“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” – Gen 3:8
To properly understand the relationship between Tradition and Scripture one must first understand Revelation. Revelation simply put is the act of God revealing Himself and His plan for man to mankind. Its content simply put is what God has revealed. The first time I ever seriously thought about Scripture and Tradition (that is outside the context of contemporary apologetics) I realized something that is quite obvious but often overlooked: God did not first reveal Himself through the written word. God first revealed Himself through the spoken word and through deeds. In other words, Tradition chronologically speaking precedes Scripture.
God has been revealing Himself to man since the creation of Adam and Eve (Gen 1:28-30) and walked with them in the Garden of Eden. That He walked with them tells us that Adam and Eve had an intimate relationship with Him. They would have known Him in a personal way and to some degree what His plan for them was. To what degree and how that plan would be fulfilled prior to the fall is something we cannot know. What we do know is that God did not drop a book from heaven for them to read. God revealed Himself to Noah: no book. He revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: no book. God does not reveal Himself through the written word until Moses.
Tradition (that’d be small “t” tradition, not Revelation) says that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Whether he did or not is beside the point. At the very least Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote the 10 commandments. While the Israelites were wandering in the desert God also revealed to them the Law. These laws were not just laws concerning religion, but also civil laws for right living and an ordered society. These too needed to be written down and with the 10 commandments constitute the origins of Holy Scripture. (I should make clear that this assertion is my own and not based on scholarly research. I scholarship finds or has found Scriptural writing that predates Moses I readily accept this. It does not change the point being made here). We now come to the start of there being two modes of Revelation (Scripture and Tradition) rather than just one (Tradition). Prior to this God’s revelation of Himself was passed on orally. Stories, family traditions, and hymns are ways that Revelation was handed on (tradition), but they in and of themselves are not Tradition (notice the capital “T”), are not divinely inspired. Put another way, the content they transmit is divine Revelation, but the wording is not necessarily divinely inspired.
This continues today: the writings of the Church fathers, saints, and the liturgy are just a few of the ways in which Tradition is expressed. While they are all part of Tradition they in and of themselves are not Tradition; their content is divine, but the wording is not divinely inspired. What is it that distinguishes Scripture from these places of Tradition? Why is Scripture a mode of Revelation and not something to be subsumed within Tradition? The answer is inspiration.