent to agree that the Catholic Church chose the New Testament books correctly but not the OT books.

Some other issues are, there needs to be an authoritative body to tell everybody what is inspired and what is not, otherwise how would we know if the book of Mormon or the Koran were inspired or not? Also, there are other books that meet the criteria that modern day Protestants try to use to distinguish which books are inspired and which are not. How do we know that these other books are inspired if they meet these criteria? How do we know that disputed books such as Revelation are inspired?

I hope this helps, good luck :slight_smile:




Here’s something from New Advent:


The sub-Apostolic writings of Clement, Polycarp, the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, of the pseudo-Clementine homilies, and the “Shepherd” of Hermas, contain implicit quotations from or allusions to all the deuterocanonicals except Baruch (which anciently was often united with Jeremias) and I Machabess and the additions to David. No unfavourable argument can be drawn from the loose, implicit character of these citations, since these Apostolic Fathers quote the protocanonical Scriptures in precisely the same manner.

Coming down to the next age, that of the apologists, we find Baruch cited by Athenagoras as a prophet. St. Justin Martyr is the first to note that the Church has a set of Old Testament Scriptures different from the Jews’, and also the earliest to intimate the principle proclaimed by later writers, namely, the self-sufficiency of the Church in establishing the Canon; its independence of the Synagogue in this respect. The full realization of this truth came slowly, at least in the Orient, where there are indications that in certain quarters the spell of Palestinian-Jewish tradition was not fully cast off for some time. St. Melito, Bishop of Sardis (c. 170), first drew up a list of the canonical books of the Old Testament While maintaining the familiar arrangement of the Septuagint, he says that he verified his catalogue by inquiry among Jews; Jewry by that time had everywhere discarded the Alexandrian books, and Melito’s Canon consists exclusively of the protocanonicals minus Esther. It should be noticed, however, that the document to which this catalogue was prefixed is capable of being understood as having an anti-Jewish polemical purpose, in which case Melito’s restricted canon is explicable on another ground. St. Irenæus, always a witness of the first rank, on account of his broad acquaintance with ecclesiastical tradition, vouches that Baruch was deemed on the same footing as Jeremias, and that the narratives of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon were ascribed to Daniel. The Alexandrian tradition is represented by the weighty authority of Origen. Influenced, doubtless, by the Alexandrian-Jewish usage of acknowledging in practice the extra writings as sacred while theoretically holding to the narrower Canon of Palestine, his catalogue of the Old Testament Scriptures contains only the protocanonical books, though it follows the order of the Septuagint. Nevertheless Origen employs all the deuterocanonicals as Divine Scriptures, and in his letter of Julius Africanus defends the sacredness of Tobias, Judith, and the fragments of Daniel, at the same time implicitly asserting the autonomy of the Church in fixing the Canon (see references in Cornely). In his Hexaplar edition of the Old Testament all the deuteros find a place. The sixth-century Biblical manuscript known as the “Codex Claromontanus” contains a catalogue to which both Harnack and Zahn assign an Alexandrian origin, about contemporary with Origen. At any rate it dates from the period under examination and comprises all the deuterocanonical books, with IV Machabees besides. St. Hippolytus (d. 236) may fairly be considered as representing the primitive Roman tradition. He comments on the Susanna chapter, often quotes Wisdom as the work of Solomon, and employs as Sacred Scripture Baruch and the Machabees. For the West African Church the larger canon has two strong witnesses in Tertullian and St. Cyprian. All the deuteros except Tobias, Judith, and the addition to Esther, are Biblically used in the works of these Fathers. (With regard to the employment of apocryphal writings in this age see under APOCRYPHA.)

This is only part of the article on the canon . You might want to read the whole thing as there is some good material there, but I think what I gave you here will be the most pertinent to your talk.


[quote=trumpet152]Any good defenses for the idea that the church recognized the books of the Bible, instead of choosing them? The idea is that the Church only saw what everyone else did; they simply agreed. I’m discussing this tomorow with a Baptist professor. I already have a few arguments, but I was hoping to get some insight from you. Thanks!

The trouble with the word “recognize” is that it’s too squishy and probably not very well thought through --what is supposed to be meant by this? What was the process that went into this “recognition”? There would still have to be some mechanism for definitively saying “Yes, this book is inspired and, no this book isn’t.” And, there would have to be some one (or a body of some ones) of recognized authority to definitively do this.

If you can lead your professor friend through these questions or even ask him to detail what he means by “recognition” it will at least help to show that there could be no other good explanation for the establishment of the canon except as it was determined by an authoritative Church.


What is the Protestant critiria for authitincy of Canon? I have never heard of it.

I can’t think of any outside what Catholicism uses sense it would end up being who one chose to listen too. The Sadduces who accepted the five books of Moses or more like the Pharesses. or like the Gnostics who had what we call “False Gospels” in the second century maybe earlier. So I don’t see how they could tell. So does anyone know what the Protestant Crititia for Canon is? Thanks and God bless.


[quote=trumpet152]Any good defenses for the idea that the church recognized the books of the Bible, instead of choosing them? The idea is that the Church only saw what everyone else did; they simply agreed.!

If my understanding is correct, many non-Catholics do not accept the Deuterocanonical books as being inspired even though they were considered so, at least until the 16th century. How could these books be “obviously inspired” when the canon was formed and later be “obviously uninspired”?


[quote=trumpet152]Any good defenses for the idea that the church recognized the books of the Bible, instead of choosing them? The idea is that the Church only saw what everyone else did; they simply agreed.

If that’s what this guy is arguing, then it makes no sense. Everyone else recognized that the books were inspired? Who is “everyone else”? I don’t even know what this means.

The point of saying that they were “recognized” rather than “chosen” is that the Church had no authority *on its own *

to pick the books. The Church did not give the books their inspired character, but recognized the character God had already given them. I don’t think this can be disputed, and this is what Protestants usually mean by “recognized.” Again, your Baptist friend may be trying to say something more, but this is what the phrase usually means in my experience.

The real question to ask is whether one should not also give at least some credence to the Church’s recognition of the right interpretation of Scripture, if one accepts the Church’s recognition of the canon. I don’t think this can prove infallibility (as overly zealous Catholic apologists try to do). But it does show that we should take the early Church very seriously.

One problem with the argument as Catholics use it is that Protestants obviously don’t accept the Council of Carthage’s canon with regard to the OT. So the premise of the argument is somewhat flawed. Protestants don’t think that the early Church was infallible in selecting the canon. However, we do obviously put a lot of credence in what the early Church said, and only differ from its eventual conclusions when we have good reasons to do so and preferably at least some support from within the early Church itself (as I’ve argued in other threads, there’s a lot of disagreement about the canon in the early Church, which persists quite late in the East).



The Holy Spirit led the Church through which books should be canon. The baptist professor will have to explain why the Shepherd of Hermas isn’t considered canon and Revelation is. Revelation almost didn’t make it into the canon. The key is, how did the church know which books were inspired and which weren’t?

Your baptist professor seems to want to take the Holy Spirit out of the picture. Ask him which books he consideres inspired, then ask him why. And “Because everyone uses them.” isn’t an acceptable answer. Why not the Apocalypse of Peter, or the Gospel of Peter or 1st Clement or Barnabas. 1st Clement was read in quite a few churches, as was the Shepherd. The book of Revelation did not enjoy widespread use. So why was it chosen? What about the Gospel of Nicodemus or the Epistles of Ignatius which Polycarp gathered together. All the Early church fathers noted below mention them.

I would look up what some of the fathers thought was connanical, Origen, Jerome, Clement, Eusabius, Anthanasius, Cyril, Iranaeus.

Ask your professor, on the merits of the above works why he wouldn’t choose them for scripture, but not against the bible as a measuring stick because he can’t choose those yet for scripture either. What is his criteria for inspiration of the Holy Spirit with no standard to set against? He is looking anachronistically fitting an already round peg into a round hole. Unfortunately the bishops didn’t have that luxury, nor was it so neat and tidy. They actually had to let the Holy Spirit guide them into the truth. There were many other works that aren’t even mentioned here.

Why was the canon chosen in the first place? Why was there suddenly a need to define it? Ask him to answer those questions as well. (Numerous gnostic forgeries were floating around with apostolic names attached to them. Gnostics would definately not agree with our current canon of scripture)

Peace and God Bless


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit