If you want to know what the Early Church believed about tradition and the Word of God, here is a place to start.



1 Thessalonians 2

13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

2 Timothy 3

14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.


Those who defend Roman Catholic Tradition often refer to men of God of the first few centuries to support their own view that this Tradition is just as authoritative as God’s Word and is one of two sources of divine revelation. So, for Bible Christians it is a joy to discover that these men referred the believers of their own day to Holy Scripture. It is as if we can hear them shouting down the ages, proclaiming that Jesus Christ Alone is Lord and His Word Alone is to be trusted; in this way, they being dead still speak (Hebrews 11:4).

Here are several quotes about Holy Scripture from a few of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 11:1-2): 

For all but Jerome’s quote:

William Webster, “The Fathers on the Meaning of Tradition and its Relationship to Scripture,” The Church Of Rome At The Bar Of History, The Banner Of Truth Trust, 2003, pp. 155–161.

For Jerome’s quote:

David T. King, HOLY SCRIPTURE: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume I, A Biblical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura, CHRISTIAN RESOURCES, INC., 2001, p. 130.

I did my best to check these authors’ sources for quotes in order to get to original sources. If I’ve made mistakes in vetting or formatting, please forgive and let me know.

Irenaeus (140–202 A.D.)

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period by the will of God, handed to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. . .

Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded he doctrine regarding God. 

Against Heresies

Hippolytus (d. 235 A.D.)

There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practice piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things then the Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach these let us learn.

Against the Heresy of One Noetus

Clement of Alexandria (c.150–211/216 A.D.)

But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves. 

The Stromata [Miscellanies], Book VII, Chapter XVI – Scripture the Criterion by Which Truth and Heresy are Distinguished

Origen (c.185–253/254 A.D.)

In proof of all words which we advance in matters of doctrine, we ought to set forth the sense of Scripture as confirming the meaning which we are proposing. For as all gold which was outside of the temple was not sanctified, so every sense which is outside of the divine Scripture, however admirable it may appear to some, is not sacred because it is not limited by the sense of Scripture. Therefore we should not take our own ideas for the confirmation of doctrine, unless someone shows that they are holy because they are contained in the divine Scriptures as in the temples of God.

Philocalia [Philokalia]

Cyril of Jerusalem (315–386 A.D.)

For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures. 

Catechetical Lectures, NPNF2: Vol. VII, Lecture IV:17

Chrysostom (344/354–407 A.D.)

These then are the reasons; but it is necessary to establish them all from the Scriptures, and to show with exactness that all that has been said on this subject is not an invention of human reasoning, but the very sentence of the Scripture.

The Homilies of S. John Chrysostom, 2 Timothy, Homily 9

Hilary of Poitiers (315–367/368 A.D.) 

For all those things which are written in the divine Scriptures by Prophets and by Apostles we believe and follow truly and with fear.

On the Councils

Augustine (354–430 A.D.)

What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostle? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare be wiser than we ought.

The Unity of the Church, chapter 3

*Jerome (c. 27 March 347–30 September 420)

The sword of God smites whatever they draw and forge from a pretended (quasi) apostolic tradition, without the authority and testimony of the Scriptures. 

Jerome’s Commentary on Haggai 1:11, cited in Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology*

Eusebius (263–340 A.D.)

And I rejoiced over the constancy, sincerity, docility, and intelligence of the brethren, as we considered in order and with moderation the questions and the difficulties and the points of agreement. And we abstained from defending in every manner and contentiously the opinions which we had once held, unless they appeared to be correct. Nor did we evade objections, but we endeavoured as far as possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us, and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of Holy Scriptures. 

Church History, NPNF2–01: Chapter XXIV  – Nepos and his Schism.

Athanasius (295–375 A.D.)

For the true and pious faith in the Lord has become manifest to all, being both ‘known and read’ from the Divine Scriptures.

Athanasius, letter 60.6

John of Damascus (645–749 A.D.) 

Moreover, by the Law and the Prophets in former times, and afterwards by His Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, He disclosed to us the knowledge of Himself as that was possible for us. All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by the Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists we receive, and know, and honour, seeking for nothing beyond these. . .As knowing all things, therefore, and providing for what is profitable for each, He revealed that which it was to our profit to know; but what we were unable to bear He kept secret. With these things let us be satisfied, and let us abide by them, not removing everlasting boundaries, nor overpassing the divine tradition.

Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book I, chapter I


FURTHER READING

The Church Fathers and the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture by William Webster

Church Fathers on Sola Scriptura by Armchair Theologian, WordPress


 

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15 thoughts on “If you want to know what the Early Church believed about tradition and the Word of God, here is a place to start.

