Protestant Church of Christ Arguments for New Testament Canonical Certitude, and Its Reliance on Catholic Inspiration and Authority

CofC readers,
When pressed on matters of Bible origins and the Protestant Church of Christ’s only purported available source of revelation (the “Bible only”), your group must avoid the history of the Bible’s formation; your group’s self-perceived legitimacy would be threatened if the Catholic Church were shown to be intrinsically connected with the Bible’s development. Your group is a “Bible-only” group, and your group insists that it is the nascent Church, so your group must insist that the nascent Church was a “Bible-only” Church. As such, your group does not approach the Bible as Christians normally approach it (within Liturgy); it approaches the Bible with the assumption that the “Bible only” is the only source of religious truth, and therefore, the Bible must in some way establish for itself that the Bible is the full, complete, unspoiled, and self-authenticating written word of God.
I would bet that most of your group’s members know that the Table of Contents at the beginning of their Bibles is not Scripture, but I would also bet that most of your members have never considered why they believe their Bible’s Table of Contents is correct. Is this not an important topic? If you believe the words within the Bible are there as your sole religious authority, then should you not be prepared to make a reasonable defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)?
The original sixteenth century Reformers struggled with this same topic; they knew that the Catholic Church was the body that in fact wrote the New Testament and compiled the Bible, but they could not remain faithful to that body, and they set out to produce Catholic-less reasons as to how they might know that the Bible’s Table of Contents is correct. The early Reformers disagreed on which books should be included. They not only disagreed on which books should be included in the Old Testament, but they disagreed on which books should be included in the New Testament! They disagreed for one reason: they denied the authority of the historical Church that created the Bible, and therefore, denied the only authority that could determine its rightful contents. The resulting Protestant New Testament (which, when ironed out, remained true to the historical Catholic New Testament canon), and the Protestant Old Testament are what your group has since adopted as its Bible.
Your group, which is a descendant of the Reformation, adopted the later-developed Protestant canon, and has too developed an a posterori argument (dependence on prior knowledge: a previously-established canon) in which it claims to know that the Bible’s Table of Contents is correct, and it hopes that its posits can somehow hold water with no dependence on any Catholic decisions. What I will show you is what I have found to be your group’s most popular and indicative argument for canonical certitude, and I will also show you how your argument cannot reasonably support your position because it presupposes Catholic inspiration and authority—presupposes the very elements that your argument is primarily designed to eradicate.
Your group’s argument is that the Bible’s contents—the New Testament specifically—are self-authenticating. As evidence for its claim, it presents several verses that have already been established as inspired by the Catholic Church; its argument begins with an already-established canon. Put differently, its starting point alone proves that “Bible-only” Christianity cannot establish the canon. Nonetheless, I will present each verse that Protestant apologists typically present, and then show how each verse does not support their theory, but rather, prove that the canon is not self-authenticating, and prove that an extra-biblical source was (and is) needed to provide Christians with an accurate canon of Sacred Scripture. The verses are:
  • 2 Peter 3:15-16
  • 1 John 1:1-4
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 with 2 Peter 1:21
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 with 1 Timothy 5:18
• 2 Peter 3:15-16 reads:
. . . So also our beloved Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. 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.
Let us not be unstable, but rather, admit that St. Peter was not establishing any sacred Table of Contents. St. Peter was the Pope. He was Catholic, so it is intellectually dishonest (or ignorant) for a person to use St. Peter’s Letter as any sort of proof that the Catholic Church was not intrinsically involved with the canon’s formation. But your group does not acknowledge this historical fact, hopes its hearers are equally ignorant, and proceeds to interpret the passage to their own destruction. Your group twists the passage from what it reads to an interpretation that means, “All of St. Paul’s letters are inspired.” And since your already-established Bible contains letters written by St. Paul, your group convinces itself that a large portion of the New Testament is authenticated by the use of St. Peter’s Letter.
