What is the protestant explanation for . . .


how the Christian faith can be based on scripture alone when the bible wasn’t finalized for about 400 years after the death of Christ, and then it was another few centuries before it was widely available to the general population?

How did Christians know what to do and how were they led to do it without the scriptures to follow or interpret with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?

I’m just curious about that. :shrug:


God’s revelation was regularly reduced to written form, and that is what the Old Testament Scriptures were. They were used and believed by the early church and apostolic writings were added to that corpus as they appeared, and they were copied and circulated immediately. “It is written” was the formula for establishing the truth on an issue, and the Lord himself took the same stance as the rest of the Jewish nation when he appealed to those writings and said “The scripture cannot be broken.”

Those writings weren’t nearly so rare as you’ve been led to believe, but we agree that individual Christians didn’t have copies of complete Bibles. Nonetheless, the final authority was never any lower than the Scriptures. “To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

The Christians, having no Bible of their own, listened to the reading of the Scriptures in their assemblies and meditated on what they remembered. They heard their teachers expound the truths of Christianity and they challenged false teachers.


Right, how were people “Saved” in those Days without the Bible.:eek:


I know that the old testament was around at the time of Christ’s cruxifiction and that was available (although still not personally accessible to average folk, as most were illiterate and no printing press).

I’m not sure why you think that I’ve been led to believe that those writings were rare. In fact, I know that there were hundreds if not thousands of writings that claimed to be inspired (Gospel of Judas is one that was in the news recently). However, that brings up another question - who was it that decided which of these writings were inspired and needed to be passed on? Who or what had the authority to decide that?


Protestant Answer: They were not Saved until about 1500 Hundred years after God sent luther in to the world
that is when people finally started to get Saved.:rolleyes:


The ones that merely claimed it were not under discussion. The apostolic writings, though, were universally copied and distributed. The churches made it their business to share, for Christianity was an outgrowth of Israelite religion, and the religion of Israel was a religion of The Book.

However, that brings up another question - who was it that decided which of these writings were inspired and needed to be passed on? Who or what had the authority to decide that?

They knew, but we aren’t told why. As an example, however, today an average Christian can take up a spurious writing and see quickly that it is nothing but a heretical forgery; but there are certain kinds of people who gravitate to that junk even today and read, use, and believe it.

Some books were questioned (antilegomena), but that wasn’t much of a problem for the Christians in the OP. Because of heretical canons, eventually the true canon had to be settled and it was settled through the providence of God, but there is no proof that spiritual Christians had any poorer perception of which books were inspired than did the bishops. The announcements of councils on this matter probably elicited little more than a yawn among such believers.


Kevan, with all due respect, I don’t agree with you that the average Christian today could pick up a piece of writing and know that it is a heretical forgery.

I’ll be 50 next week, and I was born and raised evangelical Protestant. I converted to Catholicism in 2004.

I agree, there was a time when Christians, especially evangelicals, knew their Bibles and had a good working knowledge of Christian doctrine and systematic theology. I remember taking classes at my Conference Baptist church in systematic theology when I was just a TEENAGER. Before I was 18, I had read through the entire Bible several times, and throughout college, I participated in many inductive Bible studies in churches and in on-campus Christian groups.

But this isn’t the case nowadays. Christians, even Protestants, simply don’t study their Bibles and even less study theology and doctrine.

It’s not “fun.” It doesn’t "entertain.

They attend Bible studies, which are often topical (marriage, worldview, parenting, divorce, etc.) Or they listen to preachers and teachers who go through the Bible verse by verse, but few Christians stick around a church long enough for the preacher/teacher to make it through the entire Bible.

And they listen to music. Oh, do they listen to music.

When my family was still Protestant, we attended an Evangelical Free Church. My daughter was a leader in the youth group. The youth group did a lot of socials, and their “classes” consisted of discussions (not teaching) about sex, movies, and music. They also did small groups, which were topical studies mainly about sex, movies, and music.

During a planning meeting, my daughter asked the youth pastor if they could have a “Bible study,” perhaps on one of the Old Testament prophets.

The youth pastor told her that no one would come. He said they had to keep the youth interested in coming by discussing current topics; e.g., sex, music, and movies.

If she had not dug into the Bible for herself and done a three-year survey course through the mail, she wouldn’t have learned a THING about the Bible or Christianity in that youth group.

On one of the Protestant forums that I participate in, the question was asked, “Have you ever read the Bible through?” Only a few people answered yes. Most admitted that they hadn’t ever read the entire New Testament through!

I was shocked. After all, if you are going to base your life on the sole authority of the Bible, shouldn’t you at least READ it?

Anyway, I’ve seen surveys and reports about the lack of Bible knowledge among evangelical Christians that are very discouraging. Some evangelicals can’t even identify books, characters, and stories from the Old Testament, even familiar things like David and Daniel, let alone Jael and Sisera!

SO–IMO, if I were to present a Christian with passages from various Old Testament books, including the Deutero-canonicals (called “Apocrypha” by most Protestants), and also passages from various “religious” non-Christian books (Book of Mormon, Koran, sayings of Confucius, etc.) I will bet you cash that most of them couldn’t tell me which verses were from “canonical” Protestant Scriptures, and which are not.

I think that’s one reason why so many Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, fall away from faith. They don’t really know their faith, especially the Bible, and they’re easy pickin’s for heretics and smooth-sounding con artists or even Satan himself.

