Skip to comments.Early Church Fathers on (Oral) Tradition - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
Posted on 01/28/2007 5:25:46 AM PST by NYer
The Early Church Fathers recognized Oral Tradition (as taught by the Church) as being equally authoritative as written Tradition (Scripture) because they both came from the same God through the same Church.
Whenever anyone came my way, who had been a follower of my seniors, I would ask for the accounts of our seniors: What did Andrew or Peter say? Or Phillip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any of the Lords disciples? I also asked: What did Aristion and John the Presbyter, disciples of the Lord say. For, as I see it, it is not so much from books as from the living and permanent voice that I must draw profit (The Sayings of the Lord [between A.D. 115 and 140] as recorded by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3:39 [A.D. 325]).
For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it. The Universal [Catholic] Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the Apostles (Against Heresies 2:9 [A.D. 189]).
True knowledge is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither addition nor curtailment [in truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the Word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy (ibid. 4:33 [A.D. 189]).
For wherever both the true Christian rule and faith shall be shown to be, there will be the true Scriptures, and the true expositions, of all the true Christian traditions (The Prescription of Heretics 19 [A.D. 200]).
Seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the Apostles, and remaining in the churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition (On First Principles Bk. 1 Preface 2 [circa A.D. 225]).
While [Ignatius of Antioch] was making the journey through Asia under the strictest military guard, he strengthened the diocese in each city where he stayed by spoken sermons and exhortations, and he especially exhorted them above all to be on their guard against the heresies which then for the first time were prevalent and he urged them to hold fast to the tradition of the Apostles to which he thought it necessary, for securities sake, to give form by written testimony (Ecclesiastical History, 3:36 [A.D. 325]).
Without prefixing Consulate, month, and day, [the Fathers] wrote concerning Easter, "It seemed good as follows," for it did then seem good that there should be a general compliance; but about the faith they wrote not, "It seemed good" but, "Thus believes the Catholic Church"; and thereupon they confessed how they believed, in order to show that their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolic; and what they wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught by the Apostles (Letter on the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia [A.D. 359]).
Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in mystery" by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will contradict; - no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in these matters (On the Holy Spirit 27 [A.D. 375]).
Dont you know that the laying on of hands after baptism and then the invocation of the Holy Sirit is a custom of the Churches? Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a command. For many other observances of the Churches, which are do to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law (The Dialogue Against the Luciferians 8 [A.D. 382]).
"So then brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther (Homilies on Second Thessalonians [circa A.D. 400]).
Vincent of Lerins
I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief n two ways: first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church (Commonitory 2 [A.D. 434])
I have ever kept the faith of the Apostles undefiled
So have I learnt not only from the Apostles and the Prophets but also from the interpreters of their writings, Ignatius, Eustathius, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, John, and the rest of the lights of the world; and before these from the holy Fathers in council at Nicaea, whose confession of the faith I preserve in its integrity, like an ancestral inheritance [styling corrupt and enemies of the truth all who dare to transgress its decrees] (Letters no. 89 [circa A.D. 443]).
In keeping with guidelines posted by the Religion Moderator, we are posting this thread (and future ones) a series on the Early Church Fathers, as a Catholic/Orthodox Caucus. Protestants are welcome to post comments but restraint from attacks, would be appreciated. This thread is posted to inform, support and defend the historic orgins of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
Mark 13:31 - heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus' Word will not pass away. But Jesus never says anything about His Word being entirely committed to a book. Also, it took 400 years to compile the Bible, and another 1,000 years to invent the printing press. How was the Word of God communicated? Orally, by the bishops of the Church, with the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit.
Mark 16:15 - Jesus commands the apostles to preach the Gospel to every creature. But Jesus did not want this preaching to stop after the apostles died, and yet the Bible was not compiled until four centuries later. The word of God was transferred orally.
Mark 3:14; 16:15 - Jesus commands the apostles to preach (not write) the gospel to the world. Jesus gives no commandment to the apostles to write, and gives them no indication that the oral apostolic word he commanded them to communicate would later die in the fourth century. If Jesus wanted Christianity to be limited to a book (which would be finalized four centuries later), wouldn't He have said a word about it?
Luke 10:16 - He who hears you (not "who reads your writings"), hears me. The oral word passes from Jesus to the apostles to their successors by the gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit. This succession has been preserved in the Holy Catholic Church.
Luke 24:47 - Jesus explains that repentance and forgiveness of sins must be preached (not written) in Christ's name to all nations. For Protestants to argue that the word of God is now limited to a book (subject to thousands of different interpretations) is to not only ignore Scripture, but introduce a radical theory about how God spreads His word which would have been unbelievable to the people at the time of Jesus.
Acts 2:3-4 - the Holy Spirit came to the apostles in the form of "tongues" of fire so that they would "speak" (not just write) the Word.
Acts 15:27 - Judas and Silas, successors to the apostles, were sent to bring God's infallible Word by "word of mouth."
