Why Does the Church Have Tradition?

One thing that’s very counter sola scriptura or “scripture alone” is the Catholic Church’s belief in Sacred Tradition or Tradition as a source of authority along with Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium. I might add, for further reading on what the Catholic Church teaches in-depth about Tradition, Scripture, and Magisterium read the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 74-100 on Transmission of Divine Revelation.

Contrary to what we consider as “tradition”, Tradition isn’t what the majority believe about something. Also, Tradition definitely has nothing to do with telling fanciful stories about what may have happened. According to the Catechism, “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 (CCC, 81).”

With that said, Tradition, capital “T”, is different from tradition, lower case “t”. For instance, traditions, with a small “t” consist of things such as using holy water upon entering and exiting the church or certain prayers over the history of the Church. These practices aren’t divinely revealed.

The basis for Tradition is birthed from Jesus Christ. He gave the command to his Apostles to teach new disciples to obey everything that he commanded them, this would indicate that there had to be a lot of oral teaching involved. Considering that illiteracy was widespread in antiquity, the transmission of his deeds, parables, teachings, and miracles had to be handed down orally. Because Jesus Christ promised that he would be with them until the end of the age by the Holy Spirit (Mat 28:20) which would teach them everything and recall Christ’s words (John 14:26), the Apostles would be guided error-free to hand down authentically the deposit of faith. Since Catholics believe in apostolic succession, the Apostles handed down authentic error-free teachings to successors, the bishops, to continue the longevity of the mission of the Church.

When looking further at Tradition, it becomes obvious that a chief recipient had to be St.Paul. He wasn’t one of the twelve, so he started his apostolic work later. How was he to catch up on lost times?

Tradition of course!

Thus, we read verses from his epistles on the importance of Tradition. In regards to the resurrection, Paul says, “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I, in turn, had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3 NRSV). Paul even repeats what scholars believe to be something like a common hymn or doxology of the early church in Colossians 1:15-20. Paul further includes a commonly handed down creedal statement about Jesus Christ’s example of humility in Philippians 2:6-11. Just as Paul received oral Tradition, he encourages others to accept both his epistles and oral teaching authoritatively when he says, “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter (2 Thes. 2:15 NRSV).

A big misconception about Tradition is that some see it as superseding Sacred Scripture which is false. Tradition and Sacred Scripture are both intertwined and originate from the same source, God (CCC, 80).

But still..why Tradition?

1. The Bible wasn’t completed to have a Church governed by a complete canon.

2. If there was a Bible available, many couldn’t read it.

3. The Gospels tell us at least two times (John 20:30-31; 21:25) about the vast amounts of information not recorded that Jesus did.

4. How else were these things not recorded going to be spread?

5. Quite sure paper was expensive to obtain.

6. Christ intended his teachings to be spread orally.

7. He sent the Apostles out as he entered the world, preaching and teaching (both oral things)

8. The Apostles didn’t intend on seeing Christianity die when they died, so they transmitted the deposit of faith to be handed down.

9. People back then had stronger memorization skills.

10. The telephone game as we know it today wouldn’t have worked with Christianity because people would’ve most likely caught suspicious doctrine quickly.

11. Tradition helps us understand the Bible better.

Follow me on Twitter @Menny_Thoughts

4 comments

  1. So good. And so true. And really funny to remember back to a time where I thought this Tradition was somehow a bad thing. G-d is so good to protect and preserve His truth in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

    I just read this yesterday in “The World’s First Love” by Bishops Fulton Sheen:

    “The Church has a memory of over nineteen hundred years, and this memory is called tradition.”

    “Men did not believe in the crucifixion because the Gospels said there was a crucifixion; they wrote down the story of the crucifixion, because they already believed in it. The Church did not come to believe in the Virgin Birth because the Gospels tell us there is a Virgin Birth; it was because the loving word of God in His Mystical Body already believed it that they set it down in the Gospels.”

    Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an amazing quote from Fulton Sheen. Man, seems like in the last 5 days, many of my followers been communicating about Fulton Sheen. I need to watch more of his lectures on YouTube. But your quote is dead on about Tradition. I love that quote so much because it gets to the heart of Tradition. So thankful to have the intertwined closeness of the Magisterium, Tradition, and Scripture.

      Thanks for blessing me with your insight

      PS Im about to go to a local bookstore to look for Les Miserables

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! You should read “Life of Christ” too. The way he writes is unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

        Yes, that three-fold manifestation of Truth we have is such a gift from G-d.

        Yeah Les Mis! Let me know how you like it!

        Liked by 1 person

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