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The Early Church Fathers on Sacred or Apostolic Tradition.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360-433)
    St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444)
    Fastidius, (A.D. c.376-c.444)
    Socrates of Constantinople, (A.D. c.380-440)
    St. Nilus the Elder, (A.D. c.385-430)
    Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458)
    St. Vincent of Lérins, (A.D. c.400-445)
    Salonius, (flourished/wrote A.D. c.445)
    Gelasius of Cyzicus, (unknown-A.D. c.492)
    Andrew of Cæsarea, (A.D. 563-637)
St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is also a Doctor of the Church.

"But those things which we observe, not because written, but transmitted, things which are indeed observed throughout the whole world, it is to be understood, that they are retained as commanded and decreed, either by the Apostles themselves, or by general (plenary) councils, the authority of which is most wholesome in the Church; as that the passion, and the resurrection, and the ascension of the Lord into Heaven, and the coming of the Holy Spirit from Heaven, be celebrated with an anniversary solemnity; and if there be anything else of the like nature which is observed by the universal Church throughout its whole extent."

T. ii. Epis. liv. n. 1, Januario, col. 185.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 430-431

"The custom of our mother the Church in baptizing infants is by no means to be despised, nor to be deemed in any way superfluous, nor to be believed at all were it not an apostolical tradition."

T. iii. De Genes, ad Litt. l. x. n. 39 (al. 23), col. 436.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 431

"We do not," you say, "find that any one who had been baptized amongst heretics was, by the Apostles, admitted with out baptism, and received into communion." "But neither do we find this, that any one, on coming from the heretics amongst whom he had been baptized, was baptized again by the Apostles. But that custom is rightly believed to have been transmitted by the Apostles, which even then men on looking upwards did not see had been instituted by those who came after (the Apostles). And many such things there are which it would be long to enumerate. Wherefore, if what they said was something, they to whom Cyprian, wishing to persuade his opinions, says,

Let no one say, what we received from the Apostles, this we follow, with how much greater force do we now say: What the custom of the Church always held, what this dispute could not dissuade from, and what a general (plenary) council has confirmed, this we follow. Add to this, that the arguments on both sides of the dispute, as also the Scripture testimonies having been carefully examined, it may also be said: What truth declared, this we follow."

T. ix. i.ii. De Bapt. Cont. Don. n. 9, col. 224.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 432

"The universal Church holds that this has been handed down, seeing that little infants are baptized, who certainly cannot as yet with the heart believe unto justice, and with the mouth confess unto salvation. And yet no Christian will say that they are baptized in vain. And if any seek for the divine authority in this matter though that which the universal Church holds, not instituted by councils, but always retained, is most justly believed to have been no otherwise transmitted than by apostolic authority — still are we able to conjecture with truth of what avail is the sacrament of baptism in infants, from the circumcision of the flesh, which the former people received."

T. ix. i.ii. De Bapt. Cont. Don. n. 30-1 (o 23), col. 243.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 432-433

"But now my mind is to urge against you the sentiments of the bishops who have gone before us, men who treated these divine words faithfully and memorably.

[He then cites various fathers against the Pelagians, and observes:]

what they found in the Church, they held; what they had learned, they taught; what they had received from the fathers, this they delivered to the children."

T. x. l.ii. contr. Jul. Pelag. n. 19, 34, col.973, 989.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 433

St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 - 433), ordained a deacon by St. John Chrysostom and a priest in Marseilles, a Christian theologian celebrated in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings. He is known both as one of the "Scythian monks" and as one of the "Desert Fathers". His opinions on grace being in opposition somewhat to those of St. Augustine and the Church, caused him to be opposed by St. Prosper.

Having quoted several of the fathers in opposition to the errors of Nestorius, he concludes thus:

"Art thou then the reformer of the early prelates? does thou condemn the ancient priests? art thou more excellent than Gregory? more to be followed than Nectarius; to be preferred before John, and all the priests of the eastern churches— priests who, though they have not the same reputation as those whom I have named, are of the same faith?

