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 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 utilized the written word for confirming oral traditions already delivered in person to various Christian communities.
- 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 (2nd Thess. 2:15) and that they dissociate from those who reject such apostolic tradition (3:6).
- The New Testament canon was slowly developed with the common consensus of the church based on its tradition. There was no elite group plotting to control Christianity (sorry conspiracy theorists). The inclusion of writings in the New Testament was similar to our labeling composers as “Classical.” Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and others are not considered great classical composers because a council formed to exclude less popular composers. Rather, a general consensus was reached among later musical critics and composers that these earlier composers were something special.
- The early church functioned quite well without a New Testament canon through the end of the fourth century. As crazy as it sounds, the Church thrived and kept true beliefs intact without a Bible for hundreds of years.
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, and the cornerstone of our tradition. Continue to part V here.