When was the belief in the Bible alone first mentioned?

Can I get a quote of the first time that belief in the Bible alone was mentioned? Was Martin Luther the first one to believe it, or did someone before Martin Luther believe in following the Bible alone?

I’m trying to find out when the first surviving instance of that belief in history was.

St. Vincent of Lerins, in the fifth century, wrote a book to respond to a hypothetical question that is almost identical to sola scriptura: “Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation?”

He responded that we still need the Church’s Tradition and the Church’s authority to interpret the Scriptures correctly. That’s the same answer we give to Protestants today, which is very interesting. If you want more details, the full book is available for free online and is called the Commonitorium of St. Vincent of Lerins: newadvent.org/fathers/3506.htm

The question above appears in the second paragraph of Chapter 2. The rest of the book is the answer.

Prior to Luther, it was the Bishops who exercised the authority in the Church, both east and west…and still do to this day.

The bible alone position was started after the protestant reformation.

Anyway, ask for the actual definition from Luther, from any Lutheran, where Luther actually defined what is meant by Bible alone, or sola sciptura.

Actually, based on discussions I’ve had with a Lutheran friend of mine, Lutherans don’t seem to believe in the extreme version of sola scriptura that most Protestants seem to. As my friend once described it, they also follow Tradition, but give the Bible final say over Tradition.

That’s it. :thumbsup:

Jon

And when is this ever a problem? Are there any Catholic doctrines that are in conflict with Scripture? Did the protestant church come up with some doctrines that were in conflict, just to throw them out?

Not sure. I was just pointing it out as an important nuance. When was sola scriptura created? 1600s with Luther. When was Bible-onlyism created? Who knows.

Hi Zenk,

Over the course of the first 1500 years of Christian history there were plenty of people/groups who challenged the authority of the Catholic Church. Some of the individuals were Arius and Montanus. The groups that they founded were, specifically, the Arians, and the Montanists. Of course there have been a whole alphabet soup of heretics and heresies. Their doctrinal teachings are extremely diverse, but the one thing that they all had in common is their refusal to abide by the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church. What would they ‘substitute’ in the place of the Church? What else could they ‘use’ to supposedly justify their teachings except Scripture and their own radical interpretations? That being said, did any of these groups specifically espouse Sola Scriptura in the manner that Protestantism did and has? The answer appears to be: “not really”.

So, what is the evidence that Sola Scriptura, and Private Interpretation were ‘developed’ or invented by Luther? The “Follow up on SS” thread on the Non-Catholic Forum has been delving into this question now for about the last month, with dozens and dozens of respected Scholars being quoted (mostly Lutherans and other Protestants).

To answer your specific question, the great Calvinist Theologian R. C. Sproul comments:

**“Two of the great legacies of the Reformation were the principal of private interpretation and the translation of the Bible into the vernacular. **The two principals go hand in hand and were accomplished only after great controversy and persecution. Scores of persons paid with their lives by being burned at the stake (particularly in England) for daring to translate the bible into the vernacular. One of Luther’s greatest achievements was a translation of the Bible into German so that any literate person could read it for himself.” R.C. Sproul, (Protestant Theologian) “Knowing Scripture”, pg. 33

First of all, if Private Interpretation is one of the two great legacies of the Protestant Reformation, then doesn’t it follow that Protestant Doctrinal Confusion has been a positive development? After all, it is a direct result of PI. As for the other half of the ‘legacy’ – Protestantism did not translate the Bible into the vernacular. There were at least 26 different German Bibles prior to Luther’s ‘translation’.

Sproul continues:

**“It was Luther himself who brought the issue of private interpretation of the Bible into sharp focus in the sixteenth century. **Hidden beneath the famous response of the Reformer to the ecclesiastical and imperial authorities at the Diet of Worms was the implicit principal of private interpretation.

When asked to recant of his writings, Luther replied, “Unless I am convinced by Sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant. For my conscience is held captive by the Word of God and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me.” Notice that Luther said “unless I am convinced…….”** In earlier debates at Leipzig and Augsburg, Luther had dared to presume to interpret Scripture contrary to interpretations rendered by Popes and by church councils. That he would be so presumptuous led to the repeated charge of arrogance by church officials. Luther did not take these charges lightly but agonized over them. He believed that he could be wrong but maintained that the Pope and councils could also err. For him only one source of truth was free from error. He said, “The Scriptures never err.”** Thus, unless the leaders of the church could convince him of his error, he felt duty-bound to follow what his own conscience was convinced Scripture taught. With this controversy the principal of private interpretation was born and baptized with fire.” R.C. Sproul, (Protestant Theologian) “Knowing Scripture”, pg. 33-4

It baffles me to no end is how Sproul could depict PI as a positive development. Did he not read either Scripture or any of the Fathers on the subject? Doesn’t he realize what the results of SS+PI have been? Or, alternatively, does he believe that doctrinal diversity is (somehow) a ‘good thing’?

The other thread has been focusing on the connection between Luther ‘inventing’ or ‘developing’ SS and PI and the impact of SS+PI on Protestant doctrinal dissension.

I hope this answers your question. If you have questions or if you would like additional information, please let me know. There are plenty of additional quotes, including from Lutherans which specifically answer your question.

God Bless You Zenk, Topper

The important point is that such a belief is not mentioned or even alluded to in the Bible, making the proposition self-contradictory. Any one who believes it, does not believe it, because by believing in sola scriptura, he embraces this one belief outside of the Bible.

But again, not everyone who says sola scriptura means they only look for beliefs in the Bible. Not trying to defend the Lutheran view as correct; just pointing out that it doesn’t have the logical inconsistency commonly associated with it. But I agree that it’d be an interesting question to ask when it mutated into the logically inconsistent version.

I think you are misinterpreting Vincent. His commonitorium was written against certain novel ideas. He argued that the faith doesn’t change. We believe what has been believed ‘always, everywhere and by all.’ He recognized a line of development from the time of Christ up until his time, but he strictly rejects any new doctrines. I have heard that some historians think it was Augustine that he was arguing against and his antipelagian arguments.

There are some fathers, like Basil the great, who made some statements that sound very much like sola scriptural, but it is dangerous to take a modern concept and force back on the fathers, especially if they also contradict those ideas with their actions. Basil is hard to fit into the sola scriptural crowd because a lot of what he says isnt from the bible.

Bypassing the term, stating that one finds their beliefs in the Bible alone is logically inconsistent, as per the original question.

The other way sola scriptura is used, and the question that is missed in saying that all that is necessary for salvation is found in the Bible, is, “So what?.” If one found all they needed for salvation in the Gospel of John, would that negate the need for the rest of the Bible. If one found all that is needed for salvation in the letter to the Romans (as many pamphlets teach), does that mean the rest of the Bible is irrelevant. Therefore, the minimum requirement of “salvation” in no way negates any other authority.

Once one has defined the term, then it can be better addressed.

Right. That’s what I’m saying. Sure, the term sola scriptura has been around since the 1600s. But as we’ve seen, Lutherans have a more logically consistent version of it. So I think that for purposes of this question, we should define sola scriptura as meaning the extreme that some Protestants take it to, of claiming they only accept beliefs that can be found in the Bible.

To prevent this confusion, the term solo scriptura is often used to describe the “Bible only” POV.

Jon

Hi Raz,

Lutherans believe in a very, very different version of Sola Scriptura than the one that Luther began his ‘reformation’ with in 1517. Initially he taught that the individual could correctly interpret Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Again, the details are being posted on the SS thread over on the Non-Catholic threads. In my experience many people today do not want to see Luther as having been the ‘developer’ or ‘inventor’ of Sola Scriptura and Private Interpretation, but history indicates that he was.

The importance of this is that it shows that Lutherans are very much at odds with the teachings of Luther on authority during the time when he began his ‘reformation’.

When Luther recognized how divisive Private Interpretation actually was, he gradually moved back towards the Catholic model of the authority of the Church, but of course, with the ‘church’ being the one he founded rather than the one which had been in existance for 1500 years.

God Bless You Raz, Topper

Well, we are both free to disagree in our interpretations of Vincent, but I would like to know where you think his hypothetical question differs essentially from Sola Scriptura, because I think they are essentially the same.

His commonitorium was written against certain novel ideas. He argued that the faith doesn’t change. We believe what has been believed ‘always, everywhere and by all.’ He recognized a line of development from the time of Christ up until his time, but he strictly rejects any new doctrines.

I agree with all that. I just think that the question he answers, the one based on the supposed sufficiency of the Scriptures, is almost identical to the position of Sola Scripturists.

I have heard that some historians think it was Augustine that he was arguing against and his antipelagian arguments.

That surprises me. Do you really think so?

There are some fathers, like Basil the great, who made some statements that sound very much like sola scriptural, but it is dangerous to take a modern concept and force back on the fathers, especially if they also contradict those ideas with their actions. Basil is hard to fit into the sola scriptural crowd because a lot of what he says isnt from the bible.

I certainly agree with that. Plus, these three statements from him seem to me to confirm that he believed that Sacred Tradition was a second infallible rule of faith:

“Of the dogmas and messages preserved in the Church, some we possess from written teaching and others we receive from the tradition of the apostles, handed on to us in mystery. In respect to piety, both are of the same force. No one will contradict any of these, no one, at any rate, who is even moderately versed in matters ecclesiastical. Indeed, were we to try to reject unwritten customs as having no great authority, we would unwittingly injure the gospel in its vitals; or rather, we would reduce [the Christian] message to a mere term.” (The Holy Spirit 27:66)

“I [do not] venture to propound the outcome of my own intelligence…but what I have been taught by the holy Fathers, that I announce to all who question me. In my Church the creed written by the holy Fathers in synod at Nicea is in use.” (To the Church of Antioch, Epistle 140:2)

“To refuse to follow the Fathers, not holding their declaration of more authority than one’s own opinion, is conduct worthy of blame, as being brimful of self-sufficiency.” (Epistle To the Canonicae, 52:1)

One might be able to argue this if the practice of sola scriptura were an article of faith, and belief in it were required. No such requirement exists, at least within Lutheranism.

Lutherans willingly agree that Catholics are not condemns merely because their communion does not practice sola scriptura. OTOH, anyone who makes the claim that a doctrinal belief in sola scriptura is necessary for salvation is subject to your premise.

Jon

Hi David,
Certainly, from a Lutheran perspective, Catholicism has doctrines that, at least, are not explicit in scripture. For example, Papal supremacy, from our perspective, lacks support not only from scripture, but also the Tradition of the early Church.

Jon

Well…you may want to read this Jon…catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=1355

Byzantium and the Roman Primacy

by Francis Dvornik

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Free eBook: Essays in Apologetics, Vol. III
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Description:
An examination of the position which the Byzantine Church took on the Primacy of Peter from earliest times on up to the period when the estrangement between East and West occured.

Instead of repeating all the known arguments pro and contra, let us try the historical method and examine the position which the Byzantine Church took on this problem from earliest times on up to the period when the estrangement between the Eastern and Western parts of mediaeval Christianity became apparent and began to envenom the atmosphere in which the Churches had to live.

Looks like a good weekend read.
Thanks,
Jon

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