The word tradition occurs only 14 times in the whole New Testament and in the Old Testament not once. We find 8 references are from Jesus himself, all of which are derogatory of traditions. Not once does he insinuate they are useful or scriptural. Paul has 5 references, 2 of which are derogatory (Col.2:8; Gal.1:14). Peter also has one reference that is also derogatory (1 Pt.1:18 - the aimless conduct received by the tradition of the fathers). For Peter to be called the first Pope and not uphold this practice does not help their position.
The first time tradition is mentioned, is by Jesus in Mt. 15:2-3 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” Nowhere does Jesus teach there is a tradition of men and of God.
He goes on to give an example of their traditions that went against Scripture. It was the written Scripture that was the authority for any other teaching.
Another time, he was asked about eating bread before washing their hands ( Mark 7:7-9). “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men-- the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” And He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” They had a choice but instead defaulted to their own rules that they thought were biblical.
There are other instances of tradition in the Bible but they are all scriptural or do not contend with the scripture teaching itself. An example of this is in Jn.10:22 with the feast of dedication (Chanukah). Jesus did not refute this because it was an actual historical event. Yet if the leaders had made it mandatory it would have received a different reaction from Jesus. We do have the freedom to hold for our personal enjoyment practices of individual choice. However this is not what the Roman Catholic Church is claiming. They are teaching that these were handed down from the Apostles (some of which are found from Scripture) and are commands and even necessary for ones spiritual life.
Paul explains in Gal 1:14 “And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” Paul understood the differences of what tradition was and what Scripture is.
Upon only 3 verses that have the word “tradition” in the Scriptures, Catholicism’s entire practice for traditions being of equal status with scripture are founded on these. Despite the fact that the same Scripture that mentions the word tradition makes it clear from both Jesus and the apostles writings that they are to be our source of life. So lets look at these Scriptures carefully and see what they say and what they do not say.
1) 1 Cor.11:23 “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; Here Paul states he is presenting in writing what he had previously taught them in person, that which I also delivered unto you.”
This pertains to the communion and how it is to be taken. So what he had taught orally was inscripturated, so there is no validation for oral tradition here. Paul most likely learned of the communion by the other apostles as they fellowshiped and broke bread each week. However Paul learned more of this from the Lord and is the only apostle to write in detail about it.
2) 2 Thess. 2:15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.”
Both traditions which were taught were the same that were written down. What traditions are Paul talking about? In v.5 Paul previously stated “ Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” This Paul says he already taught them in person but now is writing it down. Consistent with the rest of the teachings, everything said was written down that would be used to have one practice their Christian relationship.
He was giving them and us in writing what he had previously taught which was about the man of sin; to provide further understanding, clarifying any misconceptions they had since the epistle starts off with the church shaken up by a false letter or word they received that the resurrection already taking place and in which they thought they had missed out. So presently he is elaborating on the details of the tribulation and the falling away.
3) 2 Thess. 3:6 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition (some translations have teaching, at any rate teaching can be passed on orally before it is committed to writing) which he received from us.” Again if we go further we find what is being said which proves all should be read in its context. V.10 “for even when we were with you we commanded you this, If anyone does not work neither shall they eat.” It was the same thing by personal word or by letter. They showed this teaching by example as they were with the Corinthians and he put in writing what he had taught them earlier. This way they would not forget or corrupt it after his death. None of these scriptures have any relationship to the traditions presently being taught and practiced in the Roman Catholic Church. Further, no one has ever documented any specific teaching to be accredited to Paul in their traditions. Obviously not everything the apostles “said” is written down but the doctrines are. So there is nothing spoken that was not written that we would need to know about salvation and living. For example Paul says in 1 Cor.15:1 “Moreover brethren I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you...” Here it is written out.
The only revelation we have today is the same committed to the apostles that was written down, this was what the church accepted and practiced after the apostles, that which was written, not what is spoken. The same Paul who is claimed to write of traditions specifically tell us in 1 Cor.4:6 “do not to go beyond what is written.” How could he do this if he approved of the apostles oral teaching alongside the writings? He couldn't. That is why what was taught was penned on paper, pointing to the Scripture as our final authority.
Every time the Pharisees, the religious men, brought up traditions as equal to the Scripture, Jesus brought them to the word. This is why he called them the traditions of men because they did not come from God but by religious men who no longer intended to obey the word.
In Acts 20:29 Paul warns the Ephesian elders about savage wolves that would come after his departure. It is unlikely to think that Paul did not put in writing what the Holy Spirit inspired as teaching, to all the churches. It would be much easier to distort what is orally handed down and left up to individual re-translating. As time would go on generations would pass on memories that would be inaccurate to recall the original teachings by word of mouth. This is why God had Moses write everything down in the book of the law, so there would be no question as to what was said and any mistakes would be minimized. If God did so in the Old Testament would he change this policy in the new? Jesus pointed to the Old Testament word. The early church pointed to the word that was written as well.
When we look at the example of tradition in the Scripture we find its purpose does the very opposite of the word which is written. If the traditions that the Catholics hold to are suppose to be a body of teaching that was passed down by the apostles’ oral tradition, why are they written down in Catholic literature? Why are they not included in the bible if they are written down at all? After all they are suppose to be apostolic teaching.
Catholics “Sacred Tradition” becomes invalid if in any point it contradicts the Bible. Catholic teachings of purgatory, penance, indulgences, Mass, praying the rosary, praying to saints and Mary, wearing scapulars, are not found in the Scripture and they contradict scriptures teachings. Any verses found to validate these by Catholics are always subject to being redefined or pulled from its actual context. The Catholic Church has used their Traditions to make them equal to the word when the fact is that God says nothing has this kind of authority except the word itself.
In the New Testament Period, Jesus’ whole ministry was in contention with the Pharisees’ traditions. They wanted him to validate and approve what they called the tradition of the elders (fathers) Mk.7:1-9 Mt.15:1-4. Contention grew between Jesus and the religious leaders as they wanted his approval of their traditions to be considered equal with Scripture. Jesus was clear he was not going to approve of their traditions saying, “You lay aside the commandment of God and hold higher the tradition of men.”
They challenged Jesus on the cleansing rituals. Jesus responded by saying that it’s not about cleansing from the outside, but man’s heart from the inside is what needs the cleansing. The Pharisee’s set up a barrier between God and man making the commandments of no effect because they stopped people from seeing the word of God. Jesus always brought their traditions to the ultimate authority, the word of God. Mk.7: “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me and in vain they worship me teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.” By adding traditions alongside the word, they watered down the truth. This is why Jesus quoted Mt.11:28 “Come to ME all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you REST.”
The Pharisees’ laws were burdens that God never intended, it brought the people into bondage because it went beyond Scripture and was never intended to do what God inspired to be written. Nowhere is it written to continue to have traditions by word of mouth after the apostles.
Not once did Jesus speak well about traditions, neither did Paul as he said in Colossians 2:8 “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, AND NOT AFTER CHRIST.” He said to” let the word of God dwell in you richly.” It is the word of God that is living and active (Heb.4:12) to change one from the inside, traditions can never be a alternative or of equal value to what God has spoken and written down for all generations to live by. As Jesus said.... My WORDS are SPIRIT and they are LIFE.
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