Man-Made Traditions....from God!
A Commentary on an Article Condemning Tradition
Before starting this segment of the commentary, there is one important aspect to reiterate for the unknown Protestant's criticism of Holy Tradition. It is this: That Scripture cannot be understood without a standard of Biblical interpretation. Such a standard is actually a tradition of interpretation, which is a pre-conceived system of beliefs read into Scripture, as well as a pre-conceived method of applying and practicing them. Every church and every synagogue since their foundings, even among the Sadducees and Protestants, apply a traditional standard of Bible interpretations which are both directly and indirectly extra-biblical. In fact, the OT cannot be understood without some system of pre-conceived beliefs being read into it, since the OT contains too many vague passages, contradictory teachings, and even missing information. Without applying a tradition, many inconsistencies take place, including the self-contradictory notion that the Bible requires no extra-biblical standard to understand it. For instance, the Sadducees vehemently despised Holy Tradition, yet they learned from the OT that there was no life after death, which Jesus of course proved to be false. Hence, any study of the OT requires an extra-biblical collection of beliefs which must be interpreted into it, as well as a method of making sense out of problematic passages. No matter how much a Christian denies it, each Christian utilizes a tradition in tandem with Scripture, not because something is being added to Scripture, but because the Bible's writers through the Holy Spirit wrote Scripture with their Tradition in mind.
Holy Tradition, which is either the Ancient Jewish or the Early Church interpretation and application of Scripture, openly accepts extra-biblical teachings as doctrine from the Holy Spirit through the Prophets and Apostles. Even the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) make use of this extra-biblical material as prophetic information, as in Jude 9 and 14-15. But like the Sadducees in Christ's time, Protestants cannot accept this historical fact and they attack Tradition at every chance. Their main contention is that all traditions come from human intellect and that whatever traditions which were from God have all become absorbed into the Bible's contents, so that there are no more valid extra-biblical traditions from the Prophets and Apostles. This is despite the historical and Biblical evidence against them. But even if these anti-Tradition beliefs could somehow be factual, there is still certain evidence pointing to modern man-made traditions which are clearly extra-biblical, as well as being anti-biblical, yet are known to have come from God. In other words, regardless if or not Scripture and Sacred History can be proven to oppose Tradition, though they powerfully defend Tradition, there are certain traditions and doctrines which the Bible does not teach and yet all churches, even among Protestant denominations, believe them to be developments and spiritual corrections from the Holy Spirit. These man-made doctrines which were later changed into doctrines of God can be found in the Bible and in modern Christian interpretations of Scripture, though they were never originally taught by the Prophets and Apostles. In a few cases, the Prophets and Apostles themselves opposed such man-made traditions, yet they are now accepted in every modern Christian tradition as being the words of God. Thus, the belief that extra-biblical traditions do not exist or do not have divine sanction must be recognized as fanciful, no matter how one looks at it.
The passage below is a typical reaction to Jesus's objections to man-made traditions. The unknown Protestant assumes that Jesus was not only speaking against the legalistic Jewish beliefs of His time, but that He was also secretly speaking against any doctrine, ritual, practice, and interpretation throughout history which is not specified in Scripture, or rather, what Protestants say is not specified in Scripture, since there is no agreement on what is or is not an oral tradition or doctrine put into or left out of the Bible. Such disagreement by itself should be enough to dispel the Protestant assumptions that Jesus was indirectly promoting Protestant interpretations of Scripture for and against Holy Tradition when He in the Bible condemned the Jewish man-made traditions. Jesus was simply condemning man-made traditions, not man-made traditions and Holy Tradition. Jesus and the rest of the Bible do not equate man-made traditions and Holy Tradition; in fact, they consistently made distinctions between them.
The unknown Protestant says: Another time He (Jesus) was asked about eating bread before washing the hands. Mark 7:7-9 says, "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.
In the paragraph above, the unknown Protestant writer actually points out and quotes some of the false oral traditions and legalistic attitudes of the Jews which Jesus condemned. Nevertheless, these false traditions dealt with extra-biblical teachings which sound very much like many OT commandments, that is, practices and rituals for the sake of worship and spiritual edification. In the OT there are commandments such as not working on the Sabbath or not muzzling an ox while threshing grain, and these doctrines also caused legalism in Judaism. The extra-biblical traditions Jesus condemned are very much like these- washing pitchers and cups in some religious way for spiritual enrichment. But the problem between these two separate categories of commandments is not that one category comes from the OT and the other comes from extra-biblical sources, since both categories could be cleverly interpreted into the OT. The problem was that certain Jews were laying aside God's commandment and relying more on men's tradition for their spirituality, as Jesus clearly says. In other words, such Jews used outward manifestations of their faith as a crutch or an excuse to dismiss or minimize inward spirituality. This was a problem which not only Jesus, the Apostles, and the Christians of the first century criticized, but also the Ancient Jews before and during Christ's time recognized and similarly criticized. The Essenes of the Dead Sea Scrolls, before Christ and during the first century, expressed a spirituality which emphasized the inward faith, and so did the monastic Theraputae in Egypt, mentioned by Philo in the first century. Also in the first century, two extremely powerful theological schools dominated much of the Ancient Jewish thought of the time- the school founded by Shammai and the school founded by the famous sage, Hillel. Shammai interpreted the OT as an inflexible document which requires strict, legalistic obedience to its laws and rituals. Hillel interpreted the OT as an expression of a single, divine precept, love, which allowed for and sometimes demanded deeper spiritual meanings for the OT's laws and rituals.
What is interesting about these two varying points of view is the fact that Shammai emphasized the OT's literal teachings as being superior to Holy Tradition, while Hillel applied Holy Tradition in his understandings of the OT. Hence, in Christ's time, Holy Tradition conformed more with the Gospel than did a rejection or a minimizing of it. For instance, Hillel taught in Shabbat 31a in the Talmuds, "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole of the Torah (Bible) and the remainder is only commentary. Go, learn it." This is precisely what Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12 in the context of juxtaposing Holy Tradition with human tradition. Hillel came up with this belief because it was a doctrine from the Holy Tradition of the Prophets. Shammai objected to such a teaching because he placed men's legalistic interpretations of Scripture above Tradition.
The dispute between rejecting Holy Tradition, which tended to rely on contemporary opinions about what the OT teaches, thereby creating man-made doctrines, and Tradition's spiritual OT interpretations, which tended to rely on ancient oral reports from the Prophets, was the historical and religious context behind Jesus's statements against man-made traditions. Some Jews were emphasizing outward spirituality at the expense of inward faith, so as to make men's traditions equal to or superior to God's commandment of love. While other Jews of the time were calling for a more spiritual application of God's laws and rituals, so as to make God's commandment of love to be superior to men's traditions. This is what Jesus and the Apostles supported, indicating that they were not so radical in their teachings. Hillel, like Jesus, summarized all of Scripture and Tradition under the commandment of God, which is love, and in the Talmuds and elsewhere Hillel also treated both Scripture and Holy Tradition as divinely inspired and as a valuable means to attain spiritual perfection through God's grace. This too is repeated by Jesus and the Apostles in the NT, as can best be seen in Jude 9 and 14-15, where the Archangel Michael and the Prophet Enoch (quoted from 1 Enoch 1:9) are both quoted from extra-biblical sources as being equal to the Bible. Even Jesus endorsed Tradition's doctrine of the Festival of Dedication, now called Hanakah, in John 10:22. Because the NT also relied on extra-biblical traditions, even quoting extra-biblical books as Scriptures, the problem that Jesus had with men's traditions was not that they simply involved extraneous rituals added alongside the OT rituals, nor of extra-biblical books being made equal to the Bible, but that they involved extraneous interpretations and faulty applications of the OT, which were never the original teachings and practices of the Prophets in their Holy Tradition. They were new interpretations and practices of the OT competing with the original doctrines of the Holy Spirit preserved in Tradition.
What needs to be understood at this point is the fact that when Jesus or anyone in the Bible talks about traditions, he is not simply referring to legalistic rituals but he is also speaking about actual doctrines. A good example proving this occurs in Matthew 15:1-9. In verses 5-6 Jesus identifies a false Jewish belief derived from the OT and then He also refers to it as a man-made tradition. In other words, a false tradition is not necessarily a false ritual or an added ritual to the OT, but it is often a false interpretation of the OT made into a doctrine of God. This is important to understand, for Holy Tradition involves the original interpretations of the OT, as the Prophets had originally intended their words to mean, and these beliefs were accepted and promoted by Jesus and the Apostles, regardless if or not they were literally and clearly mentioned in Scripture. Some of these NT doctrines from the Jewish Tradition of the Prophets were: Life after death, a persecuted Messiah, Heaven and hell, Abraham's Bosom (Luke 16:22), Moses's Seat (Matthew 23:2), certain names of demons, free will, the capacity to lose one's salvation, etc. These dogmas from Tradition were not false teachings wrongly twisted into doctrines of God, nor faulty ideas added onto the Faith, for Jesus and the Apostles taught them as though they were God's words, though they were transmitted in extra-biblical form and were widely recognized as such. They were orally transmitted beliefs and practices from the Prophets, which were necessary in order to make sense out of certain vague and contradictory Biblical passages, as well as being important truths and rituals for everyone's spiritual edification. Thus, what Jesus and other Jews of the time were saying about men's traditions is not that they were unnecessary rituals or customs competing with Scripture, since Jesus and the Apostles often referred to extra-biblical beliefs and practices as God's words, but that they were modernized teachings and/or rituals not originally taught by the Prophets, so that they were newer interpretations and practices of the Faith made out to be dogmas from the Prophets. So when the Bible speaks about traditions, it is not just speaking about rituals and customs, but it is also dealing with Biblical interpretations and well-established doctrines, whether dealing with Holy Tradition, as in Jude 9 or Matthew 23:2, or with false tradition, as in Mark 7:7-9.
