Sunday, April 26, 2015

Did Roman Catholicism Give Protestants the Bible?

By Keith Thompson

One of the most common arguments against sola scriptura raised by Catholics is: if Scripture is the only authority then how do you know which books are inspired seeing as Scripture itself does not tell you? Or: if you hold to sola scriptura why do you hold to a New Testament canon which the authority of the Roman Catholic Church recognized? Is that not violating sola scriprtura? As Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid argues, “There is no ‘inspired table of contents’ in Scripture that tells us which books belong and which ones do not” (Patrick Madrid, Sola Scriptura: A Blueprint for Anarchy, ed. Robert Sungenis, Not by Scripture Alone, [Queenship Publishing Company, 1997], p. 22). This is a common argument from Catholic apologists and has been used by them to stump many Protestants on the issue of sola scriptura.

However, there are serious problems with this argument.

(1) It only applies to solo scriptura, that is the belief the Bible is the only authority, and not to sola scriptura which says Scripture is the ultimate authority. In sola scriptura there is nothing wrong with holding to outside authorities like the church as long as what it declares does not contradict and is consistent with Scripture at least implicitly (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:6-7; 1:10). Thus, there is no problem with a sola scripturist affirming the church’s affirmation of the canon since the criteria the church used to recognize the canon in the fourth century can be validated biblically at least implicitly. For instance, the church used the criteria of apostolicity to decide if a New Testament book was Scripture (i.e., if a book was written by an apostle or companion of an apostle). Any good conservative New Testament introduction will give the internal arguments that a book was written by an apostle or someone close to one (e. g. Donald Guthrie’s, D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo’s etc). In regards to the criteria of antiquity the church used, we can look at the book’s internal content to discover if it was written in the first century or if it is a second century work. New Testament scholars do this regularly. Any good introduction will provide the internal arguments that a book was written in the first century. In regards to the criteria of orthodoxy the church used, we can see which books are internally consistent and which are not. So there is nothing inconsistent about a sola scripturist affirming the authority of the church in recognizing the canon, since when we go to the books it recognized, we see that its determination is consistent with Scripture at least implicitly.

(2) When making this argument Catholic apologists assume those at those fourth century councils who recognized the canon were Roman Catholics or were part of a Roman Catholic Church. However, no one at those councils believed what modern Rome claims one has to believe in order to be a Roman Catholic – teachings Romanism claims were always believed by the church (e.g. private and frequent confession to a priest over both venial and mortal sins, papal infallibility, the Assumption and Immaculate Conception of Mary, the mass as the same propitious sacrifice of Christ re-presented, the idea the pope alone has the authority to interpret Scripture etc). Hence, it is erroneous for modern Catholics to claim those at those councils which dealt with the canon were part of their modern religious system. It was the Christian church, not the papal system which discerned the canon in the fourth century.

(3) Protestants are much like the early church Christians prior to the Council’s of Hippo and Carthage. They held to certain books as inspired without a council being their ultimate authority on the issue. Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, etc., all held to canonical books as inspired long before Carthage and Hippo were convened. They did not have a pope or council dictating to them what books must be accepted and rejected. If modern Romanists are going to condemn Protestants for doing this, then they must also condemn these earliest church fathers for doing it as well if they are going to be consistent.

Now, Rome falsely claims her tradition is the basis for the establishment of the biblical canon by the church in the 4th century when the Council of Hippo and Third Council of Carthage spoke on the list of books (Robert Sungenis, Point/Counterpoint: Protestant Objections and Catholic Answers, Not by Scripture Alone, [Queenship Publishing, 1997], p. 270). Rome’s views of tradition are (1) the idea the apostles handed on a body of oral teaching containing doctrine not found in Scripture; and (2) the idea that the tradition of the church clarifies the true meaning of Scripture.

However, the Council of Hippo and Third Council of Carthage from the 4th century which dealt with the canon never stated they knew what the canon was because they had teachings or traditions from the mouths of the apostles stating which biblical books were canon. Nor can we say they had a historic interpretation of the content of scripture and therefore came to the realization of the canon by that means. That makes no sense. Thus, Rome’s definitions of tradition can not be appealed to as the basis for the determinations of these councils concerning the canon. The councils did not use any so-called apostolic tradition for this. Instead, they used various criteria in order to discern the canon. They did not claim they had an oral teaching from the apostles stating which books were true. Their criteria for canonicity they used included: apostolicity (if the writer was an apostle or connected to an apostle), orthodoxy (if the content of the book was orthodox theologically), antiquity (if the book was early enough) and usage (if the book was used widely in the church prior to the council) (The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament, eds. Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, Charles L. Quarles, [B&H Publishing Group, 2009], p. 13).

