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Scripture & Tradition

Sola Scriptura [Bible alone? No!]

Bible incomplete

Jn 21:25not everything Jesus said is writtenIn fact, if we take John at his word, the Gospels contain but a tiny fraction of what Jesus taught.
AA 20:35Saying of Jesus not in the gospelsPassed on by word of mouth until recorded here in Acts.
Jn 20:30Many other signs left outJohn gives just enough to make his theological points, but he witnessed many other signs that are not included in his book.
Mk 4:33He spoke many such parablesBut they are not listed here.
Mk 6:34He teaches many thingsBut none of these teachings are documented here.
Jn 16:12many things yet to say......but the apostles aren't ready for them yet, so they are not described here. Presumably they aren't given until after the Resurrection.
AA 1:2-340 days of proofs, new teachingsIs this the period Jesus refers to in Jn 16:12? Details of these teachings are not provided.
AA 2:40summary onlyLuke explicitly declares that sermons of Peter are only briefly touched upon, even though they were quite effective (AA 2:41).

Not the Bible Alone

2 Tm 3:14-17Bible profitable (OT is useful) [1]verse used to challenge Catholic teachingProtestants place much emphasis on this passage to "prove" sola Scriptura but Paul also tells Timothy to adhere to the oral traditions he has been taught (2 Tm 2:2, 2 Tm 3:14; i.e., the teachings of the apostle Paul). And the context shows that Paul is referring to the Old Testament here (2 Tm 3:15; as the NT didn't exist yet), and surely our Protestant brothers will not have us believe that the New Testament is unnecessary for salvation under the New Covenant.

Nor does Paul claim that Scripture alone is sufficient for salvation, but rather that it is merely useful (2 Tm 3:16; "profitable") for clergy to know since Paul's letter is addressed to Timothy, a bishop of the early church, ("the man of God," 2 Tm 3:17). Likewise, the four purposes (to teach, correct, etc.) for which scripture is declared "profitable" are solely the functions of a "shepherd." Not a word addresses the use of Scripture by the flock.
1 Tm 3:14-15Church is "pillar of truth"Here Paul explicitly identifies the Church as the pillar and foundation of truth, yet our Protestant brothers continue to rely, not on the Church, but on their personal, private interpretation of scripture.
AA 17:11searched scriptures daily [1]verse used to challenge Catholic teachingThe sheep are not hereby made judges of their true shepherds.

The Bereans read scriptures, not to dispute, but to find confirmation (and comfort) in Paul's words which by his expounding they understood as never before, even though they had read scripture and heard it read every sabbath. And once they had confirmed that Paul was sent by God, surely their "search" concluded and their duty shifted to be attentive to God's messengers. They did not continue to search scripture to learn all revealed truth as Protestants claim to do.

Certainly it is a great comfort to a Catholic to see in the Scriptures the clear passages that show the truth of his tenets, and show the grounds for his hopes. But this by no means authorizes him to be judge of the true pastors of the Church, whom he is commanded by Jesus Christ to hear and obey, and from whom they are to learn the genuine sense of the Scriptures.
Ga 1:11-12Paul not instructed by man? [1]verse used to challenge Catholic teachingIt is a mistake to think that Paul is declaring a right to discern the scriptures on our own, independent of the Church. For in listening to the Church, we listen to Christ.
Ga 1:16-17Paul avoids apostles? [1]verse used to challenge Catholic teachingSome Protestants will argue that Paul is operating independently of the Apostles, thereby showing that there is no necessity to submit to the leadership of the Church. But one must not forget Paul's other recounting of his conversion in Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:6-10 wherein Paul admits God sent him to church leaders for a miraculous cure, sacraments, and appointment/sanction.
Rv 1:19Jesus: write what you have seenThis and the related Rv 1:11 are the only places in scripture where Jesus commands anyone to write. Yet the command applies only to this particular vision. Remember also, John wrote this in exile on the island of Patmos (Rv 1:9), (apparently after the death of all the other inspired writers), and was constrained from preaching as Jesus had commanded him earlier (Mk 16:15).
AA 17:2-20Paul reasons from scripture [1]verse used to challenge Catholic teaching... but only "some" believe (Acts 17:4). Even in the hands of an apostle, scripture is not all illuminating. Leaders of the Church, with a grant of authority from above, may properly discern and expound the meaning of scripture. Lay people, without that grant of authority, are not at liberty to contradict those in authority.

