ScriptureTheology & Spirituality

An Argument for Prima Scriptura

One of the great privileges of being a part of the Conciliar Post community is the opportunity to have meaningful conversations about substantive theological issues while remaining charitable toward our interlocutors. Not that we are the only website that promotes this type of dialogue. But in an era of increased incivility and rhetorical debauchery, it is a welcome relief to have a conversation rather than a shouting match.

In this post, I hope to contribute to the ongoing Conciliar Post conversation about the relationship between Scripture and Tradition in Christianity (a conversation that I have lovingly dubbed the “Authority Wars”). To summarize this conversation, which is (of course) by no means limited to our own time or place, all Christians ask and answer the question, “How do we access the revealed truths of the Triune God?”1 In practice, this typically takes the form of “When I have a question about this doctrine or practice, where do I look for answers?”

As demonstrated by Jeff Hart, Alyssa Hall, Matthew Bryan, Christian McGuire, Ben Winter, John Ehrett, Timon Cline, and myself here on Conciliar Post, Christians basically fall into three camps on this issue. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians generally affirm the authority of both Scripture and Tradition, often with Scripture being understood as emerging from the tradition of faith. The descendants of the Magisterial Reformers (Lutherans, Reformed, Presbyterians) typically call their position sola scriptura, affirming the supremacy of Scripture while allowing for the secondary authority of other sources or statements. As recently argued by Timon Cline, these Christians may be understood as inhabiting the position of “sola-but-not-solo scriptura.” Finally, there are Christians who take the sola scriptura dictum at (more or less) face value and affirm Scripture as the only sufficient and entirely supreme source for guiding Christian faith and practice.2

Pushing Back

Here I want to push back against the sola-but-not-solo camp and suggest that this language is increasingly insufficient and often inaccurate for explaining a theological position and encapsulating an answer to Authority Wars questions. Jaroslav Peliken summarizes the historical problems with the sola viewpoint:

“As a matter of historical fact (and therefore of theological accuracy), the Christian Scriptura has never been sola. When the Christian movement began, it had the Tanakh (in most cases the Septuagint) as its Scriptura and, alongside it, the primitive proclamation of Jesus as its fulfillment. Then, by the time this proclamation had itself been written down and fleshed out into the New Testament Scriptura, the church also had the creeds and the liturgy, on the basis of which it decided what the New Testament, and behind it the Tanakh, meant for Christian faith and life.”3

In this view, advocating a plain sola scriptura viewpoint ignores the realities of the early church. If the Apostles and other earliest followers of Jesus could not advocate sola scriptura but instead utilized the (often still developing) Scriptures in concert with other sources of authority, why should today’s church behave differently? In practice, the sola-but-not-solo camp recognizes and agrees with this explanation. Yet in articulation, the terminology of sola continues to be used. In what follows, I outline three arguments that problematize the use of sola (in the sola-but-not-solo model) to articulate the place of the Scriptures in the Christian life.

Contra Sola

First, the argument from language. Words have meanings. While meanings are often contested and change over time, why not use a word that clearly conveys the meaning you intend when talking about the authority of the Bible? If you do not wish to convey the idea of “solo” or “alone,” why not force your language to convey that clearly? As a historian, I will be the first to say that continuing to use sola allows for nice continuity with the Magisterial Reformers and enables Protestant theologians and bloggers to talk about the “Five Solas” (instead of, say, “The Four Solas and One Prima”). However, for traditions that regularly stress the importance of theological (and biblical) accuracy and continual reformation, this seems a curious language decision.

Second, there is the reality of pastoral care. Clear articulation of doctrine remains important, perhaps more so now than ever given the realities of shrinking attention spans and the fact that many people do not read unless they have to. If church leaders expect their congregations to be able to understand and express their faith (1 Peter 3:15), why use anything other than clear and precise language? Do we really think that the average person in the pew (or church chair) is going to catch the nuance between sola and solo? Even without an understanding of Latin, most people in the congregations I have been a part of know that “sola” means alone or solely. And if that is what they hear (from the pulpit) or read (in a doctrinal statement or on a website), is it fair to expect them to be able to articulate that “tradition and community and reason are important too”?

Finally, there is theological concern for the sola-but-not-solo camp. Nomenclature of “alone” has subjugated other theological points to the supremacy of Scripture. Particularly significant and concerning is the reality that many contemporary Protestant Christians subject the Godhead to the Scriptures, rather than the other way around. I cannot count how many times in the past five years I have heard congregants quote the Bible or talk about the “Word” as if New Testament writers were self-referential rather than speaking about the Incarnate Word. Jesus is the fullest revelation of God, not the Bible. But the language of sola has overemphasized the supremacy of the Written Word at the expense of the Incarnate Word. We must learn to talk about the authority of Scripture without denigrating the ultimacy of the Godhead.

An Argument for Prima Scriptura

In place of sola scriptura, I advocate the expression prima scriptura, “Scripture first.” Anglican and Methodist readers will rightly note that I am not the first person to utilize this term. Language of prima scriptura, while not without its own potentials for theological confusion, more accurately represents the sola-and-not-solo position with respect to the problems outlined above. Regarding language, prima designates the importance and authority of Scripture without over communicating this reality. Among the sources available to followers of Jesus today for guidance on questions of faith and practice, Scripture stands in primacy of place, being supplemented by creeds, the Great Tradition of the Church, experience, and plain reason.

Likewise, the language of prima clearly communicates to congregants the proper place of Scripture in the Christian ordering of authorities. Confusion may be allayed (and, dare I say, perhaps even differing interpretations and divisions thwarted) by recognizing the superstructure of Christian wisdom which supports the reading and practice of Scripture. Finally (and perhaps most importantly), the language of prima will remind us that Scripture stands not alone and, consequently, cannot unthinkingly stand at the top of our doctrinal statements. When we learn to articulate the relationship of Scripture to other sources of authority, we will more readily realize that all our sources point toward the Source himself. In answer to the question, “How do we access the revealed truths of the Triune God?”, we will continue to place Scripture at the top of the list, but always in subjugation to the one who has spoken through those very writings.

This articulation does not intend to reject of the authority of Scripture, attempt to denigrate Scripture, or usurp the foundational character of Scripture for articulating and living the Christian life. Rather, it is a plea for a more theologically precise expression of the authority of Scripture. In the practice of adopting this corrective, I think most sola-but-not-solo Protestant churches (unless they explicitly use the term sola scriptura) would be able to keep their doctrinal statements “as is”, perhaps only reordering (if the doctrinal statement on scripture appears above the statement about God) or reemphasizing (the place of Scripture at the top but not alone). Recognizing that sloppy language makes sloppy thought possible, let us pursue clear language along with theological accuracy, as we seek to understand God and answer the questions of the Christian life.

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Jacob Prahlow

Jacob Prahlow

Christian. Husband of Hayley. Father of Bree.

Program Assistant at Stephen Ministries, Ph.D. student at St. Louis University, and teacher at The Rock Church. Alumnus of various institutions.

  • Matthew Bryan

    Enjoyed the article. While it doesn’t resolve the Sola question, “Prima” does help the conversation. As referenced by Tobes, it seems to evoke a chicken-and-egg question, but that is a productive question.

  • Tobes

    But: the Scriptures themselves tell us that the Church existed before the Scriptures did. If Scripture were the “prima” authority, then it would not be possible for James to say, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” He would have had to say, “It is/was taught by the Scriptures.” And there would be no authority between that given to the 70 and that given by the codification of the Bible decades (and centuries) later. When the first Christians were converted and then converted others, they did not do it with Scriptures (except in cases such as St. Stephen, who was referencing the Old Testament). They did it by means of the Church and its own authority.

    And how would you reconcile your “prima” ranking of Scripture with all those many writings that were highly revered by the early Church — the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch, for example, which describe a church in which bishops, priests, and other clergy had long since been in existence, wherein the Church already has its authority established before the Bible is even fully gathered?

