If you want to know what the Early Church believed about tradition and the Word of God, here is a place to start.


1 Thessalonians 2

13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

2 Timothy 3

14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.


Those who defend Roman Catholic Tradition often refer to men of God of the first few centuries to support their own view that this Tradition is just as authoritative as God’s Word and is one of two sources of divine revelation. So, for Bible Christians it is a joy to discover that these men referred the believers of their own day to Holy Scripture. It is as if we can hear them shouting down the ages, proclaiming that Jesus Christ Alone is Lord and His Word Alone is to be trusted; in this way, they being dead still speak (Hebrews 11:4).

Here are several quotes about Holy Scripture from a few of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 11:1-2): 

For all but Jerome’s quote:

William Webster, “The Fathers on the Meaning of Tradition and its Relationship to Scripture,” The Church Of Rome At The Bar Of History, The Banner Of Truth Trust, 2003, pp. 155–161.

For Jerome’s quote:

David T. King, HOLY SCRIPTURE: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume I, A Biblical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura, CHRISTIAN RESOURCES, INC., 2001, p. 130.

I did my best to check these authors’ sources for quotes in order to get to original sources. If I’ve made mistakes in vetting or formatting, please forgive and let me know.

Irenaeus (140–202 A.D.)

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period by the will of God, handed to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. . .

Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded he doctrine regarding God. 

Against Heresies

Hippolytus (d. 235 A.D.)

There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practice piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things then the Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach these let us learn.

Against the Heresy of One Noetus

Clement of Alexandria (c.150–211/216 A.D.)

But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves. 

The Stromata [Miscellanies], Book VII, Chapter XVI – Scripture the Criterion by Which Truth and Heresy are Distinguished

Origen (c.185–253/254 A.D.)

In proof of all words which we advance in matters of doctrine, we ought to set forth the sense of Scripture as confirming the meaning which we are proposing. For as all gold which was outside of the temple was not sanctified, so every sense which is outside of the divine Scripture, however admirable it may appear to some, is not sacred because it is not limited by the sense of Scripture. Therefore we should not take our own ideas for the confirmation of doctrine, unless someone shows that they are holy because they are contained in the divine Scriptures as in the temples of God.

Philocalia [Philokalia]

Cyril of Jerusalem (315–386 A.D.)

For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures. 

Catechetical Lectures, NPNF2: Vol. VII, Lecture IV:17

Chrysostom (344/354–407 A.D.)

These then are the reasons; but it is necessary to establish them all from the Scriptures, and to show with exactness that all that has been said on this subject is not an invention of human reasoning, but the very sentence of the Scripture.

The Homilies of S. John Chrysostom, 2 Timothy, Homily 9

Hilary of Poitiers (315–367/368 A.D.) 

For all those things which are written in the divine Scriptures by Prophets and by Apostles we believe and follow truly and with fear.

On the Councils

Augustine (354–430 A.D.)

What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostle? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare be wiser than we ought.

The Unity of the Church, chapter 3

*Jerome (c. 27 March 347–30 September 420)

The sword of God smites whatever they draw and forge from a pretended (quasi) apostolic tradition, without the authority and testimony of the Scriptures. 

Jerome’s Commentary on Haggai 1:11, cited in Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology*

Eusebius (263–340 A.D.)

And I rejoiced over the constancy, sincerity, docility, and intelligence of the brethren, as we considered in order and with moderation the questions and the difficulties and the points of agreement. And we abstained from defending in every manner and contentiously the opinions which we had once held, unless they appeared to be correct. Nor did we evade objections, but we endeavoured as far as possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us, and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of Holy Scriptures. 

Church History, NPNF2–01: Chapter XXIV  – Nepos and his Schism.

Athanasius (295–375 A.D.)

For the true and pious faith in the Lord has become manifest to all, being both ‘known and read’ from the Divine Scriptures.

Athanasius, letter 60.6

John of Damascus (645–749 A.D.) 

Moreover, by the Law and the Prophets in former times, and afterwards by His Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, He disclosed to us the knowledge of Himself as that was possible for us. All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by the Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists we receive, and know, and honour, seeking for nothing beyond these. . .As knowing all things, therefore, and providing for what is profitable for each, He revealed that which it was to our profit to know; but what we were unable to bear He kept secret. With these things let us be satisfied, and let us abide by them, not removing everlasting boundaries, nor overpassing the divine tradition.

Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book I, chapter I


FURTHER READING

The Church Fathers and the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture by William Webster

Church Fathers on Sola Scriptura by Armchair Theologian, WordPress


 

Historical insights – The Church of Rome’s law on the extermination of heretics


Lightning over the outskirts of Oradea, Romania, during the August 17, 2005 thunderstorm which went on to cause major flash floods over southern Romania. Wikipedia, Public Domain.

Luke 9

51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.


 The Church of Rome has two sources of authority, Tradition and Holy Scripture. While this might sound benign it has led to deadly error. The suppression of heresy by the punishment, banishment, and extermination of heretics is one of the errors springing from Rome’s refusal to come under the sole authority of God’s Word. (John 8:31Proverbs 30:6)

I first learned about the extermination of heretics from Protestant sources, such as, The History of the Waldenses by J. A. Wylie, but here is a primary source that demonstrates that this was Catholic policy codified in law about the time of Rome’s Crusade against the Albigenses of Southern France.

