Same old, same old: A plethora of Christian churches teaching widely varying “truths”.

In his famous work Against the Heresies Irenaeus–the saintly Bishop of Lyon wrote about all the different little groups who made claims to authenticity and gave them a sure fire way of knowing the truth:

“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors to our own times—men who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about.

“But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles.”
“With this church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree—that is, all the faithful in the whole world—and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition”

Key points about the Bible and the Church that are today, often overlooked.

Consider the following points often overlooked by many today.

  • The first book of the New Testament was not written until the late 40’s A.D. at the earliest.
  • St. John’s Gospel was not written until the 90’s A.D. or later.
  • There was not a definitive list (or canon) of books accepted as Sacred Scripture until the late 300’s A.D. and later. (Local Council of Hippo in 393; Local Council of Carthage in 397; Letter of Pope Innocent I in 405) Protestant reformers removed portions of the Old Testament that had been held by the Church to be a part of the canon for centuries. Where did they receive that authority? Martin Luther even wanted to remove James and the Apocalypse.
  • It is estimated that fewer than 10% of those who lived in the Roman Empire could read.
  • There was no printing press, and therefore, no easy or affordable access to the written word prior to the invention of the printing press in the 15th Century.

So, the earliest Christians lived before there was a New Testament. And it was 300+ years after the writing of the New Testament before Christians were told what books were a part of the Bible. Who decided which of the hundreds of writings by the apostles and their successors would form that canon of Scripture? It was the Catholic Church, in the decisions of its councils and the teaching of its Popes that gave witness to what books should be considered a part of the Bible. And it was not until the 15th Century that the printing press made it possible to own a copy of the Bible, even if the owner could not read. How could the Bible be the sole rule of faith during all that time? It has already been mentioned that the private interpretation of the Bible that came from the Reformation in the 1500’s A.D. has resulted not in unity of faith and belief, but just the opposite with more than 30,000 denominations by Protestant’s own counts.

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Before there ever was a canon of the New Testament, there was a Church. And its paper trail is Catholic.

Read “Remembering the Early Church”