Tradition and Scripture, Foundations of Faith

Some time ago I posted an admittedly provocative question "the role of heresy in the Catholic Church". I wanted to provoke a debate about Tradition. Apparently it was not the way to do it. There was no debate. Only on non-Catholic answer offered the withered supposition that Catholicism was corrupted by Mysteric influences.

So I present you a concept of what Catholicism considers Tradition. I invite especially non-Catholic answers and the answers of Catholics who want to add aspect of Tradition I have not considered.

Thank you all


Missionary of the Sacred Heart


Tradition and Scripture

The simple fact that Jesus has stated that He has come not to abolish but to carry out the law in a dimension that nobody can accomplish who hasn’t received the Spirit, shows that history has changed radically in a Jesus Christ. In Him law and prophets have been accomplished (see the Transfiguration). This is the New Covenant (2 Cor 3:1-11). This derives not from Scripture; it's history. It’s the event of Christ, culmination of the history of salvation. Profane history doesn’t exist because God is the Lord of history. So the testimony of the Apostles - and not Scripture - is history in the first place. To understand that you need to consider the fact that the first Christians considered only the OT as Scripture up to the II or III century even if the documents show that the their Christian testimony enjoyed the same authority. At the beginning of Christianism there is a meticulous paradosis (transmission) of authentication by a person not by Scripture (Cf. 1 Cor 11: "3 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you"). And this paradosis hasn’t stopped when writing down these testimonies. The written Word is a new posterior element. The Apostles followed the example of the Rabbis after the destruction of Jerusalem. Before then it was proscribed for anybody to write down oral tradition. But in order to safeguard the oral Tradition they decided to authorize the written interpretation of Scripture. The first Christians were Jewish and they transmitted their teaching through the living word of live and the

Consequently the Church has one Tradition, only ONE, oral and written, life and teaching, testimony and authoritative adjustment. This reality has been uncontested possession throughout the centuries until the protestant reformation. Eliminating the divinely foundation of hierarchy, the Pope and the Bishops, Luther necessarily had to do away with tradition. It’s a consequence when you accept the following syllogism: The truth affirmed by an unworthy witness is necessarily falseness. Nobody denies that there have been monsters on the throne of Peter. But they didn’t teach heresy ever.

To defend Tradition as a vital part of faith, the Council of Trent had to talk about it as an element "besides" Scripture (Dz 783 ff). You don’t understand the Council of Trent if you say its teachings are one-sided. It defends the tenets eliminated by the reformers. It is the consequence of putting up a defense. It has to concentrate on the truths that were attacked. From that moment Tradition is viewed as a separate element of faith. It’s a pity!

So we have to ask: What is the global process of transmission of faith? It includes the following essential elements:

OT, NT, Apostolic Succession and Tradition, Regula Fidei, Liturgy, Presence of the Holy Ghost in the Christian Community.

Let’s have a look at the elements:

- OT. The Synagogue uses oral tradition as an instrument in order to interpret the Scripture. The translation of the LXX cited by Jesus and the Apostles is an "interpretation" of the Hebrew original. That’s why the reformers had problems with it, as did Saint Jerome who swore by the veritas hebraica. But later on he recanted.

- NT. It’s oral tradition made permanent by writing it down. It’s essential because only in Christ the OT can be understood. The oral tradition of the NT means at the same time the presence of the Lord ("The Lord is Spirit" 2 Cor, 3:17).

- Apostolic succession. It’s not the conservation of secret truths (gnosis). Look at what happens. The primary structure of the Word is nothing written but is the presence of a person. How? He is a witness of the Word. The witness can’t add or delete anything. He depends totally from what or Whom he gives testimony. But it’s through this personal presence that the Word is transmitted with the authority conferred by the Lord. This way Tradition is authorized witness throughout the times. The apostles and their successors through imposition of hands as guarantee for this transmission continue this uninterrupted line of witnessing. The Pope and the bishops are genuine and authoritative witness together with the faith of the whole Church, the sensus fidei.

- Regula Fidei or Symbolum. It’s the standard of faith. Scripture and Tradition have to be interpreted by the regula fidei. This doesn’t abolish the tenet "Scriptura sui ipsius interpres – The Scripture interprets itself" because the Regula Fidei is in the root of the Scripture. But Scripture cannot come alive except in the faith of the Church. Compare the expression of Saint Augustine: "de scripturarum plenioribus locis et ecclesiae autoritate – (the interpretation is done) through passages that are clearer and through the authority of the Church" (de doctr. Christ. III 2,2). That doesn’t mean that the Church is above Scripture. The Church is the vehicle of revelation from the beginning. It was her who wrote it down, it’s her who interprets because it’s hers. That’s the reason of the Ecumenical Councils because they are about interpretation and application of the Word of God.

- Liturgy is the most vital and most efficient transmission of Tradition. The catechumens are introduced to faith through the witness of the Church; receive the Scripture interpreted by the Church in midst of the Church. They profess that faith and begin the Christian life being baptized in the faith of the Church. Prosper from Aquitania wrote: "legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi – the way of believing should be established by the way you are praying." Look also at a very old aphorism "lex orandi lex credendi – what (or the way) you pray is what you believe". The reformers getting rid of Liturgy were bereft of this vital element of Tradition.

- The presence of the Holy Ghost. From the Council of the Apostles on (Acts 15 "28 "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…"). The Ecumenical Councils affirm that they are instruments of the Holy Ghost. It’s the same teaching but told under the historical circumstances and with the expressions of their times under divine guidance.

So you see that Tradition is wonderfully abundant in elements willed by God that stem from the beginning of the Church. It can’t be reached by the sole interpretation of "Sola Scriptura". It’s the answer of God through the Church in midst of the historical situations of all times. If all elements are observed then there has to be only one faith in one Church.

Tradition cannot be an immobile installation inside the written Word. Tertullianus expresses this reality when he writes: "Christ has called Himself the Word and not the idiom in the sense of habit" (Virg. 1, 1). Remember that in Hebrew dbr means "Word" and "Event" at the same time.

Tradition is the authoritative witnessing of the Church of divine revelation in Christ in order to save man. This revelation is guarded without flaw in doctrine throughout the centuries and applied under divine guidance throughout the centuries to ever changing conditions as an answer to the questions and misery of all times. It entails at the same time a permanent eschatological tension because it thrusts man toward eternity. The tension is increased because the Church is holy and sinner at the same time so she has to be in a state of permanent conversion.

So the believer has to scrutinize the Scripture, oh yes! The believer has to hear the voice of the Lord as He as He has taught in His Church throughout the centuries. The believer has to hear also the voice of the Lord as He talks through the Church today. Then in midst of the Church he will confess his sins and pray as did the ancient Christians: "Pereat mundus - Oh that this world might end! May Thy kingdom come!"


LittleJohnnie asked this question on 10/11/2000:

I often explain to fundamentalist Christians that tradition and scripture are peers in the doctrine of the true faith. Recently I was presented with this:

"What about the church's tradition? Jesus warned us against tradition (Mark 7:1-13). He accused the Jews that they were 'making the word of God on no effect through your tradition.' They should have remained faithful to the Bible."