Note also that (a) this was only Paul's "custom" (i.e., tradition, practice, preference), but not his command or rule of faith. And (b) Paul did this with the Jews only as only they were familiar with Scripture. And lastly, (c) only the Old Testament is referred to here as the New Testament did not yet exist.
Lk 24:27Jesus teaches using Scripture [1]verse used to challenge Catholic teachingOn the road to Emmaus, Jesus used Scripture, He explained and interpreted it, He made use of it in His teaching, but He never substituted it for His teaching. Jesus taught through preaching, not by handing out scriptures to read. He was not satisfied with the mere reading of it.
2 Tm 1:14Deposit of faith held in trustPaul gives Timothy a solemn duty to not only keep true to the (oral) teachings of the Apostles, but to guard them. As shown in 2 Tm 1:13, Paul is referring to knowledge passed on via preaching. Moreover, Timothy is given an injunction (just a few verses later in 2 Tm 2:2) to pass on this deposit to the next generation of priests. Knowing this explicit apostolic directive, the Church would continue in this fashion, passing the deposit of faith from one generation to the next. Moreover, there is no directive in Sacred Scripture pointing to itself as the complete repository of apostolic teachings.
Lk 9:44Put in your hearts these wordsRather than write things down, our Lord commands the apostles to keep his teachings in their hearts.
AA 26:20Conversion thru preachingPaul does not hand out scripture, but preaches to Jews and Gentiles in many countries urging them turn to God, change their hearts and do good works worthy of (indicating) repentance. In Hebrew, the root word for "repent" has both a sense of "a change of heart/mind," but also of penance (a change in behavior, restitution). Change with both interior and exterior effects.
Ep 3:10Church reveals God's wisdomThe Church is to reveal God's wisdom. Too many turn to the Bible looking for a rationale to deny the Church.
Rm 10:14-15Belief through hearingFaith comes to these converts, not from the Bible, but from hearing the word of God. The point is NOT that oral preaching is the only legitimate and exclusive way to receive knowledge and thereby faith, but rather that Bible study is not an exclusive means either. Furthermore, the hearing is by means of those "sent" by church authorities, not by self-appointed preachers that lack sanction from the church.

Private Interpretation

2 Pt 1:20-21no personal interpretationPeter explicitly warns us against "private interpretation" saying that understanding of scripture must be tied to the meaning of the "holy men" from whom it sprang. Our adversaries may perhaps say that Catholics also interpret prophecies and Scriptures; we do, but always with submission to the judgment of the Church. They do so without it.

Anticipating the methods of Protestantism by over a thousand years, St. Augustine of Hippo said of such: "Your design clearly is to deprive Scripture of all authority and to make every man's mind the authority of what he is to approve or disapprove of. This is not to be subject to Scripture, but to make Scripture subject to you. If you discard authority, to what, I beseech you, will you take yourself?" (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 32:19 [A.D. 400])

See here for more on Private Interpretation.
Jn 5:39"search the scriptures" [1]verse used to challenge Catholic teachingProtestants often use the KJV translation, "Search the scriptures," to support their "bible only" system. Most modern Protestant bibles change this to the indicative, "You search the scriptures," as Jesus is reproaching Temple leaders. He is not urging them to continue in their private judgment of scripture which had obviously lead to the wrong conclusion. Just as obviously, Jesus is not giving them authority because they read scripture. Nor is telling them to use scripture "only." Nor is he giving a broad command to read Scripture, for literacy was uncommon.

Note too, Jesus, having shown his authority, is saying they will find confirmation in scripture (not indisputable proof, per se).

The same is seen today. The Church, with authority from Jesus and the Apostles, speaks. And many turn to the bible, not to find confirmation, but to dispute Church teaching. Like the Pharisees, they rely on their own private judgment in an attempt to justify their disbelief.
Jn 7:52"search the scriptures"Here the Pharisees issue (and follow) the same edict that many Protestants claim Jesus gave in John 5:39 (the underlying Greek verb is identical). Yet, having "searched the scriptures," they have come to a false conclusion. Protestant counters to this point necessarily invoke (1) information outside of scripture, (2) superior knowledge of Jesus, (3) the Holy Spirit, (4) better tools, (5) better prayer life, (6) better motives, etc., which if necessary, make it (a) MORE difficult for the average reader to find truth, not easier, and (b) MORE prone to subjective misinterpretation.

So we begin to see why Peter's warning of "utter destruction" (2 Peter 3:15-17) for those engaged in "private judgment" (2 Peter 1:20-21) is true. It is not private judgment that leads to truth (Proverbs 3:5-6), but the Holy Spirit guiding the Church (John 16:13), the "pillar of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15), who then reveals it to the world (Ephesians 3:10).
Mt 4:6Scripture used for evilDevil quotes Psalm 90:11-12 (Ps 91) to Jesus, hoping to tempt him.

