Banzoli Sez Origen & Tertullian are Sola Scripturists

Banzoli Sez Origen & Tertullian are Sola Scripturists May 31, 2022

Lucas Banzoli is a very active Protestant evangelical apologist in Brazil, who writes quite a bit in opposition to the Catholic Church and Catholic doctrine. He has a Master’s degree in theology, a degree and postgraduate work in history, a license in letters, and is a history teacher, author of 25 books, as well as blogmaster for six blogs. He’s also active on YouTube.

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The words of Lucas Banzoli will be in blue. I used Google Translate to transfer his Portugese text into English.

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This is a reply to his article,“Tertuliano e Orígenes em defesa da Sola Scriptura” [Tertullian and Origen in defense of Sola Scriptura] (4-17-16).

• Tertullian (160 – 220)

Tertullian also took pains to show the unique authority of the Bible:

“For even the apostle, in his declaration – which he does not do without feeling the weight of it – that ‘Christ died,’ immediately adds, ‘according to the Scriptures,’ that he might lighten the harshness of the declaration by the authority of Scripture, and thus remove the offense from the reader” [Contra Práxeas, 29]

He notes that Paul argued from the Scriptures. So what? Of course he did. So do all the fathers, all Catholic apologists, theologians, bishops and popes, priests in their homilies, and I myself constantly in my work. This doesn’t prove sola Scriptura. It proves use of Scripture as an inspired authority.

For him, the only reason that could lead them to believe a doctrine is if it were given to them in Scripture:

“Surely one could not believe even these things even of the Son of God, unless they were given to us in the Scriptures.” [Contra Práxeas, 16]

This is an interesting one and carries some force, I grant [link]. It can’t be immediately dismissed like so many Protestant patristic arguments. But I think it could probably be interpreted in terms of material sufficiency. My own take on what he says here is that he is commenting on all these amazing events recounted in the Bible, that are so much so that it would be difficult for people to believe in them, but for the fact that they are included in the inspired revelation of the Bible. We know that elsewhere (as I will show below) Tertullian stated that extrabiblical doctrines (harmonious with the Bible) could and should be believed, so he is not absolutely against that.

Remember, Catholics fully agree that the Bible is unique. We simply assert that there are other infallible — not inspired — authorities, too (Church and tradition).

He does not say, “unless it is given to us in Scripture or tradition,” but only in Scripture. It is the only authority that can lead a Christian to believe any doctrine.

He says those things elsewhere (which Lucas will have to grapple with). But it could be partly an exaggerated or rhetorical argument as well, because immediately after this cited portion, he says: “possibly also they could not have been believed of the Father, even if they had been given in the Scriptures, since these men bring Him down into Mary’s womb, and set Him before Pilate’s judgment-seat, and bury Him in the sepulchre of Joseph.” He isn’t going to argue that these things shouldn’t be believed, despite being in the Bible. So it seems to me at least this second statement must be rhetorical and non-literal, with a particular meaning. If it is (which seems clear), then it is likely that the preceding statement may be, too.

She is also enough, as he said:

“Make us happy to say that Christ died, the Son of the Father; and let that be enough, because the Scriptures have told us so.” [Contra Práxeas, 29]

Material sufficiency . . .

For him, the “voice of the Holy Spirit” present in Scripture is enough and no other deliberation is necessary beyond that:

“And why should I, a man of limited memory, suggest anything more? Why remember anything else in Scripture? As if the voice of the Holy Spirit wasn’t enough; or else any other deliberation were necessary, if the Lord cursed and condemned by priority the artisans of these things, of whom He curses and condemns the worshippers!” [On Idolatry, 4]

Well, yes, inspired Scripture is enough to settle problems. But this is not also a logically necessary denial that nothing else could also do so.

Against the school of Hermogenes, he declares one of the most emphatic statements of Sola Scriptura, saying:

“Let the school of Hermogenes show us that what it teaches is written: if it is not written, tremble at the anathema fulminated against those who add to Scripture, or take away from it.” [Contra Hermógenes, 22]

There were, therefore, two options: either the doctrine was written (in Scripture) and valid; or, if it was not written, it represented an addition to the Scriptures, and would be the object of God’s anathema withering. From this statement we see how seriously the early Church Fathers took the concept of Sola Scriptura, where only doctrines that were written in the Bible were accepted and where anything more or less than that was anathema.

The topic at hand here [link] was whether creation was made out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo), or from “underlying matter.”  The sentence immediately before Lucas’ citation reads: “But whether all things were made out of any underlying Matter, I have as yet failed anywhere to find.” So Tertullian asks his opponent to produce such a passage (I have produced the contrary) and then notes that no one should add or take away from Scripture because the book of Revelation (22:18-19) tells us not to do so. No one disagrees with that. I don’t see how this is any sort of proof of sola Scriptura.

