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Sola Scriptura and The Noble Bereans

Another primary scriptural ground which Protestants will take their stand on when it comes to promoting Sola Scriptura is the “Noble Berean” argument while citing Acts 17:1-13

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them; and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard this. And when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were nobler than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men

The argument made is that the Bereans are labeled by Luke as being noble because of the fact that they “examined the Scriptures” as a rule to check against Paul’s testimony. It’s used in such a way by some Evangelical apologists to make the Bereans out to be Sola Scriptura followers, but this is far from being true.

First and foremost the Bereans were Hellenistic Jews, and they only had the Old Testament available to them (a point we have exhausted in other articles) and Sola Scriptura was not a tradition among the Jewish people. Secondly, they were labeled noble by comparison to the Thessalonians who rejected Paul and Silas after deliberations (and even some conversions) and those who opposed Paul and Silas rioted and forced them out. Those of Thessalonica also had Scripture available to them and they rejected Paul’s preaching, even though he opened the Scriptures to them in order to show them the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah. The Thessalonians’ own understanding of Scripture did not line up with St. Paul’s so they rejected him and forced him out. The Bereans are praised because they “received the word with all eagerness” from Paul.

In his article Why the Bereans Rejected Sola Scriptura Steve Ray states:

The Bereans searched the Torah no less than the Thessalonians, yet they were eager to accept words of God from the mouth of Paul, in addition to what they already held to be Scripture, that is, the Law and the Prophets. Even if one claims that Paul preached the gospel and not a “tradition,” it is clear that the Bereans were accepting new revelation that was not contained in their Scriptures. These Berean Jews accepted oral teaching, the tradition of the apostles, as equal to Scripture, in addition to, and as an “extension” of, the Torah. This is further illustrated by the Christian community’s reception of Paul’s epistles as divinely inspired Scripture (see 2 Peter 3:16; here Peter seems to acknowledges Paul’s writings as equal to the “other Scriptures,” which can be presumed to refer to the Old Testament) [...] By contrast, the Jews of Thessalonica would have condemned Peter’s biblical exegesis at the Council of Jerusalem. They would have scoffed at the Church’s having authority over them—the Torah was all they needed. Those who held to sola scriptura rejected Paul because he claimed to be the voice of “additional revelation.”

In the end, Sola Scriptura is, as Patrick Madrid puts it, “the Reformation’s version of the emperor’s new clothes”. The formulation of this doctrine is rooted only within a rejection of the authority of the Magisterium of the Holy Church and an unwillingness to submit and be unified to said authority and not based within Scripture whatsoever. We should definitely want to see Scripture say that Scripture itself is the foundation for Christianity while following Sola Scriptura, but we do not see this in any fashion.

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