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The Persecuted Church


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Who gave us the scriptures?

The Roman church says they proclaimed which books were actually inspired and placed them in one volume, so we should all be indebted to the Catholic Church for the New Testament. Actually the Catholic Church in 397 the Council of Carthage had the 27 books considered the canon. However these books were read and distributed as Scripture for over 300 years by individual Christians and church’s long before their church councils claimed to give us the Bible. The Synod of Antioch in 266 AD. had rejected Paul of Samosata’s teaching (a modalist) as foreign to the ecclesiastical canon. Athanasius, who fought to preserve the Trinity in the council of Nicea in 325 Ad. when the Church was being challenged had all 27 books of the New Testament. When Athanasius argued in his debate against Arius he used much of the New Testament and quoted from almost every book. He said they were the springs of salvation do not add nor take away. 

Almost 40 years later the council of Laodicea in 363 A.D.  decreed that only canonized books of the old and new Testament were to be read in the Church’s. None of the councils made any list of what is in or out, the reason being that the majority of the church had accepted and used these books for many years before them. Are we to accept the premise that 300 years passed with confusion and we waited for the church to decide in 397 A.D. what was to be our Scripture? Generations would have come and gone not having the whole Bible. The truth is that we can produce almost the entire Bible we have today from the early church writings in the mid 100’s to 200’s.

In 397 Ad. the council of Carthage put their approval on the canon that was already read by and throughout the church. It then became a fixed canon for the western church as it was for the eastern.

The word canon means rule of faith, the standard in which we measure and evaluate something is true or right and from God. The word for canonicity comes from the Greek word Kanon which is found in Gal.6:16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule. How did the church determine what was to be Scripture and what was to be rejected. The Roman Catholic church states they gave us the Bible, is this true?

First the people in the church, not a council determined whether it was authoritative- did it come as thus saith the Lord, did they recognize God's voice in it. Did it have the life transforming power of God when it was applied.

Was the author an apostle or was he connected to an apostle (known as a apostolic legate). An example of this is Mark wrote under Peter's authority and Luke wrote his Gospel and book of Acts under Paul’s authority. Was it accepted and received by the other apostles who were eye witnesses. such as when Peter stated that Paul's writings were considered Scripture as they were being written ( 2 Pt.3:15-16).

Was it accepted by the overall church. Did the people bear witness of it by the Holy Spirit and did it not conflict with the already revealed body of Scripture. The Church was able to reject false books and this would insure the right ones were accepted because it would delay their recognition. At that time and even hundreds of years afterwards, there were numerous false letters and forgeries circulating, they identified them as false by putting them alongside the apostles teachings already delivered. They have the content that was consistent with the already accepted writings.

Did the books have the quality and inspiration that was consistent with the word of God. It was for this reason the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha were rejected by not meeting the criteria.

So the test was by the eye witnesses or by Scripture itself. In the same way today we would reject the book of Mormon, we don’t need to have to have a church council and have bishops test it, each of us can apply the scriptural test as we are encouraged to do in 1 Thess.5, “test all things.” So if these, or any letters taught doctrine contrary to what was already delivered or contradict practices of Christian living already given it was rejected. Also if they lacked the prophetic and had inaccuracies historically it was refused.

There originally was no church council to decide what books were to be included in the canon. They were recognized by the consensus of the entire body of the church not by a council of bishops. The books were written under the inspiration of God, they were canonical the moment they were written. A council was not necessary to affirm what was already true. No book became canonical by the action of a church council in the same way the Old Testament books were not decided upon by the Sanhedrin. What the council did was to determine which books did not meet the tests for canonicity. There were no books written from 30-45 A.D. because believers had access to the apostles who were living eyewitnesses. Christ’s return was imminent. So there was no immediate concern to write it down. The New Testament began to be penned down approximately 15-20 years after the ascension. Since many of the apostles were alive there was no reason to write, they also thought Christ’s return was imminent so it was not necessary. When the church had its first martyr Stephen, then they were persecuted and scattered,  it then became necessary to pen down the teachings. It was from this event that letters were copied and circulated so that the teachings would not be lost or changed. As the apostles went out they shared the writings and commanded them to be passed on to others. The apostles put their writings into circulation through the church. “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.” (1 Cor. 1:2 and Eph.1:1) We have examples of letters to be read to all in Scripture 1 Thess.5:27, “to be read to all the church’s” Col.4:16, “read to the church of Colossae and the Laodiceans” Gal.1:21, “to the church’s of Galatia.” Jesus tells John the apostle in Rev 1:11, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

All the New Testament books were written between 45-75 A.D. excluding the apostle John's writings, which occurred later in 80-95 A.D. There were schools of Scribes (scholia) that copied the Scripture by hearing, also lecture rooms were people would copy down what they heard. From the beginning the church copied and shared the original documents to circulate the apostles writings.  By 170 A.D. most of the Bible had already been approved and read by the church and the term New Testament was in use. This was long before any council. To protect the writings from being lost they were copied for distribution. First were the Pauline epistles next were the 4 gospels in one work, then Acts 1 Pt., 1 Jn., Revelation all these were accepted in both the East and the West (these were called Homologumena= all books accepted by the entire church). Their was James and Jude, 2nd and 3rd John, 2nd Peter, Hebrews which were disputed books because they were not familiar with them, these 6 books were accepted later (these are called Antilogumena= books accepted by some of the church). Their were also false books circulating by authors who claimed to be an apostle or penned an apostles name. They were considered false because it contradicted the writings previously delivered, Ex. The 1st miracle of Jesus was that he did miracles as a boy not change the water to wine (these were called Notha = writings claiming inspiration but were false). Some of these ended up being in the Koran. By the 2nd century we find the expression the New Testament. If all the Gospels were the same it would be a clear case of collusion we would then have a question of their validity.

Many of the church fathers (bishops, pastors) quote the New Testament. Such as Polycarp (69-155 A.D.), quoting much of the New Testament (Matt., Acts, Hebrews, 1 Pt. And 10 of Paul's letters) his letter to the Philippians. Justin Martyr (100-160 A.D.) quotes all 4 Gospels, Acts and the epistles of Paul and Revelation. Portions of the gospels were read every Sunday in church. Clement, of Alexandria (165-220 AD) names all the books of the New Testament except Philemon, James, 2 Peter and 3 John.  Irenaeus (135-210 A.D.) quotes from all the New Testament books except Philemon, Jude, James and 3 John. Origen 185-254 names all the books of both the Old and New Testaments. 160-240. In 300 A.D. Athanasius referred to all 27 books of the New Testament represented in the eastern church. He said “they were the springs of salvation do not add nor take away,” so they had already decided what was truly the Scripture. Tertullian who was a contemporary of both Origen and Clement, he mentions all the New Testament books minus James, 2 Peter and 2 John. Eusebius gave explanations and quotations from all the canonical books. They had their authority from the primary authority found in the writings of the apostles which made up the Bible.

We can produce almost all the New Testament from the church fathers writings and quotations before the year 150 A.D. proving that there was no church government to approve of what was in or out. The Scripture is God breathed, its origin is with God, it is not man given (2 Pt.1:21). The churches commission is to protect and promote the word as she is the pillar and ground of truth. Jesus said he was the truth and his word was truth to abandon this source puts one outside being called the church.

Jesus said my sheep hear my voice, they will flee from the voice of stranger. Jn.17:8, “I have given them your words you have given me.” John 8:47, “He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” When Jesus was questioned by Pilate he was asked what is truth. He said ‘everyone who hears my voice is of the truth.” His voice is found in the Scriptures delivered to us today.

John 8:30-32: “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” In Jn.17:7, Jesus said His word is truth” because it was spoken from Him, truth incarnate.

John 14:24-26: “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me. “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” The purpose of the Spirit is to bear witness to Jesus and His words

John 16:12-14: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” The Spirit guides us and only speaks what Christ says. He does not teach new doctrine!

Jn2:20-21: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. The Spirit is given to teach us and lead us to truth this is not found in any man today but the God/man who already came.

I Jn. 3:2: “ Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” There is no Christian without the inner witness which bears witness to the word as our guide.  The apostle John writes  “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.  But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (I Jn 2:26-27)

 It is the Spirit that is the teaching authority of the church not the Pope or any anointed man. The Spirit was sent into the world to convince men of sin, righteousness and judgment. He is another just like Jesus.

The church did not give us the Bible the apostles did, and they began the church that Jesus founded. The Bible can exist where there is no church building or assembly but the church cannot exist where there is no Bible.

The Holy Spirit wrote it all down so there would be no mistakes.  The Holy Spirit is the source of Scripture and all believers are given him to interpret what he wrote. What better guide and teacher can we have than the same one who inspired the apostles to write Scriptures.


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