How do we know there is a Bible? How do we know what is in it? None of the Apostles used one; St Paul did not possess one; not a single one of the Churches he founded knew of such a thing; we do not see any mention of it in the earliest sources. Yet some insist that they proceed only by the Bible. This is the same book which allowed Arius to ‘prove’ that Jesus was a ‘creature’ and from which every heretic there has ever been has been able to cherry-pick quotations to ‘prove’ their heresy. The early Church was not sola Scriptura, any more than the Apostles were; makes you wonder how they all managed. I have always meant to ask Protestant friends about this. At the very least we know that Christians got by for a long time with no Bible. So how did they manage?
They did as St Paul adjured – followed the oral and written traditions just as he, himself did. Written tradition? Yes, we know, from Peter’s second epistle, and from the earliest writings that there were written traditions. Justin Martyr tells us that on Sundays Christians met to worship together, to hear the ‘memoirs of the Apostles’ and share the communion meal. Scholars assume that these ‘memoirs’ were the four Gospels mentioned by St Irenaeus, who wrote in the mid second century. For all the publicity given to so-called ‘forgotten gospels’, there have only ever been four – recognised by the Church. As we have seen, the earliest of those, Mark’s, has more than one ending, and the only reason that the current one is in most Bibles is because the Church decided that should be so.
That is a microcosm of the whole process by which we have a Canon. There is no place in Scripture which tells us that there is a Bible, or what is in it. We are told Scripture is inspired and good for instruction, but nowhere are we told what it is. Those, like our friend Bosco, who say they ‘just know’ what is in the Bible by the aid of the Spirit in them, have no answer to the question of what the true ending of mark should be. In truth, of course, they only know there is a Bible because of the early Church, which is the same reason they know what books it contains.
In practice, they, like so many, accept only a part of what the Church teaches, and for the most part accept a man-made interpretation, with themselves as the man making the interpretation; in practice, in short, they worship a God created in their image. They choose which parts of Scripture matter to them, and emphasise them. It is, of course, quite amusing to be told that the Church which established Scripture has no idea how to read it, whilst modern men know so much better. Adam’s sin remains strong in his descendants.