This is another email i wrote recently trying to explain my thinking about Sola Scriptura to a relative of mine:
All the stuff i sent you about Sola Scriptura isn't so much about trying to figure out how all the books of the Bible came together. My point in all that is more about this: Lots of churches take for granted that the Bible is their sole authority for all their beliefs and practices. Is something someone said true or false? Well, the *only* way to settle that is to prove it (or disprove it) by using Bible verses. But think about this, is that the way the early church did it? During the time of the apostles, did they all just go to their Bibles as the only way to settle what they should believe/practice? Obviously they didn't--they couldn't have done that even if they had wanted to because the Bible was written yet. The church was founded somewhere around 33ad, right? Scholars believe that the earliest book of the NT was either Galatians or 1Thessalonians, which may have been written as early as 50ad. That means that for at least 17 years, all the Christians there were in the world didn't have any New Testament whatsoever. And then, once one of those letters was written by Paul, only that church had one letter; all the others churches still had no New Testament at all. And even when the first book was written, that was only 1 book out of the 27 we now use. How long did it take for the rest of the 27 to be written? Well, scholars put the earliest dates for the writing of Revelation somewhere in the 80's, but some place it as late as 100ad. That would mean that from 33ad all the way to either (say) 80 or 100, no church had a New Testament. The early church taught and worshiped and practice for 50 or 70 years without a completed New Testament to settle anything for them. And then, even when John wrote Revelation, that still doesn't mean that any church had all the books together. From what evidence i've read, lots of churches went decades without having copies of all 27 books. So the church even into the 2nd century believed, taught, and worshiped all without 'the book' in order to settle things for them. Part of my point is to note how big of a difference between that is churches today and the early church. So how did the early church do it? --how did they function? They had the apostles who met together with elders and other missionaries to settle questions (Acts 15), they had the oral teachings of the apostles and missionaries who first converted people, they had traditions that had been taught to them by those apostles or missionaries both orally and in written letters(2Thessalonians 2:15), they had their local leaders whose job it was to teach and even refute false doctrine (Titus 1:9) and whom the people even had to obey (Hebrews 13:17). They had Paul's occasional letters, at least one of which he commanded to be shared with other churches (Colossians 4:16). They even had appointed leaders like Timothy and Titus whose job it was to oversee the church in an entire area. And notice that Paul saw the need for Timothy not just to teach the people things Paul had said, but to train them how to teach others after them the things that Paul had said (2Tim 2:2). Clearly they saw themselves as needing a system by which Christian teaching was passed down from generation to generation. And it included all this stuff, not merely 27 books we call the NT. Because of this, i felt like i need to look for a church that mimicked the early church's authority structure.