Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (END)

Conclusion

I believe the Holy Spirit, Tradition, and Scripture all to be on equal grounds when it comes to authority in the Churches. The origins of the Scriptures and Tradition, when true Christian religion, are from the Apostles, who are the foundations of the Church itself. They being empowered by the Holy Spirit were able to do what they did and to give us directives from God and Jesus as His Apostles. To ignore tradition is to ignore the word of mouth aspect of the Apostles and therefore ignore Jesus’ directives to us. To ignore the Holy Spirit and His workings is to deny the very empowerment by which the Apostles were given to teach in the written Scriptures and their in person presented traditions. Denying the Holy Spirit and His movings as a continued authority also weakens all aspects of Christianity in our current day and sometimes implies that Christians forget that the Holy Spirit is still present Deity in the Churches. Scripture is good and is to be followed, but we can never forget where Scripture came from and by what force gives it authority in the Churches. The very canon that Christians hold to has been cradled on the back of faithful Christian tradition, so to exclude the others and affirm Scripture only is to weaken the Scriptures themselves in their very vitals. When we have all three Christianity becomes much clearer and we ourselves are availed the opportunity to be much more faithful. I hope those who read this will have a new found interest in this important subject and also look into giving more credence to tradition and the Holy Spirit.

Concerning Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura)

Should we use Scripture alone as an authority? The Bible is sufficient to teach truth and Christianity. However the Bible is not sufficient to teach all truth or everything about Christianity. The Scriptures are simply a snap shot of the Apostle’s directives in writing. Sola Scriptura fails in that it forgets the reason why the Scriptures matter and why they are authoritative. It also forgets that it is by the Spirit who is still active today that they find their inspiration. Scripture itself denies sola Scriptura because it recognizes Apostolic and Ecclesiastical authority. It also records that Apostolic tradition is not written only.  This was recognized by early Christians. I myself use to hold to sola Scriptura, but for these reasons I no longer do. 

END

The Church and the Christian Faith are Jesus’ and His directions are our priority. The Apostles are His representatives who were empowered, instructed, and reminded by the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus’ directives. Historically speaking we have the Christian faith once delivered from them in the form of the Christian Tradition and as a part of said tradition we have not only the practices delivered, but also a few writings from them as well. We see then an order to both the founding of our faith and to its continuation. The Power of Him who gave life to the original practices of our faith is still well at work in the world today, which is in accordance to the enthroned One who originally promised this.

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (Part 4)

Scripture

The amount of overlap on this subject is a convincing indicator, to me at least, that these three are truly connected and equal. I have chosen to touch on Scripture last because I believe that the Scripture’s authority is built on the Apostolic Authority that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. So I saw it more appropriate to build Apostolic Tradition and the Holy Spirit’s Empowerment in the sections that were just covered. So now that the foundations of the Holy Scripture’s authority has been built elsewhere I will simply and briefly repeat what has been given to show the whole building of Scripture’s authority.

The Outline

Authority

Preface: The Scriptures are the writings of the Apostles and Prophets and are authoritative. It is because they originate from divinely inspired Apostles of Jesus, or Prophets of God, that these writings are as the directives of God and Jesus; therefore making them authoritative.

  1. Apostles and Prophets as Scripture’s Authors and Origin (Making them Authoritative)
    1. Directly Chosen by The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Association and Recognition)
    2. Under Inspiration of the Holy Spirit Personally (Empowerment)
  2. The Above Evidenced in
    1. Scripture
      1. Association and Recognition
        1. Appointment of Apostles: Luke 6:12-16, Acts 1:24-26
        2. Reflective Recipient Nature (Matthew 10:40, John 13:20)
        3. Association and Relevancy (1 John 1:1-3, Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-3, [Matthias] Acts 1:21)
      2. Empowerment
        1. Promise: John 14:26, Acts 1:8
        2. Fulfillment: Acts 2 (Pentecost)
        3. Apostolic Affirmation of the Spirit’s Power in them: Romans 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5
        4. Inspiration: 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Referencing the Prophecies recorded in Scripture) 2 Peter 1:20-21

                 b.Tradition

    1. Early Witness in the Writings of the Early Christians
    2. Catholicism and Pan-Orthodoxy approve (Modern)

                c.Holy Spirit

Conclusion

From Scripture

1. The Author’s were Chosen and Associated with Jesus

Whether we are speaking about the Prophet of the Old Testament, Apostle of the New Testament, or those closely associated with the Apostles in the New Testament we can conclude that their association plays a big part in their writings. The Old Testament Prophetical books often start out by recording that the prophecy of said prophet was from the Lord, or YHWH. They therefore being chosen by God makes them pretty creditable. When it comes to the Apostles we know that they were chosen by the Lord Jesus. The Apostles had spent time with Him. When it comes to other New Testament authors such as Luke for example, we know also that they were associates of the Apostles who probably even received a lot of what they wrote from them as well. So we then find in each of these categories a succession leading back to the Father and the Son. Even the Holy Spirit is shown to be associated as I will show in the next section.

Appointment of Apostles: Luke 6:12-16, Acts 1:24-26

Reflective Recipient Nature (Matthew 10:40, John 13:20)

Association and Relevancy (1 John 1:1-3, Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-3, Matthias Acts 1:21)

2. Empowered by the Spirit (Inspiration)

The empowerment by the Spirit is the means by which also gave the Apostles and Prophets authority. When it comes to Scripture this means that their teachings whether spoken or written are authoritative. This means that the written teachings can be said to be from God. We call this inspiration, right?

Promise: John 14:26, Acts 1:8

Fulfillment: Acts 2 (Pentecost)

Apostolic Affirmation of the Spirit’s Power in them: Romans 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5

Inspiration: 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Referencing the Prophecies recorded in Scripture) 2 Peter 1:20-21

Tradition has always witnessed to these things above

Irenaeus of Lyons Against Heresies Book 3 Chapter 2.1

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

Gregory of Nyssa On the Soul and the Resurrection

“But while the latter proceeded, on the subject of the soul, as far in the direction of supposed consequences as the thinker pleased, we are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.”

Augustine of Hippo to Jerome

“For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error.”

Basil De Spiritu Sancto 7

“But we do not rest only on the fact that such is the tradition of the Fathers; for they too followed the sense of Scripture, and started from the evidence which, a few sentences back, I deduced from Scripture and laid before you.”

Modern Christian Tradition holds that the Apostles were associated with Jesus and that their writings are inspired.

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (Part 3)

The Holy Spirit

When it comes to the Holy Spirit, Christianity teaches that He is God just as much as the Father and our Lord Jesus are. So it goes without saying that He is authoritative in and of Himself. The Holy Spirit being given in the Church 2000 years ago and empowering the church up until this point implies the presence of God in the Churches. I will preface by saying that not all things that are done by those in Christianity are done so by the Holy Spirit, but that all parts of genuine Christianity are empowered by the Spirit. I think its agreed upon that the Holy Spirit is a very real and present authority in the Churches, but in what way is He a means of authority and interpretation? In other words how do we experience the Holy Spirit like we read the Scriptures and interact with tradition? Since I argue that He is empowering all things within Christianity then my point is that we see Him in the Apostles, in Scripture, the Sacraments, Grace Gifts given to the believer, and whatever other parts of genuine Christianity there be, He is involved. To be clear I mean that He was working in the past, but that He also is working today. So let me briefly touch on these points and then I will get to my conclusion.