  1. Here is what I was told today by an RCer who is praying that “He will cause the scales to fall from your eyes and heal your soul so that you can see His Goodness, Beauty and Truth at work in and through His One Holy Catholic Church.”

    Here is her lesson for me:
    Jesus said to Peter, “you are the Rock upon which I will build my Church (Pietro (or Peter) means “rock”).” I assume you’re familiar with this. Since no man, including Peter, lives forever, Christ provides eternally for His Church through the succession of apostles, disciples and bishops of which the Pope is one, Bishop of Rome. This is the “apostolic succession” and tradition of the Church. And its not blasphemy, its how Christ intended to eternally provide for His Church on earth and to fulfill His command to “make disciples of all nations.” A Pope is only infallible when he speaks “ex cathedra” on matters of faith and morals and no Pope has done that for over a hundred years. It is not the role of the Pope and Bishops to change Church teachings, it is their role to insure that the teachings of Christ are handed down from generation to generation UNCHANGED and that’s why, in the quote you cite above, “the effective instrument of salvation is the Roman Pontificate”, this is an out-of-date way of saying that salvation lies within the teachings of Christ handed down via the Church and the person Christ entrusted to pass on those unchanging truths of the faith, i.e., the Successor of Peter or the Vicar of Christ on Earth. Notice what I said, Christ’s Vicar on Earth, I didn’t say Christ’s replacement on Earth as you allege above. To say the Pope is Christ’s Vicar on Earth means he is Christ’s chief advocate/preacher/defender on Earth and that comes from the fact that he is Successor of Peter to whom authority was given by Christ Himself. ..(here is where I told her that many RCers call the Pope ‘Jesus Christ on earth’ including FOX News at the Pope’s U.S. visit)…she responds: I am Catholic. I know what we believe. That is, the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on Earth and I already explained to you what that means and how the authority comes to him from Christ himself. While Fox may be better than any other news channel, they’re not immune from mistakes and they don’t always get it right. There may also be individual Catholics who misunderstand the role of the Pope and perhaps they misspoke on the clip you saw. No Catholic believes the Pope is God and don’t believe everything you see on television.

    Please pray for her~

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sorry, this is the quote I cited to her:
      “This is our last lesson to you: receive it, engrave it in your minds, all of you: by God’s commandment salvation is to be found nowhere but in the Church; the strong and effective instrument of salvation is none other than the Roman Pontificate.” (Pope Leo XIII, Allocution for the 25th anniversary of his election, February 20, 1903; Papal Teachings: The Church, Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, St. Paul Editions, Boston, 1962, par. 653)

      Liked by 2 people

      • The video isn’t on Roman Catholicism but at the end of the video he says he is going to a video on Roman Catholicism and said he will probably lose subscribers. I was afraid he might do it in a positive light because his friend, David Woods’ wife, did that X Mass video where she winked-remember that one? Anyway, I made a comment which you will see and when I thought to delete it, well, you will see my concerned “friend” made a comment for my husband’s welfare-then mine. You know how to minister on this subject better than I (I am like a bull in a china shop) so please do join in if you can.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sherry, we finished watching this video this morning. Nabeel needs prayer! It is heart-wrenching. About the reference he made to a Catholic apologist who put him in touch with a man who prays for cancer patients, my thoughts are that the Lord answered prayer for his healing with temporary relief, at least for now. Maybe his own prayers for healing will be answered. Nabeel’s connection with Ravi Zacharias’s ministry concerns me because of Dr. Zacharias’s ecumenism. Also any association with the charismatic movement concerns me because as people have said, it is a bridge – through the Catholic Charismatic Renewal – to Catholicism. There is such affection and warmth and excitement among those in this movement – my Mom and her priest were part of it. It almost drew me back to Rome. Praise God for His mercy to me and others!

          I will subscribe to Nabeel’s channel to know how he is doing and also to listen to his thoughts on Roman Catholicism. Yesterday I read your comment thread with the woman you’ve mentioned. I’ll go back and see if anything can be added to the discussion.

          Lord bless you!!!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, to find out how Nabeel is doing is why I subscribed. I know that both brothers in Christ, Nabeel and David Wood, have questionable ties but I believe its because they don’t know any better about ecumenism-its a good thing to them, perhaps? We shall see how Nabeel handles the Catholic issue- I pray he does it right by Jesus Christ since his life is in a fragile condition.

            Have a blessed night!

            Liked by 1 person

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