For  a  long  time,  some  western  writers  looked  to
"tradition" as a blind obedience to the past, and stickfast to a
passive solid deposit. In their point of view, tradition is a
precise catalogue of a set of ancient doctrines, canons and
rites,  or  it  is  a  museum  for  antiquity.  Therefore,  the
traditional  church,  in  their  view,  seems  to  be  a  solid
obscurant and retrograded one, attached to what is old,
simply for its antiquity.



The word "tradition," in Greek, as it is mentioned in the New  Testament,  is  "Paradosis,"  which  does  not  mean "imitation," but "delivering a thing and receiving it, ie., delivering a deposit of faith and receiving it along the generations (Jude 3).



1. The message of Faith in the Holy Trinity and Gods redeeming deeds.

2. The deeds and words of Christ.

3. The books of the Old Testament.

4. The spiritual and ethical teachings of Jesus Christ.

5. The curriculum of worship, its concept and order.


In the apostolic age, tradition was the only source of
Christian faith, doctrines and worship. Its role in the Church







life of that period may be summarised in the following


1. The Early Church received from Christ and the apostles
a new understanding of the Old Testament, which the Jews
did not acknowledge. She received the Old Testament with a
new concept.

2. Through tradition, Christians accepted the books of the New Testament as the inspired word of God, before they were canonised by the Church.

3. Tradition was the source of the Apostles' teaching (1
John 1:1; John 19:35, Luke 1:2; Acts 1:21,22). The Apostle
Paul considered what he received from the Church through
tradition as if received from the Lord Himself (Gal. 1:7; 1
Cor. 11:23).

4. By tradition, the church practised the active new life in


The Holy Scriptures in fact are a part of the Church
tradition. The tradition in its essence is declaring the word of
God by various methods. For tradition concentrated on the
apostolic teaching. The appearance of the books of the New
Testament did not cancel the tradition, but these books
command us to preserve the tradition (2 John 12; 3 John
13:14; 1 Cor. 11:34; Titus 1:5; 2 Thes. 3:16; John 21:25; 2
Cor. 11:23).



In the apostolic age, tradition was the only source of
Christian faith, doctrines and worship. Its role in the Church






life of that period may be summarised in the following


* Origen says: "By tradition, I knew the four Gospels, and that they are true ones."

* Church Tradition preserve the unity of understanding
the Holy Scriptures throughout ages, so that no believer
interprets them according to his own will. Origen states:
"The true disciple of Jesus is He who enters the house, that is
to say, the Church. He enters it thinking as the Church does,
and living as she does; this is how he understands the word.
The key of the Scriptures must be received from the tradition
of the Church, as from the Lord Himself2."



Christ rejected the literal Jewish tradition, which opposed
the word of God (Matt. 15:3; Mark 7:13; Col 2:8). The early
Church used to participate in the ministry of the Jewish
temple with its hymns and Psalms. The Church accepted
what was living and in accordance with the word of God.
From the Jewish tradition St. Jude knew the dispute between
Michael and the devil (Jude 9), and the prophecy of Enoch
(Jude 14,15), and the apostle Paul knew the names of those
who opposed Moses (2 Tim. 3:8), etc.



Church tradition in faith, worship, behavior and practical
life  was  delivered  to  us  through  the  decisions  of  the
Ecumenical and local councils, the patristic writings and also
through the practical life of laymen who played a vital role in
delivering  the  spirit  of  the  new  life  to  us  throughout







* Tradition does not mean "rigidity," but giving attention to the past as a basis for the present, and to the present as a basis for the future. Tradition is the mystery of church growth and vitality and not of rigidity.

* We have to understand tradition in its spiritual depth and theological basis and not in holding fast its literality without understanding.


* When the Church of Alexandria preached to Ethiopia,
she offered her the living Church tradition, but did not oblige
the Ethiopians to accept the Coptic traditions in their details.
We have to distinguish between tradition as a general Church
thought and the traditions which concern the local churches.
For  example,  Ethiopia  accepted  the  tradition  of  using
liturgies in her worship but did not use the same texts in their
literality. She accepted the spirit and the general frame of the
liturgies. Ethiopia also accepted tradition of venerating icons
but she used her own art and not the Coptic one. Thus the
Coptic church offered Ethiopia the essence of her tradition
but not its details. Therefore if we preach to a foreign
country, we have to present the Orthodox Church Tradition
without obliging them to accept a certain local thought. This
is what happens today as the Coptic church preaches to
Africa, and Kenya for example.



Some believes that preserving the Church tradition means
cancelling the personality of every member of the Church in
his relationship with God, his understanding the Holy Bible
and in practising worship. The Orthodox Church believes in
the moderate way without any exaggeration, for she holds
fast the church tradition that organises the church life,






clarifies the principal concepts of worship and reveals the
spirit of the Holy Bible without cancelling the personal
relationship of every member of the church with his Saviour.
Besides his personal   understanding of the Bible, and his
enjoying freedom.

For example, in any society, social organisation and family relationships  or  bonds  furnish  the  personality  of  every member within the spirit of the community, but do not ignore his personality.

The Church of Europe in the middle ages used church
orders and canons as rigid laws and got the believer's
personal rights. While today the majority of the Western
Christians believe in the individual freedom in understanding
the Bible according to one's will, and to acknowledge
Christianity  individually.  The  Orthodox  church  in  fact
follows midway, i.e., sanctifies the church thoughts as a
community and at the same time appreciates the personal life
of every member of the Church.


1. Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty: Tradition and Orthodoxy, 1979.


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