“Wait a minute, are Catholics saying they lived without the Bible and claim they began a Church without it?! But the Bible says that–”
Jesus said: ” Noone can come to the Father but by Me.”*
Salvation is in Jesus, not the Bible.
It’s an important distinction.
Just as Christianity doesn’t save; only Christ Jesus does.
So who Catholics are longing for is the experience of Jesus, the One Who Saves. As we have the Bible, and as we have Christianity, these are the means to Jesus.
The bible verse of John 14:6* was important for the Church to pass on. The Church herself has been the instrument for salvation, and the gathered people assembled for Sacraments and for Community and Service. Yet Jesus is the experience of God.
We read the Bible to be with the Lord. We go to Mass and Holy Communion to be with the Lord as the Blessed Eucharist-Bread. We receive Him; His life in us in Word and Sacrament brings us holiness. Life with God is holy.
Jesus was communicated in the early Church in a Word that was shared in the Church (not a Bible to read). The apostles said “Something which is known which we carefully watched, this is
Who we proclaim to you.” As Paul explained in his visit to Athens, he was preaching about meeting God, Who was unknown, but now to be known in Jesus, the Risen Lord. In Acts 17:23>31 “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for `In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”
This is the Story of an Apostle Looking to Establish A Church. While he succeeded not in Athens, the Greeks did accept Christ Alive in Thessalonika and Corinth. My point is–it was Jesus in the Word and Sacrament going forth in His Church that established His believing people on earth. Experiencing Jesus was the key. In this case in Greece, Paul was the witness. He was the apostle bringing the true Gospel, as empowered by Jesus. He was bringing the word of faith, the Good News, and the liturgy, and prayers, and early traditions of the Faith to the Greek people. He had no Bible in his hands, nor bibles to pass out to people.
The Bible wasn’t written down until many years after Jesus left the earth in The Ascension. Jesus ascended in c. 33-34AD. The 1st gospels, in book form, did not come for years after that. It was an oral bible and a LIVED PRACTICE of the followers of Christ in the Church’s start. We call that Catholic Tradition. This way of being a Christian is still half of our equation. We are a baptized people for Christ. As in the beginning, we still have the tradition of breaking bread (Eucharist) and of sharing all things (community)—and for reaching out to the poor and doing other works of mercy that Christ taught us to do. We are being Church (or being the people of God).
From Pentecost on, we were a people forming in a new kingdom on earth, the Kingdom of God. It included Tradition and Word. In the communication of the Word in the Church, it was the early Church’s practice for gathering– and someone with authority and identity to Jesus’ Apostles would offer the Teachings of Christ to be heard by all. They were not reading from a text. They were passing on the message faithfully by mouth.
You were relying ON a church, not a book then. Yet all the stories of the Church gathered in prayer were about Jesus and what He imparted to them. The Church began living in the power of Jesus and His Spirit.
According to Fundamentalist Christianity today, they act like all that really wasn’t “church” then, since we didn’t have the bible in the middle of it all. Well, we did have the Word, but it first was in the Alive Person giving life to the church, Jesus Christ, The middle of it all was Jesus (not a paper book). Jesus remains our “Living Word.” Later in history comes the Holy Book. The first apostles and evangelists and leaders would have had some very valuable scrolls and various letters to use, so to know the Good News, yet the valued witness to the Word was the orthodox leader of God, the successor to the apostle (after the first ones went Home).
Yet the Scriptures were very important to the Church, that is why she labored so hard to get them into written form. This was of great strategic imporance as the Church progressed and the original eyewitnesses/storytellers of faith were dying off. Disciples of the apostles took this task as quite serious of faithful transmission of the Word.
So I am not saying we are saved without the Bible, but I am saying that in God’s Word we are saved. It is why the Church made it a priority to take her lived Word and get down in writing what she was sharing that was bringing people into new life in Christ.
Eventually, the church at Antioch (where they first were called Christians) was established by the early to mid 40s AD with Bishop, priests, and deacons. (1Tim3; Phil1:1; 1Pt2:5, 9). It was with such persons that the collections of Jesus’ words and teachings and all the apostles’ teachings and practices were agreed upon for belief, as a Church decided on it. They would have to eventually decide on what the books of inspiration would be to follow, and so came the first official Bible. It was agreed upon and confirmed by the Church (much later on) in special councils of its apostles. Eventually the growing Christian church had one agreed Bible, both with accounts of the New Covenant, and with an agreed Old Testament collection to make for a 73 book Bible.
Eventually, a saint named Jerome helped translate the Bible into the Latin language for worldwide distribution and understanding. The Church’s leadership took upon herself to help promote the Word and help in its proper understanding. The Church claims that it was under the Inspiration of the Lord Himself that this work of compiling the Sacred Scriptures was done. As God had assisted Israel in her Sacred Word, now He had helped the Church to have her Sacred Text. This was called a work of Inspiration.
They were a Church with a Bible, as well as community and care for the poor and much more.
It is under the Inspiration of the Lord Himself that we have the Bible. It came from the real Church that He started. It was the valued collections of faith accounts and stories and letters of the Lord Himself and the Apostles. This testimony, first told in oral form, then went to written form, and it is very reliable.
Last weekend the Church proclaimed the message of 1st Timothy chapter 3 which is the explanation on Bible inspiration. It is an important teaching on how the God’s Word, then “the Bible” has been valued from the start, and how the Church had to use the Word correctly. They didn’t want abuse of Jesus’ teachings and of the other Scriptures.
As for the earlier question then, how then could there be a church without a Bible? Well, she had Christ the Living Word and Living Bread. She had the Holy Spirit. She had a relationship going on with God that was understood to be the True God’s saving love with His people, as broken through to us by One Lord Jesus Christ. The Church came together to tell The Story— really HIS Story of Love from Heaven. Today a Catholic hymn is sung saying that same truth: “We come to tell our story, we come to break the Bread, we come to know our rising from the dead.” Hawaiian Hymn
This whole process of going from a persecuted Church without a written Bible canon on scrolls was our history until the end of the Roman Empire era. After the Peace of Constantine, Christianity wa allowed to exist openly in many places it had been persecuted. The formation of the Canon/The Bible’s books was in motion now. Up to then, it was a shared faith, not a Bible book reading Christianity. And, few could read through that early period of history in the Church. It was not like today where people have more access to the Bible, even on phone apps now. There was little “written” down , NT-wise in the start of the Church.
See Jesus’ words in Mt16:17-19. Paul’s words in 2Cor10:8; 2Thes2:15; 1Tim3:15.
Christ began His authoritative “Church” and it was then the apostles’ role to oversee the authoritative word on knowing Jesus,and eventually seeing the putting of the Bible together.
Nowadays, we encourage Bible reading, and ask for persons to use the Church for interpretation or confirmation of what God is saying through the Bible. It is our shared tool for knowing Him.
Fundamentalists and Catholics can find some common ground in this area of the Bible.
We Catholics do like the fundamentalist’s basic idea of Christianity that it is all about accepting Jesus. That would totally agree with our Saints, such as Patrick or Augustine or Frances de Sales. We all need to stop at the Cross.
We also think that Bible reading and praying is a daily blessing that a Christian should have, whether Catholic, Fundamentalist or whatever type.
We think that the fundamentalists see the problem of divisive intrpretation of the Sacred Scriptures. They would appreciate how Catholics have an authority and a final say on how the Church member is to understand a bible verse or chapter (or especially how not to terribly misinterpret a verse or chapter). Leaving the Bible’s message for any personal interpretation whatsoever is a sure recipe for divided believers.