Stumped by Protestant on Sola Scriptura


I was discussing sola scriptura with someone and they brought up a point that I really did not have an answer for. Like the traditions of sacraments - they have biblical basis. So his question to me was then how is it not by scripture alone if its biblical. I tried to explain that it more refers to excluding the traditions and makes only written scripture adequate. He used Matthew 4:4 & II Timothy 3:16 as a defense for it… :confused:


Scripture is part of the Church’s Tradition, the written part. To go by Scripture alone - a principle that is not even in Scripture - is to ignore many other truths and graces of the faith. Not all Catholic doctrines are rooted explicitly in Scripture.


What would be some good examples that are not just written?


Lots of things are “not just written”. But what your friend is going to tell you is that BECAUSE it is written, that it came from the “written” ALONE…and then just got passed down after the fact.

You friend asked a ridiculous question: “How is it not by scripture alone if its biblical?”. The question for your friend is, what makes him/her think that because something is written in Scripture, that the doctrine associated with it is based on Sola Scriptura?

Here’s something you can present to your friend regarding SS: If everything we need to know about our Faith is found in Scripture, where in Scripture does it tell us which books belong in the Bible?

Is knowing which ancient writings really are “Scripture” necessary?

And if we just take it on the word of our ancestors as to which books belong in the Bible, then we are going outside of Scripture to accept a necessary Truth, aren’t we?

If the list of books that belong in the Bible is NOT infallible…then do we have any assurance at all that the Bible really is God’s Word, or must we necessarily accept that some of them might not be God’s Word, AND that some of God’s Word might not be in there…since it’s only a “fallible” list?


The table of contents of the Bible…aka the Canon of Scripture. :slight_smile:


Mat 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

2 Tim 3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness

Mat 4:4 is being taken so out of context it’s not even funny. In Mat4, Satan is tempting Jesus in the desert, and in v.3 just tried to get Jesus to turn rocks into loaves of bread. Jesus is speaking about sustaining the body and the soul, but is nowhere talking about scripture being the sole basis for faith. So, there’s a contextual problem here.

If he wants to equate the ‘word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ with the written word of scripture, I would remind him what John says in the last verse of his gospel, (Jn 21:25) But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

So, by that standard, everything that Jesus did (and said) is not written down.

In 2Tim, it says scripture is profitable. It doesn’t say it’s the ONLY source for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Your friend is reading something into scripture that simply isn’t there.


Excellent points. The use of Mt 4:4 to “prove” SS makes a huge assumption…that “every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God” is WRITTEN. But Scripture tells us explicitly that this is not the case.


I absolutely agree but couldn’t come up with an explanation that he would understand.


Consciously or not, he’s equivocating on the phrase “biblical basis.”

When a Fundamentalist Protestant uses that term, he usually means that the Bible is a comprehensive manual of Christian doctrine, in which anyone can look up a given item and understand it for himself.

When a Catholic uses the term “biblical basis” (which I don’t, to avoid confusion), he hopefully means that the Church’s Magisterium uses information from the Bible in its authentic teaching on a given matter. This is not at all the same thing.


What are some examples of tradition I can present that are not explicit in scripture? Because as far as the sacraments go, I’ve been able to explain to him why they are done and show him their biblical basis - which is what started this debate and where he got his point of view that if its all biblical then therefore its written and you don’t need anything more than what is written. :eek:


I could name some things, but what’s the point? Someone believing in Sola Sciptura will reject them anyway.


The Trinity was defined without a canon of the Bible.

Another example: Gospel of Mark…ask him where is it that Mark claims authorship of the Gospel of Mark?

There is no such verse in the Bible…so how does he know Mark authored the gospel of Mark? Through Tradition.

Another question: How would he determine what is truth and what is not truth?Where does the Bible teach this?
From:1John 4… Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world……………6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Notice the passage does not say read the Bible…but listen or obey an apostle.

And use the example of St. Paul here:

Galatians 2:2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.

I think you can get more insights from this article:

Hope this helps.


2 Timothy 3:16

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is[a] useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Notice here…he ignored the previous passages. If you start at v14, this changes the whole context:

2 Timothy 3:14-17

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is[a] useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Notice how the v14 speaks of oral instructions. So it is not scripture alone.


1 Timothy 3:15 “if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

2 Thess 2:15 “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”

1 Cor 11:2 “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”

Matthew 16:19"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

You might want to ask your friend:

If the Bible is our only source for doctrine, why does the Bible say the Church is the foundation of the truth?

If Scripture is the only standard, then how do we know which books go in the Bible, sense scripture nowhere tells us?

Why do you rely on the judgement of the Catholic Church by using the new testament books they compiled?

How did the Churches govern themselves for the several hundred years before there was a complete bible cannon?

Why does scripture never actually say that scripture alone is the rule of faith, why does Paul always bring up tradition?

Where does the Bible say that each person has authority to determine what the Bible teaches?



The Bible itself acknowledges that it is not comprehensive.

