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1. Christianity a doctrine or body of doctrines regarded as having been established by Christ or the apostles though not contained in Scripture
2. Judaism a body of laws regarded as having been handed down from Moses orally and only committed to writing in the 2nd century ad
3. the beliefs and customs of Islam supplementing the Koran, esp as embodied in the Sunna
4. Law, chiefly Roman and Scots the act of formally transferring ownership of movable property; delivery
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the totality of writings regarded by the Orthodox and Catholic churches as “divinely inspired” and second only to Scripture in significance. Tradition is distinct from Scripture and is so named because some of its works were, according to church teaching, originally transmitted orally by the Apostles and committed to writing only later. Tradition includes The Creed and The Apostolic Canons, decisions of ecumenical and some local church councils, and certain works of the church fathers. The works that constitute tradition differ for the Orthodox and the Catholic churches; in particular, papal decretals occupy a large place in the Catholic Church.

By attributing the force of “divine right” to tradition, the church is able to sanction practical measures and norms that are dictated by changing historical circumstances and that cannot be justified by Scripture and thus to establish them as immutable; examples are the universal Christian doctrine of the Trinity and the Catholic dogma of papal infallibility.

In Judaism the Talmud plays a role analogous to that of tradition, as does the sunna in Islam.



a part of the social and cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation and preserved over an extended period in a given society, class, or social group; the process and methods by which a society’s heritage of material and nonmaterial wealth is transmitted. Such traditional elements include certain social institutions, norms of behavior, values, beliefs, customs, and rituals.

Tradition is not limited to its most stereotyped manifestations, such as customs and rituals; rather, it extends over a much wider range of social phenomena. All social systems have specific traditions that to a certain extent condition their functioning. The influence of tradition is most pervasive in the precapitalist social formations. While the most diverse spheres of social life—such as economics, politics, and law—have their own characteristic traditions, the latter’s influence varies in degree from one sphere to another. The weight of tradition is greatest in the religious sphere. In the arts and sciences, too, traditions play a distinct part.

Class societies are characterized by class traditions. On the one hand, class differentiation has a significant effect on each nation’s cultural heritage; on the other hand, each class and social group is marked by its own traditions. Hence the multiplicity of conflicting traditions and conflicting attitudes toward them. While each generation is necessarily the recipient of a set of traditions, it also chooses among them to some extent; in this sense each generation chooses not only its own future but its own past as well. The persistence of a given tradition over time does not of itself determine its import in modern life; to be viable, a tradition must be continuously developed by succeeding generations under changing historical circumstances. Each society, class, or group, accepting certain components of the social heritage, at the same time rejects others. Traditions may therefore be classified as positive or negative, depending on whether and to what extent they are accepted or rejected.

From the Marxist point of view, the role of tradition must be evaluated selectively. Blind obedience to tradition gives rise to conservatism and the stagnation of society; on the other hand, a contemptuous attitude toward the social heritage may lead to the breakdown of social and cultural continuity and the loss of valuable human achievements. Under socialism, the progressive values of the past and the traditions of the revolution, labor, and patriotism are preserved and promoted in conjunction with the struggle against reactionary and obsolete traditions and against inertia and routine.


Tradition is an essential component of literature and the arts. In the early stages of artistic evolution, traditions are transmitted by and gain strength through the collective creative process, as in the case of the primitive art and folklore—the “traditional” art—of the peoples of Africa, Australia, and Oceania and of the American Indians. At subsequent stages, as they undergo constant renewal, traditions are handed down directly through formal education and the succession of trends and currents that arise within a common social and cultural milieu. Art, although far removed in time and space, may nevertheless become the carrier of a living tradition. Such traditions sometimes have a more significant effect than those transmitted directly; some examples are the influence of ancient art on classicism, of Shakespeare’s and Calderón’s works on the romantic writers, of Japanese engravings on the impressionists, and of 17th- and 18th-century music on the neoclassical composers of the 20th century.