L. vii. De Incarn. p. 102 ; t. vii. Bibl. Maxim. SS. PP.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 442

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He succeeded Theophilus in the patriarchal see of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, and was the great champion of orthodoxy against Nestorius, against whom the general council of Ephesus was called, in A.D. 431 and in which St. Cyril presided.

"Now if the multitude of those offended be so great, ought we not to bring into use all our skill to this duty of removing the scandals, and set forth the sound word (or, sense) of the faith before those who seek for the truth; and this will be done very rightly, if, having met with the writings of the holy fathers, we are careful to make much of them; and judging of ourselves whether we are in the faith, according to what is written (by them), we very exactly conform our sentiments to their correct and irreprehensible sentiments."

[He then quotes the Nicene Creed.]

T. v. P. 2, Ep. iv. Nestorio, p. 22.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 437-438

"As soon as he (Nestorius) had been ordained, he set himself eagerly to promulgate certain novel and unreasonable things, and which are far removed from that apostolic and evangelic faith, which our fathers ever preserved and handed down to us as a pearl of great price."

Ib. Ep. ix. ad Caelestin. pp. 36-7.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 438

"Upon reading these your sacred declarations, and finding that we agree with you in sentiments, for there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, we gave glory to God the universal Saviour, congratulating with each other, that both our churches and yours have a faith that corresponds with the divine Scriptures, and with the tradition of our holy fathers."

Ibid. p. 106.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 438-439

"Our sentiments, therefore, concerning our Lord's incarnation, are those which were entertained by the holy fathers before us: for when reading their works we so regulate our mind that it follow in their traces, and bring nothing new to the orthodox doctrines."

Ib. ad Successum Ep. Diaeces. Isaur. p 135
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 439

Fastidius (A.D. c.376-c.444) a British bishop, who flourished around A.D. 430, about the same times as St. Cyril of Alexandria, author of De Viduitate Servanda.

"I will declare of the Holy Ghost that He is fully God and Lord, thus taught by ecclesiastical men who have preceded me; who, themselves also, having been previously instructed in the testimonies of the divine Scriptures by apostolic men, have delivered them to their successors."

De Trin. c. vii. n. 3, Galland. t. vii. p. 459.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 424

Socrates of Constantinople, (A.D. c.380-c.440), also known as Socrates Scholasticus, not to be confused with the Greek philosopher Socrates, was a Greek Christian church historian, a contemporary of Sozomen and Theodoret, who used his work; he was born at Constantinople A.D. c.380: His Ecclesiastical History is, for the most part, a continuation of that by Eusebius. It begins with the year 306, and closes with the year 439.

"Eusebius, upon arriving at Alexandria, speedily with Athanasius, summoned a synod. . . . For they did not introduce into the Church some novel religious belief of their own invention, but what, from the first, both the ecclesiastical tradition had taught, and by the learned amongst Christians had been demonstratively unfolded."

H.E. l.iii. c. vii. p. 178.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 448

St. Nilus the Elder, (c. A.D. 385 - c. 430) (also known as Nilus of Sinai, Neilos, Nilus of Ancyra), Syrian, was one of the many disciples and fervent students of St. John Chrysostom; an eyewitness of the martyrdom of Theodotus.

"You ask me by your letter, whether we ought to believe that the Holy Ghost is consubstantial with the Father and the Son. So we hold, and believe, having been taught by the divine fathers."

L. ii. Epist. ccx. p. 229.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 436

Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458), Greek; an influential author, theologian, and Christian bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria (A.D. 423-457). He played a pivotal role in many early Byzantine church controversies that led to various ecumenical acts and schisms. His friendship for Nestorius embroiled him, for a time, with his great contemporary, St. Cyril of Alexandria.

"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have learned, etc." (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Have as the rule of doctrine the words which we have delivered unto you, which both when present, we have preached, and when absent, we have written to you."

T. iii. Interpr. in Ep. ii. cap. ii. Thess. p. 537.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 439

"And the crowning point of unity is the harmony of faith; that no spurious doctrine has been received by you, but that you preserve that old and apostolic teaching, which a venerable and gray-headed antiquity has brought down to you, which the labors (the sweat) of virtue have nourished."