Rom. 10:8 - the Word is near you, on your lips and in your heart, which is the word of faith which is preached (not just written).
Rom. 10:17 - faith comes by what is "heard" (not just read) which is the Word that is "preached" (not read). This word comes from the oral tradition of the apostles. Those in countries where the Scriptures are not available can still come to faith in Jesus Christ.
1 Cor. 15:1,11 - faith comes from what is "preached" (not read). For non-Catholics to argue that oral tradition once existed but exists no longer, they must prove this from Scripture. But no where does Scripture say oral tradition died with the apostles. To the contrary, Scripture says the oral word abides forever.
Gal. 1:11-12 - the Gospel which is "preached" (not read) to me is not a man's Gospel, but the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Eph. 1:13 - hearing (not reading) the Word of truth is the gospel of our salvation. This is the living word in the Church's living tradition.
Col. 1:5 - of this you have "heard" (not read) before in the word of truth, the Gospel which has come to you.
1 Thess. 2:13 - the Word of God is what you have "heard" (not read). The orally communicated word of God lasts forever, and this word is preserved within the Church by the Holy Spirit.
2 Tim. 1:13 - oral communications are protected by the Spirit. They abide forever. Oral authority does not die with the apostles.
2 Tim. 4:2,6-7 - Paul, at the end of his life, charges Timothy to preach (not write) the Word. Oral teaching does not die with Paul.
Titus 1:3 - God's word is manifested "through preaching" (not writing). This "preaching" is the tradition that comes from the apostles.
1 Peter 1:25 - the Word of the Lord abides forever and that Word is the good news that was "preached" (not read) to you. Because the Word is preached by the apostles and it lasts forever, it must be preserved by the apostles' successors, or this could not be possible. Also, because the oral word abides forever, oral apostolic tradition could not have died in the fourth century with all teachings being committed to Scripture.
2 Peter 1:12, 15 - Peter says that he will leave a "means to recall these things in mind." But since this was his last canonical epistle, this "means to recall" must therefore be the apostolic tradition and teaching authority of his office that he left behind.
2 John 1:12; 3 John 13 - John prefers to speak and not to write. Throughout history, the Word of God was always transferred orally and Jesus did not change this. To do so would have been a radical departure from the Judaic tradition.
Deut. 31:9-12 - Moses had the law read only every seven years. Was the word of God absent during the seven year interval? Of course not. The Word of God has always been given orally by God's appointed ones, and was never limited to Scripture.
Isa. 40:8 - the grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God (not necessarily written) will stand forever.
Isa. 59:21 - Isaiah prophesies the promise of a living voice to hand on the Word of God to generations by mouth, not by a book. This is either a false prophecy, or it has been fulfilled by the Catholic Church.
Joel 1:3 - tell your children of the Word of the Lord, and they tell their children, and their children tell another generation.
Mal. 2:7 - the lips of a priest guard knowledge, and we should seek instruction from his mouth. Protestants want to argue all oral tradition was committed to Scripture? But no where does Scripture say this.
Some more by Irenaeus:
"As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the tradition is one and the same" (Against Heresies 1:10:2 [A.D. 189]).
"That is why it is surely necessary to avoid them [heretics], while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth. . . . What if the apostles had not in fact left writings to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the churches?" (ibid., 3:4:1).
"It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors to our own timesmen who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about.
"But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles.
"With this church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agreethat is, all the faithful in the whole worldand it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition" (ibid., 3:3:12).
Orthodox ping. As NYer has said, this caucus is designed for discussion among Orthodox and Latins on subjects which are particularly important to us without the necessity of dealing with the controversies we see on other open threads. As such we should avoid involvement of other ecclesial groups by attacking their beliefs. This is not to say that we cannot comment "vigorously" about each others' (Orthodox & Latin) positions. There are a number of you on the Orthodox ping list who are neither Orthodox nor Latin. As NYer has said, you are very welcome to participate. If, on the other hand, any of you on the Orthodox ping list do not want to be pinged, let me know by a private message and I will redo the list and create a new one for this purpose.
A number of us who have been around awhile are quite excited about the prospects for this new caucus. The development of common positions here on FR and of course far more importantly, the discussions among our hierarchs and the developing relationship between Rome and the largest Orthodox Church, Moscow, give us a lot to talk about.
Good news ping!
That is exactly the opposite position of Tradition. Tradition is not Scriptural and yet is no less authentic as it derives from the Apostles and is a part of the Deposit of Faith. V's wife
Apparently you missed the title of this thread. This is a closed thread. Protestants were invited if they avoided attacks. Your post is an attack.
Yes I agree that it will be very beneficial. Having spent years absorbing the beauty and richness of the Eastern Liturgy , it always gave me pain when my fellow RCs seemed so ignorant of the Eastern Church. JP11 said that we need both lung east and west.
The Fathers of the Church will provide those who are struggling to understand scripture the lens to understand the truth. Always refer to the Fathers to get a grasp on doctrinal matters.
