Answer: The principle of Sola Scriptura - the Holy Scripture is
the only infallible rule of faith for the church - is neither new nor
erroneous. On the contrary, the Church Fathers testify that they too
upheld the Scriptures as the sufficient and authoritative font of divine
The Fathers also held tradition in high esteem, but for them
tradition was not a supplementary source of divine doctrines in addition
to the teaching of the Scripture. Historian Philip Schaff
“Besides appealing to the Scriptures, the fathers, particularly Irenaeus and
Tertullian, refer with equal confidence to the "rule of faith;" that is, the
common faith of the church, as orally handed down in the unbroken succession of
bishops from Christ and his apostles to their day, and above all as still living
in the original apostolic churches, like those of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus,
and Rome… the substance of its doctrine this apostolic tradition agrees with the
holy scriptures, and though derived, as to its form, from the oral preaching of
the apostles, is really, as to its contents, one and the same with their apostolic writings… In the narrower sense, by
apostolic tradition or the rule of faith was understood a doctrinal
summary of Christianity, or a compend of the faith of the church.” History of the Christian
The following quotations prove that the Fathers considered the
Scriptures as both sufficient and the highest authority in the church.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book
We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from
those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one
time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God,
handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our
Athanasius; Against the Heathen,
The holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the
proclamation of the truth.
Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have
demanded Councils for the faith's sake; for divine Scripture is
sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point,
there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not
neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons
reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the
religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.
Chrysostom, Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96
Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I
will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with
Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.
Nyssa, On the Holy Trinity.
For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may
advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely
not bound to follow theirs. Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our
umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas
are found to agree with the Divine words.
Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection.
We are not entitled to such licence, I mean that of affirming what we
please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every
tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone
which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.
Basil, The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC
What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of
full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not
venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that
is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by
hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy
Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.
Basil, On the Holy Spirit,
We are not content simply because this is the tradition of the
Fathers. What is important is that the Fathers followed the meaning of
Basil, Moralia, 72:1.
The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by
teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject
that which is foreign.
litteras Petiliani, Bk 3, ch. 6.
If anyone preaches either concerning Christ or concerning His church
or concerning any other matter which pertains to our faith and life; I
will not say, if we, but what Paul adds, if an angel from heaven should
preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures
of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema.
Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, IV:17.
For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a
casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must
we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to
me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you
receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine
Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious
reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.
Augustine, De Unitate Ecclesiae, 10.
Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if by chance they err in
anything, but the result that their opinion is against the canonical
Scriptures of God.
Augustine, De Unitate Ecclesiae, 3.
Whatever they may adduce, and wherever they may quote from, let us
rather, if we are His sheep, hear the voice of our Shepherd. Therefore
let us search for the church in the sacred canonical Scriptures.
Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, II,
For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to
be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life.
Augustine, De Bono
What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostles? For
Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare be wiser
than we ought. Therefore I should not teach you anything else except to
expound to you the words of the Teacher.
Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One
There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the
Holy Scriptures, and from no other source… so all of us who wish to
practice piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other
quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy
Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatever things they
teach, these let us learn.