This represents the entirety of Lucas’ arguments with regard to Tertullian and the rule of faith (one semi-convincing proof that’s not compelling). I can produce far more than this, because I don’t ignore the many relevant passages in Tertullian, like Lucas does:

The material below is from Philip Schaff’s 38-volume collection of the Church fathers. Anglican Church historian J. N. D. Kelly summarizes Tertullian’s view on the rule of faith:

[F]or Tertullian what was believed and preached in the churches was absolutely authoritative . . . on occasion [he] described this original message as tradition, using the word to denote the teaching delivered by the apostles, without any implied contrast between tradition and Scripture . . . Tertullian can refer [de praescr. 21; c. Marc. I, 21;4 5] to the whole body of apostolic doctrine, whether delivered orally or in epistles, as apostolorum traditio or apostolica traditio . . .

Tertullian’s attitude does not differ from Irenaeus’s in any important respect . . . In its primary sense, however, the apostolic, evangelical or Catholic tradition [C. Marc. 4, 5; 5, 19; de monog. 2] stood for the faith delivered by the apostles, and he never contrasted tradition so understood with Scripture . . .

But Tertullian did not confine the apostolic tradition to the New Testament; even if Scripture were to be set on one side, it would still be found in the doctrine publicly proclaimed by the churches. Like Irenaeus, he found [E.g., de praescr. 21; 32; c. Marc. 4, 5] the surest test of the authenticity of this doctrine in the fact that the churches had been founded by, and were continuously linked with, the apostles; and as a further guarantee he added [De praescr. 28] their otherwise inexplicable unanimity . . .

This unwritten tradition he considered to be virtually identical with the ‘rule of faith’ (regula fidei), which he preferred to Scripture as a standard when disputing with Gnostics . . . where controversy with heretics breaks out, the right interpretation can be found only where the true Christian faith and discipline have been maintained, i.e., in the Church [De praescr. 19] . . .

He was also satisfied, and made the point even more forcibly than Irenaeus, that the indispensable key to Scripture belonged exclusively to the Church, which in the regula had preserved the apostles’ testimony in its original shape. . . . the one divine revelation was contained in its fulness both in the Bible and in the Church’s continuous public witness. (Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco, revised 1978 edition, 36, 39-41)

The Church

[T]he churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church . . . (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 20)

[I]t is incredible that these could have been such as to bring in some other rule of faith, differing from and contrary to that which they were proclaiming through the Catholic churches, — as if they spoke of one God in the Church, (and) another at home, and described one substance of Christ, publicly, (and) another secretly, and announced one hope of the resurrection before all men, (and) another before the few; although they themselves, in their epistles, besought men that they would all speak one and the same thing, and that there should be no divisions and dissensions in the church, seeing that they, whether Paul or others, preached the same things. Moreover, they remembered (the words): Let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than this comes of evil; [Matthew 5:37] so that they were not to handle the gospel in a diversity of treatment. (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 26)

Sacred Tradition

It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 21)

When, however, that which is deposited among many is found to be one and the same, it is not the result of error, but of tradition. Can any one, then, be reckless enough to say that they were in error who handed on the tradition? (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 28)

Such are the summary arguments which we use, when we take up arms against heretics for the faith of the gospel, maintaining both that order of periods, which rules that a late date is the mark of forgers, and that authority of churches which lends support to the tradition of the apostles; because truth must needs precede the forgery, and proceed straight from those by whom it has been handed on. (Against Marcion, Book IV, ch. 5)

We have it on the true tradition of the Church, that this epistle was sent to the Ephesians, not to the Laodiceans. (Against Marcion, Book V, ch. 17)

For if, even at that time, the tradition of the gospel had spread everywhere, how much more now! Now, if it is our gospel which has spread everywhere, rather than any heretical gospel, much less Marcion’s, which only dates from the reign of Antoninus, then ours will be the gospel of the apostles. (Against Marcion, Book V, ch. 19)

Apostolic Succession

[E]ven 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. (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 19)

They [the Apostles] then in like manner founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. . . . Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church, (founded) by the apostles, from which they all (spring). In this way all are primitive, and all are apostolic, while they are all proved to be one, in (unbroken) unity, by their peaceful communion, and title of brotherhood, and bond of hospitality — privileges which no other rule directs than the one tradition of the selfsame mystery. (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 20)

