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Scripture as Final Authority?

DAY 311

CHALLENGE

“We know that the Bible teaches we should do theology ‘by Scripture alone’ (sola scriptura) because Jesus and the apostles quote Scripture as their final authority.”

DEFENSE

This claim is demonstrably false.

Although Jesus and the apostles quote from Scripture, all this shows is that they considered it an authority capable of settling questions it deals with, not that it was the only authority. Speaking of it as “their final authority” misleadingly assumes there was a single, final authority for them, but a person can have Scripture as an authority while also having other authorities.

Thus Catholics, Orthodox, and other Christians who do not accept sola scriptura also quote Scripture to settle issues. Just look at other entries in this book. Scripture is regularly cited to prove different points, yet the author clearly does not believe in sola scriptura. Therefore, the sola scriptura advocate will need to show more than that Jesus and the apostles quoted Scripture to settle issues. He will need to show they recognized no other authorities.

This is not possible. For a start, Jesus and the early Christians lived in an age when public revelation was still being given. Some of these revelations are recorded in Scripture (e.g., Matt. 1:20–21, 2:13; Luke 1:11–20, 28–37, 2:9–14; Acts 9:4–6, 10–17, 10:10–16; Rev. 1:10–11). Regardless of whether a revelation was recorded in Scripture (and many were not until decades after they were given), its message was authoritative. This, of itself, reveals that the early Christians did not believe in sola scriptura.

The transmission of revealed material (whether it took the form of a vision or not) is Tradition, and the early Christians passed on Tradition in oral form long before it was written in Scripture (e.g., Matt. 10:7; Luke 10:1–16; Acts 2:14–40; 1 Cor. 11:1–2; 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6).

They also believed a divine teaching authority (Latin, magisterium) had been given to the Church, beginning with Jesus, who “taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt. 8:29) and pronounced authoritatively on the correct interpretation of prior revelation (Matt. 5:21–48). Similarly, the leaders of the Church recognized that they were divinely guided in a way that allowed them to pronounce authoritatively on the questions of their day (Acts 15:1–29).

We thus see the early Church using Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium.

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