Skip to comments.Father John Behr on Tradition
Posted on 06/06/2013 1:35:19 PM PDT by don-o
The idea of tradition is deceptively simple. The word itself simply means handing down or that which is handed down. It is also something with which we are intimately familiar, for each one of us lives within a web of traditions that influences everything from the ways in which we celebrate family or national events to our general world-view, whether an enlightened commitment to rational inquiry or a more religious outlook. To be a Christian also means to stand within a tradition. Even those who, following the Protestant Reformation, claim that Scripture alone (sola scriptura) is the only legitimate ground for faith and theology, nevertheless stand within a tradition, inheriting certain assumptions and attitudes. Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, embrace their tradition, laying great emphasis on tradition itself as a fundamental dimension of the Christian faith and of their life in the Church.
But what is this tradition to which Orthodox Christianity lays claim? The Orthodox speak about tradition so frequently that the term tends to become rather vague. Heirs to a two thousand year old tradition, we inherit a vast treasury of riches theological, liturgical, artistic, ascetic. But this very richness creates its own difficulty, for not everything handed down is of equal importance. As St Cyprian put it, tradition without truth is but the antiquity of error. We need to know what is true, not simply what is old. Modern Orthodox theologians have rightly emphasized that tradition is not simply a mindless repetition, but a living, creative faithfulness. However, we need to be clear about exactly what it is that we must be faithful to, if we are going to be able to embody this living tradition, speaking the same word of truth to an ever-changing world.
It would be wrong to say that we have both Scripture and tradition, for tradition is not an independent source of authority. Rather, tradition is the continuity of the correct faith, Scripture understood rightly as Fr Georges Florovsky put it, which has found numerous expressions, embodying the same truth, over the last two millennia conciliar statements on doctrine and church order, iconography, liturgical practices and so on. But it would be equally mistaken to claim that Scripture is part of tradition. It is true that the Church was already in existence, granting new birth to Christians through Baptism and celebrating the Eucharist, before the texts of the New Testament were written and collected. Yet we must not lose sight of the fact that the earliest proclamation of the Gospel, upon which the Church is founded, already refers to the Scriptures: the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets, which we now call the Old Testament.
In one of the earliest statements of the Christian proclamation, the importance of this reference to the Scriptures is emphasized: I delivered [literally "traditioned"] to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-5). So significant is this reference to the Scriptures that Paul mentions it twice within a short sentence. What Paul traditions as the basis of the Christian faith is the understanding and proclamation of the crucified and exalted Christ according to the Scriptures, referring, not to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but to the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets. So important is this tradition that the reference to the Scriptures is preserved in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed which is the common inheritance of most Christians to this day: we still confess that Christ died and rose according to the [same] Scriptures.
The principle that Paul traditions is made clear by the Gospels. According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, the disciples abandoned Christ at the time of his Passion; Peter even denied knowing him. Whatever they learned from Christ or witnessed him doing was not enough to persuade them of who Christ truly is. Only in the light of Christs suffering and exaltation did they turn again to the Scriptures, under the guidance of the risen Christ, to understand finally who he is: Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures and said to them Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead (Lk 24:27, 45). As Paul says, we no longer know Christ according to the flesh (2 Cor 5:16), but according to the Spirit. The Spirit, whom Christ promised to send, leads us into the fullness of truth concerning Christ (Jn 14:25-26), so that we can confess that he is indeed the Lord (1 Cor 12:3), that is, the one spoken of in the Scriptures. The importance of Christs passion in understanding who he is, is also emphasized in the Gospel of John where, unlike the other Gospels, Christ is not abandoned at the Cross, for standing by him are his mother and the beloved disciple. Furthermore, this is the tradition which marks out the four Gospels of the New Testament from all the other writings claiming to be apostolic. Each of these Gospels proclaims the crucified and risen Christ by reference to the Scriptures, while a work such as the Gospel of Thomas, even if it contains authentic historical material, does not proclaim the passion of Christ nor does it proclaim him according to the Scriptures.
