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Matatics: The Word of God is the Supreme Norm, but According to Scripture Itslef, God's Word is Not Entirely Contained Within Scripture Alone

When a widower friend remarried shortly after the death of a wife with whom he'd been very unhappy, Samuel Johnson described it as "the triumph of hope over experience."

I can relate. Whenever I've asked evangelicals to defend the notion of Sola Scriptura, my experience has been one of unremitting disappointment. With wearisome predictability the same Protestant pearls are flung before this sacerdotalist swine, the same logically-flawed, historically-uninformed, and exegetically-untenable arguments. Yet hope springs eternal, as Pope would say,[1] and when Doug Jones asked me to debate Sola Scriptura within the pages of Antithesis, hope arose, phoenix-like, from the ashes of my dialogic disillusionment. Now, at last, I'd hear a daunting defense of this doctrine at the hands of an advocate of Reformed theology!

I approached Antithesis with affection, for its point of view was, poignantly, once my own.[2] As a Presbyterian I was particularly fond of the formal principle of the Reformation,[3] and privileged to have as professors and (in some cases) colleagues such stalwarts of Sola Scriptura as J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, Roger Nicole, John Gerstner, James Montgomery Boice, and Gordon Clark. I looked to these men as models; I worshiped the water they walked on. They impressed upon me that Scripture must always be submitted to a priori, however unlooked-for or unsettling the results.

Ironically, this was borne out when I went so far as to weigh in the Biblical balance the "Bible only" doctrine itself, only to find it wanting. While pursuing a Ph.D. in Biblical Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, I came to the unexpected conclusion that Sola Scriptura was utterly unscriptural. Becoming persuaded other Protestant principles were unbiblical, too, I ultimately embraced the ancient understanding of the Christian faith known as Catholicism.

So I have a firsthand familiarity with Mr. Jones's mindset. I once believed just as he does and advanced the same arguments as he. Debating him is rather like debating my own ghost, from my own Protestant past.

I prefer being positive to being negative. Rather than engage in an elaborate dissection of Mr. Jones's essay, I'll offer instead a Biblical case against Sola Scriptura, in contrast to his Biblical case for the concept, and allow the reader to weigh their relative merits. Mr. Jones has rightly reminded us that "the Word of God" must never be nullified by "the traditions of men" (Mt 15:1-9). That is exactly why the Catholic Church pronounced a pastoral warning against the "tradition of men" known as Sola Scriptura, a tradition found neither in Scripture nor in the first nearly 1400 years of Christian teaching. Sola scriptura contradicts the clear teaching of God's Word that there exists, alongside Sacred Scripture, a divine Tradition and a Teaching Authority (the Magisterium of the Church) which must equally be heeded and without which Scripture is inevitably misinterpreted. To meet Mr. Jones on his own ground, I shall demonstrate these truths from Scripture alone.

The Biblical Case Against Sola Scriptura

1. The Biblical doctrine of Scripture is a subset of the larger doctrine of revelation. Scripture, in other words, is but part of the entire process of divine disclosure.

2. This process was never restricted to writing, but was initially and even primarily one of speaking. Speaking is how the Lord created, and entered into covenant with, the cosmos and communicated his covenant to the pre-Mosaic patriarchs (Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc.). The later development of providing a written document, therefore, while valuable, was no sine qua non of a covenant, no necessary instrument to its implementation or administration.

3. So far as we can tell, the command to write down God's words first came to Moses.[4] Alongside the production of these Scriptures, however, God continued to speak to men and through men (prophets) in an oral fashion. Some of these prophets, like Moses, recorded their oracles in written form;[5] others did not.[6] Even among those prophets who did author inspired books, we're not told they wrote down everything they ever uttered. [7] In every case, however, their unwritten word was as fully inspired, authoritative, and efficacious as the written word.[8]

4. When it came time for God to reveal himself definitively, he did so, not in the written words of a book, but in the spoken words of a person, the incarnate Second Person of the eternal Trinity.[9] Christ, the Word made flesh, the fullest revelation of God,[10] carried out his revelatory mission in an exclusively oral form,[11] without writing a single word.[12]

