The Bibles Tradition
God’s Word only
Throughout the Old Testament God is described as the “Rock” of our salvation. The New Testament declares that Jesus Christ is the unmovable Rock upon which the church is built. He, being God, is alone qualified for this position. The rock upon which the “wise man built his house” was not Peter but Christ and His teachings (Matt. 7:24-29).
This rock must be something that is eternal, a living stone that will last through all the ages. Peter says Christ is the “chief corner stone” upon which the church is built (I Peter 2:6-8) and quotes an Old Testament passage applying it as fulfilled by Christ. Paul also calls Christ “the chief cornerstone” and declares that the church has been “built upon the foundation of [all] the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20).
But Catholicism claims Peter is the one the Church is built on. From this premise of Peter being the first Pope comes the declaration to this office of infallibility and to speak ex cathedra. At different times throughout history many traditions were added to the Catholic Church by the succession of Popes.
The Roman Catholic position is a convenient one. They challenge non-Catholics by asking them “where does the Bible say Scripture alone” (Protestants call this Sola Scriptura). But sometimes we try to answer a wrong question where there is no right answer. They are right in that it does not say these “exact words”, but the Bible does teach Scripture alone in commands, principles and in practice. That is what one needs to discover to learn what God has actually said.
The question that really needs to be asked is “Does the Bible say tradition is on a equal basis with Scripture?” This question we can find an answer to. The answer is: No. Nowhere does the Bible state tradition is inspired, beneficial or has power like the Word.
Roman Catholicism teaches that the tradition of their church is equal to Scripture. It was in 1545 at the Council of Trent the Roman Church officially made tradition equal to Bible, long after the Bible was completed.
If what they claim is true, then when we apply a logic test to this, we would find one is consistently equal to the other. We could easily substitute tradition for the word or the word for tradition. Lets look and see if this is at all possible.
Scripture states they feared the Lord, can we say we fear tradition? (Gen.22:12,42:18;Ex.18:21,20:20;Lev.25:17; Deut.4:10;6:2, 13,24,8:6)
Isa. 66:5 “Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word”
Ezra 10:3 “…tremble at the commandment of our God”
Deut 5:29 “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments.”
Deut. 13:4 “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice.”
Eccl. 12:13 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” To fear God is to respect His word above all else.
Josh.1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.”
Ps. 119:148 “My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.”
Ps. 119 they meditated on his word (His works, His deeds, His name and God himself), can we meditate on tradition? We stand in awe of his word, our tongue is to preach his word. Can we substitute tradition for any of these? I think not. In Titus 2:5 Paul writes, the word of God can be blasphemed, can tradition?
“The word of God lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23), It is called “the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15), Daniel called it “the Scripture of Truth” (Dan.10:21), the Word of life (I Jn.1:1). “The word of God is living and powerful,… piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Can we substitute tradition for this? Is tradition called truth or life? Even Jesus is called the word as a metaphor in the beginning and when he returns (Jn.1:1-3; Rev 19:13). Ps 40:7, “Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.”
Ps.119:9 “How can a man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to your word.” Tradition cannot cleanse anything. The Bible states in Prov.30:5 “Every word of God is pure”, not so for tradition. Jesus spoke “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you”(Jn.15:3) Tradition is unable to clean the nature of man.
“Thy word is exalted above thy name” (Ps.138:2). This is how much God reverences His word. This is never said for tradition. If one examines the Bible (the word) itself, we find no such statement as traditionbeing called or used equal to what is written. The Pharisee’s claimed they alone had the right to interpret and enforce scripture, and that is when everything went wrong. What the Catholic Church has done is require its members to listen to the Church who will tell them what they are to follow and what the word says. They then become the sole interpreter of what God said. On the contrary Jesus said He would give each believer the Holy Spirit who is the author of the word, to have us understand what was written (Jn. 2:20-21). All the New Testament books were written (approximately) between 40-65 A.D (excluding the apostle John’s written in 75-95 A.D). By 170 A.D. most of the bible had already been approved and read by the church. This was long before any council.
Did God command for Scripture to be written?
The prophets that wrote of Messiahs coming were commanded to record what was said by writing. Isaiah, “Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever”(Isa.30:8) “Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying: ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you”(Jer.30:2). “Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?” (I Kings 11:41) Israel’s history and acts are written in the Chronicles of the Kings.
From the time Moses received the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai, God wrote with His finger on the tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18). He also spoke to Moses 603 other commandments that were written down after he came off the mountain. Because of this written word of God we have an accurate record today of what had been said. The term “the Bible alone” was the principle given from God. God gave Moses the record and it was written down so there would be no discrepancy. Exod.24:4 “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.”v.12 “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” Exodus 31:23 “The Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: (also Exod. 34:27-29). Deut. 4:1-2 “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Deut. 13:4 “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice.” Whatever he told Moses as instructions was written down. Obeying God’s voice is equal to hearing it from Scripture. God’s commands are written, so there would be no mistake. But it was later that traditions were added that Jesus said were laws that negated God’s word. God also said Deut. 8:3 “that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.” It is God’s written word that Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)
The word in the Old Testament was Israel’s source of guidance and life. Deut. 6:5-9 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Here is how we are to show our love. “v.6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Here is God’s tradition to Israel, to have His word constantly in front of oneself and to train their children in it. Prov.4:2 “For I give you good doctrine: do not forsake my law.” This command has not changed in the New Testament, Titus 1:9 “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” This is what was written to the church by Paul 1 Tim. 4:16 “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” Paul told Timothy to preach the word, not tradition. Why did he omit something the Catholic church finds so essential now? He didn’t, Paul made it clear what was written is what they are to follow.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”(2 Tim.3:16-17). Complete means just that, nothing else is needed to grow and mature in ones relationship to God except a willing heart and taking the time to read and understand His word. This is the same thing said in Proverbs “For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life”(Prov. 6:23).