From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for no man knows the Father save the Son, and he to whomever the Son will reveal Him. Matthew 11:27 Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any other than the apostles, whom He sent forth to preach — that, of course, which He revealed to them. Now, what that was which they preached — in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them — can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles founded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves, both vivâ voce, as the phrase is, and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches— those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth. (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 21)

[N]or can they presume to claim to be a church themselves who positively have no means of proving when, and with what swaddling-clothes this body was established. (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 22)

But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs ] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men, — a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed. Let the heretics contrive something of the same kind. For after their blasphemy, what is there that is unlawful for them (to attempt)? But should they even effect the contrivance, they will not advance a step. For their very doctrine, after comparison with that of the apostles, will declare, by its own diversity and contrariety, that it had for its author neither an apostle nor an apostolic man; because, as the apostles would never have taught things which were self-contradictory, so the apostolic men would not have inculcated teaching different from the apostles, unless they who received their instruction from the apostles went and preached in a contrary manner. To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine. Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith. (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 32)

Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, as many as walk according to the rule, which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. . . . But on what ground are heretics strangers and enemies to the apostles, if it be not from the difference of their teaching, which each individual of his own mere will has either advanced or received in opposition to the apostles? (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 37)

No doubt, after the time of the apostles, the truth respecting the belief of God suffered corruption, but it is equally certain that during the life of the apostles their teaching on this great article did not suffer at all; so that no other teaching will have the right of being received as apostolic than that which is at the present day proclaimed in the churches of apostolic foundation. You will, however, find no church of apostolic origin but such as reposes its Christian faith in the Creator. But if the churches shall prove to have been corrupt from the beginning, where shall the pure ones be found? Will it be among the adversaries of the Creator? Show us, then, one of your churches, tracing its descent from an apostle, and you will have gained the day. (Against Marcion, Book I, ch. 21)

Petrine Primacy / Papacy

Was anything withheld from the knowledge of Peter, who is called the rock on which the church should be built, who also obtained the keys of the kingdom of heaven, with the power of loosing and binding in heaven and on earth? (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 22)

Afterwards, as he himself [St. Paul] narrates, he went up to Jerusalem for the purpose of seeing Peter, [Galatians 1:18] because of his office, no doubt,  . . . (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 23)

[T]hey at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus, . . . (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 30)

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Lucas then moves onto Origen, where he commits the same misguided error again and again:

Like the others, Origen reinforced the fact of the sufficiency of Scripture. He declared that “what we have taken from the authority of Scripture must be sufficient to refute the arguments of heretics” [De Principiis, Livro II, 5:3]. When he entered into theological debates, he made a point of saying that the discussion at hand should be resolved on the basis of the Bible.

This is pure material sufficiency. Most Catholics agree, so it is a non-issue.

He said:

“Thirdly, the apostles manifested to us the Holy Spirit, associated in honor and dignity with the Father and the Son. In this, however, it is no longer clearly distinguished whether the Holy Spirit is begotten or unbegotten, or whether he must also be considered the Son of God or not. It is these things that must be investigated to the best of our ability through a careful search from the Holy Scriptures.” [De Principiis, Cap.4]

“It is important, therefore, that he use these things as elements and foundations, according to the commandment that says: ‘Illuminate yourselves by the light of science’, anyone who wishes to construct a series and a body of reasons for all these things, to investigate by means of manifest and necessary affirmations what there is of truth in each of them, and to build up a body of examples and affirmations from what I have found in the Holy Scriptures” [De Principiis, Cap.10]

“Now all this, as we have underlined, was done by the Holy Spirit that, seeing that those events which lie on the surface can be neither true nor useful, we may be guided to the investigation of that truth which is most deeply hidden, and to the affirmation of a meaning worthy of God in those Scriptures which we believe to have been inspired by Him.” [De Principii, 4:15]

Yeah, we should check all doctrines by Scripture. I did that today, in my previous reply to Lucas, showing that sola Scriptura can’t be found in Holy Scripture. Nothing proving sola Scriptura here . . .

