Protestant help wanted - Church History question


I’m interested in finding out if there are any early Christian writings that indicate support for any of the following ideas:

-Sola Scriptura
-Sola Fide
-that the Eucharist is not the actual Body and Blood of Christ

I’m not really interested in Scripture quotes as I feel like I have a good enough understanding of the Scriptures that Protestants use to support these points.

My interest is really in early Christian writings - the earlier the better.

The reason that I’m posting this is that I’ve done some reading of early Christian writings and have found several instances of support for Catholic doctrine. I haven’t yet found any that support one or all of the ideas listed above, but it may be that I just haven’t read the right stuff. So, if someone could fill in the gaps for me or point me to a link or something, that would be great.

Thanks in advance!


In no disrespect to the protestant community here, but we have been asking for this for a while now. Maybe from your petition we will get it.


I would read Scott Hahn’s work…he wrote about his own journey trying to find just what you are looking for…however, he was in a Protestant Seminary while he looked, ended up leaving and becoming Catholic and either one or two (I forget) of his professors followed him after the fruitless search for these…


Are you after a Protestants view on the early Christian writings, ie. Early Church Fathers, or anyones view?

Why i ask is (disclaimer: not using a broad brush here) my experience with SOME protestant groups is that they dont care what the early Church Fathers have to say, they care only what Scripture says, as if Christianity only started a few hundred years ago…:rolleyes:

So i wouldnt hold my breath. :wink:


You may want to ask this in the non catholic area of the forums.

As a non catholic I believed the first two, yet had no scripture to testify to it nor any church history previous to the reformation.

peace, Justin


My two best friends are Lutheran. And I have gotten the same response from them. I show them a ECF quote and they respond in one way or another like “it is not scripture”.

It would be naive of protestants to think Christianity started a few hundred years ago, and I do not believe they do think that. But I do think some protestants (including the past me) do not want to regard early Christians, after the Bible writing times, as pertinent to theirs or anyones faith. Not all, but some.


Maybe you should ask them how the Catholic Church was founded, and how the Bible was compiled. We didn’t just appear out of thin air. Or did we? :smiley:


Ignatius << I’m interested in finding out if there are any early Christian writings that indicate support for any of the following ideas: >>

Best Protestant books on these topics:

<< Sola Scriptura >>

See Holy Scripture: Ground and Pillar of Our Faith (2001) by Webster/King, they quote many Fathers extolling the primacy of Scripture, that tradition or Councils are a “secondary interpreter” of Scripture, or that “tradition” are just customs or practices, and they claim that is the Fathers all believing Sola Scriptura. I thought Sola meant “only” or “alone” but anyway…

BTW, my review on still doing the damage: :thumbsup:

Most Helpful Customer Review is still – 58 of 74 people found the following review helpful – (I gave it 3 stars for effort) Ground and Pillar of Whose Faith? Volume 1, since December 6, 2001

<< Sola Fide >>

The phrase was used by some of the Fathers: e.g. Ambrosiaster. But at the same time those Fathers have a very “Catholic” soteriology. Ambrosiaster (c. 366-384), commenting on 1 Corinthians 1:4 – “God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins.” (cited by Gerald Bray, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT: 1-2 Corinthians, page 6, other examples given by Bray).

The original Latin: “Datam dicit gratiam a Deo in Christo Jesu, quae gratia sic data est in Christo Jesu; quia hoc constitutum est a Deo, ut qui credit in Christum, salvus sit sine opere: sola fide gratis accipit remissionem peccatorum.” (MIGNE PL 17:185)

Sounds fairly Protestant, until you read what Ambrosiaster also said:

“God by his mercy has saved us through Christ. By his grace, we, born again in Baptism, John 3:5ff; Titus 3:5ff in all the Fathers], have received abundantly of his Holy Spirit, so that relying on good works, with him helping us in all things, we might be able thus to lay hold of the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.” (Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Titus 3:7 cited by Robert B. Eno “Some Patristic Views on the Relationship of Faith and Works in Justification” in Justification By Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII [1985], page 115)

“For justification, faith alone in love is necessary. For faith must be fortified with brotherly love for the perfection of the believer.” (Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Galatians 5:6, ibid, page 116)

And a comment from Anglical evangelical Alister McGrath:

“Like many of his contemporaries, for example, he [Ambrosiaster] appears to be obsessed with the idea that man can acquire merit before God, and the associated idea that certain labours are necessary to attain this.” (Alister McGrath, IUSTITIA DEI, volume 1, page 22 – his reference is to Souter’s The Earliest Latin Commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul [Oxford, 1927] pages 65, 72-73, 80).

And Protestant scholar Robert Eno in the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue on Ambrosiaster:

“Despite our initial justification by God’s mercy, our subsequent life, our works, will determine whether we are justified or damned ultimately. As can be seen, Ambrosiaster has no difficulty with merit language for the justified person. Having been washed, we must merit receiving the promise.” (Eno, in Justification By Faith, page 117)

<< that the Eucharist is not the actual Body and Blood of Christ >>

You won’t find that, but you will find all the Fathers using such terms as “symbol” or “figure” or “anti-type” but they mean the “symbols” ARE what they symbolize. For example, St. Cyril of Jerusalem:

“Let us, then, with full confidence, partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. For in the figure of bread His Body is given to you, and in the figure of wine His Blood is given to you, so that by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, you might become united in body and blood with Him. For thus we become Christ-bearers, His Body and Blood being distributed through our members. And thus it is that we become, according to the blessed Peter, sharers of the divine nature [2 Pet 1:4].” (Catechetical Lectures 22 [Mystagogic 4], 3; also 23 [Mystagogic 5], 20 for the word “antitype”)

However, Cyril of Jerusalem was also probably the most explicit about the “propitiatory nature” of the Eucharist sacrifice and the miraculous “change” that takes place (see Cat Lect 19 [Mystagogic 1], 7; 22 [Mystagogic 4], 2,6,9; 23 [Mystagogic 5], 7; 23 [Mystagogic 5], 8, 9, 10).

Phil P


BTW, even St. Thomas Aquinas said:

“It should be noted that though many might write concerning Catholic truth, there is this difference that those who wrote the canonical Scripture, the Evangelists and Apostles, and the like, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt. That is what he means when he says ‘we know his witness is true.’ Galatians 1:9, “If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!” The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith. Others however so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John 21)

The bolded phrase in Latin: quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei.

Even Webster/King pick this up: “He [Thomas Aquinas] taught that Scripture alone was the canonical standard of doctrine, and therefore the foundation and source of truth for the faith of the Church: ‘Only canonical Scripture is the rule of faith’ (quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei). Note that he used the term sola Scriptura.” (Webster, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, volume 2, page 87-88)

For the answer to that one, see here. :thumbsup:

A context without a pretext is a text, or something.

Phil P

  1. 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.- Hippolytus (Against Noetus, Paragraph 9)
  1. In all these books those who fear God and are of a meek and pious disposition seek the will of God. And in pursuing this search the first rule to be observed is, as I said, to know these books, if not yet with the understanding, still to read them so as to commit them to memory, or at least so as not to remain wholly ignorant of them. Next, those matters that are plainly laid down in them, whether rules of life or rules of faith, are to be searched into more carefully and more diligently; and the more of these a man discovers, the more capacious does his understanding become. For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life,Cto wit, hope and love, of which I have spoken in the previous book. After this, when we have made ourselves to a certain extent familiar with the language of Scripture, we may proceed to open up and investigate the obscure passages, and in doing so draw examples from the plainer expressions to throw light upon the more obscure, and use the evidence of passages about which there is no doubt to remove all hesitation in regard to the doubtful passages. And in this matter memory counts for a great deal; but if the memory be defective, no rules can supply the want.-Augustine (On Christian Doctrine, Book 2, Chapter 9, Paragraph 14)

What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. -John Chrysostom, (Homilies on Second Thessalonians, 3, v. 5)


If by “actual Body and Blood of Christ” is meant a “Capernaite” view of it, the CC does not teach it, so nothing is gained by trying to prove the CC does. This is another name for what is known among Catholic theologians as “ultra-realism” - it is an error, & was condemned as such in the 11th century.

It must on no account be confused with the superficially similar doctrine of Lateran IV & Trent; the Presence of Christ is true & real & substantial: it is also, & not less truly, spiritual - & not material. “Ultra-realism” confuses being true, real & substantial with being material, & thereby seriously obscures the sacramentality of the Eucharist.

Material things are real, in their way - it does not follow that what is real, is therefore material; otherwise God would be composed of matter, & biting the Blessed Sacrament would entail biting Christ. A materialist understanding of the Church’s doctrine - & of the great fact it is meant to safeguard & exhibit to us - implies that Christ is not glorified, but is bloodily put to death at every Mass: which is wrong beyond words :frowning:


They said that he who kept not the Law was cursed, but he proves that he who kept it was cursed, and he who kept it not, blessed. Again, they said that he who adhered to Faith alone was cursed, but he shows that he who adhered to Faith alone, is blessed -John Chrysostom (Homilies on Galatians, Homily 3, Verse 8)

But after saying that “it was excluded,” he shows also, how. How then does he say it was excluded? “By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.” See he calls the faith also a law delighting to keep to the names, and so allay the seeming novelty. But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.-John Chrysostom, (Homilies on Romans, Homily 7)

  1. For the name of Faith is in the form of speech one, but has two distinct senses. For there is one kind of faith, the dogmatic, involving an assent of the soul on some particular point: and it is profitable to the soul, as the Lord says: He that hears My words, and believes Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and comes not into judgment John 5:24 : and again, He that believes in the Son is not judged, but has passed from death unto life. Oh the great loving-kindness of God! For the righteous were many years in pleasing Him: but what they succeeded in gaining by many years of well-pleasing, this Jesus now bestows on you in a single hour. For if you shall believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved, and shall be transported into Paradise by Him who brought in thither the robber. And doubt not whether it is possible; for He who on this sacred Golgotha saved the robber after one single hour of belief, the same shall save you also on your believing -Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 5, Paragraph 10)

  1. If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,” says Christ, “and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53 This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us.-Augustine (On Christian Doctrine, Book 3, Chapter 16, Paragraph 24)


SyCarl, I think I remember these from you before. Let’s stick with St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine. Are you saying they held to sola scriptura and sola fide? Uh, maybe you want to quote the other things they wrote? Or is that supposed to be my job? :smiley: I can help you out with about 37 quotations from each. Here’s three for starters:


"He that believes in the Son has everlasting life [John 3:36]… “Is it ENOUGH, then, to BELIEVE in the Son,” someone will say, “in order to have everlasting life?” BY NO MEANS! Listen to Christ declare this Himself when He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” [Matt 7:21]; and the blasphemy against the Spirit is alone sufficient to cast him into hell. But why should I speak of a PART of our teaching? For if a man BELIEVE rightly in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, but does not LIVE RIGHTLY, his faith will avail him NOTHING TOWARD SALVATION. (Homilies on John 31:1)

For, “think not,” saith he, "because ye have believed, that this is sufficient for your salvation: since if to me neither preaching nor teaching nor bringing over innumerable persons, is enough for salvation unless I exhibit my own conduct also unblameable, much less to you. (Homily 23, NPNF1: Volume 12, page 133)

(Galatians 5) Verse 6 “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love.” What is the meaning of “working through love?” Here he gives them a hard blow, by showing that this error had crept in because the love of Christ had not been rooted within them. For to believe is not all that is required, but also to abide in love. (Commentary on Galatians 5, NPNF1: Volume 13, page 37)


Christ’s saints imitate Him in order to pursue JUSTICE [Justification]. Whence also the same Apostle says: “Be imitators of me, even as I am of Christ” [1 Cor 11:1]. But besides this imitation, His GRACE also works WITHIN us our illumination and JUSTIFICATION, by that work of which His same preacher says: “Neither is he that plants anything, nor he that waters, but He that gives the increase, God” [1 Cor 3:7]…For by this GRACE baptized INFANTS too are ingrafted into His body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive, besides offering Himself as an example of RIGHTEOUSNESS for those who would imitate Him, gives also the most hidden GRACE of His Spirit to believers, GRACE which He secretly INFUSES EVEN INTO INFANTS. (Forgiveness of Sins 1:9:10)

What MERIT, then, does a man have BEFORE grace, by which he might RECEIVE grace, when our EVERY good merit is produced in us ONLY by grace, and, when God, crowning our merits, crowns nothing else but His own GIFTS to us? (Letters 194:5:19)

And by LIVING FAITH you shall DESERVE WELL of God; and when you shall have deserved well of God by LIVING by faith, as REWARD you shall receive immortality and ETERNAL LIFE. AND THAT IS GRACE. Because of what MERIT, then, do you receive ETERNAL LIFE? BECAUSE OF GRACE. (Homilies on the Gospel of John 3:9)

Even Keith Mathison (Reformed author of The Shape of Sola Scriptura) admits neither Augustine nor Chrysostom held to sola scriptura:

St. John Chrysostom clearly makes “the specific distinction between what is written and what is unwritten…” (Mathison, page 39) St. Augustine “clearly asserts the authority of scriptural revelation, he also suggests that there is an authoritative extra-scriptural oral tradition” (e.g. infant baptism) and he “advocated a two-source concept of tradition” (Mathison, page 40, 41, 42). He also cites St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Augustine as probable adherents of “Tradition 2” or a two-source concept of tradition.

I say Mathison got this much right.

Phil P


Furthermore, I got involved in a online discussion that included recent celebrated revert Frank Beckwith and some anti-Catholics in a Reformed blog, which also involved some comments from James White. Here I dug up more on St. Augustine and salvation. Just thought I’d share this:

“This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed [rewarded] with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: ‘Without me ye can do nothing’ [John 15:5]…We are framed, therefore, that is, formed and created, ‘in the good works which’ we have not ourselves prepared, but ‘God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’ [Eph 2:10]. It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God’s grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense [reward] of a good life is the grace of God; moreover it is given gratuitously [freely], even as that is given gratuitously to which it is given. But that to which it is given is solely and simply grace; this therefore is also that which is given to it, because it is its reward; grace is for grace, as if remuneration [payment] for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God ‘shall reward every man according to his works’ [Matt 16:27].” (St. Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 20; NPNF1, volume 5, pages 451-2).

According to St. Augustine:

(1) even a Christian’s “good works” belong to the grace of God
(2) these “good works” are recompensed or rewarded with eternal life
(3) your good life is nothing else but God’s grace
(4) your eternal life, the reward for a good life, is also God’s grace rewarding us (God crowns our merits as his own gifts to us), and is therefore gratuitous or freely given

Along with St. Augustine’s texts John 15:5; Eph 2:10; Matt 16:27, we have Col 3:23-25; 2 Tim 4:6-8; Rom 2:5-11; Matt 25:31-46; etc.

Augustine quoted by SyCarl: “After this, when we have made ourselves to a certain extent familiar with the language of Scripture, we may proceed to open up and investigate the obscure passages, and in doing so draw examples from the plainer expressions to throw light upon the more obscure, and use the evidence of passages about which there is no doubt to remove all hesitation in regard to the doubtful passages.”

Yes, and that’s how St. Augustine interpreted the Bible, the plain and the obscure passages. Like the Council of Trent. :thumbsup:

“However, it will be clear that the medieval period was astonishingly FAITHFUL to the teaching of Augustine on the question of the nature of justification, WHERE THE REFORMERS DEPARTED FROM IT [emphasis mine].” (Alister McGrath, from IUSTITIA DEI)

