Oral or Sacred Tradition

Posted on March 7, 2011


Oral Tradition

Oral Tradition 

This is another bone of contention within both the Catholic and non-Catholic camps.  Oral or Sacred Tradition is the passing down of teaching and the examples of other saints. However, in the Catholic Church, tradition is passed down and understood to be embodied in the episcopacy (the Pope, priests, etc.) While I don’t think there is anything wrong with following the traditions of the 1st century Christians, after the last apostle died, much wrong teaching came into the body. For example, in the Epistle to the Trallians by Ignatius of Antioch written around 95 A.D., it says that Christians are to obey the bishop as they are to obey God! Wow. He didn’t even let John the Apostle’s grave get cold! John the apostle warned us about this: http://www.housechurchconnections.com/?p=138 The Trallians were a Thracian tribe who were a violent, mercenary people. We don’t know if the Trallian church was planted in the way of Paul or one of the other apostles, but even if  they were a hard church to handle, like the Corinthian church, the point that he said to “obey your bishop like you would obey God”, is the first step of our downward spiral into the clergy – laity divide. Now for the but. There are 3 verses (which I will post below) that seem to support tradition.

Acts 8:30-31 So Philip ran up  and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. He asked him,  “Do you understand what you’re reading?” The man   replied, “How in the world can I,  unless someone guides me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

This is obviously Phillip teaching another individual orally.

2 Peter 1:20 “no prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation”

This seems to say we can’t interpret the Bible for ourselves. The Greek says    ἰδίας ἐπιλύσεως which means “one’s own interpretation.”, but many translations say “no prophecy of scripture come from the prophet’s own interpretation.”. 1 point for Catholicism, 1 point for the opposing team. But there’s another but. The passage does not say scripture isn’t a matter of one’s own interpretation, but a prophecy of scripture isn’t a matter of one’s own interpretation. So this text is not talking about understanding scripture at all. It seems to be talking about prophecy. The verses just before 2 Peter 1:20 were speaking of the prophecies the disciples were given. Peter isn’t talking about every prophecy in the future, since the devil can and does disguise himself as an angel of light, but we are to “search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Another point for the opposing team 🙂
Catholics 1 Non-Catholics 2
Why do I use the term non-Catholics? Because the Lord has kept a remnant alive that were not necessarily Protestants. Some call them Anabaptists, Waldensians, etc. There are a host of Christians who are not cut from the same cloth as the “Protestant” churches. There were saints who were martyred when Constantine made the state religion who did not bow down to that watered down church.
This is a fictitious dialogue between Martin Luther and his Catholic prosecutors posed by Dave Armstrong:
Luther: (L)  The Catholic church is wrong about a b and c.
Catholic (C) Why do you say that?
L: because it’s unbiblical
C: Who gave you the authority to claim such a thing?
L:  My authority is the Word of God
C: We grant you sincerity, but not everyone agrees with you. Why should we believe YOU over against 1500 years of Church tradition?
L: Because the Holy Spirit has told me
C: He has told us too! So we either accept what you say as authoritative or what the Church says?
L: Yes, because you are wrong, because what I teach lines up with scripture. You disagree with me not because  of any lack of clarity in Scripture but because of your own blindness.

This can go on all day. While these words are fictional, they were modified from Against the Spiritual Estate of the Pope, July 1522 Diet of Worms

Now for some more
I praise you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 1 Corinthians 11:2

But we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined  life  and not according to the tradition they  received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6

stand firm and hold on to the traditions that we taught you, whether by speech or by letter.  2 Thessalonians 2:15
If you say these all refer to the authority of the  first disciples only, prove it biblically.Was Timothy allowed to pass down the traditions he was taught? Why can’t Ignatius or the Pope be followed but Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and Wesley can?
These are rhetorical questions posed to promote discussion. We must have a reason why we believe what we believe.
Comments? The floor is yours.