SOLA SCRIPTURA—Q&A

1. A short dialogue on sola Scriptura

2. Does "it is written" prove sola Scriptura?

3. A quick retort to a defender of sola Scriptura

4. Points to consider when evaluating sola Scriptura

5. How was the canon of Scripture determined?

6. The canon of Scripture and the "traditions of men"

7. R.C. Sproul and the "fallible" canon

8. The Bereans "searched the Scriptures"

9. Tim Staple’s view of the historicity of Jonah

10. The “Material Sufficiency” of Scripture

11. A Dialogue with a “Bible-only” Christian on Sola Scriptura

12. A debate on the meaning of “oral tradition”

13. Oral tradition, Scripture, and Jesus’ teachings

14. The necessity of knowing the Canon of Scripture

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1. A short dialogue on sola Scriptura

Wayne: Well, it seems that you have a lot of questions for me John. Since I am just a person who reads on my own under the instruction of the Holy Spirit, and haven't been taught by a specific church type or school, it takes me time and effort to answer in a way that is acceptable to you. However I will try. I only hope that you will not reject what I share simply because I am not Catholic.

J. Salza: Wayne, I appreciate the dialogue and welcome your thoughts.

Wayne: Dealing with the issue of which scripture is referred to in Timothy 3:16. It is safe to trust any of the scripture referred to by Christ. You must first believe that the Gospels are true to begin with, and I do. The scripture written by prophets, especially those who foretold Christ’s coming can be trusted. The writings of Moses are trustworthy. Any writings that disagree with what is known to be true cannot be trusted. I know this subject goes much deeper, but I would need to write you an entire book to really detail every way of testing the authenticity of scripture. I hope my short answer is acceptable to you.

J. Salza: When you say “it is safe to trust Scripture” and “we must believe in the Gospels,” you are necessarily basing your beliefs on a tradition outside of Scripture. That is because Scripture is not self-authenticating. You would not know the Scriptures were inspired unless someone first told you that they were. Relying on a source outside of Scripture to demonstrate the truth of Scripture undermines sola Scriptura. Since you evidently have enough knowledge to “write an entire book” on testing the authenticity of Scripture, you will surely admit that you must also rely upon the apostolic Tradition to discern what Scripture is and what Scripture means. Yet you would deny following any tradition other than the Bible (which is, itself, a tradition of the Catholic Church).

Wayne: In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus meant exactly what he said. Simon knew who Jesus was, so Jesus named him Peter and used him to build His Church. Peter had that solid foundation of faith needed for salvation, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against people who have that same faith Peter had.

J. Salza: Yes, Jesus meant what He said when He promised to build His Church upon Peter, give him the keys to the kingdom, and the authority to teach infallibly (bind and loose). I wish Protestants would take Jesus’ words at face value. While Peter did have “that solid foundation of faith,” Jesus builds His Church upon the person of Peter, not just His faith. In fact, Peter’s faith has nothing to do with Jesus renaming Simon and giving him the keys and the binding and loosing authority. Instead, Jesus does this because Peter demonstrated the ability to receive a divine revelation from the Father and communicate it without error. This is the basis for the Church’s teaching on papal infallibility.

Wayne: Those people are Christ's, and I believe are of the true Church. Peter was in no way a perfect man, not even in faith, but he held the key to salvation...faith that Jesus is the Messiah. Just to clarify on Peter's shortcomings: Matthew 14:28-31, 26:33-35, 26:69-75. Mark 14 and Luke 22 also record these. I am no way putting down Peter, and I know his faith makes mine look pretty pathetic. I just wanted to maintain perspective on who Peter was, though I do think those failures must have taught him how to become a better disciple.

J. Salza: Peter’s shortcomings, whatever they were, have nothing to do with his authority to lead the Church. Notwithstanding Peter’s shortcomings, Jesus never divests Peter of the authority He granted to him in Matt. 16:18-19. Even after Peter denied our Lord and repented, Jesus affirmed that Peter was the chief shepherd of the Church (John 21:15-17). The very fact that God can choose weak men to lead the Church underscores that the papacy is a divine appointment, and that the power conferred to the pope comes from God alone.

Wayne: Regarding the binding and the loosing. Jesus also gave that authority to all of His disciples, not only Peter. Read Matthew 18:18. By the way, Matthew 16:19 seems to read that the keys to the kingdom of heaven are what allows the binding and loosing. I'm sorry I don't remember more, but I am sure I read something more on that subject in one of the letter's Paul wrote. You might know where to look.

J. Salza: While Jesus gave the other apostles the authority to bind and loose, He only gave Peter the keys. This is important because the binding and loosing authority, as you correctly point out, comes only from the keys. The keys “open and shut” (Isaiah 22), which is another way to say “bind and loose.” This means that the apostles’ authority to bind and loose is derived from Peter’s authority, and doesn’t exist independently of Peter’s authority. The apostles share in this authority collectively, but not individually. That is why Jesus doesn’t mention any of the apostles’ names in Matthew 18, like He does with Peter in Matthew 16. This means that there is one person in charge of Jesus’ Church, and that is the person with the keys.

Wayne: In Matthew 18:15-18 Jesus is speaking about situations where your brother trespasses against you and how to deal with it. He is not saying the church is the final authority on ALL things. God is the final authority on ALL things, and I certainly hope we can agree on that. How do we know God's judgments if not from scripture? Remember Matthew 5:17-19 where Jesus tells us it is good to teach from the law and the prophets.

J. Salza: Actually, Jesus does say in Matthew 18:15-18 that the Church is the final authority. Jesus says “take him to the Church” to resolve the issue. What Church? The Church that Jesus builds upon the rock of Peter. Jesus uses the same word (Greek, ecclesia) in Matthew 18 as He does in Matthew 16, the only two times Jesus uses the word ecclesia. Jesus doesn’t say “take him to the Scriptures.” Of course, God is the final authority, but He has invested the Church with His authority, by conferring the keys of authority to Peter. By requiring us to “take him to the Church,” Jesus must have intended a visible, hierarchical body that can render doctrinal and disciplinary judgments. He could not have meant thousands of differing factions and splintered sects. Otherwise, His directive would not make any sense.

Wayne: I hope that helps to also answer your question regarding where in scripture it says a true disciple is led by scripture. If not, just read any of the Gospels and you will note that Jesus uses scripture often...even as he was being tempted by satan. In Luke 6:40 I believe that Jesus wants me to be more like Him, and I know from His own words that I should learn from the scriptures.

J. Salza: Just because Jesus uses Scripture at times does not mean that Scripture is the only authority for Christians. In fact, Jesus never commanded any of His apostles to write anything down, and only five of the original apostles chose to write. Does this mean the other apostles were less obedient, or have less to say about Jesus? I don’t think so. Further, when Jesus was tempted in Matt. 4:1-11, He was not giving a definitive teaching on the formal sufficiency of Scripture. He was resisting temptation. The fact that the devil incorrectly interprets Psalm 91:11-12 in his efforts to tempt Jesus demonstrate that we need a properly appointed authority to interpret the Scriptures for us.

Wayne: John, I am deeply troubled at your mention of "our new Holy Father" and "the early fathers". Just the fact that the Catholic church teaches people to call someone father (or even more, Holy Father) other than God leads me to think "the early fathers" did have it all wrong. As "a 21st century Westerner" I have freedom from any particular church influence. This is not to say that makes me right or wrong about anything. But if someone claims to be of God yet teaches things contrary to what God Himself taught us while he walked among us, I would have to steer clear of their teachings and cling to Christ’s. Christ said "And call no [man] your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." (Matthew 23:9). Actually it may be good to read Matthew 23:5-10 to put that into context. Also, no man is Holy. Can a man even be good? Mat 19:17 "...Why callest thou me good?[there is] none good but one, [that is], God..."

J. Salza: This is another example of eisegesis (trying to impose your will on the text instead of reading it in the proper context). In the previous verse, Jesus says not to call any man “teacher.” Don’t you call your teachers “teacher”? Do you ever call your dad “father”? If we are not to call any man father, then how come Paul calls himself a “father” (1 Cor. 4:15)? How come John calls the priests of the Church “father”? I devote several pages to this issue in The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith (pp. 118-120), where I show quote after quote by holy people in the New Testament calling spiritual leaders “father.” Jesus also says “call no man good,” but Jesus himself says “the good man out of his good treasure…” (Mt 12:35).

Wayne: I hate to continue in circles with you regarding your Catholic interpretation of what "Church" means, so I won't. I have no pre-conceived understanding of Church other than before I was born again I thought a church was a building. I know I am saved by God's grace through faith in what Christ did for me by dying on the cross and being risen again. I know God loves us. Take care John. No need to respond.

Lovingly, in Jesus.

Wayne

J. Salza: Wayne, here are some brief thoughts:

1. Scripture is not self-authenticating, which is what you are assuming. If it were, then the canon of Scripture would have been settled right away. The fact is, the Church debated it for four centuries. Why? Because it is not self-authenticating. Even after Pope Damasus determined the canon, some in the Church questioned it. The Council of Trent put this to bed by elevating the Church's teaching on the canon to a dogmatic teaching. This is a teaching that you accept, and it was rendered by the Catholic Church.

2. The office of the papacy does not mean the pope is impeccable. He sins just like every one else. The office that Jesus created deals with the authority to hand on what Jesus gave us, without error. If you study the significance of the "keys" (e.g. Isaiah 22:15-22), you learn that in the Davidic kingdom, the king gave the "keys" to his chief steward, who would rule the kingdom while the king was away. Just as God did with Eliakim, so Jesus does with Peter. He gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven (the Church), to rule over the Church while Jesus is in heaven. Once Jesus returns, He will reclaim the keys. In the meantime, Peter is invested with the very authority of the King, Jesus Christ.

3. The main difference between Catholics and non-Catholics is that Catholics accept Tradition and know they do, and non-Catholics accept Tradition, but don't know they do. You accept the canon of Scripture. You accept that abortion is a moral evil. You accept that a man and a woman must give each other consent in order for theirs to be a valid marriage. You accept that God is one in three persons, etc. But none of these things are expressly stated in Scripture. These teachings came down from the apostles, through the Catholic Church. You accept all of them, even though they are not in Scripture. Why? Because you accept apostolic tradition as well.

So you need to discern the difference between extra-biblical, and anti-biblical. There is nothing anti-biblical about any Catholic teaching, which would be impossible because the Church came before the Bible, and is the servant of Scripture and Tradition.

Wayne: You assume much John, about me, about what I believe, and about what scripture says. The truth is that every word of scripture came before the Catholic church was formed. I explained before that if Christ, being God, taught from a particular scripture we can be sure it is true. It seems any good words I shared with you were either not noticed or just cast aside.

J. Salza: Wayne, you continue to be plagued by your own presuppositions.

1. You say “Scripture came before the Catholic Church was formed.” You should have said every Scripture was written, copied, translated, handed down, preserved and canonized by the Catholic Church (which proves the Church – not the Scriptures – came first). Where do you really think the Bible came from? Paint me an historical picture. You, like many Protestants of your "tradition," simply ignore historical facts and treat the Bible as if it fell from the sky. That is simply ridiculous. The Bible came from the Catholic Church. The Church was born on Pentecost Sunday, and not a word of New Testament Scripture was written until at least ten years later. I challenge you, right now, to provide me any piece of evidence that refutes this claim. If you do, you win. If you don't, then our discussion is over.

