07 Creed: Scripture and Tradition

posted 12 Jan 2013, 13:59 by Fr Peter Weatherby   [ updated 12 Jan 2013, 14:05 ]
(Sorry - these are just notes so far) 

Scripture and Tradition

Scripture and Tradition together constitute the single deposit of revealed truth given by God to the Church and infallibly taught by the Magisterium.

What is Scripture?

Scripture is the single collection of 73 books called the Bible. 
This collection is the entire content of God’s inspired written truth, revealing himself and his saving plan.

Given its importance for salvation, God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has guaranteed that the Bible records faithfully and without error, everything that he wanted written and no more. 
(c.f. Dei Verbum 11)

Scripture is inspired by God, but written through a human agency.

What is Tradition?

Tradition is what is revealed by God and handed on by the apostles, including those things not explicitly recorded in Scripture.

‘Tradition’ comes from the Latin tradere, which means ‘to hand on’. The disciples taught before they wrote, and this oral teaching remained authoritative alongside written Scripture.

Tradition expresses that breadth of divine teaching which cannot be exhaustively communicated in any one written form, as the apostle John states:

There are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

The definition of the books of Scripture is itself the fruit of the Tradition.
Other manifestations of Tradition can be found in the liturgy, art and music of the Church.

What is the Magisterium?

The Magisterium is the teaching office of the Church exercised by the Pope, the successor of Peter, and the bishops in union with him.
With the authority of Jesus Christ (Jn 16:13; Mt 16:19) the Magisterium teaches infallibly the revealed truth which Scripture and Tradition communicate.

I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me.
St Augustine, Contra Epistolam Manichaei 5, 6 (ccc. 119)

The principal teachings of the Magisterium are the dogmatic decrees of the papacy, the Creeds and the other doctrines of the twenty-one Ecumenical Councils since the time of the apostles.

Finding your way around Scripture

Although the word "Bible" means "Book" Scripture is in fact a collection of books, writings of different styles, which were written over many centuries. 

The first part, the "Old Testament", is made of scriptures from before the time of Christ. These are the scriptures of the Jewish people, mostly written in Hebrew. In Jewish tradition there are three main types of writing here: The Law (the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch), the Prophets (including books of History) and Wisdom (books of poetry and philosophy). They were written and compiled over about 1,000 years. 
The Jews call these the The Torah ("Teaching"), Nevi'im ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings") - giving the name TaNaKh

There are some Old Testamant books which were written in Greek, and were used by the first Christians, but came to be rejected by the Jews, and much later by Protestants. Protestants call these books "apocrypha" or "hidden" books. 

The second part is the "New Testament", which covers the life, death and resurrection of Christ and the years which followed. There are four Gospels, which tell the story of Christ, and 23 other writings which are mainly letters from the apostles to the Churches. These books have all come down to us in Greek. So far as we know all of these books were written between 40 and 80 AD. 

The collection of books which make up the Bible (the "Canon") was not finally defined until the third century. 

When the books were put together into the Scriptures, books were given titles, and divided into chapters and verses. These make it possible to give a reference to any passage in the Bible. 

How to read Scripture


The Bible must be read as a unified work in which God has chosen to reveal himself. Although the Bible is made up of many diverse texts from different times and cultures, it reveals a single story of God’s providence and salvation. 
The Old Testament points towards its own fulfilment in the New; the meaning of the New Testament is manifested by the Old.


God has entrusted the whole of Scripture to the Church. It is only by the Church’s authority that the Bible’s 73 books are recognised as the unified word of God. Only the Church has the right and capability of authoritatively expounding Scripture. 
Profound insight into Scripture is found in the writings of the saints, fathers and doctors of the Church.


The literal sense is the primary and direct sense of Scripture which God intends to convey through human agency. It is the meaning the writer intends, the interpretation of which is aided by the study of history and context. 
A literal reading does not mean a 
literalistic reading of texts intended as metaphors or parables. 
The literal sense also includes the making of cross-references among Biblical books. 


In the spiritual sense of Scripture, God has ensured that the realities mentioned in the text can also point to other realities. Analogy (or allegory) often links something mentioned in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, to Christ or to the Church. Tropology (the moral sense) links something described in Scripture to the living of the Christian life of grace. Anagogy links the realities mentioned in Scripture to those of heaven.