Not Traditional, Original

T 1.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 1b, The Nothing But the Truth Rule

OriginalChristianity.net is about what Original Christians actually believed and practiced, and then how it evolved over the millennia into a widely divided system of now thousands of denominations. So it is important to focus right here on key elements that contributed to this massive splintering. Critical to that point, we start in Part one discussing how part of the Apostolic tradition is to avoid any traditions of men that nullify the word of God. We saw in the article, T 0.2 The Jews and Tradition, that Jesus took great issue with the system of the Jews that built up a huge theological system around the Law that they considered just as important as the Law but it actually was a stumbling block. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees with truths like that there were many lepers in Israel when Naaman was healed by going to the man of God but no one in Israel was healed, and it was because how tradition had worked against the people.

Now I want to look at what I call the Nothing But the Truth rule of the Old Testament:

“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.  (Deu 12:32 ESV)

Because this concept was integral to Jewish life under the Law, it was integral to the Apostles, being Jews.  It is also important to anyone who is a witness.  The concept of a good witness is seen in numerous passage in both the Old and New Testaments.  Here are a few examples:

I can do nothing of My own self. As I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who has sent Me. If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.  (Joh 5:30-32 MKJV)

You sent to John, and he bore witness to the truth.  (Joh 5:33 MKJV)

And the apostles gave witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power. And great grace was on them all.  (Act 4:33 MKJV)

Therefore they stayed a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who bore witness to the word of His grace, giving miracles and wonders to be done by their hands.
(Act 14:3 MKJV)

These examples illustrate the meaning of witness which is to give reliable evidence or proof, whether it be concerning the truth of God’s word or regarding some life event.

Now, the only way that the Jews created and built up the huge tradition that they had was by adding and subtracting to the Law.   That’s so easy to see in many places. For example, in the Law it was illegal to eat after noon on the 14th of Nisan, but the Jews added two hours. That’s violating Deuteronomy 12:32 by adding! Another example is that the Law specified work exceptions of the Sabbath. Not only was certain work allowed on the Sabbath, but you were breaking the Law not to do certain things like rescuing an animal that had fallen into a ditch. There is nothing in the actual Law against healing someone of the Sabbath, but the Jews had added that to the Law thus nullifying the love of God in the Law! The Jews built up their huge tradition by adding and subtracting to the Law in Genesis through Deuteronomy. Remember, their position was that the Law given to Moses was incomplete, and the oral law was needed to understand the written law. But in looking at this oral law we see that it is the result of debate and consensus building over the ages, definitely the practice of adding and subtracting, in violation of Deuteronomy 12:32. (See T 0.2 The Jews and Tradition for more examples).

In my country, and in many places around the world, is the concept of sworn testimony. The person giving the testimony says the following:

“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Many other countries use similar phrasing.

So, if the person does not tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they can be liable to the charge of perjury. I call this the Nothing But the Truth rule. There’s nothing in the bible about this particular oath, but as mentioned above there are a lot of things about being a witness.  Here are a few more that relate to testifying:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exo 20:16 ESV)

Interesting, also, is that the standard in a criminal case was to have more than one witness:

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. (Deu 19:15 ESV)

At least in modern times, eyewitness testimony has not been found to be that trustworthy i. It appears that was the case in Old Testament times as God required more than one witness to institute a charge against someone.

What a person says on the witness stand needs to follow the guidelines in Deuteronomy 12:32. They cannot add to or take away from anything that happened. If you have multiple people saying the same thing you can have certainty in what happened.

The same truth applies to the teaching of God’s word, when multiple witnesses all teach the same thing you can have certainty that what they say is true. But, when you have multiple teachers and they are all over the board, it becomes harder and harder to have certainty. One says that the manifestations of the spirit ended with the Apostles, another says they are available. One says Jesus broke the Law, another says Jesus was accused of breaking the Law but he didn’t. One teaches it is a sin to drink any alcohol, another teaches that we can enjoy a glass but shouldn’t drink to excess and even Jesus turned water into wine. One says tithing is mandated, another says that it was for the temple only but we are taught to give liberally how and when we can. One says the bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is expressly denounced both in Old Testament and New, another says that in the New Testament age that we are in the New Testament is silent so it must be okay. One teaches that the Old Testament standard for false prophecy (all prophecies come to pass), another teaches that in the age of grace it’s okay if a prophecy doesn’t happen. Christian teachers teach against each other over many other issues too: autonomy of the local church, to have clergy or not, abortion, evolution, eternal security, predestination, the acceptability of Christian Counseling, the role of women in the church, the end times, and more. All of this argument over what scripture says does not build faith and certainty, it breeds doubt and uncertainty.

But, from Deuteronomy 12:32 we see that living and speaking Scripture is supposed to be under this same Nothing But the Truth rule.

This is critical to having one faith, one mind, with people saying the same thing.

There isn’t a true count of how many Christian believers there are in the world, but estimates put the number at over 1 billion. If every other person just changes one little thing in the word of God, by the time that changing is done, what would we have left?

What we have now with just thousands and thousands of different denominations teaching various viewpoints and theologies is at least partly the result of different people saying that the same words in the Bible mean different things.

I grew up in the Roman Catholic system and was instructed that the Roman Catholic Church, being Jesus’s replacement on earth, has the right to institute all policies it decides to because it has been given that power in Matthew 16:

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mat 16:17-19 ESV)

The wording in this verse is misleading if you don’t read it correctly in the whole context of the word of God.  The correct understanding is that believers on earth have authority on earth to bind that which is already bound in heaven and the same for loosing.  If the Catholic Interpretation is true then Jesus is giving Peter more authority than Jesus himself has because we read in verses like John 5:19:

Then Jesus answered and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He sees the Father do. For whatever things He does, these also the Son does likewise.  (Joh 5:19 MKJV)

Since Jesus can only do what his Father in heaven does, Peter is going to be limited by that also when given the keys to heaven from Jesus!

Nevertheless, the Catholic Church preaches this verse differently so one of the things it decided to do was model itself after the Jewish system in many ways. You can also see this from the institution of baptism as the replacement for circumcision to the institution of the Catholic priesthood as a replacement for the Levitical priesthood, and not that every case is wrong. So some people make the case for the former from these verses:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Col 2:11-12 ESV)

Scripture is saying here that there is a symbolic comparison to be made between baptism today and circumcision in the Old Testament so there is some validity for the Catholic doctrine here. But the latter point that the Church could and should institute a priesthood like the Levitical priesthood is not found in the New testament. Yet Catholics argue that it is biblical because we are called “the Israel of God in Col 6:16, ergo modeling Christian elements like the priesthood after Israel is part of the New Covenant ii:

And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal 6:16 ESV)

You have to do a lot of reading into this verse (private interpretation) to say that it is telling us to set up a priesthood using the Levitical priesthood model after the day of Pentecost. The website says “it is biblically reasonable and fitting” without showing any actual direction from scripture to do this task. That says to me that while the new Testament does not say to do this they are saying there is a way to interpret both the Old and New Testaments to allow the church to make this decision. That is not the way of the Apostles tradition, that is the way of Jewish tradition that Jesus fought against. We will talk about this much more when we look at Catholic tradition, but it illustrates the point of not going beyond what scripture actually says.

So, please be careful with what we read in the New Testament and subsequently preach. It is so easy to have confirmation bias and make substitutions that are really changing the word of God.

I have heard many teachings and preaching over my years and I have heard preachers stay true to the text that they are preaching, but I have also heard many preachers teach in ways that are more than what the verses they are talking about say. I have heard them read into verses things that are not there like the Catholics with Matthew 16:17-19. I have heard them preach about what the person in the record “must have” thought or felt. It’s one thing to try to engage the listening audience by talking about the possible thinking or emotions involved as long as you specify that this is supposition. Otherwise, you are adding to the account things that are not there.