Wayne: Peter is not the "ruler" over the kingdom of heaven (the Church). That is what you said isn't it? or am I misreading your words...they seem clear to me but I just want to be sure I am reading your words correctly. Christ is the head and the ruler over each and every one of His children, not Peter. We are to pick up the cross and follow Jesus, that is what Peter did. We need to learn from what Christ taught. We can know if a man speaks truth by comparing his words to the words of Christ, not the other way around.

J. Salza: If Peter is not the "ruler," then why did Jesus tell Peter to "rule" over the sheep? See Jn 21:15-17. You see, Jesus uses the Greek verb form from the word "poimaine" which means to "to rule." It is exactly the same word used three times in the Apocalypse to describe Jesus' "rule" over the rebellious nations. Once again, you fail to recognize the plain meaning of these texts.

Wayne: I'm glad you know the pope is not impeccable, but why then do Catholic teachings call him "Holy"? Why does the pope, if he is a man of God, accept praise from men? Why does the pope adorn himself the way he does if he is following Christ? Christ did not do these things and neither did Peter.

J. Salza: Can people be holy? The answer is yes. So why can't we call the pope holy? Are you his judge? Are you the arbiter for what is holy and what isn't? And what is wrong with the pope's attire? Didn't Solomon adorn himself while he sat on the "throne of the kingdom of the Lord?" Didn't David? Didn't all the Davidic kings in the Davidic kingdom, which Jesus came to fulfill? Didn't the Lord command Solomon to build an ornate Temple to give glory to God? Didn't Jesus, the son of Solomon, come to fulfill this kingdom in the Holy Catholic Church?

Wayne: Your conclusions in part 3 of your thoughts are inaccurate. Marriage and murder are both defined in scripture. Why do you lump the laws of God into the category of tradition? Jesus taught that loving God with all your being (Mat 22:37) is the important thing and if He ever spoke of tradition (Mat 15, Mar 7) it was to point out how hypocritical men who love tradition had become. That is a warning from God Himself regarding the tendency of mankind to honor tradition instead of God. It may be better not to teach tradition as part of our walk with God since men often substitute or confuse a real relationship pleasing to God with rituals and traditions.

J. Salza: But Wayne, the Bible makes a distinction between the traditions of men (Mt 15:3-6; Mk 7:8-9) and the Tradition of God (2 Thess 2:15; 3:6). When Jesus condemned the tradition of the Pharisees, he was referring to those traditions that they made up to nullify the word of God (in this case, using the Corban rule to avoid taking care of their parents). When Paul commands us to obey tradition, are you saying that Paul is wrong? This obviously demonstrates that the Bible is talking about two kinds of tradition.

Wayne: "The main difference between Catholics and non-Catholics" is too broad a statement. I am a believer in Christ and I don't practice any "tradition" except to remember what Jesus did for us on the cross. The only tradition that I can remember Jesus teaching His disciples was the breaking of bread in remembrance of what He did for us. Col 2:6-10 "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:"

J. Salza: If you believe in the Bible, then you in fact believe in a tradition. The Bible is part of the written apostolic tradition. But Paul told us that we have to hold on to the oral apostolic tradition as well (2 Thess 2:15). You refer to the “breaking of the bread” as the “only tradition” you follow. First, this cannot be true since you follow other Catholic, apostolic traditions such as your belief in the canon of Scripture, the the nature of the Trinity, the hypostatic union, and others which are not found in Scripture. Second, if you believe in the tradition of the “breaking of the bread,” then you believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, since that is what the Fathers handed down to us. If you don’t believe that, then you don’t believe in the apostolic tradition. You believe in another “tradition” that came from somewhere else.

Many people are either too proud to admit that they follow Tradition, or are ignorant that they actually do. How do you know what books belong in the Bible? How do you know in-vitro fertilization is morally wrong? How do you know what constitutes consent in order to have a valid marriage? Please answer EACH of these questions for me. If you cannot do so expressly using Scripture, then you are following Tradition.

John Salza

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2. Does "it is written" prove sola Scriptura?

Allan: John, When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, in the river of Jordan, and then anointed for His ministry, with "the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him, (Matt. 3:16), then He was led by the spirit into the wilderness, "to be tempted of the devil." (Matt. 4:1). Not a word is written down of that testing time, until you come to the narrative where three times you read, "IT IS WRITTEN." Every onslaught of temptation was countered by "IT IS WRITTEN." Tremendous emphasis upon THE WORD OF GOD! It is also significant that coming to the close of His official ministry, we have that tremendous High Priestly prayer of John 17, and again there are three references to the Word. Verse 8, "I have given unto them the Words which Thou gavest Me." Verse 14, "I have given them Thy Word." And verse 17, "Thy Word is truth." John, IT IS WRITTEN means words of the prophets IN THE BIBLE. Not the Church fathers. IT IS WRITTEN=past tense.

J. Salza: Allan, you must consider the context when you exegete Scripture. In these passages, Jesus is resisting temptation, not giving a dogmatic definition of the formal sufficiency of Scripture. Also, unfortunately for you, Jesus says nothing about Scripture being the only authority for God's word, which is the point you are trying to prove, but a point that is found nowhere in Scripture. Jesus is also quoting Deut. 8:3 in Matt. 4:11, and Scripture teaches that "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" is not limited to Scripture.

Relying upon Matthew 4 to prove sola Scriptura also backfires on you. Why? The devil is quoting Psalm 91:11-12 in tempting Jesus to throw Himself off the mountain, because "God will give His angels charge of you" (Matt.4:6). This is an example of how a person not under proper authority (here, the devil) can falsely interpret Scripture to his own destruction.

Regarding John 17 and Jesus' use of the "Word," nowhere does Jesus or any of the sacred writers say that the "Word" is limited to Scripture. In fact, and also unfortunately for you, Paul says just the opposite. In Romans 10:8, Paul says that the "Word" is what is "preached" (not written) to you. Allan, this destroys your argument.

Grace be with you.

John Salza

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3. A quick retort to a defender of sola Scriptura

Eric: John, stop and think for a moment, are Roman Catholics Christians?  They are if they have trusted in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of their sins, and had a born again experience.  However, if they believe that the are saved by God's grace and their works, then they are not saved -- even if they believe their works are done by God's grace -- since they then deny the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice.  Being a Christian does not mean being a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholicism is not faithful to Scripture. Attached are Scripture verses and explanations that prove the Catholic Church is no longer representing Christianity, but apostasy.

J. Salza: Eric, you have no business quoting from the Bible to disprove the Catholic faith when it was the Catholic Church who gave you the Bible.  This is the brash arrogance of Protestant Christians, who are ignorant of history and twist the Scriptures to their own destruction. I call it “spoiled brat Christianity.” You despise the very Mother who gave you the Scriptures. The Bible is indeed the Word of God, but you only know that because the Catholic Church told you so.  How do you know what books should be in the Bible when the Bible doesn't tell you?  You only know it because the Catholic Church definitively declared the Bible canon at the end of the fourth century.

If the Bible canon is necessary for our salvation, but Christ did not reveal it to His apostles, then Christ must have established an authority that would guarantee the early Christians' determination of the Bible canon after He ascended into heaven.  This authority is the Holy Catholic Church.

There was no Bible as you know it for 400 years after Christ's death, and it wasn't even distributed for 1500 years after His death.  If the Bible is the only way to get us to heaven, then what happened to those millions of poor souls who never had a Bible during the 1500 year period?  Eric, you need to get familiar with basic history.  Jesus Christ established a Church to proclaim the good news.  He never intended on having the Bible be the sole infallible guide for the Christian faith.  This is why the Catholic Church is one, and your Protestant denominations are 30,000.

The Catholic Church wrote, translated, copied, and preserved God's written word throughout the ages.  That is the only reason you even have a Bible. Quit trying to interpret the Scriptures without the Church, because it is the Bible in the Church, the Church before the Bible, the Bible and the Church (both or neither).

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4. Points to consider when evaluating sola Scriptura

Valerie: Dear Mr. Salza,

I'm so surprised that you responded to my e-mail!!!  Thanks, and I look forward to dialoguing with you as well. Sorry for being so, ummmm, direct. My interest in what Catholics believe has been greatly heightened recently for numerous reasons.  One is that so many of my friends are Catholic, but they don't know what they believe, or why they do certain things. Secondly, I kept driving past a certain bill board which read, "Pray the Rosary."  Finally, I went to mass with a friend, and that really piqued my curiosity the most.  Subsequently, I've read the Rosary, investigated teachings put forth in the catechism, and lastly, found your web site, whereupon, I vituperated!  Sorry, again.

J. Salza: Valerie, it’s just fine. I often receive emotionally-charged emails. I try not to be offended and look past the emotion because we are dealing with emotional topics and searching for the truth.

Valerie: Let me preface my answers to your 3 questions saying that, by having an upbringing in "Bible-only" teaching, much of what I've learned regarding Catholicism is quite opposed to scripture.  I realize that I will not change your mind, and that you will not change mine. Perhaps this exercise can teach me a much needed lesson in diplomacy and civility for the future!

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning."  (John 1:1-2)  The Bible came from God, who spoke his words to prophets, judges and apostles.  The Old Testament scrolls were preserved by Jewish scribes.

The inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is confirmed by:

a) Jesus and the apostles quoting from it

b)  Jesus and the apostles alluding to it 

c)  the fulfillment of many prophecies contained in it

J. Salza: A couple things. The Scriptures came from God because He is their author. The “Bible” was compiled by the Catholic Church at the end of the fourth century, at the direction of God. I want to make this distinction between what is God-breathed Scripture vis-à-vis how we KNOW what is God-breathed Scripture. We only know what is inspired by the authority of the Catholic Church. This brings me to my second point.

The inspiration of the Old Testament is not necessarily confirmed by the reasons you provide. Why? Because the sacred writers also quote from and allude to non-inspired texts. If this were the test for inspiration, our Bible would be a lot bigger than it is. The inspiration of the Old Testament was held by authority and tradition, not self-authentication. The Jews believed in the inspiration of the OT because their tradition and authority told them the texts were inspired. This demonstrates the truth of the Catholic position as well. That is, we believe in the authority and inspiration of Scripture because the Church and Tradition tell us so, not because the books tell us. To my fallible mind, the Didache seems inspired to, but the Church has told us that it is not. We also note that, regarding the OT, there were still disagreements among the Jews as to certain books (e.g., the Sadducees versus the Pharisees). This fact begs for an authority outside of Scripture to make the final determination.

Valerie: Inspiration of the New Testament is evidenced by:

a)  the agreement of the Gospels

b) the fact that it was written by men personally chosen by Jesus to be his disciples/apostles, and writers of scripture, such as Paul on the road to Damascus as recorded in Acts 9.  Also, Jesus' parting words to Peter indicating that his life was going to have higher meaning. (John 21:18-19)

c)  knowledge of the authors of the New Testament that what they were writing was scripture, i.e. 2 Peter 3:20-21 also Colossians 4:16.

d)  A major credential that validated the authors' calling was that they performed miracles before many witnesses, miracles that couldn't be denied even by their adversaries, due to massive corroborating evidence.  We see an example of this in  Acts 4:16, where even the enemies conceded the genuineness of the miracle.  Also, when others tried to counterfeit miracles, they were rebuked, or even injured, as in the cases of Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:9-22) and the sons of Sceva (Act 19:13-16).

