Skip to comments.How Tradition Gave Us the Bible
Posted on 02/06/2006 1:02:10 PM PST by NYer
It's still a jolt for some people to realize this, but the Bible did not fall down out of the sky, leather-bound and gold-monogrammed with the words of Christ in red, in 95 AD. Rather the canon of Christian Scripture slowly developed over a period of about 1500 years. That does not mean, of course, that Scripture was being written for 1500 years after the life of Christ. Rather, it means that it took the Church some fifteen centuries to formally and definitively state which books out of the great mass of early Christian and pseudo-Christian books constituted the Bible.
The process of defining the canon of Scripture is an example of what the Church calls "development of doctrine". This is a different thing than "innovation of doctrine". Doctrine develops as a baby develops into a man, not as a baby grows extra noses, eyes, and hands. An innovation of doctrine would be if the Church declared something flatly contrary to all previous teaching ("Pope John Paul Ringo I Declares the Doctrine of the Trinity to No Longer Be the Teaching of the Church: Bishop Celebrate by Playing Tiddly Winks with So-Called 'Blessed Sacrament'"). It is against such flat reversals of Christian teaching that the promise of the Spirit to guard the apostolic Tradition stands. And, in fact, there has never ever been a time when the Church has reversed its dogmatic teaching. (Prudential and disciplinary changes are another matter. The Church is not eternally wedded to, for instance, unmarried priests, as the wife of St. Peter can tell you.)
But though innovations in doctrine are not possible, developments of doctrine occur all the time and these tend to apply old teaching to new situations or to more completely articulate ancient teaching that has not been fully fleshed out. So, for example, in our own day the Church teaches against the evils of embryonic stem cell research even though the New Testament has nothing to say on the matter. Yet nobody in his five wits claims that the present Church "invented" opposition to embryonic stem cell research from thin air. We all understand that the Church, by the very nature of its Tradition, has said "You shall not kill" for 2,000 years. It merely took the folly of modern embryonic stem cell research to cause the Church to apply its Tradition to this concrete situation and declare what it has always believed.
Very well then, as with attacks on sacred human life in the 21st century, so with attacks on Sacred Tradition in the previous twenty. Jesus establishes the Tradition that he has not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them (Mt 5:17). But when Tradition bumps into the theories of early Jewish Christians that all Gentiles must be circumcised in order to become Christians, the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) is still necessary to authoritatively flesh that Tradition out. Moreover, the Council settles the question by calling the Bible, not to the judge's bench, but to the witness stand. Scripture bears witness to the call of the Gentiles, but the final judgment depends on the authority of Christ speaking through his apostles and elders whose inspired declaration is not "The Bible says..." but "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." (Acts 15:28).
In all this, the Church, as ever, inseparably unites Scripture as the light and Sacred Tradition as the lens through which it is focused. In this way the mustard seed of the Kingdom continues to grow in that light, getting more mustardy, not less.
How then did Tradition develop with respect to the canon of Scripture?
In some cases, the Church in both east and west has a clear memory of just who wrote a given book and could remind the faithful of this. So, for instance, when a second century heretic named Marcion proposed to delete the Old Testament as the product of an evil god and canonize the letters of Paul (but with all those nasty Old Testament quotes snipped out), and a similarly edited gospel of Luke (sanitized of contact with Judaism for your protection), the Church responded with local bishops (in areas affected by Marcion's heresy) proposing the first canons of Scripture.
Note that the Church seldom defines its teaching (and is in fact disinclined to define it) till some challenge to the Faith (in this case, Marcion) forces it to do so. When Marcion tries to take away from the Tradition of Scripture by deleting Matthew, Mark and John and other undesirable books, the Church applies the basic measuring rod of Tradition and says, "This does not agree with the Tradition that was handed down to us, which remembers that Matthew wrote Matthew, Mark wrote Mark and John wrote John.
Matthew also issued among the Hebrews a written Gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were evangelizing in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also handed down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord who reclined at his bosom also published a Gospel, while he was residing at Ephesus in Asia. (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 3, 1, 1)
In other words, there is, we might say, a Standard of Roots (based on Sacred Tradition) by which the Church weighs her canon. So when various other heretics, instead of trying to subtract from the generally received collection of holy books, instead try to add the Gospel of Thomas or any one of a zillion other ersatz works to the Church's written Tradition, the Church can point to the fact that, whatever the name on the label says, the contents do not square with the Tradition of the Church, so it must be a fake. In other words, there is also a Standard of Fruits. It is this dual standard of Roots and Fruits by which the Church discerns the canon -- a dual standard which is wholly based on Sacred Tradition. The Church said, in essence, "Does the book have a widespread and ancient tradition concerning its apostolic origin and/or approval? Check. Does the book square with the Tradition we all learned from the apostles and the bishops they gave us? Check. Then it is to be used in public worship and is to be regarded as the word of God."
It was on this basis the early Church also vetoed some books and accepted others -- including the still-contested-by-some-Protestants deuterocanonical books of Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach and Baruch as well as some pieces of Daniel and Esther. For the churches founded by the apostles could trace the use of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament in public worship (a Greek translation of the Old Testament which includes all these books) back to the apostles. In fact, many of the citations of Old Testament Scripture by the New Testament writers are, in fact, citations of the Septuagint (see, for example, Mark 7:6-7, Hebrews 10:5-7). Therefore, the Body of Christ living after the apostles simply retained the apostles' practice of using the Septuagint on the thoroughly traditional grounds, "If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us." In contrast, the churches had no apostolic tradition handed down concerning the use of, say, the works of the Cretan poet Epimenides (whom Paul quotes in Acts 17), therefore they did not regard his works as Scripture, even though Paul quotes him. It was by their roots and fruits that the Church's books were judged, and it was by the standard of Sacred Tradition that these roots and fruits were known.
These Root and Fruit standards are even more clearly at work in the canonization of the New Testament, especially in the case of Hebrews. There was, in fact, a certain amount of controversy in the early Church over the canonicity of this book (as well as of books like 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation). Some Fathers, especially in the west, rejected Hebrews (in no small part because of its lack of a signature). Yet the Church eventually accepted it. How? It was judged apostolic because, in the end, the Church discerned that it met the Roots and Fruits measure when stacked up against Sacred Tradition.
The Body of Christ had long believed that Hebrews said the same thing as the Church's Sacred Tradition handed down by the bishops. Thus, even Fathers (like Irenaeus) who rejected it from their canon of inspired Scripture still regarded it as a good book. That is, it had always met the Fruits standard. How then did it meet the Roots standard? In a nutshell, despite the lack of attestation in the text of Hebrews itself, there was an ancient tradition in the Church (beginning in the East, where the book was apparently first sent) that the book originated from the pen of St. Paul. That tradition, which was at first better attested in the east than in the west (instantaneous mass communication being still some years in the future) accounts for the slowness of western Fathers (such as Irenaeus) to accept the book. But the deep-rootedness of the tradition of Pauline authorship in the East eventually persuaded the whole Church. In short, as with the question of circumcision in the book of Acts, the status of Hebrews was not immediately clear even to the honest and faithful (such as Irenaeus). However, the Church in council, trusting in the guidance of Holy Spirit, eventually came to consensus and canonized the book on exactly the same basis that the Council of Jerusalem promulgated its authoritative decree: "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..."
Conversely, those books which the Church did not canonize as part of the New Testament were rejected because, in the end, they did not meet both the Root and Fruit standards of the Church's Sacred Tradition. Books like the Didache or the Shepherd of Hermas, while meeting the Fruit standard, were not judged to meet the Root standard since their authors were not held to be close enough to the apostolic circle -- a circle which was, in the end, drawn very narrowly by the Spirit-led Church and which therefore excluded even Clement since he, being "in the third place from the Apostles" was not as close to the apostles as Mark and Luke (who were regarded as recording the gospels of Peter and Paul, respectively). The Church, arch-conservative as ever, relied on Sacred Tradition, not to keep adding to the New Testament revelation but to keep it as lean and close to the apostles as possible. This, of course, is why books which met neither the Root nor Fruit standards of Sacred Tradition, such as the Gospel of Thomas, were rejected by the Church without hesitation as completely spurious.
Not that this took place overnight. The canon of Scripture did not assume its present shape till the end of the fourth century. It was defined at the regional Councils of Carthage and Hippo and also by Pope Damasus and included the deuterocanonical books. It is worth noting, however, that, because these decisions were regional, none of them were dogmatically binding on the whole Church, though they clearly reflected the Sacred Tradition of the Church (which is why the Vulgate or Latin Bible--which was The Bible for the Catholic Church in the West for the next 1200 years looks the same as the Catholic Bible today). Once again, we are looking at Sacred Tradition which is not fully developed until a) the Reformation tries to subtract deuterocanonical books from Scripture and b) the Council of Trent in the mid-1500s finally makes that Tradition fixed and binding. This is the origin of the myth that the Catholic Church "added" the deuterocanonical books to Scripture at Trent. It is as historically accurate as the claim that the Catholic Church "added" opposition to embryonic stem cell research to its tradition during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.
In summary then, the early Church canonized books because they were attested by apostolic tradition. The books we have in our Bibles (and the ones we don't) were accepted or rejected according to whether they did or did not measure up to standards which were based entirely on Sacred Tradition and the divinely delegated authority of the Body of Christ.
In for a penny, in for a pound. dude.
I see Peter preaching the Gospel to gentiles and marvelling at the Spirit they received--just as the Apostles themselves had.
Then later see Peter try to apply rules to gentiles that God never required.
Peter gave a defense of the gentiles in numerous places in Acts. He was rebuked by Paul not for a matter of faith but for matter of custom. Peter lived among and ate with the gentiles until joined by men from James. Then he held himself aloof from the gentiles according to Jewish sensibilities. Paul slams him for not living the Gospel he was preaching. NOWHERE does Peter retract that "saved by grace" stuff nor backstab Paul (after Paul has been accepted).
First, go down to the corner store.
Second, walk three miles.
Third, write down what you saw along the way.
Fourth, get back to me with what you discovered.
Translation: I'm not going on a goosehunt for your point. You make it.
If you would like to believe Peter was in Rome that is fine....but I know from scripture that Peter was appointed Apostle to the circumcised. Rome was Gentile. The scriptures do not have Peter in or anywhere near Rome. Do you think this odd if he later would be your "Rock"?
You base your assumptions entirely on Tradition....I base mine on the Word of God.
No we believe that the word was made flesh and dwelt among us and that the God of Scripture is also the God of history.
You must be proud.
of your antisemitism that is
I woulnd't buy anything from him!
If he can't even get it straight WHO gave us the Bible, I wouldn't trust him with anything. He's a blasphemer!
 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Oh great. There goes the party...
Romans 15:20....Paul says he would never preach upon another man's foundation."
You also said:
but I know from scripture that Peter was appointed Apostle to the circumcised.
Rome was Gentile
If this be the case, as you are presenting it, what do you make of Paul's letter to the Thessalonians?
Thessalonica was in Macedonia. Also a Gentile city. So Gentile, in fact, Paul and Timothy were prohibited from preaching to the Gentiles there.
Well to whom then did they preach? The "circumcised". In the synagogue there.
So, let's look at what you're saying:
1) Rome is Gentile. Therefore, there were no "circumcised" men for Peter to be the "Apostle to the Circumcised". This is faulty premise. There were many Christianized Jews living in Rome who were driven out of Jerusalem by the persecuting zealots.
2) Peter was Apostle to the circumcised. Paul was Apostle to the Gentiles (according to Galations 2:9). How does that square with Paul preaching solely to the Jews in Thessalonica? Sounds a lot like Paul was preaching "on another man's foundation" (if that was Peter's assigned flock, as you contend.)
Additionally, 1 Peter 5:13 states...
"The church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you: and so doth my son Mark"
Babylon, as I've said, was code for "Rome". Babylon proper was laying in ruins when Peter wrote this letter. It was not an inhabited city.
