Bible 1 Yr – Day 107 – The Traditional Interpretation of Scripture

Today comes the verse that is often bandied about in the never ending debate about whether our faith should be based on “Scripture Alone” v. “Scripture and Tradition”. But there really is no debate; tradition is part of the puzzle. Paul says plainly:

15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

The real debate is what does this passage mean? Context is key.

In the first part of the chapter Paul says that a false, “letter purporting to be from us” is being circulated. Paul challenges them, saying, “5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this?” In other words, the Thessalonians should be able to spot this forgery because it is inconsistent with what Paul had previously taught them.

And that is the key to understanding verse 15. Paul is telling the Thessalonians to interpret his letters in light of what he has previously taught them. He is saying if I previously taught you X you will not get a new letter from him that teaches something different from X.

Thus, TRADITION is our guide in how to interpret scripture. If there are two possible interpretations of a verse of scripture and you want to know which is the correct one Paul says that to do so you have to interpret it the way He first taught it. But how do we know what that teaching was?

Luckily for us it was recorded. As Christianity spread and grew people started recording explanations of the teachings. Works like the Didache, the 1st and 2nd Apologies of Justin Martyr and the works and letters of Ignatius of Antioch are just some of early works that describe in more detail how the Gospel was understood. People from this early time period are called the Church Fathers. Reading their works is like reading a modern bible commentary, except these are written by the people who learned the Gospel directly from the Apostles.

So if you want to understand something then read what the Christians of the 1st and 2nd century said about it. Want to know if the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of the Lord or ‘just a symbol’? Consult the First Apology of Justin Martyr that gives a detailed explanation of the Christian faith to the Roman Emperor and discuss the subject of the Eucharist in detail. Want to know how to Baptize? Then read the Didache, a 1st century unattributed writing, which gives baptism instructions. Compare what is written there with the archeological evidence from the Roman catacombs showing paintings of baptism and stone baptismal fonts and you have your answer.

By knowing that the first Christians did and what they believed, we can know what we should do and believe. We can know that we have and teach the same faith of the Apostles. We don’t have to have a “blind faith” like the secular world accuses us of. Rather, we can have a ruddy, rich, historical faith. By knowing the traditional interpretation of scripture our faith can be rational and spiritual. By studying the Church Fathers and knowing the traditional interpretation of Scripture we build a bridge back to the Apostles. We don’t have to hope that a particular pastor is inspired or that a certain commentator is sincere in his writings. We can know that Peter and Paul taught because their students wrote it down. And if we can know what Peter and Paul and the other Apostles taught then we can know, with great certainty, what the Lord wanted us to know.

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16 Responses to Bible 1 Yr – Day 107 – The Traditional Interpretation of Scripture

  1. Jon musso says:

    No one deny tradition! What they deny is how Catholics understand tradition. The apostles creed for example is fine in Protestant circles. The issue is your form of the true church has hijacked tradtion. Again with all due respect to your position. Have a blessed day.

    God bless

    • Respectfully, that is just kicking the can down the road. One cannot say “we deny your understanding of tradition”. That means exactly the same thing as “we deny your interpretation of scripture”.

      One has to look to objective factors to identify the tradition. Once you do that, you have to accept that tradition b/c that is the holy apostolic tradition that has been passed down to us, unchanged.

      For the tradition to be valid your church must have existed at the time of the Apostles. A tradition that does not go back to the first and second century cannot be valid.

      Next, one must READ the Apostolic Fathers. What did they say about worship? What did they say about Jesus? What did they say about the Eucharist? What did they say about the Church? About hierarchy and authority. Then you look around and compare what those 1st Christians said with what the various churches are teaching now? Is there a Church that is teaching now the same things that the Apostles taught? Indeed there is.

      Also, one can look at what the early people of the Church rejected. What things did they NOT accept into the tradition. Things that they rejected include the Gnostic churches; priests not ordained in the Apostolic line, they rejected those that questioned the divinity or humanity of Jesus. Is the Church you are a member of embracing those things?

