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The Early Church Fathers on the private interpretation of the Scriptures.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258)
    Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338)
    St. Athanasius of Alexandria, (A.D. 296-372)
    St. Ephrem the Syrian, (of Edessa), (A.D. 306-378)
    St. Hilary of Poitiers, (A.D. 315-367)
    St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386)
    St. Gregory of Nazianzen, (A.D. 318-389)
    St. Basil the Great, (A.D. 328-379)
    St. Epiphanius of Salamis, (A.D. 332-403)
    Pope St. Siricius, (A.D. c.334-398)
    St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396)
    St. Jerome, (A.D. 342-420)
St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258), North African; bishop; biblical scholar, martyr.

"Neither let certain persons deceive themselves by a vain interpretation, in that the Lord has said, "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them. (Matthew 18:20) Corrupters of the gospel, and false interpreters, they lay down the last words, and omit what goes before; giving heed to part, and part they deceitfully suppress. As they are cut off from the Church, so do they sever the meaning of one passage. For the Lord, when recommending to His disciples unanimity and peace, said, I say unto you, that "if two of you shall agree on earth, concerning anything whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be done to you by my Father who is in Heaven. For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them", showing that most is given, not to the number, but to the [unanimity|everyone being of one mind] of the petitioners. If two of you, saith He, shall agree on earth. He places agreement first; the concord of peace is the previous condition; He teaches that we must agree together faithfully and firmly.

Yet how can he possibly be at agreement with other, who is at disagreement with the body of the Church, and with the universal brotherhood? How can two or three be gathered together in Christ's name, who are manifestly separated from Christ and from His gospel? For we did not go out from them, but they went out from us. And as heresies and schisms have a later rise, when men set up separate conventicles for themselves, they have left the (fountain) head and origin of truth."

De Unitate, p. 400.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 364-365

Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338), appointed Bishop of Cæsarea in A.D. 314, Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist, scholar of the Biblical canon who was deeply embroiled in the Arian controversy.

The chapter begins, like many others in this work, with an extract from Plato's works, showing the correspondence between his system and that of the Jews and Christians, and in the case before us, the quotation is from "Lib. i De Legibus", where Plato approves of a law of the Lacedemonians forbidding young men to inquire into the laws; on which Eusebius says:

"This advice is most sound. Therefore was it that the Jewish Scripture, forestalling this, requires faith before there is intelligence or scrutiny of the divine writings: "If you will not believe, you shall not understand." (Isaiah 7:9); and again, "I have believed, therefore have I spoken." (Psalms 115:1). Hence also amongst us, to those who have been but recently introduced amongst us, and whose habits are not formed, and who are, as regards their souls, mere infants, the reading in the divine writings is communicated in the most simple form, accompanied with an admonition that they ought to yield belief to the things brought before them as to the words of God; but to those whose habits of mind are settled, and who are as it were gray in understanding, (it is theirs) to penetrate and to examine the meaning of the things said. These persons it was the pleasure of the Jews to call doctors of tradition "(Deuterotae)", as being interpreters and expounders of the meaning of the Scriptures."

Praep. Evang. l. xii. c. 1, p. 573.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 366-367

"Then also do they divide His garments among them, and for His vesture cast lots, when,— corrupting the beauty of the word, that is, the expressions of the divine writings,— each one drags them in a different direction; and when men take up opinions concerning Him from perverted doctrines, things which it is the custom of impious heretics to do."

Dem. Evang. l. x. p. 506.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 367

St. Athanasius of Alexandria, (A.D. 296-372), Egyptian; bishop, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. He was present, as an assistant to St. Alexander of Alexandria, at the council of Nicea who he succeeded in A.D. 326. During more than forty years he was the champion of orthodoxy, and suffered much severe persecution from the Arian party.

Having noticed that the devil tries to transform himself into an angel of light, and cites Scripture for his purposes, he continues:

"Christ has of Himself told us of this, saying, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly are ravening wolves." (Matthew 7); and also by the Apostles, "Believe not every spirit." (1 John 4) For such is the method of the adverse powers, and such the confederation of the heresies. For each has, as the parent of its peculiar opinion, the devil, who, being perverted from the beginning, became a murderer and a liar; and, ashamed to adduce his hateful name, each assumes falsely that excellent name, which is above every other, the name of the Saviour, and clothes itself in the language of the Scriptures, and speaks indeed the words, but hides the true meaning; and for the rest having enveloped the peculiar opinion which it has formed in a kind of ambush, it also becomes the murderer of those who go astray."

