The Pillar and Bulwark of the Truth


I Timothy 3:15 is often cited by Catholic apologists in response to Sola Scriptura. It reads:

14 So much I tell thee by letter, although I hope to pay thee a visit before long; 15 so that, if I am slow in coming, thou mayest be in no doubt over the conduct that is expected of thee in God’s household. By that I mean the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation upon which the truth rests. — Knox Bible

I just re-read the passage, and somehow feel that one could also read this as “God is the pillar and foundation of the Truth”. I can’t read Greek, so I don’t know whether it is clearer in the grammar.

What’s meant, God or the Church?


D-R Bible, Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 15. The pillar and ground of the truth. By the promises of Christ to direct his Church by the infallible spirit of truth; (see John xvi. 7; Matthew xxviii. 20; &c. (Witham)) and therefore, the Church of the living God can never uphold error, nor bring in corruptions, superstition, or idolatry. (Challoner) — That the Church, the pillar and ground of truth, is to be conducted by the constant superintendence and guidance of the Holy Spirit into all truth to the consummation of days, every one whose mind is not strangely prejudiced may easily discover in various places of the inspired writings.


A good question…But consider…God is I-AM…Therefore God IS Truth.
So if we make a slight modification to the text we get…
By that I mean the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation upon which -]the truth/-] God rests.
What do you think?



But that says God depends on the Church to prop Him up, which surely isn’t the case!



I dunno…It might depend a bit on how one considers the idea of “support”.
My dear wife was always a strong and independent woman. She did not marry me for me to prop her up…But I have always supported her - and I her - so in this sense we are “pillar and foundation” to each other.

In this same way - the relationship between God and the Church is mutually supportive. Not that God needs the Church - or for that matter that a given “church” needs God to exist.
But the Church OF God supports God who is Truth and God, who is Truth, supports the Church.
Not “propping up” - but giving strength.

Just some thoughts



Paragraphs 171 and 2032 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church both refer the phrase, “the pillar and bulwark of the truth,” from 1 Timothy 3:15 to the Church.


It isn’t the case. Consider the following verse where the cloud denotes God - His presence:
Numbers 9:18 At the command of the LORD the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the LORD they encamped; as long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.
God is not dependent on the tabernacle to prop Him up. Rather He makes His presence and will for the people known through the tabernacle - by resting over it.


It’s clearly “church” in Greek (church, pillar and foundation are all in the nominative).

That having been said, don’t rely on the Knox Bible for close translations of the Greek text–at times it’s closer to a paraphrase than a translation.


Dave Noonan is absolutely correct. This point is obscured in the English which doesn’t have a parallel system of inflection of nouns. To elaborate, “pillar and ground of the truth” must apply to the Church and not to God because it is an appositive, and an appositive must be in the same case as the noun it is in apposition to. Church and pillar are in the nominative (like a subject) and God is in the genitive (like a possessive).

Not only that, but Knox is a translation of the Vulgate.


I quoted it because it’s on’s website. Normally I would use, but the page has been down for months now, which is a pity.


Why concentrate on one verse alone?


1 Timothy 3:15 provides a quick antidote for those who say they don’t rely on any Church for doctrine. I don’t think anyone would suggest this is the only verse that establishes the Church’s authority, but it’s still a useful one.


I’m sure that CutlerB will answer for himself, but my first thought was that this idea might have been raised to him by another.
I could easily see a SS adherent say that we are misinterpreting 1 Tim 3:15 and that it’s really saying that God is the pillar and foundation of Truth.
They might base this on the idea that “church” is from “ekklesia” which means, “a community called out”, in this case “the body of believers”, but that any such community is comprised of fallible human beings and that fallible humans cannot be a reliable pillar and foundation for God’s Truth.

Such a position stems from how differently Catholics and (many) protestants understand the word “church”. This is another of those cases where each side can be using the same word but have a very different concept attached to it.

CutlerB - If I’ve gotten this all wrong…please correct me…



You are correct. :slight_smile:

One other question that I have about this passage, since — according to an earlier post — the Greek connects the “pillar and foundation” grammatically to the Church, is this: In the Greek that I looked up, there is no definite article. At least not explicitly. I have seen a few (very few) translations that read “a pillar and a foundation of the truth”.

If it is “a pillar” and “a foundation” of the truth, that permits other “pillars”. What’s the correct translation there, definite or indefinite article?


Perhaps if you consider the meaning of the word “church” which is the called out ones. The verse in its basic meaning is speaking of the believers being the church where God 's truth rests. God dwells in believers we are His house and habitation a holy temple.


Here is the confirmation of the Church as spotless:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:25-26).

St. Paul says also, “through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph 3:10).” The Church teaches even the angels! This is with the authority of Christ!


That is true… in part. Church also refers, in Scripture, to that visible, authoritative structure that people can find, recognize and come to if they have questions. After all, how is merely an invisible body of believers supposed to decide between two arguing Christians (Mt. 18:15-18) or - given that there are 38,000 plus or minus competing groups all claiming to be the real way Christ wanted us to live - how can merely an invisible body make manifest the entire wisdom of God to the world (Eph 3:10)?

This also makes one wonder how a purely invisible body of believers - all in competing groups that cannot agree on things as little as whether or not to allow instruments in worship to as big as how one is saved (especially baptism) can possibly be considered the ground and support of the Truth. After all everyone can’t all be right at the same time, so most would be wrong and therefore NOT true. And this is HUGE especially considering the above mentioned baptism issue…


I’m no Greek expert but I believe I can answer this. My understanding that a predicate nominative never uses the definite article, even if the intended meaning is as if one were used. If you look at the Greek, you will notice that there is no definite article before “ekklesia” either. Even if St. Paul intended the definite article, he wouldn’t have written it because of the Greek style. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable can expand on this.

Once the grammatical issue has been cleared up, you can press the absurdity of calling the Church “a pillar…” as if to say it is fallible in distinction to some other pillar.

It is worth noting that this dispute is the same thing people criticize the Jehovah’s Witnesses over in the NWT of John 1:1 ("…and the Word was a God"). If you find yourself arguing over 1 Timothy 3:15 with an ESV-toting Evangelical, make sure to point this out. Then compare them to Hitler for good measure. :stuck_out_tongue:


Actually, the JW New World “Translation” renders 1 Tim 3:15 as “a pillar and a foundation”. It’s why I ask the question. :slight_smile:


Oh, that is interesting, especially since it does not advance their doctrine to translate that way, as they hold that the Watchtower Society really is the exclusive authority in religion. At least they are consistent though. The ESV also infamously renders 1 Tim. 3:15 with an indefinite article, though the same translators would fight tooth and nail against the JW translation of John 1:1.

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