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Sola Scriptura is defined as "the Protestant Christian doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness."

Is the concept of Sola Scriptura only applicable to Christians under the New Covenant, or (in hindsight) would it have also applied to Jews under the Old Covenant (e.g., Mary, David, Moses, etc.)?

In other words, scripture (the written word of God) alone was sufficient for Jews in the Old Covenant, or contrarily, it wasn't sufficient for them but it suddenly became sufficient for Christians in the New Covenant. Which would it be?

  • I don't know how accurate Wikipedia's definition is there, at least from a historical context. As the Five solae page says, I think the real definition is 'that scripture must govern over church traditions and interpretations which are subject to scripture itself'. – curiousdannii Dec 22 '14 at 0:42
  • @curiousdannii; Different Protestant groups define sola scriptura differently, in reference to church traditions. John Calvin, for example, would have said that all traditions must have support from Scripture, whereas Martin Luther would have argued merely that traditions must not contradict Scripture. – Bruce Alderman Dec 22 '14 at 20:09
  • @BruceAlderman That's a separate issue again, the regulative vs normative principle. And FWIW, at my prompting the Wikipedia page for Sola scriptura has changed its initial definition to "the Protestant Christian doctrine that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice". – curiousdannii Dec 22 '14 at 23:47
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Protestants and Sola Scriptura adherents: When was scripture alone sufficient?

There is a picture of the Bible being sufficient given in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Luke 16:31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

We see that even the Old Testament was sufficient for one to be inclined to receive Jesus.

John 5:46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.

The Old Testament was sufficient for people to hear about God and his promise and to trust in that promise.

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:

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    Sola Scriptura adherents do not claim that the Bible is sufficient to "be inclined to receive Jesus". The claim is that the Bible contains everything one needs to know to be saved. – DJClayworth Dec 22 '14 at 4:56
  • Given that the NT reached its final form around the 3rd century, can we say that Christians of the 1st and 2nd century had no access to salvation? – luchonacho Feb 17 '18 at 11:22
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Below I have put together some key passages from two scholarly articles on the subject. At the Bottom of this post you will find links to the two, much longer, articles.

"We know that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible declares itself to be God-breathed, inerrant, and authoritative. We also know that God does not change His mind or contradict Himself."

"Sola scriptura is not as much of an argument against tradition as it is an argument against unbiblical, extra-biblical and/or anti-biblical doctrines."

"Take the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4 as an example. The Devil tempted Jesus, yet Jesus used the authority of scripture--not tradition and not even His own divine power as the source of authority and refutation. To Jesus, the Scriptures were enough and sufficient."

"Again, traditions are not the problem. Unbiblical traditions are the problem."

"Of course, Acts 17:11 says, "Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so." Paul commends those who examined God's Word for the test of truth. He did not commend them for appealing to tradition."

"The Bible is for tradition where it supports the teachings of the apostles (2 Thess. 2:15) and is consistent with biblical revelation. Yet, it is against tradition when it "transgresses the commands of God" (Matt. 15:3). By Jesus' own words, tradition is not to transgress or contradict the commands of God. In other words, it should be in harmony with biblical teaching and not oppose it in any way."

“Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!” -Martin Luther

http://www.gotquestions.org/sola-scriptura.html#ixzz3MZ5d2wvf

http://carm.org/bible-alone-sufficient-spiritual-truth

  • "Take the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4 as an example. The Devil tempted Jesus, yet Jesus used the authority of scripture--not tradition and not even His own divine power as the source of authority and refutation. To Jesus, the Scriptures were enough and sufficient." He only quoted the Old Testament. Does this imply that only the Old Testament is authoritative? – user900 Dec 21 '14 at 20:37
  • "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," 2 Timothy 3:16) – Taylor D Barrett Dec 21 '14 at 20:52
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    @TaylorDBarrett But isn't that the point? What should be regarded as scripture (= the word of God)? As opposed to (possibly manmade?) tradition? Also, what the heck, Jesus did use his power as source of authority, just not in the quoted context (He is Jehovah, what other authority does he need? Yet he repeatedly says God is the one giving him authority). It's not even possible to rely on scripture for authority when saying things like "You have heard that [... do this], but I tell you [... do better]" – kutschkem Dec 21 '14 at 21:46
  • @TaylorDBarrett: Paul was referring to the holy scriptures which Timothy had known since he was a young child (2 Tim. 3:15), which is the Old Testament. NT did not even exist at the time Paul wrote that epistle to Timothy. It most certainly did not exist at the time Timothy was a child. So, again, is only the Old Testament authoritative? – user900 Dec 21 '14 at 21:49
  • Here is a great article= hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/1354/6538 – Taylor D Barrett Dec 21 '14 at 22:22
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When was scripture alone sufficient?