Ep. ad Episc. Ægypt. et Lyb. n. 3, t. 1, p. 215.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 368-369

"When they (the Arians) have been driven from the conceptions, or rather from the misconceptions, of their own hearts, they fly again to the words of the divine writings; in regard of which too, they being as usual destitute of sense, do not see the meaning that is in them; but having laid down their peculiar impiety as a kind of canon, they wrest to this point all the divine oracles. Such men when they but quote those sayings deserve not to have anything said to them but, "Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God." "(*)

Note (*) Earlier in the same discourse against the Arians, we meet with the following passage:

"If then, on account of the use of certain phrases of the divine writings in the Thalia (a poem by Arius), they also reckon its blasphemies blessings, of course too, as they see the Jews reading the law and the prophets, they will on this account themselves also join with them in denying Christ. And if they chance to hear the Manichees also citing certain portions of the Gospels, they will join with them in denying the law and the prophets. If it be from ignorance that they are thus tossed about, and utter such vain babblings, let them learn from the Scriptures, that the devil, who invented heresies, because of the ill savor which attaches to evil, is in the habit of using words of the Scriptures, that, having them as a cloak, whilst he sows his own poison, he may deceive the unsuspecting. Thus he deceived Eve: thus he framed all other heresies; so too has he now persuaded Arius to speak and to seem to be opposed to heresies, thereby to be unobserved whilst he spreads abroad his own."

[Having named some of the novelties in the Arian heresy, he continues]

"Who ever heard such things as these? or whence, or from whom have the favorers and hirelings of this heresy learnt them? Who, when they were catechized, ever spoke such things to them? But since they (the Arians) allege the divine oracles, and force on them a misinterpretation, according to their private sense, it is necessary to answer them so far as to vindicate these passages, and to show that they have an orthodox signification, and that these men are in error."

** End of Note

Orat. 1. Cont. Arian. n. 52, t. i. p. 360.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 369

St. Ephrem the Syrian, (of Edessa), (A.D. 306-378), Syrian; born in Nisebis, deacon, hymnist, poet. His works were even during his own lifetime almost all translated into Greek, and were, as St. Jerome informs us, held in such high estimation, as to be read in some churches after the Holy Scriptures. We have his life by St. Gregory of Nyssa.

"While (the sects) mutually refute and condemn each other, it has happened to truth as to Gideon; that is, while they flight against each other, and fall under wounds mutually inflicted, they crown her. All the heretics acknowledge that there is a true Scripture. Had they all falsely believed that none such existed, some one might reply that such Scripture was unknown to them. But now they have themselves taken away the force of such plea, from the fact that they have mutilated the very Scriptures. For they have corrupted the sacred copies; and words which ought to have but one interpretation, they have wrested to strange significations. Whilst, when one of them attempts this, and cuts off a member of his own body, the rest demand and claim back the severed limb. ... It is the Church which perfect truth perfects. The Church of believers is great, and its bosom most ample; it embraces the fullness (or, the whole) of the two Testaments."

[He proceeds to describe the heretics of his day as mutilating the Scriptures.]

T. ii. Syr. Serm. 2, Adv. Hæres. pp. 441-2
See also Adv. Hæres. Serm. 15, p. 476, B.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 371

"Assembled in the Church they dispute, and in the very presence of truth, they pass to futile discussions . . . looking on truth as if it were a garment, they have tried, though in vain, to tear it in pieces; for truth is one and indivisible; whence it happens, contrary to their expectations, that whilst striving to divide truth, they divide amongst themselves, and are at the same time outcasts from the kingdom of God. But not therefore do they lay down their weapons; they prepare for war; they hope for victory; and what victory, but one which, despite false appearances, is a real overthrow. They are assiduous at Scripture, not to profit by pious reading, but that they may err more freely; and they come from the Scriptures more ready for disputes and quarrels. . . . The foolish men, they have turned aside from the stones set as guides in the king's high-way; and that they may wander with less restraint, they have plunged into pathless and desert places. But indeed to him alone who perseveres in keeping to the king's high-way, will it be granted to possess the gifts, and to come to the presence of the king."

