The Apostolic Fathers viewed oral tradition as a duplicate of scripture
"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
It is true that the Apostolic Fathers accepted oral tradition of the apostles as authoritative. However, they believed 100% of apostolic oral tradition (viva voce or living voice) was eventually recorded in scripture. They never indicated that oral tradition was any different or distinct from scripture. Therefore, Christians who advocate Sola Scriptura take the identical view of oral tradition of the apostles, as the Church Fathers did. This is most troubling to Roman Catholic and Orthodox defenders of an oral tradition that is distinct from scripture. The Apostolic Fathers in fact viewed oral tradition as a duplicate of scripture.
Tradition #2: Verbal inspiration. (Jer 1:9; 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6; 2 Tim 2:2)
Inspired oral tradition that came from the mouth of the apostles and prophets that, although never differs from, or adds to scripture, may be a unique way of expressing the same thoughts. (So inspired tradition #1 is scripture itself that came from the apostles pen and inspired tradition #2 is the words the spoken orally from the apostles mouths.)
A. The Bible texts that support oral revelation as tradition:
Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. Jeremiah 1:9. This is a classic Bible verse on oral inspiration, even though Jeremiah also wrote a book. Like the Apostles, even though Jeremiah had an oral tradition, all we know of his work, is what scripture records.
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 1 Corinthians 11:2. Paul delivered these traditions (the gospel) on his second missionary journey in Acts 18:1. This was before any books of the Bible were written so it must refer exclusively to oral tradition.
"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." 2 Thessalonians 2:15. Both oral and scripture are called traditions.
"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us." 2 Thessalonians 3:6. This verse likely includes both oral and scripture tradition as a summary of 2 Thess 2:15.
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2. Here we have the famous 4 generation discipleship passage: 1. Paul 2. Timothy 3. Faithful men 4. Others. However that which is taught is identical with scripture, even if it was revealed originally as an oral tradition. What was taught within these four generations may have included oral revelation, but this oral doctrine was also taught in scripture. For Roman Catholic and Orthodox defenders who see the succession of Bishops or the Pope, look elsewhere! First, the one's who were to be entrusted were, "faithful", not Bishops. Timothy was not a Bishop, was he to chose the next bishops to entrust the oral tradition to them? Second, the office of one bishop over the presbytery, did not exist until after 150 AD. Diocesan bishops, where one bishop was over another did not exist until 250. (Click here for proof.) So to suggest this passage teaches succession in any Catholic or Orthodox way, is vacuous.
"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them" 2 Timothy 3:14. This verse would likely refer to oral revelation from Paul's inspired mouth to Timothy.
"I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute", Luke 21:12-15 is proves that oral tradition was the norm for the first 20 years of the church.
The "with many other words" in Acts 2:40 represent inspired oral traditions that are lost forever. Yet for some time these specific words were likely remembered by many who heard them. There are literally thousands of inspired sermons that the Holy Spirit.
"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching". (Acts 2:42) Although we do not know specifically what the apostles taught at this time, we can be sure it did not differ from what we have in scripture.
B. The fathers speak of oral revelation as being apostolic tradition, which is not in scripture:
"Now, what that was which they preached-in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them-can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles rounded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves, both viva voce [living voice], as the phrase is, and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches-those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth." (Tertullian, The prescription against the heretics, Ch 21)
This living voice was the inspired voice of Jesus and the apostles which Tertullian say, was then recorded in scripture.
Notice the sequence: 1. Living voice of the apostles. 2. subsequently recorded in their epistles. This shows that the Apostolic Fathers viewed the scriptures as containing the totality of the "living voice".
Whereas the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches view what they are now as the living voice, Tertullian viewed the living voice as being transferred to scripture. This is just another example of how these modern traditionalist churches are actually unorthodox when the study the apostolic Fathers.
C. The Roman Catholic church claims they are the living voice today!
Today the Roman Catholic church has redefined this "living voice" of oral tradition from the actual words spoken by Christ and the apostles, to whatever the Pope says today. "But the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the Divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be Divine. How can we know what antiquity was except through the Church? ... I may say in strict truth that the Church has no antiquity. It rests upon its own supernatural and perpetual consciousness. ... The only Divine evidence to us of what was primitive is the witness and voice of the Church at this hour." (Henry Edward Manning, The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost: Or Reason and Revelation, 1865, p 227-228)
By Steve Rudd
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