Where did the Bible come from? It did not just fall down out of heaven. It was not handed to us from the sky directly by God. So, where did it come from?
Answer: the Catholic Church! It was the Catholic Church that made the Bible, copied it, preserved it, translated it, and gave it to the world!
Even so, there is no shortage of myths and conspiracy theories floating around claiming that the Catholic Church hates the Bible and wielded her power to prevent ordinary people from reading it. Moreover, some sadly assert that Martin Luther found the Bible in the deep recesses of the Vatican and made it available to the world. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
To see our older video on this topic: Click here:
Fact: there were far more Gospels written than just Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There were many more epistles penned as well. It’s estimated that there were over 80 different Gospels all claiming to be “Scripture” or to be written by an Apostle.
The question one must ask is: why does the Bible contain the books it does and not any more or less? Who chose the list of books that would make up the Canon of Scripture? What church did they belong to and what authority did they have?
Where did the Bible Come From?
During the first few centuries of Christianity, there was some agreement as to which books were truly inspired by God, but there was also much disagreement. Thus, various lists, or canons, floated around though none could agree.
When the Gnostic heretic Marcion made his own canon which excluded the entire Old Testament, Origen and other Catholic Christians began working more seriously toward a more authoritative understanding of what was Scripture and what was not Holy Scripture. Most agreed that the four Gospels were inspired, but short of that, almost nobody could agree completely.
For example, many rejected Hebrews and Revelation as inspired, while many others considered the books of Clement, Barnabas, and The Sheperd of Hermas as canonical.
Commissioned by the Pope, early Catholic bishops like St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Athanasius gathered the different manuscripts and sorted through them. At this time, one church may have had the Book of Galatians. Another church in another country might have had the Book of John, and another the letter to Philemon, and so on.
Christians were not sitting around reading the Scriptures. Most may only hear from one or two books in their lifetime. So, these early Catholic leaders collected all the manuscripts and had a great influence on the formation of the Bible. Around 367 A.D., the Athanasius canon was the first to contain the 27 books of the New Testament, and he held that these alone were canonical and inspired.
The Bible is Made:
The official formation of the New Testament and the Bible began in 382 A.D. at the Council of Rome with Pope Damasus I. It was at this Council that the books of the Bible were chosen. Even so, discussions took place and doubts still circulated. Thus, the canon was officially, once and for all, reaffirmed at the smaller Synod of Hippo (Africa) in 393 A.D. and at the Catholic Council of Carthage in 397 A.D..
While St. Jerome and others held some doubts as to the canonicity of a few books, they all fell in line once the Church proclaimed her official declaration on the matter. The 27 New Testament books that the Catholic Church chose are the exact same books that Christians still use today.
The complete bible list of 73 books was ratified by Pope Innocent in 401 A.D. It was then translated into an officially recognized version by St. Jerome, known as the “Vulgate,” which was ratified by Pope Innocent I in 405 A.D.. The Pope himself pronounced these 73 books as the official inspired books of Holy Scripture: “…It is likewise decreed: now, indeed, we must treat of the divine Scriptures: what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she must shun…”
Pope Innocent then listed each and every one of the 73 books just to be clear. This was the same Bible used for over 1,100 years and that Catholics still possess today. Most importantly, the Pope invoked Matthew 16:18-19, the passage in the Bible where Jesus gave Peter the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to bind and loose and make authoritative decisions.
That is why the Catholic Church alone had the authority to proclaim what is and is not Holy Scripture. The Bible in 397 and 405 A.D. is the exact same Bible that Christians used for over 1,100 years until Martin Luther removed seven Old Testament books without any authority to do so. Notably, Luther also spoke contemptuously toward seven New Testament books.
For example, he rejected the book of Revelation as inspired Scripture along with Hebrews and the Third Book of John, for example. He also despised the book of James, among others. Here are just a couple of quotes:
Regarding James: “…Away with James, his authority is not great enough to cause me to abandon the doctrine of faith [alone] and to deviate from the authority of the other apostles and the entire Scripture. St. James’s epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it…I almost feel like throwing Jimmy into the stove…” (Luther’s Collected Works).
Regarding Revelation: “…There are many things objectionable in this book. To my mind, it bears upon it no mark of an apostolic or prophetic character,…everyone may form his own judgment of this book, but as for me, I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is sufficient reason for rejecting it…” (Luther’s Collected Works, 63, 169-170 – as quoted in The Facts about Luther).
And, people claim that Luther was the savior of the Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth. Due to Protestants changing the Word of God and hacking up Sacred Scripture, the Council of Trent in 1546 dogmatically re-defined and re-confirmed the books of Holy Scripture that were there from the beginning.
No man has the authority to add or remove books from Holy Scripture. Protestants always quote the Bible saying that you cannot “add or remove” anything from Scripture, and yet Luther did exactly that and with zero authority to do so.
The Catholic Truth:
The Catholic Church, under the inspiration and authority of the Holy Spirit, infallibly chose the Canon of Scripture and put the Bible under one cover as we know it today. Keep in mind that there was no Bible for almost 400 years. However, thanks to the Catholic Church, the world now has the Bible.
In our next article, we will show how the Catholic Church then copied the Scriptures for over a thousand years, translated them, and gave them to the world. The very first Bible ever printed on the Printing Press was the Catholic version of Holy Scripture.
That is the Catholic truth. As an aside, some Christians claim to go by the “Bible alone” while disregarding the Church and her authority. They claim to only follow what is in Scripture, and yet, the Bible itself does not present to us a list of inspired books or a table of contents of which books are Scripture and which ones are not.
It is impossible then to use the Bible alone to come up with a canon of Scripture. For this, we must appeal to an outside authority. That authority was the Catholic Church and the Tradition passed down by Christians.
A very reliable tradition told us that Matthew wrote Matthew and that Mark wrote Mark. The Bible itself does not state this. The Church relied on this tradition to compare the different books and to match up their claims with what Jesus said and what was passed down to us through the centuries.
In order to be considered for the canon, the Gospel or Epistle had to be written in the first century and match up to the constant Tradition of the Church. Additionally, the author of that book needed to be authenticated as the actual author. In other words, they needed to be known and validated. Thus, Gnostics who wrote books hundreds of years later and claimed that they were written by Peter or Mary Magdalene or another Apostle would necessarily be rejected.
Protestant Scholar and early Church historian J. N. D. Kelly agrees. He states, “Unless a book could be shown to come from the pen of an apostle, or at least to have the authority of an apostle behind it, it was peremptorily rejected, however edifying or popular with the faithful it might be” (Early Christian Doctrines, 60).
In the next article, we will examine how the Bible came down to us through the centuries, why Bibles were chained to pulpits, and how the Catholic Church protected the Scriptures with her life!