Artifacts & Biblical History

Dear Protestant: Where Did You Get Your Bible?

by Steve Ray on July 26, 2016

From Little Catholic Bubble website
Leila@LittleCatholicBubble

Dear Protestant: Where did you get your New Testament?

At least a couple of times every week, Protestants use New Testament verses to show me where the Catholic Church is wrong about something. I always make them take the necessary step back by asking the following:

“Where did you get your New Testament?”

When they answers that it came from God (as indeed it did), I say, “Yes, but what was the mechanism God used to bring it to you today? How did it come to you, historically and in real time, since it did not drop out of Heaven into your hands, leather-bound?”

Nine times out of ten, they have no answer because they have never considered the question.

The quick answer:

The Catholic Church officially determined and set the canon of of the New Testament approximately 400 years after Christianity began. The canon was declared by the body of Catholic bishops at the Council of Carthage (397 A.D.) and confirmed by Pope Boniface (419 A.D.).  

Greek Manuscript Greek Manuscript

This is historical fact.

Let me flesh out a few more of the details, which very few Christians (Protestant or Catholic) know.

After Christ’s ascension into Heaven, and after the Holy Spirit descended upon the first Christians at Pentecost, the Church thrived and grew exponentially for years before even one line of the New Testament was written. Let that sink in: Baptisms, catechesis, communal worship, conversions of thousands of sinners, Apostles and their companions traveling to other lands and risking imprisonment, torture, and death to evangelize the world with zeal — all went on for over a decade before the New Testament was even begun, much less completed.

Without having written a word, the Church was teaching, preaching, growing, and flourishing for many years.

Eventually, a very few Apostles and their disciples starting writing down some of the Church’s oral Tradition: The Gospels, which recorded the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and also the Epistles (letters) of St. Paul and others, which gave encouragement and instruction to local churches being established throughout the world. The young Church cherished those gospels and letters, and began to incorporate them into her liturgies and masses.

Greek-ManuscriptMore and more written accounts and testimonies materialized as the Church grew, but contrary to today’s popular belief, it was not obvious to the early Christians which of these writings were truly God-inspired.

As brutal persecution of the Church continued in those first centuries, clarity about Christian writings became important. After all, Christians were being martyred routinely, and it was necessary to know which books were worth dying for.

Three categories of writings existed at that time:

1. Those writings that were universally acknowledged/accepted
2. Those writings that were disputed or controverted
3. Those writings that were known to be spurious or false

The first group included divinely-inspired books that we have in our Bible today, such as the four Gospels, the Epistles of St. Paul, and the Acts of the Apostles.

The second group included books that were simultaneously accepted in some Christian regions, rejected in others, and disputed in others. Some of these were indeed divinely-inspired, such the Epistles of James and Jude, one of Peter’s, two of John’s, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Book of Revelation, even as many Christians did not believe they were. Some were books that never made it into the final canon of the New Testament, but which several Christian communities considered inspired (and even used for catechizing and in the liturgy), such as the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, Apostolic Constitutions, the Epistle of St. Clement, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Laodiceans, etc.

The third group consisted of the fakes floating around, spurious works which were never acknowledged or claimed by the Church, such as about 50 false gospels including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of James, a couple dozen “Acts” (Acts of Pilate, Acts of Paul and Thecla, etc.), and some epistles and apocalypses.

NiceaUnder the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit and after a long series of historical events, a gathering of Catholic bishops went through the process of authoritatively and infallibly setting the books of the Christian canon, using the following criteria: a) The book in question must have been written in apostolic times by an Apostle or one close to an Apostle, and b) The book in question had to be doctrinally sound, completely conforming to Catholic Church teaching.

Several books met those criteria, and so it happened that some four centuries and 20 generations after Christ’s Resurrection, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church authoritatively set the canon of the New Testament, ending all confusion and doubt among the faithful.

Rome had spoken, and the canon was closed.

Which leaves us with some takeaways:

— If the Catholic Church (bishops and pope) had the authority from God to set the New Testament canon, then she cannot be the corrupt and un-Christian “Whore of Babylon” as is claimed by many Protestants.

