You may know how one ought to behave in the household of God,
which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of Truth.
I Timothy 3:15


There can only be ONE truth to the Bible. The question we should all be asking is “What does God want to convey to mankind?” Why not look to Tradition for the proper interpretation? God has revealed himself to man through Divine Revelation, by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. God first made himself known to our first parents, Adam and Eve, then, following their sin, through covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses and the people Israel, and the prophets. It is through his Son Jesus Christ that we reach the fullness of all Revelation.

“In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe.”Letter to the Hebrews 1:1-2 [New American]

There are three stages in the formation of the Gospels: the life and teachings of Jesus, the oral tradition of the Apostles, and the written Gospels.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus

In Chapter One of the Gospel Narrative of Mark, Jesus calls his first four Apostles, Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John, forming the nidus of his early Christian community. The first twelve Apostles followed him from the beginning, hearing his words and seeing his deeds [Luke 1:2}. They were thus in a good position to be witnesses to Christ’s Life and Teaching. Jesus taught his Apostles while he was living [Mark 4:34] and for forty days from his Resurrection until his Ascension [Acts 1:1-3]. Jesus explained his teachings simply, using the language of his time, so that his teaching would make a lasting impression on his audience. Christ’s teaching and miracles took place so that the Apostles and disciples might believe in him and have faith in his message of salvation. Following his Resurrection, Jesus commanded his Apostles to “preach the Gospels to all nations [Matthew 28:19-20]”

And I say also unto thee, that “thou art Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven;
and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth
shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever thou shalt loose on earth
shall be loosed in heaven.
Matthew 16:18-19 [King James Version]

“Go ye therefore and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost:
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
Gospel of Matthew 28:19-20

And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the the scriptures the things referring to himself.Gospel of Luke 24:27 [RSV]

I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the FatherGospel of John 16:25 [NRSV].

The Oral Tradition of the Apostles

The Holy Spirit appeared at Pentecost, 10 days after the Ascension of Jesus, to the Apostles and disciples. This early community of the followers of Jesus formed our early Church. Thus the oral tradition of the Apostles was established in the period of the early Church, from the time of Jesus (~33 AD) to the written Gospels (through 95 AD). The twelve Apostles and St. Paul began their work as evangelists , as described in the Acts of the Apostles, spreading Christianity throughout Asia Minor and the Mediterranean world. St. Luke portrays the early missions of the Apostles, focusing primarily on Peter, upon whom Jesus founded his Church [Matthew 16:18-19, and Paul, who was converted when he saw the risen Christ [Acts 9:1-9].
Early Christianity spread through the oral teachings of the Apostles and by word of mouth!

“Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.”
Gospel of Mark 4:34

“Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and the ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accuratedly anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you…”Gospel of Luke 1:1-3

In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught,
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
Acts of the Apostles 1:1-3

For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people;
and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.
Acts of the Apostles 11:26

The Written Word of God

The written Word of God actually began with St. Paul, with the letter he wrote to the Christian communities he had established in his travels spreading the Word of Christ. His first two letters were to the Thessalonians in 51 AD.

The Gospel of St. Matthew is the first and most quoted of the four Gospels, and is noted for identifying Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. It is now thought the concise narrative Gospel of St. Mark, the close disciple of St. Peter, was actually the first composed Gospel, written from 64 to 70 AD, and served as a source to the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke, both completed about 80-85 AD. The Gospel of St. John was completed about 95 AD.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 11:1-2

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.2 Thessalonians 2:15

The written word by Paul, Mark, and the sacred writers became increasingly important through the first half of the second century, as Christian persecution by Nero and subsequent Roman rulers came into full force.

