One of the most basic questions that every Christian should want to know the answer to is “where did the Holy Bible come from”? Although we realize it is the Inspired Word of God, obviously it didn’t drop from the sky. Yet, most Christians have no idea as to its origin or lineage and have never pursued the subject to learn the answer to that question.
As mentioned before, many protestant institutions of higher theological learning do not wish to delve too deeply into the subject because of where the answers will lead and what may result once one has truly learned its origin and lineage. In recognizing that the Gospels of the New Testament were written by the apostles or early disciples of the apostles on their behalf during the infancy of Christianity, and that these texts have been unquestionably Inspired by the Holy Spirit, learning how the Bible came to exist would further lead to interests of the ancient texts written by the Early Church Fathers and you will soon understand why. From there, the lineage of the Catholic Church as the true body of Christianity would be obvious reflecting the consistency and fullness of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Here we will give a simplified but verifiable and indisputable account of the origin of the Holy Bible, how it came to be and why there are so many “versions” of interpretation available today; that is, verifiable and indisputable for those who wish to learn.
Jesus founded His Church for the purpose of preaching His Gospel in order to provide all man the means to achieve personal salvation. The establishment of the Catholic Church and its initial hierarchy beginning with the apostles is well attested to in the New Testament. First it is necessary to understand how the “Catholic” Church came to be known as Catholic in order to realize its lineage as the one true Church Jesus founded with His Blood.
In ancient society those who were followers of a particular faith, teaching or teacher were usually labeled by those outside the fellowship in a manner reflective of their teacher or teachings. This has been a very common practice in all societies throughout history. Based on Scripture and recorded history it is evident that during the beginning of the establishment of the Christian Faith, the apostles referred to the teachings of Jesus Christ as the way. This is also reflected in the “Didache”. The Didache is the first written text of the apostles outlining the teachings of Jesus Christ, long before the Bible came to be. The Didache is also known as “the way of life” and “the way of death”, hence, the way.
Originally, it was not the apostles who referred to themselves or the followers of Christ as “Christians”. This designation was placed on the followers during the period Paul served in his ministry with others in Antioch, preaching “the Way”. Pagans and non-Christians began referring to those who followed the teachings of Christ as Christians. In a relatively brief time, society began referring to the growing body of Christians as καθολική, katholikē (Catholic) meaning “universal” in ancient Greek, all resulting from its expansion geographically and in the ever increasing number of followers within the Christian faith. It was due to society’s labeling and familiarity with Christianity as “Catholic”, the Early Church Fathers retained the designation everyone had come to know these faithful as; “The Catholic (Universal) Church”. It is extremely important to realize this formation because this is the Body of Christ on earth of which the Holy Bible originates from.
The Catholic Church has been the guardian of what has been known as the “Deposit of Faith”. The deposit of faith is the complete and accurate teachings of Jesus Christ, protected from distortion within three equally indispensable components; “Sacred Scripture”,“Sacred Tradition”, and the “Magisterium” of the Catholic Church. Protestantism virtually rejects all but Sacred Scripture. There were however, such men as John Wesley who did in fact speak of tradition, but he did not refer to ancient Church Tradition (always designated with an upper case ‘T’) as is meant by the Church's use of the term nor the writings of the great theologians and Church Fathers as their writings attested. He promoted tradition’s adaptation based on social conditions and their related religious influences as they contributed to a person's independent understanding of God and of Christian theology for a given era.
Wesley followed the notion that tradition as he related to it may include such externally influenced principles as the beliefs, values, and instruction of one's family and upbringing. It also included various influences which may have an effect on one's understanding of Scripture in itself. By the very principles by which John Wesley related to tradition, although he had good intentions and was successful in his ministry, it is clear that he, as was the case with others, did not understand the element referred to by the Catholic Church in the reference to Sacred Tradition. It should also be pointed out that tradition that can be frequently changed or adapt as a result of outside influences as described in Wesley’s principles is not by the true sense, “tradition” and leads to a teaching or doctrine that is more socially acceptable but can come into opposition with Scripture, which has happened numerous times over the years.
