Scripture and Tradition

My Protestant friends say that their church goes by the Bible Alone, but that the Catholic Church has added a lot of man-made traditions to the Word of God…Is that true?Answer

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


No, it is not true. Protestants have as their sole rule of faith the written Word of God, which we find in Sacred Scripture. The Catholic Church has as its sole rule of faith, the entire Word of God, as it is found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

All of the Word of God was at one time passed on orally…Sacred Tradition. Eventually, some of Sacred Tradition was written down…this became Sacred Scripture, which is written tradition. However, Scripture itself tells us that not all of the things that Jesus said and did were written down. And listen to what Paul says about “tradition”:

2 Thes 2:15, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” Traditions! Traditions taught by word of mouth, in other words, oral tradition, and traditions taught by letter. Traditions which they are being told to “stand firm and hold to”. Sacred Scripture and

1 Cor 11:2, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” The Corinthians are being commended by Paul because they maintain the traditions that he passed on to them. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

2 Tim 2:2: “and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” What we have here in 2 Timothy is an instance, in Scripture, of Paul commanding the passing on of oral tradition.

1 Thes 2:13, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers.” So, they received as the Word of God that which they heard, not simply that which they read in Scripture.

In other words, the Bible clearly supports the Catholic Church’s teaching that the Word of God is contained in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

Why are Catholic and Protestant Bibles different? Who originally compiled the Bible?Answer

Catholic Bibles contain—and have always contained—all of the books of the Bible that have been traditionally accepted by Christians dating back to the time of Jesus. These accepted books total 46 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Protestant Bibles, however, have seven fewer books in their Old Testament. These seven books excluded in the Protestant Bible are Baruch, Sirach, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith and the Wisdom of Solomon, plus portions of Esther and Daniel. These books were rejected by Protestant Reformers in the 1500s because elements in these books did not support certain Protestant theology and doctrines. Prior to the sixteenth century, however, all Christians used Bibles containing all 46 books of the Old Testament.

During the first century, there was much debate among the early Christians as to what made up the canon of Scripture. The Church, having been given authority by Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (see The Church and the Papacy), compiled the Bible in the form that it exists today.

I had a theology teacher who told me that Adam and Eve were just myths, and that the rest of Genesis was all just legends…is that what the Church teaches?Answer

No. The Church has always taught that Adam and Eve were real people and were the first human beings from whom all other human beings are descended. In 1950, Pope Pius XII, in Paragraph 37 of an encyclical entitled Humani Generis, states, “…the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from [Adam] as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.” In other words, the Church teaches that all humanity descended from Adam and Eve. They had to be real for that to happen.

Paragraph #38, states: “This [encyclical], in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis…do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense…” Again, Adam and Eve are not myths, and the rest of Genesis is not legend. They are history in a “true sense.”

Paragraph #39: “Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things…”
And listen to what the Catechism says, Paragraph #375, “The Church…teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve…” No mention of a myth here.

Paragraph #404: “By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin. Myths cannot commit personal sins.

Adam and Eve are not myths. Genesis does not contain myth or legend. That is Church teaching. If anyone says otherwise, ask him or her to produce sources from a magisterial document. They won’t be able to do so.

A friend of mine said that his church takes the Bible literally, but that the Catholic Church doesn’t…is that true?Answer

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Actually, there is no truth to that, whatsoever. Catholics interpret the Bible in a “literal” sense, while many fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and others interpret the Bible in a literalist sense.

The “literal” meaning of a passage of Scripture is the meaning that the author of that passage of Scripture intended to convey. The “literalist” interpretation of a passage of Scripture is: “that’s what it says, that’s what it means.”

Let me give you an example to illustrate the difference. If you were to read a passage in a book that said it was “raining cats and dogs outside”, how would you interpret that? As Americans, in the 21st Century, you would know that the author was intending to convey the idea that it was raining pretty doggone hard outside. That would be the “literal” interpretation…the interpretation the author intended to convey. On the other hand, what if you made a “literalist” interpretation of the phrase, “it’s raining cats and dogs”?

