Epistle to Diognetus vs. Sola Scriptura

Epistle to Diognetus vs. Sola Scriptura April 12, 2024

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This 12-chapter epistle (dated possibly as early as 130, or as late as 180) can be read online. Several striking facts emerge in this regard, in the epistle:
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1. The words “Bible” and “Scripture” never appear.
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2. If one thinks that “Word” or “Word of God” might represent Scripture, it is to be noted that “Word of God” never appears. “Word” appears six times (5 in ch. 11 and once in ch. 12), but refers to Jesus (e.g., “learn accurately the things which have been clearly shown by the Word to His disciples, to whom the Word being manifested has revealed them . . . you shall know those things which the Word teaches, by whom He wills, and when He pleases”: ch. 11).
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3. “Church” appears twice and “tradition” once and “gospels” once, in this passage in ch. 11:
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This is He who, being from everlasting, is today called the Son; through whom the Church is enriched, and grace, widely spread, increases in the saints, furnishing understanding, revealing mysteries, announcing times, rejoicing over the faithful, giving to those that seek, by whom the limits of faith are not broken through, nor the boundaries set by the fathers passed over. Then the fear of the law is chanted, and the grace of the prophets is known, and the faith of the gospels is established, and the tradition of the Apostles is preserved, and the grace of the Church exults . . .

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Here we have a remarkable and early instance of the “three-legged stool” Catholic rule of faith (Bible-Church-tradition) and apostolic succession. There is no sense here at all of the Protestant belief that Bible is above everything else in terms of authority and the only infallible norm and source of faith (the definition of sola Scriptura). “Faith of the gospels” is virtually equated with “the tradition of the Apostles”: which is “preserved.”

4. “Apostles” appears three more times: twice in ch. 11 and once in ch. 12.

5. “Disciple[s]” appears four times, and in one portion the notion of apostolic succession and deliverance of a received tradition is evident:

I do not speak of things strange to me, nor do I aim at anything inconsistent with right reason; but having been a disciple of the Apostles, I have become a teacher of the Gentiles. I minister the things delivered to me to those that are disciples worthy of the truth. (ch. 11)

In other words, everything here is completely harmonious with a Catholic perspective on Christian authority, and quite difficult to fit into the Protestant outlook.

Related Reading

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Justin Martyr & Sola Scriptura (vs. Lucas Banzoli) [6-1-22]
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Photo credit: Three-legged stool (Netherlands) [source] [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

Summary: I document how the Epistle to Diognetus denied sola Scriptura and espoused a Catholic “three-legged stool” rule of faith, in line with the Church fathers en masse.

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