Answering Steve Rudd, part 4

Tradition as Understanding of Holy Scripture

I intimated Ihad speculated that Papacy might not be quite mandatory for belonging to the Church. But I will add to the effect that it might very well have been mandatory from start:

21. If universal distribution of the Bible in every home is an essential pre-condition of sola Scriptura, then how could Catholic and Orthodox pew-dwellers know the message of the Pope before the time of modern instant live communication?*

The concerned may have known it from a messenger. Walking Pamplona – Santiago (750 km official route, I balance car rides against detours) took me 50 days. Corinth-Rome and back again would have been longer but not at all impossible. I mention this due to the First and Second Epistles of St Clement to Corinth.

You see, Papacy does not mean that everyone all of the time listens to the latest message from the Pope. If one is important enough for all the Church, like decisions of a Council, sure enough, it is promulgated to every bishop who then promulgates it to every faithful in his diocese. In the Corinth case, we can be sure that Clement’s Epistles or at least the first of them was read aloud all over the diocese of Corinth. If the Second was somehow not, it would have been because it was felt as intrusive, and that would have been the first division between Papacy and Local Episcopacy ecclesiologies (a few hundred years later such a division clearly exists, since Pope so and so is reminding the East of how Rome read canon 6 of Nicea Council: i e the East was understanding it otherwise, for the time being, as later again among Orthodox).

20. If each individual possessing a copy of the scriptures is an essential pre-condition to sola Scriptura, then how do illiterate Catholic and Orthodox pew-dwellers know the Catholic and Orthodox Catechisms? If illiterate Catholics and Orthodox can have the Catechisms read to them, then why not the scripture?*

22. If the ability to read is an essential pre-condition to sola Scriptura, then how do illiterate Catholic and Orthodox pew-dwellers know the Catholic and Orthodox Catechisms? Would not the same logic apply to illiterates in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches? If Catholic and Orthodox laity can “know the truth” by hearing the catechism read to them, then why not illiterate Christians when they hear the Bible read?*

Before answering the Apologetic question, I say BRAVO! That does away with Lollards claiming Catholics were deprived of Scripture since not having it in English. For if one can have Bible read to oneself, by someone who knows how to read, one can also have it translated to oneself by someone who knows Latin or Classical Greek or Old Slavonic. No “necessity” of Bible diffusion that supposedly Catholics sinned against. No “necessity” of everyone learning how to read, which Catholics and Orthodox would have been sinning against at least in Russia and Spain a hundred years ago.

Does your Church keep that attitude up, or does it adhere to the common Protestant prejudice?

Now, to the question. It was read aloud in Latin and Greek when those languages were commonly understood. It was read aloud and then translated as soon as that was not the case. And it was also catechetically explained, orally.

Similarily under the Old Covenant the obligation was not for every Israelite to read the Torah, but to hear it read once every seventh year by the Cohen Gadol. It was only when that became impracticable that individual reading and reading in synagogue (which Our Lord did too) became customary, and literacy along with it. And it was only after rejecting Christ that a Cohen Gadol, before the destruction of Jerusalem decided to make it illegal for Jews not to be literate.

23. If the ability to read is an essential pre-condition to sola Scriptura, then how do the illiterate Catholic and Orthodox commoner know for certain that the priest is faithfully teaching the dogma, canons and edicts of councils if they could not read the documents?*

24. How do the Catholic and Orthodox commoners who can read, know for certain that the priest is faithfully teaching the dogma, canons and edicts of councils if they did not possess copies of such documents?*

We do not, we trust. If we do possess copies, some of us do not trust some of the priests.

Now to the understanding of Scripture:

28. If the personal illumination of the Holy Spirit upon each believer to understand the Bible is not a valid method of determining truth because of the many denominations that use this approach, then does it not follow that apostolic succession and oral church traditions are likewise invalid because the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches are two denominations that use this method yet are divided on doctrine? Does this not prove both methods are wrong and a third method, one which we and the apostolic church practiced must be the correct method?*

29. If sola Scriptura cannot be the correct method of determining truth because of the religious division among churches that claim to use sola Scriptura, then does this not also disqualify the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches method of using tradition, since they are divided against themselves?*

The division between Catholics and Orthodox was the first thing I dealt with. Here comes a red herring clearing about method. We do not say that someone who is personally illuminated by the Holy Spirit will misunderstand the Bible, or that someone who only has a text of the Bible will certainly misunderstand it. We do say that such individual understanding is tested and must be tested against the common and Traditional understanding of the Church that Christ founded, as kept up by the Successors of the Twelve. Over the Centuries, obviously.

And this is in Scripture itself:

[20] Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation.**

[with comment:]

[20] No prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation: This shews plainly that the scriptures are not to be expounded by any one’s private judgment or private spirit, because every part of the holy scriptures were written by men inspired by the Holy Ghost, and declared as such by the Church; therefore they are not to be interpreted but by the Spirit of God, which he hath left, and promised to remain with his Church to guide her in all truth to the end of the world. Some may tell us, that many of our divines interpret the scriptures: they may do so, but they do it always with a submission to the judgment of the Church, and not otherwise.

