Monday, February 1, 2010

St. Papias of Hierapolis & Sola Scriptura

Unfortunately, not much is known about St. Papias of Hierapolis; what we do know, though, is very interesting. He was an early Bishop of Hierapolis, a city in modern-day Turkey. Around AD 120, he wrote a book entitled The Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord in which he gave interpretations of various sayings of Jesus Christ, some of which are not found in the four Gospels of our New Testament.

And what makes St. Papias a very important figure in answering the question of whether the Fathers believed in Sola Scriptura is just this point. The sayings of Christ he records and explains are ones he learned directly from those who had been hearers of Christ and the Apostles. And the reason for this is because he placed more value on receiving the sayings of Christ orally from trustworthy individuals than on reading them from the books that would later become the New Testament! Here is St. Papias' position, apparently the diametric opposite of Sola Scriptura, in his own words:
"If, then, any one who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings,--what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord's disciples: which things Aristion and the Priest John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice." - Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord, fragments
If you'd like to read more of St. Papias' writings, click here.

(originally published 13 December 2009 at Pious Fabrications)


Garret said...

Hi David
Reading your profile- I want to say thank you for your service in the armed forces! You are in my prayers.

he placed more value on receiving the sayings of Christ orally from trustworthy individuals than on reading them from the books that would later become the New Testament!

That was in the year c. 120 AD! Almost 1,900 years ago- that is A LOT of 'water under the bridge' so to speak. We cannot say today what he said then! We don't have THOSE people, but what we do have is their writings. If anyone told me that I can know what the Apostles said by a current 'living and abiding voice' 1,900 years later, I would wonder, first off, am I talking to a gnostic, that claims to have secret knowledge that I don't have access to? And then I would naturally wonder, WHY is this person trying to undermine a reliance on the Holy Scriptures as being authoritative on matters of faith, above and beyond a 'living and abiding voice' 1900 years later?
God bless,

David said...


By no means did I intend to imply that we should be doing the same today. We might end up on a ranch somewhere with a heavy store of rifles and six wives. ;)

The goal in my series here is to explore the Fathers in relation to the modern Sola/Solo Scripturist views, especially those (such as Max Webster and James White) who would like to assert that the Fathers themselves were Sola Scripturists. I'm definitely not trying to fabricate a "restored" 1st/2nd century Christianity as some have...

Garret said...

Hi David

By no means did I intend to imply that we should be doing the same today. We might end up on a ranch somewhere with a heavy store of rifles and six wives. ;)

LOL I love it

I'm a James White fan, So I get where you are coming from. How much have you looked into sola Scriptura- have you read any works on it, such as the David King/Webster-Holy Scripture books? link-

I'm getting volume 2 soon, looking forward to it. It is important to note what sola Scriptura is and ISN'T. It comports to a view of Scripture as THE rule of faith that supercedes any other rule of faith, as Scripture is infallible. Heresy was fought with Scripture by the Fathers, showing they considered it right to do so- it was authoritative. They had a hard time with saying because 'we say so', as others produced apostolic lineages as well, to which Tertullian replied-in paraphrase- that it was apostolic doctrine that proves the lineage, not the lineage proving the doctrine. The prescription against heretics chapter 32. Logic herself dictates that the writings of the Apostles provide an unchanging touchstone to them and their beliefs and doctrines that enables one to refute and challenge other competing claims-
God bless you David,

Jnorm888 said...


There is more than just one Sola Scriptura view. You can't rule out the Restorationist view (Anabaptist, Cambellite, and Gordan Clark's Scripturalist pre-suppositionalism) For that is just as protestant as the magistoral view.

And even in the magistoral view there are differences in certain areas. When we look at the "rule of faith of worship" between the Lutherians and the Reformed. We see a major difference in how they view Sola Scriptura. And so, there isn't just one view.

I have to talor my arguments against Sola-Scriptura depending on the protestant I am arguing against for there are different strains.....varations. And on top od this. There are some protestants.....a small group/number. That don't even believe in Sola Scriptura. The Caroline Divines didn't. They advocated the ancient view of Prima-Scriptura.

Also, I would like to add that both James White and King are wrong. Most of the Fathers were advocates of Prima Scriptura. I am a former protestant I am very aware of what Sola Scriptura is and isn't.


David said...


I haven't read any of their books all the way through. I plan to eventually (maybe I'll blog about it here). I have, however, read selections from books by them and also several articles. I think that they make two very fundamental mistakes in their approach, though. First, they are anachronistic, as they attribute Sola Scriptura, an idea which could only have emerged, historically speaking, at the time it did -- namely, after the invention of the printing press and during the rise of nationalism and individualism; essentially, there's a reason that the Reformation only happened in Northern Europe in the 16th/17th centuries. And second, and much more fundamental, is that they are essentially acontextualizing the quotes they pull from the Fathers, as the Faith which the Fathers said the Scriptures were sufficient to prove is very different from, and actually contradictory to, the Calvinism these authors espouse. What they do is akin to me quoting Martin Luther to prove devotion to Mary -- yes, he and I agree on that, but the rhyme and reason behind our respective thought is so fundamentally different that it would be nonsensical to enlist his support for my cause.

I agree, and I don't think you'll find any Orthodox who disagree, that the Scriptures are indeed sufficient and are certainly an unchanging touchstone and a means, the primary means, by which we can judge a doctrine true or false -- the problem lies in our respective interpretations of Scripture.





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