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Early Christians - What "Bible" did they use?

Discussion in 'Christian History' started by danbuter, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. danbuter

    danbuter New Member

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    For the early Christians, what did they use for a Bible? Did they maybe have one or two Gospels, and that's it? As far as written materials, did they carry around an Old Testament? Was a lot of the religion based upon rote memorization of stories, that were then repeated and taught to others, with no actual written documents?
     
  2. SkyWriting

    SkyWriting The Librarian Supporter

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    Yes, all of that was used.
     
  3. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

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    They started with the Old Testament, and then used circulated letters written by Paul. Even during Paul's ministry there were groups of Paul's letters bundled together and used by the churches. By the start of the Second Century, most of the Apostles letters and the four Gospel were written and in circulation.
     
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  4. seeking.IAM

    seeking.IAM Episcopalian Supporter

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    A much greater percentage of the population were illiterate then as compared to now. In the earliest day of the church oral tradition had great importance in the propagation of the faith. One told another. And many were read to instead of reading for themselves.
     
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  5. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

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    This is the reason why Paul's letters were read out loud in the churches.
     
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  6. dreadnought

    dreadnought Lip service isn't really service. Supporter

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    I don't know a whole lot about this. For the first three centuries there wasn't really an established canon, I don't think, so the manuscripts might have existed separately, with different churches relying on different manuscripts for their edification. Some manuscripts might have been used that would not later be included in the canon. I think in 367 an Easter letter was written by Patriarch Anthanasius of Alexandria, which is given some credit in establishing the New Testament canon.
     
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  7. Eloy Craft

    Eloy Craft Member

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    The first Christians who Jesus authorized to spread the Gospel were the Apostles.

    John 20
    21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you" as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.

    Apostle means 'sent" While Jesus was on earth the Word of God was spoken by Him. No one else.
    These men are given by God the authority to preach a divine message. Faith is through hearing and so the Word of God could be heard from the mouths of His chosen Apostles. As the community grew the Apostles picked men and handed to them their authority from Christ to preach the Gospel. The Word of God on earth was spoken out of the mouths of these men and the men they chose. They went out into various parts of the world and preached with the thought that the Word of God would always be spoken and that how they were spreading the Gospel is how it would always be. The Hebrew Scriptures for them was a tool to reveal to their listeners who Jesus is. They were considered the written tradition of the Law and Prophets. They thought of them as Holy Scriptures but they wouldn't put them on the level of their authority since theirs is an expression of Divine Revelation. They knew they were given the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them and only they had the teaching about what they are. Because they weren't preaching the Law or the Prophets they were teaching that Jesus is the Messiah. It's not like anyone carried Scriptures with them. Scriptures were kept in designated places. Remember it wasn't easy to write down things or have written references to carry around. News was passed around by mouth. Few people knew how to read. Communication was by mouth and considered the the way a message would spread. These men began authorizing others to preach the Word and to take care of other administerial functions in this community and as time went by the Apostles found a letter to this community or that would offer needed instruction. They couldn't go there for whatever reason and letters would be sent. No way they ever thought they were writing something that would be preserved as a written form of the teaching tradition they were establishing. The first Gospels weren't written until 60 years or so to 100. The letters of Paul and the other Apostles were considered Sacred because what they taught was. There were Sacred writings here or there. This community had a few manuscripts that one some other manuscripts. No one community had them all or more than a few they actually read. It wasn't for another 300 years that it became necessary to gather them together and distinguish the ones that were inspired from the ones that weren't. Or the one's that were inspired but didn't seem proper. The Church continued to consider the spoken word from the successors of the Apostles as the transmission of the Word of God. Faith is through hearing. For Catholic they never stopped seeing that as true. The written word became a part of how the Word of God is expressed. The Divine Revelation is what is preserved in the canon Sacred Scripture and it records the witness of Jesus Christ when it was visible on earth. That visible witness of Christ ended when the last Apostle died.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  8. Radagast

    Radagast has left CF

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    They had the same New Testament as us (at least, after it was written), and the Greek Old Testament.

    Our best clues are what early Christians wrote. Ignatius of Antioch, for example, writing around the year 105, quotes (at least) Matthew, John, the epistles of Paul, and 1 John.
     
  9. Radagast

    Radagast has left CF

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    The core of the canon (4 gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles, 1 John) was agreed on from the very beginning.
     
  10. RaymondG

    RaymondG Well-Known Member

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    I believe that in the times of old, people were led by the word of God, directly from the mouth of God. As time passed, our ears grew dull of hearing and we started relying on the words written in books instead, by others who heard directly from God. We, like the children of Israel, tell God not to talk to us any more.....only speak through a Moses. Have a Moses write down the word and let us just read them over and over again.....
     
  11. Hank77

    Hank77 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It is very unlikely that the average person had copies of any of the documents such as the epistles, the gospels, or the OT. Each copy had to be written by hand. Writing supplies, especially parchment paper was not easy to come by. When looking at old church documents many times the paper was used once. Then when that document was no longer needed the paper was scraped of the ink and used over again.
    It wasn't until the printing press was invented that the average person had access to their own Bible and even then they were probably too expense for many people as most books were.
    Just more info. to think about. We are very fortunate.
     
  12. Radagast

    Radagast has left CF

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    That means that public reading of the Scriptures by the pastor was all the more important.
     
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  13. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Depends on how early. For the first few decades, they had only the OT, and people didn't own their own copy. They were kept in the temple, and read aloud.

    After a few decades, he writings of the NT began to be written and were circulated, and because the people had been taught by the Apostles and recognized truth, they recognized which writings were authentic (spurious writings were sent as well, but rejected, because He people already knew the faith).

    The canon was not officially ratified for a few centuries, but what was read in Church closely matched what was eventually canonized. A few of the early bishops letters did not get put into the Canon, along with another couple of popular and accepted documents. Revelation was debated for some time.

    But the common folks would not have been able to have a copy for themselves. Everything was read in Church.
     
  14. FenderTL5

    FenderTL5 Well-Known Member

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    it depends what you mean by 'the very beginning'.
    James and some of the Pauline epistles pre-date any of the Gospels being written. So the church, in the very beginning only had the OT, in the Greek speaking regions that was the LXX/Septuigent.
    The church was functioning for decades prior to any NT 'books' being written.
    The Synoptics were written before John's gospel. Some (not all) will place the writing of John's Gospel after the Apocalypse/Patmos.

    Just a thought on the illiteracy of the time; this is why the iconography in the early church was so important. The icons are not 'moment in time' depictions, they are written to communicate the stories depicted.
     
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  15. Eloy Craft

    Eloy Craft Member

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    I kind of misunderstood your meaning I think. Are you saying that the early Church didn't transmit the faith through the spoken word? Faith was not through hearing with our ears of flesh? Moses didn't need to write it down, they just wanted to hear it from him not God
     
  16. Eloy Craft

    Eloy Craft Member

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    Hi Raymond.
    That's only true if their Pastor didn't know what the Apostles were Preaching. If that were so, they wouldn't have been chosen to preach
     
  17. JohannineScholar

    JohannineScholar Member

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    We need to be careful here. Icons, in the sense of pictoral representations of biblical stories, such as one might find in Baptist church, yes. Icons in terms of religious images of saints considered as windows to the spiritual realm, before which we are to pray and light candles, absolutely not, not before the fifth or sixth centuries.
     
  18. Bob Crowley

    Bob Crowley Active Member

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    I suppose it depends on what you mean by "early Christians". When Paul was wandering around the place, there was no mention of St. Paul ever reading from established books. In the mildly humorous story of the young man who went to sleep because Paul talked "on and on", and fell to his death as a result, it's obvious that Paul was just talking, and talking, and talking ...

    But not reading.

    His letters no doubt followed over a period of time, as he gained experience in the churches he travelled to.

    I suspect that in a church dependent on oral tradition in it's earliest stages, Creeds would have been important, since they formulated the faith in a simple and succinct form, which could be easily memorised.

    Pauline letters and the Gospels probably began to slowly circulate around the churches as time went on, since writing was hard work back then. It's easy today with computers and word processors, but very time consuming in those days.

    So the short answer is we don't know just how the earliest Christians practised or formalised their faith. None of the earliest references to Christians either by themselves or their enemies seem to make reference to what we might call the New Testament or even specific books of NT Scripture.

    Christ may have read from a scroll of Isaiah in a Jewish synagogue when He announced that "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing", but that was in a Jewish synagogue which had a well established literary tradition behind it, unlike the earliest Christian churches.

    The earliest Church didn't have a Bible, yet it had authority granted to Peter and the Apostles by Christ himself, which was only recorded in Scripture as it was formalised at a later date.

    The Petrine authority was admitted by St. Paul who made the comment that "When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned", thus admitting Peter's authority even as he rebuked him. If Paul didn't recognise Peter's authority, he would hardly have bothered to mention Peter by name in this particular event.

    To wit, the tradition of Petrine and apostolic authority preceded the New Testament Scriptures.
     
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  19. Root of Jesse

    Root of Jesse Admiral of the Fleet/First Sea Lord Supporter CF Ambassadors

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    Books would have been heavy and expensive, so only synagogues had scrolls of the Law, the Prophets, etc.
    Same in the NT Times. Certain places had a book or two, and they were circulated. After the Canon was formally declared, there were collections of all the books at the Patriarchal centerpoints which were circulated. It was relatively useless to have many copies because most were illiterate (today, 68% of the world is still illiterate!), but to have a book was expensive. Even in the Middle Ages, most universities didn't have very many books.
     
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