Tradition / Church Fathers
I. The Word of God in Oral Apostolic Tradition
'If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures, I will not believe the
Gospel; on my saying to them, It is written, they answered me, That remains to
be proved. But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His
cross, and death and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him are undefiled
monuments of antiquity…' Ignatius ofAntioch, Epistle to the Philadelphians 8,2
(c. A.D. 110).
'Follow the bishop, all of you, as Jesus Christ follows his Father, and the
presbyterium as the Apostles. As for the deacons, respect them as the Law of
God. Let no one do anything with reference to the Church without the bishop.
Only that Eucharist may be regarded as legitimate which is celebrated with the
bishop or his delegate presiding. Where the bishop is, there let the community
be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.' Ignatius of
Antioch, Epistle to the Symyrnaens 8 (c. A.D. 110).
'The apostles at that time first preached the Gospel but later by the will of
God, they delivered it to us in the Scriptures, that it might be the foundation
and pillar of our faith.' Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3,1 (inter A.D. 180/199).
'Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the
Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof
furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they
recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is
the truth, and that no lie is in Him.' Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3,5,1 (inter
"Through none others know we the disposition of our salvation, than those
through whom the gospel came to us, first heralding it, then by the will of God
delivering to us the Scriptures, which were to be the foundation and pillar of
our faith...But when, the heretics are Scriptures, as if they were wrong, and
unauthoritative, and were variable, and the truth could not be extracted from
them by those who were ignorant of Tradition...And when we challenge them in
turn what that tradition, which is from the Apostles, which is guarded by the
succession of elders in the churches, they oppose themselves to Tradition,
saying that they are wiser, not only than those elders, but even than the
Apostles. The Tradition of the Apostles, manifested 'on the contrary' in the
whole world, is open in every Church to all who see the truth...And, since it
is a long matter in a work like this to enumerate these successions, we will
confute them by pointing to the Tradition of that greatest and most ancient and
universally known Church, founded and constituted at Rome by the two most
glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, a tradition which she has had and a faith
which she proclaims to all men from those Apostles.' Irenaeus, Against Heresies
3,1-3 (inter A.D. 180/199).
'For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us their
writings? Would it not be necessary to follow the course of the tradition which
they handed down to those whom they did commit the Churches?' Irenaeus, Against
Heresies 3, 4:1 (inter A.D. 180/199).
"Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church...those
who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain
gift of truth..." Irenaeus, Against Heresies 26:2 (inter A.D. 180/199).
"In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the
apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is
most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has
been preserved in the Church from the Apostles until now, and handed in truth."
Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3,3:3 (inter A.D. 180/199).
"Then I have pointed out the truth, and shown the preaching of the Church,
which the prophets proclaimed (as I have already demonstrated), but which
Christ brought to perfection, and the apostles have handed down, from which the
Church, receiving, and throughout all the world alone preserving them in their
integrity, has transmitted them to her sons. Then also-having disposed of all
questions which the heretics propose to us, and having explained the doctrine
of the apostles, and clearly set forth many of those things which were said and
done by the Lord in parables…that they may preserve steadfast the faith which
they have received, guarded by the Church in its integrity, in order that they
be in no way perverted by those who endeavor to teach them false doctrine..." Irenaeus,
Against Heresies, Preface V (inter A.D. 180/199).
"Now all these [heretics] are of much later date than the bishops to whom the
apostles committed to the Churches; which fact I have in the third book taken
all pains to demonstrate. It follows, then, as a matter of course, that these
aforementioned, since they are blind to the truth, and deviate from the [right]
way, will walk in various roads; and therefore the footsteps of their doctrine
are scattered here and there without agreement or connection. But the path of
those belonging to the Church circumscribes the whole world, as possessing the
sure tradition of the Apostles, and gives unto us to see that the faith of all
is one and the same ...And undoubtedly the preaching of the Church is true and
steadfast, in which one and the same way of salvation is shown throughout the
whole world...For the Church preaches the truth everywhere..." Irenaeus,
Against Heresies, Preface V 20, 1 (inter A.D. 180/199).
"Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the
knowledge of the holy presbyters...It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their
doctrines, and take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to
flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the
Lord's Scriptures." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Preface V 20, 1 (inter A.D.
"Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, those
who as I have shown, possess succession from the apostles; those who, together
with the succession of bishops, have received the certain gift of truth,
according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to
hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession of the
succession, and assemble themselves...But those who cleave asunder, and
separate the unity of the Church, shall recieve from God the same punishments
as Jeroboam did." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4, 26:2 (inter A.D. 180/199).
"Heretics assent neither to Scripture nor to Tradition." Irenaeus, Against
Heresies, 3,2,1 (inter A.D. 180/199).
"We do not take our scriptural teaching from the parables but we interpret the
parables according to our teaching." Tertullian, Purity 9,1 (c. A.D. 200).
'Let them show the origins of their churches, let them unroll the list of their
bishops, through a succession coming down from the very beginning that their
first bishop had his authority and predecessor someone from among the number of
Apostles or apostolic men and, further, that he did not stray from the
Apostles. In this way the apostolic churches present their earliest records.
The church of Smyrna, for example, records that Polycarp was named by John; the
Romans, that Clement was ordained by Peter. In just the same way, the other
churches show who were made bishops by the Apostles and who transmitted the
apostolic seed to them. Let the heretics invent something like that. ' Tertullian,
The Prescription Against Heretics 32 (c. A.D. 200).
'But they, safeguarding the true tradition of the blessed teaching, which comes
straight from the Apostles Peter, James, John and Paul and transmitted from
father to son have come down to us with the help of God to deposit in us those
ancestral and apostolic seeds' Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 1,11 (c. A.D.
'For us...having grown old in the Scriptures, preserving the Apostolic and
ecclesiastical correctness of doctrine, living a life according to the Gospel,
is led by the Lord to discover the proofs from the Law and the prophets which
he seeks.' Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7,104 (c. A.D. 205).
"The Church's preaching has been handed down through an orderly succession from
the Apostles and remains in the Church until the present. That alone is to be
believed as the truth which in no way departs from ecclesiastical and apostolic
tradition." Origen, First Principles 1,2 (c. A.D. 230).
'It is not by drawing on the Holy Scriptures nor by guarding the tradition of
some holy person that the heretics have formulated these doctrines.' Hippolytus
of Rome, Refutation of All Heresies 1, Preface (c. A.D. 230).
'After all this, they yet in addition, having had a false bishop ordained for
them by heretics, dare to set sail, and to carry letters from schismatic and
profane persons to the Chair of Peter, and the principle Church, whence the
unity of the priesthood took its rise. They fail to reflect that those Romans
are the same as those who faith was publicly praised by the apostle, to whom
unbelief cannot have access" Cyprian, Letter to Pope Cornelius, Epistle 59:14
(c. A.D. 252).
'We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Council of Nicea I,
Nicene Creed, (A.D. 325). 'But in learning the Faith and in professing it,
acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and
which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures.' Cyril of
Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 5,12 (c. A.D. 347).
'Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old
Testaments, and what are the books of the New.' Cyril of Jerusalem,
Catechetical Lectures 5,33 (c. A.D. 347).
“forcing on the divine oracles a misinterpretation according to their own
private sense.” Athanasius, Orations 1,37 (c. A.D. 350).
"However here too they (the Arians) introduce their private fictions, and
contend that the Son and the Father are not in such wise 'one,' or 'like,' as
the Church preaches, but as they themselves would have it" Athanasius, Orations
3,10 (c. A.D. 350).
"If we now consider the object of that faith which we Christians hold, and using
it as a rule, apply ourselves, as the Apostle teaches to the reading of
inspired Scripture. For Christ's enemies, being ignorant of this object, have
wandered from the way of truth, and have stumbled on a stone of stumbling,
thinking otherwise than they should think." Athanasius, Orations 3,28 (c. A.D.
“Had Christ enemies thus dwelt on these thoughts, and recognized the
ecclesiastical scope and an anchor for the faith, they would not have made
shipwreck of the faith..." Athanasius, Orations 3,58 (c. A.D. 350).
"But after him (the devil) and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies,
who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints
have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because
they do not rightly know them nor their power" Athanasius, Festal Letter 2 (c.