    Remember that the hard-fast line between Scripture and not-Scripture isn’t as clear as modern Protestants make it out to be. In the Council, the books of the Bible were finalized not as a rejection of all others, but only as a confirmation of those books that could be read in church (excepting Revelation, of course, until later). In other words, the Council held many non-canonical books in high esteem, but did not include them in the Bible, and there was some authority in those non-canonical books.

    I’m not trying to take down Scripture’s clear and irrefutable authority. I’m just saying that while Jesus is the supreme revelation of God, and Scripture the supreme expression of that revelation, you cannot properly see Scripture outside of the Church.

    • Benjamin Winter

      “When the first Christians were converted and then converted others, they did not do it with Scriptures.”

      I find this statement to be highly problematic. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection only make sense in the context of the Hebrew Scriptures. What strategy did our Lord himself use to tell his story, on the road to Emmaus? “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

      The gospel message was certainly tapered and recontextualized for Gentiles, but it was never divorced from Scripture. I don’t think that the witness of the early church could have succeeded without the Hebrew Scriptures, and/or without emerging “New Testament” Scriptures such as the gospels and the epistles of Paul (it may also be fair here to include books like Hermas and the Didache).

      This is all coming from a Catholic who believes in the equal value and necessity of Scripture, Tradition, and the authority of the Church.

      • Yes. Too often our Orthodox and Catholic brethren forget this very reality Ben. The Church was *never* without Scripture. We must not forget this fact whilst talking about the emergence of Christianity and the development of the NT. Certainly “tradition” (at bare minimum Apostolic kerygma about Jesus) governed the writing, reception, and canonization of specifically Christian writings (i.e., the NT and NT apocrypha). But these were always written, read, and canonized in the context of the Hebrew Bible. JJP

        • Tobes

          I don’t know of anyone on the planet who has “forgotten” that the Hebrew Scriptures played a crucial role in influencing both the Early Church and the NT Scriptures. And I’ve never heard of anyone (Catholic or Orthodox, that is) who claimed that the early Church existed without OT Scriptures. That’s a bit of a silly claim. (I have, however, seen Protestants receive the shock of their lifetimes when they realize the early Christians could not have quoted any NT verses to any of their would be converts.)

          Reference to the obvious OT influence on the early Christians simply pushes the question back further in time — it doesn’t change the order in which things happened. The OT Patriarchs — in point of fact, literally everything mentioned in the OT — all existed before the OT Scripture in which they are mentioned.

          I’m sorry, but I think you’re just deferring the problem to an earlier time. Whether you are speaking of the OT and NT individually, or of both as a seamless whole, the Body of which those Scriptures speak existed first. And the OT, after all, is entirely geared towards something that comes after. When the early Christians converted others, they either deferred to the OT Scriptures as pointing to something prophecied as coming after those Scriptures or they didn’t defer to them at all. The fact that the OT Scriptures were intimately bound up with the early Christians doesn’t demonstrate that the early Christians derived their authority entirely from the OT. They derived that authority outside the OT, and before the NT was written.

          And it should go without saying that it is not necessary to derive from any of this any sort of demeaning attitude towards the Scriptures, nor is it necessary to project amnesia or indifference on anyone. No one is trying to ignore or divorce Scripture and the Church.

          The paradigm is perhaps best established by St. James: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit AND TO US.” Are we to claim that he forgot temporarily about his indebtedness to the OT Scriptures?

      • Tobes

        1) I did not claim that the Gospel message was ever divorced from Scripture; not did I imply it. I said that the conversion of the first Christians were done with Authority and the Church, and without any Scriptures. It’s an historical necessity that first the Tribe, and then the Church, both existed before their Scriptures existed. What’s more, regarding conversions specifically, we don’t have very little evidence of either the OT or NT writings being used to convert people for hundreds of years. In point of fact, the canonization of Scriptures was NOT done for converts, but specifically for the purpose of establishing what could be read in church — i.e., what could be shared with those already converted.

