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Precisely what is "sacred tradition"?

annanicole
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5/31/2013 5:40:40 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
What, exactly, is "sacred tradition"? I see Catholics, Protestants, and Christians using the phrase - and I'm not sure what it is. I'm not even sure there really is such a thing - and even if there is, I'm almost positive that Catholics and Protestants define it very differently.

Here is the definition from a Catholic website: "Sacred Tradition is the oral teaching of Jesus Christ handed down to his apostles, who in turn handed it down to their disciples (the early Church Fathers), and then to the next generation, and then finally to us." - (Catholic Bible 101)

The definition presumes that Jesus Christ taught the disciples some things that were important enough to be followed, but somehow never made it into the Holy Scriptures. But ... watch how it's used:

"Well, for almost 400 years there was no written New Testament to fall back on. All of the apostles and disciples taught orally for the first 400 years."

That, of course, doesn't prove - doesn't even suggest - that the things taught by the apostles/disciples contained anything different, anything additional to what is in the Holy Scriptures. According to that line of reasoning, if I or you or anyone else simply verbalize the plan of salvation without a Bible in front of us, reading it, then we are making use of "sacred tradition", somehow.

The article continues:

"Yes, you might say, but didn't Paul, Peter, John, Luke, etc., write everything down in their epistles and gospels? Yes, they did, but none of it was widely available to geographically separated disciples and it wasn't part of 'the Bible'."

Note that this Catholic site states that "Yes", the apostles and others wrote "everything down" - it just wasn't all collected and distributed geographically yet.

My take on the use of the phrase is this: Catholics seem to me to employ the phrase with the suggestion that Jesus and later His inspired apostles taught some doctrines or commanded some things that never quite made it into the Scriptures - and the assumption is that one would have to carefully comb over the writings of the early Christians in order to glean these ideas. If so, the early Christians contradicted one another so much that it seems to me an impossible task - in realms in which the early Christians are merely stating their opinions. Here is one "count" of church father opinions on the meaning of "the rock" in Matt 16: 18 made by the French Catholic scholar, Launoy:

17 believed Peter is "the Rock"
16 believed Christ Himself (Peter's confession) is "the Rock"
8 believed the apostles to be "the Rock"

All right. Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick conducted a similar study regarding the early church"s view of Matthew 16:18. His findings are similar:

17 believed Peter is "the Rock"
8 believed all the apostles constituted "the Rock"
44 believed "the Rock" is Peter's confession
16 believed Jesus is "the Rock"

Thus, there is no "unanimous consent" of the Fathers on that passage, although the majority view seems to be that Peter's confession - the statement that "Jesus Christ is the Son of God" - is "the Rock" upon which the church is built. The archbishop counted 44 out of 85 (52%) believed "the Rock" was the confession, not the one who made it. My question is, "Is that enough to establish 'consent of the fathers' on the subject?"
Madcornishbiker: "No, I don't need a dictionary, I know how scripture uses words and that is all I need to now."
ExsurgeDomine
Posts: 176
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5/31/2013 6:02:04 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/31/2013 5:40:40 AM, annanicole wrote:
What, exactly, is "sacred tradition"? I see Catholics, Protestants, and Christians using the phrase - and I'm not sure what it is. I'm not even sure there really is such a thing - and even if there is, I'm almost positive that Catholics and Protestants define it very differently.

'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.' - Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum)

Here is the definition from a Catholic website: "Sacred Tradition is the oral teaching of Jesus Christ handed down to his apostles, who in turn handed it down to their disciples (the early Church Fathers), and then to the next generation, and then finally to us." - (Catholic Bible 101)

Close enough.

The definition presumes that Jesus Christ taught the disciples some things that were important enough to be followed, but somehow never made it into the Holy Scriptures. But ... watch how it's used:

True enough, although the Sacred Scriptures are at least materially sufficient.

"Well, for almost 400 years there was no written New Testament to fall back on. All of the apostles and disciples taught orally for the first 400 years."

That, of course, doesn't prove - doesn't even suggest - that the things taught by the apostles/disciples contained anything different, anything additional to what is in the Holy Scriptures. According to that line of reasoning, if I or you or anyone else simply verbalize the plan of salvation without a Bible in front of us, reading it, then we are making use of "sacred tradition", somehow.

This line of reasoning is somewhat confusing. In a sense, the Sacred Scriptures are Sacred Tradition, although more often than not it is used to refer specifically to those teachings which were passed on orally.

So a teaching from the Sacred Scriptures is both from the Sacred Scriptures (obviously) and from Sacred Tradition.

The article continues:

"Yes, you might say, but didn't Paul, Peter, John, Luke, etc., write everything down in their epistles and gospels? Yes, they did, but none of it was widely available to geographically separated disciples and it wasn't part of 'the Bible'."

Note that this Catholic site states that "Yes", the apostles and others wrote "everything down" - it just wasn't all collected and distributed geographically yet.

I think by 'everything', it's referring to the New Testament which it before said was not widely accessible.

My take on the use of the phrase is this: Catholics seem to me to employ the phrase with the suggestion that Jesus and later His inspired apostles taught some doctrines or commanded some things that never quite made it into the Scriptures - and the assumption is that one would have to carefully comb over the writings of the early Christians in order to glean these ideas.

I don't think you have to carefully comb over the writings of anyone to know the Sacred Tradition. The writings of the early Christians just provide witness that a particular piece of Sacred Tradition wasn't just made up on the spot, although it's true whether or not the early Christians testified to it.

