What is the "Spoken Word"?

Hello,

I’m not Catholic, but trying to know more about Catholicism. I am confused after reading that Protestants believe that the Word of God is the BIble alone, while Catholics believe that the Word of God comes in two forms: The spoken word (called the unwritten word or the Sacred Tradition) and the written word (known as Scripture or the Bible)

Where do I find the spoken word? Do they mean the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” or is this what you listen tot when you go to Mass?

I would really appreciate any advice.

Many thanks.

Justine

Hi Justine,
As Catholics we hold the Bible, Tradition, and the Magesterium to be equally important in knowing God’s teachings. The Magesterium is the pope and the bishops in communion with him, and using Tradition, they interpret the Bible.

Sacred Tradition is what was handed down from Jesus and the Apostles orally. (Notice that Jesus didn’t write down anything-- He was a preacher) Back in ancient times, they didn’t write everything down because traditions were passed down orally for centuries. The Apostles went and preached from town to town and you can be darn sure not every word they said is written down. The New Testament is really pretty short. In fact, John 21:25 even records that they did not write down everything about Jesus. But what they didn’t write down, they passed on to their disciples and so on and so on. As time went by, and they realized that Jesus wasn’t coming back immediately, more and more began to be written down. But not all the writings were included in the Bible because on of the conditions for being in the Bible was that the letter had to be written during the time of the Apostles. Who decided the conditions on what went into the New Testament—the Catholic Church.

Even the Bible records things that were orally handed down through the centuries. Here is an article that gives some examples of that and really sheds some light on Sacred Tradition.

The Church is the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Yet, despite this, non-Catholics do not trust that the Sacred Traditions passed down through the Church are authentically God’s word. God could see to it that St. Paul or St. Matthew could write down His Word without error, yet, God can’t protect the Church in the same way?

Thanks so much for taking the time to give me such a detailed reply. I read both URL’s and along with your reply all have helped me very much.

However, I’d like to make sure I’ve got it 100% right. The sacred tradition was the oral account of what Jesus said to the Apostles, but was not included in the Bible. It is found in the Magesterium -

Now, here’s my question - The Magesterium

“the divinely appointed authority in the Catholic Church consisting of the Pope and Bishops whose purpose is to teach and establish the true faith without error. The magisterium alone, according to Catholicism, has the right to interpret the word of God.”

So, does that mean if I want to know what the sacred traditional has to say about, a new Testament book like Luke, I should also go to a Catholic Priest, to ask him to tell me the sacred tradition or can I find it written down somewhere?

I’m sorry, I feel very foolish asking such a question, but I’m really trying to get to the bottom of what is the sacred tradition. I’m studying the Bible and trying to learn more about Catholicism and I think that this is important.

Thank you so much.

–Justine

Essentially, Sacred Tradition is what the apostles orally taught as they handed on Jesus’ teaching. Even the gospels were oral teachings prior to being written. And as St. John said, “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

Sacred Tradition would also include subsequent apostolic teachings under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some of those that got recorded and included in Scripture are found in Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. For example, the decision in Acts 15 not to impose the Mosaic Law on gentile converts. Jesus had not preached concerning this issue. Other situations, many of them doctrinal, arose that required decisions. They have continued to arise throughout the centuries (eg. conflicts regarding the Trinity, Jesus’ nature, moral issues, …) At the Last Supper, Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles, whom He had appointed as heads of His Church. (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-13) The Church Jesus’ established did not cease to exist with the death of the apostles, neither did it’s leadership. The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Pope and bishops when decisions concerning faith and morals are required.

Now, here’s my question - The Magesterium

“the divinely appointed authority in the Catholic Church consisting of the Pope and Bishops whose purpose is to teach and establish the true faith without error. The magisterium alone, according to Catholicism, has the right to interpret the word of God.”

Yes – that is, when there is conflict over the proper doctrinal or moral meaning of something. As an example, concerning Jesus’ incarnation, some said Jesus was only human at the time of His birth; the Second Person of the Trinity did not indwell Him until the time of His baptism in the Jordan. (And that is only one of many heresies that developed after the death of the apostles.) It is the successors of the apostles (Pope and bishops) who continue to be guided by the Holy Spirit when it is necessary to establish what the true faith is.

So, does that mean if I want to know what the sacred traditional has to say about, a new Testament book like Luke, I should also go to a Catholic Priest, to ask him to tell me the sacred tradition or can I find it written down somewhere?

Actually, the very fact that Luke is part of the New Testament tells you that the Catholic Church believes it is God’s revealed word. It was the Church who decided which books should be included in Sacred Scripture.

We do not have to go to a priest every time we want to read Scripture. As Catholics, we learn the truths our faith teaches. They are our protection against error. Again, an example. I know our Catholic teaching regarding Jesus – that at His conception there occurred a union of the divine nature and human nature in One Divine Person, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. So, whenever I am reading in Scripture, I know not to interpret a verse in a manner that would conflict with that teaching. To do so would be to fall into error.

There is a real freedom and security in reading Scripture with the protection truth offers.
For me, this psalm expresses exactly the protection our Catholic (“Zion”) doctrines provide – they are the “towers”, “ramparts”, and “citadels” that guard and protect us (“daughters of Judah”) in understanding and proclaiming God and His teaching.
Psalm 48:11-14
let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of thy judgments!
Walk about Zion, go round about her, number her towers,
consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels;
that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God for ever and ever.

I’m sorry, I feel very foolish asking such a question, but I’m really trying to get to the bottom of what is the sacred tradition. I’m studying the Bible and trying to learn more about Catholicism and I think that this is important.

Thank you so much.

–Justine

There is no need to feel foolish. All honest questions are more than welcome.

The book of John talks about the Word of God and His name is identified in Revelation 19:13 & 16. The Book of John says In the beginning was the Word (Jesus) and the Word (Jesus) was with God and the Word (Jesus) was God. The Word was made Flesh and dwelt amongst us. Jesus is the Living Word. When you get familiar with the New Testament and then go back over the Old Testament, you will see the things which Jesus accomplishes. The prophet Isaiah says of the Messiah, that He will be called Mighty God and Everlasting Father.

bibleprobe.com/365messianicprophecies.htm

Luke 24:44 - And he (Jesus) said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

Philippians 2:6-11, Colossians 1:14-20, Hebrews 1:2-3, Hebrews 2:16-18, 1 John 1:1-2, 1 Timothy 3:16, 1 John 5:6-8 (KJV), John 14:6-11, John 1:1-5, 10-14, Isaiah 9:6-7

You can do both, although finding something written down about specific parts of the Bible are rather rare. Tradition is not so much about explaining Scripture per se, but more about explaining a doctrine in light of the Scriptures. You can find this sort of thing in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in many papal encyclicals.

The spoken word is alluded to in scripture in the Gospel of John, where he states, “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; which, if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written.” It is also alluded to in 2 Thessalonians: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.”
From these statements, we can gather that not everything Jesus wanted us to learn was written in the Bible. He also passed things onto us orally as well, which were again passed down orally by the Apostles, and which were (for the most part) eventually written down by the Church Fathers.

Clamdigger, Spirit Hound, and Nita,

Thank you so much. This is the start of my journey and now my journey continues. I appreciate the explanations you have all given me. For this question, I am happy to say, “I’ve got it now.”

Thank you.

Seek and you will find. God bless:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

Hurray! God bless you! :slight_smile:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.