Oral Tradition what?


What comprises the Oral Tradition of the Catholic Church? I can think of the cannon of Scripture, maybe the Marian doctrines, but what else does the Church claim as being under Oral Tradition? Is there an index document , a book, or something else that one can review to determined what teachings are from Oral Tradtion?


I believe the Catechism says that everything the Church teaches is contained in Oral Tradition: Through Tradition, the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes. source But also, everything that the Church teaches is supported by Scripture. CCC 125 says: The Gospels…are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior. source CCC 131 says: [S]uch is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor…[and] strength for [the] faith… [Therefore,] access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful. source Therefore, it seems to me that all the Church’s teachings are contained in Tradition and are supported by Scripture, especially the Gospels.

Therefore, I doubt you will find an index that lists all the things contained in oral tradition…it would have to contain “all that [the Church] is, all that she believes.” And I don’t think the whole world could contain the books that would have to be written for that.

Anyway, I hope that helps. Let me know. God bless!


I will say it is rather ironic that you are asking if there is a book containing oral Tradition. :wink:

All of the Gospels were oral Tradition. St Paul preached before he wrote. I would say you would be extremely hard pressed to find things that aren’t written down today. All of the Marian dogmas are written either in the canons of the Ecumenical Councils or papal pronouncements. I’m not Catholic but I imagine what the Church means is Scripture is not the source of doctrine as the Protestants would contend. That the many of the teachings of the Church were passed down by word of mouth before they were ever written down.


I think what you mean is “Sacred Tradition” which is the teaching of Jesus handed down to the Apostles, then given to us. It is called “The deposit of faith”. Yes some, even most of it is written in Holy Scripture but not all of it. And scripture is written in such a way that it is open to interpretation. But there is only 1 true interpretation of scripture and that’s found in the Catholic church. Yes, this Sacred tradition can also be called Oral tradition. Technically, it is all oral tradition because it was said by Jesus, then said by the Apostles, then said by their successors. Again, some of this “Oral” tradition was written into scripture.

To find what the Sacred Tradition is look at the Dogmas of the Catholic church. Now, you might say " well this…or that… dogma was deffined centuries later." keep in mind that part of the Sacred Tradition is that Jesus established the magisterium. It and it alone is guided by the holy spirit to reveal the truths of God. Usually in an ecuminical council like the one found in Acts chapter 14-16. He didn’t write the book, the authority he created did

It’s not like we have a list of beliefs that we can so “these come from the bible, and these come from oral tradition” It’s all Tradition (or teaching) sacred tradition, scripture and Authority are inseparable and don’t allow anyone to try to separate them. They should have to account for why they reject tradition and the authority when scripture it’s self proclaims them.


I should have worded my question little differently. Imagine that I am a Protestant and I say to you that I believe that Scripture is all I need to completely know the Gospel of Jesus, however, you say as a Catholic that what is needed is both Scripture and the Oral Tradtition. I then say, when it comes to the Godpel of Jesus what is it that is beyond Scripture that you have and I don’t? Would your answers be the same?


I don’t have to imagine very hard, I am a former protestant and most of my friends and family are Protestant. I get these questions all the time (or I used to. they don’t bother arguing with me anymore)

To answer this question directly I say “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” Gospel of John

I would also say, most importantly, there are 2 things that Jesus instituted that are critical for salvation. The eucharist, and The sacrament of confession. And only priests with valid ordinations can perform these sacrements. That means the Catholic church and the Orthodox churches, that’s it. we can give bible passages to support these, but your protestant friends will say we are misinterpreting these passages. WHo’s right?

If scripture alone is valid then why so many different interpretations? Where in the bible does it say you can’t baptise infants? It doesn’t, yet these so called bible christians see it in there.

The sacred Tradition that says the bread and wine become christ’s body and blood and can only happen when a validly ordained priest performs the Mass, and that Forgiveness of sin is to be given by the same type of priest also gave us the bible. How can this Sacred tradition be wrong on one hand and right on the other? It makes no sense.

Everyone has “Tradition”, even “Bible alone” is a tradition. Ours were started by Christ himself, theres were started by men 1600 years later.

