Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings

Should Christians rely on the Bible or tradition for doctrine? Does tradition have any value? Should tradition supercede the Bible?

By COGwriter

Should Christians rely on the Bible or tradition for doctrine? (A related sermon video is titled Tradition and Scripture.)

While many claim that it is from the Bible, others claims that the Bible is not superior to various traditions.

The Church of Rome, the group with the largest amount of adherents that claim Christ, is a case in point.

Nearly all in the Roman Catholic Church accept that doctrine comes from the Living Magisterium which is basically a combination of the portions of the Bible and its own traditions that the leadership has decided is important. Officially according to Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church bases its teachings on what has been called:

Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum #9, Vatican Council II. As quoted in Birch D.A. Trial, Tribulation & Triumph. Queenship Publishing Co, 1996; p.5).

Part of the reason for this is based on the findings of the Council of Trent that was held in the mid 16th Century. The Catholic Encyclopedia reports:

The Council, as is evident, held that there are Divine traditions not contained in Holy Scripture, revelations made to the Apostles either orally by Jesus Christ or by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and transmitted by the Apostles to the Church. Holy Scripture is therefore not the only theological source of the Revelation made by God to His Church. Side by side with Scripture there is tradition, side by side with the written revelation there is the oral revelation. This granted, it is impossible to be satisfied with the Bible alone for the solution of all dogmatic questions (Bainvel J. Transcribed by Tomas Hancil. Tradition and Living Magisterium. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV, Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil. Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The Eastern Orthodox Church also takes a similar position and places a very high opinion on tradition (Ware T. The Orthodox Church. Penguin Book, St. Ives (England), 1997, p.195-207). Partially because of this, they have overlooked the original meaning of their own language for words such as stauros (see What is the Origin of the Cross as a 'Christian' Symbol?) and Kuriaki (see Another Look at the Didache, Ignatius, and the Sabbath).

The Roman Catholic, as well as Orthodox, position seems to be that since during most of the time the original Apostles were alive there was not a complete New Testament, that the early church relied heavily on oral teachings (which it often calls traditions or oral revelations) transmitted by Jesus and the Apostles. And this is of course true.

Karl Keating, the president of Catholic Answers, wrote the following:

It is true that Catholics do not think that revelation ended with what is in the New Testament. They believe, however, that it ended up the death of the last apostle...study the first chapter of any elemental theological work by a Catholic. Every discussion of revelation notes that revelation ended when the last apostle died. (Keating Karl. Catholicism and fundamentalism: the attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians." Ignatius Press, 1988, p. 151)

Similarly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

81 “Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.”

“And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimi Potest + Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Image Books by Doubleday, NY 2003, p. 31).

83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimi Potest + Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Image Books by Doubleday, NY 2003, p. 31).

Yet, Catholics (and often the Orthodox) normally accept later "traditions" as valid even though their scholars acknowledge that they were not part of the revelation in the New Testament or from the original apostles. Even Protestant scholars often appeal to post-apostolic tradition. As do those associated with the Mormons and the Seventh-day Adventists.

However, is the proper Christian position that tradition is on par with scripture?

Scriptures Supporting Tradition

In order to provide scriptural proof for the position of the value of tradition, Catholic and Orthodox writers often point out certain writings of the Apostles John, Peter, and Paul. These writings should be viewed and examined.

For example, John wrote,

This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:24-25, NKJV throughout unless otherwise indicated).

The above verse does make it clear that Jesus did (from the Greek word poieo "to make or do") many things not recorded in the written gospel accounts. Though it must be understood that it does not say that Jesus taught many things that were essential, but not written.

Peter wrote,

That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour (2 Peter 3:2, KJV).

It should be noted that the people were mindful of the words of the holy prophets (such as Moses) because they were taught from scripture in the synagogues each week (Acts 15:15-21). Not just from an oral tradition of the prophets. Thus, this verse is not teaching tradition in the sense that many Catholics seem to understand it.

Paul wrote,

"13. For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. 14. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

It is interesting to note that what Paul is saying he taught orally made the Gentile church in Thessalonica "imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea." That would suggest that Paul was teaching that the Gentile Christians should follow the practices of the Jewish Christians. When referring to 1 Thessalonians 2, many writers who support tradition seem to leave off vs. 14.

