Unfortunately I must respectfully disagree, not with his knowledge of Scriptural text, but with his conclusions concerning Scripture. There’s a question that is being missed. It’s one that most people don’t think to ask themselves: where did the Bible come from? I don’t mean the “inspired by God” sort of come from, but how did such diverse writings as Leviticus and Revelation come to be gathered into the work that Christians call the Bible?
In truth, if we are to take every statement about Scripture that occurs in the New Testament as evidence that Scripture alone is enough for Christian faith, then Christians would need to abandon that very part of the Bible. What we call the New Testament did not exist at the time that Jesus and his followers spoke and wrote, nor did it exist as a collected work for centuries after. They had only the Old Testament – the stories and letters of the New Testament era had yet to be written, sifted through, and selected to be the authoritative works, or canon, of the Good News. Each reference to Scripture that occurs in Scripture itself is a reference to the Old Testament. The King James Bible did not appear at Pentecost.
John himself tells us that not everything concerning Christ’s work is in Scripture in John 21:25, saying “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world could contain the books that could be written.” Indeed, even if they had been written down, a large part of the population could not have read the books, let alone afford them since they were not as blessed with literacy or ability to buy books as we are. That is why the New Testament letters repeatedly describe a process of oral teaching and traditions: “And what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.” (2 Tim 2:2); “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.”(2 Thes 2:15); “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17). Lacking a written New Testament those first years, it was a preaching church: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life; to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). That does not mean, of course, that there was no study of the Old Testament - indeed, those are the Scriptures they searched - and with about 80% of the quotations of the New Testament coming from the Greek Septuagint, we've been left with a good idea of what the Old Testament they studied looked like.
The New Testament writers themselves quoted from sources outside of the Old Testament: Jude quotes Enoch, a book considered canonical by only a few, in verses 14 and 15 when he says “Enoch, of the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied also about them when he said, “Behold, the Lord has come with his countless holy ones to execute judgment on all and to convict everyone for all the godless deeds that they committed and for all the harsh words godless sinners have uttered against him.”” Jude also recounts a dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil over the body of Moses, yet there is no written record of this story – it seems to come from Jewish tradition (Jude 9).
There is nothing in Holy Writ that says that it ALONE is sufficient. And in the end, somebody had to make the decision and declaration that THESE writings and THESE alone constitute the New Testament and declare that no more would be added. In 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, listed the 27 books we know as the New Testament and used the word “canonized” in regard to them. The Council of Rome of Pope Damascus I in 382 issued a list identical to it, and the commissioning of the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible by the same pope fixed those 27 books in the mind of Christianity as the New Testament for all the centuries since then. Even Luther’s opinion that James was “an epistle of straw” could not change that. The Bible of Christianity did not come first – the Christian Church did.
The Bible is indeed inspired by God and many more should be reading it and paying attention to its teaching than to the seemingly endless adventures of Lindsay Lohan, especially in this multi-media age. But if each one of us could truly interpret it clearly with no need of anything or anyone else then Christianity would not have fragmented into thousands of pieces, each piece built on someone’s interpretation of the Bible.
All quotes from Scripture are from The New American Bible. Because that’s the version I have that has big print…