The Early Church

Early Christianity, in spite of persecution, flourished, primarily in five centers: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The five centers became patriarchates, when Constantine recognized Christianity in the Roman Empire in 313. Each of the Patriarchates developed and retained their ancient and distinctive liturgies, rites, and customs, which have been preserved even to this day. For example, the Eastern Catholic Maronite Church of Lebanon traces their origin to the original Patriarchate of Antioch, begun when St. Peter came to Antioch [Galatians 2:11]. The Maronite Mass today is still conducted in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

The five Patriarchates were followers of Jesus Christ from the time of the Apostles, and considered themselves one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The Patriarchates were led by five Patriarchs, with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, as the representative of Peter, acknowledged as presiding “with love, as a first among equals.

The canon of the New Testament was also formed within the early Christian communities, the Church.
And it is Christ who is Head of his Body the Church [Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:18].

Thus the Word of God was written within the Church,
flowing from the teachings of Jesus
and the oral traditions and teachings of the Apostles and the early Christian community.

An oral tradition was vitally important in the early Church to guide the early Christian community. Production of written Scripture was a monumental task in itself, as each page of any text had to be hand-written on papyrus! Thus written Scripture was available to only a few. In addition, many were illiterate. So the primary means of communication was the oral tradition, and the development of the Apostles’ Creed and community gatherings were essential to passing on the faith. The Apostles’ Creed began as a profession of faith during the rite of Baptism, recalling the instruction of Jesus to his disciples to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 8:37].” The community gathering would first have a reading and oral instruction or sermon, followed by the Liturgical Celebration of the Eucharistic event of Jesus, described by St. Justin Martyr as early as 155 AD in his First Apology (3, 7). Thus sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition together formed a unity of the faith experience (8).

“Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the sacred Spirit in which it was written [9]”, in the light of Faith [10]. We must be attentive “to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture, keeping in mind the living tradition of the whole Church and the analogy of faith [9].”

We must look beyond the literal sense, and search for the “spirit in the letter,” the Spiritual sense of Scripture [11,12]. Interpretation involves both the explanation of the literal sense and the understanding of the spiritual sense of Scripture to appreciate the Word of God.

“He also it is who has made us fit ministers of the new covenant,
not of the letter, but of the spirit;
for the letter brings death, but the spirit gives life.”
Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 3:6

“The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”Gospel of John 6:63

Early Christian Churches who now comprise the one holy Catholic and apostolic Church enjoy a 2000-year tradition providing both a continuity of the oral teachings of Jesus and his Apostles, as well as an unsurpassed history of interpretation of the Bible, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, in the light of history and teachings as they have evolved through the ages.

Scripture and Tradition go hand in hand in the interpretation of the Word of God!


1. Minto Andrew L. Biblical Foundations. Course lectures and texts. Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio, 2002
2. Drs. Stephen F Miletic and Andrew L Minto. Course lectures and texts: Principles of Biblical Study I and II . Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio, 1999.
3. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana: Translation – US Catholic Conference, Washington, D. C., 2000.
4. Revised Standard Version of the King James Bible. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1971.
5. Pope Pius XII. Divino Afflante Spiritu – The Promotion of Biblical Studies. The Holy Bible. The Catholic Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1950.
6. Lienhard JT. The Bible, The Church, and Authority. Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1995.
7. Frances M Young. Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture. Cambridge University Press, London and New York, 1997.
8. Henri de Lubac. The Splendor of the Church. Original publication by Editions Montaigne, Paris, 1953. English Translation first published by Sheed and Ward, New York, 1956. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999.
9. Dei Verbum. Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, from the Second Vatican Council, Pauline Books & Media, Boston, November, 1965.
10. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Foundations and Approaches of Biblical Exegesis. Origins 17(35):593-601, February 11, 1988.
11. Pontifical Biblical Commission. The Interpretation of the Bible In the Church. Pauline Books & Media, Boston, 1993.
12. Ignace de la Potterie. Reading Holy Scripture in the Spirit. Communio 4:308-325, 1986.
13. Ratzinger JC. Introduction to Christianity. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1990.
14. Hans Urs von Balthasar. Credo – Meditations on the Apostles’ Creed. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2000.

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