Bible Alone? Not for the Fathers!

by Steve Ray on July 27, 2007

I just came across this quotation again. What a great reminder of the authority of the Church and the Apostolic Tradition! How did I fall for sola Scriptura back in my old life?

Basil.jpgThe Church preserves many beliefs and practices that generally are accepted or publicly commanded. Some are taken from written teaching; others have been passed on to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles. In relation to true religion, both of these have the same force.

—St. Basil the Great (c. 330-c. 379)
Father of Eastern Monasticism

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jerome Gonzalez July 29, 2007 at 1:01 AM

As St John states in his Gospel, (Ch 21 Verse 25)…”There are many other things that Jesus did.If they were all written down one by one, I suppose that the whole world could not hold the books that would be written.”.
Obviously, when he says “Jesus did”, he also means “Jesus said”. The Apostles taught what Jesus taught them: there WERE no written-down Gospels for some time, for one thing , an many things they handed down were not written down .This verbal handing down started the “tradition” of the Church and is with us today. The Church gives equal importance to the written-down teachings and to the authentic “handed down” teachings. When people say, “the Gospels don’t teach so and so”, we say, “so what? The Catholic, Apostolic Church gives equal weight to tradition and written-down Gospels”.

Jason DeVoir July 29, 2007 at 10:19 PM

In the below attached Treatise from St Ambrose he seems to support Sola Scriptura. I know he is speaking of instructing Clergy, but when he says…”For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?” How can we be certain he wasn’t alluding to everything and not just teaching the clergy about jesting?

In Christ

Chapter 23.
Jests, although at times they may be quite proper, should be altogether banished among clerics. The voice should be plain and frank.

102. Men of the world give many further rules about the way to speak, which I think we may pass over; as, for instance, the way jesting should be conducted. For though at times jests may be proper and pleasant, yet they are unsuited to the clerical life. For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?

103. We must also take care that in relating stories we do not alter the earnest purpose of the harder rule we have set before us. “Woe unto you that laugh, for you shall weep,” Luke 6:25 says the Lord. Do we seek for something to laugh at, that laughing here we may weep hereafter? I think we ought to avoid not only broad jokes, but all kinds of jests, unless perchance it is not unfitting at the time for our conversation to be agreeable and pleasant.

104. In speaking of the voice, I certainly think it ought to be plain and clear. That it should be musical is a gift of nature, and is not to be won by exertion. Let it be distinct in its pronunciation and full of a manly vigour, but let it be free from a rough and rustic twang. See, too, that it does not assume a theatrical accent, but rather keeps true to the inner meaning of the words it utters.

MMajor Fan July 30, 2007 at 4:06 PM

Hi Jason. While no person today can mind read St. Ambrose they can be confident of several parameters that informed his beliefs. One is that while every form of human behavior is mentioned in the OT and Gospels, humor (jest) is the only thing there is no example of to reference, so all the Early Fathers, like the Jewish priests before them, were very conservative on that subject. If they lacked even a casual mention of a subject to use as a role model, they took the most conservative position, which is that it is to be avoided. Also, we know that he is confining himself to commenting on jesting, and not extending to a Sola Scriptura general statement because you must remember that as the Early Fathers worked their way through issues and instruction that they drew upon the Holy Spirit to guide their way. So he would feel no need to express a Sola Scriptura philosophy because all of the Early Fathers drew from the Apostles and disciples faith that the Holy Spirit would guide their thoughts to correct answers of questions that are not directly addressed in scripture passages. Hope this helps.

Steve Ray August 3, 2007 at 11:42 PM

Richard O’Connor said,
August 3, 2007 @ 10:22 pm · Edit

I accidentally found your quote from St. Basil the Great the other day and wonder how many other early fathers expressed the same idea — that Scripture and Tradition are two equally valid fonts of revelation. Do you know?
Someone sends me attacks on the Church by the editor of the Christian News (a Lutheran paper out of New Haven MO) and I refute them regularly but the guy is so full of hatred and ignorance of the Church is seems to be useless. Sola Scriptura is his big stick. I’m going to send him St Basil’s statement but would like to add more if you can help.
PS- Your point is well made: we life-long Catholics can and often do lose our excitement and enthusiasm for our wonderful gift of Faith and converts often put us to shame.

Joseph Paul Adorable January 7, 2008 at 12:30 AM

Bro. Steve, Peace and all-good! I am an active member of the Catholic Faith Defenders (CFD) here in the Philippines and we find your conversion story and articles in your website very informative. We are very thankful to God because of you. How we wish we can obtain copies of your books esp. on your conversion story and about the apostolic fathers. These books are not available here in our bookstores and these may also cost a lot. God bless us! Respectfully in Chirst and Mary, jpaul

Hello JPaul:
I am glad you find my website informative. I have been to the Philippines 4 times and I plan to come back in January 2009. My book Crossing the Tiber is published in the Philippines and my other books are there too. You can find them through Henry Siy in Manila. Contact him at

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