David Yeago1 in his article "The Presence of Mary in the Mystery of the Church,"2 writes in footnote #9 (in the context of retrieving some semblance of an acceptable Marian theology, in relation to Christology):
...the goal of faith and theology is not to see how little of Scripture we can take seriously and still be saved; the goal is the maximum of integrity in taking seriously and holding together in our understanding the whole canon of testimony with which the church has been provided by the Spirit. After all, the New Testament canon itself is superfluous to what is "necessary to salvation," since the foundational apostolic preaching went on without it.
Consider also the fact as most scholars would agree that our earliest Gospel (Mark) was written some thirty years after the crucifixion (and this is based on the most conservative scholarship, critical scholarship would date Mark post 70-AD). Scholars contend that Paul's letters were written earlier than this (1 & 2 Thess being the earliest) but even these were directed and kept in possession of, particular regional churches (i.e., Corinth).
In other words the early Christian Church went largely without a complete canon of the New Testament (as we know it today comprised of the twenty-seven books) for most of its history. It was not until centuries after the first Apostles that the canon was decreed (Athanasius's letter). What they did possess was the Old Testament (that is what the writers of the New Testament have in mind when they speak of "Scripture") as well as the apostolic oral traditions (2 Thess 2:15, et al).
My question to Protestants is, taking all of this in mind, how is one to defend still the proposition of Sola Scriptura if,
(a) The earliest Christian Church did not have in its possession the "New Testament"even to proclaim "sole authority" from?
(b) The earliest patristic interpretive tradition (i.e., the Patristic Fathers) time and again teach that Scripture can only be correctly understood under the guidance of the Catholic Regulae Fidei and that Scripture alone is not the "sole authority" for the Christian but rather the "authority" is Scripture only when interpreted via their patristic interpretive tradition (i.e., "apostolic tradition")?
. Professor of Systematic Theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary, South Carolina and member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America denomination.
. In the excellent book by Protestant and Orthodox scholars, Mary Mother of God (Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2004), pp. 58-79.