Tradition Proof Texts: An Analysis
Three verses of Scripture Rome most commonly cites as proof texts for its Sacred Tradition are: 1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6. To review, what is Rome’s definition of Sacred Tradition?
“‘In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority.’ Indeed, ‘the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.’ This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, ‘the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.’ ‘The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.'” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 77–78
Let’s examine each of the above verses closely.
1 Corinthians 11:2
“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” – 1 Corinthians 11:2
In this passage, the Apostle Paul is instructing his audience to keep the ordinances as he delivered them. Rome claims this is one example of why the Sacred Tradition of Roman Catholicism is to be followed. Was Paul talking about Sacred Tradition? Let’s look at the context:
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea . . . But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer . . . Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry . . . Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?” – 1 Corinthians 10:1, 5–10, 14, 18–19
In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is warning his brethren of idolatry and various “dos and don’ts.” Then immediately in 1 Corinthians 11:2, Paul instructs them to “keep the ordinances.” The context indicates these ordinances most likely involve the instruction laid out by Paul in the preceding text.
2 Thessalonians 2:15
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:15
Paul begins this verse by the word “therefore.” This word indicates a conclusion has been drawn from preceding text. What was Paul discussing prior to this?
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:1–4
Throughout 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul is discussing the end times and “the day of Christ.” Paul is instructing his audience to stand fast in his teachings of Christ and not to be swayed by deceivers and the unrighteous.
2 Thessalonians 3:6
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:6
Of what tradition is Paul speaking? He goes on to describe the tradition which he gave to his audience:
“For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:7–15
What is Paul referring to? 2 Thessalonians 3 speaks of working hard and not being idle.
Rome believes the tradition it teaches is equally authoritative as Scripture and must be revered as such (CCC 82). The above verses cannot substantiate the teaching of Sacred Tradition of Roman Catholicism given their context.