Protestants who profess their faith in Sola scriptura always try to explain their belief through citing the verses in the Bible pertaining to the use of it as the sole basis of faith. One of the arguments that we can receive from them is the 1 Corinthians 4:6 that says this;
“Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” (New International Version)
They always use the statement “Do not go beyond what is written” to defend the Sola Scriptura which has no apostolic origin at all. But is it really pertaining to the whole Bible? To answer that question, we may use history to rebuke the arguments of those Protestants since the Bible also says that we can use History as our basis in finding the truth;
Job 8:8“For inquire of the former generation, and search diligently into the memory of the fathers.” (DRV)
And according to what we have searched, it is impossible for Saint Paul to refer it as the whole Bible because on that time, the complete Bible hadn't existed yet. We already know that the Bible is consisted of Old Testament books and New Testament books. It is no way for Saint Paul to refer this verse to the whole Bible because the complete compilation of Scripture would be took place 300 years after the death of Saint Paul.
According to some experts, they agree that Saint Paul died about the year 67 A.D. Logically, Saint Paul wrote his epistle to the Corinthians before his death.
“Paul the Apostle (Greek: Παῦλος Paulos, c.5 – c. 67)” (source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle)
On the other hand, the complete Bible canon was fully established 300 years after the death of Saint Paul through series of Councils such as the Council of Rome, Council of Hippo and Council of Carthage. This fact was truly confirmed by our historian experts and by history books:
“By about 200 AD, the church canon included most of today’s New Testament. In AD 367, the content of New Testament was first listed exactly as we know it.”(p.284, World Book Vol.2(2008))
It is not logical to say that 1 Corinthians 4:6 pertains to the whole Bible because early Christians had no personal copies of it nor did they have such New Testament compilation of Jesus’ teachings. It is also impossible to say that Christians were practicing Sola Scriptura since the complete Bible hadn’t yet made and compiled by the Church. History will tell to us that early Christians used oral tradition to preserve Christ’s teachings.
“Christ’s sayings and actions were preserved by the word of mouth.” (p.164. Western Civilization, A Concise History. Perry, Marvin et.al.- 1981)
“The first generation of Christians preserved memories of Jesus Christ’s teachings, deeds and crucifixation LARGELY BY THE WORD OF MOUTH.”(p.284. World Book- Vol.2. (2008))
So, what “written” did Saint Paul mention in 1 Cor. 4:6? Of course, we can certainly say that the “written” being told here are the Old Testament books and not the whole Bible that contains the New Testament and Old Testament books. What was that OT scripture? Allow us to quote one statement from one history book;
“Even the Old Testament used by Paul and other Hellenized Jews, who constituted many of Christianity’s early converts, was the Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures known as SEPTUAGINT.”(p. 467. HISTORY OF THE ROMAN PEOPLE. 4th edition. Ward, Allen.et.al.)
If our interpretation to it refers to literal “written” then it has to be the SEPTUAGINT being referred here and not the whole and complete Bible being used today! This Septuagint is a Greek version of Hebrew Scripture translated by Hellenized Jews. So, will it be a pro- Protestant fact or not? Actually, it cannot be used by Protestants to defend their belief! How can we say so? It is because of the fact that Septuagint contains deuterocanonical books which are present in Catholic Bible but not in Protestant Bible. So, are they really practicing “do not go beyond what is written” though they are using an incomplete Bible? Absolutely no!
SO WHAT WAS THE TRUE MEANING OF SAINT PAUL BY SAYING “DO NOT GO BEYOND WHAT IS WRITTEN”?
St. Peter once warned us that there are some instances in St. Paul’s letter that is very hard to explain:
2 Peter 3:16… “ as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”(ESV)
If we are going to analyze wholly the context in 1 Corinthians 4, Saint Paul did not mean Sola Scriptura instead, he insisted the main topic here which is PRIDE AND ARROGANCE!
1 Corinthians 4:6
"I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, so that you may learn from us not to go beyond what is written, so that none of you will be inflated with pride in favor of one person over against another."(NAB)
Continue in verse 7;
“For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (NAB)
SIMPLY, SAINT PAUL SAID IN PROVERBIAL EXPRESSION, “DO NOT GO BEYOND FROM WHAT GIFT YOU HAD RECEIVED!” That’s all, nothing more, nothing less. Protestants just twisted the verse to explain and defend their ridiculous claims. That’s why St. Peter warned us about unstable twist!
Even John Calvin (one of the founder of Protestantism) was uncertain in interpreting the verse because for him, it was not a big deal at all! Allow us to quote the statement of John Calvin;
“The clause above what is written may be explained in two ways — either as referring to Paul’s writings, or to the proofs from Scripture which he has brought forward. As this, however, is a matter of small moment, my readers may be left at liberty to take whichever they may prefer.”
Even non- Catholic Bibles have these following commentaries:
(a repost from fellows in http://forums.catholic.com)
against the admonitions given in the holy Scriptures of being humble: or against what I have now written to you, that we must strive for nothing, but to be the faithful ministers of God, and not seek the esteem of men. (source:http://haydock1859.tripod.com/id165.html)
From Barnes' Notes on the Bible (non-catholic resource):
|New Testament of DRV|
“He might have argued against the impropriety of following other leaders. He might have mentioned their names. But this would have been invidious and indelicate. It would have excited their anger. He therefore says that he had transferred it all to himself and Apollos; and it implied that if it were improper to split themselves up into factions with them as leaders, much more was it improper to follow others; that is, it was improper to form parties at all in the church. "I mention this of ourselves; out of delicacy I forbear to mention the names of others" - And this was one of the instances in which Paul showed great tact in accomplishing his object, and avoiding offence..”
From Vincent's Word Studies (non-Catholic resource):
Vincet’s Word Studies says that it is rather a proverbial expression which is related to the verses : 1 Cor.8:7, Romans 14:1 and 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
CONCLUSION: IN LITERAL SENSE, IT IS NOT THE WHOLE BIBLE BEING REFERRED HERE AND IF WE ARE GOING TO STUDY THE WHOLE CONTEXT, PAUL TALKED ABOUT PRIDE AND ARROGANCE AND NOT ABOUT SOLA SCRIPTURA.