One of Martin Luther’s novel theories from the 16th century was that “The Bible Alone,” or “Sola Scriptura,” is all that is necessary to understand God’s Holy Word – No Pope, no Magisterium, no man, no woman, no university, etc., is necessary to understand what God meant to say in scripture. A scholar, a milkmaid, a janitor, a slave, a freeman, etc., can all grasp the complete meaning of scripture without any other aid or person. Why? Because in Luther’s mind, the Holy Spirit comes to each of us to impart the truth, whether we are scholars or not, whether we understand Latin and Greek or not, or whether we are holy or not. But we all know that this isn’t true. Even Luther condemned others for not believing in his personal interpretation of the Bible.
For starters, there is the King James Study Bible, complete with “doctrinal footnotes.” Doctrinal footnotes “explain” the meaning and context of certain parts of the bible about which the average reader may not know. But if “the Bible Alone” is all we need, then why are there “Doctrinal footnotes” at all, which are NOT scriptural, added to scripture to explain it? Why are man-made footnotes even needed if “The Bible Alone” is all we need?
When you attend a college or university, it is expected that the professor will not only have you read the textbook for his class, but that he or she will also tell you what the book means. In no case is it expected that each individual student will come up with his/her own personal understanding of the textbook. And if one expects a degree from the school, he or she better agree with what the professors say the school’s books mean. The same is true of the Bible. Since the Catholic Church gave us the canon of scripture in the 4th Century, only the Church has the power to tell us what it means. Why? Because the Church was present when Christ was alive and it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. You and I were not present 2000 years ago, and while some of us may be inspired by the Holy Spirit to do wonderful things, only the Church has the power to interpret scripture.
If “the Bible Alone” is indeed true and, thereby, self-consistent, why do some churches say that active homosexual ministers are okay, and other churches say that they are not? Why do some say that infant baptism is okay, and others say no? There are approximately 33,000 different protestant denominations today, all using “the Bible Alone” as their tradition. But they all interpret the bible differently, or they wouldn’t be different denominations. Is the Holy Spirit divided? NO!
King James Bible Verses
Just for fun, let’s use the King James Bible and the protestant tradition of “The Bible Alone,” and see what comes up. We won’t use any other reference sources, because to do so is to admit that “The Bible Alone” is not true:
Numbers 24:8: The Lord brought him out of Egypt; he hath the strength of a unicorn.
Using “the Bible Alone” theory, we can conclude that unicorns are real creatures, and not imaginary
2 Thessalonians 2:15: Therefore brethren, hold fast to the traditions ye have been taught, by word or by epistle.
Using “The Bible Alone” theory, we can conclude that traditions are good, whether they are written or whether they were orally taught.
James 2: 20: But will you know, O man, that faith without works is dead?
Using “the Bible Alone” theory, we can conclude that good works are a necessary component of our faith, and are not “useless.”
Romans 2:6: For God will render to every man according to his deeds.
Using “the Bible Alone” theory, we can conclude that God will judge us according to our deeds, and not our faith alone.
Revelation 20:13: And the sea gave up the dead in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Using “the Bible Alone,” we can conclude that the dead will be judged according to their works, and not their faith alone.
Luke 1:5-6: There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Using “the Bible Alone,” we can conclude that there are indeed righteous people in the New Testament besides Jesus.
Hebrews 10: 26-29: For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins. But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour them. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much worse punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
2 Peter 2:20-22: For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter is worse with them than the former. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog returned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
Using “the Bible Alone,” we can conclude that people can indeed lose their salvation after having been “saved,” and the “once saved, always saved” philosophy is unbiblical and a tradition of man.
Acts 8: 26-31: And the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” And he said, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
Using “the Bible Alone,” we can conclude that scripture is hard to understand, and we need someone from the Church to explain it to us.
Romans 11:26: And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written,” There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:”
Using “the Bible Alone,” we can conclude that every Israeli ever born, including Caiaphas and Judas, will be saved. All means all, after all!
1 Corinthians 3:13-15: Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall disclose it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Using “the Bible Alone,” we can conclude that on our judgment day, some will be saved after undergoing a trial by fire, and some will go directly to heaven with no purifying fire.
Acts 7:2: And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
Using “the Bible Alone,” we can conclude that it is okay to refer to men as a “father.”
2 Corinthians 1:1:Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:
2 Corinthians 2:13: I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
— Using “the Bible Alone,” we can conclude that Timothy and Titus were the blood brothers of Paul.
Hebrews 13:10: We have an altar, that they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
Using “the Bible Alone,” we can conclude that a church must have an altar, which is a table for sacrifices, and a tabernacle, which provides sacred food that unbelievers do not have a right to eat (the Eucharist).
1 Corinthians 10: 16-21: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.
Using “the Bible Alone,” we can conclude that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ and is not symbolic; it is a sacrifice akin to the altar sacrifices of the Jews and the Gentiles. Otherwise, Paul would not have compared it to them.
This is just a sampling of what “the Bible Alone” theory offers. Most protestants will tell you that what YOU have come with using “the Bible Alone” theory is erroneous, while what they came up with using “the Bible Alone” is of course 100% true. But that argument fails on two counts:
First, if “the Bible Alone” theory is true, then whatever anyone takes it to mean, must be true. This includes Catholic interpretations, since the Holy Spirit must be guiding every person. Why, then, are there so many different denominations?
Second, if no person is infallible, like they claim this of the Pope, then how can that with which they come up be 100% true?
The bottom line is that Catholics read the whole Bible, and we don’t rip verses out of context. We read the Bible in light of the teaching of the magisterium. We also read the Bible in light of historical context and original intent, so that erroneous 21st Century beliefs don’t creep into our interpretations. If these three rules aren’t followed, then you have some really wild theology being taught. Thank God the Catholic Church not only gave us the Bible, but also gives us its meaning as well!