LIVING in Alpharetta, GA, Jason runs a small software development company and loves to study the bible and the writings of the early church

Day 246: A Biblical History Lesson

"Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life." - Philippians 4:3

Did you know that the Gospels were some of the LAST books of the New Testament that were written? Indeed..Its TRUE. Most people assume that because they're first in the cannon then they have to have been the first written, but that's not the case.

The first new testament book written was the book of James, in approximately 45 A.D.

The last? The books of John and Revelation in 95 A.D.

What was the first Gospel written? It was the book of Mark and it was written sometime around 70 A.D., almost 40 years after Christ. Why is that significant? Because Mark wasn't one of the original Apostles and was not a witness to the crucifixion.

Furthermore, did you know that Mark only wrote what Peter told him to write? Indeed it seems to be true. Numerous early Church fathers wrote that Mark had simply written to record what Peter was teaching and had instructed him to write down. (link)

Am I pointing this out to minimize the significance or validity of the Gospels? Absolutely not. They are a written record of Christ's life and teachings as recollected by the early Church.

What are the implications of all of this? Many. For starters, the testimony of Christ, including his words and deeds, were passed on orally for approximately 40 years before they were ever written down. And it's not like a printing press existed that could rapidly duplicate the book of Mark and mass distribute it effectively. Which means that the oral tradition was the primary source of the spreading of the Gospel for another almost 1400 years (Gutenburg Bible was printed in 1455).

Secondly, there was a Church that was alive and well that operated under the authority of the apostles and the clergy they selected, as documented by Luke in the book of Acts, for almost 100 years before the New Testament canon was even completed. The New Testament wasn't even canonized for nearly 300 more years after the book of John was completed (393 A.D. at the Synod of Hippo). 

So why did I post the above verse? Philippians was written sometime between 49 and 51 A.D. Notice the name 'Clement' that Paul calls a "co-worker".

That's the 4th Bishop of Rome. Clement ascended the chair in 88 A.D following Peter, Linus and Cletus. 

So what can we conclude from all of this?

1. There was a Church that operated under the authority of the Apostles and their appointed successors for 100 years before the texts that made up the New Testament were ever even completed.

2. This Church continued to operate in this manner for almost 400 years before the New Testament cannon was even accepted.

3. Thus, this Church operated without the benefit of having a standard set of sacred scripture.

4. Thus, this Church operated largely by the passing on and teaching of oral tradition and even only taught the scriptures orally for almost 1500 years because printing was done by hand. 

5. This Church acknowledged that it's first four leaders were Peter then Linus then Cletus and finally Clement, who is referenced in Philippians, above.

If the above is all true, what does that tell us about Sola Scriptura? If we say that Sola Scriptura is true (even though it's contradicted by the writings of Paul himself in 2 Thessalonians 2:15) then how shall we logically say that the early Church was NOT deprived of the truth and lived in heresy? Shall we say that the Church before 1455 (and maybe even 1517?) was living in Heresy? If that's true then aren't we saying that immediately after the apostles died then God allowed his children to fall into false teaching and to be led astray for a nearly a millennium and a half?

It's illogical to say that is true.

BUT There is a Church today that continues the line of succession of the early Bishops and maintains and continues to teach all the truths contained in the Bible and continues to honor the passing on the teachings of the sacred traditions orally. 

A Church that has NOT compromised the Deposit of Faith by removing parts of the Apostles Creed or deciding that God is not a man or some other such non-sense.

A Church that teaches from the sacred scripture every day and continues the tradition of dispensing the body and blood of Jesus to the lay faithful at every service.

That Church is the original Christian Church. The Roman Catholic Church.

Peace be with you!

Day 237: Even in crisis, the Truth is unchanging

Day 291: For Frodo