Where in the Bible does it say that everything has to be in the Bible?

When questioning beliefs of the Church, the one thing people always go back to is “Where is that in the Bible?” While all of the Teachings and Traditions of the Church coincide with principles and references in the Bible, not every Teaching or Tradition is specifically mentioned in the Bible in a clear cut, direct manner. When people cannot find a scripture that directly references a Catholic belief, their immediate response is, “Where is that in the Bible?”

A few years back, when I was anti-all-things Catholic, due to lack of knowledge, I asked this question often. Then one day, I got an answer that made me think: “Well, where in the Bible does it say that everything has to be in the Bible?”

As I thought on this comment, I began to find that not only does it never say in the Bible that everything related to Christ and His Teachings has to be in the Bible, but in fact the exact opposite is stated:

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15

St. Paul is referencing two mediums to knowing Jesus’ truth: the letter, which is the many letters that he himself and the other apostles wrote that later came to make up a huge portion of the New Testament canon (in layman’s terms: scripture), and word of mouth, also known as oral tradition.

Let me pause here to clarify: The Bible is the Holy, infallible Word of God, and the Church teaches this. Scripture is very important. However, the Church teaches that Scripture is not the only source of infallibility Christ gave to us. The oral Teachings of the Church, passed down from Jesus to the first apostles to their successors today, are also infallible.

The fact of the matter is, everything Jesus said was infallible and every event that happened in relation to Jesus is significant to our faith as Christians. But not all of these things were physically written down.  What was not written down was spoken through the Church. And just as the Bible was physically written by sinful men, yet remains infallible because of the Holy Spirit’s divine guidance, so are the Teachings of the Church considered infallible because of the same phenomenon. Although leaders of the church have sinned and made mistakes along the way, God has promised that the “gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18b), and alas, the oral Teachings of God have remained consistent throughout the years.

There are a couple of prime examples of divinely inspired, oral Teachings of the Church that Protestant denominations also hold. One is the concept of the Holy Trinity (one God, in three parts) No where in Scripture is the word “Trinity” found, and although there are indirect references to the concept, there is not a direct verse that states that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all together make up ONE God. In fact, it wasn’t until approximately 400 years after Christianity began that a council of church leaders met and made this Teaching an official Teaching of the Church. This is an oral Tradition of the Church in which all mainstream Christian denominations subscribe.

Another example is the compilation of the New Testament as it is today. The New Testament and the books in which comprise of it were not agreed upon and made official until the year 395, over three centuries after Christianity began. So, obviously, no where in the Bible does it specifically say Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, etc. etc. etc. are the infallible word of God. Yet, we believe they are, because the Church that Jesus established to sit in His seat in His physical absence, the Church that was being lead by the Holy Spirit, decided that these writings were divinely inspired. Well over a thousand years of this teaching being consistently, orally passed down, all Christians still believe these books make up the Bible and are the infallible Word of God.

We all know that Christianity began when Jesus ascended back into Heaven, very much alive, and sent His Holy Spirit over His Church. But at this point, as mentioned before, there was no Christian Bible as we know it today, nor would there be for over three hundred years. Even after the New Testament was officially decided upon and compiled, ownership of books were few and far between, due to lack of technology at the time. And even after the invention of the printing press, over a thousand years later, most common people did not know how to read, as it was not a priority in those days as it is today.  Therefore, it was simply not practical nor logical for the only source of divine inspiration to come from a book, and Jesus, a product of that time, was well aware of this.

Yet Christianity still persisted. This is because Jesus did not just leave us with a book to guide us, He left us with a Church. He did not just send His Holy Spirit over the writers of the New Testament to proclaim His infallible word, He sent His Holy Spirit over the leaders of the Church, to orally pass down His Teachings from generation to generation, so that this game of telephone might remain divinely inspired, despite the sinful nature of the men who were to proclaim it. And although not all of these Teachings were physically written down, they remain the infallible Word of God.

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One Comment to “Where in the Bible does it say that everything has to be in the Bible?”

  1. Right on! There are also several scriptural references besides the one you mention that speak about all the other things Jesus (or the disciples) said or did that were *NOT* written down. So actually, if anything, the scriptures themselves say they are incomplete! 🙂

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