The “literalist” interpretation would be that, were you to walk outside, you would actually see cats and dogs falling from the sky like rain. No taking into account the popularly accepted meaning of this phrase. No taking into account the author’s intentions. The words say it was raining cats and dogs, so, by golly, it was raining cats and dogs! That is the literalist, or fundamentalist, way of interpretation.

If someone 2000 years in the future picked up that same book and read, “It was raining cats and dogs outside,” in order to properly understand that passage in the book, they would need a “literal” interpretation, not a “literalist” interpretation. Now, think about that in the context of interpreting the Bible 2000-3000 years after it was written.

Literal, or Catholic, interpretation vs. literalist, or fundamentalist, interpretation.

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Suggested Books
Where Is That In the Bible?
By Patrick Madrid
When non-Catholics start quoting Bible verses to “prove” that Catholic teachings aren’t biblical, reach for this powerful Bible-based explanation and defense of the Catholic Faith! Where Is That in the Bible? shows you how to deflate standard objections to Catholicism — and how to use Scripture to bring people into (or back into) the Church.

Does the Bible Really Say That? Discovering Catholic Teaching in Scripture
By Patrick Madrid

The Bible Compass: A Catholic’s Guide to Navigating the Scriptures
By Edward P. Sri

Why Is That in Tradition?
By Patrick Madrid
When non-Catholics insist that Catholic practices are just man-made doctrinal aberrations that have been added to Scripture, reach for this convincing explanation and defense of Catholic Tradition! Why is That in Tradition? shows you how to deflate standard objections to Catholic doctrines and practices that have been taught for centuries — and how to use those very beliefs and practices to bring people into (or back into) the Catholic Church. Veteran apologist and best-selling author Patrick Madrid: • Explains the difference between capital “T” Tradition, which are part of divine revelation, the doctrines delivered to the Church by Christ and the Apostles, and small “t” traditions, which are customs or disciplines that develop within the Church. • Shows exactly what the Church has always taught about the Bible, Mary, the communion of saints, praying for the dead, calling priests “Father,” the veneration of relics, the Real Presence, transubstantiation, confession to a priest, purgatory, the primacy of the Pope, apostolic succession, indulgences, holy water, sacramentals, novenas, and many other teachings and customs often objected to by non-Catholics. • Clarifies the true meaning of teachings that anti-Catholics often distort to attack the Church. • Provides accurate answers to the most common objections non-Catholics have about Church teachings. • Demonstrates how to share the riches of the Catholic Faith more effectively with those who find its practices “unscriptural,” or to fallen-away Catholics.

150 Bible Verses Every Catholic Should Know
By Patrick Madrid

A Pocket Guide to the Bible
By Scott Hahn
The perfect how-to for easy and fast Scripture reference and comprehension.Using straightforward, accessible language, Scripture expert Scott Hahn explains the nuts and bolts of the Bible how it came to be, the types of literature found within it, and the thrust of each book in a handy, yet thorough way that demystifies the Bible and simplifies understanding.

Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

By Dr. Tim Gray
Many Christians find prayer difficult and, as a result, do not do much of it. The fact is, many simply do not know how to pray. Even St Paul notes this sad fact when, in Romans 8:26, he says, We do not know how to pray as we ought. In this short book, written for a popular audience by well-known Catholic biblical scholar Dr. Tim Gray, we discover the secret of the saints which can enable us to enter into a lively dialogue with God. Their secret: the ancient art of Lectio Divina (divine, or sacred reading), which is reading, meditating on, and praying the Scriptures. As St. Cyprian notes, Diligently practice prayer and lectio divina. When you pray, you speak with God; when you read [the Scriptures], God speaks to you. Here, we discover that we don t need a mystic gene or divine epiphany to hear God; we simply need to take up the Bible and read.

Crossing the Tiber
By Stephen K. Ray
An exhilarating conversion story of a devout Baptist who relates how he overcame his hostility to the Catholic Church by a combination of serious Bible study and vast research of the writings of the early Church Fathers. In addition to a moving account of their conversion that caused Ray and his wife to “cross the Tiber” to Rome, he offers an in-depth treatment of Baptism and the Eucharist in Scripture and the ancient Church. Thoroughly documented with hundreds of footnotes, this contains perhaps the most complete compilation of biblical and patristic quotations and commentary available on Baptism and the Eucharist, as well as a detailed analysis of Sola Scriptura and Tradition.

Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church
By Peter Kreeft
For the first time in 400 years the Catholic Church has authorized an official universal catechism which instantly became an international best-seller, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Using this official Catechism, the highly-regarded author and professor Peter Kreeft presents a complete compendium of all the major beliefs of Catholicism written in his readable and concise style. Since the Catechism of the Catholic Church was written for the express purpose of grounding and fostering catechisms based on it for local needs and ordinary readers, Kreeft does just that, offering a thorough summary of Catholic doctrine, morality, and worship in a popular format with less technical language. He presents a systematic, organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental Catholic teachings in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church’s Tradition. This book is the most thorough, complete and popular catechetical summary of Catholic belief in print that is based on the universal Catechism.

Handbook of Catholic Apologetics: Reasoned Answers to Questions of Faith
By Peter Kreeft, Ronald Tracelli
Unbelievers, doubters and skeptics continue to attack the truths of Christianity. Handbook of Catholic Apologetics is the only book that categorizes and summarizes all the major arguments in support of the main Christian beliefs. Also included is a Protestant-friendly treatment of Catholic- Protestant issues. The Catholic answers to Protestant questions show how Catholicism is the fullness of the Christian faith. Handbook of Catholic Apologetics is full of the wisdom and wit, clarity and insight of philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli. This is an informative and valuable guidebook for anyone looking for answers to questions of faith and reason. Whether you are asking the questions yourself or want to respond to others who are, here is the resource you have been waiting for. Topics include: faith and reason, the existence of God, God’s nature, creation and evolution, providence and free will, miracles, problem of evil, Bible’s historical reliability, divinity of Chris, Christ’s resurrection, life after death, salvation, the Eucharist, Catholic hierarchy and more.

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
By Henri J. M. Nouwen
Seeing a reproduction of Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son catapulted Henri Nouwen on a long spiritual adventure. Here he shares the deeply personal meditation that led him to discover the place within where God has chosen to dwell.

Where We Got the Bible…Our Debt to the Catholic Church
By Henry G. Graham
Traces the origin and preservation of sacred Scripture. This book includes the conversion story of the author, who converted from Calvinist ministry to Catholicism.

The Great Adventure Bible Timeline DVDs
By Jeff Cavins
In this DVD series Jeff Cavins provides comprehensive teaching and commentary on the fourteen narrative books of the Bible. Each 50-55 minute talk is designed to accompany a lesson in The Bible Timeline Study Kit. About The Bible Timeline: A clear understanding of the underlying Scriptural narrative is essential to all Bible reading and study, and for this reason The Bible Timeline is the first foundational study in The Great Adventure Bible Study Series. A combination of individual reading and study, group discussion, and lecture commentary guides participants as they read through the 14 narrative books of the Bible and discover the meaning of each in light of the whole. The Bible Timeline is an immenseley rich study, diving deep into each time period of salvation history. The Bible Timeline is basic enough to suit those who haven t studied the Bible before while at the same time offering ways to go deeper that will challenge the Bible study veteran. Salvation history is covered from its beginning in Genesis through the coming of Christ and the establishment of the Catholic Church. The Bible Timeline has been granted the Imprimatur by Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia. Your Bible Study Group will: Read for yourselves the 14 narrative books of the Bible the ones that tell the story in chronological order. Learn God s marvelous plan of salvation history and see how your faith story fits into His-story. Study key Old Testament passages in light of their fulfillment in Christ. Learn how Catholic Tradition views the biblical narrative and how to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a study reference. Gain a greater appreciation for the Scripture readings you hear in Mass. Encourage one another as you learn together how God s Word applies to your lives. Lay a strong foundation for further Bible reading and study.

You Can Understand The Bible: A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible
By Peter Kreeft
Catholics are often intimidated or overwhelmed by the sheer size and complexity of the Bible. But now popular author and teacher Peter Kreeft has written a clear road map of the Bible, focusing his keen insight and engaging wit on the core message of each book.

Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible As the First Christians Did
By Mark P. Shea
Take an Amazing Journey into the Depths of Scripture!