THE BIBLE and TRADITION: QUESTIONS

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Elizabeth

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:confused: This is quite long but, here goes. What am I letting myself in for?!

The Catholic faith describes the Bible as an infallible collection of infallible writings, doesn’t it? (and please correct me immediately if I got that wrong).

I also understand the significance and purpose of Tradition to some extent. I accept what I do understand totally. I think.

I understand that part of Tradition is the infallible teachings and words of the Popes through the last 2 millenia.

What concerns me is a set of remarks I heard on a Catholic radio show today that explicitly denied that the Bible carries more weight than Tradition.

I understand that there is oral tradition (not sure whether that’s abig or little ‘t’!) and it is through this that we even have the Scriptures. I know there have been time lapses before the oral became written and then we came to accept that written as infallible.

But SURELY the very fact of its God-inspired infallibility, compared with say, the writing of the non-Papal Church Fathers means it does carry more weight than Tradition. What was the point of determining the Canon otherwise? :confused:

Also, where do we get our very understanding of Jesus, His life, His teachings, His death, that Tradition springs from if not the Bible? And if other oral tradition enhances and builds on that and it becomes integral to the Faith - we believe it, fine; but without the Bible, surely we have no infallible source of Truth from the actual time of Christ on which to base our belief in Tradition in the first place? (Matthew & John having been there and Paul and his amazing - wasn’t it amazing 😃 ! -conversion).

On the radio show in question, the host taking the calls was not able to let the caller speak as it seemed a subject too highly charged for her. She on the one hand insisted that, “NO,NO,NO! :mad: The Bible is not more important than Tradition”, and yet on the other, told the caller not to base his views on only one particular writing of Thomas Aquinas who in this case she said, was “mistaken”.

Hence, such writers cannot carry the same authority as the Bible. ( I know no-one is saying that - are they?!)).Surely the only part of Tradition then which could be considered as authoritative as the Bible would be the Papal writings and (excuse my ignorance of this) whatever he says when decreed infallible by Rome.

I guess I can add to my question : a)What actually comprises Tradition then, if it is so important - and, b)do Catholics really believe Tradition is as important as the Bible?

Having said all that, I am open to genuinely constructive and heartfelt (name removed by moderator)ut about this, and I sincerely hope that I, a Catholic in the making, have not offended anyone.

Thankyou 🙂
 
Hi Elizabeth,

I will take a shot at this since I believe I was listening to the same radio show as you. Just to start out right, I was only received into the Church this last Easter. My conversion began about 5 years ago when I stumbled onto Catholic Answers on WDEO in Ann Arbor (thanks Karl, Jimmy, and Jerry 😃 ). I have listened to just about every show they have done since then, either in my car or on my computer, as well as read a lot of material such as the Catechism.

Based on my understanding of the call, I think the caller was confusing Sacred Tradition (as you said, big T) with tradition (little t) and theology. He was putting the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas on the same level as Tradition and infallible teaching by the Magisterium. Since he mingled the two, he obviously found errors in tradition and tried to use that to downplay Tradition as equal in its infalliblity to Scripture.

So, to answer your last question first:
a)What actually comprises Tradition then, if it is so important - and, b)do Catholics really believe Tradition is as important as the Bible
A) A quick summary of Sacred Tradition is probably beyond my ability to give. The following link will take you to the Catechism section at the Vatican web site: Article 2 THE TRANSMISSION OF DIVINE REVELATION. The simplest explanation I can give is that the *infallible *teaching of the Magisterium makes up Tradition. An example would be the Nicene Creed. Another would be scripture itself.

B) Yes, Tradition is as important as the Bible. It is only the infallible teaching of the Magisterium that can guarantee us that the scriptures we have are in fact the very word of God. Therefore Tradition must be as important as Scripture, for without it, we have no guarantee of the infallibility of Scripture.

It is important to note that the Magisterium is not always infallible. As I believe Karl has said, if the Pope tells you who is going to win the Super Bowl, you can probably just as well ignore the advice. The Pope is infallible when “he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals.” Similarly, the bishops are infallible when they proclaim doctrine on faith or morals, when they make that proclamation in unity with the Pope. For a longer discussion, see the tract on the CA site: Papal Infallibility (my quote above is from that).

