21 April 2006

Did The Roman Catholic Church Give Us The Bible?

I have been told it was the Catholic church who actually put together the New Testament. Another source says the Orthodox Christian church put it together. If the New Testament was indeed put together by the Catholic church, what does that say about what it is? I believe there is but one way, but it's near impossible to find. - David C.

Dear David: Thanks for your letter inquiring about the development of the New Testament and the role of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches in that procedure. The origin and develop of the New Testament is classified as the study of the "Text and Canon of the N.T. You will find extended discussion and information on this subject in F. F. Bruce's book, "The Books and Parchments" and articles in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Schaff-Herzog's Encyclopedia or Religious Knowledge, or M'Clintock and Strong's Encyclopedia of the Bible.

Briefly it occurred as follows:  God inspired chosen men to write the various books of our New Testament. It seems that the Thessalonians Epistles were first written, about 50 A.D. The last written was Revelation in c.a. 96 A.D. Each book was produced as a separate document. Being inspired of God, it was perfect in content and language. Christians were eager to have books written by the apostles and prophets of Christ and when they learned that any church held a book or letter from Paul or others, say in Corinth, they would arrange to get a copy of it. Remember that all documents were prepared by hand.

By the end of the first century most of the books of our New Testament enjoyed a wide circulation among the churches. There were however other books written by Christian writers who were not appointed and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God as Scripture writers. These books varied in value and spiritual correctness. They too circulated among the churches.

Gradually over a period of many years, a common consensus arose as to which books were Scripture and which were just religious writings by Christian men... such as I might write today.

Books written by apostles were cherished as were those written by prophets closely associated with the apostles, such as Mark and Luke. The internal contents were also a key indicator as to whether it was a divinely given book. By the second century, some churches had all or most of the 27 books in their possession.

The large reference series of books called the Ante-Nicean Fathers contains all of the surviving writings of the early Christian teachers up to 325 A.D. It is interesting that those writers cite or quote from all of the books of our New Testament. The New Testament could be reproduced from those writings.

Another important fact to know is that apostasy appeared early in the life of the church. Paul repeatedly warned that a falling away would come (I Timothy 4:1-3; II Thessalonians 2:3-12). In his day he said the "mystery of iniquity" was already at work.

In the beginning there was the church of Christ (Romans 16:16), which He had established. It was some time before a congregation was established in Rome. There was no Roman Catholic church that can legitimately be linked with the modern church of that name until well into the 6th century. True there was a congregation in Rome as well as in many of the larger cities throughout the Roman empire, but it bore no resemblance to what is now the Roman Catholic Church. It finally emerged after some 500 years of apostasy and was not the church that Jesus built.

As is often the case with institutions and organizations that are illegitimate and phony, Rome seeks to create respectability and acceptance for itself by revising the history of the early church, claiming that it is the original church and that it gave us the Bible, plus many other unfounded claims.

The New Testament of Christ was fully written, completed and circulated four hundred years before that institution can document its beginning. By 130 A.D. the Four Gospels and the 13 Epistles of Paul were unanimously accepted as Scripture equal to the Old Testament. Gradually the other books found acceptance. By 400 A.D. there was no longer any discussion as to the validity and authority of the 27 books we now have.

The Council of Carthage formally pronounced our 27 books the "Canon of the N.T." But, the men who met in that Council had no authority from God to convene such a Council or to issue decrees in His name.

The Roman Catholic church has a vital purpose in claiming that they gave us the Bible. Since so much of her doctrine and practice is contrary to the teaching of the N.T. she claims that since she gave us the Bible she has priority and therefore authority over it and is not therefore bound by its precepts. This is her official dogma.

Now as to the Orthodox Church you mentioned. The word orthodox means that which conforms to the established doctrine. Although the Bible never uses the term, we could say that the church under the guidance of the apostles was "orthodox" by this definition. There is a religious denomination called the Orthodox Church... usually identified as the Greek Orthodox church. It emerged as a separate body as a result of a division in the apostate Church in 1054 A.D. This was in large part a political struggle.

Emperor Constantine (280-337) had divided the political Roman Empire into Eastern and Western Divisions. The two regional elements in the corrupt church struggled for supremacy. The Greek Orthodox Church, often called the Greek Catholic Church, likewise bears little or no resemblance to the church of the Bible. This church had no more to do with giving us the New Testament than did the Roman Church.

Our plea as churches of Christ is that we can be Christians in the same way as were those of that first generation... long before there were any of the modern denominational churches, including Catholicism.

I urged you to "go and see" at a church of Christ near you.

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