T. iii. Syr. Serm. 66
Adv. Scrutat. pp. 128-9.
See also Adv. Scrutat. p. 130, D. E.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 371-372

St. Hilary of Poitiers, (A.D. 315-367), French; husband, theologian, bishop of Poiters around A.D. 355, and Doctor of the Church. Referred to as the "Hammer of the Arians" and the "Athanasius of the West.". He was obviously a firm supporter of St. Athanasius.

"Many have there been who have taken up the simplicity of the heavenly words according to that sense which their will dictated, not for the end of the truth itself, interpreting otherwise than the force of the words required. For heresy is not from Scripture, but from the understanding (of it); and the sense, not the words, the cause of crime."

De Trinitate, Lib. ii. n. 3, t. ii. p. 27.
See also the quotation from Lib. vii. De Trinit. n. 4.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 367

4. Having reproached the Arians for not adhering to the faith as expressed in the form of baptism, he says that, since their original defection, "A habit of writing and innovating in faith has grown up: a habit which, having undertaken to frame what is new, rather than to defend what has been received, neither defends what is old, nor has settled what is new, and thus has been made a faith of the times rather than of the Gospels; while what is defined is according to the year, not that held which is according to the profession at baptism. It is for us a very dangerous, and at the same time a pitiful thing, that there are now as many faiths as wills; and as various doctrines amongst us, as morals; and as many causes of blasphemies, as there are vices; while faiths (creeds) are either written as we wish them, or are interpreted as we wish them. And, whereas, according as God is one, and the Lord one, and baptism one, faith also is one, we fall away from that faith (4) which is the only one; and while many faiths are made, they have begun to be made towards this result, that there may be no faith."

5. "For we are conscious on both sides, that since the synod assembled at Nicaea, there is nothing but creed-writing. . . . We have yearly and monthly faiths decreed concerning God; we repent of what has been decreed; we defend what has been repented of; we anathematize what has been defended...

9. Remember, however, that there is no heretic who does not now assert falsely that he utters according to Scripture the things wherein he blasphemes. . . . All plead Scripture, without the mind of Scripture; and unbelieving, plead belief. For Scripture is not in reading but in comprehending."

Ad Constant. August, lib. ii. n. 4, 5, 9, t. ii. pp. 545-7.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 367-368

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386), Palestinian; ordained by Maximus, he was made bishop of Jerusalem in A.D. 345; scholar and Doctor of the Church. None of his writings have been preserved to us, except eighteen catechetical instructions addressed to catechumens, and five mystagogic discourses addressed to neophytes.

"Take thou, and hold that faith only as a learner, and in profession, which is now by the Church delivered to thee, and is defended out of all the Scripture. For since all cannot read the Scriptures, but some as being unlearned, others, by business, are hindered from knowledge (of them), in order that the soul may not perish from want of instruction, we comprehend the whole doctrine of the faith in a few sentences. This I wish you to remember in the very phrase, and to rehearse it with all diligence amongst yourselves, not writing it on paper, but graving it by memory on your heart; being on your guard in your exercise, lest haply a Catechumen should overhear the things delivered to you. This I wish you to have as a provision by the way during the whole period of life, and besides this never to receive any other; not even if we ourselves, having changed, should contradict what we now teach ; nor even if an opposing angel, transformed into an angel of light, should wish to lead you astray. "For, though we, or an angel from Heaven, should preach to you besides that which you have now received, let him be to you Anathema:" and for the present, hearkening to the words spoken, commit to memory the faith, and receive, at the fitting season, the proof, from the divine writings, of each of the things laid down. For the things of the faith (creed) were not set down as it seemed good to men, but the most important things collected out of all the Scripture make up the one teaching of the faith. And in the same way as the mustard seed, in a little grain, comprises many branches, so this faith also, in a few words, has enfolded in its bosom the whole knowledge of piety(*) that is in the Old and New Testaments. Behold therefore, brethren, and "hold fast the traditions which you now receive" (2 Thessalonians 2:14), and "write them upon the tablets of your hearts." (Proverbs 7:3)"

Catech. v. n. 12, pp. 77-8.

Note: (*) In his eleventh Catechetical Instruction we have the following:

"Who is there that knoweth the deep things of God, save only the Holy Spirit, who dictated (spoke) the divine writings? But not even the Holy Spirit Himself has spoken in the Scriptures concerning the generation of the Son from the Father. Why, then, dost thou search curiously into the things which not even that Holy Spirit has written in the Scriptures? Thou that knowest not the things that are written, dost thou search curiously into the things that are not written? We do not comprehend that which is written, why do we search curiously into that which is not written? It is enough for us to know that God begot one only Son."