It is true that St. Peter was referring to St. Paul’s letters, and your apologists suggest that St. Peter’s reference to St. Paul’s letters provides a self-authenticating proof for the inspiration of all of St. Paul’s letters that are now bound within the New Testament. But it is clear that not all of St. Paul’s letters are inspired, otherwise, the New Testament is missing a portion of God’s written word. The books we now recognize as 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians should probably be called 2 Corinthians and 3 Corinthians, because within 1 Corinthians, St. Paul referred to his previous letter to the Corinthians (cf. 5:9), which we no longer possess. He also referred to a letter to La-odice’a (cf. Colossians 4:16).1 And perhaps he wrote additional letters to the Corinthians that we do not know about! So is the New Testament complete? And if your theory (that the Protestant Church of Christ is in fact the nascent Church) were correct, if the Protestant Church of Christ somehow existed prior to your 19th century formation, and if it were the true Church established by Christ as guardians of the true Deposit of Faith, then why did it not preserve St. Paul’s letters—letters that you, if consistent, must regard as inspired? If St. Peter called such writings scripture, then your stewardship, not the Catholic Church’s, should be questioned.
If all of St. Paul’s letters are inspired, which is the assumption that your apologists must maintain when they submit this passage as a proof for a self-authenticating Pauline corpus, then should we not worry that the Bible is an imperfect and insufficient code? Has God’s word been lost, and shall it return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11)? Has an iota or a dot passed away (cf. Matthew 5:18)? Your members might then admit that some of St. Paul’s letters were not inspired in order to gloss over such problems, but doing so suggests that your group knowingly presents this passage in a less than forthright manner. Have your converts and children considered these facts before they publicly confess that Jesus is Lord, before they get baptized (or “re-baptized”), prior to entering into a “Bible-only” paradigm? Have they rightly concluded that the very fact of an Apostle writing something down does not constitute his writing as Holy Writ? Have your members considered how such proof demands that the writings of all the Apostles should be scrutinized, should be evaluated in some way, should be determined as inspired or not inspired by a means other than the fact that their Bibles now include them?
The reasonable interpretation of the passage at hand (2 Peter 3:15-16) does not call all of St. Paul’s letters inspired, but rather, calls specific letters By St. Paul scripture, or rather, “all of St Paul’s letters that are scripture are scripture.” The passage does not provide a criterion for placement within the canon; it reveals, simply, that some of St. Paul’s letters are inspired and belong within the Christian canon of Scripture, and it does not explain which letters should or should not be included.
But why even discuss the Pauline corpus without first establishing the status of St. Peter’s Second Letter? Your group has not established why St. Peter’s Second Letter is inspired! If your group could present any reason why St. Peter’s Letter is inspired, and if you could somehow prove that St. Peter meant that only the letters from St. Paul that were later chosen to be placed within the canon are inspired (and his other letters are not inspired), then this passage might serve as a sort of proof for a self-authenticating partial-canon. Of course, it cannot, and it has no recourse, because the only body that offered any authoritative input into the discussion is consciously ignored, yet subconsciously depended on.
Another example of your dependence, as it relates to 2 Peter 3:15-16, is in regards to the Book of Hebrews. Your members believe the Book of Hebrews belongs in the Bible. Hebrews, again, does not claim inspiration for itself, and no other book from the Bible refers to the Book of Hebrews as Scripture. You most likely believe that St. Paul wrote the Book of Hebrews, and since you must believe that St. Peter called all of St. Paul’s letters scripture, you accept the Book of Hebrews as you assume St. Peter had. But St. Peter, within his Letter, did not communicate that the Book of Hebrews was authored by St. Paul. Nor does the Book of Hebrews itself reveal who the author was. In other words, the “Bible only” cannot, in any way, establish the status of the Book of Hebrews. So why do you believe the Book of Hebrews was written by St. Paul and is rightly included within the Christian canon? Could your belief root from the the fact that the Catholic Church has a memory—a Sacred Tradition; other Catholic writings—and you have absorbed her teaching?
Are you aware that the book the Church came to recognize as St. Peter’s Second Letter was one of the last books admitted to the Christian canon? The early Church Fathers debated its status more than most writings that are now in the New Testament; Martin Luther (a 16th century Reformer) was suspicious of 2 Peter as well, but not as much as Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation—all of which he tried to remove from the New Testament canon. As a thought experiment, imagine if Luther had his way and successfully removed four books from the New Testament. Would your group not have simply accepted his canon, which would be the canon that your group would have been born under? If you think your group would not have blindly accepted Luther’s New Testament canon, then answer to yourself why it in fact accepts Luther’s final Old Testament canon!
