Can a Catholic Claim Sola Scriptura as Legitimate?

I believe we can.

First, to be clear on the definition, I am using this:
Sola Scriptura is the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all—that is, it is perspicuous (clear) and self-interpreting.

  1. The Catholic Church readily accepts that the Bible contains the “inspired and written revelation of God”
  2. The Bible is the source of doctrine - “only” as a qualifier can be understood in different ways
  3. The Bible CAN be clear (perspicuous) and “self interpreting” depending on a number of factors such as ability to read and comprehend, level of education, indwelling of the Spirit etc. Where some of these are lacking or immature, we are free to rely on others (pastors, scholars, etc) to help guide us.
  4. “Church” authority is clearly stated and demonstrated, as well as implied throughout the NT.

So -in the above, derived from the given definition, I find nothing that conflicts with Catholic teaching.

Arguments for or against my concept?


This is in direct conflict with Dei Verbum. Sacred Scripture is not a source of revelation, and neither is Sacred Tradition. God is the source of revelation, and Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition are conduits by which revelation is transmitted. In addition, the canon of Scripture, that is, the list of books, is itself a product of Tradition, and not part of the inspired text of Scripture.

Sure there is a conflict. If the Bible is the only source of Christian doctrine, what other Catholic teachings are you finding where there is no conflict? Unless you are saying the only Catholic teaching comes from the Bible. But there is really no place in the Bible that says only the things in the Bible should be considered Church teaching - oh wait, there was no printed Bible yet! The Church, not the Bible, is the one who finally decided on what the cannon of Scripture would be. The same Church that approved the cannon is the same one that has the office to interpret the Scripture’s true meaning; the Scriptures are not self-interpreting as you call them above.

Dei Verbum 9:

  1. Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently** it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed.** Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.(6)

I think the case is closed here.

As long as one reads ALL of Scripture I see no problem… Paul tells us to rely on traditions… John’s message in John 21:25…

Sola Scriptura is valid only in that Scripture teaches us that we should not rely Sola on Scriptura…

Does that make sense?

God bless

Just to drive in another nail…

“…the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Tim 3:15

The CHURCH is the conduit through which God reveals himself.
The CHURCH existed 350 years before Scripture was compiled into a single volume called the Bible.
The Bible came from the CHURCH, not the other way around.


“And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you, speaking of these things as he does in all his letters. In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures. Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability.” 2 Pet 3:15-17

So scripture itself says it is not 100% straightforward and easy to understand. It must be read and interpreted in the light of all of God’s teachings - oral and written.


I understand what you’re saying and to some extent what you say is true.

The problem is, protestant denominations don’t agree on the meaning of the content of Sacred Scripture. If they did, there wouldn’t be multiple numbers of denominations. On that basis alone the theory of “Bible Alone” isn’t legitimate. It’s “cart before the horse”.

The early Councils in the Catholic Church applied the knowledge they’d gained through Apostolic Tradition to determine whether writings were either authentic or inauthentic when they formed the Canon.

no, the Bible itself refutes sola scriptura.

John 21:25
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.

I think the best you can do is say “No Catholic teaching will contradict what is revealed in the Bible, properly interpreted by the Church”

the perspicuous part goes against 2000 years of emperical evidence to the contrary not to mention that just about every doctrine that can be traced to the NT in one way or another goes “beyond the NT”. Can you imagine Irenaeus, Ignatius or Tertullian using your definition of SS to argue against the gnostics. I think point 3 & 4 show the dubious nature SS as defined above.

Personally, I think the argument falls apart at #2. “The Bible is the source of doctrine.” Well, it isn’t. It’s a source of doctrine. What did they do for the first 400 years of Christianity before there was a Bible? They still had doctrine.

Also, I don’t think “only” can be used as a qualifier in #2 in any understood way and still be accurate.

There is a little piece of misinformation here. There were “Bibles,” or at the very least, Scriptures, well before the Council of Hippo. It was not a case of nothing and then all of a sudden a canon in AD 383. There were several canonical lists dating back to AD 140, and the works themselves were in existence. SO we did have scriptures during the earliest days of the Church, it just so happens that not everyone agreed on what they were.

I do not believe a Catholic can claim sola scriptura as legitimate because the Bible as we know it is a Catholic creation.Rather, when other denominations affirm sola scriptura and refer to the Bible, they validate Catholicism and Catholic tradition whether they realize it or not.:twocents:

Actually - you see this does NOT “drive another nail” since what you are quoting comes from Scripture.
This is one of the places where, as I stated in my OP that Scripture actually points to The Church…


Thanks for the quote from Dei Verbum. Most helpful.


I want to thank you all for your very helpful input.
St TommyMore and Belloc Fan - thanks for the reference to Die Verbum.

