Historical proof that Sola Scriptura predates Luther and the Reformers!


As I’ve been stuck in my house for the last week fighting the +50 inches of snow fall in Maryland, I took some time to read one of the many books I received for Christmas this year: “The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology” by Leo Donald Davis describes in much details the history of these very important councils. I call them important because to this date almost all Christian traditions accept their decrees. If you are a history buff (Specially history of the early Church, like me) this is a little book you will not want to miss.

In the second chapter of this book Dr Davis goes into the history of the first ecumenical council: Nicea. You might have heard that this council was called by Constantine to resolve the Arian controversy (Arian as in a group of bishops who were teaching that of Jesus, the Son of God, “There was a time in which he was not” meaning that he was NOT eternal like the Father) Anyway what caught my attention was a comment on page 59. It seems that the Arians had developed a very strong scriptural base for their claims. The story reads:

“Apparently various attempts were made to fashion a creed using only scriptural terms, but it proved impossible to word such a creed so as to exclude the Arian position in the strictest fashion possible. Aryan-sympathizing bishops could be seen, it is said, winking and nodding, confident that they could twist a scripturally worded creed to their advantage”

At the end the Nicea Fathers, decided to word a creed that expressed the apostolic tradition but could not be twisted to the benefict of the Arians.

I So as you can see the heresy of Sola Scriptura was not a Reformer innovation, the church has been fighting against this error since the beginning.

Viva Cristo Rey!

Catholic Deacon

Hypolytus’ 2nd-3rd century work.

In the process of refuting anti-Trinitarian heresies, take note he also advocates sola scriptura and explained that scripture itself is sufficient to refute these heresies, so it was plain to understand.

“Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine, who have become disciples of one Noetus, who was a native of Smyrna, and lived not very long ago. This person was greatly puffed up and inflated with pride, being inspired by the conceit of a strange spirit. He alleged that Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself was born, and suffered, and died…
But the case stands not thus; for the Scriptures do not set forth the matter in this manner…
the Scriptures themselves confute their senselessness, and attest the truth…
The Scriptures speak what is right; but Noetus is of a different mind from them. Yet, though Noetus does not understand the truth, the Scriptures are not at once to be repudiated…
The proper way, therefore, to deal with the question is first of all to refute the interpretation put upon these passages [of scripture] by these men, and then to explain their real meaning…
For whenever they wish to attempt anything underhand, they mutilate the Scriptures. But let him quote the passage as a whole, and he will discover the reason kept in view in writing it…
if they choose to maintain that their dogma is ratified by this passage [of scripture], as if He owned Himself to be the Father, let them know that it is decidedly against them, and that they are confuted by this very word…
Many other passages [of scripture], or rather all of them, attest the truth. A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God, who, being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these, therefore, are three. But if he desires to learn how it is shown still that there is one God, let him know that His power is one…
What, then, will this Noetus, who knows nothing of the truth, dare to say to these things? And now, as Noetus has been confuted, let us turn to the exhibition of the truth itself, that we may establish the truth, against which all these mighty heresies have arisen without being able to state anything to the purpose. There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us took; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.” (Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 1-4, 7-9)


I fail to see how your example applies to Sola Scriptura. Here’s what I would point to: Moses coming down the mountain with the first Scripture, at least FOURTEEN CENTURIES before even the Catholic Church itself claims it came into existence and THREE THOUSAND YEARS before it officially declares The Ten Commandments to be Scripture. The Ten Commandments were regarded as normative for morality. The Rule of Scripture (aka Sola Scriptura). I’d point to Jesus referencing Scripture some 50 times, using such as normative. I’d point to the First Ecumenical Council - the Council of Jerusalem which used Sola Scriptura. And I’d point out that it was at least SIXTEEN CENTURIES after the Rule of Scripture was embraced that we even have a reference to the Rule of The Catholic Church. Sola Ecclesia Roma comes a long, long, long time after Sola Scriptura.

Of course, I fail to see the relevance of that to the soundness of the two practices. Teachers were exempting themselves alone from accountablility LONG before The Catholic Church began to do that - and many still do. Why it is most sound for a teacher to exempt self from accountability and instead insist that all just accept whatever that self alone says “with docility” “as Jesus speaking” is the real issue here. It’s an accountability question, for THAT is what Sola Scriptura addresses. Those that embrace the Rule of Scripture embrace that truth matters and thus teachers of doctrine are accountable. THIS is where The Catholic Church disagrees, for it insists that while it is a teacher of doctrine, it is exempt from accountability and norming since it alone insists that it alone is incapable of error in these matters and so whatever it alone says is simply to be accepted with docility. While there’s nothing new about that, The Catholic Church doing so is MUCH later than people embracing teachers as accountable and Scripture as the norma normans for such.