      We can examine archeology. Where are the bodies of the Apostles buried? Where are the bodies or the Apostolic Fathers buried? Are the ancient buildings of the early church identified with a particular church that exists today? What about relics like the shroud Jesus was buried in or the chains that bound St. Paul in Rome? Those things can identify which Church has the deposit of the tradition.

      This is not to say that the new traditions that exist today aren’t valuable, reverent and well intentioned. However, they must be considered subservient to the tradition that is handed down by the Apostolic fathers.

  2. But we are not talking about authority. We are talking about Paul’s command to us in the Scripture, “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us…”

    The Holy Spirit put this verse in the Bible for a reason. How do you live up to it?

    • Chris Daley says:

      The Holy Spirit put “call no man father” in there for a reason as well. And that was a command from Christ Himself, not Paul. How do you live up to that? I know you gave me your reasons why you wont argue about it, but it’s in there, for all to see.

      • To be clear, I did not say I wouldn’t discuss “call no man father”. I only said that I wouldn’t discuss the one proof dealing with the grammatical structure of the verse b/c I have not done sufficient research on it.

        “Call no man father” does not mean to stop using the word father. If it did, there would be a long tradition of not calling our earthly dad’s “father” but no one suggests that. The verse also says to call no one teacher (rabbi) and to call no one master. But again, no one tries to insist we stop using those words.

        The verse means to put no one before God. The verse means that the Apostles are now the highest authority. There is no one over them to call father, only God in Heaven is over them, he is their only Father. That is why the statement comes in the context of “rabbi” and “mater”. There are no great teachers over them, they are the greatest teachers. There are no great kings or masters over them, they hare the princes of the new highest kingdom. there are no great fathers of nations (as kings and emperor’s sometimes titled themselves), they are fathers of the faith and only God the father is above them.

        As I pointed out to you previously, Paul goes on to refer to himself as Father and to call converts his children. Jesus himself referred to Abraham as “Father Abraham”. It would be a strange thing indeed if Jesus was prohibiting the use of the term father for our spiritual parents and himself referring to the spiritual founder of the Jewish nation as father. Jesus was not creating a legalistic ban on the use of certain words. No doubt, if Catholics proposed a legalistic ban on certain words we would get complaints about that too! Jesus was conveying a concept, the Apostles are the new spiritual authority subject to no one but God the Father.

        Finally, the use of the term father for priest is EXACTLY the kind of question we need tradition to answer. Evidence can be presented on both sides as to how to properly interpret the verse. How do we know which interpretation is correct? We know because a TRADITION OF HOW TO INTERPRET THIS VERSE and of calling Priests father has been handed down to us for generations.

        Tradition helps breaks the deadlock of conflicting interpretations and allows the faithful to have a definitive answer to questions like this.

    • Jon musso says:

      Yes Dave, but I believe the Catholic Church has misinterpreted who has ultimate authority! I believe Christ you believe the apostles have authority has past down to the church! I believe Christ was clear traditions were to emphasize, the glory of the savior, and catholic tradtion promotes authority to scripture and tradtion, which I believe undermined scriptures, authority.

      • Again you propose an answer that kicks the can down the road. Paul says we must hold fast to the tradition. What does the TRADITION SAY about authority?

        If we read the Fathers of the Church we see they accept commands from Rome. We see they appeal to Rome to settle disputes. We see they say that all Churches must be under the bishop of Rome. We see that they say the Church of Rome is worthy of honor and “holds the presidency”. We see them say that failing to follow the Church of Rome is a “transgression”.

      • Jon musso says:

        I don’t hold to your church father opinion, I got some church father for you to read you will love them lol! The father of Rome were corrupt! Have a great day

  3. Well, I’ll concede there was much corruption in Rome in the 1500’s but we are talking about the people of the AD 100’s to 200’s. Was Clement of Rome corrupt? Ignatius of Antioch? Irenaeus?

    Do you mean to say that Jesus founded a Church that couldn’t even keep the Gospel straight for one century?

    • Jon musso says:

      I mean to say this is why authority in scripture alone, is so prevalent because sin effected church fathers understanding! We now have the perfect in Christ authority this is back up by the Corinthian church. We can not empty the cross of his power.

