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Scripture and Tradition

What the Bible Really Says

series: Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology

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In some of the church's history, Scripture has been pitted against tradition and vice versa. Prominent New Testament scholar Edith Humphrey, who understands the issue from both Protestant and Catholic/Orthodox perspectives, revisits this perennial point of tension. She demonstrates that the Bible itself reveals the importance of tradition, exploring how the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles show Jesus and the apostles claiming the authority of tradition as God's Word, both written and spoken. Arguing that Scripture and tradition are not in opposition but are necessarily and inextricably intertwined, Humphrey defends tradition as God's gift to the church. She also works to dismantle rigid views of sola scriptura while holding a high view of Scripture's authority. 
1. Lost in Translation?
2. Deadly Traditions: The Bible, the Rabbis, Jesus, and St. Paul
3. The Apostles, the Word, and the Letter
4. The Blessed Delivery: Receiving in Both Directions
5. Tradition as God's Personal Gift
6. Holy Tradition vs. Human Traditions: Discerning the Difference Today

About the Series
The Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology series, sponsored by Acadia Divinity College, offers critical assessments of the major issues that the church faces in the twenty-first century. Authored by leading authorities in the field, these studies provide readers with requisite orientation and fresh understanding to enable them to take part meaningfully in discussion and debate.


"In Scripture and Tradition, Edith Humphrey provides an intelligent and nuanced way forward, past the stifling oppositions that have dominated the discussions on Scripture and tradition in the recent past. Fusing personal reflection with an excellently articulated and accessible argument, Humphrey shows us how the narrative character of the Christian faith and life mandates that we live in tradition, rejecting the trappings of traditionalism. For as Jaroslav Pelikan noted many years ago, 'Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.'"

George Kalantzis, associate professor of theology, Wheaton College; director, The Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies

"Edith Humphrey bridges the gap between the apostolic and postapostolic church by exploring the biblical foundations for Christian tradition. She invites readers to embrace the Bible's own witness to tradition as an essential key to the entire life of the church. Elegantly written and exegetically compelling, this book reveals how 'biblical' tradition takes us beyond the impasse of the 'Scripture versus tradition' debates that have beleaguered Christianity since the Reformation."

Bradley Nassif, professor of biblical and theological studies, North Park University

"Edith Humphrey's great gift for combining biblical scholarship with pastoral insight is charitably applied to one of the most significant stumbling blocks for Christian unity: the relation between Scripture and tradition. Her focus on Scripture's own sense of tradition provides a way into the subject that will appeal especially to Protestants who share (and among whom she learned) her deep respect for Scripture. Yet these same readers may begin to discover that the tradition of which she speaks does not diminish but rather sustains, and is sustained by, that respect. What is therefore diminished is the stumbling block itself."

Douglas Farrow, professor of Christian thought, McGill University

The Author

  1. Edith M. Humphrey

    Edith M. Humphrey

    Edith M. Humphrey (PhD, McGill University) is the William F. Orr Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is the author of several books, including Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven and...

    Continue reading about Edith M. Humphrey


"This is an elegant book about Christian reading practices that identify themselves from within the 'Great Tradition,' by which Humphrey means the theological consensus of the early creeds and councils. . . . This is a serious book about a topic of ecclesial significance. Its slim format and at certain points its brevity of discussion should not disguise the weighty agenda: Humphrey wishes to mediate the riches of tradition to those she thinks may set it aside too quickly and default just to scripture. On the whole, this is a compelling presentation. . . . There is much to appreciate here, and one may hope that Humphrey will return to these issues in further dialogue in the future."

Richard S. Briggs,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Humphrey's overall contribution in this book to the discussion of 'Scripture and tradition' is welcome and offers new angles and entry points into an old and perennially important theological discussion."

Nijay Gupta,

Review of Biblical Literature

"[Humphrey] demonstrates that the Scriptures themselves are formed by ongoing tradition and are ultimately the product of tradition. She properly distinguishes between human traditions and customs and the great Tradition that reflects the consensus of Christians about the essential components of our faith and practice. This is a helpful study as the author, in effect, thinks out loud about the role of tradition, especially in the face of some Protestant communions that are 'anti-tradition' on principle."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"[Humphrey is] well equipped to thinking about what scripture and tradition means as she's lived in a number of ecclesiastical contexts with diverse views on tradition. Her contribution here shows a wealth of experience in wrestling with the topic and a desire to clarify ideas and to provoke to thought, rather than just to make pronouncements. . . . [A] fine volume, relatively short, but bursting with great insights, and elegantly written."

Michael F. Bird,

Euangelion (Patheos) blog

"This is a deeply insightful book, arguing not for one position or another so much as it presents with careful detail to the witness of Scripture the value and place of Tradition. . . . [Humphrey] speaks somewhat to her upbringing in the Salvation Army and her move to the Orthodox Church. This is heartening, as her approach is not one-sided and without experience but from one who has stood in both arenas. . . . What Humphrey does is to couch Tradition next to Scripture--not equally, but not sub-ordinate either--as an inseparable gift from God to the Church. She maintains a constant Scriptural edge throughout the book, dedicating herself to judicious review by those who would readily dismiss all things non-Scriptural. How can they if they honestly read her book?"

Joel L. Watts,

Unsettled Christianity blog