Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 11, 2009
Scholar calls tradition 'living water'
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — Tradition should be seen in its best light, not its worst, a New Testament scholar told an ecumenical audience May 2.
“I think of tradition as the living water that would flow from Jesus into our hearts so we can invigorate and refresh one another,” said Edith Humphrey.
Yet in some Protestant circles, tradition has a bad reputation, she said.
LENS OF TRADITION
Humphrey, who is the author of four books and teaches at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, said Christians see through the lens of tradition whether tradition is acknowledged or not.
One sleepless night, Humphrey said she turned on her computer to look up the Greek words that signify tradition and see how they were translated in different versions of the New Testament.
The words are paradidomi (‘to tradition,’ ‘to pass on’) and paradosis (tradition) and didomi and dosis (‘I give’ and ‘gift’). The preposition para means ‘from the side’ or ‘to the proximity with,’ she said.
She was astonished to discover that in popular Protestant translations of the Bible, including the King James Version, the word “tradition” was used “almost wholly in a negative sense.” Tradition belonged to the Pharisees, to the religious laws that Christians do not have to keep, she noted.
When the same Greek words were used positively, they were translated as “sound instruction,” she said. Humphrey said the negative attitudes many Protestants have inherited have come down as an “overreaction to Roman Catholicism.”
She noted several places in the New Testament that refer to that which was handed down, or delivered in terms of lifestyle and order.
SPOKEN OR WRITTEN
In 2 Thessalonians 2.15 Paul points to the traditions that were taught “by word of mouth or by our letter,” she said. Paul’s letters were written before Acts or any of the Four Gospels.