Some passages in the NT clearly display this juxtaposition between true and false extra-biblical teachings, between the original OT meanings from Tradition and newer traditions of the OT from man-made interpretations. In Jesus's Beatitudes in Matthew 5-7, the true and false interpretations are each considered to be from traditional beliefs, though one is from God, Holy Tradition, and one is from man, false tradition. Both used the OT, yet only Holy Tradition had a historical heritage in perfect communion with the original doctrines of the Bible's writers in written and oral forms. In this passage, Christ repeated a series of theological and Biblical beliefs, juxtaposing the original doctrines of the Holy Tradition vs. the newer doctrines which had developed since the Prophets. In other words, Jesus taught the crowd the original OT meanings which the Prophets had spoken in Biblical and oral forms, including teachings that the OT does not or cannot directly, or in some cases, indirectly convey. He did this while pointing out men's traditions, or beliefs about God and the Bible, which were competing with and corrupting Holy Tradition and Scripture. Jesus's interpretations of the OT are not additional new doctrines to the Faith, since He said that He did not come to abolish or change the Law (Matthew 5:17). Rather, His interpretations of the OT are the original meanings which the Prophets were known to have taught and which had been preserved in Holy Tradition. Jesus was not making up new traditions; He was instead reverting to the truer meanings of the Faith and at the same time He was denouncing newer OT interpretations, which had become traditions, or newer teachings made into doctrines of the Lord. Even His famous Golden Rule, "Do to others what you would like them to do to you", was a well-known extra-biblical rabbinical doctrine from Holy Tradition interpreted into the OT. So Jesus was not necessarily teaching anything radical, unless it was radical to revert to the original beliefs of the Prophets.
Matthew 23:1-3 is a good example where Scripture and Tradition are fused. This passage says, "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to His Disciples, 'The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses's Seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.'" Here Jesus tells His followers to believe in the Biblical and extra-biblical Tradition of the Elders who sat on Moses's Seat, as this Holy Seat was understood to entail at the time. Moses's Seat by itself is an extra-biblical concept, which Jesus directly promotes as being a doctrinal and divine entity. But there was more to it than a mere name or status symbol, for Moses's Seat embodied both Scripture and Holy Tradition as the totality of the Faith. The Elders on Moses's Seat taught that God had revealed to Moses a Written Bible and an Oral Bible, which is hinted at in a few passages of the OT (2 Chronicles 29:25- dealing with orally transmitted words of God, 2 Chronicles 9:29, 2 Samuel 1:18) and in Sacred History (There are many sources for this belief, but two very clear statements prove the point precisely, both in the Talmuds: In Sifre Deuteronomy 351, 145a, "The Roman governor, Quietus, asked Rabbi Gamaliel, 'How many Torahs (Bibles) were given to Israel?' He answered, 'Two- one in writing and the other orally.'" And in Shabbat 31a, where a heathen came to "Shammai and asked him, 'How many Torahs do you have?' He answered, 'Two- the written and the oral.'"). It was also known that the Oral Bible contained traditions found in Scripture as well as outside Scripture, as Jude 9 proves. As Jesus indicates in Matthew 23, Moses's Seat was therefore recognized as a direct and perfect doctrinal link between Moses, the Prophets, and their immediate spiritual disciples in a succession that continued even after Jesus. This is how the transmission of the Written Bible and Oral Bible is referred to in the Talmuds (the ancient record of rabbinical doctrine), written soon after the Apostles in Aboth 1:1, "Moses received the Torah on Sinai, and handed it down to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly." The inference behind this statement is that the ancient written and oral heritage of God's words was then handed down to the Talmudic rabbis soon before the time of Christ.
In Matthew 23:1-3, Jesus does not attack this extra-biblical institution, Moses's Seat, nor its original written and oral doctrines from the Prophets in the Holy Spirit. Instead, He tells the Jews, including His Disciples, to accept and believe the teachings of the Biblical and extra-biblical Tradition of Moses's Seat. As the rest of Matthew 23 shows, Jesus does not tell His listeners to reject rituals and extra-biblical doctrines, He simply tells the Jews not to imitate the hypocritical practices of their religious leaders. This is important, and it explains why the NT and the Early Church consistently and unanimously believed in a fusion between Scripture and Holy Tradition. This is the purport of Jesus's and the Apostles' condemnation of false traditions: 1. That the false traditions which Christ denounced involved hypocritical practices and legalistic dogmas at the expense of the original meanings and rituals from the Written Bible and Oral Bible. 2. That He expected God's people to believe the true oral Tradition as it was originally presented through Moses's Seat. 3. That the Apostles had utilized Holy Tradition from time to time, as Jude 9, 2 Timothy 3:8 (Jannes and Jambres are from an extra-biblical source), and other passages prove. Hence, the Protestant doctrine that Jesus condemned every tradition outside the Bible is simply an extra-biblical belief itself. Jesus was speaking to Jews in a Jewish context and referring to Jewish concepts when He taught the Jews to believe the teachings of Moses's Seat and when He condemned their leaders' false practices and traditions. Jesus's condemnation of oral traditions therefore should not be twisted out of its historical and Biblical context for the sake of a new tradition. Matthew 23:1-3 makes this point very clear.