A typical trait of imitative art is its stubborn conformity to obsolete and nonviable traditions. Innovative art does not merely consist in breaking away from traditions and establishing non-traditional artistic principles; as a rule, such art also adopts and reinterprets other traditions that are relevant to the given circumstances. A new tradition is thus created and subsequently handed down. In the art of socialist realism, innovation coexists harmoniously with reliance on the classical heritage and the progressive traditions of national and world culture.


Marx, K. Vosemnadtsatoe Briumera Lui Bonaparta. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 8.
Engels, F. Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva. Ibid., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “O natsional’noi gordosti velikorossov.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26.
Lenin, V. I. “Ot kakogo nasledstva my otkazyvaemsia?” Ibid., vol. 2.
Sarsenbaev, N. S. Obychai, traditsii i obshchestvennaia zhizn. Alma-Ata, 1974.
Szacki, J. Tradycja: Przegladproblematyki. Warsaw, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
It is utterly malleable in the hands of "Liberals." It is not so for traditionists, not just because of different beliefs but because of an acknowledgement that those beliefs, and the people holding them, are themselves constituted by the tradition, cannot simply stand outside or above tradition, forcing it into the pattern of present-day beliefs.
(9) Prominent traditionists incorporated therein include the notorious Ka'b al-Ahbar, who is often fingered as a primary conduit of nefarious isra-iliyyat or "Jewish stuff" into nascent Islam, (10) as well as Mujahid, Ibn Abbas, Ibn Umar, 'Ali, Rabi', and al-Suddi.
(19.) A leading traditionist, faqih of the Maliki school, and celebrated preacher of the .great mosque of Seville.
"Principles of Traditionist Jurisprudence Reconsidered." The Muslim World 100 (2010): 145-56.
This is the case with several accounts in which such wide-ranging figures as the traditionist Said b.
Ali) and adhering to a ritual law virtually indistinguishable from the traditionist circles that would become Sunni (i.e., 'Isa b.
(4) Undoubtedly the most celebrated among these is his lengthy mystical manual, the 'Awarif al-ma'drif, a Sufi handbook whose influence on the early Sufi tariqa-lineages and their institutions is well evinced not only in the preeminent position that the text held within emergent Suhrawardiyya and Chishtiyya communities in North India beginning in the mid-seventh/ thirteenth century, (5) but also in its incorporation into early Kubrawi Persian Sufi manuals composed in Transoxiana (6) and its widespread transmission in Syrian, North African, and even Andalusian Sufi communities by individuals such as the well-traveled Egyptian Shafi'I jurist, traditionist, and Sufi Ibn al-Qastallani (d.
19), without any comment, which states that "It must have been a very elaborate card-index of traditions and traditionists that al-Sakhawi kept, with such excellent cross-references that he was obviously able at very short notice to compile a new treatise on the subject..."]; this displays a less than full understanding of the Hadith scholarship of pre-modern Muslim scholars, who did not need index cards to produce their works, as they lived with their source material, internalized these texts, and transmitted and received Hadith texts and commentaries as if they were living, breathing, pulsating texts, which could be quoted from memory whenever needed.
The following is a part of his speech which has been widely narrated by the Sunni traditionists:
How could the Muslim traditionists have introduced this type of reading to the Qur'an, a scripture that, as earlier noted, never mentions a single word about the Christian idea of the Second Advent?
Yaacov Yagdar, a Bar Ilan University lecturer, meanwhile attempts to move beyond the religious/secular binary that dominates thinking about Israel society in Secularism and Religion in Jewish-Israeli Politics: Traditionists and Modernity (Routledge, September), in which he focuses on the third of Israeli Jews who identify themselves as "masorti" or traditional.
(26) He also wrote, "What further need is there to discuss these details, when we have just set forth the necessity of tradition, the truthfulness, loftiness, and religious zeal of traditionists?" (27) Halevi meant that the overall body of commandments was complete and is not to be revised by addition or subtraction, not that every conceivable detail of application was also included in them.