A growing number of honest-hearted truth seekers are stumbling over a startling allegation: the claim that the Roman Catholic Church is responsible for providing the world with the Bible as we now know it. It is stated that the Roman Catholic Church, at the Council of Nicæa, selected which writings to include, deciding what books were inspired while rejecting others as uninspired.
If this assertion is true, the problem is immediately apparent: considering how many unscriptural beliefs are taught and practiced by the Roman Catholic Church, how can one be assured that the modern Bible is the word of Yahuwah? What if the Roman Catholic Church rejected some books that should have been included? If Catholicism is responsible for our modern Bible, how can we be sure it is correct?
The idea that the Roman Catholic Church is solely responsible for providing the world with the Holy Bible comes from, not surprisingly, the Roman Catholics themselves. The Faith of Millions: The Credentials of the Catholic Religion clearly spells out the reasoning used for this incredible claim:
It was the Catholic Church which gathered up all these books [of the New Testament], placed them within the covers of a single volume, and thus gave to the world what is known today as the Bible…
1. The New Testament was written in its entirety by Catholics.
2. St. Peter, the first pope of the Catholic Church, is the author of two of its epistles.
3. The Catholic Church determined the canon or list of books to constitute the New Testament.
4. The declaration of the Catholic Church that the books of the New Testament are all inspired by God constitutes the sole authority for the universal belief of both Catholics and Protestants in their inspired character.
5. The Catholic Church existed before the New Testament.
6. The Catholic Church is the mother of the New Testament
If she had not scrutinized carefully the writings of her children, rejecting some and approving others as worthy of inclusion in the canon of the New Testament, there would be no New Testament today.
If she had not declared the books composing the New Testament to be the inspired word of God, we would not know it.
The only authority which non-Catholics have for the inspiration of the Scriptures is the authority of the Catholic Church. If the latter be rejected, there remain no logical grounds for retention of the cardinal tenet of all Protestants – the inspired character of Scripture.1
The author of this incredible statement is being intentionally misleading. He is deliberately twisting words in a crafty, cunning manner. By using the term “Catholic Church” throughout, one is led to assume that the church being referred to is the Roman Catholic Church. However, this is deceptive. The facts of history prove that the Roman Catholic Church did not come into existence until several hundred years after the New Testament was written. Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church could not, in point of fact, be “the mother of the New Testament” nor could it have “existed before the New Testament.” Therefore, the writers of the New Testament could not have been Roman Catholics!
And here is where the deliberate deception enters. The claim is made about the “Catholic Church” not the “Roman Catholic Church” as most readers would assume. The word “catholic” simply means “universal.” So in that sense, it could be argued that the writers of the New Testament were of the “universal” body of believers which did, in fact, exist, before New Testament times. However, the implication that it is only the declaration of the Roman Catholic Church “that the books of the New Testament are all inspired by God constitutes the sole authority for the universal belief of both Catholics and Protestants in their inspired character” is both incorrect and blasphemous.
Such a statement weakens the authority of the Bible and places the Roman Catholic Church in a position superior to Scripture. If the Word of YAH is holy only because the pope declares it to be so, that places the pope in a more important position than Yahuwah Himself, the divine Author.
When viewed in the light of the documented facts of history, such bold claims are revealed to be nothing more than audacious, deceptive boasts.
The Council of Nicæa (AD 322-325) was convened by Constantine I for ecumenical purposes only. He wanted to unify Christianity for his own, secular purposes. It is from this Council that we get the Nicene Creed. No records exist of any discussion at that time pertaining to which books should comprise the sacred canon and which should be left out.
The New Testament as it exists today was in circulation and recognized as inspired long before the Council of Nicæa. All of the books that comprise the New Testament were written by AD 95. Even during Paul’s lifetime, his letters were already in circulation among the early believers. Paul instructed the members in Colossæ: “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” (Colossians 4:16, NKJV. See also, 1 Thessalonians 5:27.)