5. When it came time for Jesus to ensure his Word would continue in the world after his departure, he did so, not by writing a book, but by doing exactly what his Father had done, "because whatever the Father does the Son also does."[13] The Father had selected a Person, endowed him with the Spirit (i.e. inspiration), invested him with full teaching authority, and sent him forth to preach a living, spoken Word in which men would hear God directly speaking to them. Christ therefore did the same, only with twelve persons: the apostles.[14]

6. Notice that Christ commanded them to "go forth and preach" (see previous footnote); there is no explicit command to "go forth and write." The former was necessary to the accomplishment of their mission; the latter was not, which explains the following stumbling blocks to Sola Scriptura:

a) Most of the apostles, like their Lord before them, never wrote a word, so far as we know.

b) Those who did (e.g. John) didn't write down everything they knew and taught.[15]

c) Even the apostle Paul, who wrote more than all the others, preached and taught far more than he ever wrote, as the book of Acts alone makes clear.[16]

d) Even in his writings, Paul wasn't always as explicit as we'd like,[17] because he could presuppose on the part of his readers a familiarity with his previous oral instruction, which spelled things out more fully. The result for us is that "his letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."[18]

For the vast majority of the apostles' disciples, then, the "Word of God" was largely an oral entity; faith came by hearing it.[19] The apostles were conscious of possessing inspired, infallible, teaching authority not just, or even primarily, when they wrote,[20] but primarily when they preached.[21]

7. Scripture nowhere states that all the oral tradition--or even all the oral tradition God intended to preserve--would eventually become Scripture. The idea that inscripturation is the only way to permanently preserve revealed truth is a Protestant presupposition without the slightest scrap of scriptural warrant.

8. Instead, the Scriptures command us to pass on not only the apostolic Scriptures, but also the equally-inspired apostolic tradition which was not written down.[22] This command wasn't qualified by any indication that the transmission of oral tradition was only temporary until the last Scripture was written or the canon completed. Given the standing command, the burden of proof is clearly on Mr. Jones to show us why this command is no longer in force.[23 ] Unless he can provide this proof, Sola Scriptura (the notion that the Word of God has come down to us today only in the written Scriptures) appears to be not only a gratuitous assumption, but an unbiblical and even antibiblical idea.

9. Note how the apostles ensured their teaching would continue after them: not by feverishly scribbling it all down, under the mistaken impression that only in this way could God preserve the purity of their doctrine. Instead, they did what the Father had done with Christ and what Christ had done with them: they appointed personal successors (the bishops), entrusted to them the apostolic doctrines, and invested them with full authority to teach,[24 ] including a special endowment of the Spirit.[25]

These successors functioned as guardians of the faith, to exclude misunderstanding and heresy and preserve doctrinal purity and unity. Given the difficulty of much of Scripture, people need such a sure guide.[26] As these apostolic successors (collectively known as the Magisterium of the Church) maintain fidelity to the Faith entrusted to them and solidarity with one another, especially with the successor to Peter, who was given special privileges,[27] they provide the Church with its needed character of infallibility. If the Church could officially teach heresy, how could it be the pillar and foundation of the truth, a house built upon a rock which cannot fall, a Church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail?[28]

Having laid out my case, let me briefly suggest a few problems in Mr. Jones's own, beginning with the general principles he propounds in his prolegomenary paragraphs, and then moving on to his specific examples.

The Case of the Begged Question

To the question, "Does Scripture teach Sola Scriptura?" Mr. Jones answers, "Scripture teaches that the Word of God is the supreme norm" [emphasis mine]. This is hardly fair. The Roman Catholic, no less than the Reformed Christian, affirms the Word of God as our supreme norm. For Advocate One to arrogate this assertion to himself, as though Advocate Two denies it, is unfair and prejudicial. What the Catholic denies is that "Scripture alone is the supreme norm." He rejects the Protestant assumption that the concepts "Word of God" and "Scripture" are always interchangeable. Mr. Jones must demonstrate the identity of these terms, not assume it a priori, or he is simply begging the question.

