The Church Before the Bible

Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by bwallac2335, Jul 5, 2020.

  1. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    He shouldn't have been astonished... and neither should the 'doctors of the Mosaic Law' have been astonished... but they were!
    Luk 2:42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
    Luk 2:43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
    Luk 2:44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
    Luk 2:45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
    Luk 2:46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
    Luk 2:47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

    That which seems pretty clear to us, and which was crystal-clear to Jesus, was confounding to the religious experts of the day, Nicodemus included.
     
  2. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    If we are using Luke 2 to argue that the New Testament as a whole came as a shock to people, then I have to again register that I disagree. In Luke chapter 2, we actually don't know the things he talked about in the Temple. They could've been divine trivia, which have no bearing on salvation, and never even became recorded in the NT.

    I would argue that the New Testament was provably comfortable and familiar to the scholars and rabbis, from the following evidence:
    -people of God who were not Christ himself, were seen to teach NT doctrines, especially John the Baptist. They spontaneously up and started to advance those beliefs before being instructed in them by NT's 'new teachers'
    -Jesus counted people as guilty, and accused them of violating his laws, although they only had the Old Testament to reference
    -the Apostles repeatedly used the Old Testament in support for Jesus' views (the only 'scriptures' they had available, for obvious reasons). To maintain a radical newness of the New Testament, we have to be willing to say that the apostles (and Jesus himself) read into the OT their new teachings. And then, they falsely accused others for failing to follow the OT as interpreted by them. "Here is my new interpretation, and be accursed if you never understood the OT my way!"
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2021
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  3. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Be that as it may, to go back to my original point, it seems that Nicodemus was quite puzzled and confused by Jesus' answer to him in John 3. Wouldn't you agree with that? Nicodemus' response shows that he thinks Jesus is talking in natural, bodily terms when in reality "you must be born again" referred to a spiritual rebirth. As for whether Nicodemus 'should' have readily understood this, does anyone know of an O.T. passage that included the phrase (in Hebrew of course), "born again," which could have prepared him to have a good grasp of Jesus' meaning? Wasn't Jesus' response rather cryptic, and wouldn't Jesus have known it to be so?

    Time after time, Jesus spoke things that went straight 'over the heads' of the listeners, whether they be apostles, disciples, Saducees, Pharisees, Sanhedrin members, or ordinary folk. His depth of understanding went far beyond that of anyone else. His knowledge and appreciation of people's limited understanding and his awareness about the wrong ideas they tended to get from their religious leaders is amply evident. Therefore, the idea advanced in post #34 that Jesus was surprised by Nicodemus' lack of comprehension is, at least to me, unbelievable.
     
  4. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    But surely the point must be that there was no excuse for their astonishment. Certainly not the excuse that they were living in the wrong 'Dispensation' to be able to understand what they were failing to experience regarding being 'born of the Spirt'.

    Jesus, as you say, may not have been actually surprised at Nicodemus's ignorance of the matter under discussion but he equally seems by the conversation reported, to be less than impressed with Nicodemus's knowledge of spiritual matters, which is odd since according to Dispensationalist theology Nicodemus should have no knowledge of such matters because such knowledge and experience was utterly unavailable to him and everyone else until the following 'Dispensation' which could only begin on the Day of Pentecost 32AD.

    I am using the word 'dispensation' here the way dispensationalists would use it rather than merely as a way to conveniently sub-divide certain periods of the extent of human knowledge over the history of the people of God, 'ecclesia', the church. I say this because clearly an 'Age of Grace' dawned and 'An age of Law' faded into history but that does not mean that the 'Age of Law' was without God's Grace and the 'Age of Grace' is without God's Law. Such periods and developments of church history simply do not work that way. The Church of Jesus Christ has 'existed' in the purposes of God from the very beginning of time.

    The revelation of the truth of already existing reality, (which is what is in the mind of God, and in the scriptures, not necessarily yet, at any time, in the minds of mankind, Isa.55:8), is what Jesus came in the Incarnation to do. We are the 'People who are living in darkness', He is the Great Light which came to reveal already existing truth about God and his purposes toward us. John 5:39-44, Luke 24:25-27.

    The Jews considered that eternal life was revealed to them in their Scriptures, and that they had it, because they had the word of God in their hands. Jesus urged them to search those Scriptures with more diligence and attention. "Ye do search the Scriptures," and ye do well to do so. The information was there, but they did not search diligently enough for it. Failing to be 'Born again' was their fault, (not God's, for putting them in the wrong historical church 'Dispensation').
    Yes, I would, but that has nothing to do with Dispensationalism, it has to do with human ignorance of God's boundless grace and providence.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2021
  5. PDL

    PDL Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I think Tradition played a major role in the Church. First, the Bible as we now know it was not codified until the fourth century. Secondly, we need to recall most people would not have been able to read the Bible because the majority were illiterate. In the West, at least, the Bible was also inaccesible because it was written in Latin long after that was a spoken language. Also prior to the advent of printing most would not have had the financial means of purchasing a Bible. So for a very long time the Church in both East and West relied on Tradition.

