The Roman Catholic Church did not give the world the Bible!
The claim of Roman Catholic and Orthodox leaders that they gave the world the Bible, is as outrageous as it is blasphemous. We invite Roman Catholics and Orthodox to read out "Questions" section.
The councils of the church played little part in the canonization of scripture. When councils did speak on the subject, their voice was a ratification of what had already become the mind of the church. (Lee Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate; Everett Ferguson, Factors Leading to the Selection and Closure of the New Testament Canon, p 319, 2002)
Even James Bernstein, an Orthodox leader admits: "The councils did not legislate the canon so much as set forth what had become self-evident truth and practice within the churches of God." (Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament?, Fr. James Bernstein, Orthodox churchman, 1994, p 13)
In other words, the New Testament canon is a recognition and acknowledgment of books that were authoritative from earlier periods on, not a creation of the fourth-century church. (Lee Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate; Peter Balla, Evidence for an Early Christian Canon: Second and Third Century, p 373, 2002)
Of interest here is the fact that the community of faith, rather than church authorities, were responsible for this process; what they determined to be edifying and useful later found a place in the canon. Church authorities only authorized or sanctioned what had already been in use. (Lee Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate; Kent D. Clarke, The Problem of Pseudonymity in Biblical Literature and Its Implications for Canon Formation, p 467, 2002)
In establishing the Canon, the Church authorities of the second and succeeding centuries only subsequently ratified the decisions which had already been reached by the Christian communities, or more exactly, by the individual believers. The organized Church as such did not create the Canon; it recognized the Canon which had already been created. It is only from the second half of the fourth century onwards, in connexion with the closing of the Canon, that the Church authorities began to have an effect." (David G. Meade, Pseudonymity and Canon, p 206, 1986)
In most discussions of the canon of the New Testament little or no attention is paid to the basic question whether the canon should be described as a collection of authoritative books or as an authoritative collection of books. These two formulations differ fundamentally and involve totally different implications. (A third formulation, that the canon is an authoritative collection of authoritative books, is merely a modification of the second formulation, and may be set aside in the present discussion.) ... In the former case, the books within the collection are regarded as possessing an intrinsic worth prior to their having been assembled, and their authority is grounded in their nature and source. In the latter case, the collection itself is regarded as giving the books an authority they did not possess before they were designated as belonging to the collection. That is to say, the canon is invested with dogmatic significance arising from the activity of canonization. In one case the Church recognizes the inherent authority of the Scriptures; in the other she creates their authority by collecting them and placing on the collection the label of canonicity. If the authority of the New Testament books resides not in the circumstance of their inclusion within a collection made by the Church, but in the source from which they came, then the New Testament was in principle complete when the various elements coming from this source had been written. That is to say, when once the principle of the canon has been determined, then ideally its extent is fixed and the canon is complete when the books which by principle belong to it have been written. (Bruce M. Merger, The canon of the New Testament, 1987, p 282)
B. Roman Catholic and Orthodox :
Before we begin, remember that even James Bernstein, an Orthodox leader admits: "The councils did not legislate the canon so much as set forth what had become self-evident truth and practice within the churches of God." (Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament?, Fr. James Bernstein, Orthodox churchman, 1994, p 13)
Brace yourself for a bit of double talk for two pages later he says:
"It was clear from my study that the Church had, in fact, determined which books composed the Scriptures." (Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament?, Fr. James Bernstein, Orthodox churchman, 1994, p 15)
Refutation of James Bernstein (Orthodox):
- First Bernstein says it was the church, not the councils that set the canon, then two pages later he says the church determined the canon. Yet Bernstein tries to prove his point by telling us the canon was determined by the Council of Laodicea A.D 363 and third Council of Carthage in A.D 397. Obviously then Bernstein contradicts himself. First he says it was not the councils, then he refers to two church councils to prove the church had the authority to set the canon.
- Bernstein is walking on eggshells by referring to the Council of Laodicea A.D 363 and third Council of Carthage in A.D 397, because he knows the first council accepted only 26 books and rejected the book of Revelation, while the second council accepted all 27 books including revelation. We would ask the obvious question: What good is the "authority of the church" if it contradicts itself? One council rejects the book of Revelation the other council accepts revelation. Which "authority" was right?
- Obviously then, no church council set the canon, and it was not by "church authority" that the canon was set. Rather there was a common understood canon of 22 books that had never been questioned and widely distributed since 100 AD, along with 5 other books that were in full circulation since 100 AD, but questioned.
By Steve Rudd
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