Also when discussing alternate viewpoints on something preachers are preaching on I have heard them make villains of people who disagree with them rather than clearly show how what they are teaching from scripture is indisputable.

Remember the Nothing But the Truth Rule, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Or as is says in Deuteronomy, everything that we are commanded, we shall be careful to do. We shall not add to it or take from it in either our actions or words. That way we can say we are committed to this verse:

But I exhort you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1Co 1:10 MKJV)

April 10th, 2020 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

T 1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 1, Rightly Dividing the Word of God

In T 0.1 Introduction to Tradition in the Church, we discussed that a tradition is a set of beliefs and customs that gets passed from one generation to another. We also looked at the verses that charged believers to follow the tradition that was handed down by the Apostles:

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2Th 2:15 ESV)

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.
(2Th 3:6 ESV)

From the above verses we know:

  1. There is a tradition, a set of belief(s) and practice(s), that was set up in original Christianity.
  2. Believers were expected to follow these traditions.
  3. Believers were charged to avoid brothers who walked in idleness or didn’t do the things talked about in this letter, including following the tradition handed down by the Apostles.

To see the tradition talked about in the above verses in more detail we really need to look at the beliefs and practices that the Apostles held forth. We don’t have any recordings of their words spoken, but we do have what was in their letters and the book of Acts:

That set of beliefs and practices is what this website is all about. There is no way to cover the entire tradition in a single post so I will give a sketch of some key points along with references to original Christian beliefs and practices in other posts.

There are already some points about the tradition that started in Original Christianity in the introduction, Welcome to Original Christianity.Net,  to this website.  Here are some of those points about original Christianity with links to posts on the subject.

Also in T 0.1 Introduction to Tradition in the Church, I discuss that Jesus taught against the practice of establishing any tradition that negated the word of God. In fact, Original Christianity was devoted to rightly dividing scripture to keep the Word of God to full effect.

Listen to this story about something I experienced at a church not too long ago. At a service that I was attending the pastor geared the service around an exercise. Instead of chairs lined up in rows or circles even, he had the auditorium set up with tables and chairs like for dining. People gathered together in groups, and they were assigned a passage of Scripture, to be used as a starting point for discussion as to what that Scripture meant to them.
The exercise certainly had a good motive for it. The point was to set up a meal like setting and show how easy it was to talk about things around the table. The pastor was encouraging the congregation to evangelize; no problem with the motive.
There were about half a dozen people around the table where I was sitting, and I waited to hear what each would say. Now, to be sure, people took the exercise seriously and endeavored to communicate the impact of the Scripture to them. They each interpreted the verse as best they could,
However, when it came to my turn, I decided to talk about what the words meant in the context and where it had been used before. Immediately, some of the people’s heads picked up, and said, “that’s right I’m going to change what the verse means to me to that.” But not all. One person especially kept promoting a viewpoint that was full of Christianese but was not what was being taught in the verse, and maybe not true at all.  Evidently, in that church, it was perfectly acceptable for people to get different meanings and people were allowed to let loose with their ideas in what scriptures meant.

There are verses in the bible that speak directly to how scriptures are to be handled, Here’s one:

Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. (2Ti 2:15 MKJV)

Rightly dividing in the verse above is the Greek word orthotomeo, literally “straight cutting”.  Second Timothy 2:15 sets up a pair of opposites. On one side is the unashamed workmen of God’s word who “cuts the words” straight. That means he derives the correct meaning. On the other hand, then, is the workmen of the word who should be ashamed because he derives meanings that aren’t there.

Another verse that talks about how Scripture is to be handled is in second Peter:

knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2Pe 1:20-21 ESV)

The words that I want to focus on here are “someone’s own interpretation”. The Greek here is very interesting.  Idios epilusis are the words here and they are very interesting.  Idios, meaning “one’s own”. is used elsewhere in the Bible.  But epilusis is the single occurrence of this Greek word in the New Testament.  “Interpretation” is an okay translation, but my interlinear translates it as “explanation”.  I’ve seen it also translated as “letting loose”, as in letting loose with one’s own thoughts.

Now, to be sure, those words relate directly to how the prophet  gives the words as he gives them. When a prophet is giving a message from God. He gives the message that God says to give. He doesn’t let loose on his own with his own thoughts, meanings, or anything else other than the message that God directed him or her to give.  The prophet is charged not to explain the message with his own understanding.  (If you look at some prophecies like Jonah’s, you will see that he didn’t really agree with the message and want to give it.)

Let me ask you a question. If God is saying that the prophet is not allowed to put his own meaning on the message, what makes you think that you can?
The point of this verse is that it is the utmost importance that the message contains God’s meaning, not the prophet’s, and certainly not yours or mine.

Jesus and the religious leaders of his time conflicted over tradition. Jewish tradition contains the idea that every word that the Lord God revealed has 70 possible meanings. And the end result of that huge realm of possibility of what all the Scriptures mean with all the various meanings of words that are available is that it is impossible just to read something and know what it says. So there must be more than Scripture to help understand Scripture. Thus is the Jewish justification for the Talmud or oral law.
As we will see, the (Roman) Catholic tradition includes the same concept. Scripture by itself, according to Catholic tradition is insufficient. And thus there is the requirement of the church to go beyond Scripture and define what needs to be defined for people to live righteously.

There are not 70 meanings for every word in every verse in the Bible.  To be a true workman of the word we need to find the true meaning of the words we are given.

Again, remember what Jesus said what he thought about the Jew’s need for tradition. He said it made the Word of God of no effect. Yet that is what happened to the Jews and in the Catholic tradition which started right after the gospel of John as we shall see.
Original Christianity was concerned about stopping the use of tradition to interpret scripture and make the word of God of no effect.

This is a huge part of the Apostolic tradition that was handed down by the Apostles.

We will handle more of what was handed down in future articles.


February 15th, 2020 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation, Tradition | no comments

T 0.2 The Jews and Tradition

Christians follow the Bible, and the Bible starts with the five books of the Law, Genesis through Deuteronomy. Those five books are called the Torah to Jews. The rest of the Jewish Bible includes the Prophets also called the Nevi’im, and the Writings also called the Ketuvim. The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings combined are called TaNaKH which is an acronym of the first letters of the Jewish names of the sections. These books are the same as the Protestant Old Testament.

Jewish interpretation of the Bible is not literal. While many Jews believe that the Tanakh contains the word of God, they don’t believe that the words just mean what they say. Rather rabbinic teaching says that there are 70 interpretations for every word in Torah and that they’re all right!i

To the Jews this diversity of interpretation means that there are no clear answers as to how to follow the Law so they look beyond the Torah for answers. Thus the reason for the Talmud.

Traditional Jews believe that Moses not only received the written word but be also was given the Oral Law to be handed down from generation to generation. This, in fact, is part of the Talmudii

A verse used to substantiate this claim is Exodus 24:12:

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” (Exo 24:12 ESV)

Judaism teaches that the addition of the word commandment infers that there are commandments not included in the Law (Torah) and this proves the existence of the Oral Torah.iii

The Oral Law, the Talmud, is broken down further into the Mishnah and Gemara. The Mishnah is a collection of Rabbinic interpretations. The Gemara has explanations of the Mishnah. The Talmud is a huge part of Jewish tradition. Furthermore, it was completely oral until about the second century when it was finally written down.

The Jewish Virtual Library says:

“The Oral Law is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining how its commandments are to be carried out. Common sense suggests that some sort of oral tradition was always needed to accompany the Written Law, because the Torah alone, even with its 613 commandments, is an insufficient guide to Jewish life.”.iv

The Jewish Virtual Library gives an example of the limitations of the Law, the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. The Torah says that on the Sabbath it is forbidden to light a fire, go away from one’s dwelling, cut down a tree, plow or harvest. But the Talmud adds to it, rituals for candle lighting, reciting the kiddush (a ceremony of prayer and blessing over wine ) and reading the Torah.

