And beginning with Moses an all prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And their eyes were opened and they knew him. They said to each other, Did not our hearts burn within us . . . while he opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 24:27, 31, 32).Thus begins Cullmann’s account of “The Tradition,” from which I’ve cited several times now, and which, I have heard from someone reliable, is probably the best account of the relationship of “scripture and tradition”. As I work through this, of course, I’ll check Cullmann’s analysis against other writers on the topic, and of course, against the witness of Scripture.
Last time I cited Bryan Cross’s view of succession (in contrast to Sullivan’s). In the recent Catholic Answers thread that bore my name, some of the folks there were a bit saddened that I didn’t stay and answer all their questions. Of course, I answered a number of their questions, but there ended up being more than 400 comments and I just didn’t get to read all of them, much less respond to them. One of the writers there, Pete Holter, a (as I understand it) former Reformed believer, provided this account (somewhat abbreviated):
God the Father passed His authority on to Jesus (cf. Matthew 28:18), Who passed it on to the apostles (cf. Luke 10:16 and Matthew 28:19), who passed it on to their successors.This “passing on,” in the Roman Catholic account, takes a similar flow as that given in shorthand form by many Roman Catholics. In many of these accounts, indeed, in the official account, the words “authority” and “tradition” and “succession” sort of get muddled together until, in the Roman Catholic mind, there is just one thing: and the Roman Catholic Church and its teachings and Magisterium have the very authority of God on earth. It’s been that way since the muddling, and that’s good enough for us!
I think Cullman’s “The Tradition” admirably isolates those threads – authority and tradition and succession – he defines them well, and he talks about what genuinely gets “handed on” from God, what just sort of gets picked up along the way, and what gets distorted.
My copy of this article is found within Cullmann’s 1956 collection of essays, “The Early Church” (London: SCM Press Ltd). In his own words:
Firstly, I shall try to prove that the New Testament regards the Lord exalted to the right hand of God as the direct author of the tradition of the apostles, because he himself is at work in the apostolic transmission of his words and deeds. Secondly, by examining the conception of the apostolate, I shall attempt to determine the connection between the apostolic tradition and the post-apostolic tradition, and the difference between them. Thirdly, I shall enquire whether this distinction is confirmed by the history of the early Church, and whether, in creating the canon, the Church itself deliberately separated apostolic from ecclesiastical tradition, so as to make the former the norm of the latter (pg. 59)Over the next couple of posts, I'd like to follow Cullmann's account, bringing in other information as I go. Christ, of course, is the final and perfect Revelation of God. As the writer to the Hebrews begins by saying, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”But God does not give an unclear view of himself in the Old Testament, and it is this God we see when we see Christ.
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me (John 14:8-11).