Tradition and Scripture


#1

What is the official position of the Catholic Church on the contents of “Tradition”? Does it consist entirely of teachings and doctrines that are found in Scripture (either implicitly or explicitly), or does it contain doctrines and practices that are completely outside the contents of written revelation?
Thanks for you help with this!


#2

Let me preface my answer by saying that there are two kinds of tradition: human and divine. A human tradition is something that man made up. Jesus condemns using these traditions to distort the teaching of God’s Word (Matthew 15:9). But “tradition” itself is not a bad word in Scripture. Paul commends people for keeping the right kind of traditions (1 Cor. 11:2) and even commands people to keep them (2 Thess. 2:15). The right kind of traditions are those which are of divine origin. In the Christian age these are the traditions that have been handed on from the apostles. So we must distinguish between human and apostolic traditions. The traditions of man are not binding on us; the traditions of the apostles are. So, how can we tell an apostolic tradition from a merely human one? The answer is: by the Church.

The early Church was confronted with numerous documents which also claimed Apostolic origin. It was the Catholic Church who sorted out which claimants were legitimate and which were not. The Church, under God’s guidance, discerned the canon of scripture. Thus, Tradition pre-dates Scripture. Does Tradition consist entirely of teachings and doctrines that are found in Scripture? The Church teaches that Scripture is the primary, written expression of Sacred Tradition. Luke 1:1-4: “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events which have been fulfilled in our midst, precisely as those events were handed on (paredosan-Tradition) to us by the original eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.” (NAB) Second, other written expressions of Tradition are from the Fathers and doctors of the Church. These writings are not referred to as “inspired” or called “the Word of God”.

“… [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.” Tradition is interpretation of Scripture.

For the Catechism ( no.113 2) says we are to “Read the Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church"[81]). Scripture and Tradition together convey the Word of God (*Dei Verbum * 10).

Further reading:

Dei Verbum: ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/V2REVEL.HTM

The Commonitory of Vincent of Lerins, for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith (5th Century): newadvent.org/fathers/3506.htm

Scripture and Tradition: catholic.com/library/Scripture_and_Tradition.asp


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