Catechetical Instruction xi. n. 12. pp. 77-78.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 369-371

"Let us then seek out for ourselves the testimonies concerning the Passion of Christ; for we have assembled together, not now to make a contemplative exposition of the Scriptures, but to be made assured rather of the things which we have (already) believed."(*)

Catech. xiii. n. 9, p. 187. 1
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 371

Note: (*) The system pursued in the church of Jerusalem, and acted on through out the Instructions of St. Cyril, is to require assent to the doctrines of the creed, previous to any demonstration whatever of the individual articles of that creed. Few writers, it may also be remarked, make mention of more practices, and of practical doctrines also, derived solely, or principally, from tradition than does St. Cyril.

St. Gregory of Nazianzen, (A.D. 318-389), Cappadocian; archbishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church.

"Order has settled, even in the churches, that some be sheep and others shepherds; some the ruled and others the rulers; that this be as it were the head, this the foot, this the hand, this the eye, and this as some other member of the human body, for the perfect harmony and benefit of the whole, as well of the highest as of the lowest. And as, in our bodies, the members are not severed from each other, but the whole is one body composed of different members... so is it with us who are the common body of Christ. For all we are one body in Christ, being individually members of Christ and of each other; for one in deed rules and is seated in honor, another is guided and governed, and the employment of both is not the same unless to rule and to be ruled be the same thing yet do they both be come one unto one Christ, being built up and joined together by the same Spirit. . . . Let us revere this order, brethren; this let us guard. Let one be the ear, another the tongue, a third the hand, another some other member. Let one teach, another learn, another do good (working) with his own hands, that he may have wherewith to bestow on him that asks, and on the needy. Let not all of us be the tongue, nor all prophets, nor all apostles, nor all expounders. Is it an excellent thing to speak of God? More excellent is it to purify one's self unto God. To teach is excellent, but to learn is free from danger. Why doest thou make thyself a shepherd, though one of the flock? Being the foot, why wilt thou become the head! Why take upon thee to play the general, though enrolled amongst the common soldiers? Why pursue the great, but uncertain gains of the ocean, when, though thou mayest gain less, it is in thy power to till the earth?"

T. i. Or. xxvi. pp. 449, 450.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 55-56

"If these men (the Apollinarists), equally with those who hold rightly, are permitted to teach as they choose, and to promulgate in public their adopted dogmas, is it not manifest that the doctrine of the Church is thereby condemned, as if the truth were with those men? For it is not in nature that two contrary assertions, on the same subject, can both be true."

Or. 46, p. 722
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 56

St. Basil the Great, (A.D. 328-379), Cappadocian; bishop of Cæsarea in A.D. 369, theologian, monk. Studied in Palestine, Constantinople, and Athens. Many of the subsequent years of his life were spent in the deserts of Egypt and Libya. His character and works have gained for him the surname of "the great".

"What is this that thou sayest? Shall we not assign greater weight to those who have preceded us? Are we not to show respect, both to the multitude of those who are now Christians, and of those who have been such from the first promulgation of the Gospel? Are we to make no account of the authority (or, dignity) of those who have shone conspicuous in every kind of spiritual gift, to all of whom this way of impiety of thine, which thou hast just invented, is hateful and adverse? But is each of us, closing completely the eyes of the soul, and banishing utterly from his thoughts the memory of every one of the saints, with his heart a perfect void and swept clean, to submit himself to thy guidance and sophistry? Great indeed would be thy sway, if what the devil, with his varied wiles, has never attained to, should fall to thy lot at thy bidding; if, that is, at thy persuasion we should judge that tradition which has prevailed amongst so many holy men throughout the whole of the years that have flown by, deserving of less honor than thy impious fancy."

T. i. p. i. Adv. Eunom. l. i. n. 3, p. 297.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 372-373

St. Epiphanius of Salamis, (A.D. 332-403), Palestinian; bishop, abbot, scholar.