That’s just one example of tradition stemming from interpretation about Law specifics with a view of steering followers into strict adherence of the Law and there are many examples.

The scope of tradition in Judaism is huge. Look at this statement from Encyclopedia Britannica:

“Judaism is the complex phenomenon of a total way of life for the Jewish people, comprising theology, law, and innumerable cultural traditions.”v

Innumerable cultural traditions the above statement says. The Jewish religion is rife with traditions and this appears to have been the situation all along. Remember, traditional Jews place the status of the Talmud as equal to the Torah with the declaration of calling it the oral Torah, and crediting its origin to God and Moses on Mount Sinai.

One such tradition is the Haggadah which is “the text recited at the Seder on the first two nights of the Jewish Passover, including a narrative of the Exodus”. vi. One source puts the origins of the Haggadah to bits in the Mishnah which dates to 220 BC although the Haggadah in its current form took form in the middle ages vii See 1.1 Worship Changes with the Giving of the Law; Part 2 – the Feasts for more details on that tradition. Additionally, there is a Haggadah pdf file online that shows all the steps to the Seder Tradition including readings, songs, what foods to eat in what order, what the different cups of wine mean and so forth. viii

Another set of traditions that were in full force at the time of Jesus concerned the synagogues. The word synagogue doesn’t appear in the Old Testament. The closest thing to synagogue references to are appearances of elders before Ezekiel in Ezekiel 14:1 and 20:1. Yet the synagogue liturgy, as well as items in the design of the physical building, are guided by tradition. There is an order of service, different seating sections including men’s and women’s galleries, and chief seats as well as the tradition of people seated facing Jerusalem. See 1.2 The Synagogue Became a Substitute For The Temple for more details.

Here’s a few more examples of how the Talmud’s instruction form many traditions in Jewish life: tefillin straps must be black, a sukkah must have at least two and a half walls, and all the different Halachic measurements and sizes.”ixTefillin straps are the cubic boxes with black leather straps that Jewish man wear during morning prayer. They can only be made by qualified people and there are strict rules for each phase of their production and certification.x A sukkah is a temporary booth or hut that people sit in during a Jewish festival to provide shade.xi Merriam Webster defines Halacha as “the body of Jewish law supplementing the scriptural law and forming especially the legal part of the Talmud.” Thus the Talmud sets measurements that are legal requirements for Jews.

In Judaism there are edicts. The biblical basis for these is:

If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose. And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the LORD will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left.  (Deu 17:8-11 ESV)

The above is part of the law, But there is tradition involved here also as Judaism takes the Deuteronomy passage to mean that it has the right to expand upon what is in the Law and pronounce edicts for all future instances of a possible occurrence. Chabad.org cites the example of the law against eating leavened products on Passover which begins at noon on the fourteenth of Nissan, Rabbis added to hours to this ban for safety and made it an edict, The result is that while the law says not to eat leavened products after noon, one could be guilty of an offense if they ate an hour before noon even though that is not in the law. There is a provision for leniency on violations of edicts as opposed to strict enforcement when in violation of the law.xii  But it is still changing the Law, adding to its requirements.

So from the above, we see that throughout history Judaism has maintained that the law as set forth in Genesis through Deuteronomy is insufficient for faith and practice and has thus supplemented it with the Talmud, and traditions that rule Jewish life,

It’s not that everything about the Talmud and Jewish tradition isn’t carefully thought out. There appears to be careful reasoning at every turn. It is a very disciplined approach resulting in a very disciplined lifestyle.

But our interest is to look at it in light of Jesus Christ’s criticism of Jewish tradition, That criticism leveled the charge that in the process of their careful reasoning the Word of God was broken.

In another place Jesus said this:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mar 12:28-31 ESV)

Jesus’ focus was on the application of the love of God in every instance of life.  That requires the flexibility to look at every person and situation and apply the love of God.  Setting edicts for every instance of Jewish life in advance of their occurring shows no flexibility and is just legalism.