“Nor must this be omitted, that although in the sacred writings so much is attributed to good works, that even he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones, Christ promises, shall not lose his reward [Matt 10:42; Mark 9:40]; and the Apostle testifies that, That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory [2 Cor 4:17]; nevertheless, far be it that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself and not in the Lord [1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17], whose bounty toward all men is so great that He wishes the things that are His gifts to be their merits [cf. St. Augustine, Letters 194:5:19]. And since in many things we all offend [James 3:2], each one ought to have before his eyes not only the mercy and goodness but also the severity and judgment [of God]; neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be not conscious to himself of anything [1 Cor 4:3 ff]; because the whole life of man is to be examined and judged not by the judgment of man but of God, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God [1 Cor 4:5], who, as it is written, will render to every man according to his works [Matt 16:27; Rom 2:6; Rev 22:12].” (Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 16) :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :smiley:

Phil P


Wouldn’t you have better luck asking for Protestant opinions on a Protestant forum, like CARM? (


There is one “Church Father” that SyCarl neglected to mention.

“Since, therefore, all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures. Thus ‘all Scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work’ [2 Tim 3:16-17]…”

Ah ha the 2 Tim 3:16-17 proof text! Very Sola Scriptura-ish you might say!


“The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord, in so far as she never ceases, particularly in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the Word of God and the Body of Christ. She has always regarded, and continues to regard the Scriptures…as the supreme rule of her faith. For, since they are inspired by God and committed to writing once and for all time, they present God’s own Word in an unalterable form, and they make the voice of the Holy Spirit sound again and again in the words of the prophets and apostles. It follows that all the preaching of the Church, as indeed the entire Christian religion, should be nourished and ruled by sacred Scripture. In the sacred books the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them. And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life. Scripture verifies in the most perfect way the words: ‘The Word of God is living and active’ [Heb 4:12] and ‘is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified’ [Acts 20:32; cf. 1 Thess 2:13].”

Sounds like this might be an important proof text for sola scriptura from the Fathers? Unfortunately, I’ll let the cat out of the bag and tell you this is from Vatican Council II (Dei Verbum 11, 21). :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Time to summarize Philip Schaff, JND Kelly, and Jaroslav Pelikan as I do every couple of months in here:

(A) For the early Church the divine Scriptures AND the oral tradition of the apostles or living apostolic Faith of the Catholic Church together formed the one infallible source and rule of faith for the Church; Church Tradition determined the canon of Scripture and furnished the key to the true interpretation of the Scriptures (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, volume 3, page 606);

(B) Throughout the whole period of the Fathers, Scripture AND Tradition ranked as complementary authorities, although overlapping or coincident in content; and if Scripture was “sufficient” in principle, Tradition provided the surest clue to Scripture’s true interpretation, for in Tradition the Church received, as a legacy from the apostles, an unerring grasp of the real meaning of revelation that both Tradition AND Scripture enshrined and bore witness (Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, page 47-48, 51);

© There was no notion of Sola Scriptura in the ante-Nicene Church, neither was there a notion of Sola Traditio (Tradition alone); the one universal Catholic Church of the Fathers (neither Western/Catholic nor Eastern/Orthodox, but both Catholic and Orthodox) was the repository of all revealed truth, the dispenser of all grace, and the only place where the true God accepted true worship, sacrifices, intercessions, good works, etc – only from this Church does the truth shine forth; heretics taught doctrines found neither in Scripture nor Tradition, while orthodox Catholics in the Church of the four Gospels and four Councils were faithful to both Scripture and Tradition (Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, page 115-117, 334-335).

Phil P


I was merely providing statements as the OP asked. I think the best that can be said is that the Church Fathers often appear to contradict themselves.


In my experiance ECF writings do not matter. If it’s not from the bible then it’s irrevelent. That is pretty shallow thinking IMO but that seems to be the way of thought with Protestants I know. I was once told “those are just some old guys writing stuff that hold no wieght, it’s not scripture”. I wouldn’t say all Protestants are like this though.



One evangelical was quoting carefully selected parts of St Augustine yesterday (and claiming he’d said some things he clearly didn’t say, otherwise evangelicals would have latched to them more strongly, e.g. he claimed he rejected the authority of bishops etc.), so I just mentioned the name of St Ignatius (of course far earlier and a direct disciple to St John the Apostle) to be told that ‘oh he’s an idiot’

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