My opinion of the call to the radio show is that the caller was trying to justify not voting based on the pro-life status of a politician by accusing the Church of moral relativism. He was trying to say that abortion was not always considered a sin, as it is not explicitly listed in scripture. The priest on the show gave him several books from scripture that are pretty explicit, so the caller switched to Aquinas, saying that he taught that the child did not have a soul until it is born, inferring that Aquinas theological discussion had the same weight as Tradition, and that it showed how the Church has changed its stance. Unfortunately for the caller, the argument doesn’t hold up. St. Thomas Aquinas was a great doctor of the Church, but not everything he wrote was infallible; he was not the pope making a definitive statement. He was a great theologian trying to reconcile everything with the knowledge they had at the time.

One other note; I’m not sure how to phrase this, but here goes. I remember listening to WDEO and hearing someone (either a CA broadcast, or maybe Scott Hahn) indicate that tradition of the infallibility of the Pope extends even back before the formation of the Church, in the sense that the head of the old testament priesthood had some measure of divine protection from teaching error when he taught from his chair. I believe he quoted scripture where Christ instructs his apostles to do what he (the head of the old testament priesthood) taught from his chair, although they should not do what he did (i.e., he taught what was right, but didn’t follow his own teaching). If someone wants to correct me on this, please do, but I really seem to remember this. If someone else could clarify this, especially with the scripture passage, that would be great (I have been trying to remember the details but have no luck).

Hope this helped. If I really messed this up, I hope someone will correct me.:eek:
 
kenmraz, you can find what your last quote from Matt. 23:2–3. “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice”.

Since this is one of their traditions, Jesus is not condemning all traditions but instructed his followers to abide by traditions that are not contrary to God’s commandments.
 
Hi Elizabeth:

I found the following book extremely helpful in explaining Sacred Tradition (with a big T):

“By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition” by Mark P. Shea

It is published by Our Sunday Visitor.

As a Protestant it helped form the basis of my journey to Catholicism because Mark Shea very systematically shows how without Sacred Tradition we wouldn’t even have the Bible. This was an important eye-opener for me. It makes the Protestant ‘Bible alone’ belief crumble at your feet.
 
kenmraz: YES! it was that same radio show and I was very frustrated that the host didn’t allow the caller to get his words out. Whatever his line of thinking he needed to be shown courtesy simply out of love for another person. He may have listened to the host’s response with more interest and sympathy if he had been treated this way.

I was also frustrated because it took the host a good few minutes to actually refute the caller’s suggestion that the Bible doesn’t speak to abortion, by quoting the fifth commandment ’ thou shalt not kill (murder)’ . If she had said this at the start it would have ended the debate before it started.

ANYWAY - having got all that off my chest ( :whew: ) I want to thank you for the detailed response to my question. It was extremely helpful…except, I am sorry, I don’t know precisely what the Magisterium is. I am new to all this. Would you explain?! Anyone?

Thankyou, thankyou kenmraz!
 
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Elizabeth:
I don’t know precisely what the Magisterium is. I am new to all this. Would you explain?! Anyone?
I’m new to all this too Elizabeth but my understanding is that the Magisterium is the “teaching authority” in the Church. You can read more about this here:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15006b.htm

Hope this helps.

Patricia
 
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kenmraz:
One other note; I’m not sure how to phrase this, but here goes. I remember listening to WDEO and hearing someone (either a CA broadcast, or maybe Scott Hahn) indicate that tradition of the infallibility of the Pope extends even back before the formation of the Church, in the sense that the head of the old testament priesthood had some measure of divine protection from teaching error when he taught from his chair. I believe he quoted scripture where Christ instructs his apostles to do what he (the head of the old testament priesthood) taught from his chair, although they should not do what he did (i.e., he taught what was right, but didn’t follow his own teaching). If someone wants to correct me on this, please do, but I really seem to remember this. If someone else could clarify this, especially with the scripture passage, that would be great (I have been trying to remember the details but have no luck).

Hope this helped. If I really messed this up, I hope someone will correct me.:eek:
Here you go

Matthew 23:1-3
*1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. *

Try to find “Moses’ seat” on Old Testament. You won’t have any luck. Cause it’s a Tradition. In fact The Pharisee is the Scripture+Tradition faction of the OT. The Sola Scripturist back then were the Saducce. Yet, whose teaching Jesus said to follow?
 
Yes, certainly Beng. I am not any longer a Sola Scripturist, as it were: I am convinced of the essential nature of Tradition, just not of its equal importance with Scripture. I am open to the leading of the Holy Spirit on this through which ever means he cares to choose.

The words which stand out for me are those of the author of Hebrews:

‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’

I have always understood this to refer to Scripture although bona fide prophecy must also be included in this.

My concerns are these, that there was some reason for determining the Canon and to set apart the writings of Scripture from all others that had built up over the centuries; so by what criteria was the Canon established?? How were the writings of Scripture to be considered different, special, each God-breathed, inspired, the ‘Word of God’ even? and not others?

