Christian Cyclopedia

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In the ancient Christian Ch. the Lat. word traditio (“act of handing over”; equivalent of Gk. paradosis) was used of instruction, oral and written, given by one person to another. In course of time it came to refer to teaching not in Scripture.

Jews hold that God gave Moses an oral law which was handed down orally. Decisions of their doctors and priests became the source of their traditions (Mt 15:2–3; Mk 7:3–13; 2 Th 2:15; 3:6; see also Talmud).

Early ch. fathers (e.g., Clement* of Alexandria, Trenaeus,* Tertullian*) often appealed to oral tradition. But they warned against setting too high a value on it (e.g., Tertullian, De virginibus velandis, i; Cyprian, Epist. lxxiv [lxxv]). Augustine acknowledged the adequacy of Scripture (De doctrina Christiana, ii 9) but said that he would not believe the Gospel except as moved by the authority of the ch. (Contra epistolam Manichaei quam vocant fundamenti, v). See also Vincent of Lérins.

In the Dark* Ages extensive compilations of patristic writings (with more or less pagan learning included) were continued (e.g., by Alcuin,* F. M. A. Cassiodorus,* Isidore* of Seville, Rubanus* Maurus). Reliance on tradition was dealt a telling blow by P. Abelard.*

M. Luther* rejected extravagant RC claims for tradition and the spirit of radicals who tried to overthrow everything; tradition is reflected, e.g., in retention of the Creed; but he felt free to investigate traditional decisions even regarding the canon of Scripture. AC XXI: In our teaching nothing “departs from the Scriptures or the catholic church or the church of Rome, in so far as it is known from its writers.” The Council of Trent* (Sess. IV, Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures) placed tradition on a level with Scripture (omnes libros tam veteris quam novi testamenti … necnon traditiones ipsas … tamquam vel oretenus a Christo, vel a Spiritu Sancto dictatas et continua successione in ecclesia catholica conservatas, part pietatis affectu ac reverentia suscipit et veneratur), thus preparing the way for the doctrine of papal infallibility. EL

See also Norma normans; Regensburg Conference.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

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Content Reproduced with Permission

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