J. Salza: Again, these are not the reasons we believe in the inspiration of the New Testament Scriptures.

(a) There were other books that “agreed” with apostolic teaching (e.g. Didache, Clement’s letter to the Corinthians), so this cannot be the test for inspiration.

(b) That Jesus personally chose these men is important, to be sure, but this begs the question. None of the Gospels tell us who wrote them. So how do we know the men that Jesus chose are the ones who wrote the Gospels? The answer is Tradition.

(c) That the sacred writers knew they were writing under the dictation of the Holy Ghost is also important, but we cannot know their minds. Sure they knew it, but how do WE know they knew it? That just begs the question. Other people also claimed to be writing under divine inspiration (there were about 50 “gospels” floating around Judea during the first couple centuries), and someone had to tell us that they weren’t inspired.

(d) Miracles are also an important factor. But how do we know the authors of the New Testament performed the miracles? We also know that God allows evil people to perform miracles as well. Thus, this also cannot be the test for determining whether something is divinely inspired.

Valerie: We probably agree that the Bible is the inspired word of God.  What we most likely do not agree on is when that inspiration ended.  I believe that the inspiration ceased when the Lord and his apostles' work on earth was complete, and here are some reasons I believe that.   

J. Salza: All public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. That belief is commonly held among Catholics and non-Catholics.

Valerie: 1.  Galatians 1:8 "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"  (Teaching things about Mary such as Immaculate Conception and calling Mary "Mediatrix and Co-redemptress", and "Queen of Heaven," and teaching that it's good to pray to her and to other saints is indeed a different gospel.)

J. Salza: I don’t tackle such sweeping statements when they are advanced without any proof or analysis. I adequately address the Immaculate Conception, Co-redemptrix, Queen of Heaven, and intercessory prayer on my website.

Valerie: 2.  God's word states that scripture should not be added to or taken away from.  Proverbs 30:5-6:  "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar."  Also, Revelation 22: 18-19:  "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."  

J. Salza: Valerie, this is an elementary apologia. First, Proverbs doesn’t limit God’s “Word” to what is written. Paul tells us it includes the oral tradition as well. Second, Apoc. 22:18-19 is referring only to the prophecies “in that book,” and not the rest of the corpus of Scripture or tradition. In fact, God commanded the same thing In Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, but that evidently isn’t preventing you from reading all the books that came after Deuteronomy (including the New Testament!), correct?

Valerie: The original manuscripts are all lost.  What we do have today are copies of the original manuscripts, such as the Codex Sinaiticus, which is now in the British Museum.  Another 4th century manuscript is the Codex Vaticanus.  Aside from these, there are many fragments of scripture, all of which agree with one another.  The jewel of ancient manuscripts, and perhaps the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time are the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947 in the Qumran caves of Palestine, containing manuscripts or fragments of every OT book except for Esther.  (Maybe these were the treasures in jars of clay that the Apostle Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 4!!)  What's remarkable to me overall, is that the Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls agrees in almost every respect with our traditional Hebrew text! 

J. Salza: The fact that the original manuscripts are lost proves that you are relying upon an authority outside of Scripture to give you God’s word. Who translated from the original autographs? How do we know which translations are correct and which ones are not? This raises a whole raft of issues about whether or not you are getting the real thing, and demands an outside agent to set the record straight. When you look at history, you discover that it was the Catholic Church who received, translated, preserved, protected, and handed down the Scriptures throughout the ages. There was simply no other Church around.

Valerie: As I alluded to in my first e-mail, there are grave warnings in scripture as to altering the word of the Lord, which has been handed down through the ages by righteous men, hand-picked by God.  My encouragement to you is to please consider what it is that is taught on scripturecatholic.com, as God will hold every man accountable for what he claims that the Lord says.  (Isaiah 29:12-14, Jeremiah 14 and 23, 1 Tim 4)  Many of my Catholic friends say that they can't be sure that the Bible is God's word, and one of them goes as far as to say that he could write a book of the Bible on par with what we know to be scripture.  How it must grieve God to reveal Himself to mankind in such an awesome way, only to have men discredit the very word preserved for us for thousands of years.

J. Salza: You are correct that God has hand-picked men to hand down through the ages His word. These men all claimed membership in the Catholic Church. Pope Damasus was the one who first determined the canon of Scripture, at regional councils in Rome, Hippo and Carthage, at the end of the fourth century. I would be shaking in my shoes if I had to figure all this out myself. I thank God for the incredible gift of His Church.

Let me elaborate on the major problems with sola Scriptura. I will sketch out a few and then we can continue the dialogue if you wish.  I will number them just to keep the discussion organized.

1.  One of the most significant problems with Sola Scriptura (the belief that the Bible is the sole infallible source for God's word, and that nothing outside of Scripture is necessary for our salvation) is the canon of Scripture.  The canon refers to the list of books that belong in the Bible.  The problem with this is that the canon of Scripture is necessary for our salvation, but the Bible does not tell us what the canon is.  This forces us to look outside the Bible to understand how its books were selected.  But doing this destroys the doctrine of sola Scriptura (since something necessary for our salvation - knowing what books are inspired - came to us from outside the Bible).

The fact is that the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture at regional councils in A.D. 382, 393 and 397.  Before the Catholic Church's decision, the canon was not settled.  In fact, for three centuries people debated whether Hebrews, John's third epistle, and the Apocalypse were divinely inspired.  In addition, there were many other writings that were supposedly inspired (the Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, Epistle of Clement, etc.) that the Catholic Church rejected. So the Catholic Church made an infallible decision regarding the canon of Scripture, and all Christians who believe in the Bible owe this debt to the Church.  The question is, who gave the authority to the Catholic Church to make this infallible decision?  And why do non-Catholic Christians follow the Catholic Church's decision on the Bible canon, but not her other teachings?

2.  A principle of logic is that an effect can never be greater than its cause.  This means that, if the Bible canon is infallible (and it is), then the Church who determined the canon must also be infallible.  If you argue that the canon is fallible, then you have no assurance that the books contained in the canon are infallible (which means that some or all of the books could be replaced; or there are other books out there that should be included).

3.  You are correct that we don't have the original manuscripts.  But how do you know whether or not you are getting the proper translation?  You see, we need an authority outside of Scripture to ensure Scripture's reliability.  The Catholic Church is the source who copied the original manuscripts, and preserved them through the ages.  Pope Damasus commissioned St. Jerome at the end of the fourth century to translate the Scriptures into the Latin Vulgate, and the Douay-Rheims translation that came out (NT in 1582; OT in 1609) which is based on the Latin Vulgate is the best and most reliable translation of Scripture that we have.  Any translation that deviates from the original languages (and many do, such as the KJV) simply have no authority. 

There are about 7,940 verses in the Bible.  Over 6,100 of them have some form of corruption.  Again, how do you know that you are getting the proper translation? If you really know, then tell me.  I only know by listening to the Church who gave me the Scriptures. You need an authority outside of Scripture to tell you. 

4.  If you study the early Church fathers' writings for the first seven centuries, you will not find one single father who taught sola Scriptura.  To the contrary, the fathers taught that Christ established one church, with a visible and unifying head who is the pope, the successor of Peter on which Christ built the Church.  In fact, Ignatius of Antioch called the church "Catholic" in A.D. 107, in his letter to the Smyreans, as he was being led to his martyrdom.  You see constant references to "Catholic church" in the writings of the early fathers (see my website for this material).

5. The final problem is that Scripture does not teach sola Scriptura.  No where in the Bible will you find any writer say that the Scriptures are the sole, exclusive and infallible authority for God's word.  To the contrary, the sacred writers repeatedly emphasize oral Tradition, the Church, and the authority of the Church's ecclesial hierarchy (that is why you see repeated references to bishops, priests, deacons and the "laying on of hands.")  Only the Catholic Church exhibits these characteristics of the New Testament Church with its hierarchical structure, and only the bishops of the Catholic Church, united with the pope, can trace their lineage back to the apostles.  If you are in a "Bible-church," you should ask who your "bishops" are.  If you don't have any, then your not in the church of the Bible.

Catholics revere the Scriptures (or should!) more than any other Christian because we want the Bible to say what it intends to say, nothing more, nothing less.  The Bible is a Catholic book, written by the early Church, protected and preserved by the Church down through the years, who determined its canonicity and apostolicity.  It is a mis-nomer to say "we are Bible-based." Instead, we must say that the Bible is "Church-based."  Sola Scriptura is like tearing off someone's arm, and then beating them with it.  The Bible is an indispensable part of God's revealed Word, but He gave the fullness of His Revelation to His Church, both orally and in writing (2 Thess. 2:15). 

This is why St. Paul says it is the Church, not the Scriptures, that is the pinnacle and foundation of the truth." (1 Tim. 3:15).  This is why the Ethiopian eunuch, when he was reading Isaiah, said he needed someone to help him interpret the Scriptures.  Christ gave us the Church, his Bride, to lead us into all truth.  God gave us a Church; He didn't just give us a book and tell us to figure it out on our own.  God is bound by His love and justice to ensure that we would be receiving the truth, and this is the role of His Church. 

The Bible was never intended to be the entire deposit of faith that Christ gave to His apostles.  Most of the letters of the New Testament are addressing various problems in the early churches, and shoring up the oral apostolic tradition that the faithful already received.  Christ never even commanded His apostles to write anything down, and only five of them did.  Where the others less faithful? Of course not.  Neither Christ nor any apostle ever said "hey guys, follow oral apostolic tradition until the bible is canonized in 350 years; and then just obey the Bible alone."  Paul says quite the contrary in 2 Thess. 2:15.  God intended us to be guided into all truth by the Church, from which the Scriptures came. 

I believe that you have a love for Scripture, and probably have not met many Catholics who know Scripture like you do.  But in order to be a fully-informed Bible-Chrisian, you must understand where the Bible came from, and what the early Christians wrote about the Bible and the Church.  When you study this history with an open mind, you can only come to one conclusion - it is the Bible and the Church, the Bible in the Church, the Church before the Bible.

Grace be with you.

John Salza

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5. How was the canon of Scripture determined?

Gene: Hey John,

I was wondering, when the Bible was made, how was it determined what books were canonical and what books were not. Are all authentic books in the Bible, or just the ones that were thought to be divinely inspired? And why exactly did the Protestants take seven books out of the Bible, and what authority gave them that right (or what authority did they think gave them that right?)

Thanks, Gene

J. Salza: Dear Gene. This is a great question and one of the questions that gives an answer that proves the Catholic Church to be the true Church. 

The bishops had to rely on apostolic tradition which they received from their successors, and their successors, and so on, all the way back to the apostles.  Christ also promised that the Church would be guided into all truth.  At the time the canon was selected (just before the end of the fourth century), all the apostles were deceased.  So the only way the Church could determine what books were inspired was to rely upon the oral tradition that it received from the apostles. 

