Sola scriptura (Latin ablative, “by scripture alone”) is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, sola scriptura demands only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning from scripture. However, sola scriptura is not a denial of other authorities governing Christian life and devotion. Rather, it simply demands that all other authorities are subordinate to, and are to be corrected by, the written word of God. Sola scriptura was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the Reformers and is a formal principle of Protestantism today. What does the Catholic Church teach about this? Please read more.
This Protestant doctrine allows for individual interpretation of biblical passages without a sense of direction from a teaching authority such as the magisterium and/or without the support of Sacred Tradition. Nowhere in the bible does it state that the bible alone is to be used as the sole teaching authority for faithful believers. In fact, Paul states in the bible in 1 Timothy 3 verse 15 “But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” (New American Bible St. Joseph Edition) In the book of Acts chapter 8 verses 26 thru 40, we are given the story of the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading scripture and when asked if he understood what he was reading replied, “How can I unless someone instructs me.” Both of these scripture references, in addition to others, indicate that it is not the bible alone and certainly not interpreted based upon the impressions of the reader without a teaching authority.
By contrast, the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches teach that the Scriptures are not the only infallible source of Christian doctrine. In this view “the Church does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence. The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.
As a result, as Catholics we can be assured of authentic and truthful interpretation of scripture when we read it with the understanding and context supported by over two thousand years of teaching handed down through apostolic succession (the magisterium) and with the protection of the Holy Spirit. As Catholics, we are encouraged to read, know, and understand the Scriptures. If you are not currently doing so, may we challenge you to find some time each day to enter into a more personal relationship with the Lord in this way.