I. The Word of God is Transferred Orally
Mark 13:31 – heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus’ Word will not pass away. But Jesus never says anything about His Word being entirely committed to a book. Also, it took 400 years to compile the Bible, and another 1,000 years to invent the printing press. How was the Word of God communicated? Orally, by the bishops of the Church, with the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit.
Mark 16:15 – Jesus commands the apostles to preach the Gospel to every creature. But Jesus did not want this preaching to stop after the apostles died, and yet the Bible was not compiled until four centuries later. The word of God was transferred orally.
Mark 3:14; 16:15 – Jesus commands the apostles to preach (not write) the gospel to the world. Jesus gives no commandment to the apostles to write, and gives them no indication that the oral apostolic word he commanded them to communicate would later die in the fourth century. If Jesus wanted Christianity to be limited to a book (which would be finalized four centuries later), wouldn’t He have said a word about it?
Luke 10:16 – He who hears you (not “who reads your writings”), hears me. The oral word passes from Jesus to the apostles to their successors by the gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit. This succession has been preserved in the Holy Catholic Church.
Luke 24:47 – Jesus explains that repentance and forgiveness of sins must be preached (not written) in Christ’s name to all nations. For Protestants to argue that the word of God is now limited to a book (subject to thousands of different interpretations) is to not only ignore Scripture, but introduce a radical theory about how God spreads His word which would have been unbelievable to the people at the time of Jesus.
Acts 2:3-4 – the Holy Spirit came to the apostles in the form of “tongues” of fire so that they would “speak” (not just write) the Word.
Acts 15:27 – Judas and Silas, successors to the apostles, were sent to bring God’s infallible Word by “word of mouth.”
Rom. 10:8 – the Word is near you, on your lips and in your heart, which is the word of faith which is preached (not just written).
Rom. 10:17 – faith comes by what is “heard” (not just read) which is the Word that is “preached” (not read). This word comes from the oral tradition of the apostles. Those in countries where the Scriptures are not available can still come to faith in Jesus Christ.
1 Cor. 15:1,11 – faith comes from what is “preached” (not read). For non-Catholics to argue that oral tradition once existed but exists no longer, they must prove this from Scripture. But no where does Scripture say oral tradition died with the apostles. To the contrary, Scripture says the oral word abides forever.
Gal. 1:11-12 – the Gospel which is “preached” (not read) to me is not a man’s Gospel, but the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Eph. 1:13 – hearing (not reading) the Word of truth is the gospel of our salvation. This is the living word in the Church’s living tradition.
Col. 1:5 – of this you have “heard” (not read) before in the word of truth, the Gospel which has come to you.
1 Thess. 2:13 – the Word of God is what you have “heard” (not read). The orally communicated word of God lasts forever, and this word is preserved within the Church by the Holy Spirit.
2 Tim. 1:13 – oral communications are protected by the Spirit. They abide forever. Oral authority does not die with the apostles.
2 Tim. 4:2,6-7 – Paul, at the end of his life, charges Timothy to preach (not write) the Word. Oral teaching does not die with Paul.
Titus 1:3 – God’s word is manifested “through preaching” (not writing). This “preaching” is the tradition that comes from the apostles.
1 Peter 1:25 – the Word of the Lord abides forever and that Word is the good news that was “preached” (not read) to you. Because the Word is preached by the apostles and it lasts forever, it must be preserved by the apostles’ successors, or this could not be possible. Also, because the oral word abides forever, oral apostolic tradition could not have died in the fourth century with all teachings being committed to Scripture.
2 Peter 1:12, 15 – Peter says that he will leave a “means to recall these things in mind.” But since this was his last canonical epistle, this “means to recall” must therefore be the apostolic tradition and teaching authority of his office that he left behind.
2 John 1:12; 3 John 13 – John prefers to speak and not to write. Throughout history, the Word of God was always transferred orally and Jesus did not change this. To do so would have been a radical departure from the Judaic tradition.
Deut. 31:9-12 – Moses had the law read only every seven years. Was the word of God absent during the seven year interval? Of course not. The Word of God has always been given orally by God’s appointed ones, and was never limited to Scripture.
Isa. 40:8 – the grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God (not necessarily written) will stand forever.
Isa. 59:21 – Isaiah prophesies the promise of a living voice to hand on the Word of God to generations by mouth, not by a book. This is either a false prophecy, or it has been fulfilled by the Catholic Church.
Joel 1:3 – tell your children of the Word of the Lord, and they tell their children, and their children tell another generation.
Mal. 2:7 – the lips of a priest guard knowledge, and we should seek instruction from his mouth. Protestants want to argue all oral tradition was committed to Scripture? But no where does Scripture say this.
II. Learning through Oral Apostolic Tradition
Matt. 15:3 – Jesus condemns human traditions that void God’s word. Some Protestants use this verse to condemn all tradition. But this verse has nothing to do with the tradition we must obey that was handed down to us from the apostles. (Here, the Pharisees, in their human tradition, gave goods to the temple to avoid taking care of their parents, and this voids God’s law of honoring one’s father and mother.)
Mark 7:9 – this is the same as Matt. 15:3 – there is a distinction between human tradition (that we should reject) and apostolic tradition (that we must accept).
