Studying the Foundations of the Protestant Reformation: Early Church Fathers on "Bible Alone"


#1

It seems that the longstanding thread on the Early Church Fathers and the Papacy is winding to a close.

So I thought I’d initiate a similar thread, this time focusing on the patristic evidence for “Sola Scriptura” (Bible Alone)–in any of the various forms usually subscribed to by Protestant believers.

What I’m looking for is any evidence whatsoever from the first through third centuries that would lend credibility to the concept that the Written Word of God is either the sole authority in the Church or is the final authority in the Church.

Any and all takers would be appreciated. Especially/even Catholics who may be familiar with any “usual” texts relied upon by SS believers.

After this thread concludes, it is my hope to compare the quantity and quality of patristic texts on SS with the quantity and quality of patristic texts discovered and cited in the “papacy” thread I mention above.

I wonder what the evidence will show.

Okay, boys and girls–who wants to be the first?

Thanks

DJim


#2

If I held to SS, I’d contribute, but as I believe such an idea removes the holy spirit as a rule of faith (it’s a very bad idea to remove the direct involvement of God from play), I don’t hold to such a doctrine.

I’m sure you’ll get some dogmatic responses from my fellow Protestants, but my reasoning above is where I do stand, and where I will likely continue to stand. Interestingly, it’s not too dissimilar from the Roman Catholic position…except that I don’t believe the Holy Spirit is directly guiding the Roman Catholic Church, and thus I reject Roman Catholic tradition as a rule of faith. And I think that’s what’s more likely to bother Roman Catholics than the idea of going based on scripture alone, because it’s basically saying that the Roman Catholic Church is not in line with God’s teachings.

In any case, I’ll be watching this thread…just not likely contributing much. The evidence on both sides is shaky, at best, and as I said, removing the holy spirit from play just doesn’t make sense at all to me.


#3

Could you please stop using the “Roman” adjective, it is inaccurate and ignores the fact that there are Rites other than the Latin Rite which are also members of the Catholic Church.


#4

PC Master–

This is just something quick for me to ask–

As you have differentiated your view from any form of “Sola Scriptura”, may I ask whether you have found any evidence in the Early Church Fathers that supports your particular view of the “Holy Spirit as the rule of faith”?

This, too, would prove interesting to me–I’m sure even one post with a few quotes would be worth seeing, even though it’s not precisely “Sola Scriptura”.

Ultimately, I’m looking for evidence for alternative forms of authority that may be found in the Early Church Fathers. That would include even your non-SS view.

Can you offer me something as a starting point?

DJim


#5

I’m truly sorry if you choose to be offended, but no, I won’t stop using it. As has been explained in many other threads, I’m sure, allow me to remind you of the following reasons I use the term…

  1. The term Catholic simply means universal. As I personally believe the church headquartered at Vatican City is not the universal church as spoken of in scripture, using the term Catholic for it would not be accurate, as it implies that it is the Catholic church. While I’m sure you believe that it is, I do not, and cannot in good conscience ignore the distinction.

  2. The adjective Roman refers to the headquartering of the church in Rome (a completely accurate fact). This does not refer to the Latin Rite. Calling it Roman Catholic is no different than discerning Eastern Orthodox from Oriental Orthodox (or any of the other various groupings), or discerning Southern Baptists from Baptists in general. Distinct sub-groupings within religion are commonly named based on region, or some characteristic that differentiates when there are two distinct groups that previously occupied the same name.

  3. In reference to the Latin Rite – it’s officially the Latin Rite, not the Roman Rite, correct? So there should be little confusion. When I say Roman Catholic Church, there is no confusion whatsoever as to who I am speaking of, especially in context. That you choose to be offended by such a triviality as this honestly saddens me.

Let me ask you this – without stating that “well, there really is no other valid Catholic Church” (which we will disagree on), can you give me a concise way to differentiate between the universal body of believers in Christ (as held by non-Roman-Catholics) and the church headquartered in Rome (which purports itself to be that universal body, but that I believe is not)? To say that the churcch headquartered in Rome is the only true universal church is highly offensive to me, given the connotations. So, whose offense should be taken more seriously – yours, because I supposedly am ignoring the other twenty-something rites of that church, or mine, because you’re saying I’m not part of Christ’s church? And more importantly, which offense do you think I am going to take more seriously?

