For many Christians today, there is only one authoritative way to know what Jesus taught and what he wanted passed down regarding the faith. That one authoritative foundation is what is known as the “Holy Bible.” But, is that true?
Well, first of all, before he ascended to heaven, Jesus told the apostles, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age (Matt. 28:18-20).” He ordered them to teach everything he commanded, but Jesus never wrote anything down or told anyone else to write anything down. It was up to the apostles to hand on the faith by word of mouth. They began to spread the faith and began to come together as a community of believers on the “Lord’s Day”and break bread as Jesus commanded.
If we look to the New Testament scriptures, St. Paul helps us begin to see more fully the nature of handing on the faith in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, when he says, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” It is here that we see that some teachings were handed down to the Church through the written word (Sacred Scripture) and some are handed down through oral or what is called “living Sacred Tradition.”
Once the Church grew, letters to certain locations were written and sent by St. Paul and some of the other apostles containing what the faith was about. Nobody was walking around with a Bible tucked under their arms back then. If you wanted to hear scripture, you had to go to the Church. In fact, the “pillar of truth” of the Christian faith was not the scriptures but was the Church Jesus established, what we know today as the Catholic Church. St. Paul says in 1 Timothy: “if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth (3:15).”
Shortly before 400 A. D. a General Council of the Catholic Church, using the infallible authority which Christ had given to His own divine institution, finally decided which books really belonged to the New Testament and which did not. The Bible that every Christian holds in their hand today, was given to them by the authority of the Catholic Church, whether they know it or not.
The Bible is a Catholic book. The Catholic monks; in many cases spent their entire lives to give the world personally-penned copies of the Scriptures, before printing was invented in the 1500’s. Up until then, 90-95 percent of the people were illiterate. So, if someone wanted to know what Scripture said for the first 1500 years the Church existed, they had to go to Mass.
As far as sacred scripture being the only way we received the faith that Jesus wanted us to have, all we have to do is look to the Gospel of John where he says, “This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written (John 21:24-25).”
Until next time, God bless.