Teacher with Authority needed

AA 8:30-31interpretation guidance neededScripture is easily misunderstood. We know this both from experience and because Scripture tells us so (e.g., John 7:52). And as history amply shows (see details in Scripture; for example, Pagan Offenses), Man can rationalize just about anything when left to his own devices.

There is perhaps no more succinct illustration of the chaos of personal interpretation than the pamphlet title "200 Interpretations of the Words 'This is My Body'" written by Christopher Rasperger in 1577, shortly after the Reformation was unleashed.

For more on authority, see: Authority in the Bible.
He 5:12need to be taught
2 Pt 3:15-17errors can lead to doomPeter warns us that interpreting scripture on our own can lead to destruction. Yet Protestants continue to distribute bibles to "the unlearned" as if that will bring about salvation. Their reasoning rests on the faulty belief in scriptural perspicuity, that is, that the bible is easily read, easily understood. While parts of it are easy to comprehend, other parts have "certain things hard to be understood" as Peter warns us.

Do we use private judgment to distinguish between valid and invalid meanings? Scripture says no! Rather we are to rely on the authoritative Church as scripture teaches.
Pv 3:5-6Rely not on your own wisdomProverbs asks us to "trust in the Lord with all you heart", yet how many do not trust in the Church that the Lord set up for us?

And more specifically, we are told "lean not unto your own understanding". Adherents to sola Scriptura necessarily trust in their own understanding and not on the Church. They follow their own wisdom, not to becomes closer to God, but to dispute "the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth". (1 Timothy 3:14-15)
AA 22:6-10God sends Saul to the churchGod does not, even on this extraordinary occasion, transgress his own church. Rather than telling Saul to study scripture further or to act unilaterally, God sends him to the ministers of the church, that healing (AA 9:18), the sacraments (AA 9:16) and sanction (AA 9:7) may be properly imparted through them. This observation is worthy the notice of the self-inspired of the present day, who pretend to receive their light direct from heaven. Nothing can be more opposite to the spirit of the gospel than such delusion. --Haydock

"Paul, though with the divine and heavenly voice prostrated and instructed, yet was sent to a man to receive the sacraments, and to be joined to the Church."
-- St. Augustine, De Doct. Chris. l. i. in prœm
AA 9:7God sends Saul to the churchFor miraculous healing and further instruction.
AA 15:1-29Council of Church leadersNot all answers are clearly defined in Scripture. So Church Councils are held to make binding decisions. Here the first Council makes a prudential decision not found in the new understanding of Scripture, i.e., "abstain from things strangled, and from blood." These Old Testament prohibitions were to be given to non-Jewish Christians apparently to help mollify the Jewish converts (perhaps even the Pharisees in Jerusalem) and thereby build church unity and quiet relations between those of the circumcision and the uncircumcision.

Note also, when James cites the bible (NB: from the Greek Septuagint), he is not offering an indisputable proof, but simply showing that Scripture supports Peter's declaration. That is, scripture is consistent with the new discipline initiative, but not entirely predictive. A private individual could easily reach entirely different conclusions from the same citation. A cautionary observation for those who rely not on the Church, but on scripture alone.
Mt 4:4Word of God is life [1]verse used to challenge Catholic teachingHere, Jesus is not making a dogmatic statement about the sufficiency of Scripture. As the bible shows, the word of God is not limited to Scripture.

Yes, Jesus cites Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3) to fend off the devil. But the devil then also uses Scripture in pursuit of his own designs (Mt 4:6), an example of private interpretation being used for destruction (cf., 2 Peter 1:20-21, 3:15-17).
AA 15:24unauthorized teachers badWithout proper approval from the Church, preaching from your private interpretation is useless (indeed, quite possibly dangerous, as St. Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:15-17). Here, souls are described as being subverted.

Also note that the chief complaint against the bad preachers is that they operated without approval, not that they contradicted scripture in some way. The only sure way to know that an interpretation is valid is to seek Church approval.
AA 26:29Conversion from hearingPauls wishes/wills all those that hear his preaching would be converted. No need for detailed scriptural knowledge, per se. Although Paul states that he believes some that hear him are knowlegeable of the OT (specifically, Agrippa, in AA 26:27), Paul does not make such knowledge a requirement. And while it is likely that many (indeed, probably most: AA 25:23) knew the Law and the Prophets in some detail, there were others (e.g., Roman Centurians, Tribune, Governor, &c.) who apparently did not.


[1]: verse used to challenge Catholic teaching