Because "Bible" equals "whatever book or books God inspired," and not "whatever book or books one church or another church recognizes as Scripture," no church is above the Bible. Nor is the Bible dependent upon the church, any church, for its existence. No church produced the Bible or brought the Bible to us. What makes the Bible the Word of God (and therefore authoritative) is divine inspiration, not ecclesiastical recognition.
The various books of the Bible are divinely inspired and authoritative even if no church ever recognized that fact -- or even if all churches recognized that fact. Ecclesiastical recognition is not what makes the Bible the Bible. The Bible is what it is because God inspired it, not because we did or did not recognize His work. In other words, if any books are inspired, they are inspired not because a church affirms it but because they come from the Holy Spirit Himself. If they come from the Holy Spirit, they are inspired, authoritative, and canonical. Their authenticity and authority come from the Holy Spirit, not from a church. We do not owe divinely inspired books to a church, but to God.
To put a point on it, some of the books recognized by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) as canonical are not inspired and are therefore not properly part of the Bible, and here I refer specifically to the Apocrypha. That is, when it comes to recognizing the proper canon, not only is the RCC not necessary, but the RCC got it wrong. Neither the books of the Old nor of the New Testament depend for their existence, for their inspiration, or therefore for their canonicity and authority, upon the RCC.
To be specific, the Old Testament canon does not depend for its existence or its authority upon the RCC. Jesus Himself, and ancient Jews all the way back to well before the time of David, had a recognizable and authoritative Hebrew canon. For example, David loved to meditate on God's word and law so intensely that he wrote a long and impressive song of praise in honor of the practice in Psalm 119. In that psalm, David clearly has in mind an inspired and authoritative Hebrew canon, which he called the word of God and the law of God. He wrote his psalm many centuries before there ever was a Roman Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox) church in existence to claim credit for it. Judging from the content of David's psalm, he obviously expected his readers to understand what he meant by his many references to God's word and to God's law, and he expected them to agree with him about it.
Even though the Hebrew canon was still in a state of partial flux in his day, Jesus, in particular, and the ancient Jews, in general, recognized a pre-existing canon, a canon that antedates the RCC by many centuries. That is, Jesus of Nazareth was born into a religion that already had a Bible when He arrived. He Himself recognized and accepted that Hebrew Bible. He lived according to it; He preached from it; He faced down Satan by it; and He refuted his Jewish opponents with it. He also uttered statements that delineate which books He considered canonical (and therefore also those that He did not). Indeed, even Satan seems to have recognized that pre-existing canon because he quotes from it as well.
If we consider Jesus a reliable teacher of doctrine -- and I do -- then we ought to accept as ours the Hebrew canon He accepted. In Matthew 23: 35, for example, Jesus refers to the persecution of holy persons, beginning with Abel (Gen 4:8) and ending with Zacharias (2 Chron. 24: 20 ff.). His recounting follows the ordering and historical limits of the Hebrew canon, which did not include the Apocrypha. In Luke 24: 44, He re-states his view of the canon, and to the same effect. In that passage, He again delineates what He considers Scripture: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (namely, the books of Moses, the books of the prophets, and the wisdom literature). By so speaking, Jesus employed a common three-fold delineation of Scripture, one that did not include the Apocryphal books within its three over-arching categories.
Perhaps Jesus and the Jews of his day were wrong about the canon, but I will not argue against Him or them. If they were right, then I do not see how it follows that we need the RCC in order to have a recognizable and authoritative Hebrew canon. Jesus and the Jews had one without it, and therefore so do we. Apparently we do not need the RCC, or any church, to have or to recognize a divinely inspired Hebrew text. We need a historically active and text-inspiring God, one whose actions and intentions are recognized and authenticated for us by Christ.
The Hebrew Bible antedates the church. The earliest generation of Christians had a Bible. It was the Bible Jesus Himself had.
The Hebrew Bible did not come to the world via the RCC or the EOC. It came to the world via the inspiration and guidance of God. Therefore, our task is to identify, always in light of Christ, which books bear the marks of inspiration and which do not. Whether we do a good job of it or a bad one, the books God inspired are the Bible, the authoritative Word of God. We ought not try to determine which books do or do not bear the marks of inspiration simply by taking recourse to this or that church's conclusions on the matter unless we have something like a message from God that told us we ought to do so. That message would have to come from God Himself, it seems to me, and not from the church in question. If it came from the church in question, then the church in question would have to verify its authority by asserting its authority, which is both circular and unconvincing. I, for one, will not suspect, much less accuse, God of that kind of circular reasoning or irrational pedagogy. We cannot know if God has designated any church to establish the canon unless we have a way of establishing His authoritative pronouncement on the point without begging the question by appealing to that church's self-promoting assertions or to its version of the canon, and thereby assuming its authority -- which is the very thing we were trying to ascertain in the first place.
By arguing in this way, I am not making an argument from my own alleged authority -- I claim none -- but an argument from history. Historically, the ancient Jews already had an inspired canon, one that was in place for many centuries before the RCC, the EOC, or any other allegedly canon-making Christian church, existed. We have abundant historical documentation by which to determine what books were and were not normally considered Scripture by Jewish believers of Jesus' day and before, in general, and by Jesus Himself, in particular, which militates strongly against the Apocrypha, and therefore against the RCC and its alleged canon-making authority. When Jesus explicitly identifies which books do or do not belong to the canon, He carefully excludes some that Rome leaves in. Between those two options, I go with Christ.
Every believer makes his or her own choice regarding the Bible, whether they elect to go along with the canon of the RCC or not. If they consent to let the RCC choose for them, it still is they who make the fundamental choice. They consent, or not, to the canon recognized by that church. They subject the church's canon making results to their own scrutiny. Choosing to go along with the church on the issue of canon is, obviously, a choice, as is choosing to reject it. We all must choose; we all must consent to the RCC's canon or not. Catholics do; Protestants do not. Either way, we all choose for ourselves. When Catholics choose a church, they choose a canon. For Catholics to criticize Protestants for choosing a canon without any ecclesiastical authority for doing so is self-refuting because that is precisely how they choose the church that chose their canon. The various churches stand before them for approval or rejection, and then they themselves make the choice of which one, if any, to follow. When they do, they make a canon choice as well. We all must choose one canon or another. We all must recognize our own canon, even if we accept a canon accepted first by someone else. We all are canon recognizers, even if we do it thoughtlessly, as so many do. Because we must do it, we ought do it well, which means following the lead of Christ.
Here is the fundamental principle: Proper canon recognition is Christo-centric, not ecclesio-centric -- Christ centered, not church centered. We want the Old Testament Christ accepted, and (because He Himself did not directly write a book), we want the books that come from those whom He taught or from their extended circle. We do not need a church to figure out which books that might be. Indeed, we might entertain legitimate doubt about some of the books so recognized by one church or another church, like Hebrews, 2 Peter, Jude, James, or Revelation -- generally the same books some of the ancients held in question for so long, a group of books some of them called the antilougomena, or the "spoken against" texts. We might also consider including one or two books, perhaps the letter of Clement to the church in Corinth, primarily because he seems to have been a companion of Paul (Phil. 4: 3) and because to some (me included) he seems to be the author of Hebrews, a book that was eventually accepted. Some portions of the early church accepted and read Clement's letter to Corinth as Scripture. Others did not. I would not. But whichever choices we make regarding inclusion and exclusion, or whichever choices we permit others to make for us, the proper measure of canonicity is not a church, but Christ, and through Him the apostles and their extended circle. If we must choose -- and we must -- we do best to center our choices as closely around Him as we can, which is not the same as centering our choices around the RCC and the allegedly Biblical basis it claims for itself. Canon recognition (not canon making, which God Himself performed) is a task best pursued by accepting the Old Testament that it seems Christ accepted, and the New Testament that came from those whom He taught and from the extended apostolic circle.
In other words, what brought about the Old Testament also brought about the New, namely the work of the Holy Spirit, which we recognize best by deferring to Jesus.
In short, the church is neither logically nor chronologically prior to the Bible.
An Aside: Thumpers
Bible thumpers are often roundly criticized by Catholics, and sometimes justly so, though not always. The Bible-thumpers' well-intentioned but under-informed quotation of Bible verses sometimes does not accomplish what they hope and think it does. Quoting the Bible verbatim is not the same as properly understanding it or as forming a telling theological argument. Verbatim quotation is not the same as either correct exegesis or true theology.
But thumping a creed or a catechism is not any better. Being a creed or catechism thumper simply makes you a fundamentalist of a different sort. If proof-texting from an inspired and infallible Bible is not a convincing tactic, then proof-texting from creeds and catechisms is no better. Just as those who quote from the Bible sometimes misunderstand the Bible and disagree among themselves as to what the Bible means, so those who quote from creeds and catechisms sometimes misunderstand the creeds and catechism, and they disagree among themselves as to what those creeds and catechisms mean and how they properly apply to the situation at hand -- a confusion and chaos I have heard frequently with my own ears and seen frequently with my own eyes. Of course, the presence of such disagreements does not prove that the texts in question (whether Bible, creed, or catechism) are false, or that they have no relevant or discernible meaning, or that they cannot be trusted. But it does show that merely quoting a text often gets us precisely nowhere. Verbatim quotation is almost never enough. Taken together, careful exegesis, sound synthesis, and prudent application, is the only place to begin; not superficial recitation, whether of Scripture or of creeds and catechisms.
Of course, Catholics thump their Bibles too, and I contend that their understanding of many of the Biblical texts they thump is unsound.