“The Church did not have Scripture for the first 300 years of existence.”
I have heard this arguement many times on this website. It is a very unbalanced and illinformed arguement. I am not saying this to argue for either side (Protestant or Catholic) right now, just to correct a misrepresentation (although this is often done by Catholics arguing for the necessary role of infallible tradition in the early Church).
If you have studied the first centuries of the church you would quickly find out that the early Church WAS NOT “high and dry” with regards to the New Testament (much less the old). Much of the church had MOST of the New Testament from its very inception.
- Paul’s letters were immediately accepted as Scripture and passed into circulation very early. By the second century it was being passed on as a groups called the Pauline corpus. Many early fathers demonstate this by quoting from these documents (Clem quotes from Romans, 1 Cor. Gal, Eph, Col. 2 Thes at least; Polycarp Ignatius and Justin all quote from many of Paul’s letters; Ignatius and Justin do as well). And of course, it goes without saying that the Romans had Romans, Corinthians had Corinthians, Ephesians had Ephesians, etc . . .
Even Peter, speaking to scattered bretheren, talks about the Pauline letters suggesting that his many readers from many different places may have had copies (2 Pet. 3:16).
- The Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mk, Lk) were all accetped without question very early on by the Church. They were in immediate circulation. Many of the early writers quote from them with great authority showing that they were widely accepted and circulated. Again Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, and Justin all quote from some, if not all the Gospel (including John) demonstrating that most of the Church had been exposed to the Gospels. Paul even quotes from Luke calling it Scripture (1 Tim 5:18).
- Acts was also understood to be inspired very early (at least by the begining of the second century. The Muratorian fragment includes Acts. Irenaus had a copy. There is no reason to assume that Acts was not accepted and circulated very early as was Luke’s gospel.
- The Muratorian Canon refers to 90% of the New Testament as being accepted by 190.
As can be evidenced by just taking the Synoptics, Acts, and the Pauline courpus, by the first century, 80% of the New Testament was in circulation throughout the entire church. Most of the major local churches probebly had all of these letters and other churches more than likely knew of them and had access to them. In other words, the essentials of the Gospel were in written, inspired form throughout virtually the entire Church.
Therefore, the arguemnt that the Church did not have the New Testament until the 4th century is absolutely wrong, uninformed, and misleading. The argument that infallible tradition is necessary for the establisment of the early church is “folk theology” and many people on this site are engaging in it. It does not represent the truth, but mutilates it so that a desired goal can be accomplished.
I am not saying that you are doing this willingly, but, please, study the issues first. Represent the truth correctly. Bad and misleading argumentation doesn’t get anyone very far.
I am certainly open to debate about this issue. I pray that you all are doing well.