Gal. 1:14; Col. 2:22 – Paul also writes about “the traditions of my fathers” and “human precepts and doctrines” which regarded the laws of Judaism. These traditions are no longer necessary.
Acts 2:42 – the members obeyed apostolic tradition (doctrine, prayers, and the breaking of bread). Their obedience was not to the Scriptures alone. Tradition (in Greek, “paradosis”) means “to hand on” teaching.
Acts 20:7 – this verse gives us a glimpse of Christian worship on Sunday, but changing the Lord’s day from Saturday to Sunday is understood primarily from oral apostolic tradition.
John 17:20 – Jesus prays for all who believe in Him through the oral word of the apostles. Jesus protects oral apostolic teaching.
1 Cor. 11:2 – Paul commends the faithful for maintaining the apostolic tradition that they have received. The oral word is preserved and protected by the Spirit.
Eph. 4:20 – Paul refers the Ephesians to the oral tradition they previously received when he writes, “You did not so learn Christ!”
Phil. 4:9 – Paul says that what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do. This refers to learning from his preaching and example, which is apostolic tradition.
Col. 1:5-6 – of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you. This delivery of the faith refers to the oral tradition the Colossians had previously received from the ordained leaders of the Church. This oral tradition is called the gospel of truth.
1 Thess.1:5 – our gospel came to you not only in word, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul is referring to the oral tradition which the Thessalonians had previously received. There is never any instruction to abandon these previous teachings; to the contrary, they are to be followed as the word of God.
1 Thess. 4:2 – Paul again refers the Thessalonians to the instructions they already had received, which is the oral apostolic tradition.
2 Thess. 2:5 – Paul yet again refers the Thessalonians to the previous teachings they received from Paul when he taught them orally. These oral teachings are no less significant than the written teachings.
2 Thess. 2:15 – Paul clearly commands us in this verse to obey oral apostolic tradition. He says stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, either by word of mouth or letter. This verse proves that for apostolic authority, oral and written communications are on par with each other. Protestants must find a verse that voids this commandment to obey oral tradition elsewhere in the Bible, or they are not abiding by the teachings of Scripture.
2 Thess. 2:15 – in fact, it was this apostolic tradition that allowed the Church to select the Bible canon (apostolicity was determined from tradition). Since all the apostles were deceased at the time the canon was decided, the Church had to rely on the apostolic tradition of their successors. Hence, the Bible is an apostolic tradition of the Catholic Church. This also proves that oral tradition did not cease with the death of the last apostle. Other examples of apostolic tradition include the teachings on the Blessed Trinity, the hypostatic union (Jesus had a divine and human nature in one person), the filioque (that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son), the assumption of Mary, and knowing that the Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew.
2 Thess. 3:6 – Paul again commands the faithful to live in accord with the tradition that they received from the apostles.
2 Thess. 3:7 – Paul tells them they already know how to imitate the elders. He is referring them to the tradition they have learned by his oral preaching and example.
1 Tim. 6:20 – guard what has been “entrusted” to you. The word “entrusted” is “paratheke” which means a “deposit.” Oral tradition is part of what the Church has always called the Deposit of Faith.
2 Tim. 2:2 – Paul says what you have heard from me entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. This is “tradition,” or the handing on of apostolic teaching.
2 Tim. 3:14 – continue in what you have learned and believed knowing from whom you learned it (by oral tradition).
1 John 2:7 – John refers to the oral word his disciples have heard which is the old commandment that we love one another.
III. Examples of Jesus’ and the Apostles’ Reliance on Oral Tradition
Matt. 2:23 – the prophecy “He shall be a Nazarene” is oral tradition. It is not found in the Old Testament. This demonstrates that the apostles relied upon oral tradition and taught by oral tradition.
Matt 23:2 – Jesus relies on the oral tradition of acknowledging Moses’ seat of authority (which passed from Moses to Joshua to the Sanhedrin). This is not recorded in the Old Testament.
John 19:26; 20:2; 21:20,24 – knowing that the “beloved disciple” is John is inferred from Scripture, but is also largely oral tradition.
Acts 20:35 – Paul relies on the oral tradition of the apostles for this statement (“it is better to give than to receive”) of Jesus. It is not recorded in the Gospels.
1 Cor. 7:10 – Paul relies on the oral tradition of the apostles to give the charge of Jesus that a wife should not separate from her husband.
1 Cor. 10:4 – Paul relies on the oral tradition of the rock following Moses. It is not recorded in the Old Testament. See Exodus 17:1-17 and Num. 20:2-13.
Eph 5:14 – Paul relies on oral tradition to quote an early Christian hymn – “awake O sleeper rise from the dead and Christ shall give you light.”
Heb. 11:37 – the author of Hebrews relies on the oral tradition of the martyrs being sawed in two. This is not recorded in the Old Testament.
Jude 9 – Jude relies on the oral tradition of the Archangel Michael’s dispute with satan over Moses’ body. This is not found in the Old Testament.
Jude 14-15 – Jude relies on the oral tradition of Enoch’s prophecy which is not recorded in the Old Testament.
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 A.D. 180/199).
“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. 180/199).
“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. 205).
‘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. 350).
“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. A.D. 350).
‘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. 350).
‘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. 350).
‘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. 369).
“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. A.D. 392).
“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 (A.D. 414).
“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. 553).
‘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. 745).
‘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).