But the Gospel of Christ which we proclaim is still the Gospel of the coming one (Cf. Matt 11:3), the one who is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, where the true citizenship of Christians lies and from which they await their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting that he will change their lowly form to be like his glorious body (Phil 3:20). The tradition which the apostles have bequeathed to us, therefore, is not fixed in one text (we have four Gospels, after all, presenting the versions of the four evangelists). Rather the tradition in which we stand, as Orthodox Christians, is the contemplation of Christ according to the Scriptures, remaining true to the deposit handed over by the apostles, yet with our faces towards the future, towards the one who is still coming. The Word grows, as Acts puts it (Acts 6:7), in that as more and more people believe in it and reflect on it, the Word is embodied in an increasing variety of ways that express the fullness of that faith which has been delivered from the beginning, the same Gospel, the same Word of God Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8).
It is this quest that Christ challenges us with, when he asks Who do you say that I am? (Matt 16:15). And it is a task that cannot be avoided. Even when his friend John the Baptist was in prison, about to be executed, and sent his disciples to Christ to ask him are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another? Christ did not answer him directly. Rather he told them to tell John what they saw, that the blind could see, the lame could walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear (Mat 11.2-5). In other words, Christ himself directed John back to the Scriptures where he would be able to understand these messianic signs and know that Christ is indeed the Messiah. This contemplation of Christ according to the Scriptures, is what we do when we gather together in and as the Church, in expectancy of his return and in the confidence of his presence, for we are his body, praising God in and for Christ, in and by the Spirit, using language, images and words, drawn from the Scripture. The hymnography as well as the iconography that adorns the Church and the beauty of the liturgical rites themselves, form a matrix, a womb, in which we are born again in his image, as Christians. The tradition of contemplating Christ according to the Scriptures is a task which each of us is called to undertake, in the confidence that when he appears we shall be like him (1 Jn 3:2)
From the NAS Exhaustive Concordance:
from para and didómi
to hand over, to give or deliver over, to betray
betray (17), betrayed (10), betraying (9), betrays (3), commended (1), committed (3), deliver (6), delivered (21), delivered over (1), delivering (3), entrusted (3), entrusting (1), gave (4), gave...over (3), given...over (1), hand (6), handed (9), handed...over (1), handed down (4), handed over (4), hands (1), permits (1), put (1), putting (1), risked (1), surrender (1), taken into custody (2), turn...over (1).
In all of this there is no mention of 'delivered' being 'literally traditioned' as Father Behr states.
Does the RCC have a 2,000 year tradition that there is a Pope in Rome who is head over the entire church? Even in the days when the alleged supremacy of Peter came into vogue, not even the Bishop in Rome believed he was the only man who was the successor of Peter.
According to the Catechism, the Roman Bishop is:
882 ... the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.402 For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.403
883 The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peters successor, as its head. As such, this college has supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.404
It was this same idea of General Father or a Universal Bishop that Gregory condemned in the then Bishop of Constantinople who had taken the title Universal Bishop:
What then, dearest brother, will you say in that terrible scrutiny of the coming judgment, if you covet to be called in the world not only father, but even general father? Let, then, the bad suggestion of evil men be guarded against; let all instigation to offense be fled from. It must needs be (indeed) that offenses come; nevertheless, woe to that man by whom the offense comes Matthew 18:7. Lo, by reason of this execrable title of pride the Church is rent asunder, the hearts of all the brethren are provoked to offense. What! Has it escaped your memory how the Truth says, Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Ib. 5:6)? But it is written, Charity seeks not her own 1 Corinthians 13:4. Lo, your Fraternity arrogates to itself even what is not its own. Again it is written, In honour preferring one another Romans 12:10. And you attempt to take the honour away from all which you desire unlawfully to usurp to yourself singularly. Where, dearest brother, is that which is written, Have peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord Hebrews 12:14? Where is that which is written, Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God Matthew 5:9?
