Tradition vs. Exegesis from Scripture

I have a question that I’m really curious about. Is there any way to know as to which teachings of the Church (not explicitly found in scripture) come from Tradition, vs. which teachings of the church were determined by exegesis from Sacred Scripture?

When defending the faith, I often use to form arguments and support from scripture, but I’m never sure if an article of faith comes from exegesis of scripture or whether it is from Tradition.

For example, Purgatory. We never find the word purgatory in the Bible, however it is easy to find passages there that support the notation of purgatory. But who figured out Purgatory? Was it Tradition? Or someone finding meaning from the Scripture?

Hopefully this makes sense. Your insight is appreciated.

Difficult question. Rather like a “chicken or the egg” question.

Scripture is simply Sacred Tradition in recorded form, though it is special because it is inerrant and inspired. It is not a full recitation of Tradition, of course, but we as Catholics are permitted to believe that those things which are dogmatically taught by the Church may be found implicitly or explicitly within its pages - a belief known as Material Sufficiency. Sacred Tradition predated the Scriptures, and therefore there is nothing in the Scriptures which isn’t held by Sacred Tradition. Add to this a further complication that a good bit of Tradition is taken from meditation on Sacred Scripture, and you get a bit of a Gordian knot, since the Church also teaches that both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture emanates from the same source - Jesus the Christ, who it the Truth.

Sorry if that doesn’t clarify anything, but hopefully it can help you frame your question a bit differently?

God Bless,

None of the Church’s doctrines come from scripture.

They all come from the apostles, who learned directly from God, and not from scripture. That is why at mass we pray for those who “hold and teach the Catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles”.

1. Jesus Christ is the "fullness of all revelation"1
God has said everything in his Word.2
“In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one.”3
God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son.4
Jesus Christ “completed and perfected Revelation”5
Thus it is not scripture that is the fullness of revelation, but Jesus Christ.
Revelation means what God has made known to us. While God has made known some of his knowledge through Abraham, Moses, scripture, etc. it is only through Jesus that He has made known everything regarding salvation.

Scripture is a witness to these teachings of the Church.
All things have been delivered to me by my Father…” Mt 11:27
In Jesus "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Col 2:3
In Christ “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9)

Thus, it is not Moses, Isaiah, St. Paul, the bible, scripture, etc. which is the fullness of all revelation, but Jesus Christ.

2.Jesus taught the whole Gospel only to His apostles.
Mk 4:34 “He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”
[FONT=Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, sans-serif][size=2]Mt 13:11[/size] "to you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven”.[/FONT]
**John 15:15 **“for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
[FONT=Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, sans-serif]John 14:26 “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”[/FONT]
So Jesus communicated “everything” to His apostles when He taught them the Gospel and He sent the Holy Spirit to teach them again and explain what He taught and to give them the power to remember all He taught.

  [1]("")Catechism     of the Catholic Church Chap 2. Art 1. Part III

3IBID 65
4IBID 73
5General Directory for Catechesis “[Jesus Christ] completed and perfected Revelation, he did this by way of his presence and self manifestation by words and works, signs and miracles, but above all by his death and glorious resurrection from the dead, and finally by sending the Spirit of truth”.

**[FONT=Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, sans-serif]

[FONT=Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, sans-serif]3. Jesus commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel. The Church teaches this Gospel “was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline.”1[/FONT]
Why is this Gospel that they preached and taught the source of ALL saving truth and moral discipline?
Because Jesus taught everything to His apostles. See no. 2 above.
1Catechism of the Catholic Church 75, Council of Trent, session 4

The apostles were taught “everything” and “all things” directly by God. So the Church teaches this Gospel they preached contains “the fullness of the truth which God has enabled us to know about himself”1 and as the Church has always taught it was to be “the source of all saving truth and moral discipline”2.
The origin of the doctrines the Catholic Church teaches is not scripture, but Jesus and the Holy Spirit who taught the apostles directly. Since Jesus directly taught His Church “everything” then there is no doctrine of salvation the Church could have learned from scripture. If the Church had learned any doctrine of salvation from the Bible, then that would make Jesus a liar when He said He taught them “everything” and “all things”.

3. Jesus said Salvation comes from believing the Gospel the apostles proclaimed. Jesus did not say salvation comes from reading the the four Gospels, which are the narratives of the life of Jesus.
Jesus did not say salvation comes from believing the scriptures, or reading scripture, or by studying the scripture, but only by believing the Gospel the apostles proclaimed.

Again scripture is a witness to this.
“He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16

St. Paul says the same thing.
“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.“ 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 (NIV)
Now, we cannot reduce this Gospel to a few verses, because Jesus spent three years teaching His apostles and the Holy Spirit taught them “all things”. It was so much that He had to send the Holy Spirit to "bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

4. This full and living Gospel was handed down entirely in Tradition.**
The Church teaches in the Catechism:
[size=2]“In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority.” Indeed, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.” This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. 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."3[/size]
1Redemptoris missio, 5
2Catechism of the Catholic Church 75, Council of Trent, session 4.
3IBID 77,78

                              The “full and living Gospel” is handed down entirely in Tradition. Thus, “all that she believes” is handed down entirely in Tradition, not scripture.[LIST=1]

*] [size=2]Again, scripture is a witness to this. First,[/size] Jesus commanded His apostles to preach this Gospel that they learned from Him. He did not command them to write the Gospel they learned from Him. Second, the apostles had to take Jesus as an example. Since Jesus did not write a word of scripture when He taught the Gospel, the apostles had to follow His example and also proclaim the Gospel without writing a word of scripture. And since Jesus taught them EVERYTHING, they had to teach their successors EVERYTHING.[/LIST]There is not a single book of the Bible, not a single chapter of the Bible that claims to be a summary of this Gospel that the apostles taught and preached. Therefore we cannot learn it from reading the bible. It must be proclaimed by the Church. 875.[LIST=1]
*] “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?”[390] No one - no individual and no community - can proclaim the Gospel to himself: “Faith comes from what is heard.”[391][/LIST]So faith comes from what is heard, no one can learn the Gospel by studying scripture.
Later on the Holy Spirit moved some apostles and apostolic men to write the narratives of the life of Jesus, the four Gospels. The Church teaches that “The sacred authors, in writing the four Gospels, selected certain of the many elements which had been handed on…”1

These narratives of the life of Jesus are also called “Gospels” because they contain certain of the many elements of the “full and living Gospel”, but they do not claim to be a summary of the Gospel the apostles taught and preached.

The reason the Church says scripture always must be interpreted according to Tradition, is because ONLY Tradition contains the full entire Gospel that Jesus taught to His apostles. Scripture only contains “certain elements” of this Gospel, and these certain elements are seldom clear.

So what was the content of this Gospel the apostles taught and preached?
Since Jesus said salvation comes from believing this Gospel, and not from reading scripture, we must know the content of this Gospel.
Now, even an atheist can know exactly the content of this Gospel the apostles taught, even though they never wrote it. It is easy, all we have to do is learn the teachings the early Christians learned from the apostles. If we read what they wrote, we notice that they all believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the mass, prayers to the saints in heaven, the authority of the Church, etc. In other words, the early Christians who learned directly from the apostles believed the same teachings the Church teaches today. In other words, the early Christians who learned from the apostles were all Catholic. So the Gospel the apostles taught was the Catholic faith.

Let’s suppose the apostle John was preaching and these four Gospels had already been written. Let’s suppose some pagan comes to John and says, “tell me about this Jesus that you are preaching.” What would John say? Would John start reading one of the four Gospels? Would John start with
"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram…" Obviously this would not work. Perhaps some think John could have started with his own Gospel:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race …”

The pagan would ask "who is this God, who was “the Word”, what is "in the beginning, etc.? Obviously, John could not preach the Gospel by simply reading scripture and by giving an explanation of it. John would have to begin with the basics and teach who God is, who Jesus is, the Trinity, why Jesus was sent, what salvation is, etc. That is why even Martin Luther, who promoted “scripture alone” realized that he could not teach his Gospel by reading and explaining scripture. He had to write his small catechism and his large catechism, in order to teach his gospel. Now, since John, or any other apostle could not proclaim the Gospel by reading it, then giving an explanation, then how did the apostles proclaim the Gospel? How did they “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you”?

They taught by first giving the initial proclamation of Who Jesus is and why He came, that is, He is the Son of God, the God who created everything, and He was sent to free us from everything that oppresses us, especially sin. If the listener wanted to learn more about God and how to be freed from the slavery of sin, then the apostles, or their successors would teach them the rest of the Gospel in an organized manner. They did so by teaching them the articles of the Apostles Creed, (the truths about God), then the sacraments, (the means of receiving the gift of salvation, then the Commandmandments, (how to life a life in union with God and our neighbor) and prayer
The Creed, Sacraments, Commandments and prayer are the basics of all catechisms. That is because catechisms are nothing but the Gospel the apostles taught and preached, in a written form.

                                  “Catechesis is nothing other than the process of transmitting the Gospel, as the Christian community has received it, understands it, celebrates it, lives it and communicates it in many ways.”

