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Christian tradition is a collection of traditions of practices or beliefs associated with Christianity or groups with Christianity. These beliefs have more or less authority based on the nature of the practices or beliefs and on the group in question.

Many churches have traditional practices, such as particular patterns of worship or rites, that developed over time. Deviations from such patterns are sometimes considered unacceptable or heretical. Similarly, traditions can be stories or history that are or were widely accepted without being part of Christian doctrine, e.g., the crucifixion of Saint Peter or the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in India, which are widely believed to have happened but are not recorded in scripture. Similarly the names of the Magi who visited Jesus at his birth are thought to have been invented much later than the events; they are not considered authentic or obligatory, but can be considered a tradition.

Tradition also includes historic teaching of the recognized church authorities, such as Church Councils and ecclesiastical officials (e.g., the Pope, Patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop of Canterbury, etc.), and includes the teaching of significant individuals like the Church Fathers, the Protestant Reformers, and founders of movements like John Wesley. Many creeds, confessions of faith, and catechisms generated by these bodies and individuals are also part of the traditions of various bodies.

Tradition and ecclesial traditions[edit]

The Catholic Church distinguishes between what it calls Apostolic Tradition (or Tradition with a capital T) and ecclesial traditions. In the course of time ecclesial traditions develop in theology, discipline, liturgy, and devotions. These the Church may retain, modify or even abandon.[1] Apostolic Tradition, on the other hand, is the teaching that was handed down by the apostles by word of mouth, by their example and "by the institutions they established", among which is the apostolic succession of the bishops: "this living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition".[2] "And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God, which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit."[3]


Among the main groups of Christianity, there are Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. In the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy, Sacred Tradition, but not "ecclesial traditions", is considered official doctrine and of equal authoritative weight to the Bible. Among conservative Protestants, the Bible itself is the only final authority (see sola scriptura and prima scriptura), but tradition still plays an important supporting role. All three groups generally accept the traditional developments on the doctrine of the Trinity, for instance, and set bounds of orthodoxy and heresy based on that tradition. They also have developed creedal and confessional statements which summarize and develop their understanding of biblical teaching.

See also[edit]



  • Baum, Wilhelm; Winkler, Dietmar W. (2003). The Church of the East: a concise history. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-29770-7. 
  • Hotchkiss, Gregory K. The Middle Way: Reflections on Scripture and Tradition, in series, Reformed Episcopal Pamphlets, no. 3. Media, Penn.: Reformed Episcopal Publication Society, 1985. 27 p. N.B.: Place of publication also given as Philadelphia, Penn.; the approach to the issue is from an evangelical Anglican (Reformed Episcopal Church) orientation. Without ISBN

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399 news items

Dallas Morning News (blog)

Dallas Morning News (blog)
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:16:16 -0700

However, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, our tongues cannot be loose cannons. We are to speak the truth in love; we are to avoid any unwholesome word; we are to speak words that build up rather than tear down; we are to speak words that benefit those ...
Patheos (blog)
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 05:29:25 -0700

But it is nonetheless liberal in the sense that it is intellectually rigorous, open to learning from other traditions, and takes a high view of human reason, without being rather eager to jettison historic elements of the Christian tradition in the way ...

Religion & Politics

Religion & Politics
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:56:15 -0700

As an evangelical leader, Scripture and Christian tradition help shape the principles I bring to bear on the immigration debate. St. Augustine provides a guiding question for Christians interested in moral laws and good policies. When it comes to any ...


Tue, 12 Aug 2014 08:11:15 -0700

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is urging Muslim leaders to denounce the "barbarity" of the Islamic State's attacks against Christians and other minorities in Iraq, saying their credibility is on the line. The Vatican's Pontifical Council for ...
The Root
Mon, 18 Aug 2014 23:56:15 -0700

Shem thus became the exemplar of the Judeo-Christian tradition, while Ham languished in a state of spiritual ignorance. One pernicious result of this interpretation was the assumed inferiority of the Hamitic people in relation to the progeny of Shem ...
First Things (blog)
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 08:39:12 -0700

Francis was an innovator, and initiated a new thread of the Christian tradition. I think Luther's protest is one sort of innovation, but not the only kind. Newman's standards for judging a genuine tradition are, it seems to me, slippery in application ...
First Things
Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:07:30 -0700

The great French historian Jacques Le Goff credited Dante with doing more than any theologian to make purgatory a meaningful part of Christian tradition, and, more recently, Jon M. Sweeney has argued that Dante practically invented the modern idea of hell.

Boston Globe

Boston Globe
Sat, 16 Aug 2014 13:12:23 -0700

Parishioners in Newton carry on traditions, such as leaping over fire to celebrate Eid al-Salib, in early Christian tradition, a celebration of Saint Helena's finding of the cross used in Jesus's crucifixion. Many non-Iraqis attended in solidarity ...

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