Despite how Jewish man-made traditions falsified Scripture and Tradition, Holy Tradition was used and promoted in the NT by Jesus and the Apostles, indicating how spiritually reliable Holy Tradition has always been regarded. An example of how well Holy Tradition preserved the original teachings of the Prophets in and out of the OT occurs in a passage which is actually used by Protestants against Tradition. The reason for this confusion is the fact that Jesus Himself agrees with the Protestants in this case, yet He also proves in this same passage that Tradition is authentic, divinely inspired, and well-preserved. This can be found in Matthew 19:3-9, where some Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him about the doctrine of divorce. In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, God told Moses that a man can divorce his wife almost for any cause, and Holy Tradition had interpreted this passage in such a way. Nevertheless, Jesus objected to this doctrine and He declared that a man cannot divorce his wife, except for adultery. Ironically, Jesus refuses to follow the Bible's and Tradition's account of God's words on this subject and He instead follows a man-made tradition. As the Talmuds reveal, what Jesus taught here was not a new idea, since the interpretation of this very passage in Deuteronomy had been in dispute in Christ's time, especially between Hillel and Shammai. Hillel, following Holy Tradition's interpretation of Moses and the Bible, taught that a man could divorce his wife for almost any cause. But Shammai, who followed a less traditional, man-made interpretation of the OT, taught that a man cannot divorce his wife, except for adultery. Shammai's man-made tradition is the belief that Jesus agrees with here, rather than the more original interpretation of Holy Tradition and Scripture. This seems to make Tradition appear quite anti-biblical and useless, yet it in fact proves how Biblical, well-preserved, and authentic Holy Tradition actually is.
As Jesus says in verse 8, Moses had written in the Bible that a man can divorce his wife almost at will. But as Shammai had proved from Scripture, Moses's doctrine on divorce does not have to be interpreted in such a loose way, yet that is what Jesus reveals to have been the original intention Moses had in mind. Jesus says, "It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." Moses wrote in the Bible that a man can divorce His wife, and Holy Tradition had interpreted this passage to mean that Moses had allowed men to divorce their wives almost at will, rather than only because of adultery. Jesus cited this belief from Scripture and Tradition, thereby admitting that it had been the meaning that Moses had originally taught for this passage. Thus, Holy Tradition's rendering of the OT's doctrine of divorce had preserved the original message that Moses had intended, and it proved that Shammai, who was advocating a man-made doctrine in opposition to the OT and Tradition, was the one who once again was inventing or promoting extra-biblical, orally transmitted, man-made doctrines in place of original Biblical beliefs. At this point, it must be remembered that Hillel was the one who derived from Holy Tradition the Golden Rule, where Love is the source of Scripture and Tradition, just as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12, whereas Shammai was the one who tended to dismiss Tradition for the sake of a legalistic, strict obedience of the Law, and so he rejected the idea that Scripture teaches the Golden Rule. However, in the case of Moses's doctrine on divorce, Jesus repudiates Moses's actual Biblical and extra-biblical Tradition, which is supposed to be from God, and yet Jesus agrees with the extra-biblical, orally transmitted, man-made tradition that divorces should never occur, except for adultery.
In a very ironic way, Jesus accepts and promotes the extra-biblical, orally transmitted, man-made tradition about divorce as though it were superior to what Scripture and Tradition, both from the Holy Spirit, directly and clearly teach about divorce. As a result, Jesus reveals that man-made, orally transmitted, extra-biblical traditions can actually be wrought by God, even when they totally contradict and disprove what the Bible and Holy Tradition prove to be from God. Hence, the Protestant assumption that oral, man-made doctrines must be always false is itself a false doctrine, which Jesus disproves in the Bible itself. Moreover, the Protestant assumption that extra-biblical doctrines, even if from the Prophets and the Apostles, must be false is itself another false doctrine, which Jesus disproves in the Bible's issue of divorce.
Another instance where the Bible and Holy Tradition are made inferior to extra-biblical, orally taught, man-made doctrines occurs with the doctrine of slavery. The OT and NT, the Prophets and Apostles, all promote slavery as a command from God and as some kind of moral Christian duty to be preserved in society as a tradition of God. In Deuteronomy 15:12-18, God tells the Jews to practice slavery, though allowing slaves a one-time choice to be freed in the 7th year. However, in the Epistle of Philemon and throughout the NT, the Apostles appear to have subjugated or equated Scripture's teachings on slavery to the pagan practice of slavery, which did not allow a slave to be freed at any time. This is in clear violation of Scripture. Even Holy Tradition had been somewhat ambiguous about this issue until modern times, though it has always treated the acceptance of slavery, at least in some sense and to some degree, as being opposed to higher spirituality. Yet everyone now accepts the doctrine that slavery is evil and goes against God's will, even though Scripture nowhere teaches that slavery is immoral and should be abolished. The Bible promotes slavery as a righteous tradition, and it is only later man-made, extra-biblical, orally taught traditions which have denounced it and abolished it, even forcing a few Bible passages to seemingly reject it, though these passages do not actually denounce slavery. This again goes against the Protestant dogma that all man-made, extra-biblical traditions are false and that Scripture has absorbed all the traditions from God, especially extra-biblical ones.
One of the more famous, though often ignored, extra-biblical, orally transmitted doctrines is the collection of the Bible itself, the Canon. Though Protestants do not admit it, the official collection of the Bible's books is also an extra-biblical, man-made tradition. For instance, there are 66 Bible books in the Protestant Bible, whereas there are 78 books in the Catholic Bible and the Orthodox Bible. The Egyptian Coptics since Early Church times were the only Christians accepting the Epistle of Barnabas as Biblical, and there were some eastern Christians since Early Christianity who still included 1 Clement in their Bible up to the 17th century. The Ethiopians since Early Christian times had accepted the First Book of Enoch (quoted as a Scripture in Jude 14-15) and the Book of Jubilees as Scriptures, though in modern times many Ethiopians have relegated these books to semi-biblical. Some Early Christians also included Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Gospel to the Hebrews, Enoch, and Jubilees as Bible books, but some Early Christians also regarded Revelation, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, James, and Hebrews as either semi-biblical or as anti-biblical. The eastern Syriac church since Early Church times had similarly rejected four of these books, as did Martin Luther and even some Protestant churches until the 1700's. The variation of decisions on which books should or should not be included as Biblical are many; and even the Ancient Jews disputed the Book of Esther and other Scriptures.
Because of so many differing collections, how do we know which books are Biblical and which ones are not? The Epistle of James contradicts the Epistle of Romans, as Martin Luther vehemently pointed out. Why is James accepted as Biblical? The Book of Enoch is quoted by the Apostle Jude as a Scripture. Why is Enoch left out of the Bible? By whose authority was all this done? The Apostles did not decide for us which of their books should be made Biblical, nor did the Prophets, nor any of their Disciples. Indeed, the concept of official Bible books, as we understand it today, did not exist until about 200 years after Christ, when the Jews and some Christians thought up this idea. Indeed, it is more of an ecclesiastical, organized church belief than an Apostolic ideal, though the Apostle John is said in one Early Christian account to have organized and chosen the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) to be of ultimate holy authority. But no Apostle helped us with the rest of the Bible. For the OT, only Moses is known to have personally chosen five books (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy) to be of ultimate holy authority. So who says which books should be made Biblical and which books should be left out? Some of the Bible's books themselves were written anonymously, so who says which books are genuine or not? Plus, any half-way decent spiritual text with some historical credibility, such as Barnabas, can be easily demonstrated to conform perfectly to the rest of Scripture. So who said that Barnabas cannot be Biblical? And any Biblical book, such as James, can be proven to be historically doubtful and even demonstrated to be against the rest of Scripture. So who said that James should be Biblical?
Since the Bible's books were not collected and chosen by the Prophets, Apostles, and their Disciples, and according to Protestant theological logic, the belief that only certain books are Biblical and certain other books are not is mostly a man-made doctrine with no credible, historical, authenticated, documented, and Apostolic authority (Though the Early Christians, Orthodox, and Catholics inherited it as a belief from Holy Tradition). In other words, as Sacred History proves, it is a man-made tradition established by the organized Church of the 4th century, which in Protestant mythology is the enemy of Christianity. Nevertheless, Protestants believe the ancient extra-biblical doctrine about the collection of the Bible's books to be the word of God. Furthermore, the 78 or so books of the Bible, which the Church chose to be Biblical in the 4th century by universal consensus, was changed even more by Martin Luther in the 16th century by personal fiat, when he decided to make up his own collection of Scriptures, limiting the Bible to 62 books, though four of those books were added back into Scripture in the 17th century. This means that the Protestant Bible of 66 books is a man-made tradition upon a man-made tradition upon a man-made tradition, laws upon laws upon laws. But Protestants do not see it this way because they view their own traditions in the same way that the Early Christians viewed their Holy Tradition, that is, as unchanged, Apostolic, extra-biblical doctrines, which are necessary in order to understand the contradictory, problematic, and vague passages of Scripture and the Faith, as well as for deciding which books should or should not be made Biblical. The Early Christians had actual connections with the Apostles and their Disciples, and they even witnessed what they taught. So whatever extra-biblical beliefs which they accepted, including the decisions on which books should or should not be made Biblical, have a powerful basis in Apostolic Tradition. Protestant extra-biblical beliefs on the contrary, such as Luther's choice of Scriptures, have no Apostolic connections, except in some indirect, and therefore questionable, manner. They thus are man-made traditions in the truest sense.
Similarly, yet in the opposite direction, there are Biblical teachings which the Apostles taught the Church to follow, but extra-biblical traditions teach that they should no longer be doctrinal. One good example of this occurs in Acts 5:1-11, where Ananias and Sapphira were both killed by divine decree because they did not give all their earnings and wealth to the Church. In Apostolic times, as mentioned in Acts 4:32-37, all Christians were taught by the Apostles to give all their money and wealth to the Church, which was then redistributed to the Christians according to need, and the rest was given to the poor. But why does Christianity no longer practice this doctrine? Where in the Bible is it taught that this doctrine should be changed and replaced with the present doctrine, which does not teach that all Christians should give all their wealth to the Church? Though Acts 5 reveals how tempting it was for a few people to disobey this Apostolic doctrine, the Bible does not say that it should cease to be an Apostolic doctrine. Yet all Christians, even Protestants, believe in the extra-biblical, man-made, oral, even anti-biblical doctrine, which teaches that it should no longer be practiced. This should not be, for as Acts 5 proves, God was dead serious about Christians obeying this doctrine. Somehow, somewhere, an extra-biblical, anti-biblical, orally transmitted, man-made doctrine came along and abolished by universal consent this command from God, and God did not kill anyone for changing it. Maybe Acts 5 was a hint of how problematic it would be if all Christians after Apostolic times were told to give the Church all their wealth. Maybe the practical realities of modern Communism and Socialism provide hints of how unproductive and anti-social such a system would naturally become, especially when most Christians in most churches are mostly negligent in regard to even the simplest Apostolic doctrines. Whatever the case may have been, a man-made, extra-biblical, oral doctrine came along and changed this Biblical commandment which God defended in dramatic ways. As a result, Scripture teaches that all Christians give all their wealth to the Church, yet Protestants believe in an extra-biblical doctrine, which teaches that Christians can keep 90% of their wealth, as being a superior dogma to a direct and clear doctrine from the Apostles in the Bible. Once again, Protestant hypocrisy is displayed. Protestants cling to man-made doctrines at the expense of Biblical doctrines, and yet they claim that Scripture encapsulates all oral doctrines and that Protestants believe only the Bible as God's word. The spiritual inconsistencies in believing that extra-biblical doctrines from God do not exist keep mounting up against Protestant theology.
As the examples above of Jesus's doctrine on divorce, the theological history of the morality of slavery, the development of the doctrine of shared wealth, and the sacred decisions for the Canon point out, it is not only possible, but it is even a fact that extra-biblical, man-made, orally transmitted doctrines established alongside Scripture and added into the Faith long after the Prophets and Apostles can be Holy Spirit inspired, even when clearly anti-biblical and against Holy Tradition. Protestants cannot admit to such a concept, lest their own theology be self-refuted, yet it is plainly there in Scripture and Tradition. The Bible and Sacred History have always proclaimed the existence of Holy Tradition directly from the Prophets and Apostles being an extra-biblical, orally transmitted arrangement of teachings designed to make sense out of Scripture and to preserve the Faith from internal and external spiritual errors and from legalistic stagnation. In a few cases, councils and cultural necessities have responded to overt spiritual conflict which have caused a demand for some flexibility with Scripture and Tradition, proving how Scripture and Tradition are not legalistic entities, as well as showing how they may accommodate the hardness of men's hearts on a few issues for the sake of saving souls. Hence, Holy Tradition has always been meticulously preserved, not as legalistic, extraneous, man-made doctrines, but as authentic, genuine teachings in Biblical and Oral format from the Holy Spirit through the Prophets and Apostles, as well as in certain adjustments over the centuries, such as formulating an official list of Bible books. This is why the NT often refers to Tradition as though it is the word of God, as in Galatians 3:19, Hebrews 2:2, and Acts 7:53, where the Apostles casually state that angels gave the Law to Moses and not God Himself, as it is taught in the OT.
What needs to be understood from these observations in Scripture and Church history is three factors: 1. That man-made doctrines are not always legalistic. 2. That extra-biblical and oral doctrines are not necessarily anti-biblical. 3. That Holy Tradition, even when adjusted by universal councils and overwhelming cultural consent, is not man-made in the sense of being anti-apostolic and unbiblical. But this does not mean, as the man-made Protestant tradition dictates, that men are free to interpret Scripture and make up practices from it in order to appear Apostolic. This is what Jesus was teaching against in Mark 7:7-9. Though the Bible and Tradition do allow for some degree of theological and practical adjustments to the Faith, the Early Christians, as they had learned it from the Bible and Apostolic Tradition, adamantly opposed unnecessary alterations of, additions to, and subtractions from the Faith and they attacked people who sought to freely interpret Scripture and Tradition beyond an acceptable limit, thereby forcing extraneous beliefs into the Faith. This is what Paul dealt with in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, where Paul says, "Now I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose." Then he goes on to complain about how the Corinthians had categorized the Gospel into different theological positions- one from Apollos, one from Paul, one from Cephas, and even one from Christ. As this indicates, the Apostles did not want spiritual divisions in the Church; they wanted all Christians to submit to the universal Apostolic teachings and ecclesiastical arrangements, in both written and oral forms, as taught in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. If there were to be changes to the Faith, and the Apostles must have expected them, the Early Church recognized that they be done according to a collegiate process, a universal consensus of opinion and debate, as in Acts 15 with the Council of Jerusalem, rather than according to regional or private inclinations, as it was wrongly practiced in Paul's Corinthian church, and as it is practiced today among Catholics and most notoriously among Protestants.
