2010 Conference - How Firm a FoundationDeep in History

The Fathers Know Best: Scripture and Tradition in the Early Church – Patrick Madrid – Deep in History

June 16, 2016 No Comments

In this Deep in History lecture, Patrick Madrid addresses a common question regarding Scripture- with thousands of different perspectives on the Bible, whose should be trusted? Patrick explains how the best way to understand disputed passages of Scripture is to look at the way they were interpreted by those closest to the apostles- the Early Church Fathers, who, through the medium of Sacred Tradition, preserved the understanding of the Bible that the Catholic Church upholds today.

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Study Questions:

-What is “Tradition” according to Dei Verbum? Was this your previous understanding of Catholic Tradition? What impact did the Early Church Fathers have on Tradition?

-How does Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger describe Tradition within the scope of Revelation?   According to the Bible, what/who is the “Word of God”? (John 1) Why does that distinction make a difference when considering Tradition?

-How does Divine Revelation differ from “transmission”? 

-St. Paul charges Christians with keeping to the Faith: “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). According to this Scripture verse, do you think either oral or written tradition may be left out of an authentic Christian faith?

-What roles did the Early Church Fathers play in the Church, according to Madrid?

-What does Madrid claim that reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther mean by sola scriptura? What did the Church Fathers have to say about the relationship between Scripture and Tradition?

-What does St. Vincent of Lerins say about the dangers of erroneous interpretation?

-Some Protestants believe the Early Church Fathers were not Catholic, but truly “Protestant” in belief. After listening to Madrid’s selections from the Church Fathers, what do you think?


Early Church Fathers: A title that gradually came to be applied to Christianity’s earliest teachers, who in the period of the Church’s infancy and first growth, instructed her members in the teaching of Jesus Christ and that teaching which He very specifically had given to His Apostles. An Early Church Father must be of must be of orthodox doctrine and learning, living a saintly life, and having a certain antiquity (usually, prior to the Council of Chalcedon).

Sola scriptura: The main principle of sola scriptura, or “Scripture alone,” proclaims the canonical Scriptures, especially the New Testament, to be the only infallible source and rule of faith and practice, and asserts the right of private interpretation of the Scriptures, in distinction from the Roman Catholic view, which declares the Bible and tradition to be co-ordinate sources and rule of faith, and makes tradition, especially the decrees of popes and councils, the only legitimate and infallible interpreter of the Bible.