T. iv. Epiat. Ixxv. Clericis Beroens.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 441

Having quoted several of the fathers on a point of doctrine, he says:

"But the day would fail me while enumerating (those who maintain the same doctrine), Polycarp, and Irenæus, and Methodius, and Hippolytus, and the other teachers of the Church: we therefore in a word say, that we follow the divine oracles, and all those holy men. For by the grace of the Spirit they penetrated into the depths of the inspired writing, and themselves understood its meaning, and made that meaning plain to those that wish to learn."

Quod post Humanit. Christus sit unions Fillus et Dom.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 442

"We have had handed down to us, and have been taught, and we hold this Catholic and apostolic tradition and faith and confession, that one is the hypostasis — this the heretics themselves denominate substance — of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Hist. Eccles. I. ii. c. viii. p. 81; Vales. Cantab. 1720.
(Ex. Ep. Synod. Condi. Sardic.}
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 442

St. Vincent of Lérins (A.D. c.400-445), in Latin, Vincentius, a monastic presbyter and ecclesiastical writer in the island of Lérins, he was a man learned in the Holy Scriptures, and well instructed in the knowledge of the doctrines of the Church, with a view to overthrow the sects of the heretics. He composed in elegant and clear language a very powerful dissertation, which, concealing his own name, he entitled Peregrinus against Heretics.

"Whom (the fathers) we are to believe in this binding manner, that whatsoever either all, or the greater part, with (or, in) one and the same mind (or sense), plainly, frequently, unswervingly, as in a kind of council of teachers agreeing together, have confirmed by receiving, holding, and delivering it, let that be held as a thing undoubted, certain, and settled. But whatsoever sentiment, any, although he be holy and learned, although a bishop, although a confessor and martyr, may have entertained beside all, or even contrary to all, let that be separated from the authority of the common, public, and general sentiment, and placed amongst his own proper, and secret, and private slight opinions; lest, with the utmost peril of eternal salvation, we do, according to the sacrilegious custom of heretics and schismatics, having forsaken the ancient truth of universal doctrine, follow the novelty of some one man.

The holy and Catholic consent of which blessed fathers, lest any one think that he may rashly contemn, the Apostle says, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, "And God indeed hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, of which himself was one; secondly, prophets, as Agabus, of whom we read in the Acts; thirdly, doctors", who are now called expounders (tractatores), whom this same Apostle sometimes also nameth prophets, for that by them the mysteries of the prophets are laid open to the people. These men, therefore, disposed of God, throughout times and places, in the Church of God, whosoever despiseth them when they concur in any one sentiment touching the understanding of Catholic doctrine, despises not man, but God; from the truth teaching unity of which men that none dissent, the same Apostle very earnestly entreats, saying, "But I beseech you, brethren, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but be you perfect, in the same mind, and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1) "

Adv. Haecres. n. xxviii.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 444-445

Salonius, (flourished/wrote A.D. c.445), the son of St. Eucherius and the disciple of Salvian. It is doubtful whether he was bishop of Vienne or of Geneva. He was present at the Council of Orange in 444.

"Remove not the ancient land-marks which thy fathers set. (Proverbs 23) By the ancient land-marks he means the land-marks of truth and of faith which the Catholic doctors have set from the beginning. This, therefore, does he enjoin, that no one understand the truth of sacred faith and of evangelic doctrine otherwise than as it has been transmitted by the holy fathers."

Explan. Myst. in Prov. p. 406, t. viii. Bill. Maxim.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 41

Gelasius of Cyzicus, (unknown- A.D. c.492), son of a priest of Cyzicus, he was an ecclesiastical writer who wrote in the Roman province of Bithynia in Asia Minor about A.D. 475 to prove against the Eutychians, that the Nicene Fathers did not teach Monophysitism.

