Sola Scriptura -- what is the actual authority?

Actually I think you have near universal consensus on the canonical gospels and the Pauline corpus from the orthodox Church. It is only those whose doctrine was radically different than what we see in the Pauline corpus and gospels that disagreed with the canonical status of those works. They were an aberration even in the apostolic day in which these documents arose. You already have condemnations of doctrines such as what Marcion was proclaiming by the apostles (Paul in 1 Corinthians and John in 1 John for example). It is typically the General epistles (minus 1 John and 1 Peter) that were questioned primarily due to questions of source, but doctrinally they were accepted, and were ancient in their origin. I am fine with the consensus that was obtained through the guidance of the Holy Spirit without having to invest infallibility in a man or an office.

I tossed SS out of my life long before discovering a fascination with Catholicism. It was like lifting a huge burden from my shoulders.


This is a fascinating tradition (while not afaik Apostolic):

'Worth a peek, imo.

Excellent insight. St. Luke even indicates this right in his introduction: “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a narration of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 According as they have delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word…” Those “from the beginning” are the Apostles, at minimum. And every Apostolic book in the N.T. is also as you say “a crystallization of oral tradition.”

Very good!


Thank you !

I can’t claim credit for it, though. I think this would be the consensus in NT research, whatever denomination the scholars are from.

I think that the entirety of the scriptural writings were available by the 4th century, and there were varying opinions as to what was accepted, what was disputed, and some that were rejected.
But sola scriptura is a hermeneutics principle. No one should claim it comes from the apostolic era. And in the two or three centuries that followed, it is obvious that the ECFs considered the writings important, or they wouldn’t have speculated on their nature.

Two problems with this position:

  1. “near universal consensus” = no consensus = nearly authoritative = no sola scriptura. I dont think you would consider any church an orthodox Christian church today if they dropped a couple books from their canon and professed it was the true Christian canon. In a discussion as important as you make sola scriptura to be, anything less than 100% consensus cannot be considered authortative when it come to God’s word.

  2. It was not only those with radically different doctrins. Please see all the different canons the orthodox Christians had and how different they were. -

as an aside - note some of the names on this list and their influence in the councils of Nicaea.


I believe the entirety of the scriptural writings were available by the end of the 1st century.

I agree that if the ECF’s considered the writings important which is why the many other writings at the time that ended up not making it into the canon would have been used as “sola scriptura” if there was meant to be such a thing. We are talking about 300 years after the orthodox canon was written and the number of writings were growing not shrinking.


starw man a bit…not either or deal of SS or not…the authority of scriptures is both for individuals and any magisterium…so it is for both individual and corporate body…one can say the individual has abused scripture(30,000?), just as the corporate body has, or magisteriums(Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants?)…

Here’s the problem with Sola Scriptura: It refutes itself, is patently absurd and is responsible for the endless plethora of “ denominations “ in Protestant communities.

If we take Sola Scriptura literally, we see that it points to Catholic doctrine; not Luther’s or any of the other heretics. Take for instance, the “ Upon this rock, I shall build my church. “

Jesus was speaking to the Apostles when He asked: “ Who do people say I am? “ After some replies, Simon says: “ You are the Messiah, Son of the living God! “ Jesus replies, famously and definitively; giving Simon the name Peter, from the Greek Petras meaning rock and thus addressing Simon DIRECTLY; upon THIS ROCK, meaning Simon now Peter; I shall build my church. THAT IS creating the office of Pope and the Catholic Church.

I once talked to an ELCA pastor about this passage and he attempted to explain that away as Jesus saying faith in Him as the rock upon which the Church is founded.

Also, in Saint James we have the passage of “ Faith without works is dead “; which refutes the Protestant assertion of Sola Fide quite nicely. In fact: Luther wanted to remove Saint James from his NT, calling it “ The Epistle Of Straw “ because it reveals the lie of his doctrines.

Another way to look at Sola Scriptura: IF Scripture is the sole guide of faith and morals; where did it come from? The answer: The Catholic Church codified the canon in the 4th century, I think. Who decided this? The Holy Father and the Bishops in communion with him, led by the Holy Spirit; set down the canon. Thus, IF Sola Scriptura is correct: Protestants HAVE to accept the authority of the Magisterium; otherwise; how can they determine what is inspired or not if they can’t accept the authority that set down what is Sacred Scripture?

The next problem with Sola Scriptura: IF each man is his own priest, as Luther taught; each man is free to interpret Sacred Scripture on his own. Luther advised his disciples in his letters to them, that when reading Sacred Scripture; to imagine Luther reading at their sides. :thinking: This tells me: He wanted his followers to interpret Sacred Scripture as he did. No deviation from his directives. In fact: He was vociferous in denouncing and reviling opposing interpretations: Catholic and other Protestants.

Also: Sola Scriptura throws out authority and leaves interpretations in the hands of the laity; leaving NO ONE to authoritatively determine the proper interpretation of anything and leaves open the endemic splitting of Protestant communities from each other whenever anyone disagrees with the othwr’s Interpretation. Thus, introducing chaos and schism rife with each side claiming to have the unaltered truth.

Here’s the other problem of Luther’s so called “ reformation “, really a REVOLT once the lay nobility got involved at Luther’s call; how did one heretic “ discover “ that he alone possessed the authentic tradition, after the Church supposedly “ got it wrong “ for 1500 years?


and there is no problem with an infallible magisterium ?