Justin Martyr by Theophanes the Cretan
By the middle of the second century, the four gospels were being circulated together. Justin Martyr (AD 100-160) did not cite by name any New Testament writing, but did refer to them with “it is recorded” or as “the memoirs of the apostles.” He also refers in the plural to the Gospels: “For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me . . . .”2
Around 170-175 AD Tatian, a disciple of Justin, created a harmony of the four orthodox gospels known as the Diatessaron. This text was accepted in some circles, even being used to replace the four gospels, but this success was short lived. What this harmony reveals, however, is that the church was beginning to recognize only four gospels.3
This is an important point because it clearly rejects all of the Gnostic Gospels, which were written between the second and fourth centuries after Christ. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian all quote from, mention or name all of the books of the New Testament with the exceptions of Philemon, Jude James, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John. Years before the Council of Nicæa, Origen (AD 185-254) mentioned all of the books of both the Old and the New Testaments! Eusebius, who has been called the “Father of Ecclesiastical History,” gave an account of the persecution that occurred under the Emperor Diocletian. He listed all the books of the New Testament. Athanasius, bishop at Alexandria, likewise listed all of the New Testament books. These are all pre-Roman Catholic writers, yet all refer in some way to the books that comprise the New Testament canon.
The Muratorian Canon provides still further conclusive and unique evidence that the New Testament was compiled before and apart from any action of the Roman Catholic Church. This document is a manuscript fragment that contains the oldest known listing of New Testament books. Most scholars believe it was written sometime between AD 170 and AD 200. The only books missing from the listing are Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter and 3 John. It is not a Roman Catholic document.
The Roman Catholic Church as it is today was not in existence during the first three centuries after Christ. It only rose to prominence after the ecumenical efforts of Constantine I legalized Christianity. And even then, it was a process that spanned several centuries.
The very first historical reference to the exact 27 books that make up the New Testament did not appear until well after the Council of Nicæa. In the letter penned by Athanasius, “Easter Letter” of AD 367, all 27 books were listed. The Synod of Hippo (AD 393) apparently referred to a list of writings that could be read in church. Nothing from this synod is still in existence today. It is only known because it was referenced in the Synod of Carthage (AD 397). “Even this historical reference from Carthage, Canon 24, does not ‘list’ every single document. For example, it reads, ‘the gospels, four books…’ The only reason for this list is to confirm which writings are ‘sacred’ and should be read in a church service. There is no comment as to why and how this list was agreed upon.”4
In the light of the foregoing, the boastful claim of the Roman Catholic Church that it has been the sole guardian and preserver of the sacred Scriptures down to the present, is nothing but pure falsehood. The Bible is not a Catholic book. Catholics did not write it, nor does their doctrines and church meet the description of the doctrine and church of which it speaks. The New Testament was completed before the end of the first century, A.D. The things in it do not correspond to the Catholic Church which hundreds of years after the death of the apostles slowly evolved into what it now is. The [Roman] Catholic Church is not the original and true church, but a “church” born of many departures and corruptions from the New Testament church.5
Four criteria were broadly used to determine whether the various writings were inspired by the Spirit of YAH and should be included in the sacred canon:
- The author was either an apostle, closely connected with an apostle or first-hand witness to the events described.
- The book was widely accepted by the body of early believers as being true.
- The doctrines taught were consistent with that taught in other inspired works.
- The writing bore evidence of moral superiority and spiritual values as demonstrated by the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart in response to what was taught in the book.
It is important to understand that no church and no action of men are responsible for Holy Scripture. No council somehow made a book “inspired.” The various statements of the councils merely recognized what the body of believers had already established as inspired writ. Michael J. Kruger, author of The Question of Canon, observes:
When people discover that Nicea did not decide the canon, the follow up question is usually, “Which council did decide the canon?” Surely we could not have a canon without some sort of authoritative, official act of the church by which it was decided. Surely we have a canon because some group of men somewhere voted on it. Right?
This whole line of reasoning reveals a fundamental assumption about the New Testament canon that needs to be corrected, namely that it was (or had to be) decided by a church council. The fact of the matter is that when we look into early church history there is no such council. Sure, there are regional church councils that made declarations about the canon (Laodicea, Hippo, Carthage). But these regional councils did not just “pick” books they happened to like, but affirmed the books they believed had functioned as foundational documents for the Christian faith. In other words, these councils were declaring the way things had been, not the way they wanted them to be.
Thus, these councils did not create, authorize, or determine the canon. They simply were part of the process of recognizing a canon that was already there.6
Yahuwah alone is responsible for providing the world with inspired writings, writings of which He alone is the author. “All scripture is given by inspiration of Yahuwah, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of Yahuwah may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16 and 17)
Study sacred Scripture. Entrust your mind to your Creator. He has pledged to lead you into all truth. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of Yahuwah, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” (James 1:5 and 6)
Accept with confidence that the Bible is the Word of the Omnipotent One to you, personally. Wisdom and understanding will be given to all who commit themselves to know Yahuwah through His Word.