Thus, I selected Roman Catholic as a way to make the distinction, while remaining accurate (it is headquartered in Rome, or at least was for ~1900 years until Vatican City was officially defined, right?), and fairly non-offensive.

By the way, you don’t see me griping about the label Protestant, do you? I don’t define myself as a “Protester against the Catholic church” as you might define it. I define myself as a Bible-believing follower of Jesus’ teachings. But that’s too long to say all the time, so the term Protestant, while far less accurate for me than Roman Catholic is for you, will suffice. I say this even knowing that you’ll group me with such people as Calvin and Luther, and virtually all other not-so-great figures outside of the Roman Catholic Church that you can come up with (and believe me, there are plenty to choose from).

Anyway, I figure that explains my situation. I’m not going to change my use, because I do not intend it in an offensive way and have clearly explained this.

Back on topic, anyone?


#6

I could, but at this point, I choose not to do so. As I’ve explained, I didn’t come here to try to convince anyone. It is currently not my place to do so. When it is, I will be happy to do so.

Until then, I’d suggest you go reading on your own. There are a multitude of search terms you can use.

Off hand, we did come across one particular quote from Origen, regarding the question of which of the twelve was to be the greatest. Origen wrote that any believers, if we are unable to discern an answer, should feel free to go to God directly for guidance. This might be a good starting place.

That said, however, it seems to me that you’re more interested in defending the Roman Catholic faith rather than truly studying to see what the early fathers said. That’s “poisoning the medicine”, I would think, and might not lead you to a useful result. Pray hard, and remember to be open (truly open) to the possibility that you could have been wrong about your belief in the Papacy and the Roman Catholic Church. Just read the text, with as few preconceptions as possible, and see where it takes you. Also be willing to consult non-Church-approved sources in your study, and you might just find something of use.


#7

You do hold that the twenty-seven books of the New Testament canon are the inspired word of God, don’t you? Demonstrate from the ECF’s no later than the third century that they explicitly held all of these books to be inspired and scriptural. The earlier the Father the better.


#8

This proves what I said above – you’re here in an attempt to say that “well, you believe this, and it’s no more validly founded than the papacy, so you should believe that as well”.

But isn’t your own position that the New Testament canon is correct? And if so, what purpose is there to such a discussion of this, except to try to say that I am somehow being unreasonable in my disbelief of the papacy?

Honestly, I can’t see where this will go except somewhere useless, but here’s most of your canon, as of somewhere between 170 and 210 AD (dates vary). The Muratorian Fragment is a Latin translation of an original written during or soon after the bishopric of Pius I (indicated in the text). This Latin fragment references…

Four gospels (Luke and John mentioned by name, the previous two were lost due to damage of the fragment)
Acts of all the apostles (written by Luke)
Letters of Paul (all thirteen letters we have in our current canon, two more rejected as forgeries)
Two of John’s Letters (out of three)
Jude
"Apocalypse of John" (also known as Revelation – the text indicates there is doubt about the canonicity of the “Apocalypse of Peter”)

Out of the entire canon, this single source omits…

Hebrews
James
I Peter
II Peter
One of John’s Letters

Of course, the end of this fragment is damaged unintelligibly, and thus could account for all but perhaps one of John’s letters (it would have been mentioned with the others).

Origen quotes heavily from Hebrews (or so I’ve read). That leaves only 4 works out of 27 that were not definitively considered legitimate for use in churches before the end of the third century.

Anyhow, I imagine at this point, you’re going to say something like this…

“See! We should see a completely definitive list by the end of the third century. The canon, by your criteria PCM, should not be considered legitimate.” Again – this isn’t about whether the criteria are fair or not – it’s about trying to gain ground on some issue.

Anywho, I hope the info I’ve provided helps you somehow. There’s certainly a lot more reference to it than there is to the papacy.


#9

What are you talking about? I asked a simple question, why can’t you just answer it?

But isn’t your own position that the New Testament canon is correct? And if so, what purpose is there to such a discussion of this, except to try to say that I am somehow being unreasonable in my disbelief of the papacy?

Yes, I believe that the New Testament Canon is correct. I never mentioned the papacy at all.