Paul also wrote,

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).

Furthermore, Paul wrote

Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you (1 Corinthians 11:2).

In those verses, it is clear that Paul is saying that Christians should pay attention to the tradition that he and other church leaders taught. But does that mean that tradition is on equal or superior footing to the Bible?

Certain Catholic writings suggest so, such as Dei Verbum #9 from the Vatican Council II,

...both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence (As quoted in Birch D.A. Trial, Tribulation & Triumph; p.5).

One Orthodox bishop wrote,

...to an Orthodox Christian, Tradition means...the books of the Bible; it means the Creed; it means the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and writings of the Fathers; it means the Canons, the Service Books, the Holy Icons -- in fact the whole system of doctrine (Ware, p. 196).

Note: The creeds that the Orthodox and many others use are normally late, non-apostolic, traditions (for specific details, please see What Was the Original Apostles' Creed? What is the Nicene Creed?).

One biblical verse that seems to support the concept of tradition was also written by Paul,

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

What Paul seems to be saying is that Christians should follow what they were taught whether orally in person or by writing. But by whom?

Paul had some concerns about words and epistles,

...we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

Apparently, some pretended to write or claimed to have oral teachings as if from Paul and the apostles, but they were false. Hence, this seems to be a warning against false teachings. And that is the primary concern about oral tradition. And that is, does the oral tradition contain deceptive or anti-biblical information?

For if it does, it should not be heeded.

Paul Also Wrote About Scripture

Paul wrote to Timothy,

...you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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 Timothy 3:15-17).

It should be noted that Paul referred to the scriptures as "Holy" (hieros in the Greek, meaning sacred) a term never used in the Bible to refer to tradition. (There is another Greek term, hagios, that is also translated as "holy" in the Bible that possibly can also mean sacred. It is also used to denote scriptures as holy {Romans 1:2} as well as what God's prophets taught {Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:2; Revelation 22:6}--which was written down in scripture (e.g. John 10:35; Acts 13:40-41; Acts 28:25-27; Romans 16:26; 2 Peter 1:20; Revelation 22:7,18-19}.)

Notice that Paul makes it clear that doctrine comes from the scriptures and that the scriptures themselves are there so "that the man of God may be complete."

Note that tradition is not needed for the man of God to be complete nor needed to be "thoroughly equipped for every good work".

Also note that the Holy Scriptures themselves, and not tradition, are able to make one "wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus". Thus, perhaps the most dogmatic issues in the Bible CAN be determined from the Bible WITHOUT tradition.

Paul also taught,

Preach the word! (2 Timothy 4:2)

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

Notice that hearing (and even faith) comes from the word of God, not traditions.

Paul also taught that his oral teachings do not contradict his letters,

Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present (2 Corinthians 10:11).

It is also important to note that Peter refers to Paul's letters as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

When Paul taught (even though he did learn some things directly from Jesus) he normally based his teachings on the scriptures,

Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2).

It is interesting to note that Paul also taught,

Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand (2 Corinthians 1:24).

This suggests that he was teaching that his (or any other apostles) oral teachings do not have dominion over scripture.

Paul also warned about tradition

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 (Colossians 2:8).

This warning from Paul seems to be saying that traditions that are "not according to Christ" may deceive some and that Christians need to be on guard against it. While some traditions can have value, traditions that contradict biblical instruction cannot be considered "according to Christ."

Paul also warned that there are:

...are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

While Paul and the other apostles at first seemed to think that Christ would return in their lifetimes, they later realized that they would not live that long (Paul mentioned his impending death in 2 Timothy 4:6). It should be noted that as he was nearing the end of his life, Paul (and also Peter) decided that the teachings, as found in the books and parchments, needed to be brought together (2 Timothy 4:13) for the apparent purpose of clarifying which teachings were scriptural and which were not as important. He, shortly before his death, apparently felt that there was now a need for more than simply a combination of letters and oral teachings.

While some claim that the Bible was not canonized until the fourth century and thus teach that oral tradition was at least equal to scripture, this simply is not the case. The writers of the Bible (many of which who have been cited in this article) make it clear that the scriptures were complete, were known, should not be contradicted, should not added to prophetically nor taken away from. Further information on the development of the New Testament can be found in the article The New Testament Canon - From the Bible Itself.

