Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kruger vs Ratzinger: The Show So Far

In my last several posts, I’ve noted a few things, which I’d like to summarize and clarify here. I’ve noted that the Roman Catholic concept of “Apostolic Succession” was not present as a “tradition” “from the beginning”. Rather, Hans Von Campenhausen has also established that in formulating the principle of “apostolic succession”, the 2nd century church at Rome relied on, actually borrowed, a Gnostic concept which had been in place in the “philosophical schools of thought” for some time.

I’ve also noted that this account is not disputed by Ratzinger. In fact, he affirms it. He says, “We see quite clearly here how in fact succession is equal to tradition: succession is holding fast to the apostolic word, just as tradition means the continuing existence of authorized witnesses”

But Ratzinger here relies on a “bait-and-switch”. Ratzinger speaks of the word διαδοχἡ, which signified both “tradition” and “succession”. And he builds his case upon this word. However, this word is not found in the New Testament. The New Testament concept, found in Paul’s teaching on the “content” of the “apostolic tradition” (“παράδοσιν”, 2 Thess 3:6, for example), is frequently simply “switched” with the same concept.

So now, whereas for Paul, the “tradition” referred to “the content” of the teaching, by the middle of the second century, the concept of “‘who’ was handing along the content” rather came to the forefront. And it is this second century concept upon which Rome bases its current “authority”. Paul’s first century concept, that the actual message was what was most important.

Here, Ratzinger says, while von Campenhausen may have been correct about διαδοχἡ (successio/traditio) being a 2nd century concept, he is in “error” if he thinks that “a later and thus secondary theology of successio/traditio” was “preceded by a biblical theology” (25). In Ratzinger’s argument, this plays itself out in his statement:

This open situation of the existence of recognized New Testament writings without the existence of any New Testament principle of Scripture or any clear notion of the canon lasted until well in the second century—right into the middle of the period of the conflict with Gnosticism. Before the idea of a “canon” of New Testament Scripture had been formulated, the Church had already developed a different concept of what was canonical; she had as her Scripture the Old Testament but this Scripture needed a canon of New Testament interpretation, which the Church saw as existing in the traditio guaranteed by the successio (Ratzinger, 25-26).

That was from his 1961 article, which, conceptually, was reproduced in the 1994 “Catechism of the Catholic Church”:

83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition [emphasis added].

In the heavily footnoted CCC, this paragraph, interestingly, has no footnote, and as best as I can tell, this language comes right from Ratzinger.

In my next couple of blog posts, I’d like to spend some time clarifying some of these definitions further – the concept of an oral, “apostolic tradition” which was written down in the New Testament, as well as the development of “ecclesiastical traditions”, which, like Ratzinger’s concept of διαδοχἡ, which was added later, in the 2nd century.

* * *

This concept of whether “a biblical theology” came prior to this second century concept of “successio/traditio”, of course, is clarified, with a great deal of evidence, by Michael Kruger in his work Canon Revisited. But this isn’t the only element that’s in place. What Rome offers in place of “a written New Testament” is “the process of living Tradition”, which, in today’s language, means “the Magisterium du jour” gets to make up things as it goes. That is a concept that is far, far away from even what was meant by successio/traditio in the second century.

I’ll get into this in greater detail next time. 

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