Some Catholics can read this letter and say that Gregory only condemned the title, but not the power they claim he still possessed. However, there are other instances where Gregory could have embraced his power as universal Bishop of the entire church. While at this time the idea of the Primacy of Peter was in vogue, yet this same primacy was not translated to a supremacy over the entire church. And, in fact, there wasnt just one person who held the throne of Peter; according to Gregory, it was held by one Apostolic see ruled by divine authority by THREE separate Bishops, which is that of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome. Here is the letter in full, but first I am going to quote the RCC abuse of it:
The link to the whole letter first
Now here are the Roman quotations of this letter, wherein they assert that Gregory is a champion of the Primacy of Rome. Take special note of the clever use of ellipses:
Pope Gregory I
Your most sweet holiness, [Bishop Eulogius of Alexandria], has spoken much in your letter to me about the chair of Saint Peter, prince of the apostles, saying that he himself now sits on it in the persons of his successors. And indeed I acknowledge myself to be unworthy . . . I gladly accepted all that has been said, in that he has spoken to me about Peters chair, who occupies Peters chair. And, though special honor to myself in no wise delights me . . . who can be ignorant that holy Church has been made firm in the solidity of the prince of the apostles, who derived his name from the firmness of his mind, so as to be called Peter from petra. And to him it is said by the voice of the Truth, To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven [Matt. 16:19]. And again it is said to him, And when you are converted, strengthen your brethren [Luke 22:32]. And once more, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep [John 21:17] (Letters 40 [A.D. 597]).
Who does not know that the holy Church is founded on the solidity of the Chief Apostle, whose name expressed his firmness, being called Peter from Petra (Rock)?...Though there were many Apostles, only the See of the Prince of the Apostles...received supreme authority in virtue of its very principate. (Letter to the Patriarch Eulogius of Alexandria, Ep. 7)
I provide their versions of the quotations only to highlight for you the parts they omit. And, really, there is no reason for them to omit them. The lines they remove are small sentences, and then they continue quoting right after they finish. Its quite an embarrassing display!
In this letter, Gregory is specifically attributing to the Bishops of Alexandra and Antioch the Chair of Peter and its authority that they bestowed upon him. In the first quotation, the Romans omit the sentence which says: And, though special honour to myself in no wise delights me, [they omit here] yet I greatly rejoiced because you, most holy ones, have given to yourselves what you have bestowed upon me. [They rebegin here] After telling them about the special honor that is respectively given to both parties, Gregory immediately goes into a discussion on what that special honor is... which is the authority of Peter they all enjoy:
Wherefore though there are many apostles, yet with regard to the principality itself the See of the Prince of the apostles alone has grown strong in authority, which in three places is the See of one. For he himself exalted the See in which he deigned even to rest and end the present life. He himself adorned the See to which he sent his disciple as evangelist. He himself established the See in which, though he was to leave it, he sat for seven years. Since then it is the See of one, and one See, over which by Divine authority three bishops now preside, whatever good I hear of you, this I impute to myself. If you believe anything good of me, impute this to your merits, since we are one in Him Who says, That they all may be one, as You, Father, art in me, and I in you that they also may be one in us John 17:21.
Notice how different this reads when one does not omit what the Romans omit! Gregory declares that the See of Peter is one see... but in THREE places, over which THREE Bishops preside, which is Rome, Antioch and Alexandria, the latter of which he was now writing to.
So while the Romans insist that the Primacy of Peter refers to the Bishop of Rome, Gregory applies the Primacy of Peter to ALL the major Bishops of the See. They are, in effect, ALL the Church of Peter, and possess his chair and authority.
And Gregory, of course, isnt alone in this. Theodoret references the same belief when he places the throne of Peter under the Bishop of Antioch:
Dioscorus, however, refuses to abide by these decisions; he is turning the See of the blessed Mark upside down; and these things he does though he perfectly well knows that the Antiochene (of Antioch) metropolis possesses the throne of the great Peter, who was teacher of the blessed Mark, and first and coryphæus (head of the choir) of the chorus of the apostles. Theodoret - Letter LXXXVI - To Flavianus, Bishop of Constantinople.
So while you may have particular people saying that the Roman Bishop has authority, or has the chair of Peter, yet these same accolades are given to multiple Bishops, all said to have the throne or authority of Peter. Furthermore, this authority, at best, consisted only as a place of honor, and not one that the various Christian churches across the world took as the final say on matters of doctrine or canonicity (just ask the Eastern Orthodox, the other guys who claim to be THE Holy and Apostolic Church of God on Earth).
Thus, the RCC is built upon various fictions and assumptions; superficial edifices which collapse with the least bit of inspection. This is what happens when you embrace unverifiable traditions by men, instead of the verifiable scripture handed down by the Apostles directly.
FYI: the author of the above article is Eastern Orthodox.
Oops!! Let me find something anti-EO tradition then and come back with it.
I would guess the critique is much the same. ;-)
That does not affect the point he is making.
The empty tomb did not register with the Apostles. Remember that Peter decided he would go fishing.
There's a lecture that Fr John gives wherein he speaks of the Emmaus Road event when the Risen Christ showef the disciples of Himself in the Moses, Psalms and The Prophets. And their hearts burned and their eyes were opened in the breaking of the bread.
It tells me two things, Behr is strongly biased towards tradition and because of that, he failed to rightly understand scripture in that he used a nonexistent definition of ‘deliver’ to support his bias.
In the context of which the article speaks, who would you say rightly understands scripture?
Perhaps you should just try to find the truth for a change.
Perhaps you should just try to find the truth for a change.
You forgot to remind them to stick to the Anti-Christ Pharisee Approved Luther Subset of Scripture because Christ and the Apostles were wrong about what is really His Word. (That Jesus Christ, always forgetting to mention little things like which parts of the Septuagint were not His Word.)
It's a good thing that it only took fifteen hundred years for the Holy Spirit to get back to work and have a guy who would often defecate in his hand and throw his feces at Satan he saw standing in his room for those who follow Eve rather than Jesus Christ and worship their own, Most High and Holy Self by interpreting Scripture to suit their Self.
Also be sure they know that if all else fails and they can't throw out any more Scripture, they can always apply some "Superslick CLG" to slide past anything that they just can't seem to reinterpret in a way that helps them go along to get along.
I keep forgetting to ping the original poster, sorry.
“You forgot to remind them to stick to the Anti-Christ Pharisee Approved Luther Subset of Scripture because Christ and the Apostles were wrong about what is really His Word. (That Jesus Christ, always forgetting to mention little things like which parts of the Septuagint were not His Word.)”
The LXX originally consisted only of the Books of Moses, allegedly written by the 70 translators, or so goes the legend (and it is only a legend). There’s no actual historical information on when the rest of the Old Testament was translated into Greek, by whom, under whose authority (if any), or even when, except general dates in which people think they were likely completed. The apocrypha, similarly, of those not originally written in Greek in the first place, were translated and retranslated on more than one occasion, and the Jews did not regard them as divinely inspired scripture due to the fact that they were all composed during the period when the succession of the prophets had ceased. The Septuagint also has serious translation problems, especially in regards to the Messianic prophecies. The Apostles, who were now converting the Gentiles, quoted from the Greek LXX, but hardly strictly. There’s no reason to think they thought Judith, for example, was really divine scripture and history.
“It’s a good thing that it only took fifteen hundred years for the Holy Spirit to get back to work”
Evidently your religion took 600+ years to figure out the Pope was actually the head of the church, and even longer then that to figure that they always believed in transubstantiation, Mariolotry, and so forth. As for the Gospel message, from Christ, to the Apostles, to Augustine, to Luther, to Calvin, we have a pretty good track record.
Prayer and monasticism in Orthodox tradition (Prayer and silence)
The Tradition of Midnight Mass: History
The Tradition of Midnight Mass: History
Charles Borromeo and Catholic Tradition, re: Catholic Architecture [Catholic Caucus]
Revelation, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium
Tradition and Progress Not Opposed, Pope Tells Liturgy Conference
Rome's Station Churches Revive Ancient Tradition
Antioch Tradition Adorns the Church, Says Pope
CARA Reports on Religious Life Confirm Tradition [Catholic Caucus]
Apostolic Tradition [Church Fathers contra Sola Scriptura]
"Little Lost Lambeth," What Christian Tradition, Lambeth Conference & Aldous Huxley have in common
Do you understand the three legs of the Catholic truth?