The Case of the Exotic Equivocation

Mr. Jones might defend himself from the charge of question-begging by pointing out that he later stated: "When Protestants speak of `Scriptura' we use it synonymously with such designations as `God's Word' (whether oral or written)...the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is the contention that the Word of God (oral or written) is the sole and supreme norm for Biblical faith" [emphasis mine]. The idea was, I suppose, by this definition to steal the Catholic's thunder.

Unfortunately, neither Latin, English, nor any of his proffered proof texts supports this idiosyncratic sense of the word scriptura, which means something written. Mr. Jones can thus avoid being guilty of one logical fallacy (begging the question) only by becoming guilty of another (equivocation[29] ). Besides, redefining the term is not only unwarranted, but worthless for the purposes of the debate, since it obliterates the distinction between the Catholic and Protestant view. If scriptura includes oral as well as written teaching, then there is nothing left to argue about: Catholics can now affirm Sola Scriptura too!

Return of the Begged Question (Co-Starring Ipse Dixit)

Mr. Jones can avoid the charge of equivocation by claiming that he only means to acknowledge the existence of oral tradition in an earlier stage of redemptive history, prior to the closing of the canon, not as something we still have access to today. He seems to have this in mind when he states, "Sola Scriptura incorporates the fact that, as a general pattern, God reveals His Word orally and temporarily through prophets and apostles and then subsequently inscripturates His Word" [emphasis mine].

Since the burden of proof is always on the one who asserts, Mr. Jones surely cannot expect anyone to accept this ipse dixit without a single scriptural statement in substantiation, especially since this is the very issue in question: Does the Word of God still come down to us apart from Scripture? Unfortunately he produces no prooftext showing that after an oracle was reduced to writing, God prohibited its continued transmission in oral form. No such prooftext, in fact, exists.

Mr. Jones could infer a divine prohibition, or at least a divine disinterest in providentially preserving unwritten tradition, by assuming (which I think is what he does) that no unwritten oral teachings of prophets or apostles have in fact survived. But not only is this another form of begging the question, how would he prove this (as opposed to just assuming it)? To prove a negative such as "No Word of God still survives in only oral form" is notoriously difficult. Some might even say it requires omniscience--either one's own, or God's, supplied in some scriptural prooftext. But again, no such prooftext exists. He does have some terribly inconvenient texts which seem to say that none of God's words would be lost,[30] and they (darn it) don't restrict this to the written words, or even say that all the oral ones will be preserved precisely by being written down.

Revenge of the Son of Begged Question

Still another form in which the begged question returns yet again (you just can't keep a good begged question down!) is in the false antithesis Mr. Jones indulges in at the outset of his section on the Old Testament, in which, he says, "the sole and supreme norm invoked is God's Word, apart from secondary interpreters, explications, or `infallible' institutions."

He assumes, in other words, that anything falling into any of these categories by definition could not be part of God's Word, but must be extrinsic to it. But even if God's Word were understood to mean Scripture alone he couldn't exclude these types of material. The Bible itself is full, in its later books, of secondary interpreters and explications of its earlier materials. And as for an infallible institution, if the office of inspired prophet wasn't, I don't know what was.

The Case of the Missing Waterfall

What, finally, of Mr. Jones's claim that the Biblical case for Sola Scriptura "overwhelms one like a waterfall"? I know no such Niagara, but patiently I permitted Captain Jones to pilot his tour-giving tugboat[31] around the foot of these furtive falls, wondering whether this Calvinistic cataract would come clearly into view.

The first floodgates from which Sola Scriptura streams forth, according to Mr. Jones, are found in the Garden of Eden, where "we find Sola Scriptura at the very beginning of redemptive history." We have already seen, though, that there was no Scripture during the patriarchal period. Adam and Eve, Noah, and Abraham can therefore hardly serve as examples of Sola Scriptura, only of nulla scriptura.

