The Transmission of Divine Revelation
(from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church)
11. Why and in what way is divine revelation transmitted?
God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy2:4), that is, of Jesus Christ. For this reason, Christ must be proclaimed to all according to his own command, “Go forth and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). And this is brought about by Apostolic Tradition.
12. What is Apostolic Tradition?
Apostolic Tradition is the transmission of the message of Christ, brought about from the very beginnings of Christianity by means of preaching, bearing witness, institutions, worship, and inspired writings. The apostles transmitted all they received from Christ and learned from the Holy Spirit to their successors, the bishops, and through them to all generations until the end of the world.
13. In what ways does Apostolic Tradition occur?
Apostolic Tradition occurs in two ways: through the living transmission of the word of God (also simply called Tradition) and through Sacred Scripture which is the same proclamation of salvation in written form.
14. What is the relationship between Tradition and Sacred Scripture?
Tradition and Sacred Scripture are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ. They flow out of the same divine well-spring and together make up one sacred deposit of faith from which the Church derives her certainty about revelation.
15. To whom is the deposit of faith entrusted?
The Apostles entrusted the deposit of faith to the whole of the Church. Thanks to its supernatural sense of faith the people of God as a whole, assisted by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Magisterium of the Church, never ceases to welcome, to penetrate more deeply and to live more fully from the gift of divine revelation.
16. To whom is given the task of authentically interpreting the deposit of faith?
The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the deposit of faith has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone, that is, to the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, and to the bishops in communion with him. To this Magisterium, which in the service of the Word of God enjoys the certain charism of truth, belongs also the task of defining dogmas which are formulations of the truths contained in divine Revelation. This authority of the Magisterium also extends to those truths necessarily connected with Revelation.
17. What is the relationship between Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium?
Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium are so closely united with each other that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.
18. Why does Sacred Scripture teach the truth?
Because God himself is the author of Sacred Scripture. For this reason it is said to be inspired and to teach without error those truths which are necessary for our salvation. The Holy Spirit inspired the human authors who wrote what he wanted to teach us. The Christian faith, however, is not a “religion of the Book”, but of the Word of God – “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living” (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux).
19. How is Sacred Scripture to be read?
Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church according to three criteria: 1) it must be read with attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture; 2) it must be read within the living Tradition of the Church; 3) it must be read with attention to the analogy of faith, that is, the inner harmony which exists among the truths of the faith themselves.
20. What is the Canon of Scripture?
The Canon of Scripture is the complete list of the sacred writings which the Church has come to recognize through Apostolic Tradition. The Canon consists of 46 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New.
21. What is the importance of the Old Testament for Christians?
Christians venerate the Old Testament as the true word of God. All of the books of the Old Testament are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value. They bear witness to the divine pedagogy of God’s saving love. They are written, above all, to prepare for the coming of Christ the Savior of the universe.
22. What importance does the New Testament have for Christians?
The New Testament, whose central object is Jesus Christ, conveys to us the ultimate truth of divine Revelation. Within the New Testament the four Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are the heart of all the Scriptures because they are the principle witness to the life and teaching of Jesus. As such, they hold a unique place in the Church.
23. What is the unity that exists between the Old and the New Testaments?
Scripture is one insofar as the Word of God is one. God’s plan of salvation is one, and the divine inspiration of both Testaments is one. The Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfills the Old; the two shed light on each other.
24. What role does Sacred Scripture play in the life of the Church?
Sacred Scripture gives support and vigor to the life of the Church. For the children of the Church, it is a confirmation of the faith, food for the soul and the fount of the spiritual life. Sacred Scripture is the soul of theology and of pastoral preaching. The Psalmist says that it is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The Church, therefore, exhorts all to read Sacred Scripture frequently because “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Saint Jerome).