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Posts Tagged ‘Bible scholars’

It’s been said that people would not have the Bible if it weren’t for the Roman Catholic Church. According to the Church, the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) had ruled the canon issue settled, and the 1546 Council of Trent reaffirmed their rulings. The Church’s claim that its councils gave the world the Bible is as ludicrous as Al Gore’s claim that he gave the world the Internet.

First of all, the Hippo and Carthage councils were provincial, not ecumenical, that is, the rulings they issued were local and not binding on the entire church. What’s more they didn’t authoritatively settle any canonical issues in the church at the time they met.

“[T]here was not a “catholic” (universal) canon of the New Testament even as late as the 8th century. There was widespread agreement by that time on the 27 books that we recognize were inspired, but there was no authoritative presence telling all Christians they must accept one set of books or another.”

According to historian and author Rod Gragg, the Roman Catholic Church councils did not select the books in the Bible.

“[T]he New Testament canon … was not a group of books assembled by chance or forced on the early church by fourth century church councils but was steadily and unhurriedly established through its acceptance by church congregations from the first century onward.” Rod Gragg

Almost the entire New Testament could be duplicated from the quotations found in early church writings before the Council of Nicea in 325. In Gragg’s view, “the church councils did not pick the 27 books of the New Testament, but rather acknowledged what already had been accepted by the Christian community.”

Gragg points out “the Old Testament canon was already well-established by the Jewish community more than 250 years before Christ.” The Jews recognized and correctly assembled the Old Testament Scriptures without the aid of the Roman Catholic Church, and the early Christians did the same thing with the New Testament Scriptures. Gragg concurs:

“The New Testament canon … was established not by a single meeting or by a pronouncement by a group of Christian leaders, but by the progressive, unhurried acceptance of those 27 books by Christian congregations in the era of the early church. Historically, Christianity has attributed the emergence of the New Testament as an act of the Holy Spirit. By the time the famous church councils began meeting in the 4th century A.D., the New Testament canon was already well-established by the use of those 27 books within the early church.”

Keep in mind the Scriptures were being circulated to the churches when the apostles were alive (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; Revelation 1:11), and they were read in the synagogues and churches (Luke 4:16-20; Acts 15:21; 17:1-2; 10-12; 1 Timothy 4:13).

Some people carried the Scripture with them (Acts 8:30-34), and they were meant to be read by all (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Revelation 1:3). Jesus referred to the three parts of the Jewish canon (“the Law of Moses…the prophets…the Psalms…” Luke 24:44), and Peter acknowledged Paul’s writings as Scripture and likened them to other Scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16).

The truth is the “councils did not actually pick books and declare them to be the Bible; instead, they recognized or acknowledged the canon that already existed.”

I.M. Kane

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