Also, many things with sola scriptura are not expressed in the Bible:
*Where does it explicitly name the Trinity?
*Where does it say only written tradition is important, i.e. that one only needs the Bible?
*Where does it say these 66 books constitute the Bible, but most certainly NOT Tobit, Judith, 1/2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, these 6 chapters of Esther, and these 3 chapters of Daniel?


If one starts from a position of “Scripture alone” and follows it carefully one will find that Scripture alone disproves Scripture alone…In other words…Scripture alone points to the need for an authoritative Church.
Consider Mt 18:15-17 - and in particular vs 17…the authority to resolve a matter does not reside in “Scripture” but rather in “The Church” - for it is the Church that has the authority to bind and loose. Paul reinforces this idea in 1 Tim 3:15 where he calls it is “The Church” which is the Pillar and foundation of Truth. Paul further emphasizes the Church as authority in Eph 3:8-12 where he says that it is "through “the church (that)the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known…”
These ideas are forcefully applied in Acts 15 and the council of Jerusalem where a scriptural disagreement between two local churches was resolved by actually setting aside a large portion of the written requirements.

Furthermore…there are multiple places in the NT where deep and profound unity is called for both by Christ and by the Apostles
John 17:20-21
20 "I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Rom 15:5-6
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor 1:10
I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

2 Cor 13:11
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Php 1:27
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

1 Pet 3:8
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

So - as I say - if one starts with the Bible…at a “SS” type position and looks at it honestly one will find that Scripture speaks much more strongly against scripture alone (as understood by most protestants) and much more in favor of a single, unified, authoritative Church.



I’m new to this, so excuse me if I’m wrong, but the Bible contains just a selection of a handfull of gospels, no? Since I don’t think the Bible states anywhere what books should be part it and this was decided upon by men during the first few centuries A.D., isn’t Sola Sciptura self-defeating?

By saying you’re only going to use the Bible (in it’s canonical form) as the only way to salvation, you’ve already accepted influence of men (probably even written down somewhere), since they decided upon what the canonical form would be.


One other thing. Don’t try to argue him out of a heavy reliance on the Bible as a core of our faith for it most certainly is.

The issue really deals more with how the principle of Sola Scriptura is understood and applied…and frankly that takes in a wide spectrum in the Protestant community.

Another thing that you might address with him is the historical development of the Bible.
Ask him…If we are to see the Bible as the word of God and take all of our doctrines from it…then which canon shall we use? The RC designated 73 books - the EO uses 78 or so…Yet the east west split was not over this - it was about other matters.
1000 years after the setting of the 73 book canon in the west…the Reformers disallowed and eventually removed 7 books and parts o 2 other books making a 66 book canon…

So saying “Sola Scriptura” is one thing…but when there are differing canons…one can run into difficulties.
You asked about a Tradition not found in Scripture…Well one might be praying for the dead. This is something that many protestants have a problem with and claim it is not in the Bible…but I can pull out my bible ans show you that it IS in “The Bible”…In 2 Maccabees.
You can say it is in the bible and your friend can ay it’s not in the bible…:shrug:…and who is to say which of you is right?
Well according to Jesus - in Mt 18:15-18 - it would be the Church who has authority to make that determination.



His problem is that he does not understand what Luther meant by Sola Scriptura.

For example read the Augsburg Confession and in it you will see that Luther and Melancthon defend their positions regarding the Church and the Sacraments as well as other "non-Biblical " things such as the Papacy, invoking the Saints in prayer, etc are dealt with by quoting Scripture AND the Tradition by quoting Fathers such as Athanasius, Cyprian, Augustine, Jerome and Ambrose.

So what gives?

The answer is that Luther never taught and neither did he defend the notion that the Bible is the only source for information and right teaching in the history of the world. It would have been silly for him to do so. For example the Bible says nothing about the body politic of Germany neither does it say anything about the Holy Roman Empire, but the Augsburg Confession is adressed to the Holy Roman Emperor and is presented under the authority of the Prince Elector of Germany.

So if this had been his confession he would have been making an appeal without an authority upon which to make the appeal or a political power to whom to make the appeal.

So what did Luther mean?

He meant than in matters of dispute, if the Bible has spoken clearly, then Scripture (being the only source of divinely given authority) is to be believed over Pope or Council.

Scripture Alone does not mean, "Ignore every other source of information in favor of Scripture. "

It means, “Scripture holds primacy over other sources of information and, when Scripture is plain, is to be believed over them.”

Remember Luther was an Augustinian Monk, how on Earth could have defended a position that would have compelled him to ignore the writings of St Augustine by definition.

God Bless


But as Catholics, we believe that those who assembled the first Bible were guided by the Holy Spirit in deciding which books belong and which books didn’t.

But as someone else said, if Sola Scriptura was doctrine, then Scripture would tell us which books are inspired and which aren’t, but then there would be no Scripture to say that the Scripture which states the inspired books was inspired in itself, which then self-defeats.

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