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Don Stewart :: How Has God Revealed Himself through Unwritten Tradition?

Don Stewart

The word tradition has the idea of something being passed down from one generation to the next. The events recorded in Scripture were also passed down by unwritten tradition.

God Has Revealed Himself From The Beginning

The Bible says that in the beginning God talked face to face with Adam and Eve.

But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" (Genesis 3:9-11).

They, in turn, related to their children what God had told them. Each generation after that would receive the oral report from the previous generation. The problem that arises with this sort of transmission of stories is that things tend to be added and deleted as accounts continue to be told. The genuine history eventually turns into myths. While these myths have a historical basis they cannot be relied upon to give an accurate explanation of what happened. Tradition, therefore, is not a reliable guide to what actually occurred.

The Creation And Flood Stories Are Told Worldwide

We find examples of biblical tradition in the many creation and flood stories that are found in the various cultures around the world. While they are all different, they usually have a number of things in common. This points to an original source from which all of them are derived.

Oral Tradition Is Unreliable

We have an example in Scripture about the unreliability of oral tradition. We are told that the Book of the Law was rediscovered in the Temple during the reign of King Josiah.

The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD." When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it. Then Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king . . . "The priest Hilkiah has given me a book." Shaphan then read it aloud to the king. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes (2 Kings 22:8.10,11).

The nation had forgotten the teachings of the Lord.. When King Josiah realized this he then said to the High Priest.

Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD's anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us (2 Kings 22:13).

Consequently any abiding form of revelation from God must be written not spoken.

Summary

Unwritten human tradition is a source of general revelation. The Bible records that God spoke to our first parents from the very beginning. While the things God said to them would have been passed down from generation to generation they would have become muddled by this type of oral transmission. This is why we find numerous creation and flood stories in cultures around the world. While they differ in details they do testify to these things actually occurring sometimes in the distant past.

We also have a biblical example of the problem of oral tradition. Because the people neglected the Scriptures they ceased to observe the things God had commanded. Whatever oral tradition existed at that time did not cause the people to obey the Law of the Lord. It was only when the written Scriptures were found that the people realized that they had disobeyed the Lord.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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