Since Catholics and Protestants believe in traditions which were never part of Early Christianity, it cannot be said, as they claim, that the Early Church had been corrupted by false traditions. This is an excuse that Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and also Muslims make use of for the sake of advancing their own twisted Apostolic associations and for excusing their own breaking away from the original Gospel. Rather, it is the Catholics and Protestants who are the ones that history proves had broken away from the original Church by reinterpreting and reformulating teachings from Scripture and oral Apostolic Tradition beyond acceptable limits, as well as inventing new doctrines, legalistic rituals, and extra-biblical beliefs never known before. And Protestants and Catholics know that their theology and spirituality are different from Early Christianity. But despite their theological and spiritual alterations, they believe that these changes to the Faith are not changes, but a restoration of the original Apostolic Gospel, as Protestants teach, or that they are changes inspired by the Holy Spirit, much like anti-slavery is, as Catholics and Protestants both teach. However, the Early Christians believed that regional and private theological-spiritual alterations are not usually for the benefit of enriching Christianity, but that they are mostly for the sake of causing schisms and divisions and advancing the religious power of certain religious leaders instead. Because of their greater caution, the Early Christians were less inclined to be swayed by new ideas than modern Christians are.
Unlike certain modern churches, the Early Christians sought to humbly obey their spiritual authorities in the direct Apostolic succession of bishops, to preserve Christian unity, and to discuss theological possibilities over long periods of time without fomenting any divisions and schisms. If the Holy Spirit is behind a teaching, it will eventually become part of the Faith, either in one's lifetime or centuries in the future; and if God is not behind it, then it will eventually disappear from history. Thus, the collegiate atmosphere of Acts 15, which records the Council of Jerusalem, and which even the Apostles had to submit to and obey, was the approach toward solving spiritual difficulties, questions, and problems in Early Christian times, whereby all churches throughout Christianity must come to a consensus about spiritual matters, rather than the Catholic and Protestant approaches, which stress regional and personal opinions above consensus and unity. For the Early Christians, the collegiate method was strictly applied and taken as the truest evidence of Holy Spirit activity, and because Eastern Orthodoxy still preserves all the doctrines of the Early Church, this is the ideal for the Eastern Orthodox. Hence, the variant systems of theology taught by the popes, Martin Luther, and the Protestant reformers, even founders of new denominations today, may or may not be from the Holy Spirit (though there is much spiritual inconsistency among them, suggesting that the Holy Spirit is not involved), nevertheless, according to Early Christianity, they are clearly anti-apostolic and anti-biblical in many serious ways, and this is why the Historic Church (the Early Church and Eastern Orthodox Church) has always opposed certain religious groups and ideas, even Catholicism and Protestantism.
As so much evidence reveals, the Bible, the Ancient Jews, and the Early Christians never perceived the Church to be a stage for a battle between sacred Biblical doctrines and tyrannical extra-biblical beliefs, nor for a struggle between divinely written teachings and encroaching man-made oral commandments. Such a juxtaposition is a newly-invented Protestant assumption read into the Bible and its spiritual culture, as a Protestant mythology of its own historical roots being associated with Apostolic experiences. However, the Church has always known of a conflict between Holy Tradition and man-made tradition, that is, between oral Tradition from the Prophets and Apostles and oral tradition from men. Jesus Himself cites this problem often, as He does in Mark 7:7-9, and the Early Church often had to oppose certain heresies and Catholic- or Protestant-like beliefs, as it did in Early Church times against the heretical Gnostics who claimed that the consecrated Bread and Wine of Communion do not become the literal Body and Blood of Jesus, which is now a staple Protestant dogma. But NT references to extra-biblical stories and doctrines, such as Jude 9 and 14-15, where Jude quotes the Archangel Michael and the Prophet Enoch, both of which do not come from the OT, are two of many examples revealing the existence of a well-established written and oral Holy Tradition outside the Bible from the Prophets. This proves that there was no conflict between Holy Tradition and Scripture, for if there had been, the Apostles would have left behind some information somewhere, explaining why Scripture condemns human traditions yet at the same time uses Holy Tradition as God's word. Therefore, the lack of an explanation for the Bible's usage of Tradition cannot be used as evidence that God and the Apostles were trying to stop the Church from using it, as Protestants strive to prove. Rather, Scripture and Tradition were used by the Apostles because they both come from the Holy Spirit; and man-made traditions were condemned by the Apostles because they do not come from the Holy Spirit. It is that obvious.