Christ took authority over Scripture away from the Jews and gave that authority to His Apostles and His Church.
Changing the subject doesn't change the fact that the Anti-Christ Pharisee Approved Luther Subset of Scripture isn't complete and isn't what Jesus Christ and the Apostles accepted, quoted from, and the Word made flesh never once even hinted wasn't His Word.
People who only accept the Anti-Christ Pharisee Approved Luther Subset of Scripture prefer a feces flinging, heretic, to Jesus Christ because they prefer their Self to Christ. Applying an extra thick coating of Superslick CLG can't help the Self Alone crowd slide past the fact that they approve of murdering infants with contraceptives and it can't help them slide past the fact that just like Luther, they only love and worship their own, Most High and Holy Self. People who love and follow Christ do NOT call Jesus Christ a liar by denying His own words and they do accept the same Scripture Christ and the Apostles accepted and quoted from.
As for attempted diversion of mentioning the Papacy, the Pope wasn't "figured out".
Jesus Christ Himself created and granted authority to the office of Pope when He said, "Thou art Kepha, and upon this Kepha I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." It's right there, crystal clear in Scripture, even in the Anti-Christ Pharisee Approved Luther Subset of Scripture those who in reality worship their own, Most High and Holy Self pretend they accept as His Word. Of course, such folks don't really accept any Scripture as His Word. They accept some Scripture after they revise or reinterpret portions to suit their own Most High and Holy Self and Self Alone.
All the Superslick CLG coated nitwits set themselves in authority over Jesus Christ Himself, the Word made flesh, by throwing out a large portion of His Word and in doing so dedicate themselves to the worship of their own, Most High and Holy Self. Such folks need to surrender to Jesus Christ rather than to their Self or they need to be ready to hear, "I never knew you" from the same Jesus Christ they call a liar every time they deny His Word by twisting it to suit their Self even when they don't outright throw it in the trash can and spit on His Word.
“Christ took authority over Scripture away from the Jews and gave that authority to His Apostles and His Church.”
So you’re saying that Jesus disagreed with the Jews and decided to make Judith, for example, part of the divinely inspired scripture which they denied?
So why does your religion today assert that Judith actually is just a work of fiction, and not the history that it asserts to be?
From the Vatican website introduction to Judith:
Any attempt to read the book directly against the backdrop of Jewish history in relation to the empires of the ancient world is bound to fail. The story was written as a pious reflection on the meaning of the yearly Passover observance. It draws its inspiration from the Exodus narrative (especially Exodus 14:31) and from the texts of Isaiah and the Psalms portraying the special intervention of God for the preservation of Jerusalem. The theme of Gods hand as the agent of this providential activity, reflected of old in the hand of Moses and now in the hand of Judith, is again exemplified at a later time in Jewish synagogue art. Gods hand reaching down from heaven appears as part of the scene at Dura-Europos (before A.D. 256) in paintings of the Exodus, of the sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22), and of Ezekiels valley of dry bones (Eze 37).
And another, also official Catholic source:
Judith is a dramatic fictional narrative... Because Judith is fiction replete with historical and geographical inaccuracies, it is difficult to date its composition. (New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Nihil Obstat: Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm., Imprimatur: Reverend William J. Kane, Vicar General, Diocese of Washington)
If even your own religion doesn’t believe that it’s divinely inspired scripture is actually true, why should I bother with it?
“Jesus Christ Himself created and granted authority to the office of Pope when He said, “Thou art Kepha, and upon this Kepha I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.””
“Kepha”? It’s Petros for Peter, and Petras for the second mention of the rock. Here is how Peter understood it:
1Pe 2:5-6 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (6) Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
We are all lively stones, built upon the chief cornerstone who is Jesus Christ (not Peter).
That’s why in Acts 15, the Apostle James presides over the “church council” instead of Peter. Pity, pity!