We can see from the writings of the early Church fathers, particularly those who walked with Jesus, that the Church came before the New Testament, and consequently, the Bible as we know it today. The Word of God preached during Jesus’ day came from inspired writings and traditions that were handed down to the Apostles from the Old Testament and from Jesus Himself.
Since the beginning of time, God has revealed things to man through various means which he wants all of us to believe. And man is bound to believe everything God has revealed under the pain of eternal damnation. Thus, we must believe all that Christ has taught. Christ said: ‘He that believeth not shall be condemned’.
The Catholic Church, for over 2000 years, has taught from both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. All of these things, came from God, and were handed down to man by the Apostles and consequently, by the laying of hands, passed on down through the centuries to the popes, bishops and priests by authority of Christ. So that man wouldn’t be condemned by not knowing the Word of God, Christ gave us the means to know what He has taught and that all things must be within reach of all people - the Catholic Church. Logically and historically, this tells us that the Catholic Church, then, preceeded scripture.
A non-Catholic Christian may say that the Bible holds all things that we need to know, but the Bible alone tells us that the Bible does not hold all that was revealed. John 21:25 says 'But there are also many other things which Jesus did which, if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written.’
Second, God wants all men to know what He has taught and these teachings are meant for the learned and unlearned alike. The unlearned also need the means to learn the truths God taught so that they may believe them and be saved. The means God gave us had to be infallible so it would lead no one astray. Again, the non-Catholic Christian will say the Bible is the only infallible way to learn, but we say what about those who can’t read or don’t access to a Bible? Are they going to be condemned for that? No. So God gave us an infallible Church to teach all men the written Word of God (sacred scripture) and the oral Word of God (sacred tradition).
In fact, Jesus instructed that all men hear the Word of God, not read the Word of God. Mt 17:5 says: ‘And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him’.
Or this: Luke 8:21: ‘Who answering, said to them: My mother and my brethren are they who hear the word of God, and do it’. In other words, if God had intended that man should learn his religion from a book, in this case, the Bible, Jesus would have handed them out. But He didn’t do this. He also didn’t say ‘sit down and write Bibles and scatter them over the earth and let every man read his Bible and judge for himself.” In fact personal interpretation is forbidden in the Bible. 2 Peter 1:20: ‘Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation’.
However the 16th century reformers decided that was exactly what man was to do, interpret scripture for themselves, which has since become kind of a man-made tradition for non-Catholic Christians. For the past 500 years, over 30,000 denominations have arisen thanks to people interpreting scripture for themselves. This has left us with many errors from the one Book they all claim to follow.
We see one church teaching infant baptism, another doesn’t. One teaches ‘once saved always saved’, another one doesn’t. One teaches Saturday Sabbath, others teach Sunday and on it goes.
In fact since the 16th century religion upon religion, church upon church, have sprung up, all fighting and quarrelling with one another and all because of private interpretation. So, how do we know who to go to when individuals have taken the bible, studied it for himself and have come up with so many interpretations that we have lost count?
Matthew 18:17: 'And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican’. And who is the Church? Scripture alone tells us the house of God is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.' People are not the pillar and ground of the truth, but the house of God is. And it's not 30,000 different houses, but one house - one faith, one baptism, one body. 1 Tim 3:15: 'But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.’
The only Church that fits this criteria is the Catholic Church, which was given to man by Jesus while He walked the earth. Mt 16:18: ‘And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’
It was not until the 4th Century, that the Pope of Rome, the Head of the Church on earth, the successor of St. Peter, assembled together the Bishops of the world in a council to decide which writings would be put into a book that we now call our Bible.
In addition, before the printing press was invented, Bibles were rare things and very costly. To get a copy of the Bible everything had to be done with the pen upon parchment or sheepskin. It was a tedious and slow operation. So again, would Jesus have left the world without that book if it was necessary to man's salvation? We know that He did not do this. Jesus left us a Church, the Catholic Church, the House of God, the pillar and ground of truth.