In the RSV a footnote for 2 Tim. 3.16 gives a more clear word for word translation for the beginning of this verse: 'Every scripture inspired by God is also . . .' The Greek text makes it clear; a closer word-for-word translation would read 'Every writing God-inspired is also profitable... What the writer meant by the 'scripture' and 'God-inspired' included the Old Testament because the New Testament was still in the process of being written when 2 Timothy was penned. 'God-inspired' meant that God breathed His Spirit into it. The Greek word used meant both 'breath' or 'wind' and also 'spirit' (the literal meaning of the English word 'inspire' is 'breathe into'). This is what Christians today mean when they say that the Bible, especially the New Testament is 'inspired'.
If the Bible nowhere states tradition is inspired, or beneficial, how do Catholics arrive at this? Trough their church! But the church is to be based on the apostles teachings not the apostles teachings based on the Church. If the traditions Catholics hold are suppose to be a body of oral teaching that was passed down by the apostles, why are they written down? Does this not make them Scripture? To be consistent if they are equal to Scripture from the apostles they should be added to the Bible. But then there is the warning, “Do not add to his words lest you be rebuked and found a liar” (Prov. 30:6).
The word tradition occurs only 14 times in the whole New Testament, in the Old Testament not once. We find 8 references of traditions are from Jesus himself, all of which are unfavorable. Not once does He imply they are spiritually useful. 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.” This is what happens when another body of teachings are made equal with what God has spoken. Jesus made it clear that the Bible was in a class of its own, exalted above all religious traditions. He rebuked the Pharisees not because they didn’t understand tradition, but for not accepting sola Scriptura. They negated the final authority the Word of God by their religious traditions. Their tradition made the word of God to have no effect. (Mk.7) They stopped the people from reading the word and had them obey their traditions instead. Whenever tradition is set alongside Scripture, it eventually competes for the greater position to replace it. It then is used to reinterpret Scripture. This is what happened to Judaism in the days of Christ, and this is what has happened in the Roman Catholic Church. No one can trace oral tradition back to its source, so we can never be sure of its accuracy. Oral tradition becomes subject to the very leaders that gave it and we have to take their word for its accuracy.
Scripture alone is called God’s word (Jn.10:35; 2 Tim.3:16; 2 Pt.1:20) In 1 Cor.4:6 we are specifically told “not to go beyond what is written.” Why say this if traditions outside the written word are just as inspired? We have every logical and scriptural reason to believe that what the apostles penned down was inspired by the Holy Spirit and intended for all believers throughout history. We are warned by an apostle “not to go beyond what is written.” sounds like Sola Scriptura to me! Jesus declared that the “Scripture cannot be broken.” (Jn.10:35) this is not so for traditions. Scripture alone is the eternal word that is settled forever in heaven.
When the apostles died, there was no longer a living apostolic authority since the qualification to be an apostle and have that authority was to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22;1 Cor.9:1). Because the New Testament is the only inspired (infallible) accurate record of the apostles teaching we have today.
Jesus began His ministry by quoting Scripture And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”(Luke 4:21). Jesus always quoted the Scriptures as the final source of authority (Matt. 22:29 32; Mark 7:9,13) Jesus consistently appealed to the Bible and the apostles followed this tradition. They often stated the phrase, “It is written,” (repeated 92 times New Testament), “have you not read?” (Matt. 12:3,5; 19:4; 21:16; 42; Mk. 12:10), “search the Scriptures” (John 5:39), “is it not written in your law?” (Jn.10:34; Lk. 10:25). This clearly shows that the people were able and recommended to read and interpret the Scriptures for themselves. He always shows the consequences of failing to understand, “You err, not knowing the Scriptures...”Luke 24:44 “Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” Notice, Jesus points to the Old Testament, the prophets and writings for the fulfillment of his ministry. We would never have been able to identify him without these things written down.
Jesus said, “if you love me you will continue in my word and you are my disciples indeed.” Jn.14:15, “If you love me keep my commandments.” V.23 “If anyone loves me he will keep my word.” This is his commandment, there’s not a hint of another source for the word. Here is our tradition. On the other hand in v.24”He who does not love Me, does not keep my word.” Jesus says that you show your love and commitment to Him by reading and living by HIS WORDS.
Not once did Jesus speak well about traditions. Neither did Peter nor Paul as he states in Col. 2:8 “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Unless a tradition practiced is biblically based and clearly defined in Scripture it is the invention of men. Don't believe the excuses, it will do harm because it replaces what is eternally true. The Holy Spirit who is the source of Scripture had it written down so there would be no mistakes centuries later. We are given the Holy Spirit to interpret what He wrote through men. What better guide and teacher can we have than the same one who inspired the apostles to write the Scripture. If you’re looking to follow Christ, it is has always been and continues to be through His word in the ability of His Spirit. As Paul admonishes “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16).
Nowhere does the Bible state tradition is inspired! Only Scripture--because it is breathed by God! Unfortunately there are a many traditions practiced today that are man breathed.