— If one accepts the canon of the New Testament, one must also accept the authority of the entity who gave it to us, i.e., the Catholic Church.

— If one rejects the authority of the Catholic Church, one should and must also reject the canon of the New Testament that came to us through the authority of the Catholic Church. (It makes sense that Martin Luther, the rebel behind the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, wanted to throw out several of the New Testament books that he despised.)

— The New Testament cannot be “personally interpreted” by each individual Christian, because it was never meant to be taken outside of the Church from which it came.

— The New Testament cannot and does not contradict Catholic doctrine, as it was Catholic doctrine that was used as a criterion for its authenticity and authority.

— The New Testament was discerned and canonized by men who had divine authority to do so — men who believed explicitly in the Mass, the Eucharist, the ministerial priesthood, Confession, Purgatory, veneration of Mary, infant baptism and infused grace, justification by faith and works, the Communion of Saints, etc., etc.

— The Bible came from the Church. In other words, the Bible is Church-based, not the other way around. If you get this paradigm wrong, you get some messed-up theology.

— If a Protestant uses Scripture to attack the Catholic Church, it’s like ripping off a man’s arm to beat him with it. Using a Catholic Book to beat up the Catholic Church makes no sense.

— If you believe that your eternal salvation is based entirely on a Book, isn’t it important to know where the Book came from and who was given authority to proclaim it? Who meticulously copied, preserved, protected, and guarded it with their lives, and who ultimately vouched for the fact that it is indeed the written Word of God?

There is so much more to discuss, and I would love to do so in the comments. Meanwhile, one of the best books on the subject, which I devoured when I came back to the Church, is Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church, by Henry G. Graham.

**Note: I did not include the Old Testament canon in this post, because I wanted to work with something that both Protestants and Catholics agree on, namely, the 27 books of the New Testament.

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Flint Knives at the Heart of the Gospel

by Steve Ray on June 26, 2016

FlintKnife sm1.jpg

Ah, excuse me? What do flint knives have to do with the Gospel? A whole lot! Abraham believed God against all odds and as a reward he was given the special sign of the Covenant with God. And what was that wonderful sign between them?

In Genesis 17:10-11 God announces this sign to Abraham: “This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.”

Ouch! Abraham gathers his 350+ men together and says, “Hey Kies, do you want the good news first or the bad news? God has finally given us a sign of his covenant but…!”

What kind of sign is that? But Abraham obeyed and at 99 years old, Abraham dropped his . . . well, anyway, he did the surgery and again demonstrated his faith and obedience to God. And so did all the men with him.

Next we read of Joshua’s bloody job after the hundreds of thousands of men with their families crossed the Jordan River to possess the Promised Land.

“At that time the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the people of Israel again the second time.’So Joshua made flint knives, and circumcised the people of Israel” (Joshua 5:2-3). The place was called “the Hill of the Foreskins”

In the early Church, many of the Jews insisted that all gentiles be circumcised before they were allowed to be Christians. The Apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the first recorded Church Council (Acts 15) said “NO!”  Thanks be to God!

The whole gospel is about how Jesus came to save the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The question was, how do we get both groups into one family. Circumcision was one of the biggest issues in the way. Looked at in one way, the whole New Testament is about circumcision, how to deal with that and how to receive Gentiles into the family of God without it.

These flint knives were made for me as a generous and remarkable gift by Mike Cook of Portland Michigan. He is a “flintknapper” and primitive skills enthusiast (and also a student of the Bible!). The large one has a handle made from the jawbone of a black bear!

They are beautifully crafted and will always be a gift I treasure and which I will use in my Bible studies and apologetic work. I am overwhelmed with his skill and kindness.

I have also provided his letter about his craft and the biblical wisdom regarding flint knives and circumcision. You can read it here. Enjoy — and thanks so much Mike!

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Most ancient image of Mary with baby Jesus

Since we are touring the catacombs today, thought you would all enjoy a tour yourself.

Early Christian burial sites are now easier to see, both in person and via the Internet, thanks to 21st-century technology and collaboration between Google and the Vatican.

“This is perhaps the sign of the joining of two extremes, remote antiquity and modernity,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi at a news conference Tuesday at the Catacombs of Priscilla in northeast Rome.

The cardinal, president of both the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, lauded recent restoration work by the archeological commission inside the complex of early Christian tombs.

Using advanced laser techniques, restorers have uncovered vivid late fourth-century frescoes depicting Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and Sts. Peter and Paul accompanying Christians into the afterlife. Jesus’ face resembles portraits of the Emperor Constantine, who legalized Christian worship in 313.

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Jesus Was A Jew – So What is That To You?

June 20, 2016

 Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture and religion of Jesus and his Jewish ancestors.  […]

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Mary and the Other Body of Christ; How Many People were in the Upper Room and Why?

May 12, 2016

The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous thing to associates of an executed criminal. They were also anxious about the promise. […]

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Did Jesus Ascend into Heaven from Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12) or from Bethany (Luke 24:50)?

May 10, 2016

One of our past pilgrims wrote with an apparent contradiction in the Bible and what I had said in Israel. The wording in the two verses below is what caused the confusion. Acts 1:12  “[After the Ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.” Luke […]

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Is the Catholic Faith Anti-Woman? Five Reasons the Catholic Church is the Most PRO-WOMAN Institution in History

April 1, 2016

COMMENTARY: One doesn’t have to look far to see that the term ‘war on women’ doesn’t apply. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! by ARINA O. GROSSU  Anyone who claims that the Catholic Church is anti-woman knows little about her rich history and Tradition in proclaiming the beauty and greatness of womanhood. There is no […]

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How We REALLY Got the Bible – the Facts Simply Presented (print this out, hand it out)

March 31, 2016

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here. You can print this out, fold it […]

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Is this the Oldest Image of the Virgin Mary?

March 28, 2016

New York Times By Michael Peppard JANUARY 30, 2016 THE Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the most revered woman in the Christian tradition. In the history of art, she appears almost as frequently as Jesus himself. But for the past 80 years, one of the oldest paintings of her may have been hiding […]

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Was Jesus Crucified Naked?

March 25, 2016

A gentleman heard me on Relevant Radio earlier. I had mentioned on the air that one of the great humiliations of a crucifixion was that a man was crucified naked. This thoughtful gentleman wrote to challenge my comments. Below is his e-mail and my response. Dear Mr. Ray, Please correct your description of the Passion. […]

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“Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints

March 10, 2016

I compiled a list of Catechism, Scripture and quotes from the early Church Fathers and even archaeology to assist in understanding the Communion of Saints. You can download the source material here. Sample: Who should carry the most weight—Protestant pastors protesting Catholic theology today or pastors from the early Church who have the words of […]

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The Pain of Stolen Honey – In Preparation for “John the Baptist & Our Lord Baptism”

March 5, 2016

A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day. Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain […]

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Traveling with Paul, John & Mary in Biblical Times was TOUGH!

February 25, 2016

Jostling through the crowds Paul and Luke pushed their way to the ramp. The wooden cargo ship was ready to leave Caesarea and they had gathered the last of their supplies. They pressed the silver denarii into the hands of the sailer at the dock. They were allowed onto the ship. They rushed to the […]

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Feast of Chair of St. Peter: “Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter” Steve’s Article, YouTube Video and Resources

February 22, 2016

                                St. Cyprian of Carthage (beheaded 257 AD) one hundred and fifty years before the New Testament writings were collected into one book called “The Bible”: “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are […]

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Discovering the Place of Paul’s Shipwreck on Island of Malta

February 16, 2016

I am doing a show on EWTN’s Son Rise Morning Show on Tuesday about the shipwreck of St. Paul. So I am reposting this blog from our trip to Malta late last year. One of my favorite things is to discover the events and places of the Bible and to share them with others. The […]

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UNESCO Adds the Baptismal Site of Jesus to the World Heritage Sites

February 9, 2016

This is an exciting development which helps establish the authentic baptismal site of Jesus. With the involvement of UNESCO the site will receive protection, funding and recognition. This is the place where the last three popes commemorated the Baptism of Our Lord. Here are some articles about UNESCO’s decision and about the site: Here, here […]

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