The Basics of Scripture

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For the Catholic Church, God's Revelation is found in Sacred Tradition, understood as God's Revealed Word handed down by the Living Teaching Authority established by Christ in the Church. That includes both Written Tradition (Scripture) and Unwritten Tradition received from Christ and handed down Orally by the Apostles and their Successors. The Church founded by Christ on Peter, and only that Church, has been Empowered by Christ to 'Interpret' His Teaching Authoritatively in His Name.

"Is it a Tradition? Seek no further!"  ---------  Saint John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church


The Basics of Scripture

by Theologian Father William G. Most

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Scripture is Inspired; Inspiration really means that God Himself is the Chief Author of the Scriptures. He uses a Human Agent, in so marvelous a way that the Human writes what the Holy Spirit wants him to write, does so without Error, yet the Human Writer is Free, and keeps his own Style of Language. It is only because God is Transcendent that He can do this - insure Freedom from Error, while leaving the Human Free. To say He is Transcendent means that He is above and beyond all our Human Classifications and Categories. A Poetic Portuguese Proverb says: God can write Straight, with Crooked Lines!


Relation of Scripture and Tradition

Let us take a minute to see how the Gospels developed. Then we can see better what is the Relation of Scripture and Tradition.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) First came the Teaching and Acts of Jesus. Of course, He, like any good speaker, would Adjust His Wording to the Audience.
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Second, the Men Jesus sent out, the Apostles, would Preach what He had said and done. They too would Adjust their Wording to the Audience, but of course would be careful to keep the same Meaning.
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Third, some Individuals, Inspired by the Holy Spirit, would write-down part of this Basic Preaching; that became the Gospels.

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So the Gospels are really part of the Original Ongoing Teaching of those Commissioned to Teach, by Jesus. So the Church has something more basic than even the Gospels; its own Ongoing Teaching! This Living, Ongoing Teaching is really what we mean by Tradition.

Vatican II, in its 'Constitution-on-Divine Revelation' ( Dei Verbum), 9, tells us that Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are closely connected with each other. For both coming from the same Divine Font, in a way 'Coalesce' into One (1), and tend to the Same Goal. For Sacred Scripture is the Word of God inasmuch as it is set down in Writing, under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit; Sacred Tradition takes the Word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and hands it on to their Successors to be transmitted in Full Purity. Hence, the Council added, "It is not only from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws its certainty about all revealed things". Its own Ongoing Teaching, which is called Tradition, is also a place where Revelation is to be found, and also interpreted, since the Gospels are really part of that Tradition, written down under Inspiration. Section 10 of the same Dei Verbum adds, logically: "The task of Authoritatively Interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed on [Scripture or Tradition] has been entrusted exclusively to the Living Teaching Office of the Church, whose Authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ".


The Deposit of Faith and Development

Hence there is a Deposit of Faith which is not to be changed, for "the Christian Regime, as the New and Final Covenant will never pass away, and now no New Public Revelation is to be expected before the Glorious Manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ" at the 'End' ( Dei Verbum), 4.

This does not mean there should be no progress in the Doctrine of the Church. At the Last Supper, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to lead the Church into all Truth (John 14:26; 16:13). He did not mean there would be New Public Revelations. He did mean the Church would be led over the Centuries to an ever Deeper Understanding of the Truths contained in the Original Deposit of Faith (which was Complete when the Last Apostle Died and the New Testament was finished).

Hence it happened, for example, that the Immaculate Conception, which was not explicitly mentioned in the First Centuries, and was even denied by some great Theologians in the Middle Ages, finally, under the Guidance of the Holy Spirit, emerged to be defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854.


Claims of Errors in Scripture

Some people today say there are a lot of Errors in the Bible. But the Church says there are not. On the Authority of Christ, we believe what She says.

But even working on our own, we can see for ourselves there are no Errors. Of course there are no Errors or Contradictions in Scripture, since the Holy Spirit is the Chief Author.

And so on, for countless other cases. Today we can solve Problems that were insoluble to people even as close as the start of this Century. Those Early Scholars were Men of Faith. They could not always find the answer to some Difficulty, but they said to themselves: Even if we cannot find it, we know there must be an answer, for Scripture, the Work of the Holy Spirit, cannot be in error. They were quite right. Today, we are Privileged to know how to Solve Numerous Problems, Earlier Times could not handle.

We should thank God for giving us Scripture, and His Church to Interpret it for us.