BibleBeltCatholics | Sharing quotes and writings of the Early Church Fathers with our separated Christian brethren in the South!
Home 1st-2nd Century 3rd-4th Century 5th-8th Century The Catechism Today About this site

The Catholic Church and
the term Catholic
Peter and the Papacy
The Sacraments
Other Church Teaching
The Word of God
  Sacred Scriptures
    The Church, as the Expounder
    Private Interpretation
Immaclate Conception Apostolic Tradition
Heaven, Purgatory and Hell

Pre-Christian through the Second Century  >>

The Early Church Fathers on Sacred or Apostolic Tradition.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Papias of Hierapolis, (post A.D. 70 - 150)
    St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202)
    St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220)
    Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218)
    St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236)
    Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
St. Papias of Hierapolis, (post A.D. 70 - A.D. 150), bishop of Hierapolis, writer, called by St. Irenæus "a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, a man of old time." (Eusebius H. E. i. 36), he composed five books on the "Discourses of our Lord"; but a few fragments of which remain; they were preserved by Eusebius.

Whenever anyone came my way, who had been a follower of my seniors, I would ask for the accounts of our seniors: What did Andrew or Peter say? Or Phillip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any of the Lord's disciples? I also asked: What did Aristion and John the Presbyter, disciples of the Lord say. For, as I see it, it is not so much from books as from the living and permanent voice that I must draw profit.

The Sayings of the Lord [between A.D. 115 and 140] as recorded by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3:39 [A.D. 325]

St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202), Asia Minor; bishop, missionary, theologian, defender of orthodoxy. Though by birth a Greek, he was Bishop of Lyons in the second century. He tells us that, in his early youth, he learned the rudiments of religion from St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John the Apostle. He wrote several works, of which only a few fragments are now known, with the exception of his Treatise against Heretics which we have in five books.

"So also Polycarp (A.D. 69-169), who not only had been instructed by Apostles, and had conversed with many who had seen the Lord, but was also appointed, by Apostles, bishop of Smyrna, in Asia, Him we saw in our early youth. . . . The things which he had learned from the Apostles, those he uniformly taught, which also he delivered to that Church, which also alone are true. To these all the churches throughout Asia, and they who to this day have succeeded to Polycarp, bear testimony, being a witness of truth much more credible and more faithful than Valentinus and Marcion, and the rest of the perverse thinkers. And this Polycarp having come to Home, under Anicetus, converted many from amongst the aforesaid heretics, unto the Church of God; proclaiming that he had received from the Apostles that one and only truth, which he delivered to the Church. And there are those who heard him say, that John, he who was the Lord's disciple, having gone forth to bathe in Ephesus, and seeing Cerinthus within, hurried forth from the bath without bathing, and exclaiming, "Let us fly, for fear lest the bath fall, as Cerintlms, the enemy of the truth, is within." And this very Polycarp, when Marcion once met him, and said, "Dost thou know us?", I replied, "I know thee as the first-born of Satan". . . . And there is a very powerful epistle of Polycarp's, written to the Philippians, out of which they who choose, and have heed of their salvation, can learn both the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. . . . But the church also in Ephesus, founded indeed by Paul, but with which John remained until the days of Trajan, is a veracious witness of the tradition of Apostles.

Against Heresies l iii. c. 3. n.4 page 175
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 249-250

For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it. The Universal [Catholic] Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the Apostles.

Against Heresies 2:9 [A.D. 189]

True knowledge is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither addition nor curtailment [in truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the Word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy.

Against Heresies 4:33 [A.D. 189]

St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220), Greek; theologian, a scholar of Pantaenus, to whom he succeeded as head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, Egypt. His writings display great acquaintance with the Gentile philosophy. He wrote with the express design of hiding the mysteries of the Christian religion from the Pagans, and the uninitiated, while at the same time, laboring to show the immense practical superiority of the Christian code of morals over that of every Pagan sect and system of philosophy.

"If then we call Christ wisdom, and His the active power displayed through the prophets, by means of which it is in our power to learn the Gnostic tradition, as He in person taught the holy Apostles ; wisdom would be the firm and sure knowledge, being the knowledge and comprehension of things present, future and past, as delivered and revealed by the Son of God. . . . Whilst knowledge itself is that which has come down, transmitted without writing to a few by successions from the Apostles."

