Question: I noticed in a book I’m reading that authority and inspiration for both the OT and the NT are credited to the spoken word as well as to the written word. Knowing that there was a strong Jewish tradition of handing down teaching orally and that the Catholic church often runs to ‘oral traditions’ to explain their interpretation of the Scripture as well as to support some of their practices, where does that leave us Protestants? I’ve been trained to rely solely on the Bible as the basis for authority. Do we have room for both oral and written authority? Is consideration of oral traditions and teaching merited? I know that the Bible is sufficient in all ways but I also know that there is much more out there, so to speak.
Answer: We believe that the oral words of the prophets that God meant for us to have as authoritative direction from Him were recorded in the Scriptures. Inspiration technically refers to the written text. There may have been other sayings of Jesus that circulated or those of other prophets or apostles. But unless we have them in recorded Scripture we cannot be assured that they have been accurately recorded and are therefore to be obeyed. There are teachings that have come down by tradition that may have benefit for us to consider, but again, unless they are in Scripture, they are not authoritative directives for the church or our lives.