It’s sad that Christians are so ignorant of the Scriptures and of orthodox Christian doctrine.

By the way, when my daughter was a Senior in high school (in 2000), she stood up during one of the planning meetings of that Evangelical Free Church youth group, and told the pastor and other teenagers, “I’m leaving. All you’re interested in is having a good time. If you ever decide to get serious about Jesus, call me.”

They never called her. And she is planning to enter RCIA this year.


They had Paul’s teachings.


Not all Protestants believe that the Christian faith is based on scripture alone. In light of that, an “explanation” is a non sequitur. :confused:


By the will of God, it’s that simple :thumbsup:


2 Timothy 4:13 (King James Version)
The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.

The individual books of the NT were circulated among the churches. There contents were read publically in church.
And, those who could affoard it, like Paul had copies made by hand.


That’s interesting, because there were certain books that were initially accepted as inspired by certain regions of the world by some segments of the early Church that are now not considered inspired and others that are now in the Canon of scripture that were not accepted as inspired by some segments of the early Church (I can’t name them for you for sure now, but could be more specific if you would like). Anyway, didn’t the inspired writings claim to be apostolic just like the non-inspired works? Who decided which were inspired and which weren’t? I’m sorry, but I don’t think that the average Christian of the early Church could pick up a writing and just be able to “tell” whether it was inspired or not. The fact is, most couldn’t read and I seriously doubt that the writings were widely available, because of the time and cost of putting things in writing.

I would agree that it was the “providence of God” that settled the canon of scripture, but that “providence” was through the entrusting the protection of the Truth of the faith to the Catholic Church.

As far as “spiritual Christians” having just as good a sense of the inspired works as the bishops - again, most were illiterate and had no access to those works; therefore, how could they have as good a sense of those works as the bishops of the Church who had much greater access to them?

“Probably elicited little more than a yawn?” I doubt that very much.

However, it seems to me that you are conceding that the bishops and the councils that ultimately decided the canon of scripture were Catholic, right? :thumbsup:


Spoken like a true Calvinist. :smiley:


The canon existed before the councils spoke; but, yes, the councils were Catholic.

Let me concede this much: individual Christians didn’t have Bibles, although they probably had portions of scripture. (It isn’t difficult to copy a few chapters, and the churches DID have the scriptures). Since they didn’t have Bibles, they could not do what I do and what my tradition prescribes for Christians who want to be steadfast in their faith, that is, they could not systematically read and meditate on the Bible, they couldn’t outline the Epistle to the Ephesians, do word studies across the entire New Testament, etc. They had to do other things in order to know, worship, and please God and to grow in grace and in the knowledge of God’s will.

These things being true, my tradition needs to beware lest we construct a theory of the Christian life that requires something that 2d century Christians couldn’t have done. I believe that we need to make the best use of the privileges God has afforded to us, and that includes our Bibles and reference works, but we need to reconcile our theory with the realities of Christian history.

Sola scriptura doesn’t mean that nothing matters but the Bible. It means that the Bible is the only voice that speaks with divine trustworthiness.


The inspired books were written and existed (along with many other uninspired writings that claimed to be inspired), but the canon was not established until the synod of Rome in 382 and ratified later at the councils of Hippo and Carthage.

Kevan, it’s a pleasure corresponding with you. Your answers, although I disagree with many of your conclusions, are thought out and respectful.

I wish there were more of that on this forum. :thumbsup:


God’s Word is the foundation of the Faith we all share. Yet as Paul proves over and over again in his admonishing the churches to hold tight to the traditions he passed on to them, it should become clear that for the believers of the time, who had only the Septuagint, these traditions *were *the Will of God made clear for those who were at the time without the completed New Covenant books, which were canonized later.

A friend of mine has seen things in the depths of African that we here in America could hardly, if at all, grasp: The leader of a cannibalistic tribe stand in the midst of a congregation and begin to speak in tongues, and an interpreter who immediately rose and translated for the people. He saw God speak to a preliterate people who could not receive his Word in the same compact form we here can experience it in …

Likewise, the early churches also had to be based upon the Word of God via the Apostles’ teaching and direct revelation. These things–tradition and revelation-- were the very words of God; but were they Scripture? No. They for the time were sufficient. But I ask, if God could provide for us a better means of understanding both he and his Will, would he not do so? Of course, and he has! Yes, like the Levitical laws, for the time these things sufficed, but eventually they were done away with in favor of something much more glorious, something much better–the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation …


And every Tom,Dickk and Harry has their own Personal interpretation of it.

“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation”1 Peter 1:20

There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 2 Peter 3:16


Questions like this amaze me sometimes… WHAT is the bible made up of? Tape recordings of sermons and discussions? Oh! How about video of baptisms and worship? No… It is comprised of letters and writings by those of whom God used to write down His inspired words… :shrug: Those existed WAY before the bible was put into the form we have now… All that needed to happen was someone grabbed those writings and put them together in a form that would be what the bible is today. The components existed all along…


People didn’t need The Bible back then, they had the Catholic Church, plus most of them could not read anyway.


Slow down, there, Singinbeauty. Take a minute to read some of the previous posts regarding who decided what was inspired and what was not.

There had to be some authority that was guiding people in the right path prior to the canon being decided (by Catholic synods and councils).

What was that authority, in your singin’ opinion? :wink:

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