'Scarcely, however, did they begin to speak, when they were condemned, and one
differed from another; then perceiving the straits in which their heresy lay,
they remained dumb, and by their silence confessed the disgrace which came upon
their heterodoxy. On this the Bishops, having negatived the terms they had
invented, published against them the sound and ecclesiastical faith...And what
is strange indeed, Eusebius of Caesarea in Palestine, who had denied the day
before, but afterward subscribed, sent to his Church a letter, saying that this
was the Church's faith and the Tradition of the Fathers.' Athanasius, De
Decretis 3, (c. A.D. 350).
'Are they not then committing a crime in their very thought to gainsay so great
and ecumenical a Council'? Athanasius, De Decretis 4 (c. A.D. 350).
'For, what our Fathers have delivered, this is truly doctrine; and this is truly
the token of doctors, to confess the same thing with each other, and to vary
neither from themselves nor from their Fathers...Thus the Greeks, as not
witnessing to the same doctrines, but quarreling one with another, have no
truth of teaching; but the holy and veritable heralds of truth agree together,
and do not differ...preaching the same Word harmoniously.' Athanasius, De
Decretis 4 (c. A.D. 350).
'...and it is seemingly and most irreligious when Scripture contains such
images, to form ideas concerning our Lord from others which are neither in
Scripture, nor have any religious bearing. Therefore let them tell us from what
teacher or by what tradition they derived these notions concerning the
Saviour?...But they seem to me to have a wrong understanding of this passage
also; for it has a religious and very orthodox sense, which had they
understood, they would not have blasphemed the Lord of glory.' Athanasius, De
Decretis 13 (c. A.D. 350).
'...and in dizziness about truth, are full set upon accusing the Council, let
them tell us what are the Scriptures from what they have learned , or who is
the saint by whom they have been taught...' Athanasius, De Decretis 18 (c. A.D.
'Must needs hold and intend the decisions of the Council, suitably regarding
them to signify the relation of the radiance to the light, and from thence
gaining the illustration to the truth.' Athanasius, De Decretis 20 (c. A.D.
'Of course, the holy Scriptures, divinely inspired are self-sufficient for the
proclamation of the truth. But there are also numerous works composed for this
purpose by blessed teachers. The one who reads them will understand the
interpretation of the Scriptures and will be able to gain knowledge he
desrires.' Athanasius, Gentes 1 (c. A.D. 350).
'But the sectaries, who have fallen away from the teaching of the Church, and
made shipwreck concerning the faith.' Athanasius, Gentes 6 (c. A.D. 350).
'But that the soul is made immortal is a further point in the Church’s teaching
which you must know...' Athanasius, Gentes 33 (c. A.D. 350).
'But what is also to the point, let us note that the very tradition, teaching,
and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning was preached by the
Apostles and preserved by the Fathers. On this the Church was founded; and if
anyone departs from this, he neither is, nor any longer ought to be called, a
Christian.' Athanasius, Ad Serapion 1,28 (c. A.D. 350).
"Wherefore keep yourselves all the more untainted by them, and observe the
traditions of the Fathers, and chiefly the holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,
which you have learned from the Scripture, and of which you have often been put
in mind by me." Anthony of Egypt, Vita S. Antoni 89, (c. A.D. 350).
'We are proving that this view has been transmitted from father to father, but
ye, O modern Jews and disciples of Caiaphas, how many fathers can ye assign to
your phrases? Not one of the understandings and wise; for all abhor you, but
the devil alone; none but he is your father in this apostasy, who both in the
beginning sowed you with the seed of this irreligion, and now persuades you to
slander the Ecumenical Council, for committing to writing, not your doctrines,
but that which from the beginning those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of
the Word have handed down to us. For the faith which the Council has confessed
in writing, that is the faith of the Catholic Church; to assert this, the
blessed Fathers so expressed themselves while condemning the Arian heresy...' Athanasius,
De Decretis 27 (c. A.D. 350).
"We are content with the fact that this is not the teaching of the Catholic
Church, nor did the Fathers hold this." Athanasius, Epistles 59 ( A.D. 356).
"But our faith is right, and starts from the teaching of the Apostles and
tradition of the fathers, being confirmed both by the NT and the Old." Athanasius,
Epistles 60 (A.D. 356).
'...For they dissent from each other, and , whereas they have revolted from
their Fathers, are not of one and the same mind, but float about with various
and discordant changes' Athanasius, De Synodis 13 (A.D. 359).
