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quod pro nobis traditum est

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Newman on Tradition

"The fact of a tradition of revealed truth was an elementary
principle of Christianity. A body of doctrine had been delivered by
the Apostles to their first successors, and by them in turn to the
next generation, and then to the next, as we have said above. "The
things that thou hast heard from me through many witnesses," says
St. Paul to Timothy, "the same commit thou to faithful men, who
shall be able to teach others also." This body of truth was in
consequence called the "depositum," as being a substantive teaching,
not a mere accidental deduction from Scripture. Thus St. Paul says
to his disciple and successor Timothy, "Keep the deposit," "hold
fast the form of sound words," "guard the noble deposit." This
important principle is forcibly insisted on by Irenæus and
Tertullian before the Nicene era, and by Vincent after it. "'O
Timothy,'" says Vincent, "'guard the depositum, avoiding profane
novelties of words.' Who is Timothy today? Who but the universal
Church, or, in particular, the whole body of prelates, whose duty it
is both themselves to have the full knowledge of religion, and to
instruct others in it? What means 'guard'? Guard the deposit because
of enemies, lest, while men sleep, they sow tares upon the good
seed, which the Son of Man has sowed in His field. What is 'the
deposit'? That which hath been intrusted to you, not that which thou
hast discovered; what thou hast received, not what thou hast thought
out; a matter, not of cleverness, but of teaching, not of private
handling, but of public tradition."

John Henry Newman, from Apostolical Tradition, British Critic, July
1836

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