Surely this in itself determines NOT that Scripture alone is vital to the church but that it is indeed supreme to all other words, including those others of Tradition?

Without Scripture what would we have? It is the heart of what we now know about Jesus, creation, David, Elijah and so on. Other writings of Tradition amplify and build on and interpret Scripture, but alone, without Scripture, they lose their meaning. The same could not be said for Scripture.

Also, can someone please answer my earlier question about the Magisterium: What is it, definitively, and when did it come into being and/or become named and recognized as such.

Thankyou. I’ll take my answers off the air. 😉
 
The Bible is a product of Catholic Tradition, not the sum of it.
The writings contained in the NT were picked out precisely because they agreed with what the Church had taught for the 350+ years and could be linked to an Apostolic source.

Scripture and Tradition go together.
Here is an entire reference section on the topic:
phorum.phatmass.com/index.php?showtopic=4531
 
Elizabeth:

I so enjoy reading the threads that you are involved in, you ask great questions.

Magisterium: The living teaching office of the Church, whose task it is to give as authentic interpretation of the word of God, whether in its written form (Sacred Scripture), or in the form of Tradition The Magisterium ensures teh Church’s fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles in matters of faith and morals. see also (85, 890,2033) of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In addition as far as Tradition tradition goes the way I keep it straight is one is from God and therefore the same as his Word as it still is his Word and the other comes from people like you and me.

God bless and I hope this helps
 
One other thing it is my understanding that it started with the decent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pencost.
 
This is good. In writing my previous post I began to become aware of how Tradition can be the word of God and develop over time so although it wouldn’t have much meaning without the foundation of Scripture, it is equal in the sense of it being the word of God. Yeehah! Something clicked.

What may be a key issue for me though is when did the infallible writings and teachings of the Pope and Bishops (is that sum of the Magisterium?) become defined as such and do they include writings from before the Canon was determined? If so, why were they not included in Scripture? Again I ask, what were the criteria for inclusion in Scripture?

KARL? APOLOGISTS? BENG? TYLER? CHRISTOPHER? DOMINVSVOBISCVM? ANYONE?
 
Is it possible that you can get a copy of “Where we got the Bible” by Henry Graham

This I think may do you a better job of answering some of your questions on scripture. I think it is a good book and very easy to read.
 
Cmom :love: and srkbdk :love: (I always have to go back to check the letters again for your username!), THANKYOU! That really helps. ‘Scripture coming out of Tradition’: No-one has put it like that for me before Cmom. Wow does that shed some light. Oh I get so excited when I realise that I can believe what Catholics believe after all!! I really think I can check this particular issue off my list in terms of credibility although the whole subject is fascinating! What courses are available that cover this?? (…in ten years when I have time!!)

Karl and colleagues, you will be watching ‘conversion’ as it happens online!!

:gopray: (See Karl, it’s not animated. Do I get a reputation point for that??!)
 
srkbdk - I will look for it immediately. Sounds perfect, thanks. 🙂
 
Understand that your questions when done the way you do it helps us all.😉
 
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Elizabeth:
so by what criteria was the Canon established?? How were the writings of Scripture to be considered different, special, each God-breathed, inspired, the ‘Word of God’ even? and not others?
Basically there are three criterias for books to be canonized:
  1. In line with orthodoxy of the faith. If there’s writing contrary to Orthodoxy then it is rejected
  2. It’s connection with the Apostles (Apostolicity). The writing would be checked for their relation/connection to the teaching of the Apostle (even if the apostles were not the one who actually wrote it. (ex: Luke who wrote the Gospel and act is not the aposle Luke. He was a physician with closed relation to Paul and also might be the student of Mark.
  3. Accepted and used through out the Church. If some writings is only accepted by a select few then it needs to be scrutinized more. The four gospel were widely used so they were easily accepted. There thousands of manuscripts, from canonized books, used by various church. Gospel of St Thomas for example only has four copies. Thus it was not accepted (aprt from it’s heretical writings.
One need to realize that during the persecution many Christian create fake books and surrender them to the ruler. This way they don’t have to give the real books.
Without Scripture what would we have? It is the heart of what we now know about Jesus, creation, David, Elijah and so on. Other writings of Tradition amplify and build on and interpret Scripture, but alone, without Scripture, they lose their meaning. The same could not be said for Scripture.
Well, the ancient church stood firm even without the complete Bible. And even the Apostle and the faithful back then wouldn’t even think of writing a Bible. Paul wouldn’t even think that his writing would be canonized.