If by Sola Scriptura Mr. Jones means absence of any magisterium, again he's wrong. Adam, who was prophet as well as priest and king, was certainly a "secondary interpreter" of God's Word[32] to his wife (who hadn't heard, for one thing, God's original prohibition of the tree of knowledge[33] ), his children, and subsequent generations.

So was Noah: God communicated with him directly,[34 ] and he in turn functioned as prophet to his contemporaries as well as his descendants.[35] Mr. Jones's verdict on the Noahic period that "throughout, the sole standard was God's unmediated Word," therefore seems a trifle off the mark.

Abraham is also "a most striking example" (Mr. Jones's words)--not of Sola Scriptura, alas, but of the role of covenant head as mediator of the Word to the community. How, for example, did Isaac know he was fulfilling God's will in allowing himself to be bound and laid on the altar? He had neither Scripture to consult nor personal oracle addressed to him. How did he hear God's Word? He asked his father. [36]

Even when we get to Moses and the era of covenant inscripturation, we cannot claim Sola Scriptura, because the written word never entirely supplanted the oral. Mr. Jones says that "the priests themselves were directed to heed the (now written) Word of God alone," but the very book of Leviticus he presumes functioned as their Sola Scriptura is filled with statements devastating to his theory.[37]

He also presents another false antithesis here between "God's law" and "ecclesiastical or priestly tradition." The historical fact is that subsequent generations of priests and Levites learned the requirements of their sacerdotal office from their predecessors by oral instruction, not by each possessing his own personal copy of the Bible and studying it in a Sola Scriptura fashion according to his own private interpretation. "Priestly tradition" in fact mediated the Scriptures, as well as their meaning.[38]

The well-known prohibitions of Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, and 13:1-4, which Mr. Jones cites next, merely prohibited tampering with the text of Scripture;[39] they neither precluded subsequent revelation (either oral or written),[40] nor forbade the continued transmission of God's Word in oral form. On the contrary, Deuteronomy commanded the Israelites to orally pass on God's laws.[41]

These same accusations of question-begging, equivocation, false antithesis, absence of proof, and basic failure to factor in the Catholic counterargument can be levelled at Mr. Jones's arguments drawn from the wisdom and prophetic literature; there is no need to go ad nauseam through each one. Furthermore, half of his arguments backfire on him (e.g. I could use Jeremiah 31:31 to exclude from the New Covenant not just Sacred Tradition, but Scripture as well)!

The same goes for his NT case, which doesn't deal with the kind of data I explored in depth in my case above. The assertion that the canon was closed at the time of Christ, even if true, is only relevant if you assume that this entailed the extinction of any inspired oral tradition. The assertion that the NT assumes OT standards is fruitless, since we have already seen that those standards don't help the advocate of Sola Scriptura. From NT references to the authority of OT Scripture[42] it's a non sequitur to infer that only the Scripture in question possesses such authority.[43] The assertion that NT and OT "direct us only to the Word of God as the supreme norm" [emphasis mine], is worthless unless we grant him the same old question-begging assumption that "Word of God = Scripture." All the prohibitions against adding to the Word of God, preaching another gospel, "secondary explications or traditions" are equally question-begging, for the reasons already articulated above. Nowhere does he produce a single verse that positively teaches that at any point in redemptive history, oral tradition ceased to be a vehicle for the transmission of revealed truth. Nor does he offer any refutation of the Catholic Church's Biblical case for an infallible magisterium, or an alternative explanation of just what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:17-19, or Paul in the passages from the Pastorals cited above, that would hold water for five minutes in the face of the self-evident fallibility and confessional chaos and relativism endemic to Protestantism.

And so, speaking of water, I at least find no Niagara. A more accurate aquatic analogy for what we do find might be the brook Kerith during the drought (1 Ki 17:1-7), for the torrent of texts promised by Mr. Jones at the outset of his arguments has slowed to a trickle and turned at last to a dried-up, dusty gulch. Perhaps that boat should be rechristened, The Maid of the Missed, since I've yet to see the falls.