I talk about an example of this in Did Jesus Really Break God’s Rules by Healing on the Sabbath? As I write in the post there are teachers that say Jesus broke the Law by healing on the Sabbath, but Jesus’ point was that the only thing that was broken was a Jewish tradition.  Jesus pointed out that someone would be penalized for not helping ox out of a ditch even on the Sabbath. Getting a farm animal out of a ditch is hard work, but you were to be penalized for not doing it even on the Sabbath! That means that some kinds of work were not only okay on the Sabbath, but those works were also mandatory!   Jesus taught us that we are more important than livestock so it must be okay for someone to rescue someone by healing them on the Sabbath.

Paul speaks of the importance of this in Romans:

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
(Rom 13:9-10 ESV)

In the example of rescuing people or animals on the Sabbath, it is the loving thing to do!  When certain Jews accused Jesus of breaking the Law by healing they were not following the great commandment by loving enough to rescue and heal, instead they were just being legalistic.

While they may have continued to develop throughout the ages, Jewish traditions trace back through history. From the Giving of the Law on Mount Sinai Judaism has added traditions that set the stage for how so many things in Jewish life are to be carried out. One example is a Jewish tradition for services that gives specific instructions on rituals including the order of service, the songs, the readings, and how people are to act. It also adds more details than the law gives on how things in daily life are to be handled on everything from worship services to what can be done with your hair.

When we look at Christian traditions we will see how some Christian traditions have followed a similar path of adding to the doctrine of the original apostles and disciples.

Remember that we are charged as believers to follow the tradition handed down from the Apostles. Not all Christian traditions are handed down from the Apostles even though parts of the tradition may be.  Remember Jesus’ charge that for the sake of tradition people have made void the word of God.  We need to be careful to filter out any part of any Christian tradition that negates the Word that Jesus came to fulfill.

i Judaism For Dummies, Rabbi Ted Falcom Ph.D. and David Blatner, John Wiley and Sons Inc, Hoboken NJ, 2013 p.38

ii Ibid, p.39

vii UNDERSTANDING THE ROOTS OF THE HAGGADAH, KATJA VEHLOW, http://ultimatehistoryproject.com/the-haggadah.html

ix What is the “Oral Torah”? By Naftali Silberberg

xii What is the “Oral Torah”? By Naftali Silberberg

For more on Jews and Tradition see LP4000 The Role of Tradition and its Old Testament Influence

January 16th, 2020 Posted by | Tradition | no comments

T 0.1 Introduction to Tradition in the Church

If you go to a Christian church chances are it will be following one or more of many Church Traditions. Some churches advertise themselves as part of a tradition like the Wesleyan tradition, the Reformed Tradition or others.

Some traditions are easy to see. The Catholic church, of course, follows the Catholic tradition. The Baptist Church follows the Baptist tradition. The Presbyterian Church has a Presbyterian tradition, but there is more to it. Presbyterianism is really part of Reformed tradition which traces its roots back to John Calvin, one of the reformers of the Reformation.

It can get complicated. The United Church of Christ traces its start to a June 25, 1957 merger between the Evangelical Reformed Church, and the Congregational Christian Churches, two short-lived traditions of their own. On the United Church of Christ website we read, “The new church embodied the essence of both parents, a complement of freedom with order, of the English and European Reformations with the American Awakenings, of separatism with 20th-century ecumenism, of presbyterian with congregational polities, of neoorthodox with liberal theologies. Two million members joined hands.” i

The above church also traces its roots to other traditions including the German Reformed Church, and Congregationalism. ii

The above example shows that after a while it can be a mess. As a result trying to say that someone is a traditional Christian going to a traditional Christian Church really doesn’t tell you much. Are they Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Southern Baptist? Who knows? Look at this quote that relates to the subject:

“I consider a faithful Southern Baptist, a conservative Anglican, an orthodox Roman Catholic, and an Orthodox Christian all to be “traditional Christians.” Still … whose tradition? What sense does it make to say that Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics are on the same side as “traditional”? From a Catholic perspective, the Baptists are so far gone theologically from tradition that it makes no sense to think of them as “traditional Christians.” And from a Baptist point of view, the Catholics may be “traditional,” but they lost their way when they began adding man-made things to the pure Gospel like the early church had.” iii

Oxford defines tradition as “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.” It does include a definition that may help illustrate the cause of the abundance of different traditions that all call themselves Christian:

“a doctrine believed to have divine authority though not in the scriptures. “iv

A church tradition consists of more than doctrine. It includes the beliefs, but also the practices, the services, the liturgy, the songs, and church government. Everything down to the way they set up the chairs for seating can be part of the tradition. And traditions are constantly changing as the above examples illustrate.

Recapping, a tradition is a set of beliefs and customs that gets passed from one generation to another.

Is tradition biblical? The answer is yes and no. There is one place in the Bible that tells us to follow a tradition:

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. (2Th 3:6 ESV)

The above verse does give a commandment to walk in accordance with the tradition that has been received from the apostles. So, there is a place where we are supposed to follow tradition, that is, the set of beliefs and customs that were handed down from the original apostles.

We know that this is the same set of beliefs and customs that the original apostles taught because in second Thessalonians chapter 2, which is in the same context as this earlier verse, is the same charge to follow the traditions taught “by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter”.

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2Th 2:15 ESV)

Notice that this admonition is not to follow just any tradition, whether they are considered Christian or not. The commandment is to follow the tradition handed down from the apostles.

But the answer to whether to follow traditions is also no. The other places in scripture where tradition is talked about are not favorable. Look at these verses where one tradition is disparaged by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Mat 15:1-9 ESV)

This is quite an indictment. The Jewish community had built up quite a number of traditions by the time that Jesus arrived. But Jesus didn’t mince any words about following these traditions, and he did not teach his disciples to follow them either. In this record, the Pharisees and scribes chastised Jesus because he didn’t teach his followers to wash the way the tradition had been set up. Rather, he chastised the Pharisees and scribes because their traditions violated the law of God. He cited the example of the law of honoring your father and mother being not followed because Jewish tradition had established that the offspring of parents could say to their parents that what they would have received from their offspring is given to God and so they didn’t need to honor their parents. Jesus told them that this tradition nullified the word of God! Jesus calls them hypocrites! Then he says that they honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from God’s. He calls their worship vain because what they’re teaching as truth are really man-made doctrines.

Paul also writes in Colossians:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col 2:8 ESV)

Jesus talks about the traditions of men above. Paul talks about human tradition. They are both in the context of Judaism and Christianity, living a holy life. I mean, what could be wrong about requiring people to wash their hands before they eat? We teach our kids to do that. The answer is that it is not the word of God. I wash my hands before I eat but I don’t teach that it is a commandment of the Lord according to tradition. It may be some people’s interpretation of the Word of God, but Jesus is saying that it is not righteous to teach man-made commandments as God’s doctrine.

Now my question is how can all the competing traditions that are considered Orthodox all be the traditions of the Apostles that we are supposed to follow? The answer is that they can’t.

In original Christianity, believers were told to follow the tradition of the original apostles and disciples. That is what I want to do and why the motto of this website has been “Not traditional, Original”

Future articles under this heading will take a look at a number of traditions including the oral tradition of the Jews that Jesus was talking about in Matthew 15 above, the Catholic tradition that started right after the gospel of John was written, the Reformed tradition that started with the Reformation, and more.

iThe United Church of Christ Website, https://www.ucc.org/about-us_short-course_the-united-church-of-christ

iiThe United Church of Christ Website, https://www.ucc.org/about-us_short-course_the-german-reformed-church , https://www.ucc.org/about-us_short-course_congregationalism

iiiWhat Is ‘Traditional Christianity,’ Anyway?, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/what-is-traditional-christianity-anyway/

ivOxford Dictionary online

January 6th, 2020 Posted by | Tradition | no comments