But after the apostle died and also the many of fake books, the church felt the need to canonize books.
Also, can someone please answer my earlier question about the Magisterium: What is it, definitively, and when did it come into being and/or become named and recognized as such.
Thankyou. I’ll take my answers off the air. 😉
Magisterium is basically the teaching office.

Who are they? Well, they are the Bishops and especially one Bishop of Rome. They have the authority to teach correctly with regard to faith and moral.

Bishops, in union with Pope could teach infallibly. Pope by himself could teach infallibly.

Here’s a section of CCC. Read 84-90

more reading:
ewtn.com/library/Theology/MAGISTER.HTM
ewtn.com/faith/teachings/chura4.htm
ewtn.com/faith/teachings/papad1.htm
 
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Elizabeth:
What may be a key issue for me though is when did the infallible writings and teachings of the Pope and Bishops (is that sum of the Magisterium?) become defined as such and do they include writings from before the Canon was determined?
It become defined when Bishops in union with pope (such as in a council) define it. Or the Pope define it by himself (Unam Sanctam “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”. That is as infallible as it’s get).

Writings before the Canon will be autharitative as long as the Church makes it so. Just like The Old Testament. The church criteria will be that three I posted earlier.
 
I’m not sure that I can improve upon the answers already posted, but here is my take on tradition:

It seems to me that every Christian denomination really does believe in tradition, even when they profess sola scriptura. I know of no sect whose preaching consists solely of reading directly from the bible and nothing else. (Actually, Catholic worship comes closest in this regard, with the Liturgy of the Word.)

The minute a preacher starts speaking words not directly from the bible, he is explaining scripture, interpreting it, or expounding his theology–in other words, preaching his tradition. There is no way around this. A Baptist is not a Methodist, who is not a Calvinist. Each has its own tradition. Simply reading the bible does not make those traditions apparent. Preaching does, and one preaches from one’s own tradition.

Catholic Tradition is what we have received from the Apostles about Jesus and the good news of salvation. Its ultimate source is Jesus himself. It was taught (as he commanded) long before the scriptures of the New Testament were assembled into one canon. It was his church that gathered those writings together and approved them as being in accord with what had always been taught.

There are not two sources of revelation, but one—Jesus Christ, whose revelation of himself to mankind was made to his church through the apostles and their successors. The written portion of this revelation we call the New Testament. Catholics do believe that scripture is “materially sufficient,” but it is not organized like an encyclopedia, or written as a theology text. That’s why it must be understood in light of big-T Tradition, i.e., what Jesus taught his Apostles, and what we have therefore always believed.
 
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beng:
Try to find “Moses’ seat” on Old Testament. You won’t have any luck. Cause it’s a Tradition. In fact The Pharisee is the Scripture+Tradition faction of the OT. The Sola Scripturist back then were the Saducce. Yet, whose teaching Jesus said to follow?
Thank you for the info (and Hilario too!). I also like the insight on the fact that there is no reference in the OT.

I have found this discussion to be very interesting. When I began my journey to the Church about 5 years ago, I was searching for answers and couldn’t find anyone who would teach anything consistent. I listened to a number of Protestant radio shows and found that while they said a lot of nice sounding things, they disagreed with each other all of the time. And I couldn’t find anyone who could give me a reason for what they believed that I couldn’t punch a hole in because of the very fact that I could find any number of people with the same amount of authority who would differ on the matter.

When I began to study the Church, I saw that it did indeed extend back to the apostles, it hadn’t changed what it believes in 2000 years, and actually said they had the authority and protection from the Lord to teach without error.

Now that I understand this, I feel that if someone actually could find some irrefutable evidence that the Church did not have this authority or had changed some fundamental tenet of the faith, it would pretty much destroy my ability to believe the Gospel. Because if God didn’t protect the Church from changing the faith or teaching error, then I feel there is no way you could trust anything about it, either from the Catholic Church or any of the churches or communities that have splintered from it.

However, after 5 years of study, and finding myself humbled by all of my errors and not finding any in the Church’s teachings, I found that my faith had actually become stronger, and I no longer fear that anyone will be able to find any error or change. That is not to say that the members of the Church have not been in error (as we know they have), nor that our understanding of various teachings hasn’t grown. I expect the members (including myself) to make errors and our understanding to grow, since we are human: in our fallen nature we err, and as we grow we learn (hopefully!). Thank the Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit that protects the Church from our errors and helps us to grow in our understanding!

Well, just wanted to weigh back in, as I am finding this thread very stimulating and educational. But I tend to be long winded and I have to go to work in the morning!

God bless,

Ken
 
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