So how does the passage that you present as proof for the Pauline corpus’ status hinge upon a passage that had not yet been regarded as inspired? Did your not-yet existing group privately interpret St. Peter’s Letter—a Letter that had not yet been recognized as inspired—to determine that St. Paul’s letters were inspired? If so, then was your group not consulting an “extra-biblical” source at least as authoritative as the Pauline portions it wished to verify? Of course, you would counter by stating that St. Peter’s Letter was inspired even if the Church had not come to know it as such, which is true. But the fact is that if your group existed, and if your group did consult St. Peter’s Letter for clues as to whether or not St. Paul’s letters are inspired, then your group would have in fact consciously consulted material that it did not recognize as inspired—what it knew as Scripture was not its ultimate authority.
Clearly, your apologists’ attempt to eradicate any Catholic input from the Bible’s formation, and its desire to establish a self-authenticating canon of Scripture is not aided by their use of 2 Peter 3:15-16. The very use of the passage to prove that St. Paul’s letters are inspired presupposes the inspiration of St. Peter’s Second Letter, and inadvertently presupposes the authority of the first Pope and the Catholic Church.
Your group, however, must endure the embarrassment that its position forces upon itself. Without it, the “Bible only” could not establish the status of a large portion of the New Testament; and your members would become vulnerable to a more reasonable, and Catholic, alternative.
• 1 John 1:1-4 reads:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.
St. John was Catholic, so even if this verse, in any way, could provide an argument for a self-authenticating canon, it is impossible for the passage to provide support for a canon that is not dependent on the Catholic Church. And one can read the passage as many times as she would like, but she would not find any support whatsoever for a self-authenticating canon. Professional Protestant Church of Christ anti-Catholic blogger and preacher Scott J. Shifferd explained how your group uses the passage.2 Shifferd chose a Bible version that translates the last sentence of the passage as These things we write to you (which is fine). He explained that St. John’s use of the words These things we write to you are understood by your group as an indication that all the apostolic writings are Scripture. Shifferd’s problem, of course, is that the passage communicates nothing of the sort. But the passage is not what is important to Shifferd or others who must argue against the Catholic Church’s construction of the Christian canon and for their theory of a self-authenticating canon. In other words, Shifferd and your apologists want the world to ignore the circular logic that your group promotes: that “the Bible says what the Bible is,” or, “St. John’s writings are inspired because St. John’s writings say they are inspired.” Should we not all, then, become Mormon? After all, the Book of Mormon actually claims inspiration for itself! But the Restorationist Mormons actually have a better argument than your Restorationist community, because 1 John 1:1-4 does not, in any way, claim that it is inspired or that any apostolic writing is inspired.
And of course, just as with the previous passage (2 Peter 3:15-16), your apologists cannot account for the inspiration of the primary passage at hand. Therefore, any resulting interpretation of the primary passage that results in a declaration of another book’s status cannot be fully trusted as inspired. This passage is not evidence for the inspiration of any book—even of itself or any other letter by the Apostle John. But your group ignores these facts, because it must, by extension, insist that all of the Apostle John’s letters are inspired; because there would be no way that your theory of a self-authenticating canon could support the inclusion of St. John’s Gospel, 2nd John, 3rd John, and Revelation unless it convinces itself that the passage means what it does not mean. Not one Johannine book claims inspiration for itself, and not one other biblical book assigns inspiration to the Johannine collection; so you must rely on your unfounded insistence for their inclusionof any book that the Apostle John allegedly wrote.
Could a true “Bible-only” Christian have any reason to believe that John’s Revelation is inspired? Why do you believe that the Apostle John wrote it? There were many “Johns” that could have written Revelation, but you assume that it was the Apostle, and therefore, conclude that Revelation deserves inclusion within the Christian canon. Is it not the Catholic Church’s Tradition that has created your presupposed cultural acceptance of St. John’s authorship that you rely on for your belief in Revelation’s inspiration? If your reliance is not on the Catholic Church’s Sacred Tradition, then what extra-biblical source are you relying on? Which extra-biblical source are you using to, in fact, prove to your more-discerning observers, that the Christian canon is not self-authenticating—prove that the “Bible only” cannot be your sole authority on matters of religion!
Now let us assume that your intelligentsia does in fact believe what it expects Catholic Christians and the world to believe. Does the very fact that an Apostle wrote a letter, treatise, or instructions prove that such writings are inspired and belong in the Bible? If all the apostolic writings are inspired, then is the Protestant Bible complete even though it is missing at least one letter by St. Paul? If your interpretation of 1 John 1:1-4 is that all the apostolic writings are inspired, which is precisely what your group expects Catholics and the world to believe, then you must also admit that your Bible has been corrupted and is an imperfect code—is unable to provide you with a trustworthy pattern from which to imitate. Or, perhaps, your interpretation is correct only when your community must provide a desperate argument for its Catholic-less canonical certitude?