        2) There is an old saying in the Orthodox Church that goes back probably to the early Christians themselves: “You do not turn people into Jews before you turn them into Christians.” Every man already has his own Babylonian Captivity and prophetical voices that are already pointing him towards the risen Lord. And converting Gentiles with OT scriptures would have been problematic, for the simple reason that Gentiles would not have been familiar enough with the OT to be converted by it. They would first have to be educated with the OT prophecies before Jesus — the fulfillment of that prophecy — would be relevant scripturally. But ontologically and existentially, people were converted by word of mouth whose basis was authority and witness. The only known exception was the Eunuch who was specifically wrestling with the OT Scriptures with which he was beginning familiarity. The road to Emmaus is a poor example since it could only be relevant to the conversion of Jews (who, again, were already familiar with the OT). Nowhere is the road to Emmaus (or the beautiful witness of St. Stephen) offered as a paradigm for converting other Gentiles.

        From St. Thomas’s voyage into India, to the letters of St. Ignatius, to countless other attempts to convert Gentiles and Pagans, we have no evidence (that I know of) of a single Christian trying to relate the OT to his would-be Gentile converts before (or even after) relating to him the Good News and the Scandal of the Incarnation. And besides, as would later be claimed by St. Clement of Alexandria and a handful of others, sharing the OT scriptures with Platonists and other philosophical pagans would have been redundant since most philosophers had derived their beliefs from Moses’s books.

        3) “I don’t think that the witness of the early church could have succeeded
        without the Hebrew Scriptures, and/or without emerging “New Testament”
        Scriptures such as the gospels and the epistles of Paul (it may also be
        fair here to include books like Hermas and the Didache).” Of course those books (and many others) are relevant. But in order for your doubt here to be legitimate, you would have to provide evidence that St.Thomas (to use one example) really did bring the OT with him into India. In a manner of speaking he brought the OT with him, of course, in his heart and as a strong influence on his understanding of God. But not as a conversion tool. His authority came directly from Jesus, NOT from the fact that he had read the OT. He did not attempt to “Jewicize” the Hindus first.

        • Benjamin Winter

          One thing I find troubling about these remarks (besides their needlessly polemical tone) is that they reek of Marcionism. Why are you going out of your way to devalue the Hebrew Scriptures and the experience of the Jewish people? You state that you cannot find “a single Christian trying to relate the OT to his would-be Gentile converts before (or even after) relating to him the Good News and the Scandal of the Incarnation.” This is utterly false. To confirm the necessity of the Hebrew Scriptures for the kerygma, all you have to do is read one of your own Orthodox theologians, John Behr. He clearly shows how the Church Fathers drew upon Hebrew Scripture and inter-Testamental literature in their writings (See “The Way to Nicaea”). Your statement also belies the fact that, from the fourth century onward, educators across the Empire programmatically used Hebrew Scripture (specifically the Psalms) to teach young students how to read. These Hebrew texts were interpreted and glossed by theologians and philosophers, using the same techniques of literary criticism that were applied to Plato, et. al.

          Adding to my point about your (not so) latent Marcionism, you also state: “It’s an historical necessity that first the Tribe, and then the Church, both existed before their Scriptures existed.” Do you see how this statement effectively separates Jewish and Christian Scriptures, implying that each community has its own? In the case of Christianity, this community did NOT in fact exist before its Scriptures existed, because The Way was first and foremost a fulfillment of Judaism itself. To claim anything otherwise is Marcionism. Nota Bene: Jesus interpreted the Scriptures during his earthly ministry, and after his ascension his followers initially worshiped in Synagogues.

          Finally, by stating that “Every man already has his own Babylonian Captivity,” aren’t you admitting that the symbolic and narrative register of Judaism does, in fact, provide the underpinning for a successful Christian witness?

          ps To address your point about the St. Thomas Christians, I hope you now see more of the reasoning behind my statement: “I don’t think that the witness of the early church could have succeeded without the Hebrew Scriptures…” The burden of proof does not fall on me, as I am not “doubting” anything. I am instead affirming that Christianity is intrinsically linked to Judaism.