If so, the early Christians contradicted one another so much that it seems to me an impossible task - in realms in which the early Christians are merely stating their opinions. Here is one "count" of church father opinions on the meaning of "the rock" in Matt 16: 18 made by the French Catholic scholar, Launoy:

17 believed Peter is "the Rock"
16 believed Christ Himself (Peter's confession) is "the Rock"
8 believed the apostles to be "the Rock"

All right. Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick conducted a similar study regarding the early church"s view of Matthew 16:18. His findings are similar:

17 believed Peter is "the Rock"
8 believed all the apostles constituted "the Rock"
44 believed "the Rock" is Peter's confession
16 believed Jesus is "the Rock"

Thus, there is no "unanimous consent" of the Fathers on that passage, although the majority view seems to be that Peter's confession - the statement that "Jesus Christ is the Son of God" - is "the Rock" upon which the church is built. The archbishop counted 44 out of 85 (52%) believed "the Rock" was the confession, not the one who made it. My question is, "Is that enough to establish 'consent of the fathers' on the subject?"

I'm afraid I can't answer that because I've never heard of the phrase 'consent of the fathers' (and so am not quite sure what it means), although I have heard of the phrase 'unanimous consent of the Fathers'.
annanicole
Posts: 19,782
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5/31/2013 6:09:57 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
"I'm afraid I can't answer that because I've never heard of the phrase 'consent of the fathers' (and so am not quite sure what it means), although I have heard of the phrase 'unanimous consent of the Fathers'."

I left out "unanimous" on the subject of "the Rock".

Is sacred tradition determined by "unanimous consent" of the fathers - or just a nice "majority consent"?

Of course, on the subject of Peter being "the Rock" on which the church was founded, the majority of the fathers say, "No, that's not true." What is, therefore, the implication when the majority of the fathers take a certain position, but we can't find unanimity?
Madcornishbiker: "No, I don't need a dictionary, I know how scripture uses words and that is all I need to now."
ExsurgeDomine
Posts: 176
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5/31/2013 6:19:14 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/31/2013 6:09:57 AM, annanicole wrote:
"I'm afraid I can't answer that because I've never heard of the phrase 'consent of the fathers' (and so am not quite sure what it means), although I have heard of the phrase 'unanimous consent of the Fathers'."

I left out "unanimous" on the subject of "the Rock".

Is sacred tradition determined by "unanimous consent" of the fathers - or just a nice "majority consent"?

If there is unanimous consent of the fathers, then it is Sacred Tradition.

I don't believe that majority consent means anything necessarily, although if the matter has not been authoritatively settled then the most probable truth is what is held to by majority. This is not always the case, as (for example) there was a time when the majority of the Church was Arian, but it is a functional rule of thumb.

Of course, on the subject of Peter being "the Rock" on which the church was founded, the majority of the fathers say, "No, that's not true." What is, therefore, the implication when the majority of the fathers take a certain position, but we can't find unanimity?

The implication is that, unless a settlement has already been reached in the interim, you can draw your own conclusions, although it is generally advisable to agree with the fathers.
annanicole
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5/31/2013 6:41:17 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
All right. What is an example of something determined by Sacred Tradition - where tradition was the determining factor or, I'll say, a very influential factor?
Madcornishbiker: "No, I don't need a dictionary, I know how scripture uses words and that is all I need to now."
ExsurgeDomine
Posts: 176
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5/31/2013 7:34:57 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/31/2013 6:41:17 AM, annanicole wrote:
All right. What is an example of something determined by Sacred Tradition - where tradition was the determining factor or, I'll say, a very influential factor?

I'd have to say one of the most prominent examples would be the Assumption of Mary.
annanicole
Posts: 19,782
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5/31/2013 7:53:07 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
... and there is unanimity among the church fathers on that subject? They all believed it?
Madcornishbiker: "No, I don't need a dictionary, I know how scripture uses words and that is all I need to now."
ExsurgeDomine
Posts: 176
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5/31/2013 7:57:15 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/31/2013 7:53:07 AM, annanicole wrote:
... and there is unanimity among the church fathers on that subject? They all believed it?

There's actually not too much writing on it, to be honest.

Do you want something to which the church fathers unanimously consented?
annanicole
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5/31/2013 8:04:39 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/31/2013 7:57:15 AM, ExsurgeDomine wrote:
At 5/31/2013 7:53:07 AM, annanicole wrote:
... and there is unanimity among the church fathers on that subject? They all believed it?

There's actually not too much writing on it, to be honest.

Do you want something to which the church fathers unanimously consented?

Well, I want something which otherwise would not have been consented to, if that makes sense. I'm looking for something that we couldn't have learned just as well from careful Bible study. As best I can tell, the Assumption of Mary is not taught in the Bible: the writings of Catholic Church do not attempt to justify it from the Bible.

The answer to your question is "Yes, modified"

I want something to which the church fathers unanimously consented, without which the doctrine would have never been "made official" or whatever.
Madcornishbiker: "No, I don't need a dictionary, I know how scripture uses words and that is all I need to now."
ExsurgeDomine
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5/31/2013 8:18:07 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/31/2013 8:04:39 AM, annanicole wrote:
Well, I want something which otherwise would not have been consented to, if that makes sense. I'm looking for something that we couldn't have learned just as well from careful Bible study. As best I can tell, the Assumption of Mary is not taught in the Bible: the writings of Catholic Church do not attempt to justify it from the Bible.

The answer to your question is "Yes, modified"

I want something to which the church fathers unanimously consented, without which the doctrine would have never been "made official" or whatever.

I haven't read everything about the church fathers, but I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that Apostolic Succession is mostly from Sacred Tradition. I'm sure if there was some father who slammed Apostolic Succession, a protestant probably would have pointed it out to me by now, so I'm going to lock in my answer.

I can't say if it wouldn't have been 'made official' without them, but I'm pretty sure the consensus was unanimous.