Why have a Bible?

In a discussion I had recently someone came up with a point I had no answer for: If the Catholic Church is right about being the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), why bother with a New Testament at all? The person didn’t have an issue with the church taking this role prior to the completion of the NT canon, but not since. He argues that, even though there was some dispute over the books, it was minor. The canon was effectively settled shortly after the and of the 1st century AD.

Yes, we have both and the church uses the Bible in its teaching role, but why not just have the church and not bother with the Bible, at least the New Testament?

Sorry if my question isn’t clear.

The fullness of truth is found in the the word, savred tradition, and the magisterium. These paragraphs from the CCC say it best:

105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”

106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.

107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”

108 Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book.” Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, a word which is “not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living”. If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures.”

OK, I get all that but that’s not the question. I’m asking why. If the church is the foundation and pillar of the truth, why do we need the Bible? We already have an authoritative church. Having the Bible on top of that seems superfluous. (At least to my friend’s reasoning.)

#108 seems to bring out his point. If there is danger of Scripture becoming a “dead letter,” why not just eliminate it and have all truth come from the magisterium alone? It seems to him that, if the Catholic Church is correct about its role as the pillar and support of the truth, then the Bible should not be necessary.

The Bible is the Word of God, and the only Word of God. All else is under man’s direction.

Because the Magisterium’s teachings are not the Word of God. They are not divinely inspired, only protected from error by the Holy Spirit. The words spoken are the words of men, but the Holy Spirit makes sure that those words do not contain any human error. Without Scripture or Tradition, the Magisterium would have no idea what to teach and what not to teach.

Your friend’s argument has a hidden premise, which is the cause of the problem. To the Protestant mind, the Bible exists to be a regula fidei, a rule of faith. His argument assumes this is true and then asks, if the Church is the pillar of truth why do we need the Bible (another pillar of truth).

The Church doesn’t share this view of the Bible, which, incidentally, no Christian prior to the late Middle Ages / Early Renaissance held. The Church doesn’t see the Bible as being opposed to tradition. The Bible is simply the written portion of tradition. The role of the Church is akin to that of the Supreme Court, it interprets Sacred Tradition - both oral and written (i.e. the Bible). Just as it is supremely absurd (bad pun, I know) to say the existence of a written Constitution makes the organ that interprets it (the Supreme Court) redundant, so to it is absurd to claim that the written portion of Sacred Tradition makes the interpreter of Tradition redundant.

Historically speaking, the Bible developed as a Liturgical Book - that is as the official collection of documents that were allowed to be read during the Mass. It wasn’t developed to be the pillar of truth, which is a good thing b/c it has a lousy track record of settling disputes (how many Protestant denominations are there? don’t they all read the same Bible?) If you read the New Testament, the words "New Testament only appear once, during the Last Supper, and they refer not to a collection of writings, but to a Sacrament - the Holy Eucharist. This is what the earliest Christians referred to as the “New Testament / New Covenant” it is only by association that the books that were read during the celebration of the New Testament (the Eucharist) came to be called the New Testament at all.

Protestants are to be loudly commended for loving, reading, and studying the Bible. Unfortunately, because of the bad theology of their distant fore-bearers, they try to make the Bible do the job Christ assigned to the Church, i.e. being the pillar the truth, something it was never intended to be.

Hope that helps.

And the Bible says that the church is the pillar and support of the truth. The church, not the Bible. Read 1Tim 3:15. What’s your point?

Let me argue my friend’s point for a moment. If the magisterium is led by the Holy Spirit in such a way that error is impossible, then why would we need a divinely inspired Bible. Why isn’t the magisterium enough?

But it still doesn’t answer the question. I agree with what you are saying about the Bible. It still doesn’t answer the question of why do we need a Bible if the Catholic teachings about the magisterium are true. To my friend it seems redundant.

What is your source for this teaching? This sentiment is not found in the bible.

Can you quote the source of this to back up your claim?

God does not speak through the Magisterium. He has spoken through Tradition and Scripture. Lacking these, the Magisterium would not know what to teach.

Well we can start with what Paul said:
For what things soever were written, were written for our learning:
that through patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we might
have hope.
– (Romans 15:4)
We can also check out what John said:
But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the
Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life
in his name.
– (John 20:31)
Paul again:
All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach,
to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice,
– (2 Timothy 3:16)
Not sure what other parts of the Bible talk about its importance, but there are some.

OK. We might be getting somewhere now. :slight_smile:

The problem is that God certainly could guide the Magisterium into knowing what to teach without Scripture. We didn’t have the Bible as we know it until the the of the 4th century. By that time God was already leading the Magisterium into the truth at the Council of Nicaea.

Historically speaking, the Bible is the authorized texts from which we can read at Mass. Without the Bible, we wouldn’t have anything to read at Mass.

Secondly, the Bible is the writings of the earliest followers of Christ - it includes the four eyewitness accounts of Christ’s life. Those writings are important in and of themselves. They were important to the Church before there was a “Bible.”

As I mentioned above, ask your friend if having a Supreme Court makes the Constitution redundant. Your friend’s objection simply makes no sense. Why would the existence of an authoritative interpreter of Tradition make Tradition redundant?

Also ask your friend why Christ established a Church and a Liturgy, but never commanded anything to be written down. Of the 12 Apostles how many never wrote anything? The Bible is simply the written form of Tradition.

Lastly, ask him why, if having a written book is of such importance, didn’t Christ Himself write anything? Instead of instituting the Mass before His arrest and execution, He could have wrote the entire Bible and handed it to his Apostles commanding them to “read this in memory of me.” He didn’t. Why? Because the Bible isn’t what your friend thinks it is. It isn’t (and was never meant to be) a “pillar of truth” - Christianity isn’t a religion of a book - it’s the religion of the Word Incarnate. It’s the religion of the continued presence of the Body of Christ, that is the Church.

Proverbs 30:5-6

“Every word of God is flawless;(A)
he is a shield(B) to those who take refuge in him.

Do not add© to his words,
or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Can you show me where anything other than the Word of God should be followed?

Nothing other than the Word of God should be followed, but the Word of God isn’t a book you hold in your hands, it’s a Person who Rules from Heaven (see John 1:1).

New International Version
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2Tim3:16

But more to the point, the Bible IS the teaching of the Church. When you read through many of Paul’s letters particularly, he is teaching about what the Church does and what it does not teach. The books were written and approved as “canon” precisely to counter people going out and teaching on their own in the name of the church.


It is true that the canon was only defined at the Councils of Rome in 382, of Hippo in 393, and of Carthage in 397. But to say that “we didn’t have the Bible” would be false. We had the writings, and the canon was more or less agreed upon. The Magisterium has been using Scripture since it was written, not only since it was canonized. Undoubtedly, Scripture was used to condemn Arius and his followers at Nicaea.

Though the Magisterium would be protected by God from error without Scripture, it still would have no idea what to do.

The statement in bold seems to forget that Sacred Tradition (flowing from the oral teachings of Christ and, after Him, the Apostles) would still inform the Magisterium. As you know, we reject sola scriptura. The Church would indeed still of known what to teach, even without Scripture.

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