The Authority of Scripture

"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. -- Hebrews 4:12

The Scriptures are the Word of God and, as such, they are authoritative. Both Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians believe this. From that point on, there is disagreement concerning the written Word.

Evangelicals hold that Scripture alone is the Word of God. For them, the Bible alone establishes standards for faith and religious practice. It is the final authority in these matters.

Roman Catholics, on the other hand, consider the Scriptures holy and authoritative, but incomplete. They consider the RCC's body of Tradition to be equally holy and authoritative and consider it also to be divinely inspired.

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, 'does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.'[DV 9.] -- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., (C) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

The Roman church claims she is responsible for the Canon of Scripture and alone is entrusted by God to properly interpret His Word. She has established strict rules to prohibit private access to or individual study of the Bible. For centuries, the penalties for owning and reading a Bible were severe. Interestingly, God's Word was listed among the proscribed books on the 'Index Librorum Prohibitorum.'

In that special language apparently only clearly understood by RCC clergy, the Roman Church declares there has been no new revelation since the closing of the Canon of Scripture. Rome informs the Catholic faithful that oral tradition is nothing more than the teachings of the Apostles handed down through an unbroken succession of bishops. In spite of this stand, new doctrines are declared and old ones modified with alarming regularity.

The origin and authority of the written Word is unquestioned. It came from God Himself and, therefore, is backed by His authority.

14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
-- 2 Timothy 3:14-17, NASB

Christians accept the Scriptures as being the inspired Word of God because that is what they tell us. This is not circular reasoning, however, for the statements of Scripture are supported historically by the words of Christ Himself and of the Apostles and others who contributed to the Canon of Scripture. Jesus validated many books of what is known as the Old Testament by quoting from them in His teachings. He validated the Hebrew Bible (Tenakh) when He told us:

17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
-- Matthew 5:17-18, NIV

The origin of Rome's 'Sacred Tradition,' on the other hand, is less clear. It is unsupported in Scripture, though Roman apologists will apply their eisegesis to the Word of God and point to passages which allegedly 'prove' that tradition is biblical. In doing this, they pointedly ignore that Christ and the Apostles, when referring to tradition, supported their words with passages from the Scriptures known to the Jews. They were not innovators. The Scriptures preserved God's words and Christ and the Apostles passed them along as part of Jewish tradition. What Rome does is invent new 'traditions,' claiming they are but the results of more clear understandings of what has been passed down from the Apostles.

Rome claims the Bible alone is insufficient for purposes of salvation or building up the true Church. She argues that the Bible must be supplemented by Tradition, which is equally inspired. Of course, this cannot be supported from Scripture. Nowhere does the Lord tell us that His revealed Word is inadequate for the purposes He intended. Nowhere does He tell us we must look to a body of tradition as a separate source of revelation. I think it not unreasonable to suggest that, if tradition indeed were intended to be accepted as revelation, then surely God would have mentioned it in the Bible.

In apostolic times, there existed a great body of Jewish tradition, almost all of it closely linked to Scripture, yet Paul never claimed this tradition to be divinely inspired. In fact, the Bible is utterly silent concerning the inspiration of tradition.

That doesn't stop Rome, however. By twisting and contorting God's revelation, Rome emulates the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus' time. You know, the ones our Savior so berated for having created a huge body of manmade rules and laws which, in practice, appeared to supersede or supplant the laws of God (Matthew 15:1-9).

What does the Bible have to say about tradition? Well, among other things, it warns us:

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. -- Colossians 2:8

Other teachings regarding man's traditions include:

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: -- 1 Peter 1:18-19

Christ validated Scripture as authoritative in His conflicts with detractors. He rebuked them with Scripture and corrected their flawed understanding, teaching and concepts.

Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. -- Matthew 15:1-6

The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine. -- Matthew 22:23-33

If Messiah held Scripture to be authoritative and valid even for correcting the traditions of men, should we do less?

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