There are other arguments I've made in the past against Sola Scriptura--arguments Mr. Jones has heard me make, and has alluded to himself: that it is unreasonable, unhistorical, unworkable, and unreal. I intend to make these arguments in my second piece. But the most damning argument of all, given the doctrine itself, is the fact that Sola Scriptura is unscriptural.


Notes

[1 ] Forgive the subliminal advertisement for papal pronouncements.

[2 ] If I might be permitted a Paul-like plugging of my pedigree, I too was circumcised (by the new birth) on the eight day, of the people of Protestantism, of the tribe of Evangelicalism, a Calvinist of Calvinists; in regard to the law, a theonomist; as for zeal, persecuting the [Roman Catholic] Church; as to reconstructionist righteousness and Van Tilian virtue, flawless (Phil. 3:5-6 [New Ironic Version]).

[3 ] The Reformers referred to sola scriptura and sola fide as the formal and material principles of the Reformation, respectively, employing a classic Aristotelian and medieval distinction. They meant sola fide was the "stuff" or "matter" of the Christian message, while sola scriptura provided its parameters, or "form." Catholicism rejects both principles as well-intentioned but misguided misunderstandings of what Scripture teaches on these two topics. In my own experience, when, upon deeper study, Scripture, Samson-like, leaned against these two principal pillars, the palace of Protestantism came crashing down.

[4 ] Ex. 24:4; 34:27; Num. 33:2; Dt. 31:9, 24.

[5 ] Jeremiah, for example (Jer. 30:2; 36:2,4).

[6 ] Elijah and Elisha, for example.

[7 ] Is the one oracle preserved in the brief (21 verses long) book of Obadiah, for example, the only inspired thing he ever uttered in his life? On the contrary, these prophets exercised a far broader ministry than can be gleaned from the brief vignettes and select oracles recorded. This holds true for the OT as a whole; doubtless there were other times God spoke to Adam, the patriarchs, Moses, which were not included in the highly abridged accounts we have. If the NT didn't need to provide a complete record of all that the incarnate Son of God did and taught (Jn. 20:31; 21:25), there's even less reason to require such encyclopedic comprehensiveness of the OT; if "the world couldn't contain the books," had everything been recorded that Christ did and said during the relatively brief span of three years, this would be true a fortiori of the words and deeds of the Lord during the millennia spanned by the OT.

[8 ] Is. 40:8; 55:10-11; Jer. 1:9-10; 5:14; 23:28-29; Hos. 6:5.

[9 ] Heb. 1:1-2.

[10 ] Col. 1:19; 2:3, 9, 10; cf. Jn. 1:14-18.

[11 ] Jn. 3:34; 7:16-18; 8:26, 28, 38; 12: 48-50; 14:10, 24; 17:8, 14; cf. Mt. 7:24, 28-29.

[12 ] Except whatever he wrote on the ground in John 8:6, 8.

[13 ] Jn. 5:19.

[14 ] Consider the following three paradigmatic passages. In Matthew 10 Christ selects and sends forth the apostles to preach (v.7); their words were efficacious in bringing about salvation or damnation (vv. 12-14; cf. 16:19; 18:18) and were in fact inspired (vv. 19-20), so that whoever received the apostles was actually receiving the Christ who had sent them, just as in receiving Christ they were receiving the One who had sent him (v.40; cf. Lk. 10:16).

Mk. 16:15-20 makes the same points: Christ commands them to "go forth and preach;" their preaching would be efficacious to their listeners salvation or damnation (v. 16); their preaching was in fact inspired (v. 20).

Jn. 20:21-23 is similar: Christ sends forth the apostles as the Father had sent him forth (v. 21), and inspires them with the Holy Spirit (v. 22), making their words supernaturally efficacious (v. 23; cf. Jn. 13:20; 14:16-17; 15:26-27; 16:1, 12-15; 17:18).

[15 ] Jn. 20:30; 21:25; II Jn. 12; III Jn. 13-14.

