Canon Came Before Catholic Councils
The fall of Constantinople came in 1453. This singular event of history had a profound impact on the world. It was Bayozid 1st who successfully defended the great city of Constantinople in 1391-1397. The persistent drive of the invader, however, saw the great capitol fall and its inhabitants utterly defeated.
Many scholars had made their home and work in this ancient Greek speaking empire. These men of learning fled westward away from the ravages of the newly fallen empire. Their direction was Europe (and this is beyond dispute) and their possessions were their Greek learning and many manuscripts of the Scriptures. (See William Muir, "Our Grand Old Bible," Morgan and Scott Ltd.: 1921, p.36). It is this fact of history that prompted the beauty of the statement, "Greece rose from the grave with the New Testament in her hand." Now God, in a single event of history, made it possible for the treasures of the Word of God to be made public in mass production. Not in the weak texts of the Roman Latin text, but Greek, and at that the Greek of the Received Text Manuscripts. "So much was this the case, that for the ordinary Romanist theologian, Greek became for a time the language of the heretic." (See Muir, p.36).
Some have assumed without proof that the Roman Catholic Church gave the Bible to the world. Their statements are completely unsupported by facts. Statements such as, "If you can accept the Bible or any part of it as the inspired Word of God, you can do so only because the Catholic Church says it is." (See the booklet: "The Bible Is A Catholic Book," Knights of Columbus; St.Louis, p.4). Such statements as "The New Testament writings were never meant to be the sole and final authority for Christís revealed truth" and "And all of the books of the New Testament were written by Catholics" are good examples of wishful thinking that has never and shall never be substantiated.
Too many people too willing to remain ignorant and unwilling to be informed cling to the false idea that the Bible as we have it was never recognized as such until centuries after the death of all the apostles when official church councils met to determine the canon of Scripture. Any person with a reasonable attitude for honesty will find history has no evidence in even the smallest detail that the Catholic Councils gave the Bible to the world. Dr. Flournoy, the author of a scholarly work on the canon of the Scriptures, is said to have noted concerning documents he found, "That the canon of the New testament just as we have it, especially as it applies to the Gospels, was the original and only canon, it being freely quoted by men living in the latter part of the first and the first part of the second century, who recognize the books as standing on a plane of authority not shared by any other books. And Dr. Harnack, the great German critic and theologian of modern times, not prejudiced in favor of evangelical Christianity, to say the least, testifies, that Ďas regards the text of the gospels we may conclude that about the year 160 it ran just as it runs now.í" (See J.M. Grey, "Primers Of The Faith," London: Fleming H. Revell Co.; 1906, pp.95,96).
When a serious student of history takes note of the countries, persons, and books used by early Christians, he can form a sphere of information which will enable him to accurately judge the books which were accepted as Scripture. Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred about 116, knew our New Testament for he knew the Epistles of Paul. Matthew and John were his favorite gospels. Polycarp of Smyrna (69-155 A.D.). had the book of Matthew, Paul's Epistles, I John, and possibly the book of Acts. The didache (120 A.D.) uses Matthew and Luke with most of the other N.T. books. Melito of Sardis (2nd century) quotes from all the N.T. books but James, Jude, II John, and III John. Lucian of Antioch was martyred in 312. He had a version of the N.T. with all books but II Peter, II & III John, and Jude. Clement of Alexandria (155-215) used all the N.T. books but James, II Peter, and III John. Others as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Marcion the Gnostic, Cyril, Tatian, and many other early figures of Church history give abundant proof that the N.T. as we have it today was generally accepted among all areas. (See H.C. Thiessen, "Introduction To The New Testament," Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; Grand Rapids, 1962, pp.6-24).
Some have made very dubious statements concerning the formation of the canon. Grey gives an account that reaches beyond all imagination: "Some of the later enemies of the faith have tried to prove that we Christians did not get our Bible till the fourth century. They have said there was a church council about that time in the city of Nice, France, one of whose purposes was to make a Bible. There had been many books floating around, claiming to be inspired, and nobody knew which were and which were not inspired. Copies of all these books were collected at the time of this council and placed under the communion table in the church. then the bishops gathered around the table and prayed that in some way the inspired books might be indicated from the uninspired, and as they prayed, a number of the books were supernaturally raised from underneath the table and placed on top of it." (See Grey, pp.99-100). Thiessen in his introduction to the N.T. gives historical proof that these early councils actually had nothing to do with forming a canon. The earliest council which can be accepted is that of 397 and 419. (op. cit. pp. 25-26). This shows the N.T. had been used nearly 300 years before these "Johnny-come-lately" councils claimed to have put the Bible together.
When a presumptuous individual claims for his church the exclusive authority for making the N.T. Canon, you can take a long laugh on firm ground at the folly of ignorance.