The Outline

The Holy Spirit Empowers Christianity as living and present Deity in the Churches

  1. Holy Spirit is God in the Churches (Supreme Authority in and of Himself)
  2. He is the Empowering Force in all things in the Churches
    1. Apostles
      1. Churches started and equipped through them by the Spirit’s power
    2. Scripture
      1. Inspiration
    3. The Sacraments
      1. Baptism
      2. Eucharist
    4. The Individual Grace Gifts in the Church
      1. Prophecy
        1. Especially via Martyrdom
      2. Healings
      3. Other gifts

                 e. Jesus Himself as Head of the Church was also Empowered

          III.The Above Evidenced in

    1. Scripture
      1. Apostles
        1. Promise: John 14:26, Acts 1:8
        2. Fulfillment: Acts 2 (Pentecost)
        3. Apostolic Affirmation of the Spirit’s Power in them: Romans 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 2 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5
      2. Inspiration of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Concerning the Prophets themselves), 2 Peter 1:20-21 (Same as previous)
      3. The Spirit in the Sacraments: 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
      4. The grace gifts of the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Ephesians 4:11, Entire Book of Acts
        1. Exhortations to Utilize the Spirit’s Gifts 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, 1 Corinthians 14:1, 39
      5. The Spirit on Jesus: Matthew 3:16-17, Luke 4:18-19, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 2:4
      6. God in the Churches Ephesians 2:21-22, Acts 5:1-6
  1. Tradition
    1. Early Christianity also witnesses to these things above
    2. What Church doesn’t believe the Holy Spirit is active in at least some small way?
  2. Holy Spirit Empowers and Inspires all things New Testament

From Scripture

I am going to begin by looking at what Scripture has to say on the subject. I am going to start out with the Apostles.

I. Apostles

As I mentioned earlier the Apostles are the foundations of the Church. They primarily built the Church after Jesus’ ascension. It is clear from Scripture that they did not do it by their own strength alone. We know they were empowered by the Spirit to do these things. Before the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles Jesus had clearly promised them that the Father would send the Holy Spirit down upon them. We see this fulfilled at Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. The rest of Acts records some of the historical dealings of the Apostles and the start of the Churches. As we see many times throughout the book they were inspired by the Spirit. They were reminded of Jesus’ teachings, they taught great wisdom, set up the churches, and performed many signs and miracles all by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We even have statements from the Apostles themselves that show that they believed they were empowered by the Spirit.  

Promise (John 14:26, Acts 1:8)

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.” John 14:26 NET

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NET

The Fulfillment  (Acts 2)

The Continuing of the Church (Acts)

Paul’s Apostolic Reflection on His own work

According to Paul’s own words they received power for preaching, they prophesied, and worked many wonders by the Spirit.

“But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation;” Romans 15:15-20 NASB

 

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 NASB

“The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” 2 Corinthians 12:12 NASB

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 NASB

II. Scripture and Inspiration

When it comes to Scripture we know that these writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit. When we look at the inspiration of Scripture we see the intersection of all three authorities. When the prophets received revelations of God it was because the Holy Spirit was upon them. Then when the inspired men recorded the said inspired information in writing, or Scripture, then the introduction of the inspired Scripture came to be. It’s the same with the Apostles. The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers the Scriptures in their very inspiration.

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NRSV

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!” 1 Peter 1:10-12 NRSV (Referencing the Prophecies recorded in Scripture)

“Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” NET 2 Peter 1:20-21 

III. In the Sacraments

Without getting too controversial here I would just like to mention that the authors of Scripture believed that the Holy Spirit was active in the communal meal and in Baptism.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NRSV

IV. The Individual Grace Gifts in the Church

When it comes to the individual grace gifts in the Church Paul thinks highly of them and says that they are for the building up of the Church. He sees the Holy Spirit in this and that this is very important.

Paul’s Apostolic Reflection on individual grace gifts

Generally the Church also has been given gifts for the building up of the church

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11 NASB

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NASB

The Book of Acts is full of the Holy Spirit’s gifts in the Church. Just two examples below.

Stephen sees the Lord, but was first filled with the Holy Spirit Acts 6:5 

The Prophetess’ of Philip and Agabus Acts 21:8-14 

Exhortations to Utilize the Spirit’s Gifts

When it comes to the Spiritual gifts not only does Paul mention them, but he also exhorts his audience to utilize the gifts of the Spirit. This continues to show that the Apostles thought very highly of the Spirit in the Churches.

“Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 NRSV

“Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NRSV

V. Jesus Himself Empowered

Jesus the great head of the church is said to have been empowered by the Spirit to do things. Luke records Peter saying that Jesus Himself was anointed with the Holy Spirit and went about doing good works in Acts. Jesus exorcises demons by the Spirit as He is recorded as saying to the Pharisees in Matthew. Jesus claims Isaiah’s gospel fulfillment for Himself after He His baptism and His testing in the wilderness. Even Jesus Himself was at times empowered by the Spirit.

“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Acts 10:38 NRSV

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-21 NRSV

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” Matthew 12:28 NRSV

From Tradition

So my main argument from tradition is that Christians early on and still to this day affirm these things. I’d like to start out by referencing where these above beliefs are reflected in the early writers of Christianity. First up is their references on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment of the Apostles.

I. Apostles and the Holy Spirit

Tertullian On Exhortation to Chastity Chapter 4

(His Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:40)

“In granting indulgence, he alleges the advice of a prudent man; in enjoining continence, he affirms the advice of the Holy Spirit. Follow the admonition which has divinity for its patron. It is true that believers likewise have the Spirit of God; but not all believers are apostles. When then, he who had called himself a believer, added thereafter that he had the Spirit of God, which no one would doubt even in the case of an (ordinary) believer; his reason for saying so was, that he might reassert for himself apostolic dignity. For apostles have the Holy Spirit properly, who have Him fully, in the operations of prophecy, and the efficacy of (healing) virtues, and the evidences of tongues; not partially, as all others have. Thus he attached the Holy Spirit’s authority to that form (of advice) to which he willed us rather to attend; and immediately it became not an advice of the Holy Spirit, but, in consideration of His majesty, a precept.”

Justin Martyr Apologies 39

“For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all, the word of God.”

II. Scripture (Inspiration)

Clement to the Corinthians 45

“Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Justin Martyr First Apology 36

“But when you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken as it were personally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired themselves, but by the Divine Word who moves them. For sometimes He declares things that are to come to pass, in the manner of one who foretells the future; sometimes He speaks as from the person of God the Lord and Father of all; sometimes as from the person of Christ; sometimes as from the person of the people answering the Lord or His Father, just as you can see even in your own writers, one man being the writer of the whole, but introducing the persons who converse.”

Origen Principiis Book IV. 1

“it seems necessary to show, in the first place, that the Scriptures them­selves are divine, i.e., were inspired by the Spirit of God.”

On the Holy Spirit St. Ambrose Book II 153

“There is, then, unity of authority, unity of appointment, unity of giving. For if you separate appointment and power, what cause was there [for maintaining] that those whom Christ appointed as apostles, God the Father appointed, and the Holy Spirit appointed? Unless, perhaps, as if sharing a possession or a right, They, like men, were afraid of legal prejudice, and therefore the operation was divided, and the authority distributed.”