Corinthians1_13_4to8 gave this response on 10/12/2000:

Yes, here is what the Bible itself says:

Bible Alone? Or Bible Plus Tradition?:

1 Cor 11:2 - hold fast to traditions I handed on to you

2 Thess 2:15 - hold fast to traditions, whether ORAL or by letter

2 Thess 3:6 - shun those acting not according to tradition

Jn 21:25 - not everything Jesus said was recorded in Scripture

Mk 13:31 - heaven & earth shall pass away, but my word won't (and remember - there was more that was said)

Acts 20:35 - Paul records a saying of Jesus not found in Gospels

2 Tim 1:13 - follow my sound words; guard the truth

2 Tim 2:2 - what you heard entrust to faithful men

2 Pet 1:20 - no prophecy is a matter of private interpretation

2 Pet 3:15-16 - Paul's letters an be difficult to grasp and interpret

1 Pet 1:25 - God's eternal word = word preached to you

Rom 10:17 - faith comes from what is heard

1 Cor 15:1-2 - being saved if you hold fast to the word I preached

Mk 16:15 - go to whole world, proclaim every gospel to every creature

Mt 23:2-3: chair of Moses; observe whatever they tell you


Tradition Condemned?

* these note passages used by non-Catholics to stress their points

*Mt. 15:3 - break commandment of God for your tradition

*Mk 7:9 - set aside God's commandment, to uphold tradition

* Col 2:8 - seductive philosophy according to human tradition

1 Cor 11:2 - commends them for following Apostolic tradition

2 Thess 2:15 - commands them to keep traditions

2 Thess 3:6 - shun those acting not according to tradition


Faithful to what Bible?

When was the Bible composed in its canon? When was the Bible readily made available? I suggest a book called, "Where We Got the Bible From - Our Debt to the Catholic Church," by Henry Grahan - $4 at amazon. Also, Karl Keating (Catholic Answers founder) puts out a few books on "Catholicism and Fundamentalism" - and these are really important for us in order to be able to answer them Scripturally.

Their authority is Bible alone and they are simply unwilling to listen to Tradition. So, we must explain by way of the Bible itself. We must be compassionate and not frustrated in this regard.

Also, any of Scott Hahn's books - Rome Sweet Home, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, Cassette tape series on the New Pentecost and Holy Spirit, The Lambs Supper, etc. - all deal almost entirely with Scriptural explanations.

Another good thing to have is a Bible Concordance - you can get one for I think $3 or so from San Juan Catholic Seminars (505) 327-5343 plus s&h. However, this is not complete, but deals only with the most objected to doctrines in the Catholic Faith. I pray to be able to afford a full one soon. They run about $30 and you can find them on the net. They do have them at Barnes and Nobles, but never a Catholic Concordance. However, they can order them for you.

Another good book is called, "Mary and the Fundamentalist Challenge," by Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, PH.D., S.T.D.

Hope this helps you, much love to you. Be in prayer - stay with loving and kind and unjudgemental or harsh words - and see them as wonderful. Don't ever look down on fundamentalists or anyone. What they do and what they believe is out of love for the Lord and they fear Catholic Doctrine as completely against their Lord. No more would you go out and read about witchcraft - are they as quick and comfortable with listening and hearing and seeing.

Here if you need me and much love to you and prayers,



Sola Scriptura ?

Here's some bible "scholarship"...

If I am to assume the Bible is the sole rule of authority and doctrine, that Gods New Covenant and what we need to know about Jesus is consigned wholly unto writing then I must be able to say with authority

i) Jesus never wrote

ii) Jesus never explicitly commanded the Apostles to write.

iii) Jesus never commanded (or even hinted at) non-Apostles writing (Mk, Lk, Jude, James).

iv) Jesus is not said to have sent the Holy Spirit to aid the Apostles primary in writing.

v) Jesus is not said to have sent the Holy Spirit to aid non-Apostles in writing.

vi) Jesus never promised that the Holy Spirit would protect the transmission of the written word.

vii) The inspired Apostles and non-Apostles never explicitly command Christian to follow the O.T. and their writings alone.

viii) Neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever mentioned that oral Tradition would be at some point in the future replaced by writings.

ix) Neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever mentioned anything about collecting all their writings into an authoritative collection for future followers.

Sola Scripture is an amazing contradiction to common sense and bible scholarship that recognizes the many many NT references to Church and Church leadership and it's (The NT) complete silence about itself.













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