In a previous post I was reflecting on what it means to early Christian writers to say that Scripture is a criterion of truth. In that post I quoted George Karamanolis, but it wasn’t really the quote I was looking for since I didn’t have the book on hand and had to rely on Amazon’s free preview which stopped a page short of the quote I had in mind. Here is the quote:
I would argue that the case of the Christians is not much different from that of Hellenic philosophers. Adherents of these schools tried to show how exactly their school authorities should be understood so that they can be philosophically most plausible. This is also the case with Christians. Their statement that Scripture is the measure and the authority did not amount to much in substance ultimately, because the Scriptures alone did not help them settle the crucial philosophical issues they were concerned with; nor did it help them in addressing the objections from non-Christians or fellow Christians, such as the Gnostics. The former would not be convinved by the mere reference to Scripture, while the latter would continue makign different sense of the text. No matter, then, what they say about the Scriptures as a source of truth, early Christian thinkers hardly ever rely on it alone, since they know that this practice cannot establish any case; only some kind of argument would do.
This analysis seems thin. First, it doesn’t seem to take into account the role of their belief that Christ is the true Logos and so the fount of all truth, whether of rational arguments or of the words of Scripture, which is odd since he discusses this very thing just prior to the quote above (pp. 38–48). Secondly, Karamanolis shifts from saying that Scripture is the “measure and authority” to saying that Christians hardly every rely on it alone. These seem to me to be two different things. The point of my previous post was that Porphyry used knowledge of the Forms inherent in the Soul at the end of a process of drawing out concepts from sense perception. This would be analgous to the first statement of Karamanolis (that Scripture is the measure or authority). I take the latter statement to mean that for Karamanolis, to say Scripture is the measure and authority is to begin from and use Scripture alone for theological/philsophical reasoning (which isn’t necessarily the only way to understand “Scripture alone”).
All of this isn’t to say that early Christian writers held to a kind of sola Scriptura, but only that I don’t think their comments about scriptural authority are as meaningless as Karamanolis’s statements seem to imply.