Anglican Newman on Oral & Written Apostolic Tradition

Anglican Newman on Oral & Written Apostolic Tradition October 12, 2019

As to tradition, I should speak thus: – facts of whatever kind are only known (except by miracle) in two ways – by senses and by testimony. Past facts cannot be known by senses and therefore are by testimony. Tradition resolves itself into testimony. A written or printed book is the testimony of a stranger – and believed because others bear witness to its trustworthiness. Tradition is the succession of testimonies, of each age to the next, of which the last link touches you. To say we believe by tradition is only to say we are told by persons who have been told by others who etc – Josiah would not have known the book of the Law to be divine by himself. He found it in a miraculous place, or the priests etc or Jeremiah would inform him. I do not think the difference of oral or written tradition alters the case – in either case it is testimony of a particular person, in oral, of the person who speaks to you – in written, of the person who wrote (i.e. perhaps some hundred years before) or (if you resolve this again) of the persons you have known, who testify to the supposed date of the writer. . . . we know facts by miracle or tradition, i.e. including in tradition its last link, testimony made to us personally, which last link often is all, i.e. in cases where the witness has seen the facts and does not take his account from a prior witness. (Letters & Diaries, v. 6; To H. A. Woodgate, 23 May 1838)

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Related Reading:

“Tradition” Isn’t a Dirty Word [late 90s; rev. 8-16-16]

Binding, Authoritative Tradition According to St. Paul [2004]

Biblical Evidence for True Apostolic Tradition (vs. “Traditions of Men”) [6-23-11]

Biblical Evidence for the Oral Torah [10-18-11]

The Bereans and Searching the Scriptures: Sola Scriptura? [National Catholic Register, 5-5-19]

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My Three Newman Quotations Books (e-books only $2.99)

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