A common objection to the doctrine of sola scriptura is 2 Thessalonians 2:15, which says, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” However, a closer look at this verse shows that it doesn’t invalidate sola scriptura. Here’s why.
What Do You Mean By Traditions?
The first thing to note is that the Greek word for “traditions” in this verse is paradosis. This word can refer to oral tradition, but it can also refer to something else—written tradition. In fact, most instances where paradosis is used in the New Testament refer to written tradition (see Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:5; Luke 1:1; John 21:24; Acts 16:4; 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Timothy 6:20). So, it’s quite possible that when Paul said “hold to the traditions,” he was referring to written traditions—traditions that had been passed down in the form of letters (like this one).
But even if we take Paul to be referring to oral tradition, there’s no reason to think that he was saying that oral tradition is on par with Scripture. After all, just two verses earlier he said that Scripture is “inspired by God” and is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Clearly, Paul saw Scripture as having a unique authority. He wasn’t saying that everything we’ve ever heard from anyone is on equal footing with Scripture. Rather, he was simply exhorting his readers to hold fast to the truth—whether it came from him orally or in writing.
Contrary to what some people think, 2 Thessalonians 2:15 does not invalidate sola scriptura. Whether Paul was referring to oral or written tradition in this verse, it’s clear that he saw Scripture as having a unique authority. So, we can rest assured that when we study the Bible, we are receiving God’s infallible truth.
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