Five additional thoughts on the early church and the New Testament
In my prior posts, I discussed the early church and the canonization process. I want to mention a few observations I have made in my studies that I feel are important in understanding the context in which the New Testament (NT) was written:
- As we can see from a study of church history, the Bible is actually a product of church tradition. Christ established the Church through the apostles who taught future leaders of the church. Those leaders passed on the teachings of the apostles, which included both written and oral sources. Neither Paul nor the writers of the Gospels thought of themselves as writing scripture, but rather used the written word for teaching and preserving traditions regarding the faith.
- With that said, Christ did not come to establish a Bible, but rather His Kingdom through the Church.
- Tradition was considered crucial. Even Paul when writing 2nd Thessalonians ordered that the church hold fast to the traditions delivered to them orally (chapter 2:15) and that they dissociate from those who reject apostolic tradition (3:6).
- The NT canon was slowly developed with the common consensus of the church based on its tradition. There was no small group plotting to control Christianity (sorry conspiracy theorists). The inclusion of writings in the NT was similar to our labeling of composers as classical. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and others are not considered great classical composers because a council formed to exclude composers whom they didn’t like. Rather, a general consensus was reached among later musical critics and composers that those guys were something special.
- The early church functioned quite well without a NT canon through the end of the fourth century. Apparently, there is more to the Christian faith than what is in the Bible.
I mention all of that not to downplay the Bible, but to put it in its proper context: it is a product of the Church. Continue to part V here.