The earliest extra-biblical Church document we have is called The Didache, also called The Teachings of the Twelve, and it may have been composed by the Apostles or their schools as early as A.D. 70. (I addressed The Didache here as it relates to ancient modes of Baptism.) Its authorship is no more spurious than the Book of Hebrews or Revelation, yet your group does not recognize it as inspired. The Catholic Church of Christ does not recognize The Didache as inspired either, but the Catholic Church does not force 1 John 1:1-4 to mean that all the apostolic writings are inspired; your group does! Put differently, your group has no reason to believe that some of the books now included within the New Testament are inspired as proved by their alleged apostolic authorship, while The Didache is rightly not included within the New Testament even though it possesses similar apostolic status. In other words, your forced interpretation of the primary passage is not reasonable, and your group, as proved by its inconsistent use of its interpretation and acceptance of a canon that both includes and excludes apostolic writings, does not even believe its own argument for a self-authenticating canon. Why, then, should anyone else believe it?
The most sober understanding of St. John’s passage is precisely what he wrote, which is that we (the Apostles) wrote sothat our (Apostles’ and readers’) joy may be complete. The text contains no hint, no clue, no inference, nothing at all that might suggest that all apostolic writings are inspired. Nor does the text offer any reason to assume that, specifically, all of St. John’s writings are inspired. And it is a fact that the early Church not only wrestled with the status of St. John’s writings, but with the discernment of which writings are authored by, and not authored by, St. John. The Johannine collection is not found in the Bible because the Johannine collection says it belongs in the Bible, because it certainly does not say that; it is found in the Bible because an extra-biblical authority had determined that it belongs there. And the now-determined apostolic writings are not found in the Bible because the apostolic writings say they belong in the Bible, because they certainly do not say that either; they are found in the Bible because an extra-biblical authority had determined that they belong there.
• 2 Timothy 3:16 with 2 Peter 1:21 (New International Version) read: All scripture is inspired by God . . . , [and] . . . prophets . . . spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
I explain St. Paul’s passage more in depth here when I illustrate how St. Paul does not support the Protestant Church of Christ’s belief in “Bible-only” Christianity. But for now, I will show you how your group wrongly uses his passage as a proof for its theory that the New Testament is self-authenticating and independent of Catholic inspiration and authority.
As these passages relate to this topic, your group draws on its interpretation (not the words) of the texts, which is that God alone orchestrated and performed the Bible’s deliverance to the world. When Catholics assert that the Catholic Church gave the world the Bible, your members normally react by saying something to the effect of, “God gave us the Bible.” But the Catholic Church of Christ agrees with your group (or rather, your group agrees with the Catholic Church); God gave the world the Bible! The Catholic Church, however, does not rely on an unreflective and simplistic dismissal—a denial of the fact that God gave the world the Bible by using the Christian Church as its deliverer. (I am primarily addressing the New Testament’s origin and compilation.) Absolutely, all scripture is inspired by God, . . . carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16 Revised Standard Version; 2 Peter 1:21 NIV), but the Catholic Church recognizes the fact that God chose specific men who were moved by the Holy Spirit and who spoke from God (2 Peter 1:21 RSV). The holy men of God who spoke (Douay-Rheims) were real, were in communion with a specific primitive ecclesial structure, and that structure was the house of God, the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15 RSV). Do you believe your community is the pillar and ground of truth, or do you believe that the Protestant canon of Scripture is the pillar and ground of truth? Can you deny your principle—that the Bible is your purported “sole authority”—and appeal to the house of God for religious truth? Does the language of the inspired text not suggest that it is the Catholic Church who was, and is, the agent whom God chose, and chooses, to deliver His written word?
The house of God is real, and it is Catholic. Is it not the Catholic Church who calls herself the house of God? Is it not the Catholic house of God that, as proved by her own writing in this very verse, appeals to a body of inspired men and not the “Bible only”? Does your community follow this pattern?
Did Jesus’ Incarnation not involve a woman? Are you also so suspicious of Mary’s Catholic characteristics that you cannot admit that she was the deliverer of the Deliverer–the Mother of God–or that she was even real! Would it be honest to argue that God did not choose a specific woman as the ark who would tent Jesus and deliver the Word Incarnate? Was the Holy Spirit who would come upon her and overshadow her (Luke 1:35) a different spirit than He who carried along the holy men of God? But your group denies the fact that the holy men to whom God entrusted to present His God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV) Holy Writ were Catholic, but rather, either unimportant vessels who are not worthy of the honor that the God-breathed texts ascribe to them, or were latent and pre-existent Protestant Church of Christ sympathizers. Put differently, the denial of the Catholic Church’s intrinsic involvement with God’s gift of Christian Scripture is as vapid as suggesting that Jesus was not sent forth . . . , born of a woman (Galatians 4:4 RSV).
All Catholic generations call Mary blessed (Luke 1:48), and all Catholic generations know where the Bible came from as well. The few generations of Restorationist Christians who have walked the earth have never called Mary blessed (is she not “just a good woman” to you?), so it would be quite out of character if your group were to thank the Church for her motherhood in delivering the written word of God.
• 2 Timothy 3:16 with 1 Timothy 5:18 read: All scripture is inspired by God . . . , [and] . . . for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
The Protestant Church of Christ combines these two passages, and presents them as meaning, “The Protestant Old Testament and the now-formed New Testament are all Scripture, and therefore, all that should be in the Bible is what we have in our own Bibles.” This meaning is, of course, circular (the Bible establishes the Bible), but it also implies that St. Paul somehow knew that some of his own letters would become Scripture, and he knew that all of the other writings that are now in the New Testament—even writings that had not yet been written—would become Scripture. And since St. Paul, here, is quoting from both the Old Testament and what would become part of the New Testament, your apologists conclude that the nascent Church would resemble modern “Bible-only” communities.
That is the full-view illogic of your position, but let us zoom in. St. Paul rightly taught St. Timothy in his Second Letter that all scripture is inspired by God. And in his First Letter, St. Paul referred to Deuteronomy 25:4 (You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.) and the Gospel of St. Luke 10:7 (The laborer deserves his wages.) as scripture. And since St. Paul referred to a book from the Old Testament and a book that is now included in the New Testament, your apologists insist that St. Paul was referring to the Bible as we enjoy it today.
St. Paul indeed referred to St. Luke’s Gospel as Scripture, and that is one reason why the Catholic Church knows that his Gospel deserves residence in the canon of Christian Scripture. Does St. Paul, in this passage, mention any of the other twenty-six books that are in the New Testament? Do your apologists typically address how St. Paul did not endorse the other twenty-six books of the New Testament, but only St. Luke’s Gospel? Instead, they force St. Paul to have written what he did not write, which is that all the New Testament books were (evidently) written, discerned, canonized, and bound as a single volume by the time he quoted St. Luke’s Gospel.
Consider, now, how your group has gravitated to a meaning that St. Paul clearly did not communicate, and how it avoids what he clearly did communicate. One does not need to search a different Letter (1 Timothy) to find out what St. Paul was in fact calling scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16 because he explained what Scriptures he was referring to in verse 15. He wrote, How from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings. So it is clear that St. Paul did recognize that the writings St. Timothy knew from childhood are sacred—that the Old Testament writings, not the later-formed New Testament canon, are Sacred Scripture.
When analyzed, your conjoined use of the passages at hand does not support your group’s desire for a Catholic-less self-authenticating canon; it supports the Catholic Church’s understanding that St. Paul recognized the Old Testament as Scripture, and that there were some writings such as St. Luke’s Gospel that were used within Liturgy and regarded as inspired. But it does not support your theory of a self-authenticating canon because such passages cannot be proved inspired by the “Bible only” (according to your own Rule). And even if they were proved inspired by the “Bible only”, they do not address the status of eighty-nine percent (twenty-four of twenty-seven books; the New Testament less Luke’s Gospel, 1 Timothy, and 2 Timothy) of the now-discerned New Testament’s Table of Contents from which your group circularly argues.
• 
These are some of the problems that disprove your theory of a self-authenticating canon. But there is one more principle that members of your group should think about: how they know that the New Testament is complete; how they know that public revelation ceased upon the death of the last Apostle.
Your group believes that the New Testament is closed, and rightly so; the Catholic Church believes that it is closed as well. However, your group has no way of knowing from the “Bible only” if the twenty-seven books that comprise the New Testament are all that God intended for us to recognize as New Testament Scripture. How do you know there should not be a twenty-eighth, or twenty-ninth book? Some of your members present Revelation 22:18 as a proof that the Bible is closed: I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, . . .
One problem with this proof is that the “Bible” did not yet exist (the “Bible was not a book), and so this book refers to the Book of Revelation only. There are other passages in Scripture with similar language. Consider: You shall not add to the word which I command you (Deuteronomy 4:2). Perhaps, then, we should deny every proceeding verse from Deuteronomy, such as: . . . you shall not add to it or take from it (12:32). Should we deny every book that was written after Deuteronomy? Should the canon have been closed after Proverbs? Surely, if Revelation teaches that the canon is closed, then Do not add to his words (Proverbs 30:6) teaches that the Old Testament canon ends with Proverbs!
But some of your members are less “Fundamentalist” than others, and rightly know that “the word of God” includes the entirety of God’s public revelation, and know not to force a specific proof-text as the chronological end-point for public revelation. However, the problem of proving the closure of public revelation from the “Bible only” remains. The best argument your group provides is from Jude 3:
Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (emphasis added).
In the Protestant Church of Christ’s collective mind, the faith is essentially synonymous with “the Bible,” so if the faith was once delivered, then, in your minds, the full canon of Christian Scripture was once delivered. (The Catholic Church recognizes that “the faith” and “the Bible” are different things.) The first problem, of course, is your inability to provide a non-circular argument for the inspiration of the Book of Jude; and then you must explain how this passage can somehow evade the same problem that Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and Revelation have. Jude was most likely not the last written book of the New Testament; most scholars believe that 2 Peter was written after it. Unless Jude was the last written book of the now-determined canon, the author did not intend to communicate that the canon should be forever closed. It is true that Jude was one of the last letters written, and you are right in that regard; but Jude was also one of the last books admitted to the Christian canon. The Church had not declared Jude as inspired for centuries, which hints to a logical conclusion that you should consider: if Jude provides your proof-text for a closed canon, then the Church either appealed to “an extra-biblical” writing to determine the canon, or it determined the canon by its own authority. In other words, your group’s use of Jude 3 as an argument for the closure of public revelation inadvertently establishes your reliance on Catholic inspiration and authority.
Where does your belief come from? Why do you believe the canon is closed? What extra-biblical authority has heard and answered your appeal? Though you deny it, your belief is a Catholic leftover, a precious artifact from the ancient and living Sacred Tradition that you have not fully abandoned. But let us consider your belief that the canon was closed at the death of the last Apostle; does your belief not allow for other texts that were in fact written before the death of the last Apostle to be included within the canon?
The Didache, as I already mentioned, was written before the death of the last Apostle, and it was likely written by the Apostles themselves. As such, The Didache achieves your presumed criteria for inclusion, yet you somehow rightly know that it should not be a part of the Christian canon. We have writings by Polycarp, who died in A.D. 156, who was a disciple of the Apostle John. We also have writings by Ignatius of Antioch who was martyred around A.D. 107. Consider  St. Clement (a successor of St. Peter; the fourth pope), who died in A.D. 99. St. Clement wrote a letter to the Corinthians that we now call 1 Clement. His letter was read within the Church before the death of the last Apostle, yet you do not believe his Letter is inspired. St. Clement was a close associate to the Apostles, yet his writings are not canonical while other associates of the Apostles  (such as St. Mark) are, and his Letter was so highly regarded that many bishops in the Church were convinced that it was in fact inspired; it was circulated and read within the Church for centuries. But the Catholic Magisterium with her authority made a decision, and its decision was that 1 Clement was not inspired. There was absolutely no “biblical” way of knowing if 1 Clement was inspired or not—the “Bible” was not yet a finalized collection of books. What magisterium other than that of the Catholic Church do you think you have submitted to when you accept only the twenty-seven books that are now in your Bible as the only inspired New Testament writings?
The Bible, like Jesus, has a mother who gave it flesh. The written word, like the Incarnate Word, has a mother who protected it when it was young and vulnerable. The Bible has a mother who knows it and understands it more than any other body. Catholic Christians are not threatened by the very real facts that surround the Bible’s authorship, compilation, and canonization. The Protestant Church of Christ, however, must argue for the Bible’s hopeful Catholic-less origins and for its Catholic-less self-authentication in order to remain true to its antipathy for the Catholic Church, and to support its own founding, though anti-biblical, principle: sola Scriptura.
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    All written material is property of Patrick Vandapool. All rights reserved.
1 Some scholars argue that St. Paul’s letter to La-odice’a is his letter to the Ephesians.
2 Available at godsbreath.net/2012/06/25/patrick-vandapool-1/ as of July 14, 2014.
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