"Oh, the exceeding foolishness of man!— Every pretext, be it however slight, has drawn aside from the truth every heresy, and led it into a multitude of evils. For like a man, who, having found a gap in the fence to the highway, makes up his mind to walk through it, and leaving the public road, he turns from it, thinking he has a shorter road, from which, after thus deviating, he shall again come upon the highway, but knows not that there is a very high wall which is built up for a long distance, and he then runs about unable to find an outlet, and passing on for a mile or two, there still remains a further distance, and yet he finds no road, and so, turn where he will, he has before him a greater length of journey; while toiling on thus, finding no path which may lead him to the right road, and perhaps unable even to find one without retracing his steps on that upon which he lately entered; so every heresy, though it has it in its power to find a short road, yet does it wander to and fro over one that is longer, and meets at once with an impregnable wall, the tortuous windings, to wit, of ignorance and of folly, and such cannot find a way to come upon the right road, except by returning to the main road, the king's highway that is. Even as the law of blessed Moses plainly proclaimed, saying to the king of Edom, "Thus saith thy brother Israel, Through thy boundaries will we pass unto the land which the Lord swore to give unto our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey. . . . We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left; we will drink water for silver, and eat our food for silver; we will not turn aside either here or there; we will go on the king's highway." (Numbers 20) For there is a king's highway, and that is the Church of God, and the path way of truth. But each of the heresies having left the king's highway, and turning aside to the right hand or to the left, then giving itself up unreservedly, is dragged forward into error, and the shamelessness of error knows no limits in every heresy. Come, then, ye servants of God, and children of the holy Church of God, ye who are acquainted with the safe rule, and are walking in the way of truth, and who are not dragged from side to side by words, and the summons of each false sect, for slippery are their ways. . . . They boast of great things, and know not the least: they proclaim liberty, though themselves the slaves of error."

T. i. Adv. Hæres. (59), pp 503-504
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 61-62

Pope St. Siricius, (A.D. c.334-398), an active Pope, involved in the administration of the Church and the handling of various factions and viewpoints within it; author of two decrees concerning clerical celibacy. The decree of A.D. 385 stated that priests should stop cohabiting with their wives.

"If I, to whom belongs the care of all the churches, shall dissemble, I shall hear that saying of the Lord, "You reject the commandment of God, that you may establish the traditions of men." For to reject the commandment of God, what else is it but by private judgment and human counsel to take pleasure over-freely in establishing novelties. It has therefore been brought to the knowledge of the apostolic see, that things are undertaken in opposition to the canon of the Church, and that in opposition to those things which have been so ordered by our forefathers, that they ought not, even by the slightest whisper, to be assailed, certain persons introduce their own novel observances; and, the foundation neglected, seek to build upon the sand, though the Lord says, "Thou shalt not pass beyond the bounds which thy fathers have set." Which also the holy Apostle, the preacher of the Old and New Testament, he in whom Christ spoke, admonishes: "Stand fast, he says, and hold our traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by epistle." (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

Ep. ad Univ. Orthod. n. i. col. 1027, t. ii. Labb.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 375

St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396), German; reluctantly made bishop in the A.D. 374., Doctor of the Church. He closed a great and glorious career in A.D. 396. We have his life by Paulinus.

"Learn also hence, that Satan transforms himself as it were into an angel of light, and often sets a snare for the faithful by means of the divine Scriptures themselves. Thus does he make heretics; thus weaken faith; thus attack the requirements of piety. Let not, therefore, the heretic ensnare thee, because he is able to cite a few examples from Scripture; let him not assume to himself an appearance of learning. The devil also uses texts of Scripture, not to teach, but to circumvent and deceive."

T. i. Expos, in c. iv. Lucae, n 26, p. 1340.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 373

"A man that is a heretic after the first admonition avoid, knowing that such a one is perverted and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment. These are heretics who attack the law by means of the words of the law, for they establish their private sense by the words of the law, in order to commend the wickedness of their own under the authority of the law (proprium enim sensum verbis adstruunt legis). For as impiety knows that the authority of the law avails much, it dresses out a fallacy under its name; that, since a thing that is evil cannot be acceptable of itself, it may be recommended by a good name."

Comm. in c. iii. Ep. ad Titum (Inter. Op. S. Ambros.) T. ii. p. 316.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 373

St. Jerome, (A.D. 342-420), Dalmatian; born in Strido; priest, hermit, abbot, biblical scholar, translator and Doctor of the Church. In an age distinguished by men of the greatest eloquence and learning, St. Jerome, especially in all matters connected with the Sacred Scriptures, was then preeminent, and has probably never since been equalled.

"I have sent the holy father Domnium certain commentaries of mine on the twelve prophets, and on the four books of kings, which, if you choose to read, you will have proof how difficult it is to understand the divine Scripture, and especially the prophets."

T. i. Ep. xlix. n. 4, col. 234.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 373

"These tilings have I lightly touched upon, that you may understand that you cannot make your way into the holy Scriptures without having some one to go before you, and to show you the road. I say nothing of grammarians, rhetoricians, geometricians, logicians . . . whose knowledge is of great use to mankind. But I will come to the inferior arts, such as are exercised not so much by the reason as by the hand. . . . Even these artisans cannot become what they desire without the help of a teacher:

Quod medicorum est
Promittunt medici, tractant fabrilia fabri.

The science of the Scriptures is the only one which all persons indiscriminately claim as theirs:

Scribiraus indocti, doctique poemata passim.

This the babbling old woman, this the doating old man, this the wordy sophist, take upon themselves; tear to tatters; teach before they have themselves learned. Some weighing out long words, with uplifted eyebrow talk philosophy, to a crowd of young women, concerning (or, out of) the sacred writings. Others, shame on them! learn from women what to teach men; and as if this were not bad enough, they, with a certain facility of words, or rather effrontery, expound to others what they do not understand themselves. I speak not of those who, like myself, coming by chance to the study of the Scriptures after that of secular learning, and by their eloquent language pleasing the popular ear, fancy that which they utter to be the law of God, not deigning to learn what the prophets and what the Apostles thought, but they accommodate to their interpretation the most incongruous passages, as if it were something great, instead of being a most faulty mode of teaching, to distort sentences, and to force the reluctant Scriptures to their own wishes."

Ib. Ep. liii. ad Paulin. n. 7, col. 273.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 374

Commenting on Ecclesiastes 1:9, he says:

"This is also to be noted, that all the words of (Scripture) are weighty, and are learned with great labor; and this against those who fancy that the knowledge of Scripture comes to them whilst they remain idle and are making resolutions (or, vows)."

T. iii. in Ecclesiastes col. 389.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 374-375

"There is not an art to be acquired without a teacher ; this (the interpretation of Scripture) is forsooth so mean and easy, as not to need one."

T. iii. in Ecclesiastes col. 411.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 375

"Neither let them (sectarians) feel satisfied with themselves, if they seem to themselves to affirm what they say from portions of the Scriptures, since even the devil spoke some things out of the Scriptures; and the Scriptures consist not in being read, but in being understood."

T. ii. adv. Luciferi. n. 27, col. 201-2.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 375



As Catholics, when we hear the term "the Word of God", we don't automatically think solely of the Scriptures. We think of both the Oral Tradition that has been passed down to us by the Apostles to our current bishops along with the written Scriptures that the Church canonized in A.D. 382 at the Council of Rome.

There are relatively few passages compared to all the passages in the Bible, that the Church requires a correct interpretation for. If you read the Scriptures at any Bible Study, you are more than welcome to draw from the Scriptures whatever you wish as far as your understanding or interpretation does not contradict any doctrinal teachings of the Church.



The Church's Scriptures on the private interpretation of the Scriptures:


If there is a problem with someone, we should first try to resolve it with their privately, but if they don't listen, ultimately we should bring it to the Church

15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17

Peter tells us that some can interpret in Paul's writings incorrectly unto their own destruction.

15 As also our most dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, hath written to you: 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things: in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You, therefore, brethren, knowing these things before, take heed, lest being led aside by the error of the unwise, you fall from your own steadfastness.


2 Peter 3:15-17

Paul tells us in Corinthians that not all have the same calling but we have different vocations

28 And God indeed hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors. 29 Are all Apostles? are all prophets? are all doctors?"

1 Corinthians 12:28, 29

We are all called to proclaim the Gospel to the world

15 And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!" 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. 18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for "Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world."


Romans 10:15-18

Paul calls us to a mature faith — one that is not persuaded by the cunning of wicked men, who create their own gospel and replace theirs, with Jesus'

11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.


Ephesians 5:11-14

Pharisees challenged whether new Christians should be circumcised according to the Old Testament Law of Moses, but after Peter's decision, the assembly kept silence.

1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, reporting the conversion of the Gentiles, and they gave great joy to all the brethren. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses." 6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." 12 And all the assembly kept silence,

Acts 15:1-12

The author of Hebrews encourages the faithful to obey their leaders who spoke of the Word

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith. . . . 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.


Hebrews 13:7, 17

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