by Matt Slick
Roman Catholics often say that it was their church that gave us the Bible. They sometimes claim this when defending their "Sacred Tradition," so that they might support extra-biblical teachings such as purgatory, penance, indulgences, and Mary worship. They often say the only way the Christian church knew what books are to be included in the Canon of Scripture was because it was revealed by word-of-mouth in the early church, that is, by the tradition of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, they imply that their church, not the Protestant churches, has the "authority" to decide what scripture really is.
There is a problem here, though. Let me illustrate.
If Jesus were to write a sentence on papyus, it would automatically be inspired. Would the Catholic church then approve of it and declare it true, or would it recognize it as true? If the RCC declared it to be true by its authority, then it is setting itself above the words of Christ. On the other hand, if it recognizes Jesus' words as authoriative, then it is doing just that, recognizing what is already authoratitive. The Christian church recognizes God's word as inspired and true. It does not declare it to be inspired and true lest it claim its own authority to decide the truth of God's word.
So, back to the issue of "sacred tradition." The Catholic Church's argument implies that its tradition is superior to Scripture. Of course, we are not saying that the Roman Catholic church teaches that tradition is above Scripture. But when Sacred Tradition is claimed to be the thing by which Scripture is given, then tradition is inadvertently the thing that gives blessing and approval to the Bible. Heb. 7:7 says, "But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater." The unfortunate psychological effect of saying that Roman Catholic tradition is what gave us the Bible is that it elevates their tradition to a level far greater than what is permitted in Scripture. In fact, it is contradicted by scripture:
1 Cor. 4:6, "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other."
The Bible tells us to obey the Word of God - to not go beyond the written Word (1 Cor. 4:6). Unfortunately, the problem with an elevated status of Roman Catholic church tradition is that it results in various justifications of its non-biblical teachings such as prayer to Mary, purgatory, indulgences, penance, works of righteousness, etc. Because it has deviated from trusting God's Word alone, it has ventured into unscriptural areas. Nevertheless, did the Roman Catholic Church give us the Bible? No, it did not.
First of all, the Roman Catholic Church was not really around as an organization in the first couple hundred years of the Christian Church. The Christian church was under persecution, and official church gatherings were very risky in the Roman Empire due to the persecution. Catholicism, as an organization with a central figure located in Rome, did not occur for quite some time in spite of its claim they can trace the papacy back to Peter.
Second, the Christian Church recognized what was Scripture. It did not establish it. This is a very important point. The Christian Church recognizes what God has inspired and pronounces that recognition. In other words, it discovers what is already authentic. Jesus said "my sheep hear my voice and they follow me..." (John 10:27). The church hears the voice of Christ; that is, it recognizes what is inspired, and it follows the word. It does not add to it as the Roman Catholic Church has done. Therefore, it is not following the voice of Christ.
Third, the Roman Catholic Church did not give us the Old Testament which is the Scripture to which Christ and the apostles appealed. If the Roman Catholic Church wants to state that it gave us the Bible, then how can they rightfully claim to have given us the Old Testament which is part of the Bible? It didn't, so it cannot make that claim. The fact is that the followers of God, the true followers of God, recognize what is and is not inspired.
Fourth, when the apostles wrote the New Testament documents, they were inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit. There wasn't any real issue of whether or not they were authentic. Their writings did not need to be deemed worthy of inclusion in the Canon of Scripture by a later group of men in the so-called Roman Catholic Church. To make such a claim is, in effect, to usurp the natural power and authority of God himself that worked through the Apostles.
Fifth, the Scripture says, "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God," (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The Bible tells us that the Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the very nature of the inspired documents is that they carry power and authenticity in themselves. They are not given the power or the authenticity of ecclesiastical declaration.
The Christian church, as an earthly organization, recognized the Word of God (John 10:27). It didn't give us the Word of God. Also, it was the Jews who gave us the Old Testament. The authenticity of the New Testament documents rests in the inspiration of God through the apostles--not the Catholic Church. Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Church did not give us the Old Testament. The Jews did. How can the Roman Catholic Church claim it gave us the Bible when it did not give us the Old Testament? Finally, when the Catholic Church claims that it is the source of the sacred Scriptures, it is, in effect, placing itself above the word of God by claiming that through its authority we received the word of God.