Scripture and Tradition

Views of the Relationship Between Scripture and Tradition

Catholicism: scripture and tradition

Luther: scripture alone (sola scriptura)


That which is passed down



Teaching authority


The Bible itself

Tradition: Faith

Where do we get faith?

C: handed down to us from family, neighbors, church

P: individual’s response to the Bible, personal choice

Tradition: Community

C: Community was constituted by Christ and passed down to us

P: The chain was broken at some point and the best way to return to Christ’s plan is to go back to the Bible

P: Church communities are important but secondary, more like a club for people with a common interest

Tradition: Teaching Authority

The most controversial

C: Jesus gave apostles instructions and impressions beyond what is in the Bible

C: Jesus created the office of bishop, who receives a certain authority

P: The bishops today do not continue the authority of the apostles in any meaningful way

Tradition: Documents

Early documents not in the Bible

Early interpreters


Dogmatic constitutions

Tradition: The Bible Itself

Who created the Bible?

C: Tradition produced the Bible, Bible establishes tradition, intertwined

P: God gave the Bible to people

Scripture: Different Understandings of the Word of God

C: Christ

P: Scripture

Verbatim – word for word

Inerrant – without flaw

The role of God

The role of humans

Scripture: Different Approaches to Interpretation

All: reason, common sense, teachers

All but fundamentalists: scholarship necessary to understand in original context

C: interpret in community

C: respect official teachers

Luther: every individual is ultimately responsible for deciding

History of Scripture in Christian Life

1452 – first printed Bible in Latin

1534 – Luther’s translation of the Bible into German

1611 – King James Version of the Bible in English

1965 – Vatican II encourages ordinary Catholics to read the Bible in their own language