Now, to Tradition as the means of determining how Scripture is to be read:

17. Why do Roman Catholics always use 2 Timothy 2:2; 3:14 as Bible proof that extra-biblical oral tradition is to be followed through apostolic succession, when tradition says Timothy became the bishop of Ephesians, which through succession, is now part of the Greek Orthodox church headed out of Constantinople? If 2 Timothy 2:2 proves succession, doesn’t this prove the Roman Catholic church is not part of that succession?*

Not at all. We can be sure this was the case over each local Church, not Ephesus alone. Besides, both Catholics and Orthodox when in a quarrelsome mood against each other claim that the other party is intruding over its main present territory. I e some Orthodox claim that Roman Catholicism was founded by Franks who had not learned the Orthodox religion properly, especially in Carolingian times (this is a rehash of an Anglican divine who obviously in the 18th C was severly anti-Roman), then invaded Spain with the Reconquest, Rome and other parts of West through the Gregorian Reform, England and then Ireland through Norman Invasions. And Rome claims that Constantinople was really quite Papist earlier on. At least both Photius and his opponent did appeal to the Pope of Old Rome.

So, just as much as Orthodox claim Roman Catholics have no profit from the Rome of the first Millennium the Rome of Sts Peter and Paul, of St Clement, of St Leo, of St Gregorius, because we left – they say – their holy teaching, similarily the Latin West like St Robert Bellarmine claims they no longer profit truly from the Tradition of St Timothy or St John (both of whom were in Ephesus, if Steve Rudd is correct).

Succession is thought of either just as formal succession – in that case one might say that whoever is really in schism or heresy looses succession – or of variously [material and] formal and material [only]. In that case a bishop who joins a sect materially keeps his succession and is able to hand it on. Now that was one of the points St Jerome raised against Luciferianism. Precisely in the cited document.

18. When you see the word tradition, why do you always assume it to be oral tradition rather than scripture tradition, when the Bible calls scripture tradition in 2 Thess 2:15, and Athanasius call scripture tradition: “the Apostolic tradition teaches in the words of blessed Peter, ‘Forasmuch then as Christ suffered for us in the Flesh” Athanasius then quotes: 1 Peter 4:1; Titus 2:13; Heb 2:1 (Athanasius, To Adelphius, Letter 60, 6)?*

We certainly do not assume tradition always means oral such, except when specifically stated. Also, as already said, many things where a Protestant would assume we were relying on an oral-only tradition, since they assume they have read the Bible and understood it, we are actually relying on Scriptural passages understood the traditional way. As already specified about Holy Mass.

19. The Church Fathers believed what Paul said in Eph 3:3-5, that the scripture could be understood by merely reading it. They indicated that the scriptures themselves were clear, so clear, they even criticized the heretics for getting it wrong. If those outside the church and common pew dwellers are unable to understand the Bible themselves as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches teach, then why did the apostolic fathers expect the heretics to understand the Bible with their own human skills? (Tertullian, The Flesh of Christ, ch 20), (Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word, 56), (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 1, 35), (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 7, 16)*

It is also said in Scripture, by St Peter, about St Paul:

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.***

So, though the Bible is clear, not all of it is so to everyone. Actually, once they get started they get on to twist passage after passage. This is the least one can make of the verse. But one can also go further and say unlearned and unstable are unable to get scripture, period. It is clear, but only to people with right disposition and education. That is the most one can make of it.

Now, as to human skills: they are both natural and cultural. Our natural skills of understanding a text are the same whether we are born in First of Twentieth Century – give or take a little for degradation of human genome or of living conditions now improving now degrading.

The cultural skill to read a text correctly becomes usually rarer with the distance in time from when it was written. Church Fathers wrote under Roman Emperors succeeding Caesar Augustus with more or less same degree of Hellenization, with more or less same legal situations pertaining to minority and legal maturities (marital one before administrative) or about slavery and lost of other things. They spoke to people raised among themselves or at least their fathers were, and who had thus learned the traditional understanding of the Bible at close hand before getting out of their way to misunderstand it. Not quite the way of a modern Protestant trying to understand the Bible without either the Catholic or Orthodox Church. Not quite. Even after centuries of existing Protestant sects, they may have a difficulty in understanding exactly what the Reformers read. Back then Protestantism was the Novelty and therefore understood to be revolutionary.

*Irrefutable questions that Roman Catholics and Orthodox can’t answer (Steve Rudd)

**Second Epistle Of Saint Peter, 1:20

***Second Epistle Of Saint Peter, 3:16


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I might be attacking groups - if they see it as attacks. But not anonymously. My name is real, I was born in Vienna, I am Swedish. I did time, for resisting a policeman taking me to shrinks by taking his own gun for some moments (5-II-1998). I started blogging (2001) after release (in 2000).

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