You base your assumptions entirely on Tradition....I base mine on the Word of God.
LOL! I've done nothing but cite Scripture as a foundation, with support from accepted historical facts. You've done nothing but repeat the same "do-it-yourself" theology over and over again, while ignoring the entirety of Sacred Scripture and accepted history.
The scriptures do not have Peter in or anywhere near Rome. Do you think this odd if he later would be your "Rock"?
You haven't answered any of my questions. You've done nothing but evade and then set up straw men because your position is rife with error. I've already addressed the issue of what IS and what ISN'T explicitly in Scripture and its relationship with accepted fact.
They were just warming up. Time to send in the clowns.
If this is your idea of basic reading comprehension, I highly doubt your ability to comprehend the Bible.
If we need no man to 'mediate' for us, why did Jesus direct his disciples to go and preach and teach the Scriptures?
So you celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday?
On the 7th day which happens to have been falling on gregorian saturdays. And since I'm Jewish its only natural.
However when God speaks through them they are not liars as is the case with the writing of the Bible.
In the past 2000 years, How would the Church, in your eyes, recognize His Voice since we can only look to Words written 2000 years ago? Or has He been silent and leaving us to our own reading comprehension?
I notice that all of the Catholics in this debate have nothing to fall back on but the logical fallacy of the appeal to tradition. Some of you, like Tex there, have also depended on appeal to ridicule and ad hominem.
This simply demonstrates to everyone that you do not trust the Scriptures to back you up in your beliefs and practices, since none of you have taken me up on my challenge to show me my error from the Scriptures.
Until one of you does so, you've lost the argument whether you recognize it or not, for Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Christ, whom you claim as your Lord, esteemed one word of Scripture above all of the centuries of tradition that the Pharisees and Sadducees claimed, and was willing to stand on them alone. If you truly follow Him, go and do likewise.
Nice try. Point out the sins of Catholics and that's quite politically correct. Point out the sins of Israel and your an anti-Semite. I love when "conservatives" get all leftist on me. You must be proud to belong to the only sinless ethnic group in the world.
I don't take Paul at face value, whatever that means. I also didn't address the contention that it was a verse annointing Peter as the apostle's specisl leader. You asked what the verse meant and I told you. Scripture wasn't written for a few. It was written for all.
"Peter's chair still retains that authority whether you recognize it or not."
You're welcome to believe whatever you want.
Fine. I wouldn't expect you to celebrate your Sabbath on Sunday.
I thought you were leaving. Hardly a reliable voice if you can't even follow through on your proclamations...
If your idea of following Jesus Christ is to barge onto a Catholic thread and spew your vomit, I daresay you don't really believe in Jesus Christ to begin with.
Too bad, so sad Buggman.
*chuckle* True, true. My apologies.
Don't throw down the gauntlet and then act put upon when the other guy picks it up.
Don't confuse me with those who would like you to obsverve Sabbath. I was just correcting you that the 7th day does happen to fall on gregorian saturdays. Be a man and admit you were wrong.
I don't know of a single instance where Catholic hijack Protestant or Jewish threads on FR. It's because we're comfortable with our faith and don't feel the need to impose it on others like those who bow to Mohammad.
BUT - if you're going to bring it, expect it back tenfold.
Your posts here don't entitle you that dignity.
Peter is not the only person to have been given the keys to the kingdom friend. Every believer holds within his "hands" the "keys to the kingdom" in the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I'll take that as a "yes I was wrong".
Okay, fine. I will admit it. You were right. The Jewish Sabbath was and still is observed on Saturdays.
So what anwyay? The Laws of Moses are dead to Christians. What's your purpose here, exactly except spewing your vomit?
What other falsehoods were there?
I'll let ya know next time you let one slip. :-)
I am familiar with ALL of the scripture....
It seems the rules are stacked in YOUR favor. Especially since RC's & EO believe that Holy Tradition must be taken in account......
LOL - so implying that I've put forth falsehoods (plural) is a falsehood in its own right... Actually, there wasn't any "falsehood", just a misunderstanding of the Julian Calendar and its relation to the Jewish Sabbath. A falsehood implies that I already knew the correct answer but purposely posited the wrong answer for my own benefit.
You know, they have a word for people that reject the Trinity.
The first serious heresy to afflict the early Church.
First of all, that's hardly true. There have been any number of times where we've been having an internal discussion about Protestant theology that a Catholic Freeper popped in to try to slam Sola Scriptura.
Secondly, I daresay that if I posted a thread titled, "Why the Roman Catholic Church Didn't Give Us The Scriptures," or even a slightly more subtle, "Idolatry in the Bible," you'd all come running. (And pinging the mod, and hollaring "Catholic-basher!" at the top of your keyboards.)
When Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have threads debating the points between them, I often read, but I don't interfere. When Catholics have threads dealing with purely internal matters, I don't get into them.
But when you guys post yet another thread claiming, "We gave you the Bible (false), so you have to accept all of our other traditions too (also false, even if premise #1 were true)," we have every right to respond. And when you claim to carry on the Apostolic traditions, I have every right to show you from the Scriptures where their practices and Yeshua's teachings are contradictory to yours.
I have argued purely from the Scriptures which we both accept as authoritative. I have invited anyone here to correct me from the Scriptures. You have not done so. I have been polite and on-topic. I have not engaged in any ad-hominems on either anyone here personally nor on anyone not here.
You, suffice to say, have done none of the above. You have gone so low in your latest post as to try to throw the mud of Islam on your opponents. Well, when you throw mud, you not only get your hands dirty, but you lose a lot of ground. And now you want to claim victimhood?
Sorry, it doesn't work that way.
I will thank you not to ping me again to this thread. Have a pleasant day, and God bless.
I suspect this man is a Jehovah's Witness, based on his Arian Views.....
If D-fendr wants to quote from Holy Tradition as commentary on the Scriptures, all well and good--I certainly make it a habit to show how Jewish culture impacts our understanding of the NT, and fair's fair. But again, my challenge is to prove me wrong from the Bible, not to simply repeat the Catholic line to me.
Come now, if you truly believed that the Scriptures and Tradition were in no ways contradictory and that the Scriptures backed you up, you wouldn't be calling this a stacked deck. The only way it's a stacked deck is if the Scriptures are overwhelmingly on my side.
Are you perhaps concerned that that might be the case?
"Furthermore Priests didn't WANT people to read it because they would then see the fallacious teachings and exploitation by the Catholic church."
That is the most ignorant statement I have ever heard!
Learn a little Church History, then maybe you will impress somebody.
The only blasphemy I have read is the stuff you are spouting.
Ugh. I don't think that's acceptable. I've never personally done it and I never will.
"Why the Roman Catholic Church Didn't Give Us The Scriptures," or even a slightly more subtle, "Idolatry in the Bible," you'd all come running.
Frankly, no I wouldn't. I don't believe in proseletyzing, just defending. I don't personally care what you believe or don't believe. And actually, the thread title here is "How Tradition Gave us the Bible". This would be the equivalent of having a thread titled, "Jesus Christ is Lord" and having Jewish FReepers erupt in protest. Instead, here we have Protestants and other non-Catholics chiming in with the proverbial biblical chip on their shoulders. So your scenario does not compute.
You, suffice to say, have done none of the above. You have gone so low in your latest post as to try to throw the mud of Islam on your opponents.
If the shoe fits...
And now you want to claim victimhood?
Everyone's a victim these days. Haven't you heard? Catholics have permission to stop allowing this bigotry to perpetuate itself in places like this.
(And pinging the mod, and hollaring "Catholic-basher!" at the top of your keyboards.)
Bigots are punishment unto themselves. I have no need to involve the thread police.
I will thank you not to ping me again to this thread. Have a pleasant day, and God bless.
I simply state the obvious. It is not ad hominem. As an OC, I am commanded not to debate or argue with those who refuse to accept the truth. If that offends you, well, I am sorry. It is quite obvious that there are points we (RC & OC) are never going to agree on. Maybe we should find something to discuss that we DO. Like the two natures of Christ for example.