11. Finally, Dei Verbum makes clear that “the words of God, expressed in human language, are in every way like human speech, just as the Word of the eternal Father, in taking upon himself the weak flesh of human beings, also took on their likeness” (No. 13). We can say that the incarnation of the eternal Word gives shape and meaning to the relationship between God’s word and our human language, in all its historical and cultural contingency. This event gives rise to Tradition, which is also God’s word (cf. ibid., 9).
More difficult is the sorting of small-t and large-t tradition. Some aspects of tradition are long-lived, but have little or no basis in sound theology or in the mission of the Lord. Sometimes, important aspects of tradition have been lost, forgotten, or superceded by neglect, ignorance, or even malice.
We frequently risk separating sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition, without understanding that together they are the one source of Revelation. The written character of the former takes nothing away from its being fully a living word; in the same way, the Church’s living Tradition, which continually hands that word down over the centuries from one generation to the next, possesses that sacred book as the “supreme rule of her faith” (ibid., 21).
The Holy Father reminds us that nearly everything in the Bible began as an oral, non-written tradition. The path to a written witness is faithful due to the Holy Spirit, just as its composition and transmission was.
Moreover, before becoming a written text, sacred Scripture was handed down orally and kept alive by the faith of a people who, in the midst of many others, acknowledged it as their own history and the source of their identity. Biblical faith, then, is based on the living word, not on a book.
And thankfully so, otherwise we risk making paper and binding an idolatry.
The full document can be read here. The text reproduced from it is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.