III. Sacraments

Basil De Spiritu Sancto

“Whence is it that we are Christians? Through our faith, would be the universal answer. And in what way are we saved? Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism. How else could we be? And after recognizing that this salvation is established through the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, shall we fling away that form of doctrine which we received?”

IV. Individual Grace Gifts

C​yril of Jerusalem Catechetical Lecture 16

“And though He is One in nature, yet many are the virtues which by the will of God and in the Name of Christ He works. For He employs the tongue of one man for wisdom; the soul of another He enlightens by Prophecy; to another He gives power to drive away devils; to another He gives to interpret the divine Scriptures. He strengthens one man’s self-command; He teaches another the way to give alms; another He teaches to fast and discipline himself; another He teaches to despise the things of the body; another He trains for martyrdom”

Basil De SpirituSancto chapter 9.23

“He makes them spiritual by fellowship with Himself. Just as when a sunbeam falls on bright and transparent bodies, they themselves become brilliant too, and shed forth a fresh brightness from themselves, so souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God”

Prophecy of the martyrs

PolyCarp The Martyrdom of Polycarp Chapter 5

“But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically, “I must be burnt alive.”

Perpetua: The Passion of the Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicity 3

“I saw a golden ladder of marvellous height, reaching up even to heaven, and very narrow, so that persons could only ascend it one by one; and on the sides of the ladder was fixed every kind of iron weapon. (Skipping a bit) And I immediately related this to my brother, and we understood that it was to be a passion, and we ceased henceforth to have any hope in this world.”

V. Jesus and the Spirit

St. Ambrose on the Holy Spirit Book III

“In the former book we have shown by the clear evidence of the Scriptures that the apostles and prophets were appointed, the latter to prophesy, the former to preach the Gospel, by the Holy Spirit in the same way as by the Father and the Son; now we add what all will rightly wonder at, and not be able to doubt, that the Spirit was upon Christ; and that as He sent the Spirit, so the Spirit sent the Son of God. For the Son of God says: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me, He has sent Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and sight to the blind. And having read this from the Book of Isaiah, He says in the Gospel: Today has this Scripture been fulfilled in your ears; that He might point out that it was said of Himself.”

Modern Church Tradition

I am not sure of a Church tradition that doesn’t acknowledge the Holy Spirit working in the Churches. There may be certain degrees or so. Even Evangelical cesasionalists in some small way still affirm that the Holy Spirit is at work doing something.

Conclusion

So to conclude this section I just want to highlight that my main arguments concerning the Holy Spirit are these. First is that He is obviously God in the Church and thereby an authority of Himself. The second is that He is the empowering person whereby all things true to Christianity find their power. His person and work in these things make Him someone to look to as an authority. There are many things today that are said to be done of the Holy Spirit, I get it. This is the same case when it comes to the canon of Scripture and its interpretation. We don’t skip out on reading Scripture simply because we know that there is error out there, but instead we continue to read and discern it to find the truth. Sometimes when it comes to the moving of the Holy Spirit some take an all or nothing approach, and by that I mean some seem to think that if the Holy Spirit doesn’t always do something that He isn’t active at all. This is false and when we don’t engage in sifting through the working of the Holy Spirit we ourselves are lazy and unfaithful.

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (Part 2)

Tradition

Tradition. In evangelicalism and in some of mainline Protestantism it is something to be hated, disregarded, and put down. I believe that Apostolic or Christian tradition is not in competition with the Scriptures and is a necessary means of Christian interpretation. Without it our view of Christianity is less than complete. Christianity is a tradition, it was started as tradition, and it will continue to be a tradition until the day our Lord returns. We understand that our Lord Jesus started the Church, but He then gave His work to the Apostles whom when empowered by the Spirit began to work. The Apostles and early Christians understood that the Apostles were the ones who had the final say in what was to be believed and practiced in Christianity. The Apostles believed that they were the foundation of the Church with Jesus as the most important piece, the corner stone. It therefore necessitates that we believe and follow their practice as well. We all know that we do that from Scripture, but another way we do that is by following the traditions that they passed down to us that are not recorded in Scripture. Maybe for you who are reading this, this is the first time you have ever considered that a tradition may be out there from the Apostles which is not recorded in Scripture. I ask you to keep an open mind about this. After all we already believe that not everything that Jesus Himself has done is recorded in the Apostles writings; for the Apostle John records that if such things were to be recorded the world could not contain the writings to be written. Separating Apostolic Tradition from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit is something I think is impossible, but in as much as is possible I mention it here. Tradition as an authority and interpretive method of Christianity is the historically passed down practice and teachings. It is Apostolic when interpreted as true religion, yet nominal when taken in its broad sense. Apostolic Teachings and Practice are to be understood as Jesus’ Directives and therefore important. Tradition is then to be interpreted for the search of Apostolic Tradition which equates to Jesus’ directives for us (making it by implication authority). So as I said before I will continue to validate the necessity of Apostolic Tradition through the threefold method of the Holy Spirit, Tradition, and the Scriptures. Before I start I just want to point out that my main point in this section is that Tradition as a method of interpretation is not only valid and authoritative, but it is also necessary to get the best and most faithful picture of Christianity. 

The Outline

  1. Apostolic Tradition is not only Scripture and therefore we cannot go by Scripture alone.
    1. Evidence from Scripture
      1. Foundations of the Church are living beings not letters and it is good to listen to them Ephesians 2:19-20/ 1 Corinthians 11:2 NRSV
      2. Their traditions have not been passed down in letter only 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NRSV
    2. Evidence from Tradition (Early and Now)
      1. Early Christians affirmed the above
      2. They saw Scripture alone as problematic
  2. These things are continued to be believed by the vast majority of those in Christianity
  3. Holy Spirit Empowers both of these (Apostles and their Tradition)

Evidenced in Scripture

So let’s take a look at Scripture and see what it says.

I spoke earlier about the Apostles being the foundation of the church and the authoritative means by which Christianity has flowed from. One of the common verses appealed to for this is, Ephesians 2:19-20.

“So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:19-20 NET

A common principle that our Lord taught is that those who comes in the name of another are associated with that person. Jesus says those whom He sends, when accepted, are those whom receive Him, and then when they receive Him they receive the Father also. I appeal to John 13:20 for this. The Scriptures also record that the Apostles themselves also appealed to their association with Jesus as means of authority through the Apostleship. I appeal to 1 John 1:1-3 and when it comes to Paul Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-3. I also want to bring up that the Apostles are obviously recorded as the ones who are mainly founding the Churches as we see recorded in Acts. They Preach Christ, gather assemblies, and eventually establish leaders. So from the historical side we see in Acts, the Apostles can be said to be the founders of the Churches, but also as the authoritative directors in the churches. So as I said earlier they accomplished this by means of word of mouth and written letter. I’d like to focus on two verses from Paul that highlight the need for tradition that is both written and unwritten.

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you.” 1 Corinthians 11:2 NRSV

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NRSV

As Paul writes to these two different churches he praises them and warns them concerning holding to the traditions or practices that he gave them. Some of these practices could be referenced in these individual epistles, but the majority of these traditions were given in person and are not recorded in any epistle given to them. This highlights the fact that authoritative Apostolic tradition of teachings and practice existed in the world that were never recorded in any writing. The implications of this being that (1) Scripture alone is not capable or sufficient in supplying these and (2) that knowing this (taking into account that one wants to be faithful) they must consider and interpret the traditions as passed down in the earliest Christian traditions. Of which can be done through surviving living Christian tradition and written records of Church history. So to recapitulate this section, my arguments are that Scripture itself records that unwritten Christian tradition exists, is necessary in Christianity, and flows from the Apostles; hence Apostolic authority from Christ. With the main implication for Christians that if we want to be faithful then we need to first interpret the traditions out there and incorporate the true ones into our faith.

Evidenced in Tradition

From Tradition

Now let’s look at tradition. When it comes to looking at Christian tradition the main two ways I will be doing this is by looking at a few quotes from a couple of different early Christians and referencing from traditions that are still alive today in Christianity. By quoting these early Christians I hope to present the truth that early Christians believed and valued tradition as totally necessary for practicing faithful Christianity. By referencing existing traditions and faiths such as Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, I hope to show that tradition is continually affirmed to be necessary in Christianity to this day. And as an obvious side note show that Sola Scriptura was not affirmed by the early church faithful and still to this day is not affirmed by the overwhelming majority of Christians.

I want to start out by quoting some well respected early Christians who affirmed that the necessity of tradition of the Apostles and that it was both written and unwritten. Before I do so I’d like to answer an important question. Does it really matter what early Christians thought about Christianity? I think it does. These people were the ones who the Apostles passed the baton to. These were the ones they wrote to. Some of these people lived during the times of the Apostles and others within 1 to 2 generations. These were the people who spoke the languages of the New Testament and were in the same cultural contexts as the Apostles. So I think their words are incredibly important.

(1.)

Basil of Caesarea, De Spiritu Sancto 66

“Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?”

Origen De Principiis, Preface, 2

“Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and not only regarding these, but also regarding others which are created existences, viz., the powers and the holy virtues; it seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points. For as we ceased to seek for truth (notwithstanding the professions of many among Greeks and Barbarians to make it known) among all who claimed it for erroneous opinions, after we had come to believe that Christ was the Son of God, and were persuaded that we must learn it from Himself; so, seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition.”

John Chrysostom’s Homily on 2 Thessalonians Homily 4

“Hence it is manifest, that [the Apostles] did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther.” 

Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 61.6.4

“(The Scriptures) need examination, and the perception to understand the force of each proposition. But Tradition must be used too, for not everything is available from the Sacred Scripture. thus the holy Apostles handed some things down in Scriptures but some in traditions.” 

Augustine On Baptism, Against the Donatists Book II.12

“And this custom, coming, I suppose, from apostolic tradition (like many other things which are held to have been handed down under their actual sanction, because they are preserved throughout the whole Church, though they are not found either in their letters, or in the Councils of their successors) — this most wholesome custom.” 

Irenaeus Against Heresies book 3, 2.2
“But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth.” Skipping a bit. It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.” 

(2)

Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius Book 4.6

“Let our author, then, show this to begin with, that it is in vain that the Church has believed that the Only-begotten Son truly exists, not adopted by a Father falsely so called, but existing according to nature, by generation from Him Who is, not alienated from the essence of Him that begot Him. But so long as his primary proposition remains unproved, it is idle to dwell on those which are secondary. And let no one interrupt me, by saying that what we confess should also be confirmed by constructive reasoning: for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from our fathers, handled on, like some inheritance, by succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them.”

“But with respect to the man for whose sake you enter on the discussion of the Scriptures, with the view of strengthening him when afflicted with doubts, (let me ask) will it be to the truth, or rather to heretical opinions that he will lean? Influenced by the very fact that he sees you have made no progress, whilst the other side is on an equal footing (with yourself) in denying and in defence, or at any rate on a like standing he will go away confirmed in his uncertainty by the discussion, not knowing which side to adjudge heretical. For, no doubt, they too are able to retort these things on us. It is indeed a necessary consequence that they should go so far as to say that adulterations of the Scriptures, and false expositions thereof, are rather introduced by ourselves, inasmuch as they, no less than we maintain that truth is on their side.”

Tertullian The Prescription against Heretics 18-19

“Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible, or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: “With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?” For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions.”

Basil De Spiritu Sancto 25.

“The one aim of the whole band of opponents and enemies of sound doctrine is to shake down the foundation of the faith of Christ by levelling apostolic tradition with the ground, and utterly destroying it. So like the debtors — of course bona fide debtors — they clamour for written proof, and reject as worthless the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. But we will not slacken in our defense of the truth. We will not cowardly abandon the cause. The Lord has delivered to us as a necessary and saving doctrine that the Holy Spirit is to be ranked with the Father. Our opponents think differently, and see fit to divide and rend asunder, and relegate Him to the nature of a ministering spirit. Is it not then indisputable that they make their own blasphemy more authoritative than the law prescribed by the Lord?” 

Modern Tradition

Christian faith continues to this day to hold that tradition is authoritative. In fact the overwhelming majority holds this to be true.

Roman Catholicism

Dei Verbum is view held by Catholic which affirms that the Roman Church practices and follows the Words of God as presented in Scripture and Tradition

Eastern Orthodoxy

Eastern Orthodoxy also holds that tradition is to be valued, practiced, and to be viewed as of Apostolic nature. Same with the Oriental Orthodox.

Evidenced by the Holy Spirit

In order to not be redundant I am going to save my argumentation that the Holy Spirit also proves the necessity of Christian tradition for when I speak in support of the Holy Spirit. I will just say this. The Holy Spirit empowered the Apostles and has been involved in the life of the Church from its inception unto to this day.

End of Section

To recapitulate this entire section, I have set out to prove that tradition when from the Apostles is necessary for our understanding of Christianity and that it is authoritative in the Churches. I have attempted to do so through referencing Scripture, Christian tradition in the past and present, and the Holy Spirit. They support that Apostolic tradition, and by extension the directives of our Lord Jesus, are important and not Scripture only.

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice

Introduction

Have you considered what the rule of the Christian faith should be? By asking this I mean do you know the authorities that govern our faith and how they show us what true Christianity is? If you have taken a look at Christianity for more than five minutes you have probably noticed that there is a lot of disagreeing that goes on. I believe when it comes to our faith, we should look to the Christian Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and Tradition to begin to discern what true Christianity is in its teaching and its practice. To be clear all three of these need to be interpreted, but they are Christianity’s governing force from which we begin to interpret. I’d like to begin my support for this with a short recap of what Christianity is. In the parts that follow this article I will begin to support and authenticate this method with Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit. 

Short Re-cap of Christianity

Jesus the divine man came to Earth to gather those whom His father had given. He called out the twelve Apostles and the original disciples whom He taught, instructed them in the ways of God, and promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower them. When He left them and ascended He gave them the reminder to withhold their preaching until the Promised Spirit would come upon them. Upon the time of the Promise, the Apostles were then supernaturally empowered to continue the work of Christ in founding the Churches. It is through their working, being empowered and inspired by the Holy Spirit, that Christ continued His mission of gathering those whom His Father gave Him. Jesus has been at work ever since and continues to this day to gather those who are His. The threefold method I present to you is this. One faith governed by One Lord Jesus who has started and continues His work through Empowered Apostolic tradition. The Scriptures themselves are equal because they themselves are the work of the Apostles and therefore find themselves within this Empowered, Apostolic Tradition. Therefore the threefold method of Christianity’s origin, authority, and means of interpretation should then be broken down simply and equally as the Holy Spirit, Apostolic or Christian Tradition, and Scripture.

I believe if you consider our Holy Faith you will also find this to be true. I also believe that all three of these methods affirm and authenticate one another and therefore make one Christian faith. So mainly I am going to attempt to back this up by referring to evidences from these three. But before I do that I would like to say this. When it comes to the Christian faith not everyone comes to believe in it the same way. Mainly all of us have believed because someone first spoke it to us. There are some of us I am sure that maybe first believed by picking up a Bible or seen a work of the Holy Spirit that first made them believe the religion, but usually this number is pretty small compared to the number of those being told about Christianity. I guess there is two points to what I said. The sub point is “hey, tradition is still works”. But my main point is this. No matter what way we enter Christianity we all give a trust to something that first makes us believe. The implications being that we give our faith to the Bible, the Tradition handed to us, and experiencing a work of the Holy Spirit. So without further ado I would like to demonstrate and support this method.

Inspiration of Scripture

Inspiration of Scripture

What do you think about God “breathing” or “inspiring” Scripture? Historically Christians have held to the inspiration of Scripture and the Holy Spirit being the one who influences people in this process. Does He influence the author upon writing? Does He influence only when He reveals things to people? Is it another way? I’d like to highlight two things concerning inspiration in this article. The first is that inspiration may not have happened when the author wrote, but before when the Holy Spirit gave revelation. The second is that the Scriptures contain life giving content from the breath of God. Here are my thoughts on the inspiration of Scripture.  

Inspiration? God Breathed?

“It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.​” John 6:63 NRSV

So what does “inspired” or “God breathed” mean? While the literal understanding of God breathing is pretty self explanatory, inspiration is not. Inspiration is an old English word which means to breathe. They’re the same thing, but the term inspiration is more common in English usage. So what does breath have to do with the Scriptures?  Well, in Genesis it is recorded that when God created the body of Adam He breathed into him the breath of life and then Adam began to live. In the culture and language of both the Old and New Testament writers spirit meant life or soul. In both Greek and Hebrew “spirit” and “breath” are not two different words, but rather they are actually the same word. Inspiration can then be understood as life giving. Paul’s usage of “God breathed” in 2 Timothy in relation to Scripture indicates that the contents of Scripture find its influence from God Himself and that the teachings of Scripture lead to life. The saying used by Paul here is that God’s life giving agent is found in the teachings of Scripture. The authors of Scripture often record that following God’s ways lead to life. Jesus also is recorded as saying that God’s words are life. Its likely because of this connection that Christians have early on referred to the Scriptures as God’s word. 

The Content; The Holy Teachings

“He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3​ NRSV

I think Inspiration has to do with the original contents of the Scripture as they were originally given to the Prophet and Apostle. The Holy Spirit’s influence then pertains to the psalms, prophecies, acts of God and other such content which was then recorded in Scripture. This understanding differs from the theory that the Holy Spirit influenced the author at the time of writing because it affirms that Holy Spirit gave influence to the original revelators such as the Prophets whom He came upon. I don’t believe the ancients who went before us would have made a differentiation between the teachings as originally given with the Scripture which records them. Nor would they have questioned the accuracy of the written content of the historical experience. Paul’s use of “God breathed” in 2 Timothy is connected with the purpose of Scripture. It is to instruct and to change the reader into living a righteous life. These are God’s ways as was said in the last paragraph. The teachings prepare Christians to do the deeds which God wants of us and by doing them we find life. The Scriptures then acts as a life giving agent to those who apply its teaching. Because of this it as though the ink and script have been blown into by the very life giving breathe of God.

The Origin of the Prophecies

“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:20-21 NRSV

2 Peter 1:21 is often a verse that is used to help better understand the way inspiration of Scripture works, although it does not contain the word inspiration, but rather the concept in other words. Peter writes to the Church that the Holy Spirit came upon those of old who spoke the prophecies. Some make the mistake that Peter meant that the Holy Spirit made men write instead of speak. I think this should be interpreted as the Holy Spirit giving them the revelations and prophecies to speak. The Holy Spirit is also promised by Jesus to give the Apostles words to speak, instead of words to write. Now is it possible the Spirit did both? Sure, but this verse can’t be used to unilaterally support the view in question. I suggest that my theory of the ancients which says that they probably did not question the accuracy of what was recorded concerning the prophecy should be applied to us as well. Today it is often those trying to prove a strict inerrancy position, which this author does not recommend, that want to be dogmatic on a position which says that Holy Spirit inspired upon writing as the main way of inspiration. The religious teachings of the Prophets and Apostles are true and they were given inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but probably not upon writing, at the very least they were not only. 

In Conclusion

The inspiration of Scripture is something that Christians have historically held to. How different Christian traditions define this is another story. I suggest that we consider a position that points to the Holy Spirit influencing the original person from whom the contents of Scripture come from. This would be psalmists in their psalms, the teachers in their teaching, and the prophets in their prophecy. While I don’t think we should totally rule out inspiration upon writing we do need to be careful when trying to prove this from passages of Scripture. The teachings of Scripture are God’s ways. Following them will lead us to life. Just as the first man was breathed into and began to live so it happens to us in our fallen, fleshly nature when we read and apply His written breath.

Against Sola Scriptura

Against Sola Scriptura

Introduction

I used to be Sola Scriptura, meaning I use to believe that the Bible was the sole and only authority when it comes to matters of faith and practice within Christianity. It’s a belief that was popularized by Martin Luther, although never the common position of the church until his time. Sola Scriptura, at least in the evangelical form that I once held to, practically states that because the writings are inspired and from the Apostles they alone can teach us matters of faith and practice. One of sola scriptura’s biggest implication is that the Scripture alone gives us the clearest picture of Christianity. Does this stand true? I don’t think so and here is why.  

Scripture is from the Apostles, but so is Christian Tradition

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you.” 1 Corinthians 11:2 NRSV

Imagine you are a 1st century presbyter (Elder) appointed by one of the Apostles to lead the church. You have been taught firsthand by the Apostle himself and have been judged both knowledgeable and able to carry out the task that was given you. The Apostle leaves you behind and it is time to begin your work. Only one problem stands in your way, my sola scriptura friend, at this time there is no New Testament Scripture and if there is even just one Scripture written you don’t even know it exists. Oof! The Apostle forgot to leave you the un-written New Testament! How will you ever carry out your task? Could it be that people who were trained by the Apostles would be able to carry out Apostolic tradition? Of course, and that is how Christianity began. It began through Apostolic tradition and not through Apostolic Scripture. 

Scripture is a part of Tradition

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. ” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NRSV 

Things have been going good in the church and you and the other presbyters have been doing a fine job. However, one day you and the church are facing a big problem. One of your fellow members brings up something that you are unsure about, weren’t instructed on, or just totally dumb founded at. What would you do? Well it would seem that many churches wrote to the Apostles, especially Paul, to find out what they should do. His answer to the churches is what makes up the majority of what we call “the New Testament”. Yes, the Epistles of Paul and the other Apostles give us a firsthand insight of their understanding of Church practice and sometimes mentioning of Christian doctrine. However, these Epistles were given in a historical context and weren’t originally given to be “New Testament Scripture”. Now of course they are because of their immense value. That value being what I recorded above, which things include mentioning on Church practice and Christian doctrine. These writings were not however what the church was built upon. It was built upon the Apostles and Prophets and their writings are only one part of their tradition, albeit an extremely important and first hand part.  

Christian Tradition with the Holy Spirit Completes Christianity

“because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. ”  1 Thessalonians 1:5 NRSV 

The condemnation of the false teacher in your midst, the question of practice, or the encouragement to continue on has now been given to your church by means of letter from the Apostle. Great news! You wonder if you should keep the letter that the Apostle wrote you now that the struggle in the church is over. You, like a lot of others in the churches, decide to do so. Another good idea. Maybe since the Apostle is so busy and can’t write or visit often you decide it would be a great idea to share the writing you received with the other churches so that they may also be helped in the same way you were. Of course, you often discuss what the Apostle spoke to you verbally with those from other churches as you meet them in person. You both recall often how you are thankful what the Apostle has shown you. Just like Jesus’s works were so plentiful that they could not be recorded so the works of the Apostles. You also share what the Holy Spirit has done in the midst of your church. 

Where in the Scriptures are the steps to start and run a church? Where is the doctrine of the Trinity or the hypostatic union so carefully written down for us? Did the church receive the doctrines and practices in writing or did they receive them in presence of the Apostles? I think it’s safe to say that Paul delivered the teachings by means of the Holy Spirit to people in person.  

Conclusion

I have chosen to express my reasons for leaving sola scriptura in a story format. I think when one looks at early church history, they will not object too much to the way this story has been presented. My main reasons for leaving sola scriptura is that it is too narrow in its scope to be an accurate picture of Christianity. The Scriptures, although incredibly valuable in what they do provide, are not what the church was built upon and they are insufficient in themselves alone to testify to Christianity. Many people who are sola scriptura, as myself once was, deride tradition when in reality the New Testament is a part of what is Christian tradition. The whole of Christian tradition and the promised gift of the Holy Spirit in the church is what gives the most accurate picture of Christianity. Our Lord Jesus did not leave behind script to be a witness of His atoning work, or His Lordship, or His resurrection, although He Himself and these things were testified in the early Scriptures which He valued. He left behind a living, purchased vehicle for this and that is the Church. 

Determining the Canon of Scripture

Determining the Canon of Scripture

Introduction

How do we determine that the books in the Bible are true and that these books are from God? What sets them apart from other writings? I’d like to present to you what I believe to be the Christian Canon at this time in my study and the most logical ways to determining what should be considered Holy Scripture. Let me start out by highlighting some of the fundamentals of the faith as received from the Apostles.  

Basic Christian Beliefs

W=As Christians we have committed ourselves to: 

  • YHWH as the only God
  • Jesus of Nazareth with His teachings  
  • The prophets with their prophecies 
  • The Apostles and their teachings
  • The faithful who have gone before us with their writings 

Order of Commitment

Those who have committed themselves to these things above have not all done so in the same order as others who have also committed themselves to these things. One may have believed in God being YHWH because they first heard and committed themselves to Jesus, but another may have believed in Jesus because he first believed in YHWH and the prophecies of the prophets. The order does not matter, but all of these are connected and must be committed for the Christian.  

For the majority of people who were not raised by believers they probably became committed to Jesus before they committed to the Christian Scriptures. For that person the Scriptures are validated because Jesus validated them. For the person raised by believers the Scriptures were no doubt first believed because they were taught to do so. These two most common ways of validating the Scriptures are pretty much inescapable for all new followers of Jesus. These two forms of accepting Scripture can be classified as Authority and Tradition respectively. These two are good and when both given and received honestly these are ideal. As to giving honestly I mean the church or the men of old passing down and referencing the works written by the Apostles and Prophets. As to receiving honestly I mean knowing that those writings which are being given are from the Apostles and Prophets. To complete the honesty of both one needs to confirm the validity of the tradition of what has been given.  This is because the most important reason that anyone should be reading the Scriptures is because they are true and represent God’s teachings. How do we rationally conclude then that these writings we commit to today are God’s teachings and how do we do make that conclusion on any writings in general?  

Logical Validating Methods

When it comes to our commitment to Jesus and the Scriptures, I have listed these three as some of the only and biggest methods to determining what is true teaching from God in writing format.  

  • Validation by our authorities: Jesus, Prophets, Apostles (Authority) 
  • Validation by the religious use and acceptance as proven by historical record (Tradition) 
  • Validation by prophetical fulfillment (future)   

Authority

Like I mentioned earlier we must never forget the fact that we read and commit to the Scriptures because we first commit to Jesus. When we commit to Jesus we become faithful to that which He also was faithful to. We want to identify ourselves with the One who knows truth and is Truth. Jesus demonstrated through His teachings, His religion, and His quotation of sources that He Himself was faithful to the “Old Testament” portion of what we call the Scriptures. Jesus never lists out which writings He affirms and which He does not, but because of His teachings and His religion we can come to a pretty good idea of which He held to. Jesus committed to YHWH as the “only true God” and regarded the God of the Jews as the only one that mankind should “serve”. He taught in Synagogues and affirmed the “religion of the Jews”. The Jews at that time had a collection of writings they affirmed to be Holy Scripture, but it should be noted that there is no evidence to support that there was one agreed upon collection. Instead it is demonstrable that others at the time held to more of or less of what could be called the common collection, or canon, of their day. The next section will discuss more about this. 

Tradition

The common collection of Scripture is the collection of writings which can be traced throughout time by historical records as generally being held to by most sects of Judaism and Christianity. If we start from today’s sects of Christianity we will have a few handfuls of collections at our reference, at least when it comes to the “Old Testament” portion. This is mostly because the “New Testament” portion has enjoyed less debate throughout history.  Within today’s sects of Judaism we see fewer collections than in Christianity, but there still are at least a few different collections. Generally for all sects of Christianity it is agreed upon that the 66 books of what is known as the protocanon, or the Protestant collection of writings, is true. Accordingly, the major sects of Judaism would agree that the “Old Testament” section of the protocanon is true as well.  The majority of old translations of the Scriptures from the time of the completion of the New Testament until now also agree with these 66 books. There is witness however to people who believed in the 39 Old Testament writing collection but also held to other books as also true and important. Looking at the different versions of the Septuagint will lead someone to understand that not only did some hold more books to be true, but also that there were more than one variation of this different collection. Many of the early church fathers quoted other books and regarded them as true. These books are referred to by many people as the apocrypha or Deuterocanon depending on the book. The scrolls found at Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) show that there were many other religious works by the time of the first century. These works attest to other writings in Hebrew. It is now widely believed that there was a Jewish sect known as the Essenes who lived at the time of Jesus. This group of people was those who hid the scrolls found at Qumran/Dead Sea and held to them as truth. The Ethiopian Jews now known as Beta Israel hold to a collection of writings that includes some of these other writings along with the common Jewish collection. It is commonly said that these Jews left Israel before the destruction of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. When it comes to the New Testament the same principles apply as did with the Old. The only thing with the New Testament is that the common collection was finalized so early on in the history of the Church that any divergence from this common collection does not enjoy nearly as large of a witness as the divergences within the Old Testament. In conclusion of this section it is demonstrable that historically the common canon (protocanon) of the Scriptures have been revered by most throughout time. This does not mean however that these are the only books that were or should be regarded as true. 

