For those who do not agree with Sola Scriptura, which is scripture alone is the source for all things pertaining to your salvation, they often quote this from Paul.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. 2 Thes 2:15

For them, this is their proof text that you should hold Traditions as salvific.

To what specific "traditions" actually extant in Paul's time is he speaking? Are they the four Marian dogmas? Are they the filioque? Are they Peter's successors are the head of the church? Exactly what are they?

How do you know?

If one doesn't know, why would someone place their trust in them for their salvation?

  • Interestingly, the commentary on the USCCB site interprets 2 Thes 2:15 as simply referencing back to 2 Thes 2:2, as a sort of closing to the literary unit of the author's intention. usccb.org Taken in context, it seems unlikely that the verse is referencing any specific tradition.
    – qxn
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 14:29
  • @ken this could be a good answer; that is, Paul does not promote Tradition (de fide); this passage is not a blank check. Basically, it seems USCCB is obliquely agreeing with the obvious. No one knows what those traditions are. It is impossible because they weren't written, although one answer does mention a few (no work, no eat, etc).
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 18:32
  • I wouldn't think anyone quoting this in opposition to sola scriptura has specific traditions in mind. Rather, the verse may be evidence that there exists both oral and written tradition in the Church, and the Holy Spirit inspires both.
    – qxn
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 1:19
  • Okay, and what are those specific traditions extant in Paul's time to which he is referring? Please don't give answers that arose centuries later or needed Trent or some other council to inform us. I mean, for example, did Paul orally let everyone know Peter's successors are the head of the Church of Rome? How would we know?
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 15:46

3 Answers 3


For one, we could imagine that any teachings in New Testament books written after Thessalonians 2 would have contained teachings in Paul's mind when He wrote this passage.

Beyond that, Paul and the Apostles taught doctrines that are apparently not evident from Scripture to some SS adherents. For instance, the "True Presence" of Christ in the Eucharist. Very few Protestants, nearly all of whom are Sola Scripturists, hold a view that even approximates what the Early Church believed. Additionally, Trinitarian views are not in Scripture. There are hints of Trinitarian views in Scripture, but there are also hints of Mary's Perpetual Virginity in Scripture. As we've seen even recently on this site, one can read anti-Trinitarian views into Scripture as well, just as one can read anti-Marian views into it. Passages can be found which support both, so how do we know which to believe?

Interestingly enough, I think a tradition established in Acts gives us the answer. Whenever a question arises as to the truth of some doctrine, or particular nuances about it, the Apostles and their successor can call an ecumenical council to address it. Together, and guided by the Holy Spirit, they determine what the truth is of these particular matters of interest. Then, they send faithful messengers to the various churches to bring the clarifications (often called developments) of the particular doctrines to them. The Council of Jerusalem does this in the Acts of the Apostles.

The fact of the matter is, Mary's assumption excepted, you can find support for just about any Tradition clarified by councils or ex cathedra teachings of the Pope in Scripture. And it is worth noting that, while those Marian dogmas were formally defined long after the Great Schism of 1054, Orthodox Christians also have those same Traditions. That fact would lead me to believe this is one of those unwritten Traditions that they Early Church had.

Some of the writings of the Church Fathers, such as St. Justin Martyr and Saint Ignatius of Antioch, tell us about teachings that are not in Scripture. but these men were intimately familiar with all of the teachings of the Apostles, having lived at the same time as all of them. We can generally trust that what they write also comes from Apostolic teaching, even if it is not in the canon of Sacred Scripture.

  • What to do if those traditions contradict Scripture? Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 19:40
  • @MikeBorden they will not contradict scripture, since we are guaranteed by Christ that the Holy Spirit will protect our Magisterium from error on matters of faith and morals (Matt 16:18)
    – jaredad7
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 20:58
  • @jaredad7 but weren't a majority of church fathers universalist?
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 22:08
  • 1
    Assuming Matthew 16:18 empowers the Magesterium (is it the Magesterium that declares this is so?); If the Magesterium affirms something there is no need to search the Scriptures to see if those things are true (ala the Bereans) because Christ has guaranteed they can't be wrong? Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 13:27
  • 1
    @MikeBorden yes, one needn't search Scripture to know that a particular proclamation of the Magisterium is correct, but recall that the Bereans searched the Scriptures before they converted. They needed to discover for themselves whether what the Apostles taught was the truth. My own conversion to Catholicism was similar.
    – jaredad7
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 14:10

To require a proof text for the authority of the Church is to beg the question against that authority.

Those who believe authority rests with the Church believe Scripture because of the Church's authority, not the other way around. To require Scripture to prove the Church's authority already assumes that Scripture has authority over the Church. This is the fallacy of begging the question.

