The Bible is Not Important

To be Christian You Do Not Need the Bible

by Ibn Anwar

The title of this humble post captures the reality of the Christian religion for its first 340 years of existence. It is a fact of history that there was no book that resembles today’s Bibles in the time of Jesus. Nor was there a Bible in the time of Jesus’ disciples, the followers of his disciples or in the time of the patristics. Christianity existed for a long time without any kind of Bible. In ‘Bible Quizzes: to a Street Preacher,’ Reverend Father Rumble and Reverend Father Carty write:

“Many different Christianities, including our own brand of Christianity, existed over 300 years without one single Christian Bible.” [1]

The oldest extant Bible called Codex Sinaiticus is the not same as either the Catholic Bible or the Protestant Bible as it includes two additional material in its New Testament that are not considered canonical in the western Christian tradition namely, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. The Septuagint of this very early codex is dissimilar from the Protestant version of the Bible as it includes the so-called Deuterocanonical books that the Protestants identify as ‘apocrypha.’ It was not until Athanasius in CE 367 that anybody could see a list of “biblical” books that today’s Christians would be familiar with. Prior to Athanasius neither the Catholic Bible nor the Protestant Bible was in existence. As a matter of fact, different patristic authorities had different versions of the Bible that differed with one another. Biblical scholar Philip R. Davies writes:

“For no single Christian canon has ever reigned: the Catholic, Protestant, Ethiopic, Orthodox(Greek and Russian), Coptic and Syrian canons differ. In many cases canons were, and are, a matter of uncertainty(the contents of the Vulgate were not settled until 1546). ‘Canon’, then, like ‘bible’, is a category of which there are several members. Whether a piece of writing is ‘canonical’ and whether it is in a bible is a matter of where and when you choose to ask. For the earliest stages in the development of both, ‘biblical’ is easier to define than ‘canonical, of course, because we can consult an ancient bible and see immediately what was in it. And anything that was in it was obviously ‘biblical’: there is no other rational definition! Any book that has been included in a bible is, after all, a biblical a book: that is a matter of fact and not for discussion. Whether the contents of the earliest bibleare ‘canonical’ is a different matter, involving an understanding of what the term might have meant at any particular time. (Canonical criticism, then, is not central to biblical studies but concerns a related topic.) Thus, for example, the New Testament of he Peshitta (dating from the fifth century) omits four of the Catholic epistles (2 and 3 John, Philemon, 2 Peter). The Ethiopic New Testament canon has 35 books. But no Ethiopic biblical manuscripts contain the whole New Testament…” [2]

Because Christians of the first 300 years of Christianity are identified as real Christians by today’s Christians despite the fact that they literally had no Bible, we must therefore conclude that belief in the Bible is unnecessary and inconsequential. Nobody should be made to believe in a book called the Bible that not even Jesus believed in. In that sense, Muslims must be seen as being more loyal to Jesus and his disciples than modern Christians because like Jesus, Muslims do not need any Bible to believe in God. Neither Jesus nor his disciples (not even Paul!) sanctioned any Bible. How could they be expected to have approved any Bible when the earliest recognisable Bible came more than 300 years after their existence on earth?

Notes:

[1] Rumble & Carty (2015). Bible Quizzes: to a Street Preacher. n.d.: TAN books. n.d.

[2] Davies, P. R. (1995). Whose Bible is it Anyway?. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press Ltd. p. 64

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