that the Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith for the
Church. The doctrine does not say that there are not other,
fallible, rules of faith, or even traditions, that we can refer to
and even embrace. It does say, however, that the only
of faith is Scripture. This means that all other rules, whether
we call them traditions, confessions of faith, creeds, or anything
else, are by nature inferior
subject to correction by, the Scriptures. The Bible is the
ultimate authority, allowing no equal, nor superior, in tradition or
church. That's because it is theopneustos,
and hence embodies the very speaking of God, and must, of
necessity therefore be of the highest authority.|
Verga - Opening Statement
Is Sola Scriptura Biblical?
If you ignore any part of this evidence I will take your silence as concession on any such points.
I will state right from the start that the Catholic Church believes in the material sufficiency scripture, but not in the formal. Instead Catholics believe that there are two other "rules" that contribute equally to our faith knowledge. These are the Sacred Magisterium and Sacred Tradition.
For sola scriptura to be a valid belief two things must occur, one it must be found to be taught explicitly in the Bible, and it must be demonstrated to have been practiced by the Apostles in the writing of the scripture. To demonstrate that I will be referring directly to:
1) The Bible itself
2) History and Historical sources
If we examine the Bible closely we find that no where do any of the writers ever say that the Bible is to be the only source of faith, infallible or otherwise. Instead we see numerous accounts of them calling the Old Testament scriptures to act as witness to what they are teaching to audiences to convert them. The Jewish people already had the scriptures of the Old Testament available to them, and in the area of Palestine Jesus had walked among them preaching to numerous crowds over a period of three years performing miracles: feeding over 9000 of them, healing illnesses, curing the deaf, blind, mute, and raising some from the dead. Yet given this they still did not recognize him as the promised Messiah. They were expecting a warrior king to free them from slavery that would rout their enemies and rule over an earthly kingdom. Instead the Apostles were preaching a gentle servant to them that brought them a heavenly kingdom. To the Jewish people this was a new Paradosis or Tradition.
Let us examine some Bible verses:
1 Cor 11:2 I "Praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you."
2 Thess. 2:15 "Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours."( Notice that Paul is telling the audience that there are two distinct sources of tradition being used, both written and oral.)
2 Tim 2:2 "And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well."
Let us now look at several cases where the sacred authors prefer to speak directly their audience in person rather than entertain the possibility of misunderstanding the written word:
1 Cor 11:34 "If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that your meetings may not result in judgment. The other matters I shall set in order when I come."
2 John 12 "Although I have much to write to you, I do not intend to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and to speak face to face so that our joy may be complete."
3 John 13-14 "I have much to write to you, but I do not wish to write with pen and ink Instead, I hope to see you soon, when we can talk face to face."
If the the written word is so "infallible" why speak or visit the various Churches at all? the simple fact is that there is room for error and this error can be corrected by direct observation and remediation.
Protestants like to use this verse to demonstrate the superiority of Scripture over other methods of revelation, but when looked at in the correct context actually helps to disprove Sola Scriptura.
Acts 17:11 "These Jews were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all willingness and examined the scriptures daily to determine whether these things were so.
Luke tells us in Acts 17:2 "Following his usual custom, Paul joined them, and for three Sabbaths he entered into discussions with them from the scriptures."
In Acts 13:14-52 we are told that he spoke to them of the flight from Egypt, the Law, the Prophets including the Judges and Samuel, David and so on. He ended by telling them about Jesus and how the inhabitants of Jerusalem failed to recognize Jesus and had him put to death, but that He was raised on the third day and that this had been witnessed by many.
Some of the Thessalonians rejected Paul's revelation of the Messiah while the Bereans accepted this new tradition. Both groups had the scripture of the Old Testament, both groups heard Paul speaking the new Tradition or Paradosis of Jesus as the Messiah at the synagogue over several weeks. The Bereans examined the scriptures in light of these new spoken tradition and accepted Jesus, while the Thessalonians accepted the scriptures solely and rejected Jesus.
Lets look at how the Thessalonians finally received the truth of Jesus:
1 Thessalonians 2:13 "And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that,in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe."
