The “Bible Only” versus Holy Tradition

There are some people, well-meaning Christians, who believe and teach that all a real Christian needs or should use in their walk with Jesus, all any church needs to use as a pattern for doctrine and practice, is the Bible and the Bible only. With all due respect for the folks who think this, the Bible, all by itself, teaches something altogether different. Consider the following …

In Matthew 28:20 Jesus instructs the Apostles to teach ALL that He had commanded them. Read John 21:25. John tells us here that Jesus did lots of things that aren’t recorded, and if they were written down the whole world couldn’t hold all the books it would take to tell it all. Acts 1:3 tells us that Jesus spent forty days after His passion and death appearing to His followers and teaching them. There is no real Bible record of this period. We know it happened but we don’t know exactly what He said or did. Remember that Jesus told His flock to go to all the world and teach people ALL that He commanded them. So where did the teachings of those forty days go? Because they aren’t recorded in the Bible. In 2 Timothy 1:13 Paul says to hold on to the sound teachings that had been HEARD, not written. He says it again in 2 Timothy 2:2. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15 Paul instructs believers to stand firm and hold the teachings that they had learned, whether by WORD or letter. So some things were written while others were verbal. Again, in 2 Peter 1:21, we are told that inspired men, in the past, SPOKE as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In 2 John 12 John says that there were some things he didn’t want to write down but that he would rather share, to SPEAK, what he had to say face to face. In 3 John 13 he says the same thing.

Think about this … The Church had existed for several centuries before the New Testament was a settled matter. How did people know, how did they accept and believe before they had things written down? For the first several decades of Church history word of mouth was primary. Other than an occasional letter and the rare book all of the Christian message was via word of mouth. Remember Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Word of mouth. Speaking, hearing, handing it down. In other words, oral tradition.

Ok, someone always brings up what Jesus said about tradition. Mark 7:6-8. Here He condemns human precepts and traditions. The key here is that He condemns HUMAN traditions, the traditions of MEN that over-ride or replace God’s doctrines and precepts. He doesn’t condemn all tradition, just the wrong kind of tradition. Amongst Jews at Passover there are certain of the Psalms sung as hymns. Each year the same ones. It’s a tradition. That’s what Jesus and the Apostles did in Mark 14:26. They kept a TRADITION. But it was a good, wholesome, Godly tradition. Surely Jesus didn’t do Himself what He condemned in others? No, it’s just that there are different types or kinds of traditions just like there are false doctrines and true, fake “gospels” and the real one, true believers and ministers and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Just so there is man-made tradition that we don’t need and Holy Tradition, those things that weren’t written down but that were handed down, that we DO need.

The other scripture refered to by folks who believe in the “Bible only” is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. It says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for instructing in justice; that the man of God may be perfect, equipped for every good work.” And that’s true. But what isn’t true is making it say things it doesn’t. It doesn’t say that there isn’t any source of truth other than scripture. It doesn’t invalidate oral tradition, it doesn’t even deal with the subject of word of mouth. That’s dealt with in other places. Like the verses I refer to above. It doesn’t condemn tradition. It doesn’ say “scripture (the Bible) only”. If we take it to mean that all we need is scripture and we take this literally we’re stuck with the Old Testament only, because that’s all the Church had, other than word of mouth, when Paul wrote this. The New Testament? Used by some as their one and only source of truth and only pattern for the Church? It didn’t even exist at this point. People, Christians, did what they were TOLD.

The Gospel of Jesus isn’t about the Bible only versus Holy Tradition. It isn’t an “either” “or” kind of deal. It’s about His Truth as expressed via Holy Tradition AND the Bible AND explained by Holy Mother the Church, which Church, and not any written word or oral tradition, is described as … “the Church of the living God, the pillar and mainstay of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15. The Church is the authority set up here on earth by Jesus as the one Body that gets to explain the truth regardless its source. (For what the Bible has to say about Church authority read and compare Luke 10:16 and Matthew 18:17. There are lots of other passages, but that would be another post.)

Besides, the Word? The Truth? Those are a Living Person, not a “thing”.

P.S. Just in case someone didn’t notice, the only thing I used in this post to prove the worth and true role of tradition within the Church was the Bible. 😉

Published in: on June 2, 2012 at 7:56 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. I throughly enjoyed this..I don’t think you left any point vacant ..well said

  2. Thank you, Ginny. I just hope it makes people honestly think.

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