He also made a point of analyzing in the Bible the veracity of each doctrine or theory elaborated. When something was not confirmed by the authority of Holy Scripture, he rejected it, to make way for what was biblical:

“I do not observe that this is greatly confirmed by the authority of Holy Scripture; whereas, in relation to the other two, a considerable number of passages are found in the Holy Scriptures which seem capable of being applied to them” [De Principii, 4]

The proof of the doctrines which he asserted he took not from tradition, but from Scripture: “To deal with so many and such things, it is not enough to entrust the sum of this subject to human senses and common intelligence, speaking, so to speak, visibly about invisible things. We must also take, for the demonstration of the things of which we speak, the testimonies of the Divine Scriptures” [De Principiis, Livro IV, Cap.1]

“Exhorted thus briefly by the very logic and coherence of the subject, though we have extended ourselves a little, what we have said is sufficient to show that there are some things whose significance cannot be explained by any discourse of human language, but which are declared by an intelligence, simpler than the properties of any words. The understanding of the divine letters must also adhere to this rule, and what is said must be considered not for the baseness of the word, but for the divinity of the Holy Spirit who inspired the one who wrote them.” [De Principiis, Livro IV, Cap.27]

Exactly right. Catholics totally agree! Go to the Bible to back up all of your doctrines. If we agree with this, then obviously it’s not an argument against us. It’s not even on-topic.

The reverse was also true. If the reason a doctrine was accepted was because of its conformity to Holy Scripture – not tradition – the reason why some erred was not because they ignored tradition, but because they ignored the Scriptures or did not read them correctly:

“Having made this brief comment on the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures by the Holy Spirit, it now seems necessary to explain why some, ignoring the way by which the understanding of the divine letters is reached, not reading them correctly, have fallen into so many errors” [De Principiis, Livro IV, Cap.8]

Scripture as the basis of all doctrines becomes even clearer when we see Origen saying that both the simplest and the most advanced would have to be built up by Scripture, not to mention tradition either for one or the other:

“He must do this, first, that the simplest may be edified by the very body of Scripture, as it were. This is what we call common and historical understanding. If, however, they already begin to advance a little, so that they can understand something more deeply, let them also be edified by the very soul of the Scriptures” [De Principiis, Livro IV, Cap.11]

His entire search for true doctrine was grounded in Scripture:

“All this, as we have said, the Holy Spirit sought so that, insofar as what is on the surface could not be true or useful, we would speedily be called to seek a higher truth, and search the Scriptures, which we believe to be inspired by God, a sense worthy of God” [De Principiis, Livro IV, Cap.15]

If one doesn’t study and understand the Bible, they leave themselves open to serious errors. The Catholic says “amen!” This all has to do with material sufficiency.

The same Scripture, which the Papists hold to be insufficient for salvation,

But we don’t do that . . .

Origen said was given just for our salvation!

“Just as man is said to be made up of body, soul and spirit, so is Holy Scripture, which by divine liberality was given for the salvation of men.” [De Principiis, Livro IV, Cap.11]

Of course it was. DUH!

He also advocated free examination. Instead of saying that the meaning of the passages could only be examined and discovered by the Roman magisterium, he asserted that any intelligent person who studied the Scriptures could discover the meaning for himself:

“People of intelligence who wish to study Scripture can also discover its meaning for themselves.” [Contra Celso, Livro VII, 11]

The Catholic Church (Council of Trent) required one interpretation only for all of seven verses in the Bible. That’s it! The rest can be interpreted as one wishes. Nor was it true historically that the Catholic Church tried to suppress the Bible, as the common myth would have it:

Were Vernacular Bibles Unknown Before Luther? (Luther’s Dubious Claims About the Supposed Utter Obscurity of the Bible Before His Translation) [6-15-11]

Dialogue: “Obscure” Bible Before Luther’s Translation? [7-24-14]

Catholic Church: Historic “Enemy” of the Bible? [9-11-15]

Did Pope Innocent III Forbid the Bible in 1199? (+ Does the Bible Itself Teach That it Should be Read Without Need of Any Authoritative Interpretation?) [5-11-21]

Did Medieval Catholicism Forbid All Vernacular Bibles? [5-11-21]

Council of Trent: Anti-Bible or Anti-Bad Bible Translations? [5-12-21]

“Unigenitus” (1713) vs. Personal Bible Study? (+ Other Supposed “Anti-Bible” Catholic Proclamations & Analogies to Calvinist “Dogmatism” at the Synod of Dort) [5-14-21]

Sometimes it wished to suppress unauthorized or bad translations; but of course Protestants have always done that, too, so it’s not an issue.

Even the “deeper truths” could be discovered by one who investigated the meaning of Scripture on his own, citing three biblical texts in his defense:

“The deepest truths are discovered by those who know how to ascend from simple faith and investigate the underlying meaning of the divine Scriptures, according to the admonitions of Jesus, who said, ‘Search the Scriptures,’ and the desire of Paul, who taught that ‘we must know how to respond to every man’, yes, and also of those who said ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the faith that is in you’” [Contra Celso III, 33]

Material sufficiency again . . .