          • Tobes

            1) Forgive me if I appear to be polemical. If it helps, I assume the best intelligence, character, and motives of all my interlocutors unless they go out of their way to prove otherwise, which is rare. You certainly haven’t; but I do reserve the right to be as direct as you. And I don’t think that I was more direct. I don’t see any reason to believe or feel that any of this is personal or polemical. At any rate, you came out of the box with accusations of having torn apart the Scriptures; I’m allowed to defend myself from so strong an accusation.

            2) The John Behr reference is problematic. First, as an aside, his authority as a reliable theologian is not established yet, certainly not by Orthodox standards. He’s relatively new and by no means do the Orthodox at large wholly agree with him. Behr makes some wonderful points; but there are more established authorities in Orthodoxy, fwiw. You wouldn’t quote his teaching regarding “anthropos” as a accepted Orthodox teaching. Second, it takes not a theologian to point out that (as you rightly put it) the Church Fathers drew heavily upon the Hebrew Scriptures. I don’t know of a single pre-17th-century theologian who DOESN’T make that point when coming anywhere near it. It’s never occurred to me in my adult life to disagree with it. Let’s just say that the saints (and sinners such as myself) agree that Hebrew Scriptures HEAVILY influenced Christian theology and Scriptures. No particular authority is required to make such a point. It is plenty established.

            3) If I point out that there was a Tribe and a Church, and that both came before their respective Scriptures (thereby implying that their Scriptures are distinguishable), and that that priority is not merely historical, you are somehow able to get from these claims that I mean to “devalue” the experience of the Jewish people; that I see no relation between Christianity and Judaism, and so on. Nobody has suggested that Christianity is not intrinsically linked to Judaism, and so I am completely perplexed: how do you get automatically from distinction to divorce? Forgive me, but until you are able to show that my distinctions really are the divorces you make them out to be, and that my hierarchical arrangement of authority (which is, after all, the arrangement as held by all Christians until the 17th century) is a devaluing, then your projections of unworthy beliefs and “Marcionism” onto me are a bit of a reach. Nobody is denying that Christianity is intrinsically linked to Judaism. There is nothing in what I said to suggest that link is negligible. Nobody has suggested it nor am I trying to sneak such a stupid contradiction in.

            No hard feelings, I hope, but I just don’t think you understand what I’ve said at all. There is no necessary connection between “The church comes before the Scriptures” and some inevitable divorce between all indivisible pairs of holiness. You are welcome, of course, to try to make that connection. But the one does not inherently follow the other — the burden of proof I’m afraid IS on you to show the connection.

            4) “Do you see how this statement effectively separates Jewish and Christian Scriptures, implying that each community has its own?”

            No, I don’t see it and it’s not true. Once again, pointing out a distinction between both sets of Scriptures is not the same thing as divorcing them. You seem to think that because there is an error in one direction, we cannot go wrong in the opposite direction. If so, that is not true. We walk along a knife’s edge and avoid both errors: on the one hand, divorcing the Scriptures from each other (Marcionism). On the other (your error), identifying them so that no distinction is allowed. To say that they are a seamless whole (as I said that they are) is not the same as to say that the top can be used for the bottom and vice versa. They ARE one. And yet they ARE different and NOT interchangeable. We avoid these two errors in much the same way that we avoid the usual errors regarding the relation of the Father and the Son. If I say that there is something particular to the Son, that does NOT mean that I am implying He ought to be divorced from the Father. The Son is of one essence with the Father. Similarly, if I say that the OT and NT are particular and peculiar to each other and to their subjects and authors, that does NOT mean that I think they are divorced from one another. Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the same book are the same book — but they are not interchangeable or completely homogenous in all respects. And in this case, Volume 1 couldn’t even exist, could have no validity, without Volume 2. There is a very real way (several, in fact, according to the Fathers) in which Volume 2 is prior to Volume 1, and there is a very real way in which some authorities are prior to others.

