The perennial question in the debate over sola Scriptura is whether the church is over the Bible or the Bible is over the church.
The latter position is (generally speaking) a Protestant one—the Scriptures, and the Scriptures alone, are the only infallible rule and therefore the supreme authority over the church.
The former position (generally speaking) is a Roman Catholic one—the church decided the canon and also, through the pope, decides how these books are to be interpreted. In this way, the authority of the Bible rests on the (prior and more foundational) authority of the church.
Of course, Catholics would not word it quite this way. The Roman church insists that the Scripture is always superior to the Magisterium. Dei Verbum declares, “This teaching office is not above the Word of God, but serves it” (2.10). However, despite these qualifications, one still wonders how Scripture can be deemed the ultimate authority if the Magisterium is able to define, determine, and interpret the Scripture in the first place.
Regardless, this question of whether the church is over the Bible also comes up in the world of critical scholarship. [Read more…]