Honestly, I can’t see where this will go except somewhere useless, but here’s most of your canon, as of somewhere between 170 and 210 AD (dates vary). The Muratorian Fragment is a Latin translation of an original written during or soon after the bishopric of Pius I (indicated in the text). This Latin fragment references…

Which early Church Father wrote this?

Four gospels (Luke and John mentioned by name, the previous two were lost due to damage of the fragment)
Acts of all the apostles (written by Luke)
Letters of Paul (all thirteen letters we have in our current canon, two more rejected as forgeries)
Two of John’s Letters (out of three)
Jude
"Apocalypse of John" (also known as Revelation – the text indicates there is doubt about the canonicity of the “Apocalypse of Peter”)

Out of the entire canon, this single source omits…

Hebrews
James
I Peter
II Peter
One of John’s Letters

Sorry, the first two gospels are not mentioned by name, but even if they were, which early Father wrote the fragment?

Of course, the end of this fragment is damaged unintelligibly, and thus could account for all but perhaps one of John’s letters (it would have been mentioned with the others).

It could have also included apocryphal books. Why do you assume that it includes the rest of the New Testament canon? That’s not just a rhetorical question either. You assume that it includes these other books (and the first two gospels) without any evidence whatsoever. You are begging the question - assuming what is to be proven.

Origen quotes heavily from Hebrews (or so I’ve read). That leaves only 4 works out of 27 that were not definitively considered legitimate for use in churches before the end of the third century.

Where does Origen state that the book of Hebrews is the inspired word of God? If this is the test, then any source that an ECF quotes is inspired Scripture. Furthermore, you are making an inference here. You are saying that it is implied in Origen’s writings that Hebrews is scriptural. But remember, the criteria demands that we have an explicit reference to its inspiration.

Anyhow, I imagine at this point, you’re going to say something like this…

“See! We should see a completely definitive list by the end of the third century. The canon, by your criteria PCM, should not be considered legitimate.” Again – this isn’t about whether the criteria are fair or not – it’s about trying to gain ground on some issue.

I wasn’t going to bring it up, but since you have, is the criteria I’ve set forth fair in determining which books are inspired?

Anywho, I hope the info I’ve provided helps you somehow. There’s certainly a lot more reference to it than there is to the papacy.

No. You haven’t provided a single quote to an ECF no later than the third century that has explicitly stated that all of the New Testament canon is inspired.


#10

shrug

I only gave that bit of information for reference. I spent all of 2 minutes looking it up before I posted about it, and don’t intend to study it more at the current time (I’m still working on the papacy). The comparison, however, seems to be that you want the same proof I required of the papacy, about the canon. You seem to be after a general result of trying to prove that beliefs protestants hold are no more valid based on history than the ones you hold.

Oh, and one more detail – I don’t hold that the canon of scripture is necessarily closed. That’s a Roman Catholic thing. I feel quite fine with the idea of reading the apocryphal books, and other works (such as the early fathers), because these are all simply words written by the inspiration of God. Those articles that are not canonical are made evident by their content.

Anyway, I’d really like to hear an argument against SS, since that’s what this thread is supposedly about.

[edit] Two further thoughts…

  1. Which ECF wrote the fragment only matters once you explain what differentiates and early father from any other person of the period.
  2. Are you saying modern-day writers cannot be inspired by God? Are you saying that all of the early fathers were not inspired by God?

#11

PCM, You seem to have already completely rejected Catholicism, yet you are still studying to find out what information the Catholic Church uses to justify the Papacy? Why? More importantly, how can you completely reject it without first knowing everything it uses to justify it? Maybe you should clarify.


#12

The why is simple – I’ve been wrong before. I could be wrong again. Thus, I study to make sure that I’m not. Belief in error is a bad thing.

Now, is anyone actually going to post on the topic of SS?


#13

Actually, you suffer from a misunderstanding. There are not “twenty-something rites”, but 22 *sui iuris *Churches that comprise the Catholic Church, the Roman Church being just one. As has been pointed out ad nauseam on these boards, a member of the Ruthenian Catholic Church (which uses the Byzantine Rite) is **not **“Roman Catholic”. Furthermore, your attitude of "well I think my way is accurate, and I don’t care who I offend (and am “saddened” that they are offended by my offensive terminology) is rather non Christ-like.