"This is the apostolic and unspotted faith of the Church, which (faith) delivered from Heaven by the Lord Himself through the Apostles, the Church reverences (as) transmitted from father to son, and retains it now and for evermore, the Lord saying to His disciples, "Going teach all nations." . . . It has seemed good to us all together that the word consubstantial ought to be defined in the Catholic faith, in the same way as our holy fathers, who have lived since the Apostles, have delivered this faith.

History: Council of Nicaea l. ii. c. xxiii. xxiv. col. 224, t. ii. Labb.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 449

Not only then, agreeably to these various opinions, so fully expressed, has the authentic body of our Scriptures been preserved by tradition; but, by the same rule, has the expounding of those Scriptures been invariably directed; otherwise, how is it that the washing of feet, so expressly enjoined by our Saviour, has not been received and observed as a sacramental institution? Why do we not abstain from blood and from things strangled, as the Apostles themselves ordained? In the first case (John 13), having washed the feet of His disciples, Christ says to them: "If then I, being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet: you ought also to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also." The injunction is positive. — In the second case (Acts 15), when difficulties were raised by the Jews against the Gentile converts, in favor of the law of Moses, the Apostles met in council at Jerusalem; and after due deliberation, came to the following decision: "It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay no further burden upon you than these necessary things; That you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled." Here also is the ordinance positive. But by tradition we know that, in the first case, no obligation of compliance was ever imposed on the faithful; and by tradition again we know that, in the second, the ordinance was understood to be temporary. Every difficulty is thus removed, and the authority of apostolical tradition clearly ascertained. From the same tradition we learn the lawfulness of infant baptism; the validity of baptism given by heretics; the observation of the Sunday and many other even fundamental doctrines and important matters of practice.

History: Council of Nicaea l. ii. c. xxiii. xxiv. col. 224, t. ii. Labb.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 449-450

Andrew of Cæsarea, (A.D. 563 - 637), Greek; theological writer and bishop of Cæsarea, known for his commentary on the Book of Revelation which is the oldest Greek patristic commentary on that book of the Bible. He succeeded St. Basil.

"Now I think it superfluous to treat at length of the credibility and authority of this book (the Apocalypse). For it is well known that those blessed men and fathers of ours, Gregory the Theologian, Cyril of Alexandria, and others more ancient than they, as Papias, Irenseus, Methodius, and Hippolytus, have, on more than one occasion, declared it to be divine and deserving of credit, and we have, on account of what is contained in their works, come to the same conclusion."

Comm. in Apoc. Proaem. p. 590, col. 2, Bib. Max. PP. t. v.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 436-437



By Apostolical Traditions, are understood such points of Catholic belief and practice, as, not committed to writing in the Holy Scriptures, that have come down in an unbroken line of oral delivery, and varied testimony, from the apostolic ages.


Among many of these traditions, is the authentic canon of the books of the Old and New Testament, carefully separated from all spurious and apocryphal admixture at the Council of Rome in A.D. 382, preserved in the Church, and transmitted to us today.



The Church's Scriptures on Sacred or Apostolic Tradition


Paul writes on the Apostolic Tradition of saying the Mass

2 Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me: and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you. 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread. 24 And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me.

1 Corinthians 11:2, 23, 24

Hold fast to the Tradition which has been passed on to you by either the written word or by mouth

3 Let no man deceive you by any means, for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, 14 Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.

2 Thessalonians 2:3, 14

Paul warns Timothy to avoid those things which have not been passed down to his trust

20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding the profane novelties of words, and oppositions of knowledge falsely so called.

1 Timothy 6:20

Pull tells Timothy to hold to the sound words which he heard of him in faith

13 Hold the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me in faith, and in the love which is in Christ Jesus. 14 Keep the good thing committed to thy trust by the Holy Ghost, who dwelleth in us.

2 Timothy 1:13-14

Paul predicts that evil men will come along with errors that deviate from the truth of the Gospel

13 But evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse: erring, and driving into error. 14 But continue thou in those things which thou hast learned, and which have been committed to thee: knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And because from thy infancy thou hast known the holy scriptures, which can instruct thee to salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 3:13-15

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