Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 12. The Development of Catholic Theology in Conflict with Heresy” Sections 137-158, Loc. 18758-20235.
§ 139. Catholic Tradition.
After a brief bibliography, Schaff observes that the Church fathers considered there to be a “common faith of the church, as orally handed down in the unbroken succession of bishops from Christ and his apostles to their day, and above all [as] still living in the original apostolic churches, like those of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, and Rome” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19035). Counter to the idea of tradition in Christianity, the Gnostics held secret traditions to convey secret truth. Christian tradition, and therefore truth, is held publicly (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19040). Schaff observes that Tertullian boldly said that heretics could not even appeal to Scripture because the Scripture could not be rightly understood outside the context of the Church (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19046). This may also be the root of much teaching of apostolic succession, which has to do not only with human heritage but also the work of preserving God’s Word and a proper understanding of it accurately. Schaff does caution that we should remember the Church at that time was not many generations distant from the apostles. Views of tradition and succession changed over several centuries (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19058). We are also reminded that Irenaeus and Tertullian were both known to take exception to some stands of some Church leaders, but always so as to pursue accurate and faithful understanding of Scriptural doctrine and practice.
The essence of apostolic tradition, according to Schaff, is holding faithfully to the way the Apostles interpreted Scripture. “It is one and the same gospel which the apostles preached with their lips, and then laid down in their writings, and which the church faithfully hands down by word and writing from one generation to another” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 19073). This is the essence of tradition.