General Directory for Catechesis 105

But notice, the doctrines in the Catechisms did NOT originate from the bible.
Because the teachings of the Church did not originate from scripture, but directly from God. Jesus and the Holy Spirit taught the apostles EVERYTHING. The apostles handed down EVERYTHING. Thus no doctrine of the Catholic Church was learned from the bible. The Church already knows everything, though everything is not yet made explicit.

So the Gospel contains all Jesus taught. It is handed down entirely in Tradition, since Jesus wrote nothing. The apostles handed down this Gospel entirely in Tradition.

But when we teach the Gospel we are supposed to use scripture as a “witness” to the teachings, and to nourish the teachings and to illuminate them. That is why the Catechism often uses the scripture form of a teaching, instead of the doctrinal form learned from the apostles.

While the the Church learned all her doctrines directly from God and not from scripture, there are still historical events in scripture which contain events that are not clear. Since the Gospel Jesus taught was not an explanation of every event of salvation history, but only the doctrines of salvation, then there are many events in scripture which don’t express doctrines, thus they can still be learned through more study.
This is why the scriptures concerning doctrines, such as the Eucharist, are strictly interpreted by the Church and no other interpretations are accepted which contradict the Gospel the apostles handed down. But other parts of scripture which don’t express doctrines, have no direct interpretation by the Church.

In summary. The Church learned the entire Gospel directly from God and this Gospel was handed down ENTIRELY in Tradition, nothing is missing. Some parts of these teachings of the Gospel were also later handed down in scripture. Scripture is primarily salvation history. Tradition is primarily the Gospel Jesus taught and preached and handed down to His apostles as the Catholic faith.

Thanks! It makes a lot of sense to me. It seems that our teachings could have come from Tradition, or were Tradition recorded in Sacred Scripture, but regardless of which, everything came from the revelation of Jesus to the Church.

It doesn’t really matter which is the secondary source, whether it be Tradition or Scripture, since the primary source is the same, God.

I guess I wonder, does the Catechism contain all that is revealed publicly that we know? Is it an all-encompassing deposit of faith, like a written-down account of all we know?

I hear people like James White criticizing Tradition like it is some kind of eternal game of telephone where all of these teachings are continually handed on orally. But I see the writings of the church fathers, the teachings of the fathers as a source of Tradition.

I guess, bottom line, we have faith in the Church and what she teaches. I can’t imagine a better source for understanding what it was that Jesus taught lest Jesus himself should return or I go to heaven.

This makes a lot of sense. Thanks for posting this. Is this your personal writings, or is this from another source? Either way I’d like to explore more.

Bottom line, Tradition is necessary whether you want to admit it or not, and if you reject it then you are rejecting the true revelation of our Lord to the apostles. And really if you accept the Bible canon then you can’t say you don’t believe in at least part of Tradition.

Its good to know that the teachings of the church stem from Jesus himself and not on someone’s personal interpretations of the Book that was not meant to teach the faith in the first place.

This is from my personal writings.

But, I learned it all by ONLY studying the writings of the Popes, mostly Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II or those which the Popes authorized, such as the Catechism, and the General Directory for Catechesis. There are no other authors to explain this. None. As soon as you get away from what the Popes write, or approve, you pick up errors which mislead you entirely.

I realized something was not right when I was told that the Catechism and Church teachings came from scripture.
The Church says they are handed down in scripture and Tradition, not that they originate from both. With the new Catechism and the writings of the new evangelization I figured there would be better explanations than what I had always read and heard.

I always suspected it was this way.
Figure it out. Protestantism proves that the bible is extremely unclear. Scott Hahn says there is not a single verse of scripture upon which all protestants can agree on the interpretation.
But, the writings of the early Christians show how they all agreed on all the basics. How could they agree, if they had learned teaching from scripture? In other words, if they had learned any teaching only from scripture, then there would have to be disagreements from the beginning about that teaching. Then the Pope would have had to call councils and have discussions and studies in order to clear up the teaching. Because the Holy Spirit guides the Church infallibly only through the Pope, and those who are in union with the Pope.
But, this never happened. The Popes only had to intervene when errors arose later on. And, it was usually only one or two errors concerning that teaching. When errors arise from scriptural interpretation, there are many, many variations, such as the very numerous explanations of “this is My body” by Protestants (over 200 interpretations) who don’t know the teaching handed down in Tradition.
Therefore I figured, ever single basic teaching of the Church had to be known from the beginning. And since the scriptures concerning the Gospel was not written till later, then the teachings had to have been taught to the apostles directly, and they had to hand them down.

Tradition is primarily the Gospel Jesus taught and preached and handed down to His apostles as the Catholic faith.

…Excellent…cracking good apologetics, keep it up…*sola *scriptura, my hindquarters…

Great explanation, thanks

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