Is it true no Church Fathers taught Sola Fide?

I was researching the Catholic claim that no one before Luther taught Sola Fide and it turns out most quotations of Jerome, Basil and Augustine were out of context when they supposedly supported Sola Fide. But there is one person that I could not find a good answer to, a writer called Pseudo-Oecumenius whom claimed

"Abraham is the image of someone who is justified by faith alone, since what he believed was credited to him as righteousness. But he is also approved because of his works, since he offered up his son Isaac on the altar. Of course he did not do this work by itself; in doing it, he remained firmly anchored in his faith, believing that through Isaac his seed would be multiplied until it was as numerous as the stars.”

– Commentary on James 2:23

I am aware this is probably someone pretending to be Oecumenius hundreds of years after he died, but it doesn’t negate the fact that he said something that is similar to sola fide in the minds of evangelicals . So can someone help me understand what he really meant? Is he being taken out of context? Are there any good historians here in this forum?

mmm… I think I might have answered my own question I had found the commentary that the quote was from (Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude), and it turns out the commentator I mentioned, he claims that James 2:24 refers to faith AFTER baptism, and that Jesus himself “needed works after baptism” doesn’t this suggest Pseudo-Oecumenius believed that Baptism is necessary for salvation which would mean he cant have taught Sola Fide?

If anyone has a copy of this book ( I am accessing it with google books) could they look up what Pseudo-Oecumenius said about baptism

Can you share the link you are using to get these quotes?

My own experience in reading the Church Fathers is that they will occasionally say here or there a sentence or two that sounds like Sola Fide, but they never build it up into a full fledged system of salvation the way Protestants do. And it simply isn’t a point of contention in the writings of the early church - there was no debate on whether we are saved by faith or works. And the early church debated everything, even the day of the week to celebrate Easter.

There are also some pretty emphatic quotes by the Church Fathers that we are not saved by faith alone:

Here is a link I found to the book that has these passages they are on page 33 and 34 under the name of "Oecumenius ",+Vol.+XI,+James,+1-2+Peter,+1-3+John,+Jude&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwin5Lj9yZbUAhUljVQKHU-SA9YQ6AEIIzAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Thanks for the link. I recommend this page from the Vatican, which allows you to look up Patristic commentary on every passage of Scripture.

this is interesting… I had asked this question on another forum and someone found the same text I was asking for in Latin

that person said they can speak latin and said that pesduo oceumeincus wasn’t teaching sola fide

Faith without works of charity is dead. Crystal clear.

Protestantism introduced the individual ego as the arbiter of revealed truth, and Christ’s Body has been increasingly pulverized ever since.

Other world religions, i.e. Islam, suffer this to a far lesser extent and continue to forge ahead.

This might help you too cloak and stagg.

Although it does not deal soecifically with what you are seeking, it DOES deal with the PRINCIPLE of the issue here I think.

God bless.


PS St. Paul likewise uses “faith” or “fide” in the context of “fidelity” too. Explicitly in fact in Romans 1 and Romans 16 (you can see that here if interested).

Didn’t Jesus say, "Whatever you do for the least of my Brethren, you do for ME
!!?? God Bless, Memaw

I guess it does, still refuting these statements that seem to be obscure is rather annoying

Faith is never, ever, alone from charity (love). The greatest of faith, hope and charity is… charity / love.

That’s why Abraham’s faith was made complete by works (those of love, charity) and why St James says that faith without works of love is dead. Hence, he says that one is saved by Works, Not by Faith Alone (James 2)

None of this conflicts with St. Paul who refers to faith and the works of the OT Law… those OT works can not save.

All of the above I mention which is why you would finding anyone in 1500 years or so attesting to salvation by faith “alone” as professed by a couple of errant Catholic’s in the 16th century.

A bit confused they were.

Matt Slick of has this page which has a few quotes from the Fathers supposedly proving faith alone, but that isn’t what they are actually saying.

No Church Father taught Sola Fide in the sense the Protestant Reformation understands it. The important thing to remember is that St. Augustine and other Fathers in his time period were waging battle with Pelagius and his Doctrine (which he tried very hard to disguise as Catholic) that man was capable of good works through his own will. Because Pelagius was so sneaky in his doctrinal teachings, it became necessary for the Fathers of the Church to emphasize and require adherence to the Catholic Doctrine of Grace, and its necessity in doing good. Sometimes, if their thoughts were taken out of context, it COULD look like Sola Fide (in the Protestant sense.)

But of course the early Protestants waded into the theological swampland of grace vs. works with complete abandon (not to mention defiance.)

Yes cloak and stagg it is true that NO ancient Church Father taught justification by faith ALONE . . . . in the sense that faith is a mere intellectual assent.

Did the Early Church Fathers (ECFs) use the PHRASE “faith alone”?

Yes they occasionally did, but they NEVER used “faith” in the sense of a mere intellectual assent in those usings.

How do we know?

Because when you look at OTHER of those SAME ECF writings (sometimes “other” even in the same letters) they ALSO talk about the NEED for WORKING.

Or they will condemn working ON YOUR OWN (without the Holy Spirit) which the Church ALSO condemns.

Here is an example where one of our Separated Brethren tried to pass off an ECF as teaching justification by faith ALONE. (". . . we . . .are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works . . .")

Here is that SAME ECF in the same writing refuting such a notion (Chap. XXX. Let us do those things that please God, . . . standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words.").

Or else the ECFs condemn thinking you can be saved by “law” in the sense of “Torah” or “Law of Moses” which the Catholic Church LIKEWISE condemns.

Below will be an excerpt (with minor changes) from a different post of mine (here).

Yes it is true that no Early Church Fathers taught Sola Fide in the mere intellectual sense.

God bless.


No “Sola Fide” or no “Sola Fides”.

. . . You quoted (here) Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, etc. ostensibly to show they taught justification by faith ALONE.

NO ancient Church Father taught justification by faith ALONE in the sense YOU are trying to get them to say.

It is not persuasive to trot out those ECF quotes to try to force them to teach justification by faith ALONE.


Because they are either denying “works” in terms of “works of law” or “Torah” such as circumcision.

Or they are affirming FAITH alone with “faith” or “fidesmeaning “FIDElity”.


**Fidelity includes ACTIONS.

When a spouse commits “infidelity” we know there were likely “actions” involved.**

When the Fathers use the term “Faith alone” they are using “faith” in the sense of “fidelity”.

How do we know that?

By looking elsewhere in their writings where they talk about Baptism, or works, or how sin can cut you off from Christ.

I have already addressed this issue in principle and quoted Trent to do it.

That’s EXACTLY WHY I said (in post 310) . . . .

If you want to define a “saving faith” as a faith that NECESSARILY works, and NEEDS to WORK, and CONTINUES working, you will hear no criticism from me.

The Council of Trent’s condemnation of “Justification by faith alone” seems to be OK with that as well.

But the Council was NOT OK with a definition of “faith alone” that means nothing else is required in the way of COOPERATION after your moment.

At that point I gave the quote from Trent that I was alluding to . . .

COUNCIL OF TRENT CANON IX - If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified;** in such wise as to mean**, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

That’s what the Fathers sometimes do.

They sometimes use “faith” in the sense of “fidelity”, not divorced from working.

(The fathers use “fidelity” or fides just like St. Paul does when he talks about the OBEDIENCE of faith the very first and last times he mentions “Faith” in Romans (Romans 1:5 and Romans 16:26. As Dr. Hahn says: Obedience and Faith are conjoined by St. Paul in Romans as “bookends” so YOU the reader, don’t divorce faith and works.)

The Fathers use faith sometimes in the sense of fidelity.

And that’s WHY your ministers often won’t have you read Church history in my opinion.

Your ministers will urge you to read books ABOUT Church history . . . but they frequently cannot suggest reading the actual Fathers works (except for selective quotes) as they are too Catholic.

From this

  1. Protestants have devised many and varied explanations to neutralize the clear and unambiguous statement in Jm 2:24 that “man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Each of these explanations concludes that James is not teaching that man is justified by works in the same sense that Paul says man is justified by faith. Puzzled by James’s language, Martin Luther even concluded that the epistle of James was a spurious book and should not be canonically authoritative for New Testament teaching.

  2. Countering the Protestant explanation of the epistle of James which states that James means that “men” witness Abraham’s works, the Genesis text (Genesis 22) does not include any men as witness to Abraham’s works, but only God himself.

  3. Countering the Protestant explanation of James which holds that the word “justified” as James uses the term refers to a “vindication,” rather than to a salvific justification, as Paul uses the term, are the following arguments:

a) If James were teaching a concept of “vindication,” he would have said, with the proper Greek word, “you see, a person is vindicated by works.” Moreover, since James adds the clause “and not by faith alone” we know that he is correcting a false notion concerning the solitude of faith in justification, not suggesting that Abraham was vindicated by works.

b) If James were attempting to teach a vindication of Abraham, the specific argumentation he used would make sense only if James’s opponents had claimed that Abraham was “vindicated by faith alone.” In other words, if the vindication hypothesis were true, syntactical requirements would have forced James to use the meaning of “vindicated” in the first part of his argument (Jm 2:20-21) in order also to use it in the latter part (Jm 2:24). Since the grammatical structure of the verse would then require that the phrase “not by faith alone” have its referent in the phrase “is vindicated,” this would force the meaning of the verse to be, “a person is vindicated…not by faith alone” — a meaning that has no relevance to James’s discussion.

c) The New Testament does not use the word “justified” in the sense of “vindicated” in contexts which are soteriological, i.e., contexts which discuss salvation or damnation. Moreover, such passages as Mt 11:19 where one could plausibly interpret the Greek word dikaioo as referring to a vindication do so only in a metaphorical sense; therefore they do not use dikaioo in the same way that James, and even Paul, use the term, which is historical and literal.

d) James’s discussion of the events surrounding the justification of Rahab preclude assigning the meaning of “vindicated” to the word justified. Rahab’s justification, as described in Jm 2:25, is a salvific justification, not a vindication, yet James specifies that Rahab was justified “in the same way” that Abraham was justified. Therefore, one cannot understand Abraham’s justification as a vindication.

e) Since James and Paul use the same Greek noun dikaiosune (“righteous”) in reference to Abraham, and interpret the word in the same way (cf. Gn 15:6, Rm 4:3, Jm 2:23), it would be totally incongruous for one of them to use a different meaning of its verbal cognate dikaioo in reference to Abraham.

f) The Protestant position assumes that Abraham’s justification is a once-for-all event. James’s all important question “Can faith save him?” (Jm 2:14), however, includes Abraham within its purview. Hence we must conclude that if Abraham’s works were not of the quality that James prescribes in the context (Jm 2:15), then Abraham would not be justified. Abraham could not be justified in a “once-for-all” event in Gn 15:6 and at the same time have that justification put in jeopardy by disobedience to James’s requirement of works for justification. If this could happen, the question in Jm 2:14 would have no meaning.

  1. Abraham’s acts in Genesis 12, 15, and 22 were acts of faith and works. We should not misconstrue Paul’s stress on Abraham’s faith in his view of Gn 15:6 to say that Abraham performed no works of loving obedience to God at this time or prior, nor should we misconstrue James’s view of works in Genesis 22 to say that Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac was not a supreme act of faith. Similarly, Abraham’s departure from his homeland in Genesis 12 also couples his faith and works in regard to justification. Throughout his life, in the periods recorded in Genesis 13-14, 16-21, and 23-25 which are between the times of his recorded faith and obedience in the New Testament, Abraham continued to live in faith and obedience, with only what we may call minor lapses along the way. Genesis 22’s importance is its detailing of Abraham’s quintessential act of the faith-and-works which allowed God to swear an oath of blessing to him and for all his future descendants. Abraham’s act in Genesis 22, not Gn 15:6, was the most important act in Abraham’s life. The act in Genesis 22 was just as much a crediting of righteousness to Abraham as that in Gn 15:6.


  1. The entire context of the book of James concerns what one must do to be saved. He concentrates on obedience to the law as the means of salvation, and judgment for those who disobey that law.

  2. James includes sins of commission as well as omission in his warning against disobedience to the law. The supreme law, or “royal law,” that James has in view is the law of love.

  3. James assumes that the audience to whom he writes already has faith in God. The main question that James poses to them is whether they have added works to their faith. James does not suggest that works will immediately or inevitably flow from one who has faith, even though he may have a greater disposition towards good works once he has faith. James teaches that one who has faith must make a daily, conscious decision to do good works, just as he must decide each day to refrain from sin. In fact, if he chooses not to do good works when the opportunity arises, he has sinned (Jm 4:17).

  4. James does not support the Protestant concept that one can be saved as long as he has “saving faith.” James is not so much attempting to qualify the faith needed for justification as he is saying that one must consciously add works to faith in order to be justified. A person, to be justified, must persevere to his last breath in this conscious decision to add works to faith.

  5. One of the most heinous in the catalogue of sins that James specifies is sin of the tongue. What is “said” to God and man is of the utmost importance to James and a major criterion on how the individual will be judged.

  6. Both Paul and James speak of the works of love that one must add to his faith in order to be justified.

  7. Like Paul, James concludes that if one chooses the system of law and desires God to evaluate him on that basis without the benefit of grace, he must then obey the whole law without fault. For one fault, the law will utterly condemn him.[59]

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