      • Jon musso says:

        You see the church fathers as foundational, their not there sinful men who gave us allot I appreciate their work, but there not authoritative, which can get into how you see the pope, the church, and several other aspects of theology! I will respectfully say we have made our points and counter points!

        Have a great day
        God bless

  4. Hmmm…

    So God can use sinful men to right inerrant scripture but he can’t keep sinful men from corrupting the Church?

    Didn’t the Church fathers also have, “the perfect in Christ authority”? Assuming they did, isn’t their recordings of what the practice of the Church was valuable to us?

    God can use sinful men to right inerrant scripture but we are sinful men and separated by 2,000 years yet we can just read the bible and discern the exact meaning of all the passages?

    You like to say that I “see things as foundational”. Just off the top of my head I can recall you saying that I see sacraments as foundational, the Church as foundational and now the Fathers as foundational. Rather, I think that I ascribe proper significance to all things our Lord gave us. Can I give up even one thing Christ gave us? Even one “jot or tittle”? NO! Not even one.

    If God gave us something I will cling to it. I will not let it go. Every word that comes forth from the mouth of God is important. The Bible is the word of God. It says to hold fast the traditions that have been taught to us. I will not compromise that. We need ALL the things God gave us. Everything He gave to us was for us, to help us, b/c we need it. Its like having a tool belt with a phillips screwdriver, a flat head, a wrench and a hammer. We will need each.

    Of course, the beauty of the Catholic way of thinking is all these things are in essence one an the same. I don’t “empty the cross of his power” because to me His power permeates everything. His power is in the Church, witch has authority to speak for him. His power is in the sacraments which convey his Grace. His power is in tradition which connects us to the teaching of his apostles. Works to not detract from his sacrifice because my works are done by his power, in his name, under his authority, through my union with him out and of love for him.

    • Jon musso says:

      I don’t question all God gave us is important. What I deny is how you interpret what’s foundational. you see church as foundational, you see sacraments as foundational. I don’t I see everything as important, but with different roles. Can the ear say it’s an eye of course not its the ear. The ear for hearing the eye for seeing. Catholic tend to see God works on cross entwined with the church and sacraments. I see Christ as the fulfillment of all things! You can’t use a hammer on a screw, you use a screw driver. Different roles all part of the church, but Christ is all the tools, the box, and the carpenter. Have a great day!

      • Justin (Ignatius of Loyola) says:

        The Church’s one foundation
        Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
        She is His new creation
        By water and the Word.
        From heaven He came and sought her
        To be His holy bride;
        With His own blood He bought her
        And for her life He died.

        She is from every nation,
        Yet one o’er all the earth;
        Her charter of salvation,
        One Lord, one faith, one birth;
        One holy Name she blesses,
        Partakes one holy food,
        And to one hope she presses,
        With every grace endued.

        The Church shall never perish!
        Her dear Lord to defend,
        To guide, sustain, and cherish,
        Is with her to the end:
        Though there be those who hate her,
        And false sons in her pale,
        Against both foe or traitor
        She ever shall prevail.

        Though with a scornful wonder
        Men see her sore oppressed,
        By schisms rent asunder,
        By heresies distressed:
        Yet saints their watch are keeping,
        Their cry goes up, “How long?”
        And soon the night of weeping
        Shall be the morn of song!

        ’Mid toil and tribulation,
        And tumult of her war,
        She waits the consummation
        Of peace forevermore;
        Till, with the vision glorious,
        Her longing eyes are blest,
        And the great Church victorious
        Shall be the Church at rest.

        Yet she on earth hath union
        With God the Three in One,
        And mystic sweet communion
        With those whose rest is won,
        With all her sons and daughters
        Who, by the Master’s hand
        Led through the deathly waters,
        Repose in Eden land.

        O happy ones and holy!
        Lord, give us grace that we
        Like them, the meek and lowly,
        On high may dwell with Thee:
        There, past the border mountains,
        Where in sweet vales the Bride
        With Thee by living fountains
        Forever shall abide!

  5. Pingback: Bible 1 Yr – Day 198 – Against Factions | David Vermont

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