On the Primacy of Scripture

scripturesIRENAEUS OF LYONS (130-202)

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. (Adv. H. 3:1)

Read more diligently that gospel which is given to us by the apostles; and read more diligently the prophets, and you will find every action and the whole doctrine of our Lord preached in them. (Adv. H. 4:66)


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 7:16:3)

ORIGEN (185-254)

In which (the two Testaments) every word that appertains to God may be required and discussed; and all knowledge may be understood out of them. But if anything remain which the Holy Scripture does not determine, no other third Scripture ought to be received for authorizing any knowledge or doctrine; but that which remains we must commit to the fire, that is, we will reserve it for God. For in this present world God would not have us to know all things. (Orig. in Lev., hom. 5, 9:6)

We know Jesus Christ is God, and we seek to expound the words which are spoken, according to the dignity of the person. Wherefore it is necessary for us to call the Scriptures into testimony; for our meanings and enarrations, without these witnesses, have no credibility. (Tractatus 5 in Matt.)

No man ought, for the confirmation of doctrines, to use books which are not canonized Scriptures. (Tract. 26 in Matt.)

As all gold, whatsoever it be, that is without the temple, is not holy; even so every notion which is without the divine Scripture, however admirable it may appear to some, is not holy, because it is foreign to Scripture. (Hom. 25 in Matt.)

Consider how imminent their danger is who neglect to study the Scriptures, in which alone the discernment of this can be ascertained. (in Rom. 10:16)


Whence comes this tradition? Does it descend from the Lord’s authority, or from the commands and epistles of the apostles? For those things are to be done which are there written. … If it be commanded in the gospels or the epistles and Acts of the Apostles, then let this holy tradition be observed. (Ep. 74 ad Pompeium)


There is one God, whom we do not otherwise acknowledge, brethren, but out of the Holy Scriptures. For as he that would possess the wisdom of this world cannot otherwise obtain it than to read the doctrines of the philosophers; so whosoever of us will exercise piety toward God cannot learn this elsewhere but out of the Holy Scriptures. Whatsoever, therefore, the Holy Scriptures do preach, that let us know, and whatsoever they teach, that let us understand. (Hip. tom. 3, Bibliotheque Patrium, ed. Colonna)


The Holy Scriptures, given by inspiration of God, are of themselves sufficient toward the discovery of truth. (Orat. adv. Gent., ad cap.)

The Catholic Christians will neither speak nor endure to hear any thing in religion that is a stranger to Scripture; it being an evil heart of immodesty to speak those things which are not written. (Exhort. ad Monachas)


How can we use those things which we do not find in the Holy Scriptures? (Ambr. Offic., 1:23)

I read that he is the first, I read that he is not the second; they who say he is the second, let them show it by reading. (Ambr. Offic., in Virginis Instit. 11)


O emperor! I admire your faith, which desires only according to those things that were written. … You seek the faith, O emperor. Hear it then, not from new writings, but from the books of God. Remember that it is not a question of philosophy, but a doctrine of the gospel. (Ad Constant. Augus. 2:8:2)


Let a man be persuaded of the truth of that alone which has the seal of the written testimony. (De Anima et Resurrectione, 1)


Not even the least of the divine and holy mysteries of the faith ought to be handed down without the divine Scriptures. Do not simply give faith to me speaking these things to you except you have the proof of what I say from the divine Scriptures. For the security and preservation of our faith are not supported by ingenuity of speech, but by the proofs of the divine Scriptures. (Cat. 4)


[The Scripture], like a safe door, denies an entrance to heretics, guarding us in safety in all things we desire, and not permitting us to be deceived. …Whoever uses not the Scriptures, but comes in otherwise, that is, cuts out for himself a different and unlawful way, the same is a thief. (Homily 59, in Joh. 2:8)

For at this time, since heresy has infected the churches, the divine Scriptures alone can afford a proof of genuine Christianity, and a refuge to those who are desirous of arriving at the true faith. Formerly it might have been ascertained by various means which was the true church, but at present there is no other method left for those who are willing to discover the true church of Christ but by the Scriptures alone. And why? Because heresy has all outward observances in common with her. If a man, therefore, be desirous of knowing the true church, how will he be able to do it amid so great resemblance, but by the Scriptures alone? Wherefore our Lord, foreseeing that such a great confusion of things would take place in the latter days, ordered the Christians to have recourse to nothing but the Scriptures. ( 49th Homily, on Mat. 24))

The man of God could not be perfect without the Scriptures. [Paul says to Timothy:] “You have the Scriptures: if you desire to learn anything, you may learn it from them.” But if he writes these things to Timothy, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, how much more must we think these things spoken to us. (Hom. 9 in 2 Tim. 1:9)

It is absurd, while we will not trust other people in pecuniary affairs, but choose to reckon and calculate for ourselves, that in matters of far higher consequence we should implicitly follow the opinions of others, especially as we possess the most exact and perfect rule and standard by which to regulate our several inquiries: I mean the regulation of the divine laws. I, therefore, could wish that all of you would reject what this or that man says, and that you would investigate all these things in the Scriptures. (Hom. 13, 4:10 ad fin. in 2 Cor.)


It is the part of a devilish spirit to think any thing to be divine that is not in the authority of the Holy Scriptures. (Ep. Pasch. 2)

JEROME (342-420)

The church of Christ, possessing churches in all the world, is united by the unity of the Spirit, and has the cities of the law, the prophets, the gospels, and the apostles. She has not gone forth from her boundaries, that is, from the Holy Scriptures. (Comm. in Micha. 1:1)

Those things which they make and find, as it were, by apostolical tradition, without the authority and testimony of Scripture, the word of God smites. (ad Aggai 1)

As we deny not those things that are written, so we refuse those things that are not written. That God was born of a virgin we believe, because we read it; that Mary did marry after she was delivered we believe not, because we do not read it. (Adv. Helvidium)


In those things which are clearly laid down in Scripture, all those things are found which pertain to faith and morals. (De Doct. Chr. 2:9)

Whatever you hear from them [the Scriptures], let that be well received by you. Whatever is without them refuse, lest you wander in a cloud. (De Pastore, 11)

All those things which in times past our ancestors have mentioned to be done toward mankind and have delivered unto us: all those things also which we see and deliver to our posterity, so far as they pertain to the seeking and maintaining true religion, the Holy Scripture has not passed over in silence. (Ep. 42)

Whatever our Savior would have us read of his actions and sayings he commanded his apostles and disciples, as his hands, to write. (De Consensu Evang. 1:ult.)

Let them [the Donatists] demonstrate their church if they can, not by the talk and rumor of the Africans; not by the councils of their own bishops; not by the books of their disputers; not by deceitful miracles, against which we are cautioned by the word of God, but in the prescript of the law, in the predictions of the prophets, in the verses of the Psalms, in the voice of the Shepherd himself, in the preaching and works of the evangelists; that is, in all canonical authorities of the sacred Scriptures. (De Unit. Eccl. 16)


That which the Holy Scriptures have not said, by what means should we receive and account it among those things that are true? (Glaphyrarum in Gen. 2)


By the Holy Scriptures alone am I persuaded. (Dial. 1, Atrept.)

I am not so bold as to affirm anything which the sacred Scripture passes in silence. (Dial. 2, Asynchyt.)

We ought not to seek those things that are passed in silence, but rest in the things which are written. (in Gen. Q. 45)


We receive and acknowledge and reverence all things which are delivered in the law, the prophets, the apostles and evangelists, and we seek after nothing beyond these. (de Fid. Ortho. 1:1:1)

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