St. Paul’s Received Tradition

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, St. Paul speaks about “tradition” – in his words “I delivered” that which “I received.”  The sense of tradition in Orthodoxy is that we receive from the previous generation the revelation which God has given in Jesus Christ, and then we hand on this exact same tradition to the next generation.  This is how Orthodox can claim an unbroken tradition of receiving the Gospel and passing it along to the next generation.  Tradition is preserved in the Scriptures, in the apostolic succession of bishops, in the Liturgy of the Church, as well as in our doctrines and dogmas.  In St. Paul’s words:

“I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…”

The great 20th Century Russian Orthodox theologian Fr.  Georges Florovsky says:

“That is why loyalty to tradition means not only concord with the past, but, in a certain sense, freedom from the past, as from some outward formal criterion. Tradition is not only a protective, conservative principle; it is, primarily, the principal of growth and regeneration. Tradition is not a principle striving to restore the past, using the past as a criterion for the present. Such a conception of Tradition is rejected by history itself, and by the consciousness of the church. Tradition is authority to teach, potestas magisterii, authority to bear witness to the truth. The church bears witness to the truth not by reminiscence of from the words of others, but from its own living, unceasing experience, from its catholic fullness.” (in The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture, pg. 98)

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