Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Eric Sammons

1/29/2011 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Answering the Question, 'Where is that in the Bible?'

Over the last 25 years I've had more debates than I can count with Christians of various denominations. These conversations varied as widely as the perspectives of the different people I debated, but nearly every one eventually included the question: "Where is that in the Bible?" Why "sola scriptura" falls short and misses the mark.

Pope Benedict carries the Book of the Gospels

Pope Benedict carries the Book of the Gospels

Article Highlights

By Eric Sammons

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/29/2011 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Bible, Tradition, Eric Sammons, Apologetics, Sacred Scripture, Tradition


GAITHERSBURG, MD (Catholic Online) - Recently I was reading a newspaper article in which a prominent Evangelical Christian stated, "Every Christian's core beliefs ultimately rest upon the same foundation: the Bible." Over the last 25 years I've had more debates than I can count with Christians of various denominations. These conversations varied as widely as the perspectives of the different people I debated, but nearly every one eventually included the question: "Where is that in the Bible?" Whether the topic is infant baptism, purgatory, justification by faith alone or the Assumption of Mary, Scriptural support is demanded. And for good reason - after all, the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and therefore, if a belief is found in the Bible, then surely it is true.

However, there is a false presupposition lurking behind this question and the statement made by that Evangelical leader, one that is commonly held by Christians today. It is the presupposition that the Bible is the source of Christian doctrine - that the Bible contains all the teachings of the Christian Faith and its purpose is to be a catechism of sorts for our teachings and beliefs. If you read just about any book from your local Family Bookstore (a chain of Protestant Christian bookstores), the language used is soaked with this premise: "The Bible teaches.", "The Bible says.", "we see from the Bible that.". Unfortunately, this foundational tenet of Protestantism is also held by many Catholics.

This presupposition, however, is not only false, it is illogical and contrary to history. Let us take a brief look at salvation history and see how the Christian Faith was passed on to us - what is its source?

1)  After the Fall, God raised up a nation (Israel) to be His people. He sent them prophets, kings and priests to teach them about the ways of God.
2)  At the fullness of time, God sent His Son. This Son, Jesus Christ, preached, did mighty works, and suffered, died and rose again for our salvation.
3)  The followers of Christ, especially the apostles, went about preaching the Gospel to the known world. What is this "Gospel"?  It is the revelation of God centered on the person of Jesus Christ - which includes the preparations for his coming as well as his teachings, mighty works and redemptive death and resurrection.
4)  Some of these followers wrote down this Gospel in letters, histories and "gospels."
5)  The successors to the apostles - the bishops - continued to preach the Gospel handed on to them, guarding and protecting it from error.

The content of our Faith, then - the "Gospel" - was passed on to future generations by two methods: (oral) preaching (Tradition) and writings (Scripture). The college of bishops - the "Magisterium", or teaching office of the Church - continued to preach that Gospel through time, making sure that it was not deformed or altered. But it is important to know the order in which these things flow: the Gospel is the content of the Faith, and oral preaching and writings are the methods by which they are passed on.

An objection might be raised here that the way we know about salvation history is through the Bible, so the Bible is "before" the Gospel. However, this confuses the method in which we receive history with the history itself. One would not think that a book about Socrates is the source of his life and teachings; instead, it simply recounts what we know about him. It is a written means of teaching about who he was.

So if we want to know the source of our beliefs, we must look to the Gospel, which includes the life of ancient Israel and is fulfilled completely in the person of Jesus Christ and his life, teachings, works and redemptive suffering and death. This Gospel was passed on to the apostles, who then passed it on through their preaching and through their writings.

There is one pre-existing Gospel, then, and two methods by which we receive that Gospel, as has been the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church since its earliest days. In the second century, St. Irenaeus, bishop of Gaul, wrote Against Heresies, which defended the Catholic Faith against the various false teachings of his day. The work is a rather difficult read, but if you are able, read Book III from the Preface through Chapter 3. In that famous section, Irenaeus lays out why the heretics' teachings should not be believed, whereas the Faith proclaimed by the Catholic Church is trustworthy:

1) The Gospel was given to the Church through the apostles (Preface-Chapter 1).
2)  The Gospel was passed on to us through Scripture and Tradition, and the heretics contradict both of these pillars (Chapter 2).
3)  The Gospel, passed on to us through Scripture and Tradition, is defended and protected by the successors to the apostles, the bishops (Chapter 3).
4)  Therefore, if we follow the bishops, especially the bishop of Rome, then we can be assured that we are following the true Gospel (Chapter 3).

The Church today follows this same divine logic. In Dei Verbum, Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, the Church beautifully and clearly articulates the relationship between the Gospel (also called "Revelation"), Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. Sections 1-6 discuss Revelation being given from God, and sections 7-9 note the two ways in which that Revelation is handed on to us. Finally section 10 notes the role of the Magisterium in guarding and teaching that deposit of faith.

