Material sufficiency of Scripture

Is it true that the Catholic Church accepts the material sufficiency of scripture? I know that was the position taken by many theologians after Trent.

You need to define your term. What do you mean by “material sufficiency?” I have never heard this phrase.

Unlike protestants, the Catholic Church has never taught that Scripture is sufficient to define Doctrine. The Catholic Church is not based upon Scripture (and, in fact, Scripture is rather based upon the Catholic Church - the New Testament Canon was not defined in any official manner whatsoever until the Sixth Century, and was not officially proclaimed (in the same Sixth-Century terms) until the Sixteenth Century).

The Church teaches that Scripture is true when correctly interpreted. The Church affords no latitude for you or I to officially define this correct interpretation. The Church occasionally offers an authoritative interpretation for a particular passage (but this is rather rare).


That should help.


Chapter 14, Gospel of John presents the* true* source of infallibility.:thumbsup:

As Wycliffe said, Jesus himself is the “Scripture that can not be broken”, and the manuscripts we have merely a reflection of the true Scripture, which is Christ, the manuscripts only being holy insofar as they lead to an intellection of their source, the True Word, the True Scripture, Christ, in an interesting foreshadowing of Barth’s Doctrine of the Word of God six hundred years later. (Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300-1700, Hahn and Wiker. Chapter 3, passim). A high view of Christ is no guarantee of orthodoxy, but a low view of Christ is most certainly a guarantee of heresy.

So can one hold to the material sufficiency of scripture and remain a catholic in good standing?

Khalid do you hold to the material sufficiency of scripture? Are you Roman Catholic?

What has the church officially dogmatically said on the material sufficiency of scripture?

What’s the difference between material and formal sufficiency? It is the difference between having a big enough pile of bricks to build a house and having a house of bricks. Catholic teaching says written Sacred Tradition (known as Scripture) is materially sufficient: all the bricks necessary to build its doctrines are there in Scripture. But because some things in Scripture are implicit rather than explicit, other stuff besides Scripture has been handed down from the apostles. This other stuff is unwritten Sacred Tradition (which is the mortar that holds the bricks of the written Tradition together in the right order and position) and the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Church (which is the trowel in the hand of the Master Builder). Taken together, these three things are formally sufficient for knowing the revealed truth of God.

Can someone explain to me the definition of the term material sufficiency? This is what a priest said to me:

"As I have noted here before, Trent considered a formula that doctrine was derived “partly” from Scripture and “partly” from Tradition and rejected it. Therefore its assertions that doctrine is derived from both, that they both must be equally respected, and that our certainty of dogmas is not from Scripture alone, are all compatible with the position that all dogma is found in Scripture.

Also, they are compatible with the idea that, while Scripture has primacy as a source, Tradition has primacy, in a different sense, as a proximate teacher of the Faith. In other words, Scripture has priority as a repository of Revealed Truth, but Tradition has practical priority as our immediate means of knowing the Truth and understanding the Scripture. See Abp Haverland’s Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice for more on this.

So, the material “sufficiency” of Scripture is perfectly compatible with Roman Catholicism, and one can find it defended by its apologists. Unfortunately, the material insufficiency of Scripture, though less naturally consonant with Trent and Vatican II taken together, has been defended by many RC theologians in the past and remains, apparently, a permissible opinion within the RCC. For the sake of truth, consistency with the Fathers and ecumenical progress, Rome should clarify this issue."


This has been referred to by Church Militant in post #3.

“For Scripture to be materially sufficient, it would have to contain or imply all that is needed for salvation. For it to be formally sufficient, it would not only have to contain all of this data, but it would have to be so clear that it does not need any outside information to interpret it.

“In order to prove sola scriptura a Protestant must prove the different and much stronger claim that Scripture is so clear that no outside information or authority is needed in order to interpret it.”

This they are unable to do.

Is the priest right in what he says?

How is material sufficiency different than sola scriptura?

SS…disregards the Magisterium and Sacred Tradition…and the individual decides for himself what the Bible passages mean…in a nutshell.

And finally, the Protestant notion of sola scriptura (the Bible alone) fell apart each time I tried to test it. I began to see that Evangelicalism’s insistence on going by the Bible alone led continually into division and problems. Worse yet, claiming to go by the Bible alone didn’t really provide any certitude of belief for believers.

I don’t think he is. The material sufficiency of Scripture isn’t something I’ve found to be taught historically by the CC. That and there are concrete examples of things not taught in Scripture (even by implication) that are taught by Tradition; not the least of which is the canon of Scripture. The one thing I do agree with is that the CC hasn’t definitively taught against material sufficiency, so I view it as a permissible theological opinion.

It is different because not even Akin will deny that Tradition is a source of infallible Christian truth, which I don’t think any advocate of sola scriptura (in all its varied definitions) would hold.

Sacred Scripture itself is quite clear as to its insufficiency to be formally sufficient:
St Paul’s epistles have “some things hard to understand, which those who are unlearned and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” [2Pet 3:16]

“…no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man but, but holy men of God spoken as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” [2Pet 1: 20-21].

The Ethiopian eunuch reading Isaiah was asked by Philip who had been moved by the Holy Spirit – “Do you understand what you are reading? And he said, ‘How can I unless some man show me?’ And he asked Philip to come and sit with him.” [Acts 8:30-31].

Did you guys know that Pope Benedict taught the material sufficiency of scripture? I heard Vatican 2 almost made it dogma.

Vinny: I’m a Roman Catholic. I hold to the material sufficiency of Scripture: many of the great Catholic theologians, including Ss Augustine and Aquinas, have, so most certainly one may remain a Catholic in good standing while holding the doctrine.

Pablope’s metaphor is a good one. My personal opinion comes closer to formal sufficiency, without reaching it. Formal sufficiency implies that anyone anywhere anytime who can read the Bible can understand it and draw the correct doctrines from it: this is not correct, although it is not correct to say that an individual can not draw many correct doctrines from it most of the time, or even that some individuals can not draw all correct doctrine all the time: it is just to say that all individuals can not always interpret the saving truths of the Bible correctly, so some greater authority is needed to make sure that the gospel is the same, always and everywhere, as truth is the same, and “thy word is truth”.

It is undoubted that Scripture contains within itself all truth. It is self-evident as well that, if truth is one, and there are many individual interpretations of Scripture, some of these interpretations are incorrect: that, someone, reading truth, “wrests the word of God unto [his] destruction”. If formal sufficiency were true, everyone who could agree on the method of Biblical hermeneutics would agree on all orthodox doctrines of religion.

Did Trent or Vatican 1 forbid the opinion of the material sufficiency of scripture?

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