Tradition in the Scriptures

Orthodox Christians hold to both Tradition and the Scriptures, as both are seen as coming from the Holy Spirit. Some object to idea of Tradition being on the same level as the Scriptures, but Paul twice specifically calls Christians to follow the Traditions of the church.

2 THES 2:15
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.


2 THES 3:6
But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.

In the first verse, Paul encourages Christians to stand fast to the traditions passed on orally and those that were written. In the next verse, Paul uses stronger language and commands that we should withdraw from those who do not keep the traditions. In no uncertain terms, Paul states that to obey tradition in an apostolic command.

Two common objections to this are, “All the traditions that were transmitted orally were eventually written down by the time the Bible was complete” and “But Jesus has an awful lot of bad things to say about those who keep traditions.” The first objection creates more questions than it answers. However, nowhere in scripture does Jesus command that all or part of what He said should be written down. Jesus Himself never wrote anything down, except in the sand.

Nor do the Scriptures make clear what was transmitted orally, so we have no way to know if some or anything of what was said was ever written down. John, at the end of his Gospel, makes the statement the world could not contain all the books that could be written about Jesus (John 21:25). Surely, there is much that was passed down orally that was never written down. Our Bible is simply too small to contain it all!

But what of all the negative things Jesus has to say about tradition? It is true that Jesus has much to say about those who follow tradition, but many times He is specific about what He means by tradition.

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men(Mark 7:8)
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men(Col 2:8)
knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers(1 Pet 1:18)

Often Jesus associates tradition with the “tradition of men.” There is a distinction between traditions of men and traditions given by the Holy Spirit. Those traditions that Paul commands us to obey come from the Holy Spirit and not of men.

Some modern scholars dislike the idea of tradition so much that they have even removed it from their bible when it suits them, specifically the NIV. The word for tradition in Greek is paradosis. It is used throughout the New Testament where it speaks of tradition as a good or bad thing. However, in the NIV, when the word is used in a positive sense, the translators have removed the word traditions and replaced it with teachings or doctrines. This is not a good practice. One should not change the words of scripture to suit their own personal ideas.

The Orthodox church remains faithful, like the early Christians to the Holy Spirit which has given us both the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition.