Question for Protestants?

Jesus clearly left us with a teaching church (hence the magisterial office) and it was in existence for over a decade before any books of the New Testament were written, which means that Jesus’ church was being infallibly guided by God. When did God stop infallibly guiding His church, and shift the emphasis to scripture alone? I could not answer this question, as a former SS advocate. Please keep the discussion light and breezy…

This is the conclusion many non-Catholics consider to be begging the question. That the Apostles spoke truth is not up for debate, but early on (even after Pentecost) we see that they can err (Peter was withstood by Paul in public for his actions which Paul obviously thought were extremely damaging to the gospel message), and Paul said that even if he or an angel from heaven teach a different gospel to let them be accursed, showing he certainly considered himself capable of making a mistake. Jesus asked if He would find faith on the earth when He returns. We are warned constantly of false teachers, and see that large segments and leaders within the early church were already lead astray.

The earliest writings in the NT were within 30 years (probably less than 20) of Jesus’ resurrection and Paul was the author. We have the writings of the earliest leaders in the writings of Paul, Peter, John, James, etc… which we can compare with one another. The written word lends itself to text crit and comparison so that we can indeed see what the consistent teaching was. Also, we can pour through the OT and make sure that what is being taught is there as well, as the Bereans did, and as Jesus did on the road to Emmaus.

The Church’s job was always to hold up Christ and teach about Him. No one denies that this was first accomplished by the oral spreading of the Good News of Christ’s coming, death, and resurrection.

I asked basically the same question in a recent and very lengthy thread regarding why people believe in Sola Scriptura. I never got an answer, at least a straight one after providing the timeline of the Apostles’ deaths and the time gap to when the NT Scriptures were later compiled and still later widely distributed, even as separate documents.

Hopefully someone will answer this.


Just because Peter (and all the apostles and other writers of the NT for that matter) were not personally impeccable does not mean that they were not infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit. I think we can agree the authors of the NT were infallibly guided in their writing at the very least. Just like the Pope today can certainly err, yet we believe he is infallible in certain matters.

In addition, whether they were infallible in their official teaching or not, there can be no debate that for the first 15 years (MINIMUM) after Pentecost, the Church DID NOT operate on Sola Scriptura. We can even take that several steps further, since the last book of the Bible wasn’t written for many years after this point, so the full scripture wasn’t even in existence at this time. Even after John finished writing Revelation, all the books weren’t available to most people, and there were many books which were considered to be inspired by some, but never made the cut to be in the Bible.

So, the question that needs to be answered by non-Catholics is, when did Sola Scriptura begin? When, where, how and why did the authority to teach truth move from the apostles & their successors to the bible alone? This is an event which must have taken place if Sola Scriptura is true. I’m interested to hear when non-Catholics believe this to have occurred.


My post already covers this. Sola scriptura is not solo scriptura, as far as I know, no non-Catholic Christian denies that the gospel itself, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, was first transmitted orally. The Bereans then were praised because they searched scripture to see if what the Apostle’s taught lined up with the prophecies and the teachings of God in the OT. When the writings of the NT were available, even in individual letter or book form, it became possible to compare and contrast what a local church leader was teaching with what was contained in the writings, and Paul makes it clear that scripture is key to being fully equipped for every good work, and that definitely includes the OT.

This thread feels like a bait to me.

When I was a Protestant I never really gave it much thought and never really worried much about the Reformation either. It wasn’t until I started my RCIA class that my interest was piqued and I actually wanted to understand why sola scriptura was the right theology. It just made sense to me that if I wanted to learn about Catholicism I needed to understand why I was a Protestant. To be honest- I wasn’t really affiliated with any particular denomination. I just knew I believed in Jesus and the Bible was the sacred text and if I tried to not hurt anyone and lived a good life that my salvation was guaranteed. I didn’t feel that “organized” religion was a necessary component to our salvation; in fact the more “organized” a religion was, usually the more corrupt, judgmental, etc. I looked upon the religion, traditions, and rituals, as man-made and even compared it to the wicked Pharisees of the Bible. The only Sacrament necessary was baptism, as far as I was concerned. When I talked with other Protestants, usually of the Methodist or Lutheran variety, we discussed the Catholic church at times and were in agreement that it was the true church until the people within caused corruption. They actually strayed from what God had originally attended for the church and Martin Luther tried to restore it. Sounds almost laughable now when you think of the thousands of denominations we have now. I remember asking someone in sunday school as a child what church was God referring to when he told Peter he would use him as the “Rock.” I was told it was an “invisible” church and that the “church” wasn’t actually a building or temple but a body of believers. That made sense to me at the time. I don’t know what non-denominational preachers teach. I can say for myself though, as a Protestant I wasn’t well versed in scripture or the history of the church. My sons both were confirmed in the Lutheran church and they seemed to be more knowledgeable and even open to Catholicism.

I find that SS supporters perform a lot of wordplay to erect their points.

