This topic was addressed a while ago in another post (hence the #2 in the title). I’d like to revisit Sola Scriptura today to share some more thoughts on it. Specifically, I’d like to look at where it came from in history.
Ironically, Sola Scriptura, which is Latin for “Bible alone” or “Scripture alone”, is often used to decry Catholic beliefs not explicitly in the Bible as “invented”. The basic premise is that if a teaching, like purgatory, isn’t explicitly stated in the Bible, then it must have been invented by man, and not the Holy Spirit. Sola Scriptura requires that all Christian teachings be found in the Bible for them to be true.
I say this is ironic because Sola Scriptura itself is a man-made, invented doctrine that never existed until Martin Luther in the early 1500’s. Even then, it wasn’t “inspired” so much as it was all he had left after he rejected the Catholic Church. Let’s do a quick timeline:
- 33 AD: Jesus is crucified
- 33 AD: Oral tradition begins
- 40’s – 90’s AD: Over 250 books, letters, etc are written by the apostles and others about Jesus and Christianity
- Late 300’s AD: 27 writings from the above 250+ are selected for the canon of the New Testament by the Catholic bishops
- 1517: Martin Luther posts the 95 Thesis
What’s interesting about the above timeline is that oral tradition came before the Bible by over three hundred years. Before 398, when the Catholic Church finally settled the canon of the New Testament, do you think Christians used the Bible alone? That would’ve been hard, considering there was no Bible as we know it today.
The question becomes: Why did Luther propose Sola Scriptura in the first place? The above timeline shows that he didn’t do it because that’s how it was done in the beginning. Look at Acts 15 for an example of how the early church handled disputes; they held a council with Peter at the head; they did not open their Bibles and debate from there.
Luther came up with Sola Scriptura because he had no other choice. Both the Jewish tradition and Catholicism are built on a, so to say, three-legged stool. In the Jewish tradition there was the Torah (scripture), the Law of Moses (oral tradition), and the prophets (teaching authority). Catholicism has the Bible (written tradition), oral tradition, and the Magisterium (teaching authority). Luther rejected the Catholic Church’s teaching authority and oral traditions. What’s he left with? Scripture alone, or Sola Scriptura.
What’s odd to me is that Sola Scriptura only makes sense if you assume Catholic oral tradition and teaching authority are in error. Yet people try to use it to disprove Catholic oral tradition and teaching authority. This is an example of a Self Fulfilling Prophesy. Sola Scriptura must be an effect of Catholic error. Therefore, it can’t also be a cause of Catholic error.
There’s no scriptural basis for Sola Scriptura. There’s no historical basis for Sola Scriptura. If you’re looking for a man-made, invented tradition, look no farther than Sola Scriptura. Please stop using it to try to disprove Catholicism.