What Scripture Says about "Scripture Alone"

One of the biggest differences in the Catholic and Protestant approaches to truth is the idea of Sacred Tradition vs. Scripture Alone. We – Catholics – believe that scripture is the only source of truth on the understanding of the world, morality, and the nature of God but that we need an authority to interpret it so we do not splinter into factions. We, therefore, have one source of truth but two manifestations or vehicles for the truth: Scripture and Tradition. Protestants disagree and fall behind the banner of Martin Luther who proclaimed Solo Scriptura. So, since Protestants want to say that Sacred Scripture is all that is needed, let's look at what scripture has to say about the topic.

I recently asked this of a person, and the answer I was given included the following verses. No, I did not pick them out. Some of you may see how many of them are irrelevant and likely speaking of something else or taken out of context. I will very briefly address each of them.
“For the Word of the Lord is right; and all His works are done in truth.” Psalm 33:4
“The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” Psalm 119:60
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to your word.” Psalm 119:9
“Your Word is very pure, therefore, your servant loves it.” Psalm 119:40 (I am not finding this on Bible gateway, but oh well. I assume it's a verse in Psalms somewhere....)
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joins and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
“...the word of the Lord endures forever, and this is the word which was preached to you.” 1 Peter 1:25
Now, by my limited, human reckoning, none of these say anything at all about obeying and following scripture. The OT references would more than likely be referencing the Law, which we know that Jesus freed us from the legalistic following of. Or it would be talking about the words spoken to the kings or prophets. The Psalmist would have been before most of the OT had been written down. We know that the final compilation of the scriptures was most likely sometime during the Exilic age, and some of it was written during this time (Daniel, Ezra, etc). So, he can't be talking about the Old Testament. And he definitely cannot be talking about the New Testament – it hadn't happened yet!
When John was written most of the other books of the New Testament probably were written, but they were not compiled into a convenient cannon that would have been able to be referenced. So, obviously, Jesus is not talking about scripture there. Hebrews might be discussing the Old Testament, but the OT the NT writers had at their access was the Greek Septuagint, and that had the seven books that protestants do not accept.
I am more accustomed to getting this verse sent to me:

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:16-17
And you will never find a Catholic that will disagree with that verse. However, even this often used verse says nothing at all about scripture being the only source of these things. Rather, if you look at Paul's first letter to Timothy, you see the following verses:

“In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.... Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” 1 Tim 4:6, 16.
Paul addresses the same issue in his Second letter to the Thessalonians as well.
“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” 2 Thess 2:15
“We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command.... Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.” 2 Thess 3:4,6
“holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” Titus 1:9
There was no Bible at this point in time. They had the Old Testament, yes, but nothing about Jesus. They had many things written, but who was to tell what was good and upstanding, what was inspired by God and what was not? Well, the test was if it was in line with sound doctrine, with the teachings. Not the other way around.
Paul never once tells the early Christians to follow the Bible. He tells them that scripture is good for them, that they should devote themselves to publicly reading it, but he never says that it's the end all. Instead, he says to judge what is true in writings – remember, the epistles and gospels were still being written! – by if they correlated with what they had been taught, and not just by written word, but by word of mouth as well!
We can see that scripture does not ever state that we must believe in scripture alone, so that very teaching goes against the beliefs!
There are, I think, a few other issues:
  1. Scripture cannot say what is scripture. No where does it say “You must believe that Jude is part of scripture.” Nowhere does it say that “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the only gospels that were God-breathed and inspired by the Holy Spirit.” There were several other gospels that were written, but only these four made the cut... why? Because a council sat down and decided what was in line with the teachings passed down.
  2. If solo scriptura were true, then for the first several hundred years, the Church had no moral authority to go back to. We know this is not so because of the writings of Paul, Peter, and Luke. But if solo scriptura were true, then this would have to be so. And, if you believe that until the “correct” cannon – the protestant cannon – was declared none of the church had a reliable moral truth, then for the first 1500 years, the Church had no absolute moral guidance.
  3. What translation is correct? NIV? Nope, problems have been found with that one. KJV? Nope, we can see the errors there. The Message? NASB? NJB? RSV? Who is to say?
  4. The idea of solo scriptura opens the world up for a slew of heresy... but no way to say what is heresy and what isn't. Paul admonishes the people to cast out those who do not follow sound doctrine, but who is to say what is sound doctrine? I say I can see the Trinity as biblical, but some sects say that the Trinity is not biblical. Do we take Jesus literally when he says “Eat my flesh and drink my blood” or do we not? Do we believe that you have to be baptized, or no? Is it or is it not heretical to baptize infants? Who is to say what is truth and what isn't? If the Holy Spirit is going to guide us all to truth, then shouldn't we all be arriving to the same truth? The idea of an objective truth is thrown out the window if you throw out a single interpreter. We went from having a single entity interpreting scripture when controversies arose (Trinity, Incarnation, Baptism, Eucharist, etc) to having each person be their own final judge. We went from a “Church” with leaders that had to power to “bind on earth and heaven” to an anarchy that allows for anyone to believe whatever they want as long as they can't find anything in scripture that contradicts them. Is this really what Jesus and Paul taught? (Answer: no.)
What the Catholic Church Actually Teaches
The Catholic Church does not deny that scripture is the final source. However, many things are unclear (dating, anyone?). No where is there explicitly stated that “You shall not perform an abortion.” However, I think we would all agree that scripture – indirectly – gives us enough to confidently state that abortion is murder, a sin. No where does it state the Trinity, which is why some denominations do not accept the Trinity, but most of us can see the clear indications therein.
The Catholic Church does not presume to teach anything contrary to scripture. But if scripture is silent on the issue – dating, modesty, abortion etc – she can step in and give her children guidelines that are drawn from the principles of scripture. She would never make a dogma contrary to the scriptures, but if nothing at all is said about it, then, using the guidelines of scripture and sound doctrine, she establishes dogmas (Like the Trinity). She used the merits of the Scripture to establish the creeds that we use today. These creeds were the foundation of the Early Church, but you will not find every word written in scripture because some of it had to be declared because of heresies.
Scripture is the source of infallible truth, not just the "only source of authority/truth." But if we accept that, then we must accept one interpretation of scripture. And one interpretation of scripture cannot be achieved as long as scripture is simply “the only source of authority” and everyone is free to choose for themselves what things mean. We are called to be one, in one spirit, with one teaching, and one truth.
Just as Paul told the early church to listen to what he said - not what they felt - so too do we say that we listen to what the Church says.


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