'For it is right and meet thus to feel, and to maintain a good conscience
toward the fathers, if we be not spurious children, but have received the
traditions from them, and the lessons of religion at their hands.' Athanasius,
De Synodis 47 (A.D. 359).
'Such then, as we confess and believe, being the sense of the Fathers...' Athanasius,
De Synodis 48 (A.D. 359).
'...but do you, remaining on the foundation of the Apostles, and holding fast
the traditions of the Fathers, pray that now at length all strife and rivalry
may cease and the futile questions of the heretics may be condemned...' Athanasius,
De Synodis 54 (A.D. 359).
'It behooves us not to withdraw from the Creed which we have received...nor to
back off from the faith which we have received from through the prophets ... or
to back-slide from the Gospels. Once laid down, it continues even to this day
through the tradition of the Fathers.' Hilary of Poitiers, Ex. Oper. Hist.
Fragment 7,3 (c. A.D. 365).
“The confession arrived at Nicea was, we say more, sufficient and enough by
itself, for the subversion of all irreligious heresy, and for the security and
furtherance of the doctrine of the Church.” Athanasius, Ad Afros 1 (c. A.D.
“But the Word of the Lord which came through the Ecumenical Synod at Nicea,
abides forever.” Athanasius, Ad Afros 2 (c. A.D. 369).
"Let us now investigate what are our common conceptions concerning the Spirit,
as well those which have been gathered by us from Holy Scripture as well those
which have been gathered concerning it as those which we have received from the
unwritten tradition of the Fathers." Basil, Holy Spirit 22 (c. A.D. 370).
"Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or enjoined which are
preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others
we have delivered to us in a mystery by the Apostles by the tradition of the
Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force." Basil,
Holy Spirit 27 (c. A.D. 370).
"The day would fail me, if I went through the mysteries of the Church which are
not in Scripture. I pass by the others, the very confession of faith, in
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, from what written document have we?" Basil, Holy
Spirit 67 (c. A.D. 370).
"While the unwritten traditions are so many and their bearing on 'the mystery
of godliness' is so important, can they refuse us a single word which has come
down to us from the Fathers;--which we found, derived from untutored custom,
abiding in unperverted churches;--a word for which contributes in no small
degree to the completeness of the force of the mystery." Basil, Holy Spirit 67
(c. A.D. 370).
"In answer to the objection that the doxology in the form 'with the Spirit' has
no written authority, we maintain that if there is not other instance of that
which is unwritten, then this must not be received. But if the great number of
our mysteries are admitted into our constitution without written authority,
then, in company with many others, let us receive this one. For I hold it
apostolic to abide by the unwritten traditions. 'I praise you,' it is said,
'that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I have delivered
them to you;' and 'Hold fast the traditions which ye have been taught whether
by word, or our Epistle.' One of these traditions is the practice which is now
before us, which they who ordained from the beginning, rooted firmly in the
churches, delivering it to their successors, and its use through long custom
advances pace by pace with time." Basil, Holy Spirit 71 (c. A.D. 370).
"...and I have not allowed my judgment concerning them to rest wholly with
myself, but have followed the decisions given about them by our Fathers." Basil,
Epistles 204,6 (c. A.D. 370).
"…considering myself bound to follow the high authority of such a man and of
those who made the rule, and with every desire on my part to win the reward
promised peacemakers, did enroll in the lists of communicants all who accepted
that creed. The fair thing would be to judge of me, not from one or two who do
not walk uprightly in the truth, but from the multitude of bishops throughout
the world, connected with me by the grace of the Lord... you may learn that we
are all of one mind and of one opinion. Whoso shuns communion with me, it
cannot escape your accuracy, cuts himself off from the whole Church." Basil,
Epistles 204,6-7 (c. A.D. 370).
'Not to accept the voice of the Fathers as being of more authority than their
opinion deserves reproof as something filled with pride!' Basil, Epistle to
Canonicas (c. A.D. 370).
'But for all the divine words, there is no need of allegory to grasp the
meaning; what is necessary is study and understanding to know the meaning of
each statement. We must have recourse to tradition, for all cannot be received
from the divine Scriptures. That is why the holy Apostles handed down certain
things in writings but others by traditions. As Paul said:" Just as I handed
them on to you."' Ephiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 61, 6 (A.D. 377).
'Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in Acts of the Apostles. And
even if it did not rest on the authority of the Scripture the consensus of the
whole world in this respect would have the force of command...' Jerome,
Dialogue Luciferians 8 (c. A.D. 379).
'And let them not flatter you themselves if they think they have Scripture
authority sinc the devil himself has quoted Scripture texts...we could all,
while preserving in the letter of Scripture, read into it some novel doctrine.'
Jerome, Dialogue Luciferians 28 (c. A.D. 379).
"It suffices for proof of our statement that we have a tradition coming down
from the Fathers, an inheritance as it were, by succession from the Apostles
through the saints who came after them." Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius 4:6
(c. A.D. 384).
"...I say, that the Church teaches this in plain language, that the
Only-begotten is essentially God, very God of the essence of the very God, how
ought one who opposes her decisions to overthrow the preconceived opinion?" Gregory
of Nyssa, Against Eunomius 4:6 (c. A.D. 384).
"They, on the other hand, who change their doctrines to this novelty, would
need the support of their arguments in abundance, if they were to bring over to
their views, not men light as dust, and unstable, but men of weight and
steadiness: but so long as their statement is advanced without being
established, and without being proved, who is so foolish ad so brutish as to
account the teaching of the evangelists and apostles, and of those who
successively shone like lights in the churches, of less force than this
undemonstrated nonsense." Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius 4:6 (c. A.D. 384).
"My sheep hear my voice, which I heard from the oracles of God, which I have
been taught by the Holy Fathers, which I have taught alike on all occasions,
not conforming myself to the opportune, and which I will never cease to teach;
in which I was born, and in which I will depart." Gregory of Nazianzus,
Orations 33,15 (c. A.D. 385).
"I desire to learn what is this fashion of innovation in things concerning the
Church. But since our faith has been proclaimed, both in writing and without
writing, here and in distant parts, in times of danger and of safety, how comes
it that some make such attempts, and that others keep silence?" Gregory of
Nazianzus, Epistles 101 (c. A.D. 385).
“But if they will not believe the doctrines of the priests, let them believe
Christ's oracles, let them believe the admonitions of angels who say, "For with
God nothing is impossible". Let them believe the Apostles Creed which the Roman
Church as always kept undefiled.” Ambrose, Letter to Sircius (c. A.D. 387).
"To be sure, although on this matter, we cannot quote a clear example taken
from the canonical Scriptures, at any rate, on this question, we are following
the true thought of Scriptures when we observe what has appeared good to the
universal Church which the authority of these same Scriptures recommends to
you." Augustine, C. Cresconius I:33 (c. A.D. 390).
'So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold to the traditions which you were
taught, whether by word, or by our epistle of ours'. Hence it is manifest, that
they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things unwritten, and in
like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us
think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition seek
no farther." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Second Thessalonians (c. A.D. 392).
"We may answer, that what is here written, was sufficient for those who would
attend, and that the sacred writers ever addressed themselves to the matter of
immediate importance, whatever it might be at that time: it was no object with
them to be writers of books: in fact, there are many things which have been
delivered by unwritten tradition. Now while all that is contained in this Book
is worthy of admiration, so is especially the way the Apostles have of coming
down to the wants of their hearers: a condescension suggested by the Spirit who
has so ordered it, that the subject on which they chiefly dwell is that
pertains to Christ as man. For so it is, that while they discourse so much
about Christ, they have spoke little concerning His Godhead: it was mostly of
the manhood that they discoursed, and of the Passion, and the Resurrection, and
the Ascension." John Chrysostom, Homilies on Acts 1,1 (c. A.D. 392).
"Not in vain did the Apostles order that remembrance should be made of the dead
in the dreadful mysteries" John Chrysostom, Homilies on Philippians 3,4 (c.
"It is obvious; the faith allows it; the Catholic Church approves; it is true."
Augustine, Sermon 117:6 (c. A.D. 397).
"If therefore, I am going to believe things I do not know about, why should I
not believe those things which are accepted by the common consent of learned
and unlearned alike and are established by most weighty authority of all
peoples?" Augustine, Letter called Fundamentals 14:18 (A.D. 397).