In light of the aforementioned facts, it is completely erroneous for the Roman Catholic to claim the Roman Catholic Church gave Protestants the Bible, and that without Romanism or her alleged apostolic tradition, Protestant sola scripturists couldn’t discern the canon of Scripture.


  1. There were 5 popes before 100. Ignatius was the first to call the church catholic in 107. However it was called catholic earlier. All Christians were part of the universal church. As they are now. So why separate your self thus making yourself anathema in the eyes of the lord. We are one universal church according Christ. Only you can cast yourself out by judging others.

    1. Ignatius knew nothing of medieval Roman Catholicism or its pernicious doctrines. He called the church universal not because he was a papist, but because the church was far and composed of members of the local churches.

      Five popes before 100? Wrong! The earliest information (Ignatius, Shepherd of Hermas) tells us prior to A.D. 150 there was a group of equal Roman bishops who lead the Roman church at the same time. The one-man bishop structure did not emerge until A.D. 150. Catholic scholars agree as I prove in my 8 hour film refuting Romanism. So there was no single Roman bishop seen as Peter's successor, since there was no single-bishop leading the church until A.D. 150! This destroys papalism. All the documentation proving this is in the film "Reformed Answers on the Roman Corruption of Christianity"

  2. Keith, I watched Documentary: Defense of Apostle Paul. It is very good and truly refutes Paul's reliability. You use the most important Early Church fathers such as Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement etc. You user Paul's close friendship with Peter along with his death along with Peter in Rome for this video. As you say it is incredibly bios to disregard the same principles you use to prove Paul's reliability. Yet Protestants traditions made by man you hold onto reject that Peter was even in Rome? Looking at the rest of your website makes me realize there is another power going on here. Divide and conquer is what Jesus Christ Preached against when He prayed we be all one. Paul and our early church fathers preached against Heretics. I pray you will continue to seek the truth. Look to see how these early Church fathers lived, worshiped and how they died as Christ. Then ask yourself why we say the Church was built upon the Saints and martyrs. And why do protestants continue to divide into thousands of denominations with there own private interpretations. Can the Holy Spirit be talking to everyone differently? There is only one truth, as Augustine and so many others have said. So division comes from the prince of this world. Jesus blessed Peter 3 times; renaming him Peter, building his church and giving him the keys.
    Jesus last instructions were also instructed to Peter 3 times:
    1 “pasture (feed my lambs)”, (“For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:7).
    2 “tend my sheep”,“Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers” (1 Peter 5:2).
    3 “feed my sheep”, (literal) It can be no other than the Word of God. Peter declares that Christians are to desire the pure spiritual milk of the Word so that by it, we can mature in our salvation (1 Peter 2:2).

  3. I have never denied Peter was in Rome. He certainly taught there with Paul at times. But the idea he was Rome's first bishop is not attested in the earliest sources which mention Peter and Rome (e.g. Ignatius, Clement, Tertullian, Irenaeus, etc.)

    And as for Jesus telling Peter to feed and shepherd the sheep in John 21:15-17, I refuted the papal misuse of this text already,

    After denying Christ three times, Peter was extremely distraught to the point to where he broke down and wept bitterly (Mark 14:72) and needed to be made glad again (John 20:20). Thus, in John 21:15-17 Peter needed that re-instatement and forgiving reassurance that he was still worthy to feed and shepherd Jesus’ sheep like the other apostles. Jesus replaced Peter’s triple denial of him with a threefold confession of faith thereby restoring him to the level of the apostles who had not denied Jesus.

    Boske (feed). boske in vv. 15, 17 doesn’t prove Peter fed the sheep as chief leader of the world. The word itself does not carry that meaning. It simply means to feed animals and can thus be used figuratively for giving believers spiritual food. Peter feeding (boske) here simply concerns, as Thayer’s Greek lexicon notes, “the duty of a Christian teacher to promote in every way the spiritual welfare of the members of the church.” All of the apostles and early church leaders did that. Vine’s Dictionary notes boske here is simply referring metaphorically to regular “spiritual ministry,” not papal power.

    Poimaine (shepherd). Catholics then argue the Greek word for “shepherd” in v. 16 (poimaine) carries the meaning of ruling with power. Yet, not only does Paul in Acts 20:28 command the Ephesian bishops to shepherd the church using the same Greek word (poimaino), but Peter himself in 1 Peter 5:2 commands various believers to shepherd or (poimeno) the flock of God.

    You mentioned Peter using the keys but all the apostles use the keys in Matthew 18:18. Doesn't prove papal primacy.

    The fact is papal primacy was unknown to the earliest Christians. You are deceived and believing a false church and gospel.