Tradition and Sacred Scripture

Cathal Barry reflects what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the relationship between Tradition and the Sacred Scriptures

Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are bound closely together and communicate one with the other, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

This is because both, "flowing from the same divine wellspring", as the dogmatic constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, outlines, "in a certainway merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. Each of them makes present and abundant in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own ìalways, to the very end of the age (Mt 28:20)."

The Church teaches that Sacred Scripture is "the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit".

Tradition transmits this Word in its entirety, which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, according to the Catechism, "enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching".


As a result, the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Dei Verbum notes, therefore, that "both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence".

The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.


Tradition, according to the Catechism, is to be distinguished from "the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time".

"These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Churchís Magisterium," the Catechism states.