The Church


Tract: The Biblical Basis for Oral Tradition


"Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the Word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the Word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this Word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known…Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles..." (Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum)

Oral Tradition in the Old Testament:

The Protestant believes that ONLY the bible is the sole rule of faith for faith and morals. That means all his beliefs are based on the explicit testimony of the Scriptures. However, in order to substantiate his belief in 'sola scriptura', he must turn to the bible to prove this doctrine as well. He cannot rely on anything or anyone else. So the challenge is: Where does the bible teach that it alone is the Word of God? Answer: there is no Scripture in all of the bible that teaches this doctrine. This means that 'sola scriptura' is a tradition of men - a sixteenth century heresy. On the other hand, the biblical evidence is clear that the Word of God is communicated in two ways: the written and oral tradition of God. The Written Tradition in Christianity is the Holy Scriptures, while Oral Tradition is the oral teaching of the Apostles which were not consigned to writing. In fact, if we look at the New Testament itself, we find that the Apostles themselves recognized that their Jewish Oral Tradition was just as binding as their Written tradition since it comprised of one deposit of faith. Here are some example of the New Testament writers citing as received, binding, authoritative, and inspired teachings, Old Testament oral tradition:

The Scriptures do not contain the formal sufficiency of the Word of God:

And this is not all. Indeed, the tone of the NT letters suggest that they were never meant to be a complete and exhaustive discourse on the Christian Faith, but rather written to address a particular controversy in a particular church. For instance, St. Paul's letters to the Roman and Galatians deals a lot with Gentile circumcision. The books of the NT were produced and called forth by special circumstances that arose, and were therefore written to meet particular demands and emergencies. Indeed, if we were to take this idea of the bible, and the NT in particular,as the sole source of revelation, we would think that God had a big problem with circumcision given the amount of time St. Paul addresses the issue, but that is hardly an issue in today's Christian Church, is it?

Explicit Indications of Oral Tradition:

In all of these passages, there is an explicit command to hold fast to the ORAL TRADITION of the Apostles. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 explicitly distinguishes between the written tradition (the Scriptures) and oral tradition (word of mouth).

Other Proofs

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
July 1, 2002
www.catholic-legate.com