Not much to ask beyond the title, but the thing I'm trying to get at here is how the Church determines what is and isn't scripture. Does the church have markers they try to follow?

2 Answers 2


The Canon of Holy Scripture was infallibly fixed by the authority of the Council of Trent, 4th session. As Schroeder, O.P., states in his edition of Trent's decrees (4th sess. fn. 4):

  1. For earlier lists, cf. Synod of Laodicea (end of IV cent.), c.60, the genuineness of which canon however is contested (Hefele-Leclercq, Hist. des conciles, I, 1026); Synod of Rome (382) under Pope Damasus (Denzinger, Enchiridion, no. 84); Synod of Hippo (393), c.36, which the III Synod of Carthage (397) made its own in c.47 (idem, no. 92); Innocent I in 405 to Exuperius, bishop of Toulouse (idem, no. 96); Eugene IV in the Council of Florence (Mansi, XXXI, 1736; Hardouin, IX, 1023f.). The Tridentine list or decree was the first infallible and effectually promulgated declaration on the Canon of the Holy Scriptures.

St. Robert Bellarmine—Book II, ch. XII of On Councils: Their Nature and Authority (from his De Controversiis)—refutes the Protestants' straw-man argument of Catholics:

Catholics do not subject the Sacred Scripture to Councils, but places it before them; nor is there any controversy on this point. But if some Catholics sometimes say scripture depends upon the Church, or a Council, they do not understand this in regard to its authority, or according to what it is, but in regard to the explanation and in regard to us.


I could have sworn I'd answered a similar question sometime in the last 10 years, but alas I cannot find it.

Anyway, the good Reverend Know-It-All writes:

Pope Damasus I, St. Jerome’s patron, assembled the first list of books of the Bible at the Council of Rome (382AD). The process continued in North Africa. A series of Synods (meetings of bishops) were held in North Africa beginning in Hippo in 393, and ending with the Council of Carthage(419). The meetings took up the question of what were the inspired books and what were not. There was a basic agreement on the texts, but even then, 400 years after Christ, there was still a need to make a definitive list. The pope and the North African bishops drew up their list from those books then in use by the Church, particularly those read at Mass. Finally, the list was submitted to Pope Boniface (Damasus’ successor) and the other bishops for confirmation


In a nutshell is how the Catholic Church figured out what scripture is and what it isn't.

It's a little known doctrine in the Catholic Church called, "whatever Christians in general have been doing is probably the right thing to do because God hasn't struck us all dead for doing it so far so lets keep doing it and it's probably the right thing to do." otherwise known as infallibilitas in credendo.

The Bible (i.e. the canon of scripture) is the product of the Church. There doesn't need to be a formula (i.e. if it needs to mention God 30 times). If there were a formula, there's honestly no reason the Didache isn't added to the Bible. The Bible is basically a meme that God and the Church get.

  • Great way to explain an unknown!
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jan 28, 2022 at 14:28
  • I would have sworn I answered the same question 10 years ago, but alas I cannot find it that makes it sound like you want to close my question 😂
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Jan 28, 2022 at 14:46

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