Monday, 21 September 2009

Aquinas on Sola Scriptura

Here is Thomas Aquinas stating that scripture alone is the rule of faith in the church while commenting on John 24:21 and in passing on Galatians 1:9:

Let us note that although many might write concerning catholic truth, there is this difference among them: those who wrote the canonical Scriptures, the Evangelists and Apostles, and others of this kind, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt. That is his meaning when he says 'we know his testimony is true.' Galatians 1:9, "If anyone preach to you a gospel other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!" The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a rule of faith. Others, however, so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things."
From Thomas's commentary on John's Gospel, Super Evangelium S. Ioannis Lectura, ed. P. Raphaelis Cai, O.P., Editio V revisa (Romae: Marietti Editori Ltd., 1952), p.488.

(Latin Text: Notandum autem, quod cum multi scriberent de catholica veritate, haec est differentia, quia illi, qui scripserunt canonicam Scripturam, sicut Evangelistic et Apostoli, et alii huiusmodi, ita constanter eam asserunt quod nihil dubitandum relinquunt. Et ideo dicit Et scimus quia verum est testimonium eius; Gal. I, 9: Si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id quod accepistis, anathema sit. Cuius ratio est, quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei. Alii autem sic edisserunt de veritate, quod nolunt sibi credi nisi in his quae ver dicunt.)

This is an interesting comment from the 'angelic doctor'. It seems that the standard Roman rebuttal of the argument that Thomas is advocating sola scriptura here is that the comment only refers to canonical scripture in contrast to non-canonical scripture. That would seem to me to be a fairly weak argument, as mutatis mutandis, the rule would surely apply to all non-canonical writings and not just apocrypha. Support for this view can certainly be garnered from earlier Fathers of whom Thomas would have been aware, remembering that Thomas was a synthesiser of the tradition. When I last read Thomas on the role of scripture in the church he indeed advocated that scripture provided the only source from which church teaching could be derived. I will have to revisit that, but for now the post stands.


PW said...

I'm back to the blogosphere. I'm also humbled and learned a lot. I no longer endorse the order I previously mentioned. I have returned to a study of Martin Luther. It seems to be very satisfying to my soul.

Thank you for this post. This is confirmation to something I emailed someone about.

Acroamaticus said...

Happy to know the quote helped you work something out, PW. I have some more from Aquinas on this subject that I'll post soon.
I'm intrigued by your comments on your recent journey - now that you're back blogging I'll link to you again and follow developments with interest. For me, the big thing with Martin Luther is that he helped me to see how Christianity works - it's a 'down to earth' theology, or as one author put it, a 'theology to live by'. Makes sense to me, anyway!

PW said...

Thank you. It's been a summer of learning, and as much as I can I'll post about it. Needless to say, with my experience in the 'order' I can reread "Here I stand" with a whole different light than 5 months ago. I really am feeling more at peace with what I'm learning. I'm halfway through the book, and can hardly put it down. Also ordered Luther's Prayers. The Small Cathechism, and other stuff to start studying. I'm reading some of your other blog entries, and they are so true, with some of the stands I have had to take recently. I'm so glad that someone else in the world believes in Scripture, prayer, etc. more to come.

Acroamaticus said...

"Luther's Prayers" is very good - he was a profound man of prayer. I suggest "The Large Catechism" too. Also, if you haven't read it, I strongly recommend that at some stage you look at "Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel", edited by Theodore Tappert in the "Library of Christian Classics" series published by Westminster John Knox. It's available in paperback at a reasonable price. Something I've been enjoying lately is "A Theology to Live By, The Practical Luther for the Practising Christian" by Herman Preus, an older book recently re-issed by Concordia Publishing House, I think I got it from them for about US$5. Keep these in mind for the future. Meantime, remember this, your recent journey will not be wasted, as God will use it to teach you new things.

joel in ga said...

Thanks for the Aquinas quote. It will be added to my collection of pre-Reformation testimonies to sola scriptura. Also from Aquinas:

Objection: It would seem that it is unsuitable for the articles of faith to be embodied in a creed. Because Holy Writ is the rule of faith, to which no addition or subtraction can lawfully be made, since it is written (Deut. 4:2): “You shall not add to the word that I speak to you, neither shall you take away from it.” Therefore it was unlawful to make a creed as a rule of faith, after Holy Writ had once been published.

Reply: The truth of faith is contained in Holy Writ, diffusely, under various modes of expression, and sometimes obscurely, so that, in order to gather the truth of faith from Holy Writ, one needs long study and practice, which are unattainable by all those who require to know the truth of faith, many of whom have no time for study, being busy with other affairs. And so it was necessary to gather together a clear summary from the sayings of Holy Writ, to be proposed to the belief of all. This indeed was no addition to Holy Writ, but something gathered from it.
(St. Thomas Aquinas c. 1224-1274, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 1, Article 9)

Acroamaticus said...

Thanks Joel.
I've toyed with the idea of starting a new blog to post quotes from the pre-Reformation church (and perhaps from later periods) that support Lutheran doctrine, along the lines of my category 'Lutheran Catholicity', but I don't want to over-commit myself to the blogosphere! On the other hand, it would be helpful to many people to have such quotes out there...