Interestingly, Origen never told Celsus that if he wanted to discover the deeper meanings of biblical texts he would have to turn to an infallible magisterium in Rome, or consult a pope who would interpret Scripture infallibly. Rather, what he reaffirms is that anyone can study the Bible and discover for himself the meaning of the passages. It was exactly the same principle restored by the Reformers, being explicitly preached at that time. 

If only one aspect of his teaching is presented, one would get such an impression. But I believe that all the relevant material one can find about a specific Church father should be set forth, so that we get the whole truth, not half-truths and carefully selected portions meant to convey an impression in one direction only. And so I now present Origen’s writings that are actually relevant to this debate and on-topic:

And therefore, to those who believe that the sacred books are not the compositions of men, but that they were composed by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, agreeably to the will of the Father of all things through Jesus Christ, and that they have come down to us, we must point out the ways (of interpreting them) which appear (correct) to us, who cling to the standard of the heavenly Church of Jesus Christ according to the succession of the apostles. (On First PrinciplesBook IV, Section 9; English translation based on extant Greek of Origen)

As in all such cases, one must also determine what the writer believes about the Church and Christian tradition, because the rule of faith has to do with the relationship of those two entities with Scripture. We already see that Origen, in the second excerpt above, incorporates the Church and apostolic succession into the mix (“who cling to the standard of the heavenly Church of Jesus Christ according to the succession of the apostles”), so that he is expressing the Catholic “three-legged stool” view.

The word “standard” is particularly noteworthy and revealing. Church and tradition/ apostolic succession are involved in the rule of faith alongside Holy Scripture. All we need do now is supplement the above with other related utterances from Origen, and reputable Protestant scholarly opinion. Origen also wrote the following:

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 apostolical tradition. (De Principiispreface, complete section 2; ANF, Vol. IV)

Origen, in this Preface, reiterates over and over the same non-scriptural elements of the rule of faith: “the teaching of the apostles” (4), “most clearly taught throughout the Churches” (4), “the apostolic teaching” (5), “This also is clearly defined in the teaching of the Church” (5), “the teaching of the Church” (again in 5, and in 6, 7, 10), “the Church’s teaching” (7), “Respecting which there is one opinion throughout the whole Church” (8). He continues on in the same manner throughout this work:

“he may judge these to be heretical and opposed to the faith of the Church” (Bk. I, ch. 7, part 1); “We have now to ascertain what those matters are which it is proper to treat in the following pages according to our dogmatic belief, i.e., in agreement with the creed of the Church” (Bk. I, ch. 7, part 1). “the punishments of sinners, according to the threatenings of holy Scripture and the contents of the Church’s teaching”; “some take offense at the creed of the Church” (Bk. II, ch. 10, part 1), “Those, however, who receive the representations of Scripture according to the understanding of the apostles, . . . (Bk. II, ch. 11, part 3).

Therefore, it is apparent that Origen held to the Catholic rule of faith and apostolic succession, and that he denied sola Scriptura.

Protestant historian J. N. D. Kelly describes Origen’s view of the relationship of the Bible and tradition:

Early third-century writers, like Clement of Alexandria and Origen, continued to use language about it [tradition, in context] closely akin to that of Irenaeus and Tertullian, and spoke of ‘the ecclesiastical canon’ or ‘the canon of faith’ . . . in addition to the Church’s public tradition, they believed they had access to a secret tradition of doctrine . . . for Origen it seems to have consisted of an esoteric theology based on the Bible . . . According to Origen, the rule of faith, or canon, was the body of beliefs currently accepted by ordinary Christians; or again it could stand for the whole content of the faith. In his usage it was equivalent to what he called ‘the ecclesiastical preaching’ . . . and he meant by it the Christian faith as taught in the Church of his day and handed down from the apostles. Though its contents coincided with those of the Bible, it was formally independent of the Bible, and also included the principles of Biblical interpretation. (Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper & Row, fifth revised edition, 1978, 43)

Kelly’s last sentence describes almost exactly the Catholic distinction between material and formal sufficiency of Scripture. We agree with Protestants that Scripture is materially sufficient, but not formally sufficient as a rule of faith, independently of Church and Tradition.

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Related Reading

For much more on sola Scriptura: see my Bible, Tradition, Canon, & “Sola Scriptura” web page.

For documentation of many more Church fathers who rejected sola Scriptura, see the “Bible” section of my Fathers of the Church web page.

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Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

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Photo credit: Lucas Banzoli, Facebook photo as of 5-3-22, dated 15 January 2018.

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Summary: Brazilian Protestant apologist Lucas Banzoli attempts to show that Origen & Tertullian were sola Scripturists. They were not, as I abundantly prove with citations.


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