Prophecy

According to the Law of Moses a man who claimed to be a prophet was either justified or damned depending on if what he said was going to happen actually did happen. For us in this age there aren’t many predictions of the prophets that have yet to be fulfilled. We pretty much are solely waiting for the last strong leader, whom is commonly referred to as the anti Christ, and the second coming of Jesus. When it comes to validation of Scripture one of our last ways of determining its validity is by seeing if its predictions come true. Unfortunately, when these final predictions take place it will all but be too late for the skeptic. The Scriptures are full of predictions that were fulfilled in the times of later writers of the Bible. The final remaining prophecies are the coming of the man called anti-Christ and then the Second Coming of Christ. The only other prophecy fulfilled that we can see today is the continuation of first century prophecies such as the continuation of the Church and the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Summing up the Points

So if we take those principles into account we should be able to come to at least a pretty good idea of what should be considered. History proves that the sixty six books that are in the common collection have been highly venerated by a large majority of Christians and Jews (In regard to the “Old Testament” portion). Jesus and the Apostles are recorded as having quoted or alluded to many of these books and holding them to be true. So, I suggest that we should start from here. The Apostles and other New Testament writers are also recorded as having quoted and held to other writings. The Apostle Jude undeniably quotes from 1 Enoch, a book which is esteemed by many to not be Holy Scripture, and says that Enoch is the prophet who spoke the quotation. Paul alludes to deuterocanonical works in his writings. If we hope to be consistent in our identification of Holy Scripture we have to consider these books as well. I am not going to define the canon totally. This is something that is going to be impossible to totally figure out. At this time I can only see these points as being the only rational way to determine what the Scriptures are.  

Canons of Scripture

Protocanon Common Collection

Genesis  

Exodus 

Leviticus 

Numbers 

Deuteronomy 

Joshua 

Judges 

Ruth 

1 Samuel 

2 Samuel 

1 Kings  

2 Kings 

1 Chronicles 

2 Chronicles 

Esther 

Ezra 

Nehemiah  

Psalms 

Proverbs 

Ecclesiastes 

Song of Solomon 

Job 

Isaiah 

Jeremiah  

Lamentations 

Ezekiel    

Daniel 

Hosea 

Jonah 

Nahum 

Habakkuk 

Joel  

Amos 

Obadiah  

Micah 

Zephaniah 

Haggai 

Zechariah  

Malachi 

Matthew  

Mark  

Luke 

John 

Acts of the Apostles 

Romans 

1 Corinthians 

2 Corinthians 

Galatians 

Ephesians  

Philippians 

Colossians 

1 Thessalonians  

2 Thessalonians  

1 Timothy 

2 Timothy 

Titus 

Philemon 

Hebrews  

James 

1 Peter 

2 Peter 

1 John 

2 John  

3 John 

Jude 

The Revelation of John  

Deuterocanon Eastern Orthodox

Tobit 

Judith 

Additions to Esther  

Additions to Daniel 

The Books of Maccabees (1,2,3) 

The Wisdom of Solomon  

The Book of Sirach 

The Letter of Jeremiah  

The Prophecy of Baruch  

The Prayer of Manasseh 

Psalm 151 

Where to Start?

I have mentioned a few different thing that may be new to the reader and they may like to find out how to apply these methods and to validate certain comments I made. Let me help with a list.

1. Early Christians Quotation and Belief of other Writings

I could give the reader an example and will give one below, but here are two websites where you can read early Christian writings for yourself! Check to see what early Christians believed! Read the Ante Nicene Fathers for an especially early look.

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/

https://www.ccel.org/fathers.html

“I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch, which has assigned this order of action to angels, is not received by some, because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon either.” Tertulian (On the Apparel of Women I 3:1-3) 

2. Different Bible Canons at the Time of Jesus?

I mentioned several things that are relevant to this point. Deuterocanonical books were available at the time of Jesus and the Apostles. I mentioned early Christian writings as one proof, but other proofs include the many Hebrew fragments found at Qumran, which validate that these were written by Jews, and the historical Essenes. The Essenes, who likely hid the scrolls, were of some of the Jews who believed in these writings. Check out google for my resources on Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls!

3. Other Christian Bible Canons

Our brothers in the other churches are not hiding what they believe. Check out their individual websites for what canons these churches have historically held to. 

4. Early Bible Translations

Check out info on various early copies of the Septuagint and see what books this early Greek translation of the Scriptures included! 

Against King James Onlyism

Against King James Onlyism

What is King James onlyism? Simply put KJVOnlyism is the belief that the King James translation (formally known as the King James Version or King James Bible) from the 17th century is the sole translation that any English-speaking person should use. Naturally this leads to the practice of exclusively believing and reading the KJV translation. The primary idea behind this is that the KJV is fully accurate and totally representative of the original autographs of the Christian proto-canon (Protestant canon) of Scripture. From what can gather the movement of people holding this belief began in the United States in the 20th century. I have personally had my fair share of experience with the ideology and was even formally instructed of the “reasons” to believe this. Like all ideologies this comes in different forms and has different types of people using different types of reasons to support this belief. In this article I am attempting to give a brief understanding of what this ideology is and the fallacies that plague its foundations. In doing so I hope the reader will have a healthier and more informed view on the Christian Scriptures and have a basic understanding of this relatively new belief.  

The Types

When it comes to this ideology there are a few different types of people who hold this view. The most fortunate type of KJVOnlyist is the one who simply reads it because “its just what I like to read”. Can’t argue with that! This type will generally be the older generation who grew up in the days when translations were not as numerous as they are today. We’ll call this type the preference type. Another type of KJVOnlyist is the self-evident loyalist. The self-evident loyalist is the one who by all means will venerate the King James as “God’s only word for English speakers.” Reason and rational are no friends of this type. They will go to any means to the point of twisting Scripture and logic to conclude that this precious belief is true. This being from my experience. Disagreeing with them may lead to being accused of being led astray by Satan. The last type I will mention is the misinformed student type. This type is the one which will be more so dealt with in the article. The misinformed student is the KJVOnlyist who is willing to reason, but has just been led down the wrong path. Their biggest weakness is that they haven’t put the time in to validate the variables that make up the system they hold to. Often the system placed before these students is much better than that of the other types. Discussion of the translation process and the introduction of manuscript theory is introduced leading these students with much more to work with. However, I believe that it is often the case that these introductions are marred with a lack of depth, confusion of basic terms and procedures within the processes, and a dishonest withhold of key information that makes their view look bad.  

The K-ing J-ames V-ersion

(I am going to take for granted that the reader knows a little bit about textual criticism and the translation process)

What is the King James version of the Bible? Simple put it’s a translation of the Hebrew Bible and The Greek New Testament into English. That’s very simple right? Well other English translations are that as well so what makes all this translation any different? 

