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)
iThe Trouble with Eyewitness Identification Testimony in Criminal Cases, https://www.ncsc.org/microsites/trends/home/Monthly-Trends-Articles/2017/The-Trouble-with-Eyewitness-Identification-Testimony-in-Criminal-Cases.aspx
iiThe Biblical Blueprint for the Priesthood, https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/the-biblical-blueprint-for-the-priesthood