Imagine two classrooms where math is being taught.
In the first classroom, the school has provided the students with a teacher in addition to a textbook for each student. The teacher gives the students assignments out of the textbook, and the students go through the lessons. When they get stuck, they ask the teacher for extra help, and the teacher provides guidance and clarity.
In the second classroom, the students find a textbook on each desk but no teacher. They are left to themselves to go through the lessons of the book at an appropriate pace. When they don’t understand something they ask themselves. Often they argue about things like, “Is that symbol ‘X’ meant to be a variable, or perhaps the multiplication sign, or maybe even the Roman numeral X?” There is much disagreement, and so they split into three separate factions that come to three different conclusions about the truths of math.
This is analogous to Christianity. There are many Christians who believe that the Bible alone is the sole authority when it comes to Divine revelation and truth. However, since this very limited approach was introduced 500 years ago, there are now tens of thousands of different opinions on how to interpret the Bible, much like the math class that can’t agree on what the “X” symbol represents.
As I Catholic I believe that there are two sources of Divine revelation, the written tradition and the oral tradition. In fact, the first book of the New Testament, Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, was written around 51 AD, about 17 years after the resurrection of Christ. What this means is that the early Christians didn’t have the Bible. They only had the oral tradition. None of them quoted Paul because Paul hadn’t written anything yet.
For the next few hundred years there were a lot of writings about Jesus. In the 300’s, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, led by the Bishop of Rome, deemed that some of the writings about Jesus were true and some were not. That is why today at basketball games you might see a sign that says John 3:16, but you won’t see one that says Thomas 3:16, even thought there was a Gospel of Thomas at one time.
There is only one truth in math, and there is only one truth in God. My advice to anyone seeking to learn more about Christ is this: Enroll yourself in the school that provides you with a teacher, possibly even the editor who compiled the textbook, and not the school that only gives you the textbook.