Do what reasonable people do: differentiate them with capitalization.

It is beyond me how you can claim it is non-offensive, when people here have told you that it is offensive. Furthermore, it has been repeatedly stated that the term “Roman Catholic” was coined as a pejorative term in Reformation-era England.

I use non-Catholic, which is completely accurate, and never once accused of being offensive (note the use of capitalization, which implies something different from “non-catholic”).

In other words, “I don’t care if I’m being offensive, I’m not going to change”. Nice. Let’s not forget, the road to Hell is paved with what? Good intentions :wink:


#14

Ok, so if you could be wrong, then why outright reject it? Isn’t that a rush to judgement? This is important.


#15

I do care that I’m offending people. However, I see the offense as petty in nature, and I can think of no better concise way to differentiate while being accurate, so I stick with what I’ve got.

Do what reasonable people do: differentiate them with capitalization.

Your definition of reasonable is interesting…but I forget to capitalize things on occasion, and it just doesn’t seem as clear to me in any case.

It is beyond me how you can claim it is non-offensive, when people here have told you that it is offensive. Furthermore, it has been repeatedly stated that the term “Roman Catholic” was coined as a pejorative term in Reformation-era England.

Perhaps it was. But the term is accurate on the grounds I’ve stated. You are a church which claims to be catholic (not unlike all the Orthodox churches and other Catholic churches), and so we classify your church based on its location – since it’s worldwide, we focus on the headquarters, which are in Rome, Italy. If you’d prefer, I’ll use the term Vatican Catholic or something.

I use non-Catholic, which is completely accurate, and never once accused of being offensive (note the use of capitalization, which implies something different from “non-catholic”).

Actually, it isn’t. By my definition of the church, all believers in Christ as savior are part of the church. That church is universal or, Catholic. So, calling me a non-Catholic is implicitly saying that I’m not a part of Christ’s church. But, you don’t see me whining about labels, do you? (I only mentioned it here because you’re being offended at a triviality and trying to justify that.)

If you want me to call you Catholic (without any qualifier), then you must call me Catholic too. We both believe we are Catholic, and we both believe the other is not. Also, I’m pretty sure most Orthodox adherents would consider their church to be Catholic as well, so we shouldn’t exclude them either. This would create mass confusion. I think my method is more clear.

In other words, “I don’t care if I’m being offensive, I’m not going to change”. Nice. Let’s not forget, the road to Hell is paved with what? Good intentions :wink:

No – I just don’t care about petty offenses like griping over a label, which is actually accurate.

Again, this isn’t unique to labelling the Roman Catholic Church…

Old Catholics (the “old” way of doing Catholicism)
Eastern Orthodox (not just “Orthodox”, because there are other groups with that name – this one is in the east)
Oriental Orthodox (whoops, gotta differentiate from “eastern”, so we’ll use “oriental”)
Southern Baptist (not present much in the north)

Need I go on? Qualifiers are used all the time.

So, we’re still not on SS? LOL


#16

I have not stated that I never will believe Roman Catholicism. I’m simply saying that I do not right now. That I could be wrong (human nature) necessitates study to determine if that is the case. Hence I’m here.


#17

Thanks for the clarification. With statements like “I reject Roman Catholic tradition as a rule of faith”, it did not seem that way.
You are asking us to study with a sincere and open heart, and I hope you will do the same.

Sorry to go off topic.


#18

I don’t think he meant “it is a rule of faith for me to reject Roman Catholicism,” but rather “I reject the idea that Roman Catholicism is the rule of faith.” In other words, he currently accepts a rule of faith not defined by “Roman Catholicism.”

Edwin


#19

“For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” - Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, 4:17)


#20

“When, then, anything in my little work seems to you harsh, have regard not to my words, but to the Scripture, whence they are taken.” - Jerome (Letter 48:20)

“I beg of you, my dear brother, to live among these books [scripture], to meditate upon them, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else.” - Jerome (Letter 53:10)

“When Paula comes to be a little older and to increase like her Spouse in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man, let her go with her parents to the temple of her true Father but let her not come out of the temple with them. Let them seek her upon the world’s highway amid the crowds and the throng of their kinsfolk, and let them find her nowhere but in the shrine of the scriptures” - Jerome (Letter 107:7)


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