So what then is Sacred Tradition? It is the one true understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ as preached verbally to the disciples, both Children and adults, explained by the Apostles and carried on through direct apostolic succession. It is the proper understanding transferred by the Apostles to these disciples not from texts that did not yet exist, but by word and discussion between the teachers and the students leaving no room for question as to meaning or intent. Some of these men (elder disciples) would become Bishops directly succeeding the Apostles while those who were then child disciples in many cases became the 2nd and 3rd successors in that line of “apostolic succession”. Sts. Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna to name a few are considered some of the most important of these fathers .
It is this verbal preaching that the written texts originated from, written by or on behalf of the Apostles by early Christians guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In some cases these writers would have received their faith side by side with the Apostolic Fathers. And it is these texts that centuries later would become the contents of what we refer to as the New Testament of the Holy Bible. Just as critically, the Apostolic Fathers recorded in their own writings extended explanations and recognitions of the early hierarchy of the Church including the authority of the Chair of Peter in Rome, the apostolic teachings and the way of life and worship of the early Church which clearly verify the validity and lineage of the Catholic Faith through today.
During the infancy of the Church there were numerous writings scattered throughout the regions that claimed to have been produced by the authority of the Apostles. At times, because of the great geographic distances between territories and the multiple languages the texts were written in, some of those writings were misinterpreted or were not written by the authority of the Apostles and did not present an accurate teaching of Jesus Christ. The Church Fathers therefore had an essential role in identifying the authentic written texts over the first few centuries of the Church. It was the direct relationship these Fathers had with the Apostles and that proper understanding the Apostles instilled in them that the Apostolic Fathers were later able to identify the true, authentic teachings of Jesus Christ out of the numerous texts to be scrutinized. Those deemed valid were retained for teaching while those deemed questionable or invalid were rejected.
In 384 A.D. the Catholic Church, by the dictate of Pope Damasus, commissioned St. Jerome to proceed with the compilation of the valid apostolic texts into one source interpreted and translated from Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic into Latin. It was this compilation of texts that became the contents of the New Testament, thereafter united with the Old Testament, the compilation became the Latin Vulgate, the first Holy Bible. This Bible remains the primary authoritative Biblical reference of the Catholic Church. It should be stated that the Old Testament and New Testament are not two separate stories or "books" as many seem to think. They together are one story of the relationship and covenants between God and man. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, the fulfillment of God's promise through His Son, Jesus, The Christ.
It was the Catholic Church Jesus founded and made His covenant with and that covenant could never be broken even to the consummation of the world. The Holy Bible has been comprised of texts written within the Catholic Church, selected and compiled by the Catholic Church, validated by the Catholic Church, closed through canonization by the Catholic Church and introduced by the Catholic Church specifically to teach the Catholic Faith. That teaching of faith was always to be accompanied with and correctly presented through Sacred Tradition, protected by the Magisterium as the complete Deposit of Faith. As with any educational process, the text book is never handed out to the students for the student to self teach or to learn a subject without a teacher. The Holy Bible was never meant to be removed from the Catholic Church or the proper understanding that Sacred Tradition presents it by. Of course some of the content of the Bible was written in a literal sense and can be rationally understood by the reader, but much more can not be interpreted literally. Does the Catholic Church have the only true interpretation of the Holy Bible, or can a reader of a book tell the author his intended meaning better than the author knows himself? It takes no more than common sense to know the answer to this question.
Without that complete and proper understanding, the written texts become distorted through self interpretation. Founders of individual churches more than 1500 years after the fact irrationally claimed they could understand the intended meaning of the written Gospels better than those Fathers who learned directly from the apostles themselves, who succeeded the apostles and put what they learned into their own texts. The ill effects are confirmed by the numerous interpretive versions of the one original Holy Bible and the thousands upon thousands of diverse systems of beliefs splintered as a result of individual interpretations over a period of less than 500 years. The results are catastrophic to the fullness of truth and intimacy one can achieve in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Woe to those who lead others astray... for many devout and faithful believers in Christ today do not know any better than what they have been led to believe by the bias of others and the separation brought by the distance of time.