A fascinating discussion has been going on at Called to Communion regarding the Apostles’ reference to Amos 9:11-12 at the Council of Jerusalem:
In that day “I will restore David’s fallen shelter—I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins—and will rebuild it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the LORD, who will do these things.
This is the NIV version of Amos, from the Hebrew apparently, while the Apostles quoted from the Septuagint version (Greek), that reads slightly differently:
“After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things” things known from long ago.
Question: does it seem clear that these verses in Amos are explaining that the Gentiles will not need to be circumcised?
One Protestant apologist argued just that:
Amos 9:11-12 does answer the question of whether circumcision is necessary, because it refers to Gentiles who are called by the name of the Lord. That may not be perspicuous to you, but it is the reason that James quoted it.
The discussion that follows is very interesting, but just staying on this part of it, we see how far Protestants must go to claim that the Bible is perspicuous. These verses say nothing about circumcision, yet we are to understand that a Christian exegeting this passage should be able to come to that conclusion.
This happens many times in the New Testament: Jesus or the Apostles quote something from the Old Testament, and if it were not for them quoting it and applying it to some particular revelation or decision or statement, we would have little clue that the OT passage ever could have been used to support such a thing. We have the benefit of two thousand years of Church teaching and the New Testament to aid us in understanding these things, but by no means are they clear enough without those aids.
For sola Scriptura to be true, the Bible must be perspicuous to a very high degree. Yet passages like this show it is simply not the case. We need the Apostolic Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church (which in NT days, was composed of the Apostles and elders like those who attended the Council of Jerusalem). This didn’t end with the death of the last Apostle, as many Protestants (and Mormons) would claim. Rather it continued with the Apostles’ successors, men like Clement and Ignatius and Irenaeus, even down to the present day.