There were many, many scriptures floating around, many of which seem orthodox (and some are; i.e., Didache, Clement's letter to the Corinithians, The Shepherd of Hermas, etc.). There were even 50 “gospels” that existed. But how could the Church actually know which ones were inspired?  By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they relied upon oral apostolic tradition.  As Paul says, this "Church is the pinnacle and foundation of the truth." 1 Tim. 3:15.  This historical and theological fact also disproves the Protestant theory of sola Scriptura (that the Bible is the sole rule and guide of faith).  This is because the Bible has no inspired table of contents.  You must look outside the Bible to determine what books belong in it, and this is a Revelation given from God to the Catholic Church.

As far as the number of Scriptures, the Bible contains the entire written word of God, and nothing less.  There are not and can not be any other Scriptures that were inspired but not selected by the Church, because the Church acted with Christ's own wisdom and authority in determining the canon.  The 72 books of the Bible are it. There is nothing more as far as the written word goes.

The Protestants removed 7 books from the OT during the Reformation (circa 1535), specifically at the direction of Martin Luther.  He was particularly disturbed by the book of Maccabees (2 Macc. 12:45) because it supported the Church's teaching on purgatory.  He was also going to remove the letter of James because it supports the Catholic teaching of works justifying us, but the Protestant movement would not let him go that far.

As far as their authority, of course they had none. God gave his authority only to the Catholic Church.  Once in a while, you will hear a Protestant appeal to the school of Jamnia, a Jewish “council” that rejected the deuterocanonical books around 90 A.D. (primarily because they were written in Greek, and not Aramaic and Hebrew).  But this same council also rejected the entire New Testament!  So it is illogical for them to appeal to a Jewish school that rejected Christ as authority for a Christian position!  See my link on the deuterocanon.  It demonstrates how the sacred writers constantly quoted the deuterocanonical books in their NT writings.  See also the link on the Septuagint (the Greek OT that Christ and the apostles taught from).  If the rejected books were good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for me.

Grace be with you.

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6. The canon of Scripture and the "traditions of men"

Angel: Mr. Salza, your reliance upon tradition to prove Catholic teaching is unbiblical. No where does it say tradition is inspired by God.

J. Salza:  This statement assumes that "it" (you presumably mean the Bible) has to say something in order for that something to be true.  But the Bible does not say that everything necessary for salvation comes from the Bible.  This fact is irrefutable.

Angel: The Scriptures are very clear that the Word is inspired 2 TIM3:16.

J. Salza: Please prayerfully read my link on 2 Timothy 3:16-17. http://scripturecatholic.com/scripture_alone.html#scripture-II This page explains the real meaning of the passage.

Angel: Notice, it says 'All Scripture" and does not say "All Scripture and Tradition."

J. Salza: First, your conclusion assumes that all Scripture necessarily excludes apostolic tradition.  But the verse does not say that.  You are reading your conclusions into the verse (eisegesis).  Also, tell me what Scriptures Paul was referring to here?  The Old Testament?  The Talmud?  He could not have possibly meant the New Testament Scriptures, because there was no New Testament canon at the time, and not all the New Testament Scriptures were even written.  The verse says nothing at all about Sola Scriptura.

Angel: I strongly recommend you study through the book of Colossians, especially Colossians 2:8. This speaks to your church very clearly. You are getting lost in your tradition.

J. Salza: Colossians 2:8 deals with traditions of men, not apostolic tradition.  There are some traditions that we must reject (those that nullify the Word of God), and some Traditions that we must accept (the apostolic tradition that Paul refers to in 2 Thess. 2:15).  Paul does not say stand fast and hold firm to the letter alone.  He also mandates us to follow the Tradition that comes from the apostles.  You have to find another verse in Scripture that voids Paul's commandment in 2 Thess. 2:15; otherwise, your "letter alone" position is not biblical.

Angel: Your flock is going to Mary for salvation. I hate to break the bad news brother, but Mary cannot save you. We now have a direct line to Jesus and forgiveness without Mary or the Saints. 

J. Salza: You obviously don't know the Catholic faith.  We don't go to Mary for salvation.  Catholics go to Christ and Christ alone for salvation.  You really should read the Catechism of the Catholic Church before you profess to be an expert on Catholicism. Moreover, if you want to be closer to Jesus, then you better consider going to Him through His mother. He chose to come to us through her, and He wants us to come to Him through her as well.

Angel: This will help you understand sola Scriptura. I also would like a document of who witnessed this assumption of Mary. Just provide me with one witness. Give me the document and who wrote it. The doctrine of sola Scriptura simply states that the Scriptures and the Scriptures alone are sufficient to function as the regula fide, the rule of faith, for the Church.

J. Salza: Where did you get that definition? I just checked a number of scholarly Protestant sources, and they each provide a different definition. I guess because sola Scriptura is not taught in the Bible, you guys make up the definitions as you go along.

Angel: All that one must believe to be a Christian is found in Scripture and in no other source. That which is not found in Scripture is not binding upon the Christian conscience.

J. Salza: You just trapped yourself. If “all that one must believe to be a Christian is found in Scripture and no other source,” then that teaching must be found in Scripture. But where is it? Please…give me chapter and verse.

Angel: To be more specific, I provide the following definition. The Bible claims to be the sole and sufficient rule of faith for the Christian Church. The Scriptures are not in need of any supplement. Their authority comes from their nature as God-breathed revelation. Their authority is not dependent upon man, church or council. The Scriptures are self-consistent, self-interpreting and self-authenticating. The Christian Church looks to the Scriptures as the only and sufficient rule of faith and the Church is always subject to the Word and is constantly reformed thereby.

J. Salza: You have provided a definition of sola Scriptura, presumably on your own authority, but you haven’t told me where the Bible provides the definition of sola Scriptura. That is really the issue. If it’s not in the Bible, then the Bible doesn’t teach it. Further, as a sola Scriptura advocate, how do you explain the canon of Scripture?  How do you know what Scriptures are inspired using sola Scriptura?  You cannot, and this is devastating to the notion of sola Scriptura. You see, it was the Catholic Church who selected the canon of Scripture at the end of the fourth century.  How did it do that? 

The Church was led into this truth by the power of the Holy Spirit and used apostolic tradition to determine the apostolicity of the Scriptures.  It also made this decision nearly 300 years after the death of the last apostle.  If the Church can make an infallible decision 300 years after the death of the last apostle, then how come it cannot make equally authoritative decisions today?  You cannot account for sola Scriptura during this period between the apostle John's death and the selection of the canon (and you cannot say that there was a New Testament canon established before 382 A.D. because many texts, such as the Apocalypse, 3 John, Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, etc. were subject to a lot of debate; as were works such as the Didache and Clement's letter).  This destroys the theory of sola Scriptura. 

You should also contemplate why there is not a single early Church father who espoused this theory of sola Scriptura.  Instead, this novel theology was introduced by Luther, almost 1,500 years after Christ's ascension.  You can't rely on Protestant exegetes of the 20th century to prove this novel theory.  You must familiarize yourself with the fathers and doctors of the Church, those taught by the apostles and their successors.  Christ's Church was built upon Peter, to whom Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven.  These keys represent the authority over the new Davidic kingdom restored and renewed in Jesus Christ.  (cf. Isaiah 22:19-22).  Re-acquaint yourself with history, and you will be in for a holy shock.

Let me try to make this succinct.

1.  Sola Scriptura says everything we need to know that is necessary for our salvation comes from the Bible alone.

2.  Knowing what Scriptures are inspired and what Scriptures are not inspired is necessary for our salvation.

3.  Knowing what Scriptures are inspired and what Scriptures are not inspired cannot be known from the Bible.

4.  Therefore, sola Scripture cannot be true.

The foregoing is irrefutable.  That's where our debate begins and ends.

POINT:  Knowing what Scriptures are inspired and what Scriptures are not inspired is a Revelation from God that was given to the Catholic Church.   If you really want to be an "expert" in Catholicism, I suggest you begin reading Catholic sources; not the private judgment theology that has resulted in 30,000 different Protestant denominations of different interpretations and massive confusion.

Grace be with you.

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7. R.C. Sproul and the "fallible" canon

Gino: Hi John. I heard R.C. Sproul say on Christian radio that the canon of Scripture is only “fallible.” He said this to evidently undermine the Catholic Church’s decision in determining the canon. What do you say about this?

J. Salza:  Gino, Sproul has to argue that the canon of Scripture is fallible because he knows that the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture at councils in A.D. 382, 393 and 397. If he admits that the Catholic Church made an infallible decision concerning the canon (which is true), then he would have to explain why he doesn't follow the Catholic Church's other infallible teachings. To skirt the issue, Sproul has to argue that the canon is only a fallible collection of infallible books.

Sproul's argument falls apart at the seams. If the canon were only a fallible collection of infallible books, then why should we believe that the books in the canon are themselves infallible? The infallible books do not tell us what the canon should be, and this forces us to look outside the infallible books to understand how the canon was selected. As Sproul so well knows, this outside source was the Holy Catholic Church, who made the infallible decision concerning what Scriptures were inspired and canonical, and what Scriptures were not (a decision that Sproul agrees with).

Moreover, if the canon is only a fallible collection, then this means other books could be added to the canon, and books currently in the canon could be removed. Is this what Sproul is suggesting? I doubt it, but this is the logical consequence of his argument, which proves that his argument is not logical at all. A principle of logic is that an effect can never be greater than its cause. This means that, if the canon of Scripture is infallible, its determination had to come from an infallible source as well. Arguing for a fallible canon also means that Sproul has no basis to deny the canonicity of other religious writings such as the book of Mormon, etc. He has no authority to do so.

Sproul's argument is fallacious, but he must make the argument in order to avoid submitting himself to the teaching authority of the Holy Catholic Church, an authority that he himself recognizes regarding the canon of Scripture, but nothing else. His argument, paradoxically, undermines the reliability of the Scriptures, which is the very thing on which Sproul bases his whole theology and entire Christian life.

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8. The Bereans "searched the Scriptures"

George: Acts 17:10-11 (King James Version)

10And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

See john, THEY SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, NOT TRADITIONS DAILY. WHATS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE ANYHOW ? ARE YE ALL SPIRITUALLY BLIND ?

George

J. Salza: George, let me help you out.

1. It doesn't say they searched the Scriptures "alone."

2. The Scriptures they did search were the Old Testament Scriptures to verify that Jesus was the Messiah. Are you saying that the OT Scriptures are sufficient?

3. They accepted Paul's oral preaching as the Word of God even before they searched the Scriptures, which also poses a problem for you. Do you accept the oral apostolic tradition as well?

4. You cannot find one verse in Scripture that says Scripture is the only infallible authority of God's word, and yet that is what you presume.

5. King James based his bible translation off the Latin Vulgate, which was translated by Jerome under Pope Damasus and the Catholic Church, before the KJV came out. Why do "YOU PEOPLE" use a Catholic book to ridicule the very institution who gave you the book?

Also, don't quote anymore from the KJV. He was a sodomite with no religious authority over me, you or anyone else. Also, his wife figured it out. She became a Catholic.