TLDR; Never. Scripture has never been sufficient, and never will be.

Your question is based on a false premise. The irony is that you actually point out the fallacy in the opening sentence of your question (emphasis mine):

Sola Scriptura is defined as "the Protestant Christian doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness."

What is necessary for salvation and holiness never has been, nor never will be scripture. Rather it is knowledge (precisely what knowledge is necessary for salvation and holiness is subject to debate, and not directly relevant to this question).

How this is interpreted by Protestants is that if someone completely unfamiliar with Christianity were handed a Bible and read it, they would have enough information that if they chose (or according to some doctrines, if they were elected), they could make a soul-saving decision to follow Christ.

In other words, they would not need to read the Bible and then also start attending church to gain more information. Or they would not have to read the Bible and then also attend a catechism class, or learn from Catholic Tradition, or also read the Book of Mormon, or also read Joyce Meyer, or also watch TBN, or anything else. That doesn't mean these other things might not be edifying or otherwise useful to a believer, but all the knwoledge that is necessary for salvation can be found in scripture.

That also does not mean that this information can be found only in scripture. It's possible (and in fact, quite common) that someone becomes a Christian without ever having read the Bible, by assimilating the necessary information second-hand (from someone who had read the Bible), or by another means of revelation.

The important part is that, to an adherent of Sola Scriptura, no other form of knowledge acquisition will contradict the scripture. If a missionary tells you "To be saved you must do XYZ," that XYZ will either be consistent, or inconsistent with scripture.


Summary

Asking "When was scripture alone sufficient?" is asking a nonsensical question, because it puts the emphasis on the scripture, rather than on the knowledge contained in the scripture.

If instead you wish to ask "When did the knowledge alone become sufficient?" the answer is, "It always was."

Scripture came to contain the knowledge which was always necessary and sufficient.

Perhaps you could ask, then, the related question: When did scripture come to contain the minimum of knowledge necessary and sufficient for salvation?

I believe most Christians would say that this information is contained in the Old Testament (if primarily through types and shadows), indeed even in the oldest form of the Old Testament, the Torah. So the answer to that question would be "The moment scripture began to exist as scripture" which was apparently roughly 445 BCE.

  • Given that the NT reached its final form around the 3rd century, can we say that Christians of the 1st and 2nd century had no access to salvation? – luchonacho Feb 17 '18 at 11:22
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The question has been asked: "when was scripture alone sufficient?" If we accept that a good synonym for Scripture is "word", then the principle of *Sola Scriptura *was first put forth by the Lord in Deuteronomy 8:3. Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 4:4. Later Peter, after seeing many disciples turn back from Jesus (John 6:66), says to Jesus, to whom shall we go? You have the WORDS of eternal life. This would seem to indicate, that even if the term SOLA SCRIPTURA is not explicitly used, it is clearly put forth in principle. See also how the term WORD is used in John 17. Never do we find a hint that His word is not sufficient for all life and faith. And only HE spoke with authority (Matthew 7:29), and only in specific cases did the apostles use the authority He gave to them, and it was never mentioned that this authority was to be passed on from generation to generation.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. For more on what this site is all about, see: How we are different than other sites. About your answer, the question wasn't the biblical basis for sola scriptura, but when it came into effect. It's not clear to me that your answer answers that question. For some tips on writing good answers here, see: What makes a good supported answer? – Lee Woofenden Mar 20 '18 at 3:49
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    Welcome Riviera! I'd encourage you to check out the links Lee provided, and, if possible, to cite a source or two that backs up your exegesis of these passages. Do Protestant theologians believe that the principle of "sola scriptura" can be found in the passages you cite? – Nathaniel is protesting Mar 20 '18 at 10:50

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