Sola Scriptura & the Canon of Scripture



I believe that your statement on June 13, 2012, that “there was NO INFALLIBLE CANON OF SCRIPTURE” prior to 400 AD when the Bible was canonized by the Catholic Church was probably a rhetorical overstatement. You would agree, I think, that a set of infallible books was possessed by the church prior AD 400, that their infallibility predated their canonization.


Yes, I agree. There was general agreement on the inspiration of most of the NT books that were eventually canonized. But there were different opinions and much discussion regarding other books. Some of which were later canonized and others that were not canonized.So my statement, that “there was NO INFALLIBLE CANON OF SCRIPTURE” prior to around 400 AD is meant to point out to those who believe in Sola Scriptura  that their ideas about scripture being the ONLY sure guide to faith is faulty and of very recent origin.

If they had been Christians who lived in 45 AD not a single NT gospel or letter had even been written. So how did these Christian follow Christ without a Bible?

If you were a Christian living in 100 AD all of the NT books were written and acknowledged as authoritative….along with many other gospels and letters. And to make things more confusing the Jews cut out seven books from the Septuagint OT b/c Christians were using them to good effect in making converts. So how did these Christians follow Christ without knowing which were which?



If you were a Christian living in 500 AD the scriptures had been canonized for 100 years but a full set of the books of the Bible was certainly not possessed by each and every Christian family. And, they probably still existed on separate scrolls since bookbinding was in its infancy. Besides most people could not read anyway. So how did these Christians follow Christ without having their own personal Bible? scrolls

If you were a Christian living in 1200 AD the Holy Bible had been canonized for 800 years but until some time after the invention of the printing press, the Bible, was an extremely costly book. At today’s minimum wages of $8/hr and only counting the time for one monk to copy the whole Bible, it would take 10 months at a cost of $16,640!!! But that doesn’t count the second monk who checked every single page for accuracy, which would raise the cost of one Bible in today’s US Dollars to $30,000 + And that still does not include the cost of materials, or

imagesfor the time for another monk to Illuminate (decorate) the pages and for someone else to bind the pages together and put on a cover.

At these prices it is easy to see why every person could not have their own personal Bible for study and devotions. It also becomes clear why Churches chained the Bible in the Church to prevent the theft of this precious possession used every day at every Catholic Mass. All colleges also chained their books in the Library and student had to go there to read them. So how did Christians follow Christ without having their own personal Bible until long after the invention of the printing press in 1450? And besides everyone could still not read.

And, still, even today,  20% of the world population cannot read even if they had a personal copy of the Bible. So how are they supposed to follow Christ according to the doctrine of sola Scriptura?

11 Responses

  1. Waiting 12 years to write the gospel ? Luke tells us that he is going to write an account to theophilus – this would be right away. Have you ever heard of a newspaper reporter waiting years to write an account of miracles and resurrections .
    The Jews were fully instructed in the OT and could read and write as most of the gentiles could. They used wax writing pads in the roman empire. If anyone did not have NT writings or could not read the word would have been preached to them by someone who could read.
    Oral teaching would be from written documents.
    Since historians wrote that the Christians escaped literally over the rooftops from the roman siege by following the gospel of mathew then I would suggest that all new testament writings were available before 70 AD.

    • Dear Charles,
      You said,

      Luke tells us that he is going to write an account to theophilus – this would be right away.

      Right away? Right away when? Right after he wrote the first sentence of his gospel? I agree. But it is generally agreed that Luke wrote his gospel at about 60 AD. …about 27 years after Jesus died.

      According to my old Protestant RSV Bible:
      Matthew: Written between 60-90 AD
      Mark: Written between 50-70 AD
      Luke: Written between 60-90 AD
      John: Written between 90-100 AD ( some think around 70 AD)

      • bfhu – i dont agree that luke would wait 27 years to write his account – these scholars have no more proof than I have – we have to use common sense – why on earth would luke wait 27 yrs ?

        copied : –
        Josephus, a Jewish historian from the first century, catalogued the high priests of the second temple period (Wm. Whiston’s editorial note in his translation of Josephus, War, n.635). Among them are Annas (8-15 A.D.); his five sons: Eleazar, Mattatthias, Annanas, Jonathan, and Theophilus (37-41 A.D.); his son-in-law (brother-in-law to Theophilus) Caiaphas (the high priest during Jesus’ life); and his grandson (son of Theophilus) Matthias (65 A.D., the second-from-the-last high priest before the fall of the temple). An archaeological fact, this same Theophilus had a granddaughter named Yohannana, or Johanna (engraved on an ossuary, a bone box). Several of those named above are mentioned, whether overtly or by implication, in Luke-Acts. Among NT writers, only Luke mentions or alludes to Theophilus, Johanna, and Matthias. Annas is only elsewhere mentioned by John (18.13,24).

        • Dear Charles,
          Luke was not a follower of Jesus. He seems to have researched the life of Christ and then written his Gospel. For all we know Luke did not know a thing about Jesus for 27 years after his death.

          I have no idea how scholars have dated the times estimated for the writings of the Gospels and other books of the New Testament. But I defer to them b/c I am sure they know more about the subject than I do. You will have to fight it out with the scholars. I am just going by what they say. What were your credentials again? Where did you get your PhD? And what subject was it in?

  2. Pam,

    I believe that your dollar figures for the cost of a Bible in the ancient world are fairly accurate.

    However, scholars tend to agree that the NT writings were originally written primarily for public (and group) reading. (A passage in Augustine’s Confessions about Ambrose leads many scholars to conclude that *all* reading in the ancient world was done out loud!) They were read extensively–and not just on the Lord’s Day. This is how early Christians learned and memorized Scripture. Scholars also agree that oral memories in the ancient world, even among the illiterate, were far superior (with the absence of the printing press, TV, etc.) to those of today.


  3. “If they had been Christians who lived in 45 AD not a single NT gospel or letter had even been written. So how did these Christian follow Christ without a Bible?

    The first Christians were Jewish, therefore they had the OT. Rather, the Torah, Nevi’im, & Ketuvim. Also known as the Tanakh. They were taught the Tanakh from childhood. Some had direct teachings from Jesus, & some from disciples. Though, as Jews they had the common foundation of Judaism. The apostles preached and taught as they went about converting. As evidenced in many places in the NT, they used the teachings of Judaism, coupled with the illumination of the Holy Ghost that some of the OT was a shadow of better things to come, to reach the lost.

  4. Dear Charles,
    None of the Gospel writers were reporters writing for newspapers. Luke wrote his Gospel to Theophilus–God lovers. And the other Gospel writers wrote when the Apostles realized their life was nearing an end and they should put into writing their memoirs of Jesus.

    Of course, there have always been literate people and the Jews were instructed in the OT. But if even today, with the ease of accessing books and the internet, if there is still a 20% illiteracy rate….what do you think it was 2000 years ago? More or less?

    Charles said, “If anyone did not have NT writings or could not read the word would have been preached to them by someone who could read.
    Oral teaching would be from written documents.

    I totally agree. And this is exactly what the Catholic Church did and still does to this day. In three years one will hear nearly all of Holy Scripture just by attending Mass every Sunday.

    I am not contending that all of the NT writings were non-existent or not available until 400 AD. However, the earliest NT books were probably written around late 40’s AD. And John’s Gospel and Revelation was written between 90-100 AD according to scholars.

    • bfhu – by attending church on say 60 occasions x 3yrs where the readings can be covered in about 5 minutes – this would be way short of the whole counsel of God .
      I would not say paul peter etc wrote all their letters at the end of their lives – they were written to new churches and read out and circulated immediately. The contents would be relevant to the events that were occurring when they were written. So for example paul’s letters to the church at corinth would be written at the time this church was planted since they were babes in Christ and having start up problems.

      So at this time there was not an established dominant Roman church and Peter said he was merely a fellow elder.

    • Pam,

      I wish to recommend to everyone this excellent book:

      *The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences*
      by Richard Bauckham (whom I have had the privilege of meeting)

      Particularly interesting is the chapter entitled “The Holy Internet: Communication Between Churches in the First Christian Generation.”

      Here is where you will find a summary of the book’s contents:

      This work is not only relevant to the present discussion, but of use in countering secular skepticism regarding the Gospels.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: