The Difference Between True and False Traditions
A Commentary on an Article Condemning Tradition
Segment #11

In this segment the unknown Protestant is coming toward a close in his refutation of Holy Tradition. Here, he makes some useful statements about false traditions, yet he makes faulty conclusions due to his wishful dream that Scripture somehow denounces every single tradition left over after the Apostles. Though the Bible does reject traditions of men, nevertheless, when all instances of traditions in Scripture and the Early Church are taken into account, it is clear that the Apostles made a definite distinction between false traditions and oral, extra-biblical Holy Tradition.

This is what the Protestant says:
When we look at the examples of tradition in the Scripture, we find its purpose does the very opposite of the word written. In the NT (New Testament) period Jesus's whole ministry was a contention with the Pharisees' traditions. They wanted Him to validate and approve what they called the tradition of the elders (fathers). In Mark 7:1-9 and Matthew 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 that 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 that it is not cleansing from the outside, but man's heart from the inside that is what needs the cleansing. The Pharisees 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. Mark 7:6-7, "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 Matthew 11:28, "Come to ME all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you REST."


Once again, the unknown Protestant writer confuses Holy Tradition with human traditions, and he assumes that Holy Tradition mostly consists of rituals added to the Faith long after the Prophets and Apostles, as well as assuming that what is orally transmitted cannot be from God. But as the Bible's writers indicate, whose teachings the Ancient Jews and Early Christians amplified, the Prophets and Apostles had set up a Written Bible and an Oral Bible, with the Oral Bible consisting of important doctrines, Biblical interpretations, along with some rituals, all of which were known to have come from the Holy Spirit through the Prophets and Apostles. Ancient Jewish writings before, during, and soon after Christ firmly attest to this arrangement of God's words, as witnessed by the Talmuds (Sifre Deuteronomy 351; 145a and Shabbat 31a, along with many individual accounts of extra-biblical divine revelations from God to the Prophets), Josephus in almost every page of his Antiquities Of The Jews, and many other sources. Even the NT draws from the rituals and doctrines of Holy Tradition which are not recorded in the Protestant OT (Old Testament), as is most clearly shown in Jude 9 and 14-15 and in Jesus's promotion of Hanukah in John 10:22, and there is no warning to avoid the rest of Holy Tradition. So what Jesus and the Apostles were condemning cannot be the established Tradition of the Prophets, since the NT actually quotes and applies the extra-biblical doctrines and rituals of Tradition as equal to Scripture. They had simply opposed man-made traditions, which everyone knew were added to the Holy Tradition of the Prophets.

As the NT points out, Jesus and the Apostles do condemn man-made traditions, but they also elevate divine Tradition as being equal to Scripture itself. Similarly, Jesus and the Apostles condemn using rituals as a method for salvation, yet Christ and the Apostles also established Christian rituals and traditions themselves, such as going to church every Sunday, praying to the Trinity, submitting to the decisions of church councils, denouncing abortion, establishing certain forms of worship services, accepting certain books as Scriptures and rejecting others, and many other extra-biblical doctrines and rituals, things which every Christian since the Apostles has kept as though they were the words of God Himself. Hence, Scripture and Sacred History do not reveal that Holy Tradition is false or unreliable, nor that extra-biblical rituals cannot be from the Prophets and Apostles, nor even that Tradition consists mostly of erroneous rituals and laws. What the Bible and the Ancient Witnesses do reveal is that human traditions were competing with Holy Tradition; and rituals, if from God or not, were being treated as though they can cause salvation. Thus, the Protestants' assumptions and premises are based not on objective facts but on fanciful wishes that Protestant theology can be secretly discovered in Scripture and Sacred History.

One of the things that the unknown Protestant writer is correct about is the idea that human traditions, especially rituals, were being treated as though they were equal to Scripture. Because of this tendency, Jesus does revert to Scripture to undermine the legitimacy of these traditions. But that is all that this means. For instance, Jesus and the Apostles often utilized Holy Tradition to make doctrinal statements, as in Matthew 5-7 (where Jesus establishes new doctrines from the Bible), Jude 14-15 (where Jude quotes Enoch, which is not in the OT), Galatians 3:19 (where, contrary to the OT, the Law is said to have come through angels to Moses, not directly from God); so the assumption that all of Tradition must be oral, false, unreliable, and legalistic cannot be asserted. Jesus consistently used the OT against the human traditions because the human traditions were being interpreted into the OT, so that teachings of men were being made into doctrines of the Lord. Jesus simply used His own interpretations of the OT to counter what the Jews were doing with these man-made rituals. Thus, there is nothing more that can be secretly discovered in these passages where Jesus and the Apostles used Scripture to oppose false rituals, and there is nothing else cleverly hidden in them when the whole context of Scripture is taken into consideration.

If the rest of the NT never used or promoted Tradition, then it could be said that all extra-biblical traditions left over after the Apostles were included in this pattern of Jesus always using the OT to oppose false rituals. But this is not the case because the NT actually uses and treats extra-biblical doctrines and rituals as being equal to the Bible. And the Apostles themselves consistently promoted the establishment of oral Apostolic traditions for all churches for all time, as emphasized in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, which was universally preserved by the Early Church. The famous saint, Ireneus, who was a student of Polycarp, the disciple of the Apostle John, in the 2nd century, says in his powerful book Against Heresies, "What if the Apostles had not in fact left Scriptures to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of Tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the churches?" Basil the Great in the 4th century makes a clear statement about the extra-biblical Apostolic Tradition being equal to Scripture in his book On The Holy Spirit 27:66, saying, "Of the dogmas and doctrines preserved in the Church, some we possess from written teaching and others we receive from the Tradition of the Apostles, handed on to us in mystery. In respect to piety both are of the same force. No one will contradict any of these, no one, at any rate, who is even moderately versed in matters ecclesiastical. Indeed, were we to try to reject unwritten customs as having no great authority, we would unwittingly injure the Gospel in its vitals." Origen, who was a disciple of Clement of Alexandria, who was a disciple of disciples of the Apostles, also teaches in the 3rd century, "The key to the Scriptures must be received from the Tradition of the Church, as from the Lord Himself." Clement of Alexandria even says in the 2nd century in his book the Miscellanies VI, 7, "And the Gnosis itself is that which has descended by transmission to a few, having been imparted unwritten by the Apostles. Hence, then, knowledge or wisdom ought to be exercised up to the eternal and unchangeable habit of contemplation." So when Jesus and the Apostles in the Bible are recorded condemning traditions, it cannot be assumed that the established Holy Tradition of the Prophets and Apostles was included in the condemnation. There is overwhelming evidence debunking such a premise, especially when the Early Christians witnessed oral, extra-biblical Apostolic Tradition as being equal to Scripture. Also, it cannot be assumed that just because Jesus always referred to the Bible to condemn false traditions, then He secretly meant that only the Bible can be the words of God. The issue between Jesus and the Jews was not a matter of pitting oral traditions against the Written Bible; rather, it was an issue between the Jews falsely interpreting their own traditions into Scripture and Jesus emphasizing truer interpretations of it. Making conclusions based on a false premise is what the unknown Protestant is doing when he opposes Tradition. He simply takes into account the condemnation of false traditions at the expense of the Bible's and the Early Church's elevation of Holy Tradition to the status of Scripture.

In addition to these observations of Jesus and the Apostles using Holy Tradition as a divine and eternally reliable source in their Biblical and extra-biblical venues for all churches for all time, the last sentence that the unknown Protestant wrote above, quoting Matthew 11:28, does not speak out against Holy Tradition. Though Jesus Christ is the basis of our labor and our Comforter, and He is the One who gives us rest, the theological and spiritual connotations surrounding this verse still beg for some amount of extra-biblical interpretations to put this passage into practice. These interpretations have always been recognized in Early Christianity to exist within Holy Tradition, both in doctrine and in ritual. For instance, the Bible's references about Baptism suggest that without it there can be no salvation, there can be no foundation in Christ and no rest in Him, which is how the Early Christians understood it. The Early Church also learned from the Apostles that Baptism consisted of water, even for babies, not simply talking in tongues as a sign of a spiritual baptism without water or some other variation of this doctrine. Nevertheless, Scripture can be and has been interpreted to teach varying concepts about Baptism from sect to sect, cult to cult, denomination to denomination, and even conflicting doctrines about its meaning and utilization for our salvation or spiritual progress have been established in opposition to the Apostolic Tradition of the Early Church.

Just by looking at such conflicting messages, how is one to interpret Matthew 11:28? Does one interpret it as though it has no relation to the doctrine of Baptism, as though one can merely rest in Jesus Christ without all these supposedly complicated theological concepts? Or should one interpret it as though it does have a relation to Baptism, which is why one is able to rest in Jesus Christ? Furthermore, an understanding of Matthew 11:28 must take into account the Trinity, since resting in Jesus requires the belief that Jesus is God and that He is the Holy Spirit. Yet the Bible contains passages suggesting that Jesus is not God, as in Mark 10:18, where a man called Jesus good, to which Jesus said that only God is good, thereby stating that Jesus is not as good as God is. Hence, the Bible does not clearly teach the Trinity, nor even mention such a concept, and indeed Proverbs 7-8 declares the existence of a divine Mother, who can be interpreted as a fourth Person of a Quadrinity, or as a third Person of a Trinity consisting of Father, Mother, and Son, among other variations to this theme. Even the Early Christians were honest about the fact that the Bible nowhere teaches the Trinity. But they were honest about it because they knew that it was an oral, extra-biblical doctrine from the Apostles through the Holy Spirit, which did not need to be claimed Biblical. There was nothing dubious about reading the Trinity into Scripture, or believing it without Scripture, since Tradition had always been regarded as equal to Scripture. Basil the Great in the 4th century in his book On The Spirit 9:22 cites this fact, saying, "Time will fail me if I attempt to recount the unwritten mysteries of the Church. Of the rest I say nothing; but of the very confession of our Faith in Father, Son, & Holy Ghost, what is the written source?" Matthew 11:28, therefore, involves many doctrines from the Bible and from Tradition in order for it to be believed and practiced.

The unknown Protestant writer uses Matthew 11:28 as some kind of proof against Tradition, yet oral traditions are necessarily interlocked with the meaning and practice of this verse, and Holy Tradition in the Early Church itself had always taught doctrines in relation to it, including teachings which do not distinctly come from the Bible. Since so many different interpretations and practices and rituals have appeared in practicing Baptism, for instance, and applying it or not applying it to Matthew 11:28, as well as other extra-biblical concepts in relation to it, such as the Trinity, Matthew 11:28 does not speak out against Holy Tradition. As these observations make clear, the meaning of Matthew 11:28 itself requires extra-biblical Holy Tradition, or man-made traditions for some people, in order for it to make sense and to be practiced. Thus, Jesus and the Apostles, as well as the Ancient Witnesses, never expected a separation between Tradition and Scripture, just a separation between man-made traditions and the Holy Tradition behind Scripture.

After looking at the whole context of Scripture's usage of Tradition, rather than the Bible making a distinction between false, oral traditions and Scripture, the Bible instead makes a distinction between false, man-made traditions and a genuine, extra-biblical Holy Tradition from the Apostles and Prophets. The unknown Protestant writer dreams of finding indirect evidence against Tradition, and so he confuses false traditions with true traditions, which none of the Early Christians ever did, except for those they proved to be heretics. As a result, the Protestant must resort to finding hidden inferences against Holy Tradition in the Bible because there are no direct statements against it. On the contrary, the Apostles consistently and openly refer to and support the oral, extra-biblical Holy Tradition, not because they and the Holy Spirit were making last minute arrangements to include all true traditions in the Bible, which again is a teaching not found in Scripture, but because the Apostles and the Holy Spirit were making statements distinguishing false traditions from the Holy Tradition of the Prophets, which was in accordance with the Faith of the Ancient Jews. Even the Apostles imitated this arrangement of God's words by leaving behind the NT and unwritten Apostolic doctrines, which all the Early Christians recognized as extra-biblical, oral, and divinely inspired. Moreover, there is no evidence that all the Early Christians were somehow masterfully and unanimously fooled by heretical false traditions, since there is no record or memory of the first and second generations of Christians believing otherwise. Indeed, Protestants themselves believe in extra-biblical doctrines from the Early Church and from modern Protestant reformers. Thus, as all the observations and evidence from Scripture and Sacred History prove, not indirectly but clearly and distinctly, the Bible's usage of Tradition is not one where all oral, extra-biblical traditions are false but one where certain oral, extra-biblical traditions are false in contradistinction to certain oral, extra-biblical traditions from the Prophets and Apostles, which they never recorded in the Bible, yet have been preserved without change in Judaism and Christianity since Biblical times. These are the facts, which the unknown Protestant opposing Tradition knowingly or unknowingly denies or falsifies in order to establish his own man-made traditions as doctrines of Christ in Scripture.

*If you would like to respond to this article, please click the button below.*