Strom. 1. vi. p. 771.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 394-395

Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218), North African; ecclesiastical writer, Christian apologist and lawyer, son of a centurion and contemporary of St. Irenæus, a native and citizen of Carthage. The zeal and ability with which he defended the Christian cause, and vindicated its faith and discipline, have immortalized his name, though it has suffered by his adoption, around the year A.D. 200, of some of the Montanist's errors, whose cause he is thought to have supported until his death. His works are numerous, and are written with great ability and erudition, but in an harsh style.

For wherever both the true Christian rule and faith shall be shown to be, there will be the true Scriptures, and the true expositions, of all the true Christian traditions.

The Prescription Against Heretics 19 [A.D. 200]

"For these and such like rules if thou requirest a law in the Scriptures, thou shalt find none. Tradition will be pleaded to thee as originating, custom as confirming, and faith as observing them. That reason will support tradition, and custom, and faith, thou wilt either thyself perceive, or learn from some one who has perceived it.

By these examples, therefore, it will be declared, that an unwritten tradition may be maintained in its observance, being confirmed by custom, a sufficient witness of a tradition at the time approved by the continuance of the observance. But even in civil matters, custom is taken for law, where there is no law; nor is there any difference whether it be founded on any writing or on reason, since it is reason which commends even written authority."

De Corona, pp. 101-2.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 397-398

"With these designs, I am of opinion, it is, that thou, Marcion, hast dared to do away with so many original documents of Christ. I ask thee, by what authority? If thou art a prophet, foretell something; if an apostle, preach publicly; if
an apostolic man, agree in sentiment with the Apostles; if thou art a Christian only, believe what has been handed down; a if thou art none of these, I should be justified in saying, die: for thou art even dead, who art not a Christian, from not believing that, which being believed, makes Christians.

De Carne Christi, n. 2, page 308
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 397-398

St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236), Roman; bishop and martyr, probably a scholar of St. Irenæus of Lyons.

"When the blessed presbyters heard these things (the errors of Noetus), they summoned him before the Church and questioned him. He, at first, denied that such were his opinions; but later, he concealed some of his opinions, and gathered unto him his partners in error, and then wished to establish the purity of his doctrine. The blessed presbyters again summoned and reproved him. But he opposed them, saying,"What evil do I do in glorifying Christ?" And the presbyters answered him, And we, too, know that there is truly one God; we know Christ; we know that the Son suffered, as He suffered: died, as He died; and was raised again on the third day, and is at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead. And those things do we say which we have learned. [It should be noted that the blessed presbyters could not have learned this from the Scriptures because the canon of Scripture had not been canonized yet.] Then, having convicted him, they cast him out of the Church. And he reached to such a height of pride as to set up a school for his doctrine."

Contr. Noetum Galland. t. ii. p. 454. (Fabr. tom. n. 1, p.6.)
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 401

"These testimonies are sufficient for believers who study truth; as to unbelievers, they believe no one. . . . Let us, therefore, blessed brethren, believe according to the tradition of the Apostles, that God the Word descended from Heaven into the Virgin Mary, in order that, having taken flesh from her, having taken a human soul, — I mean a rational soul, — having become whatever man is, except sin, He might save the fallen, and confer immortality upon those who believe in His name."

Contr. Hæres. Noet. n. 17. (Galland. t. ii. p. 463.)
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 401-402

Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253), Alexandrian; born in Egypt, philosopher, theologian, writer.

Seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the Apostles, and remaining in the churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition.

On First Principles Book 1 Preface 2 [circa A.D. 225]

"We are not to credit these men, nor to go out from the first and the ecclesiastical tradition; nor to believe otherwise than as the churches of God have by succession, transmitted to us."

T. iii. Comm. in Matthew n. 46, p. 864.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 400

"For this, too, has the Church received a tradition from the Apostles, to give baptism, even to children."

T. iv. in Ep. ad Rom. l.v.n.9, p.565
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 400



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

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
Untitled Document