John Salza

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9. Tim Staple’s view of the historicity of Jonah

Patron: I was on the Catholic Answers Blog the other day and found the following blurb from Tim Staples, a Catholic Answers apologist. As you can see below, he essentially says that the story of Jonah is not historically accurate, even though it teaches certain truths for our salvation. Mr. Staples writes:  

"Fiction" is not a good word to use in this context (in my opinion) in modern Western culture because folks often think of "Fiction" as equivalent to "not true." The Church holds to the possibility that books like Jonah and Judith may well be extended parables or stories written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to relate certain truths for our salvation. This does not mean that these books are "not true" any more than we would say Jesus' parables are "not true" because they are... parables. In other words, the parables of Jesus are not intended to tell of, for example, an actual "householder who planted a vineyard" (Matt. 21:33). They are intended to relate certain essential truths of the Faith. The same can be said of Jonah and Judith. We should note here that Catholics are free to hold a more historical view of these books as well. The Church has not definitively declared the matter in either direction. So opinions in either direction should be respected. As St. Augustine said... "in matters non-essential, liberty..." Of course, we would also do well to remember the axiom of St. Augustine that says we should avoid an interpretation of Scripture that would render the Scriptures a laughingtock. We should be careful to heed GOOD biblical scholarship. Moreover, we should be careful not to fall into the trap of the defenders of a Fundamentalist approach to Scripture who say, "Jesus believed Jonah was literal history because he said 'as Jonah was in the belly of the whale...'" (cf. Matt. 12:40) I may speak of a character in a play or movie as: "Then the Count of Monte Christo said..." This does not mean I believe the character to have actually existed. The final point I would make here is that we should be careful to admit freedom of inquiry and opinion in this matter until the Church declares one way or the other.

Tim Staples

J. Salza: It is true that the stories of the Bible contain a variety of literary techniques that intend to relate certain truths of our salvation that go beyond the literal words. However, Mr. Staples' comparison of Jesus' parables with the story of Jonah is misleading. It suggests that the story of Jonah is not historical (just like there wasn't an actual householder with a vineyard), even though the words that make up the story are true (because they are God-breathed). If I am understanding Mr. Staples correctly, he is saying that words or message of Jonah is true, even though the story of Jonah may not have actually happened (that is, Jonah may not have really been swallowed by a large fish). There are problems with this approach.

Unlike the story of the householder, where Jesus makes it clear that He is speaking a parable, there is nothing in the story of Jonah that suggests it is not real history. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that Jonah is real history. In condemning the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and lack of faith, Jesus first refers to the story of Jonah to demonstrate how the men of Nineveh repented and how they will judge the unjust at the resurrection. Jesus then follows His reference to Jonah with a reference to the Queen of the South who came to hear the wisdom of Solomon and who will also judge the wicked at the final judgment (see Matt. 12:40-42). If the story of the Queen of Sheba is true (which is how Jesus treats it), then the story of Jonah is true. Exegetical equilibrium demands the same. This is how Jesus could say that “just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights,” so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth before His resurrection. Either both Jonah and Christ were buried literally (Jonah in the fish, and Christ in the cave), or they were not.

Mr. Staples says that the Church has not issued a definitive teaching on the story of Jonah (which is true as she rarely issues definitive teachings on particular Scripture passages). However, the Church has declared that Scripture narrates historical events properly and objectively, and we are not to hold a contrary opinion unless "it is proved with strong arguments that the sacred writer did not wish to put down true history, and history properly so-called, but to set forth, under the appearance and form of history a parable, an allegory, or some meaning removed from the properly literal or historical significance of the words." (Pontifical Biblical Commission, 1905, with the approval of Pope St. Pius X). The sainted Pope reiterated this approach to Scripture in his great encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1907).

Unless one can prove with "strong arguments" that the story of Jonah is not true history, then Catholics read the events as historical - just like Augustine, Jerome, Cyril of Jerusalem and Chrysostom did. That approach is not "fundamentalist" and does not make Scripture a "laughingstock" as Mr. Staples suggests. It is the Catholic approach to exegeting Sacred Scripture. If Mr. Staples is aware of any strong arguments against the historicity of the events in Jonah, let him bring them forth. I am not aware of any.

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10. The “Material Sufficiency” of Scripture

Keith: John, thank you for your incredible website. It demonstrates that the Catholic faith is truly the religion of the Bible. As you support all of Catholic teaching using the Bible, does this mean you believe in the material sufficiency of Scripture?

J. Salza: Keith, it depends on what you mean by “material sufficiency.” The Church has not defined this term for us; it is simply a theological concept. If “material sufficiency” means that all the doctrines of the Catholic faith can be found, however remotely, in Scripture, well, I believe that www.ScriptureCatholic.com demonstrates that this viewpoint is true. This is to be contrasted with “formal sufficiency,” the erroneous Protestant notion that all doctrines necessary for our salvation are formally presented in Scripture. Whether or not one accepts the “material sufficiency” of Scripture really depends upon the view point of the exegete.

For example, take the Assumption of Mary. When we read in Apocalypse 12 about the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her “feet” and on her “head” a crown of twelve stars, and this is the same woman that gave birth to the Savior, we can conclude that this woman is Mary who was assumed, body and soul, into heaven (we see the presence of her “head” and “feet” which means she has a body in heaven). She is distinguished from the disembodied “souls” of the martyrs in Apocalypse 6:9 who do not have their bodies. Thus, in my opinion, Apocalypse 12:1 is materially sufficient to support the dogma of the Assumption. However, because no Scripture verse says that Mary was explicitly assumed by God into heaven, others may disagree with the materially sufficiency of the verse as regards the Assumption. Again, it depends upon the perspective of the exegete.

We should note that a majority of the early Church fathers believed in the material sufficiency of Scripture. Their writings are replete with comments about Scripture being the “rule of faith” and “sufficient” for instruction. When the Fathers talk about the “sufficiency” of Scripture, however, they never do so at the exclusion of the oral apostolic tradition and living Magisterium of the Catholic Church. To the contrary, those Fathers who wrote about the material sufficiency of Scripture wrote elsewhere about the equally binding apostolic tradition and the authentic interpreter of all Tradition (both written and unwritten), the Catholic Magisterium.

Since Catholic apologists have systematically exposed the heretical ideas of Protestants by using the early Church Fathers, Protestant apologists are trying to mount a counter-attack by appealing to the Fathers themselves. This approach further exposes their error. As regards our current topic, Protestant apologists make the error of cherry picking quotes from the Fathers which talk about the sufficiency of Scripture, without understanding the difference between material and formal sufficiency, and without considering what the Father invariably wrote about the apostolic tradition and Magisterium.

Moreover, the very Fathers Protestants appeal to (e.g., Cyril of Jerusalem) also believed in the sacrifice of the Mass, infant baptism, saintly intercession, purgatory and a whole host of other Catholic doctrines from which they dissent! This puts Protestant apologists in quite a quandary. If they claim that the Fathers taught the doctrine of sola Scriptura, then why don’t they accept the other doctrines these Fathers unanimously taught? On the one hand, they are advancing the Father’s purported interpretation of Scripture (to prove sola Scriptura), and on the other hand, they are claiming that the same Father was a blatant heretic for his Catholic interpretations of Scripture! What a dilemma for the Protestant apologist.

The Protestant appeal to the Fathers underscores the utter fallacy of sola Scriptura. It proves that the Bible does not give us a definitive way of resolving doctrinal disputes. This is difficult for many Protestants to accept, especially when they are quick to dismiss the teachings of the Fathers who were closest to the Apostles, and rely instead upon the teachings of their Western pastors, 20 centuries removed! They must remember that humility precedes faith, just as faith precedes understanding.

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11. A Dialogue with a “Bible-only” Christian on Sola Scriptura

David: John 3:3,6 explains the meaning of john3:3,5 Go one more verse. jesus is not talking about baptisum with ordinary water, he is talking about the water at birth.

J. Salza: David, you don't know what Jesus is talking about because you weren't there when John wrote John 3:5,6. The only way you can know what John meant is by asking John. But John died, so that is not possible. So what do you do? The next best thing is to read the writings of those John taught about John 3:5. For example, John directly taught Polycarp, who taught Ireneaus. These two men write that John 3:5 is about water baptism. So, who am I to believe? You? Or the men that the Apostle John directly taught?

If you read the early Church Fathers, they were unanimous in their belief that John 3:5 was about water baptism. So David, you need to interpret the Scriptures in light of the teaching tradition and authority of the Catholic Church who gave you the Scriptures.

David: I think your a little confused about who gave the scripture! God is the only who gives scripture! and he is the only one who gave it, not the catholic church. The bible is the word of god! not the word of the catholic church. The catholic church is not the one who saved the scripture for the rest of us over the century's. It is god who save the scripture, not the pope. I talk to a few catholics and asked then if they even read there bible "They said no". Then I ask them if they know anything about the "CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH" they said no, they never even heard of it! Then I asked them if they would like to know what it saids? They said "not really".  I read it and I know more than they do, and I'm not even catholic.

J. Salza: David, you are misunderstanding my point. God is the author of Sacred Scripture. The Catholic Church even teaches that the Holy Ghost dictated the words to the sacred authors. The Bible is the infallible Word of God. That is not the issue.

The issue is: How do you know what are the inspired Scriptures? The Bible doesn't have an inspired table of contents. The only reason why you know what books are inspired is because the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture. The Bible doesn't tell us what books belong in the Bible. The Church tells us. So if you believe that the 27 books in the New Testament are inspired, you are accepting an infallible decision of the Catholic Church.

Remember, an effect can never be greater than its cause. If the canon of Scripture is infallible (which it is), then it must have come from an infallible source (which it did).

David: You give to much credit to the catholic church! You should give more credit to god for he is the one who determines everything. The bible is his book! he is the author and he determines what goes in it and what comes out of it. No church on earth has that authority not even the one I go to. God determines what you believe! Scripture was canonical at the moment they were written.

J. Salza: David, you are only proving my point. God determines what is inspired. The Bible is God's book. Yes. But if God determined the canon of Scripture (which He did), then how did He let us know about it?

The answer is that He did it through His Church. If you study history, you see that the canon was determined by the Catholic Church at regional councils in Rome, Hippo and Carthage in 382, 393 and 397 A.D. Even Protestants admit this history.

So, unlike what you are contending, the Bible didn't just fall out of the sky. God did not give us an inspired table of contents. There were 50 different "gospels" floating around Judea during the first centuries of the Church. It took an authority to determine what was inspired and what was not inspired. God gave this authority to the Church, just like He gave the same Church the authority to define the dogmas of God and Christ which even you believe (the Trinity, dogmas on Christology).

Please pray about this.

David: what church is gods church? The cannon was determined by god alone! If history is written correctly the catholic was only the instrument. Your right the table of contents is probly not inspired. Man is only the instrument by which the scripture was created (written) he had nothing to say about what goes in it or how it was put together. God was incharge from start to finish. Now maybe he chose to the catholic church to put it together at a certain period in time, that I could belive. The catholic church was that instrument.  I Know what you trying to say! The catholic church does not control how the scripture is to be read or understood! Then would be under the control of man.

J. Salza: David, you have correctly admitted that the Catholic Church was the instrument that God chose to reveal the canon of Scripture. The precise instrument was Pope Damasus, who made the determination of the canon.

Please answer this question: If God gave the Catholic Church the authority to infallibly determine the canon of Scripture, then isn't it possible that God gave the same Church the authority to determine other doctrines of the faith?

David: I could believe that the catholic church was choosen to put it together " if history was written "correctly".  We all known history isn't always written correctly. Yes I could believe the pope damasus did do it "but" I don't believe he did it as a man (human) making his own decision as to what whent into the bible itself  "God did" he used him to put it together. God was in control always do you really think he would let man mess up his book. The only one who determines the cannon of Scripture is god. Anything outside of scripture is questionable! 

You can have outside stuff! But in order to believe it, it would have to have some reference to scripture. You mentioned other doctorine what doctorine is that? I attend church at calvary chapel. In have been researching other religons making sure that I am on the right path to salavation "like the bible tells us to". I am not trying to convince anyone to change there religous beliefs, I'm trying to get them to convince me to change mine "in truth" not deception. I have not found them yet. "The bible is the only truth". Remember jesus said "Upon this rock you will make ""My"" church. I don't think he mentioned the Catholic church. People tend to fill-in the "My" with there own church. I've have been in churches that say they are the only church.

J. Salza: David, I hope I can be of assistance to you. First, you are operating under a premise that isn't true. The premise is: "It must be in the Bible in order for it to be true." No where does the Bible teach such a thing.

Instead, the Bible teaches that the gospel comes to us through both the written (Scripture) and unwritten (oral) traditions. The gospel in her fullness has been entrusted by Christ to His Church. St. Paul says that the Church, not the Bible, is the pinnacle and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).

You mentioned Matthew 16:18-19 which is a very important verse. In this verse, Jesus says that He will build His Church upon the rock of St. Peter, to whom He gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven and the authority to infallibly bind and loose. The only Church that claims and proves to have been built upon Peter is the Catholic Church. In fact, the Catholic Church was the only Church around for 1500 years until Luther started the Reformation.

If you read what the early Church Fathers of the first centuries said, you will find that they all believed in the Catholic Church which Christ built upon Peter and His successors. Pope Damasus, who determined the Bible canon (as part of His binding authority which Jesus gave in Matt 16:19), was the 36th successor to Peter. The Catholic Church is the only Church that claims and proves to be the one Jesus established.

You can't read Scripture in a vacuum. You must study what the early Church believed. Once you do, you will find that all the Fathers believed in baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist, and the papacy, among other things. Christianity is not a religion of the book; it is a religion of the Word of God, which is found both in the written and oral traditions that we have received from the apostles through the Catholic Church.

David: Everything in the bible is true! As far as salavation goes the bible is the only word! Who is the church? Christ is the church also the body of belivers, also the word (bible) these are all one church. Do you think he gave peter the only key to heaven. I'm sure christ has one two! It all over that he saids "he is the way no one can to the father except thru him". When he told peter to build his church! I still don't see where he said the catholic church. I can see a clain that the catholic church said peter was talking about them! But I don't see the proof! When I see the catholic church mentioned in the bible that they are the one and only church, I will summit myshelf to there teachings. The passages you mentioned are not directed toward the catholic church they are directed toward the belivers in christ.  Maybe you need more than one perspective on the interpatation of what the bible actually saids. The whole book is a message form god. The book is the word of god. That is the only thing he left us, the bible started in genisus and ended in revalation after that there is know more.

J. Salza: David, what you need to do is read what the early Church said about Matthew 16:18-19. Not what your 21st century Protestant pastor says. ALL THE FATHERS held to the Catholic view of the papacy! There was not one single dissenter. Some of these men were trained DIRECTLY by the apostles (e.g., Ignatius, Polycarp).

Now, I assume that you are a reasonable person. So tell me, don't you think it behooves you to investigate what the direct successors to the apostles said about the papacy? Or would you rather remain ignorant? Do you really think you know better than the successors to the apostles? Don't let your pride get in the way.

David: I guess I'm ignorant then. I don't have pride I just have the bible! The bible is truth and truth will set you free. Your still relying on history that was written by man. There has been know new addition of the bible since the ending of revelation "The Completion".  But you know what I'll give you the benefit of the dough where can I find this information and I will research it.

J. Salza: I never said the Bible wasn't the truth, nor did I say that there is any new revelation that came after the death of the last apostle. You tend to put words in my mouth.

What I did say is that the Bible never makes the claims about itself that you do. The Bible never says it is the only authority for Christians. But you do. If you are going to make such an assertion, then you have to back it up with book, chapter and verse. If the bible is the only authority, then surely the bible must tell us so.

I will save you time checking. The Bible never says it is our only authority. Instead, the bible says that God has given us His revelation through both the oral and written word, which has been entrusted to the Church. If you really want to be faithful to the bible, then follow what the bible teaches.

David: Ok! you listen to the catholic church! and I'll keep listen to the bible as my only source of instruction on how to achieve salvation. The bible never commands you to listen to it, but if that's the word of god I think you should, after all he is the creatorand when the creator speaks you listen. I don't need a bible verse to tell me that. I do trust the written word! where is the oral word! What oral word do you mean?

J. Salza: David, you are not listening to me. YES, you should read the Scriptures! It is the Word of God. But the Bible doesn't say that it is the ONLY source for God's Word. Instead, it says that God's revelation comes to us through both the written and unwritten traditions (2 Thess 2:15).

Since the Catholic Church determined what the written tradition is, she also determines what the unwritten tradition is. This is the Church that Jesus built upon the rock of Peter. It is as simple as that.

David: You can't base a whole belief over one verse! because it could be taken out of context! The bible itself is whole message! When I first heard that verse I though he meet a rock "like one you pick-up from the ground, but as I found out that was the not the case. In matthew 16:16 I I'm pretty sure he was talking about him (christ) as being the the rock not petter. Here are some other verse in the bible that say christ is the rock 1Corinthians 10:4. psalm 18:31, deuteronomy 32:3-4, psalm 62:1-2, Psalm 94:22. christ is the only rock we can count.

J. Salza: David, you have to study how to exegete biblical texts.

Christ is the only rock, but He shares His rock status with Peter. Like I keep telling you (but you ignore), the early church Fathers were unanimous in their belief that Peter is the rock of Matt 16:18.

You emphatically state "the bible is the whole message!" I will ask you one more time: WHERE DOES THE BIBLE SAY IT IS THE WHOLE MESSAGE, THE ONLY AUTHORITY FOR CHRISTIANS?

If you cannot answer this question by giving me book, chapter and verse, you will know why this dialogue is over.

David: Christ is the rock! he is the church! The church in one body the body of christ! We all share the rock! (the members of the church) Not just peter. If peter is the rock of matthew 16:18, them how come knowwheres else in the bible does it say that?. It always saids christ is the rock. Everything revolves around christ, not man (read the bible). Some men where chosen above others to help spread the of the word, because of there detication to god. When you say early church fathers! how early are we talking about?

The bible doesen't say that! not directly, but it is inplied but what jesus is saying. It is repeated over and over again, he is the way and the light. Ok what other authority is there? If tradition is also a big part of gods plan for his church! well then I guess I can start my own church and one of my tradition is to bring me a pizza every sunday night before service, you are going to say where in the bible does it say I have to that! Nowheres. Do you see how wide open that is for anykind of made up traditions. The bible is the only way we can test truth.

If you want to end this conversation! we can do that! But let me say in closing. Go to calvary chapel (Or some other good church) and here the word of god in truth! you won't be disapointed. I have already been exposed to the catholic church thru my wife, it looks inpressive but looks can be decieving.

J. Salza: David, my brother, you do not know Scripture like you think you do. Jesus calls Peter the rock (Cephas, which is the Aramaic transliteration for "rock") in John 1:42.

Read the Fathers during the first five centuries of the Church. THEY ALL believed in the Catholic view of the papacy. That is because the Catholic Church was the only Church around during that time.

Tradition refers to the oral teaching that the apostles handed on to their successors. It is this tradition that has been preserved in the Catholic Church. Do you think that when the last letter of Scripture was written, the apostles told the churches to erase from their memory everything that they had been taught by them? God's word comes to us through both the oral and written tradition, and these are found only in the Catholic Church.

Study the Fathers on my website, and if you are looking for the truth, you will find it.

David: Your right (cephas) it does mean "rock". That doesn't really change anything. He is the first believer to present the gospel to gentiles. God used him as a foundation for the first church (the start), Like a foundation for a building, once the foundation is built the rest of the building is constructed on top of it.  Once his task was complete that was the end of his role. Where in the bible does it say he had any successors and that he would hold that role (office) forever. He disappears from view after that.

I'm just starting my research on church history! I really can't say much about yet! our knowledge of history is not cast in stone, that's one reason I take like a grain of salt.

I have know problem with oral teaching or even tradition for that matter, but  only as long as there bible based (reference in the bible). There is know way of knowing what they said outside of what they said in the bible. If your talking about something somebody said 2000 years! there is know way 2000 years later you will get the same message word for work. That's impossible, but not for god! that's why he left us the bible.

I don't not all of scripture! but I do know the basics! and if you don't have a firm grasp on the basics your in trouble. How are you going to be able to know the rest of it. I do some teaching here and I know that for a fact.

J. Salza: David, I really can't believe some of the statements you make. Like "once Peter's task was complete, that was the end of his role." Have you read Acts? As soon as Jesus ascended into heaven, Peter led the Church. He is the one who made infallible decisions (e.g., Peter's decisions on apostolic succession and circumcision). EVERY Church Father wrote that Peter was the Vicar of Christ, the man with the keys to the kingdom, God's representative on earth.

Regarding your statements about oral tradition, have you read 2 Thess 2:15? St. Paul commands us to obey oral tradition. Are you saying that St. Paul is commanding us to do the impossible? Because we can't really know what the tradition is? Shame on you. We know what the authentic, apostolic oral tradition is because Christ entrusted it to the Church.

For your information, 78% of the New Testament has corruptions. There are textual variants almost everywhere. How do you know what the true Scripture is? The fact is, in the absence of an authority to tell you what the true Scripture is, you don't know. You cannot know, because you are not infallible. The Church, however, is infallible, because Christ gave her that authority. Thus, we know the oral and written tradition because the Church tells us what they are. This does not diminish the fact that we are dealing with God's Word. To the contrary, it preserves and protects God's Word, because it doesn't leave it to the subjective whim of its readers.

David: OK! who's church is it? peters or christ? if its christ he makes the rules (written or oral). If its peter's he makes the rules (written or oral). Since christ said it was his church he must make the rules "Upon my church". Now since christ is god and the bible is his book telling us what to do in order to go heaven, we should listen to him (the bible). Like I said is from god not peter (man). If its not in bible I will question it. Who said peter was the first pope?

J. Salza: READ the Scriptures. It is Christ's Church and He makes the rules. But Christ delegates His authority to His Vicar while He is in heaven. That is why Jesus told Peter: "Whatever you bind or loose on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven" Mt 16:19. David, did you prayerfully read that passage? And did you read how all the Fathers interpreted that passage? Jesus gives Peter the authority to rule and govern His Church while He is in heaven. Kingdoms are governed by people, not books. If you believe that the Bible tells you how to get to heaven (and it does), then follow what the Bible actually says. Listen to Peter and his successors, for they speak in the name of Jesus Christ Himself. Who said Peter is the first pope? The Fathers of the Church (the men of the first seven centuries who received the teachings from the apostles and handed them on to their successors).

David: I'm not guite sure what that passage means yet! Peter I'm sure has some authority (he was choosen)! But how much and what kind I'm not sure yet!  I not going to say he had the authority to determine who did and didn't go to heaven. Are you sure you are understanding that verse correctly? Are you sure you are  following what the bible teaches. Why do need the bible to prove any point for you, it's just a book. You still haven't pointed out where the bible said peter was the first pope! If there is such an office. You still haven't point out where in the bible does it say peter had a sucessors? If you can't prove this in scripture, I have to question it, I have know other choice. Give me some more evidence. Who are the fathers that interpeted MT 16:19?

J. Salza: David, you are still operating under the presupposition that "it must be in the Bible to be true." The Bible doesn't say that. The Bible doesn't give us the canon of Scripture, yet you believe in the canon. The Bible doesn't mention the word "Trinity" but you believe in the Trinity. The Bible doesn't say what you have to do to have a valid marriage, but you believe that you can have a valid (or invalid) marriage.

I don't need the Bible to prove anything for me. If the Bible was never written, we would still have the Christian faith because Christ left us a Church. God has given us His Word through the Church in both the written and unwritten tradition.

If you want to study what the Fathers said about Peter and the papacy, I recommend two books: "Jesus, Peter and the Keys" and "Upon this Rock." I will have a book out on the papacy in 2007. You can also look at the many quotes I have on my website at www.scripturecatholic.com

David: The bible doesn't mention the word "bible" either, but we believe it to be the word of god. No it doesn't say what a valid marriage is. It does say we have to obey the laws of man! Everybody has to get a marriage license from the state they live in. Man said your married your married "that's the law" even in the eyes of god. The bible does tell us how we are to conduct our shelf in a marriage, and what it considers grounds for a divorce.

A church without the word "Bible" would not be a church of god! It would be a church of man. Without the bible there would be no church at least not the one as we know it. Christ is the church! Just as this earth is his, and just as we are his, he paid the price for us he owns us.  You are right books don't rule kingdom's, It is what is written inside them that rule kingdom's. I haven't been back to your web site since we first started this dialog. John I will start with your website in my research of the early church.

J. Salza: David, the fact that the Bible doesn't teach us every single point of Christian doctrine proves my point that you look outside the Bible for authority as well. You, David, do not rely solely upon the Bible for your understanding of Christianity, even though you claim you do. The fact is, you also follow the oral tradition that has been handed on to us through the Church. That oral tradition includes the canon of Scripture which you accept, even though the canon of Scripture is not in the Bible. I wish, after all this time, you could at least admit that much.

Your statement "without the Bible there would be no Church" is plainly wrong. If your statement were true, then we would not have had a Church until 382 A.D. when the canon of the Bible was determined. Yet we know the Church existed since Jesus' Ascension as history, tradition and the Scriptures affirm.

David, how did the Church exist for 400 years if there was no Bible?

David: It tech's us everything we need to know to be a good Christian! It teaches everything we need to know to obtain salvation, That's the most important thing isn't it? It teaches us how we should act as good Christians if we want to belong to the church of Christ. Without the bible everything would be handed down orally! There would be know way of testing the truth. Let me give you an example of what I mean!

I teach sometimes at the college, I give oral instruction along with a demonstration and they have book as reference in case there is any confusion, in a sense the book holds me to a correct oral instruction. The book is my test on weather my oral instruction is correct or not. The same way for the bible it test our oral instruction "meaning are we correct with what we are teaching them (orally or written)! Lets check the bible" for the test of truth. I do write instruction in my own words that are not in the same format as the book! but the information and the meaning are the same. I am still researching the early church, But what I have read so far that there was some confusing in the church after the original apostles left the earth to be with our lord.

J. Salza: David, it is the Church, not the Bible, that serves as the "test" of whether or not something is true. That is why Paul calls the Church, not the Bible, the pinnacle and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).

It is not true that “everything we need to know to be a good Christian” is in the Bible. What about in-vitro fertilization? Surrogate motherhood? Stem cell research? These are questions of life and death, heaven and hell. But they are not in the Bible. So what does David do to resolve these life and death questions? Does he appeal to the divinely-appointed authority that God has given us? Or does he make his own fallible judgments and risk losing his soul?

Let me use your analogy to prove your conclusion is erroneous. You teach your college students orally. The students get together and have different interpretations of what you said. So they decide to check their different interpretations against your textbook. But because your textbook is so old and has been translated and retranslated thousands of times in hundreds of different languages, they discover that almost 80% of the words in your textbook have textual variants (which is the case with the New Testament).

Some translations support Student A's argument, but other translations support Student B's argument. So what are the students to do? They have to go back to you, the teacher, and get the right answer. The text cannot resolve the dispute. They need a living and breathing authority to resolve the question. The text is only a dead letter until it is made alive by the one who has the authority to interpret it.

This is why Jesus Christ left us His Holy Catholic Church. The Church interprets, preserves and protects God's Word, whether the oral or written tradition, so that the faithful know what is true and what is false. God didn't leave us a book to be our sole, governing authority. The book necessarily requires someone to interpret it authoritatively. This is why Saint John says that we discern truth and error, not from reading the Bible, but by listening to the Church.

Thank you for providing an example that explains why we need the Church as our guide.

David: How would you know he even said that if you didn't have the bible (scripture). How would you know there was even an apostle name Paul if there was know bible (scripture) to give you that information, "You Wouldn't". You would have to rely on some written or oral account of the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ form some other reliable or possibly unreliable source "you don't know". Having a good teacher and a good textbook = They won't have many different interpretation. Some teachers are better than others. Some textbooks are better than others, you have to have the right combination. My textbook may be translated into other languages and there may be some textual variants,but the message is the same in all languages. There is only one way to draw a line you start at point A and go to point B. The wording is a little different in some version of the bible, that has to do with the translation from the different languages but the underlining message is the same, and that is what is important.

I though Christ left us "The church of God" That's what Paul called it. I guess he really meant "The Holy catholic church".  The sole governing authority is god! the church belongs to god! Jesus said that himself "My church". The bible (scripture) is the word of god and if you want to be part of his church, the bible tells you how to do it. lets define what the bible is! the bible is a book, inside that book you have scripture "the work of god". I guess you don't have to call it the "Bible". You can call it "scripture" if you want. Or you can call it the "book of scripture" what ever you want. It talks about how to be a good Christian and how to obtain salivation.

J. Salza: David, you are very wrong once again.

1. "How would you know that if it isn't in the Bible?" Okay, David, let's play by your rules. How do you know who wrote the Gospel of Matthew, or Mark, or Luke or John? Since the Gospels don't "give you that information," how do you know the authorship of the Gospels? Answer this question directly.

2. You say "some teachers may be better than others." This is true. But by whose standard? Yours? Or God's? God promised Peter that whatever he bound or loosed on earth would be bound or loosed in heaven. That is a promise of infallible teaching authority. So, David, God ensures that His representative is "better than the others." We have the promise of God Himself.

3. "The message is the same in all languages." Really? Then how come some Protestant churches believe that John 3:5 refers to baptism, and other Protestant churches believe that John 3:5 has nothing to do with baptism? Is that because "the message is the same in all languages?" Obviously not. Jesus was making a statement about what it takes to get to heaven. This is a statement about eternal life or eternal death. The stakes are pretty high, wouldn't you say, David? And yet, without an authority to tell us the meaning of John 3:5, we have nothing but pious opinions. Guess what? If we take Jesus at His Word, the faction that misinterpets John 3:5 doesn't go to heaven. They go to hell.

David, is this how God wants the salvation program to work? To have mass confusion among the faithful, where we all bicker about interpretations of Scripture, even on those verses that bear upon our eternal destiny? I don't think so. He gave us a Church to resolve these questions. The Church is the pinnacle and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).

David, you live in a world of comfortable religious subjectivism. You decide what Scripture means. You decide if its faith alone, or faith plus works, or grace, or repentance, or faith plus repentance, or faith plus works plus repentance, or faith plus love, or love plus works, or repentance plus works, etc. You are the final judge. You have annointed yourself your own pope. This is not part of God's plan. It is of the devil. You must submit to the leaders that God has put over you. May God give you the grace to see this truth.

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12. A debate on the meaning of “oral tradition”

Ron: John, I saw your article on oral tradition. You are perpetuating a common misconception. Sacred Infallible Tradition is not an oral tradition. If it were, then you could quote for me from an infallible oral tradition. You cannot (other than quotes from Scripture), therefore such an infallible oral Tradition does not exist.

Tradition is 'the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation.' Dei Verbum, n. 2. The transmission of Tradition involves words, written and spoken, as well as deeds, but Tradition itself is the deeds of God in salvation history.

See my article on Tradition.

Ron Conte

J. Salza: Ron, the Church does not subscribe to your definition of tradition. You cannot divorce the "transmission" of tradition from tradition itself, since tradition, by its very definition (in Greek, paradosis) means "to hand on." See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 81:

"And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."

Further, St. Paul commands us to obey the oral traditions in 2 Thess 2:14 (Douay-Rheims). Since the Scriptures are the living Word of God, this must mean that there are oral traditions for us 21st century Westerners to follow. Otherwise, Paul's command would be meaningless. Therefore, it is erroneous to claim, as you do, that "an infallible oral tradition does not exist." If that were true, then God through Paul would not have ordered us to follow oral tradition, for God does not command us to do the impossible.

Ron: John, You are ignoring the definition of Tradition given by Vatican II "the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation" Dei Verbum, n. 2. Quote to me from this infallible oral tradition.

You cannot because Tradition is the Deeds of God, not the words. {2:14} Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.

He does not say that the traditions are oral, but rather that they are transmitted by the spoken and written word. Tradition is distinct from the transmission of Tradition. But confusing Tradition with its transmission is a common error (which even the Catechism makes).

What you are teaching online, with the claim that it is Church teaching, is a common misunderstanding about Sacred Tradition. You are leading the faithful into an error about an important teaching within the Faith.

Again, e-mail me a quote from an infallible oral tradition. You cannot because if such an infallible oral tradition existed, it could be written down, and they we would have two Bibles (which is not possible).

J. Salza: Ron, you are basing your entire argument on a nebulous statement of Vatican II about tradition, but Vatican II was not issuing a dogmatic definition of tradition. Previous councils and the current Catechism of the Catholic Church have already provided us the definition of Tradition.

However, you have arrogated to yourself the authority to declare that the Catechism of the Catholic Church has made an error. Why don't you write an article about the Catechism's erroneous definition of tradition? And include all the councils before Vatican II in your condemnation as well.

You argue that tradition is limited to the "deeds of God." Yet nowhere does the Church ever say that tradition "is limited to the deeds of God." Nevertheless, let's stick with your definition. If tradition is only the "deeds of God," then what are those "deeds"? Where does the Church give us a list of those "deeds"?