Medieval Sourcebook:
Twelfth Ecumenical Council:
Lateran IV 1215

Source: Fordham University

CANON 3

Text. We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy that raises against the holy, orthodox and Catholic faith which we have above explained; condemning all heretics under whatever names they may be known, for while they have different faces they are nevertheless bound to each other by their tails, since in all of them vanity is a common element. Those condemned, being handed over to the secular rulers of their bailiffs, let them be abandoned, to be punished with due justice, clerics being first degraded from their orders. As to the property of the condemned, if they are laymen, let it be confiscated; if clerics, let it be applied to the churches from which they received revenues. But those who are only suspected, due consideration being given to the nature of the suspicion and the character of the person, unless they prove their innocence by a proper defense, let them be anathematized and avoided by all 1-intil [until] they have made suitable satisfaction; but if they have been under excommunication for one year, then let them be condemned as heretics. Secular authorities, whatever office they may hold, shall be admonished and induced and if necessary compelled by ecclesiastical censure, that as they wish to be esteemed and numbered among the faithful, so for the defense of the faith they ought publicly to take an oath that they will strive in good faith and to the best of their ability to exterminate in the territories subject to their jurisdiction all heretics pointed out by the Church; so that whenever anyone shall have assumed authority, whether spiritual or temporal, let him be bound to confirm this decree by oath. But if a temporal ruler, after having been requested and admonished by the Church, should neglect to cleanse his territory of this heretical foulness, let him be excommunicated by the metropolitan and the other bishops of the province. If he refuses to make satisfaction within a year, let the matter be made known to the supreme pontiff, that he may declare the ruler’s vassals absolved from their allegiance and may offer the territory to be ruled lay Catholics, who on the extermination of the heretics may possess it without hindrance and preserve it in the purity of faith; the right, however, of the chief ruler is to be respected as long as he offers no obstacle in this matter and permits freedom of action. The same law is to be observed in regard to those who have no chief rulers (that is, are independent). Catholics who have girded themselves with the cross for the extermination of the heretics, shall enjoy the indulgences and privileges granted to those who go in defense of the Holy Land.

We decree that those who give credence to the teachings of the heretics, as well as those who receive, defend, and patronize them, are excommunicated; and we firmly declare that after any one of them has been branded with excommunication, if he has deliberately failed to make satisfaction within a year, let him incur ipso jure the stigma of infamy and let him not be admitted to public offices or deliberations, and let him not take part in the election of others to such offices or use his right to give testimony in a court of law. Let him also be intestable, that he may not have the free exercise of making a will, and let him be deprived of the right of inheritance. Let no one be urged to give an account to him in any matter, but let him be urged to give an account to others. If perchance he be a judge, let his decisions have no force, nor let any cause be brought to his attention. If he be an advocate, let his assistance by no means be sought. If a notary, let the instruments drawn up by him be considered worthless, for, the author being condemned, let them enjoy a similar fate. In all similar cases we command that the same be observed. If, however, he be a cleric, let him be deposed from every office and benefice, that the greater the fault the graver may be the punishment inflicted.

If any refuse to avoid such after they have been ostracized by the Church, let them be excommunicated till they have made suitable satisfaction. Clerics shall not give the sacraments of the Church to such pestilential people, nor shall they presume to give them Christian burial, or to receive their alms or offerings; otherwise they shall be deprived of their office, to which they may not be restored without a special indult of the Apostolic See. Similarly, all regulars, on whom also this punishment may be imposed, let their privileges be nullified in that diocese in which they have presumed to perpetrate such excesses.

But since some, under “the appearance of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” as the Apostle says (II Tim. 3: 5), arrogate to themselves the authority to preach, as the same Apostle says: “How shall they preach unless they be sent?” (Rom. 10:15), all those prohibited or not sent, who, without the authority of the Apostolic See or of the Catholic bishop of the locality, shall presume to usurp the office of preaching either publicly or privately, shall be excommunicated and unless they amend, and the sooner the better, they shall be visited with a further suitable penalty. We add, moreover, that every archbishop or bishop should himself or through his archdeacon or some other suitable persons, twice or at least once a year make the rounds of his diocese in which report has it that heretics dwell, and there compel three or more men of good character or, if it should be deemed advisable, the entire neighborhood, to swear that if anyone know of the presence there of heretics or others holding secret assemblies, or differing from the common way of the faithful in faith and morals, they will make them known to the bishop. The latter shall then call together before him those accused, who, if they do not purge themselves of the matter of which they are accused, or if after the rejection of their error they lapse into their former wickedness, shall be canonically punished. But if any of them by damnable obstinacy should disapprove of the oath and should perchance be unwilling to swear, from this very fact let them be regarded as heretics.

We wish, therefore, and in virtue of obedience strictly command, that to carry out these instructions effectively the bishops exercise throughout their dioceses a scrupulous vigilance if they wish to escape canonical punishment. If from sufficient evidence it is apparent that a bishop is negligent or remiss in cleansing his diocese of the ferment of heretical wickedness, let him be deposed from the episcopal office and let another, who will and can confound heretical depravity, be substituted.


Any understanding of “extermination” as to send beyond the boundaries of, in other words, as to banish, denies the facts of history: the burnings of Savonarola, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, William Tyndale, and Archbishop Cranmer; the Albigensian Crusade; frequent wars of extermination against the peaceful Waldensian Christians; the massacre of French Reformed Christians (Huguenots) on St. Bartholomew’s feast day and the days following; and certainly, the Inquisition. These things happened because the Church of Rome instituted, and her people followed, the tradition of the temporal authority of the pope leading to the policy of extermination. This policy contradicts the clear teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ recorded in Luke 8.

I hope and pray that you will see that Tradition + Scripture = madness. Go back and reread the passage from Luke 8, please! If you wish to confront me with Protestant sins, I understand this and confess them.

Revelation 18

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.