Something that bothers me about the Catholic/Protestant debate is the confusion that results from different translations of Scripture and the different interpretations that result. An example is the Scripture passage that Protestants use most often to support their doctrine of “Sola Scriptura,” i.e., that Scripture is the only real authority that we have in matters of faith. Here is that passage, 2 Timothy 3:16, as found in the Saint Joseph edition of the New American Bible, which is the translation published for Catholics by the Catholic Book Publishing Company:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
I’ve read that the issue is the word “useful.” The Greek word that is translated as “useful” is “ophelimos.” It can also be translated as “helpful” or “profitable.” Okay, no real issue yet. However, I’ve read that some Protestant apologists argue that the real meaning is the word “sufficient” and hence the opinion is that Scripture is the only authority we have because it is sufficient for teaching, refutation, correction, etc. The Catholic claim is that certainly Scripture is important. It is, after all, as both sides agree, the Word of God written down by inspired human authors. But, first, this Word of God must be properly interpreted and, second, it is useful, but not sufficient, meaning that the unwritten Word of God, what Catholics refer to as Sacred Tradition, is also important.
It seems to me that there is a whole slew of issues that divide Catholics and Protestants that hinge on this one passage and the proper translation and interpretation of Scripture. Issues like Papal authority, Marian doctrine, the Eucharist, Confession, Sola Fide and the Priesthood, to name a few. Even an authority on the ancient Greek language and its translation into modern languages doesn’t seem to help.
And what of proper interpretation? Protestants encourage private interpretation, and this has resulted tens of thousands of Protestant denominations, each with a different slant on various Scripture passages. Catholics maintain that there is truth to consider. Scripture passages have one meaning that is the true meaning, and the Church, founded by Christ himself, is the guardian of this truth.
God’s people have been living with these issues now for 500 years. Is it not time for resolution and agreement? My prayer for today is this: Lord, if it is your will, help us as a people to come together on these issues and, being true to your teaching, resolve them so that your mandate to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” can be done with the truth you intended. Amen.