Philosophical Musings

Philosophical Musings

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sola Scriptura

One of the central elements of Christianity is the concept of the authority of scripture, or 'Sola Scriptura'. It is perhaps THE most important part of christianity, for how can one define it without the historical appeal to the founders? Without the written accounts of the life & teachings of Jesus & His followers, there can be no continuum.. no continuity in the christian faith. We would be left floundering about in a sea of relativity, subject to the opinions & whims of the moment, with no anchor of history or record of the message He brought.

I am not addressing the canon of scripture, or the process by which the biblical texts were included as the authoritative written basis of christianity. That is another topic. This article is about the USE & AUTHORITY of the scriptures already canonized into what we now call the Bible. The early bishops, writers, historians, & apologists in the church attested to the importance of these scriptures. They were reaffirmed during the reformation, & many times before & since. The authority of the canon of scripture is a constant thread in the history of the christian church. The ONLY record of the words & teachings of Jesus are from the historical gospels, & the men who wrote & compiled the accounts. No apocryphal writings or later 'commentaries' or revisions have any basis, but are superfluous at best, & deceptions at worst.

Sola Scriptura has several key parts:
1. Inspiration. It is a revelation from God to man. That is the basis for its authority.
2. Sufficiency & Final Authority. The teachings from scripture override any mandates or decrees of men or councils, & is sufficient for faith. No additions or subtractions from the clear teachings of scripture are needed or desired.
3. Clarity (or perspicuity) & scripture interpreting scripture. "...those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them." ~ Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646. This concept is one of textual hermeneutics, a process of determining the intent of the writer. No special gifts or dispensation is required, but only typical reason & understanding of human communication. "The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly." ~ Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646

Here are some quotes from early church fathers.
"We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith." ~ Irenaeus, “Against Heresies” 3.1.1, c. AD 180

"Have thou ever in your mind this seal , which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning , but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures." ~"The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril" Lecture 4.17, c. AD 347

This is a very good summary of the early church fathers, their esteem of the scriptures, & their place in early church history.
Irenaeus: He knew Polycarp who was a disciple of the apostle John. He lived from c 130 to 202 AD. He quotes from twenty-four of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, taking over 1,800 quotations from the New Testament alone.
Clement of Alexandria: He lived from 150 to 215 AD. He cites all the New Testament, books except Philemon, James and 2 Peter. He gives 2,400 citations from the New Testament.
Tertullian: He lived from 160 to 220 AD. He makes over 7,200 New Testament citations.
Origen: He lived from 185 to 254 AD. He succeeded Clement of Alexandria at the Catechetical school at Alexandria. He makes nearly 18,000 New Testament citations.
By the end of the 3rd century, virtually the entire New Testament could be reconstructed from the writings of the Church Fathers.
source:http://www.christiananswers.net/q-ed...rlychurch.html
This is a very interesting perspective from Cyril, from his lectures around AD 347.
33. Now these the divinely-inspired Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament teach us. For the God of the two Testaments is One, Who in the Old Testament foretold the Christ Who appeared in the New; Who by the Law and the Prophets led us to Christ's school. For before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, and, the law has been our tutor to bring us unto Christ. And if ever thou hear any of the heretics speaking evil of the Law or the Prophets, answer in the sound of the Saviour's voice, saying, Jesus came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it. Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New. And, pray, read none of the apocryphal writings : for why do you, who know not those which are acknowledged among all, trouble yourself in vain about those which are disputed? Read the Divine Scriptures, the twenty-two books of the Old Testament, these that have been translated by the Seventy-two Interpreters.

34. For after the death of Alexander, the king of the Macedonians, and the division of his kingdom into four principalities, into Babylonia, and Macedonia, and Asia, and Egypt, one of those who reigned over Egypt, Ptolemy Philadelphus, being a king very fond of learning, while collecting the books that were in every place, heard from Demetrius Phalereus, the curator of his library, of the Divine Scriptures of the Law and the Prophets, and judged it much nobler, not to get the books from the possessors by force against their will, but rather to propitiate them by gifts and friendship; and knowing that what is extorted is often adulterated, being given unwillingly, while that which is willingly supplied is freely given with all sincerity, he sent to Eleazar, who was then High Priest, a great many gifts for the Temple here at Jerusalem, and caused him to send him six interpreters from each of the twelve tribes of Israel for the translation. Then, further, to make experiment whether the books were Divine or not, he took precaution that those who had been sent should not combine among themselves, by assigning to each of the interpreters who had come his separate chamber in the island called Pharos, which lies over against Alexandria, and committed to each the whole Scriptures to translate. And when they had fulfilled the task in seventy-two days, he brought together all their translations, which they had made in different chambers without sending them one to another, and found that they agreed not only in the sense but even in words. For the process was no word-craft, nor contrivance of human devices: but the translation of the Divine Scriptures, spoken by the Holy Ghost, was of the Holy Ghost accomplished.

35. Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than yourself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if you are desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first five, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next,Joshua the son of Nave , and the book of Judges, including Ruth, counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and second books of the Kings are among the Hebrews one book; also the third and fourth one book. And in like manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and the first and second of Esdras are counted one. Esther is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those which are written in verses are five, Job, and the book of Psalms, and Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: of the Twelve Prophets one book, of Isaiah one, of Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle ; then Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament.

36. Then of the New Testament there are the four Gospels only, for the rest have false titles and are mischievous. The Manich├Žans also wrote a Gospel according to Thomas, which being tinctured with the fragrance of the evangelic title corrupts the souls of the simple sort. Receive also the Acts of the Twelve Apostles; and in addition to these the seven Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; and as a seal upon them all, and the last work of the disciples, the fourteen Epistles of Paul. But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank. And whatever books are not read in Churches, these read not even by yourself, as you have heard me say. Thus much of these subjects. ~"The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril" Lecture 4, c. AD 347
Without the authority of scripture, we are left with relativity. The scriptures are the anchor for the christian faith. Opinions of men can come & go, but the historical canon of scripture has stood the test of time.. it has remained the foundation upon which the believer's faith is built.

"Centuries of experience have tested the BIBLE. It has passed through critical fires no other volume has suffered, and its spiritual truth has endured the flames and come out without so much as the smell of burning" ~W.E. Sangster

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