    I prefer the Eastern Orthodox view of Tradition to the Roman Catholic one. Roman Catholics see Scripture and Tradition as two parallel sources of belief. The Eastern Orthodox see no distinction at all between the Bible and Tradition and view the Sacred Scriptures as an integral part of Tradition.
     
  6. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    What you say makes a lot of sense. The Bible was produced by The Church, not the Church by The Bible.
    .
     
  7. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I think that the course of sacred history will have many things that are cryptic, because God is so much more complicated than we. Yeah Nicodemus was puzzled about what this regeneration meant; but that's because he used natural understanding, and that came short of seeing the full truth. But St. Paul teaches that regeneration was already a regular feature of Hebrew life from all the way back to the exodus from Egypt, in the passing through the Red Sea, in the becoming a new people; that the circumcision of the flesh was ordained as a perpetual mark of the new people. Some people were puzzled by these things (like Nicodemus). Many people were baffled when Jesus linked his sacred body to the manna from heaven during the Days of Wandering. Many people were so scandalized that they even left him. And nevertheless he argues that all these teachings: on regeneration, on the messiah, on the Body and Blood, on justification, etc, that they also were already present in the Old Testament, even if not everyone had seen them.

    But I would argue that even the generation of the New Testament were left with things which puzzled them, that have become more clear to us since then. For example the rule of Baphomet, (and I'm not prone to superstitious thinking,), but the tangible ways in which the demonic influence on the world looks like, feels like; what people begin to look like, all that was completely hypothetical to them. The sodomitical relationships of antiquity were very limited, and all those men always had a wife, with whom they had children and who took care of their family. The famous legal code of Justinian, 500s AD at the very end of antiquity, still stated after 1000 years of open homosexuality, that 'matrimony is between a husband and a wife.' They would be revolted at the idea of a daddy and a daddy marrying each other, and sharing a son between them. That's an example of the rule of Baphomet that we "enlightened rational scientific" people are actually entering into. We see more clearly something that the Christians of 100 AD would only hypothetically imagine.

    So the puzzlements that come from the unfolding sacred history of the world, sure, they happened; and clarity always came at a later time to future generations.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2021
  8. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    The Bible was more truly produced by God than by the Church, the latter being what we might perhaps call 'His instrumentality' or 'His agency' in the production. In contrast, much of Tradition was produced by the Church, comprised of fallible human beings, all by its little fallible self. Thus the RCs are the more correct of the two because they see Scripture and Tradition as two distinct sources of belief, although they err in holding them to be of equal weight and equal authoritativeness.

    Consider, for example, the fact that Peter (that great apostle upon whom the RCC leans so heavily) erred in his thinking and had to be set straight by Paul and others. Any early church father could err and 'miss it' on some point or other when writing a letter, and we do greatly err if we take such letters as 'gospel'. This is why the Anglican position is 'primo scriptura', as some have put it.
     
  9. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    What I am suggesting is that the church existed before the Bible did. (Fact). The Church decided the writings that the Bible would contain and what writings it wouldn't contain. (Fact). That Church was guided by The Holy Spirit of God, helped by what writings it decided to include in The Bible from those it had access to, which were many, that it decided NOT to include in The Bible. (Faith and fact). So the church made the Bible, the Bible didn't make the church. It was the Church, under the inspiration of God which decided which Books were inspired by God to be used by the Church for doctrine, the refutation of error and as a guide to it's own conduct as good sevants of the God who is the author it and of our salvation.
    .
     
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  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    This is scary! It's the same line of thinking used by the RCC. They use it thusly: "The Church gave you the Bible, therefore the Church is the authoritative source for interpreting the Bible; you need to accept whatever interpretation the Church tells you." It's how they arrive at the authority of their Magisterium. It's how they justified withholding Bibles from the laity, burning Bibles, and fighting against translations of the Bible into common tongues. I rejected this hubristic line of thinking when I left the RCC, and I am shocked and profoundly dismayed to see the foundation of this train of logic, "the Church gave you the Bible," parroted among Anglicans! :facepalm: It elevates the view of the Church at the expense of our view of the power of God to give us His message, the word of God in its purity, in written form!
     
  11. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    @Tiffy @Rexlion

    Effectively we are talking about the canon of the New Testament.