In my thinking (which is admittedly off the “well trodden way”) some of the issues raised are covered by the passages in Scripture that directly point to an authoritative Church.
One mentioned above is the 1 Tim 3:15 about the Church being the pillar and foundation of Truth.
But even more direct is the passages in Mt (Ch 16 and 18) granting the Church the authority to "Bind and Loose…Whatever. The pasage in Mt 18:15-18 Where we are instructed to “tell it to the Church” The passage in Acts that describes the inter “diocesan” dispute settled at the Council of Jerusalem. The verse in Joh 17 where Christ prays for us to be one. The verses sprinkled throughout the various epistles calling for unity, “to be of one mind”, to “praise with one voice”, to “avoid dissention” and “be at peace with one another”…

All of these taken together and coming from “Scripture alone” not only point to the authoritative Church but grant to her authority to preach and teach “whatever”…
They actually “drive one” to seeking an authoritative Church (IMHO)

I guess what I am trying to do is derive a good way to understand and express the fact that Sola Scriptura (looking at Scripture alone) sent me right into the Catholic Church.


Let’s look at how God has acted in biblical history regarding scripture. It seems that He has sent men with the authority to interpret. Look in Nehemiah 8:7-9. Ezra and the Levites read the scripture, interpreted it and gave the sense, so that the people could understand it.

Want something a little newer? Look at Acts 8:27-31 The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah, but could not understand it without explanation. Whom did God send? The Apostle Philip, who had the authority to interpret.

The Ethiopian eunuch was only taking the advice of Peter, as written in 2 Peter 1:20, warning against the private interpretation of prophecy. Peter wrote again regarding the writings of Paul, as he warned Christians that the “ignorant and unstable” distorted Paul’s scripture, as they did also with the other scriptures, to their own destruction 2 Peter 3:16.

The amount of private interpretation and distortion of scripture required today to reverse engineer the Church from the bible, cannot be any better than it was 2,000 years ago. Discerning God’s revealed truth is not now, nor has it ever been a D-I-Y project. Leave it to the experts - those whom God has given the authority.

Thank you for these. I was not familiar with the Nehemiah passage, the other two I was.
Of course, like I said before, such passages only demonstrate how Scripture points to The Church. I find NT references to be the most convincing because SS adherants will invariably point to things like the tearing of the veil in the Temple as evidence that “priests” aren’t necessary anymore (thus negating in their mind any OT reference).

The amount of private interpretation and distortion of scripture required today to reverse engineer the Church from the bible, cannot be any better than it was 2,000 years ago. Discerning God’s revealed truth is not now, nor has it ever been a D-I-Y project. Leave it to the experts - those whom God has given the authority.

Agreed. Actually if one looks at the Scriptures along with the “organic evolution” of Church structure one can easily see how the Church (both East and West) got to where it is today.
I think that one of the things that plays against the “protestant model” and the desire among small church groups to “rediscover” the “biblical structure” of the church is their fundemental rejection of “authoritative church”. They reject the Catholic Church as “unbiblical” and yet in spite of themselves, as their groups grow and spread, they find themselves developing “governing bodies” to maintain order, discipline and teaching…in the same organic way that the Holy Spirit led the early church to do…and after 2000 years we have the Catholic Church (along with the EO) visibly governed by priests, bishops, patriarches, cardinals, and pope…Neither ancient developed anything like the protestant model of “doctrinal independance”.


James - if a publisher were to ask me to sign a statement of faith that included the sentence above, I would refuse, and I would conclude that the publisher was in fact in the camp of those who believe the Catholic Church is apostate. The "only"s as well as “perspicuous and self-interpreting” are classic phrasing among anti-catholic statements.

(It is not uncommon for denominational publications to require authors to sign statements of faith even they are not specifically writing theological material.)

The bible tells us, in many places, that it is incomplete (Luke 3:18, John 20:30, 21:25, Acts 2:40, 1 Corinthians 11:34). There are many others as well, if that is what one is looking for. What the sola scripturist comes up with is always 2 Timothy 3:16 - failing to notice, or perhaps hoping against hope, that it somehow means scripture is complete, self-explanatory, or self-determining. Of course, scripture itself maintains no such thing - quite the opposite (Nehemiah 8, Acts 8). Sola scripturists also conveniently disregard that someone or something has to say what is actually scripture and what is not. The bible is silent on this crucial point.

Over the three year ministry of Jesus, He performed most of His teaching and miracles in just two cities: Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:20-21). That would be thousands of things to contemplate! Let’s see just how many of those thousands of miracles are listed in the bible:

Two (Mark 8:22, Luke 9:10-17).

And both of those are in Bethsaida. Not a single miracle or teaching that occurred in Chorazin is even listed. Apparently, Jesus’ words and deeds there were not important, huh?

Of course, those who quote Paul more than Christ (an alarming number of “bible” Christians, actually…) apparently overlook what Paul taught Timothy about the Church being the pillar and foundation of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Funny it is that the bible says this about the Church, and not about itself.

They certainly overlook Jesus’ own words which give the Church the final say in all disputes (Matthew 18:15-18).

It also appears that they do not read the Prologue to Luke (Luke 1:1-4). In it, Luke teaches that he wrote his Gospel only to confirm the oral Apostolic teaching that Theophilus had already received.

Oh, the bible is such a troublesome thing to “bible” Christians…

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