[16 ] For example, Paul spent three years in Ephesus teaching "day and night," with the result that he could leave "innocent of the blood of all men" because he had proclaimed to them "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 2):26-31). His six-page letter to the Ephesians, which we have in the NT, could hardly contain a hundreth of all he had imparted to them in oral form. (Note, too, that in Acts 20:35 Paul quotes a saying of Jesus that was not recorded in the gospels [technically known as an agraphon ]; doubtless he knew of others; cf. Mt. 24:35.)

[17 ] II Thess. 2:5-6 and I Cor. 15:29 come to mind as two tantalizing examples for the modern reader.

[18 ] II Pet. 3:16.

[19 ] Rom. 10:17.

[20 ] Though they were conscious of it there: see, e.g. I Cor. 14:37; Eph. 3:3-5; II Pet. 3:15-16.

[21 ] See, e.g., I Cor. 2:13, 16; Gal. 1:8-12; I Thess. 2:13; 4:2; I Pet. 1:23-25.

[22 ] II Thess. 2:15. Texts (Mt. 15:1-9; Col. 2:8) which condemn mere "human traditions which men devise to contradict God's Word (oral and written) cannot serve as prooftexts for sola scriptura, then. The word "Tradition" (Gk, paradosis ) is also used in a positive sense to refer to God's Word as taught by the apostles and passed on, whether in written or oral form (I Cor. 11:2; II Thess. 2:15; 3:6). The corresponding verb, paradidomi, is used in this sense also (I Cor. 11:23; 15:3; II Pet. 2:21; Jude 3).

[23 ] I find the inconsistency rather amusing that Jones, who argues that even OT commands are still in force unless specifically revoked in the NT, here argues that a NT command (II Thess. 2:15) is no longer in force, though it is nowhere revoked!

[24] The apostles addressed these successors as their "true sons in the faith" (I Tim. 1:2, 18; II Tim. 1:2; 2;1; Tit. 1:4; cf. I Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:22), since the succession to office was conceived of as dynastic succession and filial inheritance. To these successors the apostles passed on their full teaching in oral form, as a rule of faith (II Tim. 1:13-14; 2:2; cf. the "untrustworthy sayings" listed in I Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; II Tim. 2:11; Tit. 3:8). But they also passed on their teaching authority as well (I Tim. 1:3; 4:6, 11-16). This succession was transacted in an official ceremony (II Tim. 1:6; cf. I Tim. 1:18, 4:14).

[25 ] This endowment was not inspiration, however. This is a significant difference between the apostles and their successors. The apostles (like Christ before them) had been directly inspired and therefore infallible, and their ability to work miracles was God's supernatural yet verifiable attestation to the divine origin and character of their doctrine (Mk. 16:20; II Cor. 12:12; cf. Jn. 3:2; 10:38; 14:10-11; Acts 2:22). Since the apostles passed on to their individual successors their teaching authority but not their gift of inspiration (Catholics agree with Reformed Christians that this gift, and the revelation of new truth it made possible, ceased with the death of the apostles), their successors could not teach new doctrines. There is thus and emphasis upon the successor (indeed, any church officer; I Tim. 3:9-10) being faithful (I Tim. 4:15-16; 5:21; 6:14; II Tim. 1:13-14; 3:14; Tit. 1:9; 2:1) to what the apostle had publicly charged him to hold fast to in the presence of many witnesses (II Tim. 2:2; cf. I Cor. 4:17).

[26 ] Acts 8:30-31; II Pet. 3:16.