I would ask them to explain this passage. 2nd Thes. 2:15 " Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold to the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle."

Clearly this passage says to adhere to the teaching in scripture and handed down orally. Are you going to find those teaching in a church 1600 years removed from those teachings.

How about indulgences and praying for the dead? These protestants have dead loved ones suffering in Purgatory while they think they are in heaven and in need of no help.

How about Jesus giving the power to bind and lose to Peter and his successors. How can they justify disagreeing with him?

How about penance? They think they have all there sins forgiven yet the only way to be sure is to go to confession in the Catholic church. And then you must perform penance to expiate the temporal punishment or you will suffer in Purgatory.

We can trace these beliefs to the early church through the writtings of the early church fathers.
Many passages that seem odd to them are talking about purgatory and penance such as.

"Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."Matt 5:26

What about the false belief of Once saved always saved that many of these Christians subscribe to?


As a Catholic I would say (an EOC would as well) that God’s word has always been held to be handed down by the combined and interrelated process of Scripture and Apostolic Tradition in the Apostolic Church. (STC) The CC has always been conscious of its identity with the Church of the Apostles at Pentecost and the apostolic tradition it transmits. The NT authors teach and portray this same process of transmitting God’s word.

The idea that God’s word is transmitted by the Bible alone interpreted by the individual believer so that the word of God is limited to and coextensive with the text of Scripture (SS) is a novelty of the Reformation. The burden is on those advocating SS to show that it is factually the method God chose, given that it is the newer position.

Those who say that RCs start with Scripture and adds Tradition to it are seeing an artifact of their already believing SS by viewing STC based on SS. The NT authors, the fathers, and Councils taught and practiced STC united.


Holy Tradition is the Word of God and is equal to Holy Scripture and the two are never in conflict with each other. The Word of God cannot be changed and all Catholics must believe and follow both Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. It is the dogma of the Church. For example, that homosexual sex and abortion are a moral sins must be believed and followed by all Catholics (or they are in risk of Hell). Another example is that only men may be priests. Holy Tradition also includes how church teachings are transmitted over time.

The Catholic Church also has many traditions and customs that can and have changed over time. For example, priests in the Latin rite priest cannot be married, yet married men can become Catholic priests in the other rites of the Church.

I strongly suggest the book Tradition and the Church (1928) by Rev. Msgr. George Agius. You will learn more about Holy Tradition on the first page then most Catholics know. You will also learn how it ties into the authority of the Church. It really is a must real book.


Ran Pleasant


My answer could be as little as one word. The thing that the Scripture + Tradition has that the Sola Scriptura doesn’t? Clarity. Tradition clarifies the obscure passages of Scripture.

But there is something deeper beneath that one word. There are many things that can be proved from Scripture that you basically need a doctoral degree to figure out. Go to Tradition and the doctors have done the work for you. An example would be the Trinity. Yeah, if you study the Bible closely, you can figure out the Trinity. But it took the early Church over 600 years and six ecumenical councils to do it. If we go to Tradition, all the legwork is done for us because those six original ecumenical councils are part of Tradition, and we can read their decrees. Then we don’t have to figure out everything on our own.

So many splits among Protestants have happened because a layman in the pew couldn’t draw the same conclusions that his minister drew from careful study, and ignorantly decided that his minister must be misinterpreting the Bible. If you stick to Tradition, that is greatly reduced, because issues that have been decided in the past no longer need to cause issues: you can just see what Tradition says about them.

Does that make sense?


this site has many articles refuting sola fide.


Which came first, the Bible or the Church? We know which, that is the Church was established by Christ and the Bible is a product of the Church. Jesus didnt pass out Bibles and tell everyone to follow it and nothing else, but rather he appointed Apostles and commissioned them to lead the Church. The Church was to be the go-to place to get the fullness of God. Scripture was carefully chosen by the Church as canonical, Christianity was not created by Scripture. That is where I think many people get confused. Sort of like how the car was invented. The inventor establishes a manufacturer, and a manufacturer provides the design to the consumers along with a users manual. The users manual wont provide all you need and it doesn’t make void the manufacturer, but its there to help the consumers. Christ established the Church, the Church provides what was established, and the Bible is a very important part of our understanding of how to learn more about our walk with God.






