Home About Us Apostolic Free Library Questions & Answers Guestbook Order Online Search The Network

How did the early church manage without the Bible?

Submitted: 8/10/2013
Post a comment or
ask a follow-up question
Question: Did you know that Christianity existed and flourished without an agreed upon text (what we know today as the 66 books of the Old and New Testament) until 397 A.D.? No 'Book of Acts,' or 'Writings of Paul.' In fact the oldest known manuscript was dated around 150 A.D. In other words; we have no original manuscripts for what is known as; 'The Books of the New Testament.' Question: If the 'day of Pentecost' happened around 34/35 A.D., what did Christians do to live 'according to the Apostles' Doctrine' for the 362 years until 397 A.D. when they finally had a complete Bible? 'But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.' Gal 1:8-9

Answer: The original believers were taught by the men who had learned directly from Jesus. Paul also received his understanding of truth directly from the Lord, albeit in the Spirit. He then met with the other apostles who confirmed that he had it right. Paul typically spent a lot of time with the people he was discipling. For example, he told the elders of Ephesus that he had shared with them 'the whole counsel of God' (Acts 20:27). A few verses later he said 'that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.' Does this mean it took him three years to teach them everything they needed to know? We also know that the early believers met 'daily' (Acts 2:46). My point is, the orginal Christians spent an enormous amount of time learning from the apostles. In contrast, the average believer today spends at most a couple of hours a week being taught spiritual truth.

Also, keep in mind that Paul asked Timothy to bring him 'the books, especially the parchments' which he had left in Troas (2 Timothy 4:13). This indicates that Paul carried written documents with him as he traveled. It seems reasonable that much of what the apostles taught was written down at various times and locations. Also, just because the New Testament canon was not formally agreed upon until the 4th century does not mean the content didn't exist. All of the various letters and writings had been around since the first century and had undoubtedly been copied numerous times and passed around between the assemblies.

We believe God is powerful enough to oversee the accumulation of His Word exactly as He wanted it to be. His ways are perfect. If we cannot rely on the books of the Bible that have been passed down to us, then we have nothing solid to build our faith upon. The liberal-minded are aways wanting to cast doubt on the integrity of the Scriptures, but we find their arguments to be hollow.