What is Truth?

If you ask a Christian, they would say, “the Bible.” The Bible is God’s word, period, end of story. But what if it is something not found in the Bible but that agrees with God’s word? Could we quote pagan philosophers? “Oh sure, you’d say, maybe for a sermon point or two.” It’s not like the Bible ever quotes pagan philosophers to illustrate truths, right?

Except that it totally does.

Paul quotes Epimenidis in Acts 17:28 and from Aratus in Acts 17:29 (both of whom are pagan prophets writing about Zeus) Jude quotes from the Apocryphal book of Enoch in Jude 15 and Paul quotes Cretan prophets in Titus 1:12-13.

I believe that God knows all, and everything that is true comes from Him-whether it is mentioned in the Bible or not.

What about oral tradition?

What we call the New Testament is a series of letters and memoirs recounting the oral teachings of Christ and his disciples. It is no different than a teaching or a practice started by Christ or his disciples and simply passed down by word of mouth through the ages. But, somehow, we get all weird about that. Like, if it’s in the Book, it’s true, but if it got started by the disciples at the time of the Book and didn’t get written down for a couple of hundred more years, it doesn’t count.

“But,” you say, “they could have changed it!” They could have changed the written accounts too, but few Christians think that. There were plenty of alternate Gospels and letters supposedly from disciples circulating out there, which is one of the reasons Christians got together and voted on which books should go in the Bible.

In most parts of the world, for most of human history, oral tradition is how religious ideas were passed down. Even the Bible admits that oral teaching is superior to the written word. 2nd Thess. 2:15 puts oral tradition on par with Paul’s letters, and 2 John 12 shows that the disciples preferred face-to-face teaching over the written word.

I’m interested in finding out what the traditions of the early Church were. What did the “fathers” of the church, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and Augustine teach?

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