Catholic apologists often let us know how crucial it is to have an infallible magisterium and church Tradition in order to interpret the Bible correctly. With so many Catholic apologists now commenting on sacred scripture, I thought it would be interesting to provide their commentary on the Bible. Let’s see how they’ve been able to rightly divide the word of truth.
I subscribe to John Martignoni’s e-mail newsletter, Apologetics for the Masses. Mr. Martignoni is posting excerpts from his forthcoming book, Apologetics for the Scripturally-Challenged, subtitled, “How Anyone Can Use the Bible to Explain and Defend Catholic Teaching.” In his recent newsletter, Martignoni says, “There are indeed a number of Scripture verses which, at first reading, seem to make a case for the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. They make such a seemingly good case, in fact, that they have been used over and over again to pull many Catholics out of the Church.” One such verse Martignoni mentions is Romans 3:28-
“Amen!” once again. This is the verse where Martin Luther, in his first German translation of the Bible, added the word “alone,” to make it say what he wanted it to say -justified by “faith alone.” As a Catholic, I can say with Scripture, that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. There is nothing in that verse contrary to anything in my faith, as long as you do not do what Martin Luther did and add the word “alone” to this verse. Furthermore, the phrase “works of law” mentioned here is again referring to the Law of Moses, not to good works in general.
In summary of this verse and others, Martignoni states:
These passages, and several others, seem to shed a pretty dim light on the idea that works have anything to do with our salvation. So, as Catholics, how should we respond when someone quotes one or more of these Scripture passages to us? “AMEN! I believe!” As Catholics, we believe every single one of those Scripture passages. Every single one! However, notice very carefully that nowhere – not one single time- in any of those passages does it say we are saved or justified by faith “alone,” or by believing “alone.” That word “alone” is simply not there!
Was Luther trying to make the Bible say what he wanted it to say? If Luther was attempting to introduce a radical mistranslation into church history he failed. Even some Catholic versions of the New Testament also translated Romans 3:28 as did Luther. The Nuremberg Bible (1483), “allein durch den glauben” and the Italian Bibles of Geneva (1476) and of Venice (1538) say “per sola fede.” Luther mentions others before him translated Romans 3:28 as he did (for example, Ambrose and Augustine). The Roman Catholic writer Joseph Fitzmyer verified Luther’s claim, and also presented quite an extensive list of those previous to Luther doing likewise:
At 3:28 Luther introduced the adv. “only” into his translation of Romans (1522), “alleyn durch den Glauben” (WAusg 7.38); cf. Aus der Bibel 1546, “alleine durch den Glauben” (WAusg, DB 7.39); also 7.3-27 (Pref. to the Epistle). See further his Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen, of 8 Sept. 1530 (WAusg 30.2 , 627-49; “On Translating: An Open Letter” [LuthW 35.175-202]). Although “alleyn/alleine” finds no corresponding adverb in the Greek text, two of the points that Luther made in his defense of the added adverb were that it was demanded by the context and that sola was used in the theological tradition before him.
Robert Bellarmine listed eight earlier authors who used sola (Disputatio de controversiis: De justificatione 1.25 [Naples: G. Giuliano, 1856], 4.501-3):
Origen, Commentarius in Ep. ad Romanos, cap. 3 (PG 14.952).
Hilary, Commentarius in Matthaeum 8:6 (PL 9.961).
Basil, Hom. de humilitate 20.3 (PG 31.529C).
Ambrosiaster, In Ep. ad Romanos 3.24 (CSEL 81.1.119): “sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei,” through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God; 4.5 (CSEL 81.1.130).
John Chrysostom, Hom. in Ep. ad Titum 3.3 (PG 62.679 [not in Greek text]).
Cyril of Alexandria, In Joannis Evangelium 10.15.7 (PG 74.368 [but alludes to Jas 2:19]).
Bernard, In Canticum serm. 22.8 (PL 183.881): “solam justificatur per fidem,” is justified by faith alone.
Theophylact, Expositio in ep. ad Galatas 3.12-13 (PG 124.988).
To these eight Lyonnet added two others (Quaestiones, 114-18):
Theodoret, Affectionum curatio 7 (PG 93.100; ed. J. Raeder [Teubner], 189.20-24).
Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law). Cf. In ep. ad Romanos 4.1 (Parma ed., 13.42a): “reputabitur fides eius, scilicet sola sine operibus exterioribus, ad iustitiam”; In ep. ad Galatas 2.4 (Parma ed., 13.397b): “solum ex fide Christi” [Opera 20.437, b41]).
Theodore of Mopsuestia, In ep. ad Galatas (ed. H. B. Swete), 1.31.15.
Marius Victorinus (ep. Pauli ad Galatas (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15-16: “Ipsa enim fides sola iustificationem dat-et sanctificationem” (For faith itself alone gives justification and sanctification); In ep. Pauli Ephesios (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15: “Sed sola fides in Christum nobis salus est” (But only faith in Christ is salvation for us).
Augustine, De fide et operibus, 22.40 (CSEL 41.84-85): “licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intellegatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur” (Although it can be said that God’s commandments pertain to faith alone, if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love”). Migne Latin Text: Venire quippe debet etiam illud in mentem, quod scriptum est, In hoc cognoscimus eum, si mandata ejus servemus. Qui dicit, Quia cognovi eum, et mandata ejus non servat, mendax est, et in hoc veritas non est (I Joan. II, 3, 4). Et ne quisquam existimet mandata ejus ad solam fidem pertinere: quanquam dicere hoc nullus est ausus, praesertim quia mandata dixit, quae ne multitudine cogitationem spargerent [Note: [Col. 0223] Sic Mss. Editi vero, cogitationes parerent.], In illis duobus tota Lex pendet et Prophetae (Matth. XXII, 40): licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere Dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intelligatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur; tamen postea Joannes ipse aperuit quid diceret, cum ait: Hoc est mandatum ejus, ut credamus nomini Filii ejus Jesu Christi, et diligamns invicem (I Joan. III, 23) See De fide et operibus, Cap. XXII, §40, PL 40:223.
Source: Joseph A. Fitzmyer Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 360-361.