Dionysius of Rome
The third century Roman bishop Dionysius shows a sampling of the praxis of sola scriptura in noting how scripture sufficiently can prove Trinitarian doctrines. He refers to numerous Trinitarian doctrines, and he says that they’re taught in scripture. He refers to how scripture “demands” Trinitarian doctrine. He refers to how “any one” can see a doctrine like the deity of Christ in scripture.

He says…

“For these indeed rightly know that the Trinity is declared in the divine Scripture, but that the doctrine that there are three gods is neither taught in the Old nor in the New Testament…
And if Christ is the Word, the Wisdom, and the Power,-for the divine writings tell us that Christ is these, as ye yourselves know,-assuredly these are powers of God…
But why should I discourse at greater length to you about these matters, since ye are men filled with the Spirit, and especially understanding what absurd results follow from the opinion which asserts that the Son was made? The leaders of this view seem to me to have given very little heed to these things, and for that reason to have strayed absolutely, by explaining the passage otherwise than as the divine and prophetic Scripture demands…
Finally, any one may read in many parts of the divine utterances that the Son is said to have been begotten, but never that He was made. From which considerations, they who dare to say that His divine and inexplicable generation was a creation, are openly convicted of thinking that which is false concerning the generation of the Lord.” (Against the Sabellians, 1-2)

King Josiah (your namesake) offers another prime example of the praxis of sola scriptura even ppre-New testament

If you claim that because a father of the Church quotes scripture and recommend others to do the same he practiced or advocated Sola Scriptura, either you do not know the fathers of the church or you do not know what Sola Scriptura is.

But to use you post notice this:

The proper way, therefore, to deal with the question is first of all to refute the interpretation put upon these passages [of scripture] by these men, and then to explain their real meaning…

He is not advocating to use scripture as the sole rule of faith but to use the correct interpretation of scripture to refute heretics. When the Nicene Fathers tried to use Sola Scriptura to refute the Arians they failed miserably this is why they resorted to the apostolic tradition which told them the correct way of interpreting scripture.

Viva Cristo Rey!!

Catholic Deacon

I concur with AmericanJosiah: The documents you both reference never make the claim of “Sola Scriptura”, but rather of the “importance of scripture”, which is a truism, but that in itself is not Sola Scriptura.

The real life effect of sola scriptura is non-authoritative scripture interpretation, which was the point of the OP.

Oh please, this is simply about the perpiscuity of scripture in that comment. Go back in read it on the link in full context.

Hmmm insteresting way of making an argument… Nice talking to you too.

Viva Cristo Rey!!

Catholic Deacon

How could Moses, Jesus and the Apostles could have practiced Sola Scriptura if there was not “scripture” as we understand this term today?

Viva Cristo Rey !!

Catholic Deacon

Lost me…

The Rule of Scripture is the praxis of embracing Scripture as the rule (“straight edge”)/ canon (“measuring stick”) or as it is called in epistemology, the norma normans (“the norm that norms”). I think you may be confusing the SIZE of the corpus with the FUNCTION of the corpus. In the USA, under the Rule of Law applies NOW according to the Law of NOW - it’s moot as to whether the corpus of laws might be larger 500 years from now (as I strongly suspect it will be). It’s true, the size of the corpus increased from 1400 BC to 95 AD, but that seems pretty moot today and it’s entirely moot to the praxis of the Rule of Scripture. The Rule of Scripture embraces the Scripture that IS, not that might someday be (as if that has mattered for many, many, many centuries).

The Ten Commandments were regarded as Scripture and as normative AT LEAST 14 centuries before even The Catholic Church itself claims that it came into existence. Jesus used Scripture as normative some 50 times, never once even mentioning The Catholic Church for anything, about anything, concerning anything, in any regard or for anything.


How could He, it didn’t exist yet. And if you are going to use Jesus quoting scripture as an argument for ss then you had better ignore everything He taught that wasn’t referenced in the OT since it didn’t have a written scriptural reference yet.

Then Jesus lied when He spoke of the Scriptures.

I never said that Jesus used “Sola Nova Testamenta” but then there’s no such thing. This discussion is about Sola Scriptura - the Rule of Scripture. When I was Catholic, the OT was still regarded as Scripture - and I strongly suspect it still is.

Let me try again. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear.

How could Jesus have mentioned the Catholic Church when it didn’t exist yet? I won’t even bring up that He referenced the Church by appointing Peter as the first Pope since I know you will reject that as well even though it’s in the Scripture you claim to accept “sola”.

To say that Jesus adhered to sola scriptura because He quoted the OT some 50 times would be to make false everything else He said in authority that wasn’t in the OT. You can’t have it both ways.

Good point! Then maybe it’s a false apologetic to keep insisting that Jesus promised it all these huge, remarkable things when to quote you, “it didn’t exist yet.” Of course, I suppose one could look to the Apostles, to the 23 Epistles all written AFTER The Catholic Church claims it DID exist, but ahha - no mention there, either. Now, I guess (ego permitting) I could say that Jesus said that I’m the most handsome guy in the world (sorry, but I CANNOT bring myself to even type any claim of my being infallible!). I suspect your immediate (and very necessary) questions would be “Where?” If I said, well, how could he have mentioned me when I wasn’t born yet? See the issue? You can’t have it both ways. The REALITY is undeniable. Jesus never so much as even mentioned The Catholic Church. Nor did any Apostle. For anything, much less about it exclusively being infallible, unaccountable and exempt from norming for its doctrines.

To say that Jesus adhered to sola scriptura because He quoted the OT some 50 times would be to make false everything else He said in authority that wasn’t in the OT. You can’t have it both ways.

Your point might have some relevance to this if we lived in 28 AD. Check your calendar. Yes, I agree that God was ADDING to the corpus of Scripture. He did so from 1400 BC through about 95 AD. But the PRAXIS didn’t change, just the size of the canon. All that is moot (except for Mormons) now. But again, Jesus DID employ Sola Scriptura some 50 times. He never employed Sola Ecclesia Roma. He NEVER mentioned The Catholic Church or whoever happens to be the Bishop in Rome. In fact, He never mentioned infallibllity or unaccountability, did He? What He DID mention - repeatedly - is His stern warning of false teachers, antichrists and those that lead many astray, all suggesting accountability to me. He praised the Ephesian Christians for doing what The Catholic Church forbids, for regarding teachers as accountable, for norming them.

Back to the issue before us: How is it that Luther including all the books The Catholic Church would officially embrace after his death indicate that he REMOVED some books? And since The Catholic Church has a smaller Bible than The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, does that incated that actually it DID remove some books?

Thank you!


  • Josiah


Jesus didn’t refer to the Church during his 3 years of ministry because it didn’t exist yet. You conveniently left out Jesus’ appointment of Peter in your rebuttal which is how Jesus told us to follow the Church as He was getting ready to leave the earth. And St. Paul continues to refer to the Church that is being built up by him and the apostles after the time of the Gospels. Just because the word catholic isn’t specified doesn’t mean that wasn’t the Church being referenced.

And the Holy Spirit continues to add to the body of faith Jesus left us through His Church.

One of the weaknesses I see with sola scriptura churches/believers is the body of scripture that is never quoted. It usually seems to be cherry picked.

Okay. So, where, in those 3 years, did Jesus state that The Catholic Church - specifically, particularly and exclusively - is infallible, unaccountable and exempt from norming, and that all must just accept whatever it says in these matters “with docility” “as Jesus speaking?’”

And what does that have to do with Luther including the unique Catholic set of DEUTERO books in his tome - even before The Catholic Church itself officially embraced them, and how that indicates that he “removed” them from his tome? And what does your comment have to do with why The Catholic Church has a smaller Bible than The Eastern Orthodox Church and even more The Oriental Orthodox Church and whether that means that The Catholic Church “removed” books?


Jesus most certainly did refer to the Church: Matt 18:17 presumes that there will be a church to exercise authority (not to mention 16:38, which tells the source of that authority?) He didn’t specify which Church because He didn’t establish more than one . . .

The Scriptures do not modify the term “church” with any adjective because there was only one church in the beginning, and it wasn’t necessary to explicitly define the “real” church until there were “fake” churches - which is to say, when various heretical sects began to claim they had the “real” truth. (It’s quite widely recognized that the way Ignatius of Antioch used the term “catholic church” in his letter in about 107 indicates that it was already in common use, but that is still “catholic” as opposed to “gnostic,” not as one of many Christian churches - because there weren’t any others.)

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