Chapter 5 :The Holy Bible and Church Tradition

Chapter 5: The Holy Bible and Church Tradition

Printing, and even writing, was not common during the first ages of Christianity. There is no doubt that the Gospel was spread through the spoken word and not the written word. For since the ascension of Christ and the advent of the Holy Spirit, the apostles have divided themselves into groups in order to preach in different parts of the world, and this division was not recorded in the scriptures. An evidence to this is what the apostle said during their prayers for the choice of a substitute for Judas: "you, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two you have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place" (Acts 1: 24, 25).

This division might have taken place during the conversations between the Lord and the apostles in the forty days that followed the resurrection and in which He spoke to them "of things pertaining to the kingdom of God," Things which were neither recorded by writers of the Gospels nor by any of the writers of the Scriptures. At the end of his Gospel, St. John assents that what he has recorded in his Gospel about the life of the Lord in the flesh is only a specimen "And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John 21: 25).

From all the above, we deduce the importance of the oral tradition which the church has followed for many years before the first apostle had written his Gospel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to meet the need of the church.

Christianity had spread, reaching to most of the parts of the world known at that time. By that time, the apostles, through the work of the Spirit, felt the need of the believers for recording particular matters. Therefore, they wrote their Holy Books under the leadership of the Spirit:

St, Matthew wrote for the Jews in order to leave them on instructional record that would explain to them that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.

St, Mark wrote for the Romans (men of war) a precise record through which they would be introduced to Christ, the minister and strong redeemer of the whole humanity.

St. Luke wrote for the Greeks (men of thought) in order to introduce to them Christ, the son of man and the one who saves man from affliction.

St, John wrote for the world at large after finding out that there were some heresies concerning the divinity of Christ, such as Docetism that regarded Christ's body as phantasmal, and Gnosticism according to which salvation is possible through intellectual knowledge. Thus he wrote mainly on the divinity of Christ through carefully chosen speeches and miracles.

St. Paul wrote to each Church for a distinct motive: Some churches had problems, such as the Church of Corinth (the adulterer - faction - eating from things offered to idols - spiritual gifts - the resurrection) , and the Church of Colossi where the heresy of angel - worship was found.

He wrote to the Hebrews as he sensed their regret for having left the perishing Jewish glories, and to the Romans and Galatians to explain to them and to others throughout history why Christ has incarnated, saved us and made us righteous by faith working through love. He also wrote periodical letters to the Ephesians, and pastoral letters to Timothy... and so on.

Almost the same motives were behind writing the other Epistles: explaining important Incarnation issues such as "Incaination" in the Epistles of St. John, "Hope" in the First Epistle of St. Peter, the "Second Coming" in the Second Epistle of St. Peter and the Epistle of St. Jude, and the importance of works in the Epistle of St. James.

Thus, the different Books of the Bible started to come to a whole while the Church went on with its burning preaching movement that knew no rest but rather spread horizontally so as to envelop the whole world and vertically so as to deepen the consecration of the souls and to release spiritual gifts.

While the Church was diligently striving to serve her savior, the Devil did not leave her alone as he incited external powers against her, such as Judaism and paganism; and internal powers such as the heretics. All those tried to interpolate within the Holy Scriptures books that would serve their destructive ends, but in vain. For the One Church that is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit watches over the purity of the teachings that were once handed over to her by the saints. Thus, the Church staked to assemble and to separate the lean from the fat (during the second century) so as to hand us over, within the Span of a few years, the accurate books that were inspired by God and to warn us from the forged books even if some of the latter contain some correct information and even if no harm was meant by them. Councils were held and the accurate lists were issued, and thus, the Bible was handed to us free from all forgery.

However, doesn't this imply that the written Bible is part of the Church tradition? Certainly yes, as the church and the fathers handed it over to us together with pure interpretation and traditions that they have received orally from the apostles.

This is clear in the following quotations from the Bible:

"And the rest I will set in order when I come" (in the original Greek text, "set in order" means "ritualize" (2 Corinthians 11: 34).

"I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you in pen and ink, but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. (3 John 13,14).

"Therefore, brethren stand fast and hold the traditions which you were thought, whether by word or our epistle". (2 Thessalonians 2: 15).

"Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me... And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (1 Timothy 1: 13,2: 2).

"We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth" (Acts 15: 27).

Moreover, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has explained that He will not record everything for us when He said:

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth". (John 16: 12,13.).

Thus, the Church Tradition handed over to us by the apostles is divided into two parts: written and oral. The fathers have used one term to denote both parts:



Doctrinal Sum total.

Moreover, some of the written Books of the Holy Bible - which is the written tradition inspired by the Holy Spirit - testify to other books which are not included in the Scriptures.

For example, there is a reference to the Book of Jasher in Joshua 10: 13.

Besides, a lot of the events mentioned in the Bible cannot be understood except in the light of the oral tradition. For example:

St. Paul mentions Jannes’s and Jambres's resistance of Moses (2 Timothy 3: 8) , whereas this story is not mentioned in the Old Testament.

Er och's prophecy is mentioned in Jude 14.

From all the above we conclude the following facts:

The recorded tradition in The Bible does not render dispensable the oral tradition handed to us by the apostles who have themselves handed over The Bible to us.

The two parts of the tradition (written and oral) testify to and support each other.

The Church teaching should not be derived from The Bible exclusively, as the oral tradition should be added to it.

Leave a Comment

Table Of Contents
Table Of Contents