"For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge
of which a few spiritual men attain in this life, so as to know it, in the
scantiest measure, indeed, because they are but men, still without any
uncertainty...The consent of peoples and nations keep me in Church, so does her
authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love,
established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very
seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave it in
charge to feed his sheep, down to the present episcopate… For my part, I should
not believe the gospel except moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. So
when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me
not to believe in Manicheus, how can I but consent?" Augustine, Epistle of
Manichaeus 5,6 (A.D. 397).
"The authority of our Scriptures, strengthened by the consent of so may
nations, and confirmed by the succession of the Apostles, bishops and councils,
is against you." Augustine, Letter to Faustus 8:5 (c. A.D. 406)
"No sensible person will go contrary to reason, no Christian will contradict
the Scriptures, no lover of peace will go against the Church." Augustine,
Trinitas 4,6,10 (c. A.D. 410).
"Wherever this tradition comes from, we must believe that the Church has not
believed in vain, even though the express authority of the canonical scriptures
is not brought forward for it." Augustine, Letter 164 to Evodius of Uzalis
"Will you, then, so love your error, into which you have fallen through
adolescent overconfidence and human weakness, that you will separate yourself
from these leaders of Catholic unity and truth, from so many different parts of
the world who are in agreement among themselves on so important a question, one
in which the essence of the Christian religion involved..?" Augustine, Letter
to Juliana 1:7,34 (A.D. 416).
'When anyone asks one of these heretics who presents arguments: Where are the
proofs of your teaching that I should leave behind the world-wide and ancient
faith of the Catholic Church? He will jump in before you have finished with the
question: "It is written" He follows up immediately with thousands of texts and
examples...' Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality
of the Catholic Faith 1,26 (A.D. 434).
"Here perhaps, someone may ask: Since the canon of the Scripture is complete
and more than sufficient in itself, why is it necessary to add to it the
authority of ecclesiastical interpretation? As a matter of fact, [we must
answer] Holy Scripture, because of its depth, is not universally accepted in
one and the same sense. The same text is interpreted different by different
people, so that one may almost gain the impression that it can yield as many
different meanings as there are men. Novatian, for example, expounds a passage
in one way; Sabellius, in another; Donatus, in another. Arius, and Eunomius,
and Macedonius read it differently; so do Photinus, Apollinaris, and
Priscillian; in another way, Jovian, Pelagius, and Caelestius; finally still
another way, Nestorius. Thus, because of the great distortions caused by
various errors, it is, indeed, necessary that the trend of the interpretation
of the prophetic and apostolic writings be directed in accordance with the rule
of the ecclesiastical and Catholic meaning." Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory for
the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith 2 (A.D. 434).
'This teaching has been handed down to us not only by the Apostles and prophets
but also by those who have interpreted their writings, Ignatius, Eustathius,
Athanasius, Basil, Gregory...and other lights of the world and before them, by
the holy Fathers gathered at Nicea whose confession of faith we have kept
intact, as the inheritance from a Father, while those who dare to violate their
teachings, we call corrupt and enemies of truth.' Theodoret of Cyrus, Epistles
89 (c. A.D. 436).
'We confess that (we) hold and declare the faith given from the beginning by
the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ to the Holy Apostles, and preached by
them in the whole world; which the sacred Fathers confessed and explained, and
handed down to the holy churches, and especially (those fathers) who assembled
in the four sacred Synods, whom we follow and accept through all things and in
all things...judging as at odds with piety all things, indeed, which are not in
accord with what has been defined as right faith by the same four holy
Councils, we condemn and anathematize.' Council of Constantinople II (A.D.
'I have no private opinion, but only agree with the Catholic Church.' Maximus
the Confessor (c. A.D. 638).
'So, then in expectation of His coming we worship toward the East. But this
tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to
us by tradition is unwritten.' John Damascus, Orthodox Faith 4,12,16 (c. A.D.
'Moreover that the Apostles handed down much that was unwritten, Paul, the
Apostle of the Gentiles, tells us in these words: "Therefore, brethren, stand
fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught of us, whether by word
or epistle" And to the Corinthians he writes, "Now I praise your brethren, that
ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I have delivered them
to you.' John Damascus, Orthodox Faith 4,16 (c. A.D. 745).
'He who does not believe according to the tradition of the Catholic Church is
an unbeliever.' John Damascus, Letter to the Nestorians (c. A.D. 745).
'If anyone rejects all ecclesiastical tradition either written or not
written...let him be anathema.' Council of Nicea II, (A.D. 787).