[27 ] Matthew 16: 13-19 shows that when there was controversy among Jesus's followers as to who Jesus was, God sovereignly chose Simon to utter the inspired verdict, the authoritative creed, the normative Christological confession. Based on this supernatural revelation made directly to Simon, and through him to the others, Jesus identifies Simon as the Rock, i.e. the eben shetthiyeh (the primal "foundation stone") from which, according to rabbinic tradition, the beam of light burst forth to dispel the darkness. Go then threw this rock over the mouth of the abyss ("the gates of Sheol") though which the waters of chaos were gushing to engulf the world. As the waters abated, upon this rock, the high point of the earth atop the holy mountain, God proceeded to build the Garden of Eden sanctuary in which Adam and Eve would worship him. This foundation stone reappears significantly in Scripture (Gen. 28:11-22), often as a significant threshing floor (e.g. Gen. 50:10; II Sam. 6:6; 24:15-25; I Chron. 21:14-30; cf. Ruth 3:2-14; I Kings 22:10) over which the Solomonic temple is eventually erected (I Chron. 22:1; II Chron. 3:1). In Isaiah 51:1, Abraham is described in terms of this rock, in that the living temple of Israel was built upon him. Jesus thus declares his intention to build this New Covenant Temple upon Simon, as upon a new Abraham, a new patriarch of father figure to the Church.

The language of the keys in Mt. 16:19 show Jesus also has in mind the high office of chief steward of the house of David. Isaiah 22:15-25 (whose language is borrowed from the office's inaugural ceremony), corroborated by other biblical and historical data, demonstrates that the chief steward wore priest-like vestments, had a patriarchal status, oversaw as prime minister the king's other ministers, possessed plenipotentiary power from the king to administer the affairs of the palace and the kingdom as vicar or viceregent, and possessed his office as a see with dynastic succession, just like the king's. Jesus, the Son of David, thus indicates that the Church, as the New Covenant form of Davidic kingdom, still requires a chief steward (Peter and his successors; here the succession, in keeping with the whole tenor of the New Covenant, is spiritual, not physical; cf. Paul's greetings to Timothy and Titus, mentioned above).

Other passages (e.g. Lk. 22:31-32; Jn. 21:15-19; Gal. 1:18) shed further light upon this Petrine primacy, but we cannot go into this issue here -- nor do we need to. The debate is on whether Scripture teaches sola scriptura, and the burden of proof is on Mr. Jones (since he takes the affirmative) to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that it does; if he cannot do so, he loses, whether or not I can make a convincing case for the papacy, or any other aspect of the Catholic alternative to sola scriptura.

[28 ] I Tim. 3:15; Mt. 7:24-25; 16:18.

[29 ] I use the term, of course, in its logical, not moral sense.

[30 ] Is. 40:8; Mt. 24:35, among others.

[31 ] Like The Maid of the Mist, at the real Niagara Falls.

[32 ] And a "supernatural" one before the Fall at least (his intellect being infused with grace).

[33 ] Gen. 2:16-17.

[34 ] e.g., Gen. 6:13; 7:1; 8:16. God apparently does not address Noah's sons directly until after the flood (Gen. 9:1,8).

[35 ] II Pet. 2:5; Gen. 9: 25-27.

[36 ] Gen. 22:7-8. Notice what Gen. 18:19 says, too.

[37 ] "The Lord said to Moses, `Say to Aaron and his sons: `These are the regulations'...Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: `This is what the LORD has commanded'...Say to them...Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them...Say to Aaron...Tell Aaron and his sons...Say to them...Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them...'" (Lev. 6:25; 17:2,8; 21:1,16; 22:2-3, 18; cf. 1:1-2; 4:2; 7:23, 29; 11:2; 12:2; 15:2: 19:2; 20:2; 23:2, 34; 25:2, 20; 27:2).

[38 ] See II Chron. 15:3.

[39 ] Cf. Rev. 22:18-19, another oft-cited Protestant "prooftext" which has no more relevance to the issue of oral tradition than do the verses in Deuteronomy.

[40 ] If they did, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, et al, were all false prophets!

[41 ] Dt. 4:10; 6:7.

[42] Mt. 5:18; 22:29; Lk. 16:16-17; Jn. 10:35; II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 2:19.

[43 ] And, as Newman pointed out long ago, if these texts prove the sufficiency of the Scripture in question, and exclude all else as unnecessary and unauthoritative, then they prove the sufficiency of the OT, and exclude as necessary or authoritative, not only Sacred Tradition, but the NT as well. This is the epistemological equivalent of cutting of one's head to cure a nosebleed.


7-18-96 tew
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