The Texts

As I start to discuss this I want to put a disclaimer out that I will not be discussing the Hebrew Bible and the Kjv’s version of the Masoretic text. Generally this Hebrew Text is used by most translators in some form and when it comes to the KJVOnly adherent the Hebrew isn’t really their stomping ground. They usually don’t know too much about it in my experience. The harping for the KJV is always based on the Greek New Testament. So what does the Greek New Testament of early English translations look like? Well let’s take a look. 

Stephen’s 1550 - from Erasmus’ Fourth Edition

So you’re looking at the heading and you are wondering just what these terms mean. I’ll try to make this simple, but it isn’t all that easy. In the early 16th century a man named Erasmus had the desire to publish a Greek text. His text was one of the predominate Greek texts used in the translation process of the KJV’s New Testament.  He later would go on to publish several editions of his finished work. A Greek text is the pulling of all sorts of manuscript witnesses together to create the New Testament into one linear book in Greek. Scholars of the past such as Dr. Frederick H. A. Scrivener have viewed the work of Erasmus’ text and below are some of his conclusions on the manuscript and codices believed to have been consulted based on his finished product. Now not all of these may have been used, but they are some which may include renderings that look like the finished work. (See the reference for more of Scrivener’s work on the matter.) Later Erasmus’ work was taken by Robert Estienne in the mid 16th century and he added some helpful textual notes to the mix and nice font. These two works are the same, but generally Stephen’s 1550 is what is referenced as the underlying Greek text of early English translations. This includes the KJV. Many KJV advocates will title this Greek text as the TR or Textus Receptus. They believe this captures the “preserved” nature of the Greek text as in Latin Textus Receptus means “text received.” They would say this is received from the church and ultimately from the original authors. Many adherents of KJVOnlyism are a part of groups that don’t consider the historic churches such as Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Orientals, etc. to even be Christian, so many are left wondering how this understanding helps their case when these groups weren’t “really” the church. Anyhow the Greek text known as Stephen’s 1550 is what was likely mostly considered when the Kjv translators were translating the New Testament into English. 

Some of the possible and likely manuscripts of the Erasmus’ Greek Text1 

Codex Bezae (5th century) 

Codex Regius (8th century) 

Codex Victorinus (Minuscule 120) (12th or 13th century) 

Minuscules: 

4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 38, 42, 111, 120, 237, 398, 2817 

The Latin Vulgate Influences

It is no secret that the Latin Vulgate (an old 4th century Latin translation of the Old and New Testaments) was used by Erasmus in his Greek text work. He even admits it himself. 

“However, at the end of this book (Revelation), I found some words in our versions which were lacking in the Greek copies, but we added them from the Latin”2

The Latin Vulgate holds certain verses and renderings that are scantly found in any Greek manuscripts if even at all. Many people want to go on and on about how this text represents the Byzantine family of text type and for the most part it does, but there are many verses and renderings in this text that are not found in this family. They are found in the Vulgate. One could look at the Revelation 22:16-21 in which Erasmus admits to supplying these verses from the Latin instead of the Greek and compare it to the Majority Text (any Greek text based on the Byzantine tradition of Greek New Testament manuscripts) to see if it is recorded this way. Acts 8:37 and 15:34 are just two more that one could compare and one will not find these in the Majority Text. Below I will show Stephen’s 1550 compared to Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpoint’s Byzantine Majority Text.One last thing to note is that Erasmus’ text also omits Luke 17:36 that is found in the KJV. This was done for good reason as outside of Codex D, and Latin texts, this verse is scantly found in the manuscript family. 

Acts 8:37

Acts 15:34

Do They Actually Read the KJV 1611?

The type of KJVOnlyist that is being discussed in this article generally sees the KJV as mostly the same. Sure some archaic words were spruced up, but it still says the exact same thing, right? This is again where we run into a problem. Today the KJV is published in America by both Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press. These two slightly differ, but are mostly the same. Here are just two references where the 1611 is not the same in rendering as it is today in both the Oxford and Cambridge 

Ruth 3:15 

Also he said, Bring the vaile that thou hast vpon thee, and holde it. And when she helde it, he measured sixe measures of barley, and laide it on her: and he went into the citie (KJV 1611) 

Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city. (KJV)

John 11:3  

Therefore his sister sent vnto him, saying, Lord, behold, hee whom thou louest, is sicke. (KJV 1611) 

Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. (KJV) 

Who went into the city in Ruth 3:15? Was it “he” or “she? Did Lazarus’ “sister” call for Jesus or his “sisters”? These verses have been taken from https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/1611-Bible/ where the reader may compare the verses for themselves.  

Formal vs Dynamic Translation

One last argument for KJV Onlyism that I will address is the word for word (formal) vs thought for thought (dynamic) debate. The aforementioned philosophy is one that affirms that we translate words from other languages more so literally. The second affirms that we should translate the entire sentence in a way that carries over the idea of the author, what they are trying to say in a way that makes sense in English. This opposes the stricter literal translation of each word. Before I mention the pros and cons of each let me start out by stating this is a false dichotomy. Every translation of anything does both of these. Sure one may lean more one way than the other, but both are being done. The KJV while classified under the formal philosophy also does dynamic translation as well. It wouldn’t be a translation if it didn’t, but rather it would be more of an interlinear. Also, the KJV is not the most formal translation we have on the market today. It certainly is bested by the NASB.  

 

The pros of a formal translation are that the reader gets access to the base words of a sentence and then can reconstruct the sentence from these primary understands. The big downside to this however is not only does this make it harder to read, this is actually better executed by interlinears of Scripture. If one is relying that their English translation is totally word for word just like the original languages they are uninformed. No one should be relying on translations for the formal process, but rather the original languages or an interlinear. If someone wants to read a translation of Scripture it would be better for them to stick to the more dynamic, so that they can understand the meaning and then go to their interlinear to better understand why the authors constructed the sentences the way they did. Then the reader can judge whether their translation is good or not.  

Conclusion

So the purpose of this article is to help the reader who either doesn’t know what KJVOnlyism is or for the one who may believe in it. The evidence of what the KJV is, is laid out and one may cross check the information given. The Greek text underlying the KJV may have been a good attempt for a rushed theologian, but it certainly is not 100% faithful to the Greek manuscript history. To be fair, none are, but many others come much closer than Erasmus’ text. Preservation of the Biblical text was never promised by God, so no one should fear the obvious conclusion of textual criticism. KJVOnlyism is a new belief rooted in American Christianity and should not continue to be adopted.  

This post, like all of mine, are meant to be informative and help the Christian better understand more of the subject. I hope my point of view can help. Read my wife’s testimony about her journey away from the movement here.

  1. Scrivener, Frederick Henry Ambrose (1884). The Authorized Edition of the English Bible, 1611, its subsequent reprints and modern representatives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
    Scrivener, Frederick Henry Ambrose; Edward Miller (1894). A Plain Introduction to the New Testament. London: George Bell & Sons. 

    One may read his works online here.

  2. https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/king-james-bible-and-restoration/6-endings-mark-and-revelation
  3. Copyright © 2005 by Robinson and Pierpont. Chilton Book Publishing