GOD’S WORD: UNWRITTEN AND WRITTEN
(Sacred Tradition & Sacred Scripture)
We welcome you all to this lesson 1 in our Catechesis Corner. In order for us to have a fruitful Catechesis section, we implore you to necessarily get your Bible and ‘the Catechism of the Catholic Church’ (popularly known as CCC). Before we continue Let US Pray: “O God of truth, prepare our minds To hear and heed your holy word; Fill every heart that longs for you With your mysterious presence, Lord. Almighty Father, with your Son And blessed Spirit, lead us into the eternal truth: Teach us to love eternal truth and seek its freedom everywhere in the name of Jesus.”
“Are Catholic teachings biblical? If yes, Open them in the bible and let’s see them. You are a ‘born again’ and you believe in the bible why are you still a catholic?” This was a strong admonition from a non-Catholic to her Catholic friend. In this maiden edition we shall be throwing more light on sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture in relation to Catholic teachings and practices. At the end of this lesson 1, it is our hope that you will be able to answer with conviction and good explanation the question: ARE CATHOLIC TEACHINGS BIBLICAL?
Dear friends, any faith that is not rooted in God’s word is indeed questionable. An authentic faith must come from the good news that was preached. In Mark 16:15, Jesus commanded his disciples “Go into the entire world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” In obedience to Jesus’ command the bible recorded in Mark 16: 20 that “they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere.” At this time, the composition of the New Testament has not been done, so the apostles did not have the ‘bible’ (that is, the written word), what they have and preached with is the Unwritten Word (which we now called tradition or better still sacred tradition). God’s word is not limited to the written word alone (which is the Bible or sacred scripture).
In keeping with the Lord’s command, the apostles preach the Word through two principal means. The two primary ways include, firstly the oral or unwritten method, secondly the written method. Let us now expand how the apostles communicated Jesus by the means of the unwritten and written word of God.
- UNWRITTEN WORD OF GOD (SACRED TRADITION)
It is an uncontestable reality that Jesus did not commit to writing those instructions, preaching, teachings, illustrations, miracles and examples he gave either by words or by the life he lived. In Matthew 28: 18-20 Jesus empowered the disciples to preach, he commissioned them with the authority and duty to make disciples, to baptize them and to teach them everything (not just what is written). “The great commissioning was faithfully fulfilled by the Apostles who, by the spoken words of their preaching, by the examples they gave, and by the institutions they established, handed on what they had received from the lips of Christ, from his way of live and from his works, or what they had learned through the prompting of the Holy Spirit.” (-Dei Vrebum No 7). St. Paul the Apostle urged the Christians in Thessalonian in 2 Thess. 2:15 “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions and instructions which you were taught by us, WHETHER BY OUR WORD OF MOUTH OR BY LETTER”. Again he commanded them in 2 Thess. 3:6 “Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and NOT ACCORDING TO THE TRADITION THAT THEY RECEIVED FROM US.” Against false and ignorant teachers and prophets St. Paul vehemently repeated the same to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:13-14 “Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard (unwritten word of God) from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure (deposit of faith) entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.” In 2Timothy 3:13-14 the bible says “But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” Our confident in upholding the catholic faith is because it is the faith of the apostles, we learned from the apostles. If the apostles recognized, accepted and upheld the sacred traditions (unwritten word of God), we are all called to imitate their examples and follow their admonitions “…continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.”
- THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD( BIBLE/ SACRED SCRIPTURE)
Later on the disciples communicated Jesus, the word also by their writings. The great commission was also fulfilled, by the Apostles and other men associated with the apostles, who under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit committed the message of salvation (word of God) to writing. Therefore, the bible is the written word of God, the speech of God that was kept in a written form under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul the Apostle testifies that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” In the same vein Peter the Apostle confirms that “no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”, (2 peter: 1:21). So some words and teachings proclaimed and taught by the apostles were later put in to writing by the apostles themselves or by those related to them under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Simply put, the bible (the New Testament) is the documentation in writing of the experiences or stories told by the apostles or those close to them, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and circulated among the community of believers. In truth “the bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the doom of sinners, the happiness of believers… Read it to be wise; believe it to be safe; practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you and comforts to cheer you; Christ is its grand object; our good, its design and the glory of God, its end.” (-Michael E. Bassey, The Bible & Church Doctrine.(Uyo: BricksCom International Ltd., 1997), vi)
The One Holy, catholic and Apostolic Church professes that “those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. – (Dei Verbum, 11)
For this reasons Catholic Teachings are rooted in both sacred tradition and sacred scripture. As such they are not against the bible, for they are rooted in God’s word. Understanding that God’s word are transmitted to us or give to us in two forms: first and primarily in an unwritten form and secondly in written form. The unwritten form is sacred Tradition while the written form is sacred scripture (the bible). Historically sacred Tradition gave birth to sacred scripture just as the sacred scriptures bears witness to the existed of sacred traditions.
Brethren, we must uphold the word of God and understand that sacred Traditions are the unwritten word of God, received by the apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the apostles at the dictation of the Holy Spirit and being delivered as it were, from hand to hand and have come down to us through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Following the examples of the early Christians, let us receive and preached it with faith and piety, knowing that the apostles will not deceive us, since they were guided by the Holy Spirit of truth as promised by Jesus (-Cf. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy. ( Rockford: Tan books and Publishers, 1989), p. 142). Scripture and Tradition are like the two wings of birds. Birds have two wings for flying, without both wings no birds will fly well. So without scripture and Tradition faith will be deficient of the wholeness of God’s word. The words of the holy ancient Christians bear witness to the presence of this living tradition, whose wealth is poured into the practice and life of the believing and praying Church. Through the same tradition the Church’s full canon of the sacred books is known, and the sacred writings themselves are more profoundly understood (-Dei Verbum, 8).
Let Us Pray: May God grant us the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of knowledge and piety, the spirit of holy fear so that our learning may help us to be more faithful in upholding and living out the Truth and teaching same to others in the name of Jesus-Amen. See you in our next edition, endeavour to carry out the study guild below little by little daily before next lesson/edition.
CATECHESIS STUDY GUILD: CCC No. 74 -108
TAKE HOME QUESTION: ARE CATHOLIC TEACHINGS BIBLICAL?