If Protestants were really so serious about their doctrine that the Bible explains its own teachings without the help of any tradition, then they should accept what the Bible clearly states about this issue. The Bible and Sacred History do not pit Scripture against Tradition, since there was no spiritual opposition between them. But the Bible and Sacred History do pit Scripture with Holy Tradition against man-made tradition, since there was spiritual opposition between these two categories. Since the Bible and Sacred History do not report on any conflict between Scripture and Holy Tradition, there is no cause or reason to believe that false man-made traditions had somehow made their way into the Early Church, changing the original beliefs and practices without any evidence of a debate, thereby creating Catholicism or legalism or Eastern Orthodoxy or false rituals or anything conveniently non-Protestant. The evidence for such a contention is simply not there. Nevertheless, there is evidence of man-made traditions seeping into the Early Church, but they were immediately isolated, critically analyzed, and condemned as heretical, or they became part of break-away churches, which is precisely what the Catholics and Protestants have done. Thus, the convenient logic of Protestantism, which states that everything pro-Protestant in Early Christianity must have come from the Apostles and everything non-Protestant in Early Christianity must have come from false human traditions, is itself a man-made myth formed into a doctrine of Christ.
Modern Protestant scholars discussing the subject of Tradition often overlook or dismiss ancient references to Holy Spirit inspired Tradition in the Bible and Sacred History only because they interpret the evidence through Martin Luther's man-made dogmas. They interpret everything in Scripture and Sacred History as some type of battle between Catholicism and Protestantism. Organized religion in any sense and Tradition in any format are therefore regarded as ancient versions of the papacy and its theological distortions threatening true Christianity. Such inordinate sensitivity to one angle of an issue, which really has two sides to it, originates from the fact that Judaism eventually mingled Holy Tradition with false new traditions and a subsequent works-oriented legalism, which Jesus and the Apostles condemned in the Bible. But when the Catholics, beginning in the 9th century and continuing to this day, literally imitated to some extent the tyranny of the false Jewish traditions, Protestants have strongly emphasized the similarities between false Catholic and Jewish traditions. But this correlation and its subsequent over-reaction have only confused any decent analyses about Holy Tradition for many Protestants, who cannot or refuse to comprehend how there can be a distinction in the Bible and Sacred History between Holy Tradition and false tradition, between Apostolic Tradition and Catholic tradition.
Contrary to what Protestants say, Protestants have forced their own traditions into Scripture, Holy Tradition, and Sacred History, while denying that they do this. This is done, so as to make it seem as though all non-Protestant beliefs and practices, which they claim to be extra-biblical and/or anti-biblical, so prevalent among the Early Christians, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox, but especially the Catholics, must have come from false traditions added onto the Faith. This doctrine is itself an extra-biblical doctrine added onto the Faith, but Protestant theology never admits to doing such activity, though they ardently search for it among their theological opponents. Instead, Protestants conveniently claim that everything they believe in comes only from Scripture, even when it does not, while everything they reject cannot be from Scripture and the Apostles, even when it does. Whatever the case may be, they are confronted with many spiritual inconsistencies by defending their beliefs, especially by teaching that all traditions not found in the Bible, or rather, not accepted by Protestants, must be false. Even if their own proofs in Scripture against all non-Protestant traditions can be accepted as true, which of course they cannot be, the Bible, Holy Tradition, and Sacred History still speak out against them. Jesus's doctrine on divorce, the history of the doctrine against slavery, the development of the doctrine of shared wealth in the Church, and the official dogma of the Bible's books are all evidence of extra-biblical, man-made, orally transmitted doctrines which God accepts and yet they are not taught in Scripture, things that Protestant theology teaches cannot happen. This spiritual dilemma is made even more ironic when it is noted that all Protestants believe these extra-biblical, man-made, oral doctrines, in addition to their own man-made traditions which they have added onto the Faith, as the very words of God Himself.
No matter what Protestants are faced with, Scripture, Holy Tradition, and Sacred History consistently utilize extra-biblical, orally transmitted teachings from the Prophets, Apostles, and even from men who lived long after the Apostles as Holy Spirit inspired doctrines of the Gospel. Therefore, in addition to the Bible and the Ancient Witnesses supporting Tradition as being God's word, Scripture, Holy Tradition, and Sacred History also make it clear that extra-biblical, orally transmitted doctrines, even if man-made and even if anti-biblical and even if not absorbed into Scripture, can be derived from God and be made part of the Gospel, not as an addition to Scripture, but as the truth behind Scripture, as long as it is done through Apostolic Tradition, which is the collegiate method of Acts 15 and of the Early Church, not the method of the Catholic popes and Protestant reformers. This is inconceivable and in total contradiction to Protestants' beliefs. Yet they too believe in extra-biblical dogmas. For this and many other reasons, Protestants have a long way to go before they can fully understand what false, man-made traditions are and what Holy Tradition has always been.
*If you would like to respond to this article, please click the button below.*