Quotes from the Church Fathers About the Ultimate Authority of Scriptur*

    1. Irenaeus of Lyons (late-2nd century):

      “The sacred books clearly reveal to us the apostles’ teaching.” – Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 5.1.

    2. Irenaeus (late-2nd century):

      “We have known the method of our salvation by no other means than those by whom the gospel came to us; which gospel they truly preached; but afterward, by the will of God, they delivered to us in the Scriptures, to be for the future the foundation and pillar of our faith.” – Against Heresies, Book III.

    3. Tertullian (3rd century):

      “We have for this [belief] the most trustworthy witnesses, the very ones who have penned the Gospel.” – The Prescription Against Heretics.

    4. Athanasius (4th century):

      “The holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient for the preaching of the truth.” – Against the Heathen.

    5. Basil of Caesarea (4th century):

      “Believe those things which are written; what is not written, do not believe.” – On the Holy Spirit.

    6. Ambrose of Milan (4th century):

      “How can we use those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?” – Exposition on the Christian Faith.

    7. Augustine of Hippo (4th-5th century):

      “For it seems to me that most disastrous consequence must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books.” – Letter to Jerome, Letter 82.

    8. Cyril of Jerusalem (4th century):

      “For concerning the divine and sacred mysteries of the faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures.” – Catechetical Lectures.

    9. John Chrysostom (4th-5th century):

      “Let us not therefore carry about the notions of the many, but examine into the facts… Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things.” – Homilies on the Second Epistle to Timothy.

    10. Jerome (4th-5th century):

      “What Jerome is ignorant of, no man has ever known.” – Letter to Vigilantius.

    11. Clement of Rome (late 1st century):

      “Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.” – First Epistle to the Corinthians.

    12. Polycarp (late 1st-early 2nd century):

      “I trust that you are well versed in every good thing of the Lord, having been trained in the sacred Scriptures.” – Epistle to the Philippians.

    13. Justin Martyr (2nd century):

      “When I had ceased quoting from the Scriptures, I said again: ‘Now, sirs, these Scriptures, and others not a few, compel us to acknowledge that there is a certain prophetic power.'” – Dialogue with Trypho.

    14. Origen (3rd century):

      “In the two Testaments every word that appertains to God may be sought and discussed, and out of them all knowledge of things may be understood.” – On First Principles.

    15. Hippolytus of Rome (3rd century):

      “There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures and from no other source.” – Refutation of All Heresies.

    16. Gregory of Nyssa (4th century):

      “We are not entitled to such license, namely, of affirming whatever we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet.” – Against Eunomius.

    17. John of Damascus (8th century):

      “It is not allowable to affirm whatever we please; we make Holy Scripture the rule and measure of every tenet.” – An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.

    18. Ephrem the Syrian (4th century):

      “The Sacred Writings contain the instruction of the ages.” – Commentary on the Diatessaron.

    19. Isidore of Seville (6th-7th century):

      “All doctrine ought to be derived from the divine Scriptures—for then it ought to be believed when it is proved by divine testimony.” – Sententiae.

    20. John Cassian (4th-5th century):

      “We ought not to believe in and to admit anything whatsoever which is not in the canon of Scripture or which is found to be contrary to it.” – Conferences, 14.8.

    21. Didache (1st century):

      “Do not add anything to these words and do not take anything away.” – Didache, 4:13.

    22. Clement of Alexandria (late 2nd-early 3rd century):

      “The Scriptures should be read first and with them the apocryphal books.” – Miscellanies, 2:3.

    23. Tertullian (3rd century, from the third list):

      “It is clear that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches, the molds and original centers of the faith, must be considered true.” – Prescription Against Heretics, 32.

    24. Eusebius (4th century):

      “The faith by which we believe in God has not been established by human testimonies, but by divine Scripture.” – Ecclesiastical History, 1.4.

    25. Athanasius (4th century):

      “The Scriptures, which are able to make one wise, are sufficient for instruction.” – Letter to Marcellinus.

