For example, is the tradition that the Gospel of Matthew was "written according to Matthew" considered an infallible Sacred Tradition in the Catholic or Orthodox churches?

  • What exactly is meant by "infallible Sacred Tradition"?
    – guest37
    Feb 14, 2023 at 0:02
  • @guest37 I'm asking if it's infallible dogma that the apostle Matthew authored Matthew, that apostle Peter authored Peter, etc. Feb 14, 2023 at 0:19
  • Isn't dogma infallible by definition? If not, what would be a definition of a fallible dogma?
    – guest37
    Feb 14, 2023 at 10:45

1 Answer 1


Is the authorship of the New Testament Sacred Tradition in the Catholic and Orthodox churches?

The authorship of the books of the New Testament is part of Catholic’s Apostolic Tradition rather than Sacred Tradition.

Apostolic Tradition aided the Church before the Biblical Canon was even established.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides the argument that the Word of God is composed of both tradition (oral) and scripture (written).

I. The Apostolic Tradition

75 "Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline."32

In the apostolic preaching. . .

76 In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:

  • orally "by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit";

  • in writing "by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing".

Thus for the Catholic Church, it is tradition that the Sacred Scriptural authors are based on apostolic tradition and sources from which the New Testament were both penned and handed down to us.

I imagine that the same would hold for the Orthodox Churches also.

For example, St. Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles the Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say about the authorship of the Acts of the Apostles:

That the companion of St. Paul who wrote the Acts was St. Luke is the unanimous voice of antiquity. His choice of medical language proves that the author was a physician. Westein, in his preface to the Gospel ("Novum Test. Græcum", Amsterdam, 1741, 643), states that there are clear indications of his medical profession throughout St. Luke's writings; and in the course of his commentary he points out several technical expressions common to the Evangelist and the medical writings of Galen. These were brought together by the Bollandists ("Acta SS.", 18 Oct.). In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for June, 1841, a paper appeared on the medical language of St. Luke. To the instances given in that article, Plummer and Harnack add several others; but the great book on the subject is Hobart "The Medical Language of St. Luke" (Dublin, 1882). Hobart works right through the Gospel and Acts and points out numerous words and phrases identical with those employed by such medical writers as Hippocrates, Arctæus, Galen, and Dioscorides. A few are found in Aristotle, but he was a doctor's son. The words and phrases cited are either peculiar to the Third Gospel and Acts, or are more frequent than in other New Testament writings. The argument is cumulative, and does not give way with its weakest strands. When doubtful cases and expressions common to the Septuagint, are set aside, a large number remain that seem quite unassailable. Harnack (Luke the Physician! 13) says: "It is as good as certain from the subject-matter, and more especially from the style, of this great work that the author was a physician by profession. Of course, in making such a statement one still exposes oneself to the scorn of the critics, and yet the arguments which are alleged in its support are simply convincing. . . . Those, however, who have studied it [Hobart's book] carefully, will, I think, find it impossible to escape the conclusion that the question here is not one of merely accidental linguistic coloring, but that this great historical work was composed by a writer who was either a physician or was quite intimately acquainted with medical language and science. And, indeed, this conclusion holds good not only for the 'we' sections, but for the whole book." Harnack gives the subject special treatment in an appendix of twenty-two pages. Hawkins and Zahn come to the same conclusion. The latter observes (Einl., II, 427): "Hobart has proved for everyone who can appreciate proof that the author of the Lucan work was a man practised in the scientific language of Greek medicine--in short, a Greek physician" (quoted by Harnack, op. cit.). - Authorship of the Acts

There are differences between Sacred Tradition and other Catholic traditions. At times, the early Tradition before the written New Testament is called “Apostolic Tradition”.

To begin, it is important to note that Sacred Tradition is not the same as what we commonly understand by the word "tradition." We need to distinguish between the terms "tradition" spelled with a lower case "t" and Tradition" spelled with a capital "T." When we spell the word tradition with a lower case letter, we are referring to those things that are more often referred to as "traditions" and have a meaning closer to the word "practices” which are not part of Divine Revelation itself, but are pious customs that have arisen later in the history of the Church (CCC 2651). Examples of traditions include praying the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet, devotions to favorite saints, making the sign of the cross and the like.

When Tradition is capitalized in this context, it refers to Sacred Tradition. The word tradition comes from the Latin word tradere which means "to hand on." Sacred Tradition is the Scripture as it is lived out in the Church. It is nevertheless the Word of God. Specifically, it is the Word of God that the prophets and the Apostles received through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This message which they received was "handed on" to the Christian world by the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The concept of Tradition has been a difficult, confusing and divisive one ever since the Protestant Reformation. For this reason, it is helpful to break down the concept piecemeal. First, tradition is a “what”—the content of the gospel proclamation given first by Jesus Christ and subsequently by the apostles, in terms of their oral preaching and teaching (2 Thess 2:15; Matt 28:19-20) and in terms of their writing (CCC 75-76). Sometimes the early Tradition before the written New Testament is called “Apostolic Tradition” (CCC 83). Those who wrote about the Christ event in the New Testament did so under the special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "the Spirit of Truth," who is the sacred Author of the Scripture. These inspired writings came into existence within a definite Tradition, a living context of faith. Some elements of Tradition were based in the sayings and deeds of Jesus Christ, especially his death and resurrection. Other elements were not revealed directly by Jesus, but rather at the prompting of the Holy Spirit which he sent:

"I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:12-15)

What is Sacred Tradition

As far as both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are concerned the Bible as we have it now, does not tell us which books are inspired. For the Church, this required spiritual discernment. The assembling of all the canonical books of the New Testament was a lengthy process, not completed until the end of the fourth century, with the Council of Rome under Pope Damasus I in 382 A.D.

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