It is possible that Paul may have also encouraged Luke, his traveling companion (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24), to write both the Book of Acts and the Gospel According to Luke. This way whatever teachings had not been written down, that were necessary, finally did get preserved through writing.

Notice what Luke was inspired to write,

Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed (Luke 1:1-4).

Luke is making it clear that this writing is to set down in order the narrative (scripturally approved oral tradition) for the purpose of making what should be known as a certainty. Unwritten oral traditions can never be known as a certainty that God approves them.

What About Peter and Tradition?

The Apostle Peter was inspired to write this about the written word and tradition,

He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers (1 Peter 1:15-18).

In other words, Peter is saying that many needed to be redeemed from the aimless conduct taught by traditions received from fathers, and that conduct should be based on what is written.

Also, when confronted with opposition from religious leaders, who essentially relied on tradition:

Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

What About John and Tradition?

John lived the longest of the original apostles. And as such, it is logical that God would use him to be the last one to write down any necessary traditions for the Church.

John wrote that his testimony was true,

This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true (John 21:24).

As John got older, he noticed that various ones who claimed to have been taught by the apostles were not continuing in the ways they had learned from apostles such as him. Here is some of what he wrote about that,

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us (1 John 2:18-19).

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (1 John 4:4-6).

Notice that John specifically wrote that those that did not follow what he was teaching those who were with them, that they are not of God, but antichrists!

Jude also warned that some who had heard proper teachings would go out and change teachings based on their words, as he wrote,

I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men...These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage (Jude 3-4,16).

Christ used John to record the final oral teachings, which He told him,

What you see, write in a book (Revelation 1:11).

And this was recorded which demonstrates that this is the final scriptural teaching that should be preserved and not added to,

"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19).

While this does not say that tradition cannot have any value, it seems that John was inspired to write that scripture would not be added to nor should be diminished by anyone. This would also seem to suggest that oral traditions were not to be considered equal to the written word of God. (It should also be noted that according to Fuller Theological Seminary, the early church took the words of Revelation 22:19-20 to mean that nothing else was to be added to the entire Bible, and thus would not have equal value--this also may be part of the reason that no book was accepted in the NT canon after Revelation).

Let's Not Forget What Jesus Specifically Taught About Scripture and Tradition

Christians are to follow Christ. What did Jesus teach?

Even is Jesus' day, religious leaders sadly, "loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:43).

Matthew 15:1-3 states:

Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?"

Jesus further told them,

"Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men' " (vss. 6-9).

Mark records the same incident, which will be quoted here in more detail than Matthew's account:

Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?" He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips,But their heart is far from Me. 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. For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"--' (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do" (Mark 7:1-13).

Notice that Pharisees stated that the traditions of the elders ("Jewish church fathers") said that hands needed to be washed. And it is easy to conclude that hands should be washed. But notice that in both places Jesus is making it clear that tradition is NOT equal or superior to what God has commanded (which He did in writing).

Those who hold to tradition above the word of God are cowards (see also Christian courage and cowardice).

It may be of interest to note that according to Smith's Bible Dictionary:

The fundamental principle of the Pharisees...is that...there was an oral law to complete and explain the written law, given to Moses.

In other words, the Pharisees were are group of religious leaders who said that one needed to rely on oral tradition to complete the written word of God. And, as we saw above, Jesus condemned them for this. The same is true of the Messianic Jews (Messianic Judaism Beliefs Differ from the Continuing Church of God) and even Laodicean Christians (such as the identity of the 'man of sin,' 'nations' of Revelation 17:12-13, and the deal of Daniel 9:27, to cite only three examples).

Perhaps the verse from Isaiah Jesus referred to should also be quoted:

13 Therefore the LORD said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men (Isaiah 29:13).

Hence both in the Old Testament and New Testament we are warned that traditions are not to be valued to the degree that the word of God should be. Many are afraid to believe God above traditions (see also Christian courage vs. cowardice).

Isaiah was also inspired to write:

Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message?...For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little (Isaiah 28:9-10).

It should be noted that the Interlinear Bible translates word 'knowledge' (the Hebrew word shemuw' ah) as doctrine. Isaiah also says that since this is how the word of the LORD is to be understood, that many will not understand correctly (vs. 13). Hence both the Old Testament and the New Testament (2 Timothy 3:16) say doctrine is to come from the Bible. Though one may need to look in many places (here a little and there a little) to properly understand.

Some of the Jewish traditions that Jesus condemned came from Egyptian paganism according to the following report from the late Dr. Ernest Martin:

From 301 B.C. to 198 B.C., the Palestinian Jews came under the control of Egyptians. These Gentiles imposed their philosophies and religious beliefs upon the Jews in profusion.

Dr. Lanterbach, one of Judaism’s greatest historians, admits that this period was one of religious anarchy among the Jews of Palestine (Rabbinic Essays, p. 200). They accepted, on a very large scale, many outright Egyptian customs. For example, Herodotus who visited Egypt in the fifth century before Christ, reported that the Egyptians would only drink out of pots and pans which had been scoured every day. They would religiously bathe themselves twice each day-they shunned all foreigners, especially Greeks, and would destroy any vessel or utensil which had been touched by a Greek. Such silly laws were inaugurated by the thousands by the Egyptians, said Herodotus (Book 11, pp. 37-41).

Prior to the Egyptian domination of Palestine, the Jews possessed none of these absurd customs, but after that period of religious anarchy, the Jews began practicing, with utmost vigor, those same EGYPTIAN laws. See Matthew 15:2 and Mark 7:3-8. There can be no question of this.

But what about the Passover? It can be shown that prior to this Egyptian domination, the Jews always kept the Passover on Nisan 14. Notice especially Ezra 6:19-22. Here it shows Nisan 14 as Passover and Nisan 15 as the first day of Unleavened Bread (which it is), not as the Passover day. But, after the Egyptian period, the Jews began to ob- serve Nisan 15 for Passover.

Why?

Corruption From Egypt!

The answer again is found in Egyptian customs. The Egyptian day customarily commenced with sunrise (Wilkinson, Vol. 11, p. 368). God’s day, however, begins at sunset (Lev. 23:32). This is where the trouble lay with the Passover reckoning after this period of Egyptian influence on the Jews. While the Egyptians allowed the Jews to retain their ancient calendar, there was a change made in the beginning of the day-it became common to begin the day at sunrise. This custom was adopted, and persisted among the Jews even down to New Testament times (see The Jewish Qziarterly Review, April, 1946). ...

With the 14th of Nisan supposedly beginning at sunrise, that puts what God calls the evening of Nisan 15 as still being on Nisan 14. This is where the problem arises. Even later on, when the Jews finally got back to an evening-to-evening reckoning for the day, they refused to abandon what had become the tradi- tional way of observing Passover. The principle, “What was good for my fathers, is good enough for me,” was too strong for the Jews to leave it. So, today, they are still one day out of phase with God (Martin E. The Jews DON'T Observe Passover. Good News magazine. April 1963, pp. 11-12)

Perhaps it should be mentioned that the reliance on human tradition above the Bible has led many within Judaism to observe another of biblical holy days, Pentecost, on the wrong day. Notice the following:

Israel is now home to most of the world's Karaite Jews, who have been estranged from mainstream Judaism for centuries. Although most people concede that it is difficult to say exactly how many Karaites there are today, estimates put the population in Israel at approximately 20,000 to 25,000, accounting for the overwhelming majority of the approximately 30,000 Karaites in the world...

Although the Karaites accept all 24 books of the Bible as holy, they staunchly reject the divinity of the Oral Law (recorded in the Talmud) as well as the authority of the rabbis, and view many aspects of rabbinic Halacha as contradictory to the pshat, or plain meaning, of the Torah...

"There are three main concepts that Karaite practice is based on," explains Rabbi Moshe Firrouz of the Karaite synagogue in Beersheba. "There is the written word of the Bible, logical interpretation, and tradition."

Firrouz stresses that one is not allowed to make any sort of rule that contradicts the Torah, and if one gives an explanation for one of the passages, that explanation should not contradict any other part of the Torah either...

