I have written before on sola Scriptura in the early church, but now I want to give you some quotations on the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture in the writings of the early church fathers in contrast to the Catholic belief that the Scriptures should not be read by all:
“And thus it is fully demonstrated that there is no obscurity or contradiction in the holy Gospels or between the evangelists, but that everything is plain” (Epiphanius, Panarion, Books II and III, Sections 47-80, 51).
“Everything in the sacred scripture is clear, to those who will approach God’s word with pious reason, and not harbor the devil’s work within them and turn their steps to the pits of death—as this unfortunate man and his converts have attacked the truth more vigorously than any who have become blasphemers of God and his faith before them” (Epiphanius, Panarion, Books II and III, Sections 47-80, 76).
“And everything in the sacred scripture and the holy faith is crystal clear to us, and nothing is tortuous, contradictory or knotty” (Epiphanius, Panarion, Books II and III, Sections 47-80, 76).
“Consider, I ask you, dearly beloved, the precision of Sacred Scripture in narrating everything clearly to us, instructing us in the customs of the ancients and the extent of the ardor that marked their hospitality” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 46-67, Homily 55.5).
“All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Second Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, Homily III).
“For this reason too, he did not hide his teaching in mist and darkness, as they did who threw obscurity of speech, like a kind of veil, around the mischiefs laid up within. But this man’s doctrines are clearer than the sunbeams, wherefore they have been unfolded to all men throughout the world” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel according to St. John, Homily 2.5).
“In the sacred writings, in His Scripture that is read to all peoples in order that all may know. Thus the apostles have written; thus the Lord Himself has spoken, not merely for a few, but that all might know and understand. Plato wrote books, but he did not write for all people but only for a few, for there are not many more than two or three men who know him. But the princes of the Church and the princes of Christ did not write only for the few, but for everyone without exception” (Jerome, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 18).
“What is the function of commentators? They expound the statements of someone else; they express in simple language views that have been expressed in an obscure manner; they quote the opinions of many individuals and they say: ‘Some interpret this passage in this sense, others, in another sense’; they attempt to support their own understanding and interpretation with these testimonies in this fashion, so that the prudent reader, after reading the different interpretations and studying which of these many views are to be accepted and which rejected, will judge for himself which is the more correct; and, like the expert banker, will reject the falsely minted coin” (Jerome, St. Jerome – Dogmatic and Polemical Works, The Apology Against the Books of Rufinus, Book I, 16).
“Consider, moreover, the style in which Sacred Scripture is composed — how accessible it is to all men, though its deeper mysteries are penetrable to very few. The plain truths which it contains it declares in the artless language of familiar friendship to the hearts both of the unlearned and of the learned; but even the truths which it veils in symbols it does not set forth in stiff and stately sentences, which a mind somewhat sluggish and uneducated might shrink from approaching, as a poor man shrinks from the presence of the rich; but, by the condescension of its style, it invites all not only to be fed with the truth which is plain” (Augustine, Letters of St. Augustine, Letter 137, Chapter 5, 18).
“As I said a little ago, when these men are beset by clear testimonies of Scripture, and cannot escape from their grasp, they declare that the passage is spurious. The declaration only shows their aversion to the truth, and their obstinacy in error” (Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XI, 2).
“You in fact try to obscure the lights of the holy scriptures which shine with certain truth by the complexity of your evil arguments. After all, what is clearer than what I just said: Human beings have become like vanity; their days pass like a shadow (Ps 144:4)? That surely would not have happened, if they had remained in the likeness of God in which they were created. What is clearer than the statement: As in Adam all die, so too in Christ all will be brought to life (1 Cor 15:22)? What is clearer than the words: Who, after all, is clean from filth? Not even an infant whose life has lasted a single day on earth (Jb 14:4-5 LXX)? And there are many other passages which you try to wrap in darkness and twist to your perverse meaning by your empty chatter” (Augustine, The Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians III, Unfinished Work in Answer to Julian, Book I:5, Part 1).
“Some people who have fallen foul of this complaint have endeavored to level charges at the divine Scripture, and especially the inspired oracles, of being shrouded in obscurity. To such people the divine-inspired Paul would retort, ‘Now, even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, but to the mature it is wisdom we are speaking.’ In keeping with this, too, is what is said by our Lord and savior to the holy apostles, ‘To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, whereas to those others it is not given;’ and to explain the reason he immediately adds, ‘Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not understand’ — that is, they willingly bring upon themselves the cloud of ignorance: if they turn to the Lord, as the apostle says, the veil will be lifted. Divine realities, therefore, are not obscure to everyone, only to those who are voluntarily blind; they ought to take note and realize that nothing worthwhile is readily accessible to human beings” (Theodoret of Cyrrhus, In Ezechielem – Præfatio, PG 81:808-809).
“In a word, holy deeds would be done by Christians if Christ has taught holy things. He who is worshiped can be judged by His worshippers. For how is a teacher good whose pupils we see are so evil? From this viewpoint, they are Christians; they listen to Him, they read Him. It is easy for all to understand the teaching of Christ” (Salvian the Presbyter, On the Government of God, Book I, Chapter 7).
“For as the word of God, by the mysteries which it contains, exercises the understanding of the wise, so usually by what presents itself on the outside, it nurses the simpleminded. It presenteth in open day that wherewith the little ones may be fed; it keepeth in secret that whereby men of a loftier range may be held in suspense of admiration. It is, as it were, a kind of river, if I may so liken it, which is both shallow and deep, wherein both the Lamb may find a footing, and the elephant float at large” (Pope Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, Preface).