But it is logically impossible…the Bible is silent on so many things that we are left to personal interpretation. And, when left to personal interpretation, you end up with 33,000 invisible churches, which is clearly not biblical and Jesus established A church…

One Church to help keep the “personal interpretations” in Truth.

Interesting that you would bring up the Old Testament, since there were indeed many people who used scripture alone in the earliest time, and that scripture was the old testament. These groups were called Judaizers. These people, who were following the only scripture they had at the time, were ended up being incorrect. Thankfully, Paul was able to correct them (and ‘them’ includes Peter in this case).

When Paul corrected the Judaizers, do you recall which scripture verse he refereed to? That’s right, he didn’t have any scripture to refer to (since he was in the process of writing it). He corrected those who were attempting to use the existing scripture alone (old testament) by using his own authority as an apostle!

Editing to expand…

So what we had in the earliest times were people attempting to use scripture alone, and getting the wrong conclusions (that following the old law was still required). While Paul was able to correct many of these people, some would not listen. So when they did not listen to Paul (and the other apostles) and they continued to believe that they needed to follow the old law, while still believing in Christ, what did we have there? Essentially, they broke away from the true Church and started their own…

So, even in the first years after Christ, we had people attempting to use Sola scriptura, having improper understanding of scripture, and then starting their own ‘denomination’ if you will.

No one is arguing that later revelation did not abrogate earlier revelation. You are pointing to a non-normative period, in order to compare it to a normative period. Unless new revelation is being given today, publicly, the point doesn’t hold.

Again, Sola Scriptura is not solo scriptura and no one denies that the Gospel message; Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was preached orally immediately after the events. What you contend is missing the point of false teachers; there were always false teachers, some of them were Judaizers. Both true teachers and false teachers, and even Satan utilized scripture. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and to guide humanity, one of the ways He does so is by illuminating scripture, but ours is a living relationship and is not restricted to just reading. All of Christendom believes in preachers, teachers, prophets, evangelists, etc… The idea of preaching, even false preaching, does not contradict sola scriptura at all.

I’m showing that at one point (granted, a non-normative period) Sola Scriptura was not how God wanted his teachings to be understood. Today, many protestants believe that the bible alone is sufficient and that there is no need for an authoritative teaching Church. Therefore, something must have changed from then to now. What was the event (or events) that caused the change?

I agree, but as I mentioned, at one point scripture was not all that is necessary for salvation. Today, many protestants believe that scripture alone is necessary (even if preaching is good and helpful). What changed, and when?

It’s partly a straw man, because when you say “many Protestants,” what you actually mean is a very small percentage of Protestants (mostly in North America) that do not represent in any way the three primary Reformation traditions (Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican). All of three of those believe in authoritative ecclesiastical offices. All three possess confessions of faith/catechisms which are considered binding.

You’re right that sola scriptura, during times of new revelation, would not have been applicable, because the scriptura had not been completed. Sola scriptura only addresses the situation of the church today.

there are many catholics and non catholics / Protestants?- that do not have the holy spirit-- nor can they hear the Holy spirit talking to them and there fore – they do not know their “calling”

and if you have never down loaded an APP – into a computer or other device than – maybe you are functioning with the “tutioral”

Can you please cite a moment in the Bible where Jesus rebuked a Jew for their understanding of Scripture without them having an extra interpretation that falls outside of Scripture?

I feel like Jesus schooled all the Jews for their extra beliefs, and appealed to Scripture for what they ought to believe.

This ends up reducing Truth (of Scripture, Tradition etc) to a feeling of being correct and attributing that feeling to the Holy Spirit, no matter how off one is. Leading to multiple denominations, since of course, each is the truly guided one.

Thank you for the clarification. Lets consider my question directed specifically at the small percentage of Protestants who believe in Sola Scriptura.

So, the question to them would be, when did it begin? The moment the ink dried on John’s paper (scroll…parchment…whatever)? Maybe once they were read by a believer? Only after the cannon of the Bible was defined (but then which cannon)? I’m honestly curious about when followers of SS believe it started.

Nope, I don’t think I can. The Judaizers that I referred to were after Jesus’ assention.


That could happen, certainly. I am sure it has numerous times. However, that is not sola scriptura as our (Lutheran) confessions define it, since we do not discount the role of tradition, earlier interpretation, etc. We do not rely on “feeling.”

I can’t answer for any but my own tradition, of course. Sola scriptura would have been the normative system of doctrine after the canon was closed (by God, not by the church). Once apostolic preaching had ceased and the Scriptures were circulated among the churches, in other words. Note that that doesn’t mean that the church didn’t continue to possess apostolic teaching that had been committed prior. However, as we believe that tradition and Scripture are coterminus in what they teach in matters of doctrine, oral teaching could be checked against Scripture to determine whether it was a faithful tradition. Ireneaus did this against gnosticism.

Actually, Paul relies extensively on scripture to make his case against the Judaizers (Genesis 12, cf. Galatians 3, and especially Gal 3:8.) This is a good case study of sola scriptura (properly understood) in action.

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