And voila! You refuted sola scriptura.


Tradition mainly affects practice,not doctrine. Doctrine is affected when people interpret bible disregarding other parts and tradition.


The Jewish people have a strong Oral Tradition. How could you answer a question that the Bible has never dealt with? Through tradition. Tradition is what clarified the commandments and aids in the answering of difficult questions on a continuing basis.


It makes a lot of sense.

If we didn’t have oral tradition each generation would have to invent Christianity all over again because the older generation would not be allowed to pass on to the younger what Christianity was! Heck, when you think about it, it is oral tradition that tells each generation even what scripture is! That is, it is simply tradition as to what is to be called scripture.

The Trinity is a great example of traditional interpretation of scripture. There are various biblical passages that all Trinitarians, Catholic and Protestant, accept from tradition as showing the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

But if you reject tradition or forget about it, it is not so easy to discover the Trinity from mere bible reading. The Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses actually use the bible to disprove the Trinity! And they do a convincing job of it for a lot of people. Therefore, it is my belief that the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit was taught orally to the early Christians, independently of scripture. For instance, in the letters of Ignatius of Antioch about the year 110 AD there is mention of Jesus as God. Now, the year 110 AD is way too early for that belief to arise just from scriptural exegesis. Not enough time nor could NT scripture have been consolidated so soon to be able to study it. Therefore, the only way for Ignatius to know of Jesus as God would have been from remembrance of the oral teaching of the apostles.

Later, armed with knowledge of the apostolic oral teaching, subsequent scriptural exegetes knew how to properly interpret scripture so as to demonstrate the Trinity from the writings as well.

As the evangelical Randy Watters put it, “The Trinity is taught in scripture, but not defended in scripture.”

You said it, tradition certainly helps clarify scripture.



Georgemiller,is your question answered?


Thank you all for your thoughtful inputs, inputs that provide a clearer understanding and higher appreaciation of both oral and written tradition. Thank you.


I strongly disagree with your statement. Holy Tradition is the Word of God, thus it defines doctrine. For example, the complete concept of the Holy Trinity is doctrine and it comes from Holy Tradition, not from Holy Scripture. Likewise, the cannon of the Bible is from Holy Tradition.

To disagree with Holy Tradition as maintained by the Catholic Church is to disagree with Jesus Christ.



i said doctrine will be affected if people disregard tradition. you disagree?


I too thought of various doctrines taught by the Church but not always explicit in Scripture. The Trinity is one–nowhere is that word found, and the divinity of the Holy Spirit is not really laid out as clearly as one might wish. Even the divinity of the Son is mostly found more in interpretation than explicitly–so that Arius denied the Son was fully human or fully divine.

Most of the Creed is of this level of teaching. The word “consubstantial” is not scriptural–in Greek “hypostasis”–it had to be defined by the Council of Nicea precisely because the Scriptures were not clear enough. And yet, the idea is found from the early days of the Church.

The sacraments have basis in Scripture–but exactly what they comprise, and which ones are sacraments is not defined in the Bible.

And so on. As mentioned, most or all of the Catechism–the text in my version runs some 688 pages–is based in Scripture, but all of it was laid out precisely because the Scripture was not enough. And that means, on some level, it relies on “Oral Tradition” as well.


Hi Ran,
I’m curious about something.

You consistently use the expression Holy Tradition. Yet that usage is not . . . well . . . traditional, as far as I can see in the most authoritative documents of the Church.

It is not in:

Nicea II (uses “tradition of the Catholic Church” or “ecclesiastical traditions” or “written and unwritten ecclesiastical traditions” or “written or unwritten tradition of the church”)

Trent (“unwritten traditions”) also adjective for Scripture is “Sacred”

Vatican I (“apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions;” “the word of God in scripture and tradition;” "supernatural revelation . . . contained in written books and unwritten traditions;” “the word of God as contained in scripture and tradition”

Vatican II (mostly “Sacred Tradition;” also “Sacred Scripture and Tradition ;” “ecclesiastical traditions :” “tradition;” “traditions;” “ancient tradition;” “apostolic tradition.”)

Is it what Msgr. George Agius uses in his book? or what?

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