That is not to suggest that the Church is in a struggle with Scripture over authority. In fact, words on a page have no authority. They have no power to give orders, make decisions, or enforce obedience. One would look curiously at a man calling "in the name of the Tax Code," while one fears the man calling "in the name of the IRS."

Rather, participants in the Church believe Scripture because it was given to the Church as a gift from God by way of the Church's authority to understand words on a page to be Scripture. This authority is also a gift from God and is understood to be perpetual because of Christ's promise that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against [my church]". It is with this authority that the Church offers interpretations of 2 Thes 2:15, not by any authority of the text itself.

  • Not at all. You've introduced a red herring, a look there, not here. My question is very simple. You should be able to answer it. To what traditions extant in Paul's time is Paul referring?
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 22:50
  • @SLM - I'm critiquing the premise of your question. You phrased your question in the context of sola scriptura and claimed some use the verse as a proof text against sola scriptura and in favor of big-T Tradition. Those who use proof texts to "prove" Tradition don't understand Tradition. The authority of Tradition does not come from a text, but from Christ himself. The verse may very well support Tradition, but it is not the proof of it. Therefore, the "traditions" referred to in the verse do not necessarily refer to all or any of the options you gave in the question.
    – qxn
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 23:04
  • I left the question open after giving examples. What are they? It appears you are saying that there were three traditions extant in Paul's time. One was the idea that one should not question what would come to be the Church's authority. Another was the tradition in Paul's time letting everyone know that scripture won't be compiled officially until the Roman Catholic council at Trent. A third was that the apostles had no authority, but only the subsequent what would come to be named Catholic Church. The bible is not inspired of God, but of the Church.
    – SLM
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 18:27
  • @SLM - "It appears you are saying that..." I don't think I appeared to say any of that.
    – qxn
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 1:13

If you look at the Book of 2 Thessalonians in Chapter 3, beginning with verse 6, it says,

"But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and _not according to the tradition which he received from us."

Then Paul continues in verse 10 what he's been discussing from verses 7 - 9, which concludes in 10,

"For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good."

Anyway, Paul gives a few examples (of which I cannot find in my actual Bible nor my phone app Bible and for which I apologize) that basically says that whether by word or by epistle (the written documents that are letters to different churches in different countries) that they neither add nor subtract a single word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which, in those days, they were like what we today might consider OCD, so basically extremely meticulous in memorizing the Old Testament for most of their lives up to that point, and continued to do the same thing with the Gospel or Good News of Jesus Christ.

Luke was a physician who was responsible for, obviously, the Gospel of Luke, but also, Acts, which is the chronicle of the early church and their Acts, but it is, basically from about the 8th or 9th chapter to the end, the chronicle of Saul of Tarsus who was feared as the killer and/or capture and imprisonment of the early Christians. And he was confronted by Jesus and he changed his name to Paul. But he was steeped in tradition from almost birth! A Roman citizen, a Pharisee of the Jewish church and so he was one of those who knew huge parts of the Old Testament and so when he was saying that they should stick to the traditions that he and other Apostles and disciples had taught them.

So, whomever he had told these instructions, they knew that they were to try to follow the 10 Commandments as well as you can, as well as the other 2 Jesus said, Loving one another as He had loved them, and go and make disciples of the nations of the world about the Salvation of Jesus' message which is the main part of the Gospel word, of course.

So, yeah, they took all of that into account when he said that. But the other crucial thing is that he saved them because He said that NOBODY (besides Him who had never sinned) could follow the 10 Commandments. And God basically says that there must be blood... there must be something much more than killing animals. Someone, everyone, you, me, we all have to pay with our very lives. But Jesus stepped in and said, "I will pay the bill." So "He who knew no sin became sin [even before we knew who he was!] for us while we were yet still sinners." Everybody who accepts and believes that Jesus is who He says He is, and that He died for them—for US, and admits that they have sinned, and accepts His Salvation as payment in place of us, will go to Heaven. And try to be/do the best that you can, and when you—when we slip (and WE WILL slip....a lot) admit it to Jesus and turn from or repent (say sorry), thank Him for being our Savior, and go on about your life. There are no Good people going to Heaven, only Saved Sinners. That's it.

Michael C. (MichaelTheGamer)

Hope that helps you. God Bless you and anyone who reads this.

  • 1
    Hello Michael, it would very helpful if you could break up this "wall of text" so to make it easier to read. Take a look at some of the other answers and the Help Center's "How do I write a good answer?" for additional information.
    – agarza
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 3:09
  • Hmm...You are right. I am just now reading this 2/12/22 15:35EST But I will go check out the Help Center "How do I..." and do my best to fix that. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I am just coming out of the Omicron variant which, true enough, is not as bad as the other ones heard about, so may need a few days. Only on a few minutes a day right now. Take care, and thanks again. --Michael C (MichaelTheGamer) Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 20:41

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