Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium

The words written by the Apostles we call ‘Scripture’; the words and actions of the Apostles and the followers of Christ, the Church, we call ‘Tradition’ and the authority Christ gave to the Apostles and their successors we call ‘Magisterium’.

Date: 08 Dec 2019

What has God revealed to us?

We spoke last week about Revelation, how God in different ways, through creation, through human desires and throughout history makes himself known. This revelation culminates in a person Jesus - the shoot from the stock of Jesse that Isaiah speaks of in the first reading. And the revelation is that God loves us and that we can be saved. ‘He will save the poor when they cry’ sings the psalm. It is God’s will that this Good News be proclaimed to the whole world and we must next examine, even before we seek its true meaning, how we can know what is truly God’s revelation and what is not.

Apostles' authority given by Jesus

We begin always with Jesus. Jesus who reveals the fullness of truth and desires that all people should come to know it, commanded his Apostles to teach with authority. (I won't give all the scripture quotations you can find them in the Catechism) This they did by writing, by preaching and by their actions. As time passed, as we can read in the Acts of the Apostles, the history of the early church, the Apostles appointed others to continue this work, sharing with them the authority they had received from Christ.

The words written by the Apostles we call ‘Scripture’; the words and actions of the Apostles and the followers of Christ, the Church, we call ‘Tradition’ and the authority Christ gave to the Apostles and their successors we call ‘Magisterium’.

Scripture is the Word of God written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Tradition is the passing on, guided by the Holy Spirit, through teaching, life and worship, of what the Church is and believes. Scripture and Tradition are like two rivers springing from the same source, which is Jesus, intermingling and feeding each other.

Scripture, tradition and magisterium in Chritian life

Magisterium, the authority given by Jesus to his apostles and their successors is the servant of the Word of God, listening to it, reflecting upon and proclaiming it and ensuring a careful balance between Scripture and Tradition. All the members of the Church are called to faithful acceptance of the what is proclaimed in Scripture and Tradition and interpreted by the Magisterium, because that Gospel is Jesus, the fullness of God's revelation. But at the same time all the members of the Church, filled with the Holy Spirit, faithfully living the Gospel and growing in holiness guide and inform the Magisterium.

The books which, according to Tradition and by the authority of the Magisterium, make up the Bible are the inspired Word of God. God inspires their human authors, acting in them and through them. The Old and New Testaments form a unity. The full meaning of the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament and the New Testament casts light upon the Old Testament. A good example of that in today’s readings where the prophet Isaiah’s words of hope in the Old Testament are taken up in the New Testament by John the Baptist who prepares people for the coming of Jesus who will reveal the full meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy. The heart of the scriptures is the Gospels because their heart is Jesus. His life on earth was recounted by his disciples to others who selecting certain aspects of that tradition produced the written accounts for the good of the Church. The study of Scripture, its proclamation and its prayerful reading is part of the life of the Church and her members.

How we can know what is truly God’s revelation?

An image is a three legged stool. The genuine full proclamation of the truth revealed in Jesus depends on three legs. Scripture, what is written, Tradition what the apostles who wrote the Scriptures and the followers of Jesus have done and said and handed on over the centuries and Magisterium the authority Jesus gave to his apostles and to their successors the Bishops. Take any leg away and the whole thing collapses. When you have any question about the truth revealed in Jesus look for three things: what does it say in Scriptures? What has the Church always taught? What do the successors of the Apostles, the Pope and the Bishops teach. When those three coincide we know we have the truth.

Next week we look at faith, our response to the revealed truth.


Contact details

Parish priest: Fr Ian Farrell
Phone: 07546 852229

Parish secretary: Catherine Peet
Phone: 01254 884211

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