    The Statement 'the Church gave you the Bible' is a difficult proposition. The 27 Books, essentially universally accepted as the New Testament have been received, but in no sense were they the gift of the Church, and there is no Oecumenical Council that formed the Canon. This arose in the consensus fidelium, and later acknowledged as the books we receive.

    Equally unhelpful is the idea that God dropped the Bible on the planet, or any one of a number of similar propositions that are purported.

    God language is neither Greek nor Hebrew, neither Latin nor Elizabethan English, but love. That love was spelled out in blood by Jesus the Savior. The ancient records received authentically by the Church tells us of this love. As such the New Testament is the cornerstone of the tradition of faith in that love we know in Christ Jesus.
     
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  12. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Agreed, what you have said is indeed scary, but they are your words not mine. It is a line of false reasoning just as the line of reasoning that tries to impose the opinion that "The Bible is God's written word"; therefore, "Unless you believe in a literal manner every sentence word and punctuation, including the maps at the back, you are not a true disciple of Jesus Christ, (like young earth creationists obviously are), and therefore an enemy of God".

    Both propositions are equally exaggerated, false lines of reasoning.

    We are presumably equally as shocked as you are, but the words are your own, not mine. If any parroting is going on it is coming from yourself, presumably based upon a failure to understand and interpret facts correctly.

    The Church existed before The Bible, (both Old and New Testaments if the word ecclesia indeed refers to God's people and means 'Church'). The Old Testament came from the stories remembered by God's people, pens of Prophets and inspired, mostly unnamed, editors, (literally), and the New Testament came from the lips and pens of Apostles and inspired disciples of Christ. (Literally). The conclusions you seem to have reached resulting from those facts, (or rather, it seems, in denial of them), seem to be your own though, regarding the inspiration of The Bible and its self stated usefulness as a guide to doctrine and praxis for The Church. 2 Tim.3:16.
    .
     
  13. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    You stated it as, "the Church made the Bible." I restated it slightly as, "the Church gave you the Bible," because that's how the RCs phrase it, but essentially the two statements are more or less identical in implication. This isn't a chicken-or-egg question: which came first, God or the Church? God predates the Church by quite a span, wouldn't you agree? The Bible is the word of God, wouldn't you agree? The word of God existed in the mind of God long before He had men set it to parchment. The word of God is God's message to man, it is not the Church's message to man. Therefore, God made the Bible through the agency of churchmen. Likewise we could state it as, God gave us the Bible through the agency of the Church.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2021
  14. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I would like to agree with much of what you've said, at least in broad principle, but must point out that the contention being raised is not limited to the scope of the New Testament.
     
  15. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Actually if you think about it, the church existed in the mind of God before the Bible did. Without the need for the church in the mind of God, there would have been no need for a Bible to guide it. Indeed for most of the church's existence it only had God, The Angel of the LORD and The Holy Spirit to guide it, not even any scriptures at all. Abraham had no scriptures, not even The Law. That came hundreds of years later and even that certainly wasn't yet 'a Bible'.

    The Bible is what God wanted men, (mostly), to discover about, what God wanted them to record, for us all to know about, and understand what is to our eternal benefit.
    .
     
  16. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I think both existed in His mind at the same moment. Shall we call it a draw? :tiphat:
     
  17. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    True, and He gave it to mankind a slice at a time rather than all at once. That is one of the best pieces of evidence for 'progressive revelation' and dispensational periods that one could come up with. Thank you! :clap:
     
  18. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Well-Known Member

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    Are you a closet Mormon Rexlion? :D
     
  19. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Progressive Revelation is fine by me, seems to be the way we got to understand more and more about God. You would have to accept though that the further back you go into the past, the less anyone knew about the nature and mind of God, so the less accurate were the assumptions that men made regarding the reasons for and the meanings of the acts of God. Some things even being attributed to God, that God was probably not actually responsible for, (by writers with less than complete revelation concerning God's true nature, which was only glimpsed previously to the incarnation, teaching, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and the dawn of the Age of Grace).

    The fact remains that without the church the Bible wouldn't have been written or compiled and without the Bible successive generations of believers would probably not get to know Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Though scripture tells us that God could raise up children to believe in Him from stones on the ground. God does not need The Bible to get his followers attention. Matt.3:9, Luke 3:8. Moses had no Bible. Only a burning bush. And God did not write a book and then have nothing whatever to do with the world he has created. God does not only speak through the pages of a Bible.
    .
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2021
  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Good heavens, no. Why ever would you say that?

    As outspoken as I have been on this forum, could anyone suspect me of being a 'closet' anything? :laugh:
     
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