    26. Hilary of Poitiers (4th century):

      “Everything that we ought to say and do, all that we need, is taught us by the Holy Scriptures.” – On the Trinity, 7:16.

    27. Basil of Caesarea (4th century):

      “The hearing of the Scriptures is necessary not merely for the uninstructed but also for those who are richly endowed with the word of doctrine.” – On Psalm 1, 6.

    28. Gregory Nazianzen (4th century):

      “Let us test and judge what is said by the unerring rule of the Scriptures.” – Theological Oration 4.

    29. Ambrose of Milan (4th century):

      “When we wish to suggest anything sensible in sacred matters, let us go to the sacred writings, drawing from Scripture what we suggest.” – On the Christian Faith, Book 1.

    30. Cyprian of Carthage (3rd century):

      “Let nothing be innovated, says he, nothing maintained, except what has been handed down. Whence is that tradition? Whether does it descend from the authority of the Lord and of the Gospel, or does it come from the commands and the epistles of the apostles? For that those things which are written must be done, God witnesses and admonishes, saying to Joshua the son of Nun: ‘The book of this law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate in it day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.’” – Epistle 74.

    31. Augustine of Hippo (4th-5th century):

      “For when one says, ‘This is the custom,’ and another says, ‘No, that is the custom,’ I should prefer, however, that if possible, neither the circle of the year nor the rising of the sun should interrupt this custom of ours, but, above all, it seems to me that we should yield ourselves to the authority of Holy Scripture, which can neither be led astray nor lead others astray.” – Letters, 82.

    32. John Chrysostom (4th-5th century):

      “Let the inspired Scriptures 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.” – Homily 13 on 2 Corinthians.

    33. Augustine of Hippo (4th-5th century):

      “For in regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Do not even listen to me if I tell you anything that is not supported by or found in the Scriptures.” – Exposition on Psalm 119.

    34. Clement of Alexandria (late 2nd-early 3rd century):

      “They that are ready to spend their time in the best things will not give over seeking for truth until they have found the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves.” – Stromata, 7.16.

    35. St. Bonaventure (13th century):

      “In Holy Scripture, the doctrine of faith is presented to us in a definite and clear manner. Everything that is included in it is, by divine mandate, committed to writing and set forth as an everlasting record. Hence those things which are presented to us in Scripture should be accepted with full faith and with the recognition that they are far removed from all falsehood.” – Commentary on the Sentences, Book I.

    36. St. Thomas Aquinas (13th century):

      “It is unlawful to hold that any false assertion is contained either in the Gospel or in any canonical Scripture, or that the writers thereof have told untruths, because faith would be deprived of its certitude which is based on the authority of Holy Writ.” – Summa Theologiae, I, Q. 1, Art. 8.

    37. Theophilus of Antioch (2nd century):

      “For these are the most excellent of created things seen in this world; but the divine beauty and might are seen in figures and shadowy types. Now, in all things, not only by thought, but also from the [Old Testament] Scriptures, which are truly divine, and from the [New Testament] spirit, God is known as the cause.” – To Autolycus, Book I, Chapter 4.

    38. Cyprian of Carthage (3rd century):

      “For the things which are placed in the Scriptures by the inspiration and command of God, suggest to us the compendium of truth, and do not allow faith to waver in the questions proposed.” – Letters 73:16.

*It’s important to consider that interpreting these passages in the context of the 16th-century debate about sola scriptura can be challenging. It’s anachronistic to claim that these early Church Fathers believed in sola scriptura as it’s understood in the Reformation context. During this early period, tradition itself was often equated with Scripture due to their content being nearly identical or their interpretation serving as the ‘regula fide’ (rule of faith).

Because of this, some of these passages may appear contradictory when compared with earlier or later writings by the same authors. Additionally, some of these Church Fathers added qualifiers, asserting that the Church and its interpretation of the Scriptures held equal authority.

However, these passages can be seen as a precursor to the development of sola scriptura that would emerge a millennium later.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    1 Response to "Sola Scriptura in the Early Church: 38 Quotes"

    • Ewan Kerr

      Shame many of these luminaries never actually stuck to their Bible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.