Paul's spoken word, this new Tradition, convinced them by examining the Scriptures they already had in a new light. The Scriptures were used as a witness testifying to the veracity of Paul's testimony that was given to them in a mostly oral and occasionally written form. Paul never once says that the gospel is derived from scripture, rather he says that the Law and Prophets testify to Jesus.
Luke 1: 3 "I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus,"
Luke 1:4 "so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received."
Luke is confirming in writing what Theophilus had already accepted by word of mouth.
Further evidence can be seen in the fact that the New Testament authors accepted Traditions that had not been previously recorded in the scriptures that they already had before them. The author of Genesis is fully aware of the covenants that God established with Adam, Noah, and Abraham. Each of these occurred centuries before they were written down. When God made Moses aware of Himself in the Burning bush, He and the Children of Israel were able to accept that this was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because of Tradition, not anything that had been written down previously.
Let's look at the Mosaic covenant This covenant was given to Moses by mere creatures, the Angels, while the Covenant of the New Testament was given by the Son of God Himself and was superior:
Galatians 3:19 "Why, then, the law? ...... it was promulgated by angels at the hand of a mediator."
Hebrews 2:2 "For if the word announced through angels proved firm,....."
Acts 7:53 "You received the law as transmitted by angels,...."
Yet no where in the Old Testament is this recorded that the Mosaic covenant was given through angels.
There are also several other incidents of the New Testament authors accepting Traditions that have not been previously recorded:
2 Timothy 3:8 "Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses,...."
Jude 9 "Yet the archangel Michael, when he argued with the devil in a dispute over the body of Moses,"
Jude 14-15 "Enoch, of the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied also about them when he said, "Behold, the Lord has come with his countless holy ones ...." (This prophecy is not recorded in the Old Testament, but in the "Book of Enoch" which is non-canonical)
Hebrews 11:37 "They were stoned, sawed in two,....." (From the "Ascension of Isaiah, not the OT)
Not one of these is recorded in the Old Testament, and it could be argued that this is simply "human" error, but what about when Jesus Himself does it?
Matthew 23:2 saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
This position of authority is based solely on Tradition, it is not recorded in the Scripture any where, and in the very next verse Jesus gives it His stamp of approval telling his followers to obey them.
The Burden of Proof is on my opponent to prove the formal sufficiency of scripture. Based on the Scriptures themselves as to what is the authority that is formally sufficient.
1 Tim 3:15 "......the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth."
Matthew 16:18 "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,....
Matthew 16:19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
(This is repeated to all the Apostles in Matthew 18:18)
Jesus reinforces the authority of the Church here:
Matthew18:17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector."
Jesus Gives the Apostles all his authority:
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Mathew 28:19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,
Matthew 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
John 16:12 "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now."
John 16:13 "But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming."
Jesus tells us that certain things will me made clear in the future and this understanding will come from the Holy Spirit guiding the leaders of the Church.
Turning now to historical evidence to support the Catholic position. There is little disagreement that the Canon of the New Testament was ordered in 382, 393 and 397 at the councils of Rome, Hippo and Carthage. These councils decided not only which 27 books were in the New Testament, but their respective order as well. Some previously declared canonical books that were not included were, "The Shepherd of Hermas," 1 Clement, The Didache, and others. Since the Bible does not contain an infallible list of its contents then this decision must have come down to us from at least one of two methods, Tradition and inspiration of the Catholic Church. Further many people were not literate at that time in history.
Next we need to consider How the `Gospel" of Jesus was spread prior to the Canon being ordered. There were no copiers, computers, or even typewriters, or even printing presses. The Gospel was spread by word of mouth. Itinerant preachers given authority by Jesus and the Apostles to preach and teach the word. They went from city to village to town, teaching mostly orally and occasionally by letter. They tried to convert the Jews and the Gentiles by talking to them and reasoning with them.
All through the scriptures we see the Apostles directing others to keep tradition in mind and to appeal to the authority of the Church. It was to the leaders of the Church that Jesus gave all His authority to. He also promised these leaders that the Holy Spirit would guide them and their successors.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that nowhere in the Scriptures do Jesus or the Apostles ever say that the Scriptures are to be the final authority instead the authority is shared by Tradition, the Church and the Scriptures.
End word count 2023 words.