None of this means, of course, that any part of the Gospel will contradict Scripture, Tradition or the teaching of the Magisterium. The "glue" which holds all these parts together in one unified whole is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the originator of the content of the Gospel, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the guide of Tradition, and the protector from error of the Magisterium. Left to his own devices, man would be unable to sustain consistent teaching for even a few decades, but with the Holy Spirit as its guardian, the Church faithfully passes on the authentic and saving Gospel to all generations.

So when someone asks, "where in the Bible does it say?", you can know that if the Catholic Church teaches it, it is part of the saving Gospel, which precedes the Bible and is the source of its content.

-----

Eric Sammons is the author of the book Who is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew, published by Our Sunday Visitor in September 2010. Eric, his wife and their five children live in Maryland. You may purchase Who is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew here

---


Pope Francis calls for your 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.



Comments


More Living Faith

Pope Francis encourages people to kiss crucifix and recite simple prayer Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is encouraging people this holy week to pick up a crucifix, kiss it and recite the simple prayer: "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord." He wishes to remind others that Christ's passion "isn't the happy ending of a beautiful fairytale, it isn't the ... continue reading


Pope Francis distributes Bibles, asks Catholics to perform acts of charity

Image of Bibles were handed out to all visitors regardless of their religious affiliation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has given out tens of thousands of Bibles to people that he hopes they will keep and use daily. The gifts were distributed in St. Peter's Square following Mass. The gifts came with one string attached however, Pope Francis asked all people to perform an ... continue reading


Pope Francis' Wild Ride - Pope takes happy kids for a spin through St. Peter's Square Watch

Image of Pope Francis kisses Livio Bastianelli and Davide Maria goodbye after their lucky ride.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis gave to kids the ride of a lifetime by inviting them for a spin in the Popemobile around St. Peter's Square. The gesture continues to cement Pope Francis as a man of the people who is most comfortable with the throngs of faithful who seek his wisdom and ... continue reading


Seminary is not for those who do not wish to 'get on with life,' Pope admonishes Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In addressing the Pontifical Leonine College of Anagni, the Pope did not mince words. Pope Francis was forthright in saying that the seminary is not a refuge for those who have "psychological problems" or lack the courage "to get on in life." LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Pope Francis apologizes for abuse scandal, says Church deserves to pay Watch

Image of Pope Francis embraces a child in St. Peter's Square.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has made his strongest statement yet about the scandal of child abuse in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis made clear that victims of abuse deserved an apology as well as compensation for what they have suffered.  He reaffirmed that the Church will be ... continue reading


Pope Francis makes special plea, but is asking us - Are you listening? Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis continues to call for aid to the poor as the holiday season ends. The Holy Father has set a goal to eradicate global hunger by distributing food more equitably around the world and he has called on all faithful Catholics to help. It's a call that can't be ... continue reading


'The Devil is here, even in the 21st century,' Pope Francis warns Watch

Image of Life is a constant battle against evil due to the presence of the devil, Pope Francis said, admitting that even he

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The devil is very much alive in the 21st Century, Pope Francis warns, and he often takes the form of gossip. The pope confessed that he himself was tempted to gossip, and the faithful need to stay on their toes. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Speaking in the ... continue reading


The Protest Against Evil and the Rise of Atheism: Is Evil Really the Problem?

Image of Adam and Eve deny their creatureliness in the Edenic Paradise, desiring to be as gods without God, and thus commit original sin.

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

It sounds very nice, a world devoid of suffering and every type of evil. However, there are some problems with such an idea, at least for now, given the present situation. What would it mean for us if there were no potential for evil? Atheists often reject God in ... continue reading


How I Read Myself Into the Church Watch

Image of

By Deal W. Hudson

It's said that people don't read much anymore, that we live in a multimedia age, and that the act of reading is on the wane. These prognostications have already been proven false. Nothing can replace reading a book as the most intimate medium of enjoyment and ... continue reading


Pope Francis calls for greater effort to combat human trafficking, highlights Church responsibility Watch

Image of Human trafficking is a profound world problem, but the Church is uniquely situated to help.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis continues to tackle the problem of human trafficking meeting four victims as well a group of Church sisters and law enforcement leaders in a renewed effort to work together to end human trafficking. VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis met ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 50:4-9
4 Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple's tongue, for ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 69:8-10, 21-22, 31, 33-34
8 I am estranged from my brothers, alienated from my ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 26:14-25
14 Then one of the Twelve, the man called Judas ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 16th, 2014 Image

St. Bernadette
April 16: On April 16, 1879, Bernadette -- or Sister Marie-Bernard, as she ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter