IS IT CORRECT TO TRANSLATE ‘PARADOSIS’ AS ‘TEACHINGS’ INSTEAD OF ‘TRADITIONS’?
There are three occasions in the NT when the Greek word ‘παραδόσεις’, which literally means ‘Traditions’, is sometimes translated as ‘Teachings’.
The passages are 1Corinthians 11:2, 2Thessalonians 2:15, and 2Thessalonians 3:6.
THE LITERAL VERSION
In the original Greek, the passages are these:
1 CORINTHIANS 11:2
Ἐπαινῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ὅτι πάντα μου μέμνησθε καὶ καθὼς παρέδωκα ὑμῖν τὰς παραδόσεις κατέχετε.
“Now I commend you, because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”
2 THESSALONIANS 2:15
Ἄρα οὖν, ἀδελφοί, στήκετε, καὶ κρατεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε, εἴτε διὰ λόγου, εἴτε δι' ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν.
“So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, whether by word, or by letter from us”
2 THESSALONIANS 3:6
Παραγγέλλομεν δὲ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, στέλλεσθαι ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ παντὸς ἀδελφοῦ ἀτάκτως περιπατοῦντος, καὶ μὴ κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν ἣν παρέλαβε παρ’ ἡμῶν·
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness, and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
The word ‘Paradosis – Παράδοσις’ which literally means ‘Tradition’, is translated sometimes as ‘Teachings – Διδασκαλία - Διδάσκω’ in some versions, like the NIV in English or the Reina Valera in Spanish; and this is rejected by some as not being a legitimate version of the word and what it implies in the original.
Even though the literal translation of the word should be ‘Tradition’, or one of its variants, this ‘Tradition’ implies ‘oral teachings’ in the context of the passages, which consisted in oral instructions as well as practices taught by example.
We can take the case of Baptism.
The Scripture teaches us that we need to be baptized in water. That is an express command from Lord Jesus, clear and straight (Mt 28:19), and that would have been told by word and example. By word, explaining the reason why we get baptize and what it means for us (διδάσκω), and the manner of how to do it, by example, through the execution of the command (ἔργον). Both manners of instruction, by word and example, when maintained orally, can be called a ‘Tradition’ after a second recipient receives this instruction and command.
In the three cases above, Paul praises the Corinthians and Thessalonians for maintaining these traditions he delivered them, because they maintain themselves within apostolic teaching. Even in the last paragraph, Paul condemns all those who do not maintain that tradition.
In consequence, Paul is clearly referring here to instructions, by word and example, even though the word ‘example’ is not mentioned here, but it is implicit, because of practices like Baptism, Holy Supper, Anointing of the Sick, Commissioning, and others, which included a certain modality in practice.
Another reason this Tradition also included practical and doctrinal teachings, is in the fact that Paul mentions them to have been delivered ‘by writing’ (2Thess 2:15).
Theoretical moral and doctrinal teachings can be delivered in writing, as well as practical guidance; like the coming judgement (2Th 1), the Man of Lawlessness (2Th 2), or Idleness, which also includes certain practical instructions (2Th 3).
Since all practical instructions are also teachings, and these can be clearly explained in writing, like what to do with the fornicator in Corinth (1Cor 5:1-2), or the widows in Ephesus (1Tim 5), or how to baptize (Mt 28:19) we can also call these traditions, teachings, because all apostolic instruction is necessarily related to a doctrinal context, and without doctrine, there are not instructions to care for.
Even though the literal translation of ‘Paradosis’ should be ‘Tradition’, as it is translated in the majority of versions in any language, the occasional use of ‘teachings’ or ‘instructions’ is also valid, since all these traditions have a doctrinal theoretical background.
When Didaskalia is translated as Teaching, these teachings imply all forms of instruction, practical and doctrinal, in the language that Paul is referring to. Instructions about moral, doctrinal and practical issues.
The only reason why some have a pronounced objection to this legitimate translation is because they want a word of open meaning, where they can argue ‘privileged knowledge’ of these ‘traditions’ to justify practices that go beyond Scripture.
Finally, all these oral ‘traditions’ (instructions), doctrinal and practical, were put in writing before the end of the first century in what we call today, the NT.