None. The Church has it correct for 1,500 years before Luther showed up. They didn’t spread disruptive and a schismatic doctrines that make non sense of Christianity.

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Apparently the Didache was tough to follow in it’s admonition to “pacify those who contend”, in particular the Orthodox and then Protestants.

Actually, Luther was engaged once in debate, prior to his excommunication; by a Bishop or Cardinal Carjetan. Carjetan attempted to address the issues in a polite, erudite and grandfatherly way with Luther and his errors. All Luther did was provoke the good Carjetan into a frothing shouting match. The Church, in fact; gave Luther a good two years? to recant his errors. The Church was being patient.

Later on, Luther violently denounced the German peasants, revolting in Luther’s name and using his teachings; against his supporters amongst the lay nobility; that anyone who can is stab, slay and kill the rebels in his catchily titled: “ Against the Thieving, Murderous Peasant Hordes “ Now; Who sounds like a holy, saintly man of God who gently pacified those who contend with him?

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See my above point, please. I do understand that I get a little heated in debate over Protestant errors. I was once a Lutheran myself. Once I read what Luther taught and wrote, not the later teachings and commentaries of Protestant theologians; I was SERIOUSLY disturbed and revolted by what the man taught.

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I’ll have to disagree with you there, Hodos. Sola Scriptura isn’t the answer to any question. It presents more problems than solutions. Sola Scriptura is nowhere mentioned at all in Sacred Scripture; it was an invention of Martin Luther. As well as: Sola Scriptura means that Sacred Scripture itself is the only infallible guide of faith and morals.

Who composed the canon of Sacred Scripture? The Catholic Church in an ecumenical council. Prior to that, the Church relied on the oral teaching of Sacred Tradition.

Sacred Scripture arose from Sacred Tradition; thus, refuting the Protestant position. Plus: Where were the Protestant writers condemning Church authority in the 4th and 5th centuries? Answer: There were none.

So: In the 4th and 5th centuries, we have the Church codifying Sacred Scripture from Sacred Tradition in addition to what was believed everywhere by everyone, thus Catholic; so again: Where were the Protestants cautioning against Church authority?


I don’t mean this to be argumentative, but can’t the Orthodox claim that they had it right for 1500 years and claim the RCC was in error? Just curious of your position on this, not meant to attack you.


I’m not taking it as an attack. No worries. As I understand it, the Orthodox and Catholic Churches were largely, except for cultural and regional differences; in agreement until the 11th century and then there was a huge rift over Palamism that resulted in mutual ex communications.

If I’m remembering the trouble rightly.

Ok…i have heard no man has had more written about himself than Luther…i only read one book and myself was surprised at his flowery almost vulgar languages at times…i am also perturbed by his view on Jews at times ( dogs)… never the less he may have been a product of his times (Catholic times)…i am sure he was not the only monk to speak " plainly" without false pretense, even crudely but succintly (was educated) and chug a few beers etc…at worst Loyola had it right to reform clergy.

Yes the church was partly patient with some reformers, but also very stiff lipped. That is they would not budge an inch on reform, at least not in direct reply to reformers, to save face and to maintain strict authority. They certainly balked at any reform at the very civil negotiating table later on with princes and reformers. Later they would partially reform “on their own”, mostly superficially, not change an iota of any problematic, foundational doctrine or practice, but of course condemn the " heretics". That is not exactly fully pacifying.

As to a few of his teachings, yes perhaps abhorrent, but no more abhorrent than what was around him in parts of Catholicism, as taught and practiced by some.

Finally, just as ultimately you don’t follow any bad behavior or attitude that is renegade to any proper Christian tradition by some clergy or some past popes, so we too ultimately follow Christ as exhibited by any man, and not the chaff.

I am also amazed that as people seem awed and love to show Luther’s flaws, and I only then see awe in grace abounding that such a man could be used to turn a tide that definitely needed turning.

To be more flowery in Luther tradition, God used a jack ass to speak to a stiff necked, hell bent prophet Balaam.

Hold on. Luther didn’t advance reform. He launched a revolt. Once he was excommunicated, he brought in the lay nobility of Germany to back him up against the Church; calling the Pope an Antichrist. The Church wasn’t just partially patient. It showed great restraint. Even going so far as to not call for the man’s execution at the stake like Jan Hus.

If I recall, at the Council of Trent; the Church invited the “ reformers “ to it. They never showed. At that council, the Church did enact great reforms: Ending the selling of indulgences, tightening up and raising the standards of clerical training, ending the practice of absentee bishops in their bishoprics and curbing simony. You mentioned Saint Ignatius de Loyola. Yes, he and his Jesuits were instrumental in the major and authentic reforms enacted within the Church. One of those reforms being the Spiritual Exercises and his Jesuits helping simple and uneducated persons, the likely victims of Protestant heresy; to connect with and understand Our Lord and what He taught.

I don’t see any “ grace “ in what Luther did to Western Christendom. It was a great tragedy that led many souls to perdition and led directly to the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War. The man was a beastly anti Semite and intolerant polemicist who taught patently absurd doctrines to sate his misogyny and neuroticism.

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See my above point, please. It’s kind of hard for the Church to reconcile with “ reformers “ that don’t show up when invited. If you actually look at the results of the Council of Trent, you see that much of what they did reformed the causes of the Protestant Revolt.

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