            5) Now, as regards the Scriptures coming before the Christians, once again in order for that to be true we would have to rely on your total-identification theory (or whatever you want to call it), which just isn’t justified. But if you must insist on it, then we would just ask: surely you can see that in some way the Christians existed before their own (forgive the distinction!) Scriptures — or, to put it less aggressively, Christians existed before those Scriptures that can be, in certain lights, and without nuking the principle of non-contradiction, related to them in a particular way — in such a way as NOT to negate all other relations or non-relations? Can you at least agree with that?

            Can we agree that the NT came into existence at a certain point, that it was the fulfillment of the OT, and that somewhere between the finality of the OT and its fulfillment an authority (perfectly in keeping with, but by no means interchangeable with, all previous legitimate authority) was established by Jesus, and this authority is called “the Church”?

            As regards the charge of Marcionism in particular: I claim that the Church began both between the OT and NT and prior to them, principially. Marcion wouldn’t have allowed for any belief that held the OT and NT in any sort of balance.

            Sorry for the wordiness. As Pascal put it, “I don’t have time to write a shorter letter.”

            • Benjamin Winter

              As you have now expanded upon your remarks, I now see that I have less with which to disagree with you than I had originally thought. But to be fair, you made some bold statements in your first couple of comments — and some of them struck me the wrong way. I do believe that Christ handed the authority to interpret the Scriptures (and to institute the sacraments while governing God’s people) to the Church. Of course, as a Catholic, I too recognize the role of what we call “oral tradition” in the Church’s articulation or expression of this authority — both during the time in which the NT canon was forming and, obviously, before even the Gospels were composed. So perhaps we have common ground here.

              I think what concerns me a bit is the notion that you elaborate here: “There is a very real way (several, in fact, according to the Fathers) in which Volume 2 is prior to Volume 1.” If you were to acknowledge that this reading is *allegorical* and not literal, then my concern would diminish. As a historical theologian, I am especially conscious of the fact that, to tell the story of salvation, Christianity depends on and draws fruit from the cultic and cultural repository of Judaism.

              I’m glad you agree that there is such an “intrinsic link” between the two religions/Scriptures — but what I don’t understand is why you were so insistent that witnessing to Christ occurred in a framework that was isolated from the Jewish experience. Perhaps you were only making a historical point, namely that such isolated witnessing *did* happen in the time of the early church. I could agree with that, but my point was that by propounding those ideas (without qualifying your underlying Scriptural interpretation as allegorical, or clearly stating that you meant them only to establish a historical point-of-fact), you seemed to denigrate the Jewish experience and ignore what we know to be historically true: the fact that Christianity only makes sense in light of Judaism.

              To understand a bit more where I’m coming from, I’m going to quote a recent document from the RC Church:

              The Church is called the new people of God (cf. “Nostra aetate”, No.4) but not in the sense that the people of God of Israel has ceased to exist. The Church “was prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people of Israel and by means of the Old Covenant” (“Lumen gentium”, 2). The Church does not replace the people of God of Israel, since as the community founded on Christ it represents in him the fulfilment of the promises made to Israel. This does not mean that Israel, not having achieved such a fulfilment, can no longer be considered to be the people of God. “Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures” (“Nostra aetate”, No.4). God revealed himself in his Word, so that it may be understood by humanity in actual historical situations. This Word invites all people to respond. If their responses are in accord with the Word of God they stand in right relationship with him. For Jews this Word can be learned through the Torah and the traditions based on it.


              • Tobes

                For some strange reason, my remarks keep appearing and disappearing. I apologize in advance if multiple versions of my remarks keep popping up. I’ve been trying to out-smart the computer.

