In many religions there exists a tension between Scripture and Tradition

In many religions there exists a tension between Scripture and Tradition

9. This is true of Oriental Religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) and Islam. The written texts can never express the Tradition in an exhaustive manner. They have to be completed by additions and interpretations which are eventually written down but are subject to certain limitations. This phenomenon can be seen in Christianity as well as in Judaism, with developments that are partly similar and partly different. A common trait is that both share a significant part of the same canon of Scripture.

Tradition gives birth to Scripture. The origin of Old Testament texts and the history of the formation of the canon have been the subject of important works in the last few years. A certain consensus has been reached according to which by the end of the first century of our era, the long process of the formation of the Hebrew Bible was practically completed. This canon comprised the Tor

h, the Prophets and the greater part of the “Writings”. To determine the origin of the individual books is often a difficult task. In many cases, one must settle for hypotheses. These are, for the most part, based on results furnished by Form, Tradition and Redaction Criticism. It can be deduced from them that ancient precepts were assembled in collections which were gradually inserted in the books of the Pentateuch. The older narratives were likewise committed to writing and arranged together. Collections of narrative texts and rules of conduct were combined. Prophetic messages were collected and compiled in books bearing the prophets’ names. The sapiential texts, Psalms and didactic narratives were likewise collected much later.

These additions were never granted the same authority as the Talmud, they served only as an aid to interpretation

No written text can adequately express all the riches of a tradition. 22 The biblical sacred texts left open many questions concerning the proper understanding of Israelite faith and conduct. That gave rise, in Pharisaic and Rabbinic Judaism, to a long process of written texts, from the “Mishna” (“Second Text”), edited at the beginning of the third century by Jehuda ha-Nasi, to the “Tosepta” (“Supplement”) and Talmud in its twofold form (Babylonian and Jerusalem). Notwithstanding its authority, this interpretation by itself was not deemed adequate in later times, with the result that later rabbinic explanations were added. Unresolved questions were submitted to the decisions of the Grand Rabbinate.

In this manner, written texts gave rise to further developments. Between written texts and oral tradition a certain sustained tension is evident.

The Limits of Tradition. When it was put into writing to be joined to Scripture, a normative Tradition, for all that, never enjoyed the same authority as Scripture. It did not become part of the “Writings which soil the hands”, that is, “which are sacred” and was not accepted as such in the liturgy. The Mishna, the Tosepta and the Talmud have their place in the synagogue as texts to be studied, but they are not read in the liturgy. Generally, a tradition is evaluated by its conformity to the Tor

h occupies a privileged place in the liturgy of the Synagogue. To it are added pericopes chosen from the Prophets. According to ancient Jewish belief, the Tor

Over time Tradition produced a “second Scripture” (Mishna)

h as Sacred Scripture, while the Sadduccees reject every normative Tradition outside the Law and the Prophets. Conversely, Pharisaic and Rabbinic Judaism accept, alongside the written Law, an oral Law given simultaneously to Moses and enjoying the same authority. A tract in the Mishna states: “At Sinai, Moses received the oral Law and handed it on to Joshua, and Joshua to the ancestors, and the ancestors to the prophets, and the prophets handed it on to members of the Great Synagogue” (Aboth 1:1). Clearly, a striking diversity is apparent from the manner of conceiving the role of Tradition.