The fact is, if you want to argue that tradition is the "deeds of God," then one of these "deeds" is God's transmission of His living Word into written form (Sacred Scripture). If that is true (which it is), then God's transmission of His Word into unwritten form (Sacred Tradition) is also one of the "deeds of God." It's all or nothing. Either God's word as communicated to us in written and unwritten form is tradition (Greek, paradosis), or it is not.

St. Paul gives us the answer in 2 Thess 2:14. He commands us to hold to the oral and written traditions (that is, whether by word or by epistle). Now, in response to Paul's clear teaching, you write: "He does not say that the traditions are oral, but rather that they are transmitted by the spoken and written word." This is a distinction without a difference. Tell me, if there is no "oral tradition," then what is the "they" in your sentence that is being "transmitted by the spoken word"?

Ron: You are dismissing the insights offered by Vatican II because they disagree with your own understanding.

J. Salza: Quite the contrary, I am actually advancing Vatican II's definition of tradition which, as Dei Verbum propounds, is the Word of God that has been entrusted by Christ and the Holy Spirit to the apostles and handed down to us. The same document identifies tradition with the transmission of those truths.

Ron: Previous Councils did not give a specific definition of Tradition; them mention it, but the topic has not received enough attention from the Magisterium.

J. Salza: The Catechism of the Catholic Church merely restates what the popes, councils, doctors and Fathers have taught always and everywhere about tradition - that it is the Word of God transmitted to us both orally and in writing, preserved, protected and propounded by the Church's Magisterium. This is precisely my position. You, on the other hand, are arguing that there is no oral tradition. If you believe there is no oral tradition, then that makes you an adherent of sola Scriptura (written tradition alone).

Ron: On the point about tradition, it's not so much an error in the Catechism as it is a confusion between tradition itself and the transmission of tradition. The prior Councils and prior magisterial documents do not give an infallible definition of Tradition. We do not have an infallible definition of Tradition from the Magisterium yet, so it is an open question as to what tradition is, what its limits are, etc.

J. Salza: So the Church, in 1992, got confused about what Tradition really is? That seems to be what you are suggesting. You are trying to create a distinction between "tradition" and the "transmission of tradition," but I have told you that this is a distinction without a difference. The "tradition" is what is "transmitted," which is the meaning of the word Tradition. Think of it this way. First, there are eternal truths of God. Second, God communicates these truths to us by way of Tradition. The "Tradition" is the truths of God (the first part), but "Tradition" is also the communication of those truths (the second part). That is why Scripture is called "tradition." They are the written communication of God's eternal truths. This is the same with oral Tradition. Christ told the apostles certain truths orally, and they communicated those truths orally to their successors.

Ron: The Church has never clearly defined Tradition. It is one of the areas of doctrine in need of development and further clarification.

J. Salza: The Church has indeed provided us the general definition of tradition in her magisterial documents and catechisms throughout the centuries. The only thing the Church has not done is given us a list of all the oral traditions. But the same would apply to the Scriptures. Almost 80 percent of the New Testament has corruptions (textual variants). The Church has almost never told us what the true Scriptures are where there are discrepancies. However, the Church could do this if she had to, just like she could give us a list of the oral traditions if she had to. The fact that there is not a list of oral traditions (or a list of the true Scriptures among textual variants) does not mean that such a list does not exist.

Ron: There is no list of God's deeds, however, certainly the preeminent deed is the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for our salvation. So Tradition, since it includes that deed, also includes the very source of our salvation. If Tradition is otherwise defined, then Salvation would not be found within Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium; it would be external to those three things.

J. Salza: You are basing your argumentation on a false premise - that tradition includes only the deeds of God. Vatican II never defines tradition that way, and neither did any other pope or council. But let's assume your definition is correct. If tradition includes only the "deeds of God," the "deeds" would include God's transmission of His truths to us human beings through both the oral word (Jesus' teachings; the Holy Ghost's promptings) or the written word (divine inspiration of the Scriptures). If not, then the transmission of God's truths from God would not be a deed of God which of course is false.

The fact is, if you want to argue that tradition is the "deeds of God," then one of these "deeds" is God's transmission of His living Word into written form (Sacred Scripture). If that is true (which it is), then God's transmission of His Word into unwritten form (Sacred Tradition) is also one of the "deeds of God." It's all or nothing. Either God's word as communicated to us in written and unwritten form is tradition (Greek, paradosis), or it is not.

Ron: Yes, the writing of Scripture is one of the deeds of God in salvation history, so the actual act of writing Scripture is a deed of Tradition. Scripture proceeds from Tradition, just as the Son proceeds from the Father.

J. Salza: Scripture doesn't proceed from Tradition; Scripture IS Tradition, the written tradition that proceeds from God. It is the communicated Word of God in written form. Same thing with oral tradition. Oral Tradition proceeds from Christ; it is the communicated Word of God in oral form. Tradition is the eternal truth of God that has been communicated to us through these two modes.

Ron: 'they' refers to the truths taught to us by the deeds of God in salvation history. Such deeds are salvific, but not merely salvific, they also teach us truth. For example, Christ's death on the Cross teaches us how to live. The deeds of God are Tradition itself. The deeds teach truths. The truths are handed down orally and in writing, and more so by the way that we live our lives.

J. Salza: Yes, and these deeds include His transmission of His truth to us in both the oral and written form.

Ron: St. Paul is referring to the process of transmitting the truths of Tradition, which of course includes the spoken word as well as the written word as well as the example of our lives.

J. Salza: St. Paul is telling us to obey tradition, which is what has been communicated to the faithful by either the oral or written word. God's communicated Word is the tradition we must obey, whether it comes to us by way of the written or oral form.

Ron: I see from you words that you have insight into the Faith. Do not assume that you have completely understood Tradition and that you have nothing more to learn about it.

J. Salza: Amen. I always strive to learn more every day as I hold fast to the traditions that have been handed down to me.

Ron: Also, I notice that you have twice ignored my challenge to quote from an infallible oral Tradition.

J. Salza: I could similarly ask you to quote for me all of the true Scriptures. You would be unable to do so, because 78% of the New Testament has textual variants, and you have no way of resolving these discrepancies. Yet, based on your inability to do so, I would not declare that there is not one written tradition. Your challenge reminds me of how the Protestant apologists approach oral tradition.

Oral tradition refers to the truths that Christ taught the apostles. So when you say "quote from," there is no document from which to quote. That, however, doesn't mean that there are no oral traditions, just like textual variants don't mean we don't have true Scriptures. Oral traditions include the canon of Scripture, Mary's perpetual virginity, Christ's divinity, Christ's two natures and two wills. These are truths that have been handed down to us from Christ and the apostles.

Ron: thanks for your interesting replies.

J. Salza: Likewise. God bless.

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13. Oral tradition, Scripture, and Jesus’ teachings

Shazia: Hi, my name is Shazia and I am starting your book "The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith." I am on the chapter regarding Sola Scriptura, and I am coming across some questions based on things you have said in this chapter so far.

1) You said that the presence of oral Apostolic Tradition makes the argument of Sola Scriptura invalid because this means that the Gospel was orally transmitted for three centuries or so before it was officially compiled into writing. But if Sola Scriptura states that anything that is not explicitly stated in the Bible is invalid, doesn't the Oral Tradition (albeit unwritten) count as Scripture, if most of it eventually became disseminated in written format? It does not seem that Oral transmission of the Gospel is necessarily in conflict with Sola Scriptura if that Oral transmission became what is now our Gospel. Is Sola Scripture confined to written Scriptures alone? Because Protestants could very well argue that the Oral Tradition that existed before the Scriptures were compiled were consistent with what is in the Bible now, and therefore there is no difference between Oral Tradition and written Scripture; only the means of communication is different.

2) You had said that Jesus taught many things that were not recorded in the Bible, but in John it said that Jesus DID many things that were not recorded in the Bible, not "taught." Does "did" and "taught" mean the same things? Should they mean the same things? Does the fact that he did many things that were not written in the Bible, mean that he also taught many things that were not in the Bible?

3) You also said in a Bible quote that no prophecy is a matter or private interpretation; therefore Scripture itself is a matter of public interpretation. But is it prophecy alone that is not to be subject to private interpretation, or does "prophecy" imply the entirety of Scripture? To me it makes a big difference.

J.Salza: Shazia,

1. No where does the Bible say that all or even most of the oral tradition was committed to Scripture, so your premise is erroneous. The major dogmas of Christianity, such as the Trinity, is not explicitly stated in Scripture, for example. Same for the two wills and natures of Christ, the hypostatic union, the canon of Scripture, etc. That God commands us to obey both the oral and written tradition through St. Paul also demonstrates that sola Scriptura is invalid.

2. There is no difference between "did" and "taught" because what the Savior "did" and "taught" were for our salvation. That means they are both part of divine revelation, but not all of these things were recorded in Scripture. Scripture accounts for only about 100 days of Jesus' earthly ministry. Moreover, Jesus never commanded any of the apostles to write anything down during His ministry, and only five of them chose to write at the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Jesus commanded all of them to hand on the gospel orally, which is Sacred Tradition.

3. If no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private interpretation, then that means Scripture itself is not a matter of private interpretation because Scripture is divinely inspired and hence must be interpreted by a divine authority. The countless divisions among Protestantism prove the point. Neither Christ nor any of the apostles ever intended for Scripture to be our only authority. In fact, sola Scriptura was a concept unheard of until 1500 years after Christ's ascension into heaven.

I hope you enjoy the book.

John Salza

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14. The necessity of knowing the Canon of Scripture

Mark: Greetings Mr. Salza...

Can you provide examples (or point to resources) of particular teachings from the oral tradition of The Church that are not supported by or do not appear in Scripture which have doctrinal significance?

I've read much about the importance of the 'Oral Tradition' and have read your page on your site, but don't see any examples of such teachings. All I see are exhortations as to the validity of those oral traditions, but no examples of what they actually are.

I am a Protestant who has a very good Catholic friend (and he and I have many productive conversations) and as I've said to him many times I can fully support any teaching from oral tradition that I can see justified by Scripture. But, if there are teachings of the oral tradition that are not supported by scripture or which perhaps even seem contradictory to scripture, then those I feel compelled to set aside.

I appreciate any assistance you can offer.

Kind regards,
Mark

J. Salza: Mark, start with the canon of Scripture (the books that belong in the Bible). The Bible doesn't tell you what the canon is, but knowing the canon is necessary for our salvation. The Catholic Church used the apostolic Tradition to determine the canon.

Other Traditions include the two natures of Christ, the two wills of Christ, the hypostatic union, the Trinity and other doctrines on God and Christology. None of these doctrines are expressly found in Scripture but are at the core of Christianity.

Mark: Hi again - could you explain one thing for me?

I don't understand what you mean by your statement, "knowing the canon is necessary for our salvation."?

J. Salza: Knowing what books belong in the Bible is necessary for salvation because if we didn't know what books were inspired, we would mix up the inspired books with the heretical books. This means we would have Bible teaching both truth and error, and this would be detrimental to our salvation. So knowing the canon with certainty is essential, and the Bible doesn't reveal it to us. The Church did. This is the principle of causality: an effect is never greater than its cause. If the canon is infallible, then the Church who determined it is also infallible.

God bless.
John Salza

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