                Please forgive me, Benjamin, but I just don’t see how you get from my remarks to either the earlier charges of Marcionism or to the concerns you now express. That people divide the OT and NT and divorce them — also separating the God and the people of the OT from the God and the people of the NT — is certainly true. But you haven’t shown how I have committed this sacrilege, as far as I can tell. For 1,600 years, all Christians held the fullest belief in the unity between the OT and NT, while at the same time holding that the Church has a priority “before” Scripture (that, again, is not merely historical or temporal), and nobody had ever seen the one as challenging the other until about four hundred years ago. I completely agree with everything you say about the intimacy that exists between both sets of Scriptures. But I don’t see how I’m contradicting that intimacy at all. In point of fact, I don’t see how you can have that intimacy without the supremacy of the Church.

                If I am taking advantage of a distinction, there is one distinction (without divorce!) that must be expressed, as expressed by St. Irenaeus and others: that the Incarnation was a scandal to both the Hebrew and Platonic minds, for very similar reasons. The Church are those for whom the Incarnation is not a Scandalon — or if it is, that scandal is the mysterious beginnings of its faith. You are right that the Torah is and should be part of the Jews’ path to Christ. But it is very hard to imagine them getting there without the help of the Church guiding how they read it. So many stumbling blocks along the way. St. Peter’s conversation with the Eunuch is again the paradigm: for those for whom the OT is their path, the Church steps in (miraculously, as is usually the case) and leads them into that intimacy that exists between OT and the Gospels.

                BTW — a man of your advantages may have heard the story of how Shel Silverstein came to write “The Giving Tree.” Apparently Brennan Manning once asked Silverstein, “What is it like for a Jew to become a Christian?” Silverstein said, “Give me a week and I’ll tell you.” A week later, Silverstein handed Manning that book.

                • Tobes

                  Duh. I meant St. Phillip and the eunuch.

    • Tobes,
      Thanks for your comments.

      Insofar as we’re engaging the larger “Authority Wars” topic of Scripture/Tradition, I would again affirm that, “Jesus is the fullest revelation of God, not the Bible.” So I think we’re in basic agreement there. Similarly, I agree with your statement that the lines between Scripture and non-Scripture weren’t always as clear as they are now. Our articulation of the authority of Scripture/Tradition must take that into account.

      However, this article is also admittedly something of a *contemporary* and *intra-Protestant* conversation that is less interested in how 4th century Syrian Christians negotiated the Scriptures and more focused on how modern Protestants articulate their position on the Scriptures (recognizing, of course, that a holistic approach to the Christian worldview takes into account historical theology whilst discussing systematics). As Protestants in the “sola-but-not-solo” talk about Scripture, they’re already committed to a particular view of the origins/function of the Scriptures. All I really want to encourage with this article, then, is a clearer articulation of that position, albeit one which (I think) brings an articulation of the theology of scripture closer to the proper balance of Scripture/Tradition.

      Thanks, JJP

      • Tobes

        But why would you treat the early Christians’ attitude towards Scripture as irrelevant to the current “intra-Protestant” conversation?

    • Matthew Bryan

      Tobes, I’m a bit late to reading your full exchange with Benjamin Winter. He seemed a bit rough with that “Marcion” angle to me, but I’m glad to see that a rapprochement was reached.

      I appreciated your points, several of which I had not considered. For example, you initially wrote about evangelism existing apart from Jewish Scripture, which helped me notice that Paul did not refer in his Mars Hill address to Jewish writings.

      I was confused however, by your staement which began, “In the Council, the books of the Bible were finalized …” To which council were you referring, please? I try to be a serious student of both the councils and the canons, yet Trent is all I can imagine you might have meant there. Is that correct?

  • Benjamin Winter

    Nice article! I’ll be interested to hear what others think. One line of yours (“Jesus is the fullest revelation of God, not the Bible.”) reminded me of dei verbum chapter 1:

    • Uh oh. 😉

      Whilst writing, that felt like the least Protestant thing that I said (not that I’m the first Protestant to say it, of course). But I, too, am interested in hearing what my fellow CP writers have to say in response.