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Is the Bible the sole authority for teaching Christianity? And, if our Holy Scripture is the sole authority for Christian teaching, then, where does it say that in our Holy Scripture? In fact, how is it even possible, given that Christianity itself predates the Bible, which means that someone had to write the first Bible, without benefit of a Bible as a reference?
Of course, the Old Testament existed, and we know from nuances of language that the version quoted by our Lord and His Apostles and the Evangelists in the New Testament was the 73-book Septuagint, the first one-book Old Testament, written in Greek. But the New Testament did not exist yet. After the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Assumption, over time, letters (epistles) were penned by Paul (or his scribes,) Peter, John, James and Jude, written to various newly established Churches. Many of these were held and preserved, and would eventually be included in the Church’s canon to be part of the New Testament. Years after the events, the Gospels and Acts were written by the Evangelists, and finally, Revelation was written by St. John.
But even in those days, neither Christians nor Jews depended entirely or solely upon even the existing Old Testament for their salvation and enlightenment. That’s why they had teachers and rabbis. The Word of the Lord was handed on long before it was ever written. There was a very, very long oral tradition in Judaism. The Law – the first five books of the Old Testament – began with Moses. The keepers and protectors and teachers of The Law were the sons of Aaron and the sons of Levi. Everybody didn’t have his own copy, and those who did, did not exercise their own interpretation.
Many Catholics, Orthodox and Jews have participated in “inter-denominational” Bible study groups, which always seem to be Protestant controlled. Although we may be allowed to participate and even to argue, none of us may ever “facilitate” or lead a meeting or Biblical discussion, because of a prerequisite promise we cannot make. The oath or affirmation is of the form,
No Catholic or Orthodox or Jew can say that. Only Protestants can say that, because Sola Scriptura is a strictly Protestant dogma, invented by Martin Luther. Even those Protestants who call themselves non-denominational are still Protestants if they adhere to this strictly Protestant dogma. So, virtually all “inter-denominational” Bible study groups that I have ever heard of have rules to exclude us from any sort of leadership role in Scripture study.
The Bible is indeed inerrant and inspired by God. But, if the Bible is the sole authority of all theology and morality, then, by what authority is that claim even made? By the authority of Martin Luther? Luther alone? If so, that is an extra-Scriptural authority, and it defeats the rule that the Bible is the sole authority.
I submit for your consideration the argument that it is quite impossible for the Bible to be the sole authority of any denomination, form or variation of Judeo-Christian theology if the Bible itself nowhere makes that claim.
The Basis for Sole Authority. The Lutheran / Protestant argument for Sola Scriptura (sole authority of Scripture) always seems to primarily revolve around 2 Tim 3:16-17, as follows:
… which says nothing whatsoever about sole authority. I don’t even see why these verses are even brought up in any discussion on the authority of correct teaching of Christian theology or doctrine. They are quite correct, of course, in what they say, but they say nothing whatsoever about sole authority.
Authority, yes, but not sole authority. Christianity stands on three pillars, and 2 Tim 3:16-17 establishes one of those pillars as Scripture. Then we have 1 Tim 3:14-15 that firmly establishes the Church as another pillar:
… and then 2 Thess 2:15 establishes the third pillar, which is Tradition:
Here we have the three pillars of Christian faith, all firmly established in Scripture, and they are:
Of course, our Lord selected His Apostles for a reason, and He gave them authority for a reason. We see in Matt 18:18 that He granted them to power to make and enforce rules of doctrine,
… and that He granted the same power uniquely to Peter, and to Peter alone He gave the Keys to the Kingdom, in Matt 16:
We discussed all this in more detail, including the meaning of the Keys, in the Infallibility Webpage, and I shouldn’t need to belabor those points again here.
Where does proper faith come from? Any good Protestant would answer that question with an immediate quote from 1 Rom 10:17, as follows:
Note well that the verb used is heard and not read. The Sacred Word was preached – not written – by specially chosen men who were moved by the Holy Ghost. And all of it was not written. We know this from the end of John, as we see in John 21:25:
Where did all that teaching go? Into what Catholics call large-T Tradition. And it is recalled by His Church with the aid of the Holy Ghost, as promised by our Lord Himself in John 14:26:
He was speaking to His chosen Apostles, and to their successors: His Church.
All Catholics know, or should know, that blessed Peter gave us the First Rule of Scripture Study that we see in 2 Pet 1:19-21:
… which takes Scripture interpretation completely out of the hands of the laity. We laymen are free to read, think about, discuss and argue all those points not officially settled by the Church, but we are not free to come up with new or personal interpretations at variance with settled doctrine. The unchanging Gospel is preserved unchanged and protected forever by the authority of His Church with the Holy Ghost.
This follows the ancient pattern set by the Jews, renewed after the return from the Babylonian exile, as we see in Nehemiah. There, Ezra read aloud and interpreted for the people, the Book of the Law, after the long exile, in Neh 8:5-8:
… and continued by the Christians, as we see in Acts 8:26-40:
Like the rest of us, the Ethiopian needed someone to correctly interpret what he was reading, lest he be led astray by his own imaginings. We cannot have every-man-for-himself Scripture interpretation, for that would mean every-man-for-himself theology and every-man-for-himself morality. The Gospel message is not random; it is fixed forever.
So the answer is no, the Bible is not the sole authority, although it is one of the three pillars of Christian faith. At least, that’s my answer to the question, and I am just a layman and no theologian; I simply base my answer on Scripture itself, since that’s what Protestantism claims for pure authority. I back my argument up with Scripture, as it has been taught to me by my Church.
What’s your answer, and what do you back it up with?
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Respond to This Article Below The Last Comment
Date: Sun Feb 19 15:12:54 2012
I agree with everything below the 2 Timothy 3:16-17. But I am still confused about the sole authority of the Bible. It says that a man may be complete, thoroughly equipped for all good works. It's saying that man is complete (definition: not lacking anything) with scripture, right?
Date: Mon Feb 21 05:32:42 2012
From: Vic Biorseth
People think in different ways, and they interpret what they read in different ways; as a matter of fact, one man may read the same passage three times and get three different interpretations. There are other factors to consider, including extreme youth and various mental states.
To say that “ … that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Is not to say that we should just pass out Bibles and everyone would become complete. Every field of study requires training, and training requires trainers. Teachers. You could not simply hand a text book, or a stack of them, to someone and say “Go off and make yourself a brain surgeon.” Or an engineer; or a mathematician, or a farmer.
If the Bible, in and of itself, made us complete, then there would never be any need for Bible study. Our “trainers” are our priests; men of God who have studied Theology and made it their life’s work. There are millions of ways to interpret various Bible verses, but there are generally far fewer interpretations that are correct, and as the inspired authors intended.
The average layman is not likely to hit every interpretation correctly on his own. Reading the Bible, however, is extremely valuable to make sure someone who is teaching it to you is not getting wildly off base. Your own reading should somewhat insulate you from being led too far astray. In that sense, it makes you more complete.
Different interpretations are precisely what make all of the different Protestant denominations.
The beautiful thing about reading the Bible, beyond getting closer to God, and to what is right and what is wrong, is simply this: It is a very good read. It is a series of wonderful, captivating, spell-binding stories, all wrapped up in history and backed up by archeological history.
Monday, December 17, 2012
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From: Vic Biorseth
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