09 June, 2009

Are Sacred Traditions different than the Traditions of the Pharisees?

Sacred tradition is very different than what the Scriptures speak of in the following verses:

(Mat 15:1 DRB) Then came to him from Jerusalem scribes and Pharisees, saying:

(Mat 15:2 DRB) Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the ancients? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread.

(Mat 15:3 DRB) But he answering, said to them: Why do you also transgress the commandment of God for your tradition? For God said:

(Mat 15:4 DRB) Honour thy father and mother: And: He that shall curse father or mother, let him die the death.

(Mat 15:5 DRB) But you say: Whosoever shall say to father or mother, The gift whatsoever proceedeth from me, shall profit thee.

(Mat 15:6 DRB) And he shall not honour his father or his mother: and you have made void the commandment of God for your tradition.

(Mat 15:7 DRB) Hypocrites, well hath Isaias prophesied of you, saying:

(Mat 15:8 DRB) This people honoureth me with their lips: but their heart is far from me.

(Mat 15:9 DRB) And in vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines and commandments of men.

The preceding verses illustrate a practice that is being condemned as a teaching of men. This practice called a doctrine of men is called the ”Korban’ rule and was used as an excuse for some to circumvent the law and god’s command to honor one’s mother and father. What a Jew could do is donate their money to the Temple treasury and then would use this donation as an excuse not to provide for their parents even though they had access to the money.

(Exo 20:12 DRB) Honour thy father and thy mother, that thou mayst be longlived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee.

As you can see those who used the “Korban rule” were using trickery to avoid their responsibility under God’s commandment.

During the first century of the Church God revealed revelation to the Church that has come to be known as the New Testament. The evolution of this part of Sacred Tradition evolved over several centuries culminating early in the fifth century through oral tradition what is the inspired books of the Bible. Without this oral tradition passed on through the episcopacy and revealed to the episcopacy, the Church would not have known that there should be a New Testament or what the table of contents should contain. The Bible is an example of tradition which is not the traditions of men in its revelation to the Church. Today, Protestants and Catholics alike as well as Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses and Campbellite churches have the same twenty-seven books of the New Testament. These churches may grudgingly accept the fact or deny the fact that the Catholic Church received the revelation of Canonicity but regardless of their attitude this is a fact of Church history.

Often among critics of the Catholic Church one will hear the cry of traditions of men when there are Catholic beliefs that they disagree with or do not understand. Often these disagreements are over, purgatory, the Immaculate Conception or apostolic succession and they will call these practices and/or beliefs the traditions of men. Their definitions of traditions of men are practices or beliefs that go against the teaching of Scripture. Most often these accusations come from modernist churches founded by certain charismatic men or women whose theology is not yet fully developed and matured into a consistent and systematic analysis , tested by time, inspiration, revelation and scholarship of biblical instruction as it has in the Catholic Church through its two-thousand year history.

What appears to them in their confusion to sort out doctrine is a criticism based primarily on their doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” which leads to misunderstanding and eisegesis because they are basing their opinions of Scriptural teaching on incomplete information and without the fullness of Sacred Tradition of which, ironically the Scriptures are a part. In their lack of scholarship in rejecting all but the written part of Sacred Tradition they are mislead into thinking that the Church has added to or even worse created doctrines in conflict with Scripture. This attitude is based on ignorance preceded by prejudice and sometimes even hatred. All of Sacred Tradition is based on a Scriptural foundation and is implicit if not explicit in the Bible. Once one understands that with one patient enough to explain beliefs within a Scriptural context, the so called “traditions of men”, said accusingly, become enlightened teaching for those in Spiritual darkness of hatred and prejudice. Here is what St. Paul taught about Tradition and how it can edify the Church:

(1Co 15:1 DRB) Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received and wherein you stand.

(1Co 15:2 DRB) By which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain.

(1Co 15:3 DRB) For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures:

And also he said to the Thessalonian Church:

(2Th 2:15 DRB) (2:14) Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.

Here is what St. Paul said in these instructions to two of the early Churches:

1. There is a body of teaching that we as Christians should hold as Sacred.
2. He says that he preached it.
3. We are to keep and honor this teaching delivered.
4. It is received first as oral teaching and is passed on to others.
5. This teaching is in accordance with, complimentary to and an inspired link between that which is transmitted orally and in writing.

In summary, St. Paul’s teaching is an illustration of how oral and written Traditions are complimentary with each other and never competing with divinely inspired Sacred Scripture.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

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