When one is posting on a "Caucus" thread, he is in the other guy's church and must behave accordingly.
Which Eastern liturgy do you attend? I'm RC but practicing my faith in a Maronite (Eastern) Catholic Church. It has become an opportunity to educate my fellow RCs in the rich beauty and deep reverence ot the Maronite DL.
I was attending a Ruthenian Byzantine Parish in Portland, Or. I had heard from them that they felt persecuted by other Catholics and I found that difficult to believe until I would invite RCs to attend. I had better luck by far having Protestants to accept the invitation than my fellow Catholics. I never did understand the resistance and still do not. Eventually I found it difficult to have a foot in each Rite even though I think that my heart remains in the East. My family were too Irish to make the switch. I still sing the Liturgy during my Holy Hour. Good luck with the battle. There is a Maronite parish here in Portland but I have not mad it over there.
"The Fathers of the Church will provide those who are struggling to understand scripture the lens to understand the truth. Always refer to the Fathers to get a grasp on doctrinal matters."
Indeed they will. Their writings are among the great treasures of The Church. In the consensus patrum, they provide us not only with an understanding of scripture, but also of our ecclesiology and the origins and understanding of the proclaimations of the Ecumenical Councils (as well as many local councils too, for that matter). More than these advantages, they also provide us with a clear view of the phronema of the early Church, a phronema shared in both the East and the West and as time goes on, the gradual, generally very gradual, development in the West of a different phronema from that in the East. Vicomte13 a year or more ago posted several detailed comments on his historical view of what happened which I think were quite good. Certainly language played a major role by the time Blessed Augustine came along. His Greek was, to put it kindly, limited and thus he didn't have access to the writings of the earlier Greek Fathers when he contested with the Donatists and the Pelagians. The East sat by and said nothing because they didn't read Latin; in fact, +Augustine's works weren't widely translated into Greek until after the Great Schism!
We often think that it was the East which was under the greatest assault by heresy and as compared to the West, it was, but the West had its own heresy problems to deal with. The whole filioque issue arose because The Church in Spain felt compelled to deal with Visigothic Arians who pointed to the Creed as established by the Nicene Council as a justification for their heresy so at a local council they changed the Creed...a big mistake on any of a number of levels, not merely ecclesiological. On the other hand, in Orthodoxy we speak with undying gratitude of the "Orthodoxy" of the Church of Rome in regard to Arianism, Nestorianism, Iconoclasm and any of a number of other heresies which arose in the East and were embraced by one or more of the Eastern Patriarchs and from which a firm and Orthodox Church of Rome preserved us.
From my very personal point of view, it is a great shame that the Church of Rome came to see itself not as the primus inter pares as established by the Ecumenical Councils, but rather as a monarch with "immediate universal jurisdiction" with the power to, on its own, determine what the doctrines and dogmas of the one holy catholic and apostolic church were. This in great measure lead to the Great Schism, after which, holding local councils which purported to speak for the entire Church, we Orthodox believe, it fell into error with the Protestant revolution being the result, something which never happened in the East.
Now we see in +BXVI a pope who speaks the language of Orthodoxy...patristic and the Orthodox East is listening, listening closer than the Latin West I sometimes believe. The East and the West today have an advantages prior generations didn't have. We all have almost instantaneous access to the Fathers, our common heritage, in our native languages. In them we can see The Church as it once really was, filled with contention but ultimately united. We read and some of us pray our ancient liturgies which from Ireland in the West to India in the East are almost identical and recognize our common Eucharistic Faith, the very Eucharistic Faith which +Ignatius of Antioch wrote of within 100 years of the Mystical Supper. What we are seeing is a vision of what The Church might well look like reunited, Liturgical, Patristic, Eucharistic and Concilliar.
I would add that we also have an interest in unity that is more than abstract. The Latin Church is under relentless attack from several quarters and needs the Orthodox witness in order to point to its historical apostolic roots. It also needs to regain its own orthodoxy after the reform of the Vatican II put some segments of the Latin Church off balance. The Catholic West needs to drink from the well of Orthodoxy for its own good, now more than ever. At the same time the Orthodox Church can expect a surge thanks to the liberation of the former Soviet Union and Western converts from certain failing Protestant communities of faith. This surge will put the Orthodox in an unprecedented for them level of contact with the Reformed mindset, and the Catholic experience in that regard will be helpful.
More broadly, as the Orthodox Church penetrates the secularized neopagan West, it will have to form political alliances with all confessions that stand in defense of traditional morality and for freedom of religion. Conservative Evangelicals will naturally be a part of that movement. Here again, the Catholic experience of dialogue and coexistence with the Protestantism will be of value to the Orthodox.
I guess I misunderstood...Protestants were invited to the thread...Surely no one expects many Protestants to agree with the Catholic position...
I was trying hard not to attack anyone or any religion...Just pointing out the opposing bible view since it was the authority of the written word that was being attacked...
Sorry for the intrusion...