Karaites believe themselves to be the descendents of those who have remained the "true practitioners" of the law handed down to Moses at Sinai 3,500 years ago. The word "Karaite" itself comes from the Hebrew phrase bnei mikra ("followers of the scripture")...

Karaites do not accept the rabbinic theology that states that the Oral Torah (recorded in the Talmud) was handed down at Mount Sinai alongside the written Torah (an important tenet of rabbinic Judaism). Nor do they accept that Shavuot marked the historical date of the giving of the Torah. However, they do celebrate the holiday, albeit with a relatively significant difference in timing.

While most Jews will be celebrating the giving of the Torah on May 23 of this year, Karaites will celebrate the holiday on Sunday, May 27. Because they interpret the biblical verse of Leviticus 23:15-16 - which states "And you shall count for you from the morrow after the day of rest [Shabbat]" - to mean the day after Shabbat (Sunday), rather than the day after the first day of Pessah, they always begin counting the Omer on the Sunday that falls during Pessah.

Karaites therefore always celebrate Shavuot on a Sunday, rather than the rabbinic custom of celebrating 49 days from the second day of Pessah (or on the 6th of Sivan). (Laying down the (Oral) law. Jerusalem Post. May 22, 2007. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1178708657471&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull)

We of the Continuing Church of God believe that Pentecost fell on Sunday, May 27 in 2007 as well.

It should be of interest to note that in twenty-five instances in the Gospel accounts, Jesus uses the expression "It is written" to support doctrinal and other positions. Hence, Jesus referred to the written word extensively. The expression "It is written" is used 61 times by New Testament writers in reference to doctrinal matters, showing that they (and Jesus) did use the written word for doctrinal justification. (The New Testament writers also used the Greek word graphe 51 times, translated 'scripture' or 'scriptures' to refer to some part of the written Bible.)

Jesus confirmed that the written Bible was reliable for teaching when He stated, "

It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God' (Luke 4:4).

Jesus confirmed that the Bible should not be contradicted when it comes to doctrine when He stated,

Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).

What About History and Tradition?

One of the big claims of those that support that tradition is at least equal to Scripture is that they suggest that these teachings were passed down from the original Apostles and preserved by later writers. But how much later? Would God expect it to take centuries for tradition to be written? That would seem to make for a lot of later misinterpretations.

One Catholic writer wrote,

Many of those "things" which St. Paul says he orally taught to his flocks (as well as the oral teachings of the other Apostles) were passed on "Traditum" to the Apostle's disciples.  They in turn passed them on to the Apostolic Fathers of the Church, who in turn passed them on to later Fathers (Birch D.A.  Trial, Tribulation & Triumph.  Queenship Publishing, Goleta (CA), 1996, p. 430). 

The most astounding thing about the above is that the so-called "Apostolic Fathers" wrote little that would be considered by non-Catholics, at least, to be Catholic traditions and practices. 

Actually, as will be shown below, early leaders accepted as saints by the Catholics, such as Melito of Sardis, specifically taught against idols and certain other traditions that the Roman Catholics now honor.  Polycarp, and many other early leaders, were also Quartodeciman and refused to accept the tradition about changing Passover from a biblically scheduled event to a Sunday event, now commonly called Easter the name of a pagan goddess.

To this day, many of the traditions and holidays that those of the Greco-Roman faiths follow come from pagan sources, such as Egypt or Mithraism (see Do You Practice Mithraism?).

What Did Polycarp Do?

Polycarp went to Rome to deal with gnostic heretics who arose and/or were based there.

Irenaeus wrote that both John and Polycarp strongly renounced the Gnostic heretics such as Valentinus, Cerinthus, and Marcion:

Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too…Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus.

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time -- a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles... John, the disciple of the Lord…exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Dost thou know me?" "I do know thee, the first-born of Satan" (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4).

What was one of the bad practices of the Gnostic Valentinians, Marcionites, and Cerinthians? They relied on tradition more than scripture:

1. Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book 1, Chapter 8, Verse 1).

1. When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce: wherefore also Paul declared, "But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world." And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent, who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 2, Verse 1).

Polycarp also met with Anicetus, who was then the Bishop of Rome and denounced some of what he was doing based on tradition.

Irenaeus once reported:

And when the blessed Polycarp was sojourning in Rome in the time of Anicetus, although a slight controversy had arisen among them as to certain other points…For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist (FRAGMENTS FROM THE LOST WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS.  Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc.).

In other words, even though Anicetus claimed to be relying on tradition ("the usage of the presbyters who preceded him"), Polycarp refused to go along. It should be noted that both Catholics and Orthodox believe that Polycarp was a saint.

Polycarp condemned those who accepted human traditions above the Bible--and sadly, he found that by his time, many had:

“For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist,” and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning (Polycarp.  Letter to the Philippians, Chapter VII).

Notice the following:

Polycarp in his letter To the Philippians . . . invites his recipients to abandon the vanity of the multitude and their false doctrines (τάς ψευδιδασκαλίας), to return to the word that was transmitted from the beginning … (Monroy MS. The Church of Smyrna: History and Theology of a Primitive Christian Community. Peter Lang edition, 2015)

Sadly, many were not faithful to the scriptures and doctrines Polycarp was taught and did teach. But Polycarp was.

The Orthodox go so far as to have the following in a ceremony about Polycarp:

As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, thou foundest discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, thou didst also contest for the Faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr Polycarp...This apostolic and prophetic man, and model of faith and truth, was a disciple of John the Evangelist (Polycarp the Holy Martyr & Bishop of Smyrna. Greek Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/saints.asp?contentid=439 8/27/05).

Thus Polycarp, a faithful saint and martyr, refused to accept the traditions as accepted by the Bishops of Rome.

What Did Irenaeus Teach About Tradition?

Irenaeus, himself, is sometimes cited as one the earliest writers to support the use of tradition. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John.

It has been reported,

Justin Martyr (ca. 95–167AD) and Irenaeus (ca. 130–202AD), while maintaining some truths they that learned under Polycarp, also sought to accommodate themselves to the new direction of Roman theology in the name of "church unity." Irenaeus, though he departed from much of Polycarp’s teaching, maintained a lifelong admiration for Polycarp as a great man of God (Ogwyn J. God's Church Through the Ages. LCG, Charlotte (NC). 2003).

One book written by a Roman Catholic named Desmond Birch appeals to the writings of Irenaeus as proof that the early church valued viva voce (oral teachings) at least as much as the Bible. Birch writes (bolding his):

Irenaeus Refutes the 'Scripture Alone' Argument of the Gnostics Now, St. Irenaeus deals with the 'Scripture Alone' argument! Despite what we might think today, it is not a new argument with Luther and Calvin. It was on occasion presented in late SubApostolic times. But in each and every case 'Scripture Alone' was denounced as heresy in the infant Church. Irenaeus says, 'What does all this come down to? Well, if a controversy arises about some minor matters, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches, the one that had contact with the apostles, in order to obtain a sure and accurate resolution of the disputed issue? And supposing the apostles had not left us their writings, would we not then follow the order of tradition which they handed down to the men to whom they entrusted the Churches?' (Birch DA. Trial, Tribulation & Triumph. Queenship Publishing Company. Goleta (CA), 1996).

In the above passage, Irenaeus most certainly did not refute the "Scripture Alone" argument. Specifically, all he wrote was that if there is no scripture on a subject, then the leadership of the Church should be consulted. But that is not the same as even suggesting that oral tradition is at all equal with scripture.

Furthermore, let's look at what else Irenaeus wrote about heretics who preferred oral tradition to the Bible:

For these men are not more to be depended on than the Scriptures; nor ought we to give up the declarations of the Lord, Moses, and the rest of the prophets, who have proclaimed the truth, and give credit to them, who do indeed utter nothing of a sensible nature, but rave about untenable opinions (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book II, Chapter 30, Verse 6. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1 Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson American Edition, 1885 Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

11...But if any one, "doting about questions," do imagine that what the apostles have declared about God should be allegorized (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book III, Chapter 12, Verse 11. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

In other words, Irenaeus actually is saying that one should not rely on oral tradition if the scriptures exist on a matter, nor should oral traditions of, or allegorizing by, various church leaders be allowed to contradict scripture. On those points Irenaeus is correct.

Furthermore, Irenaeus not only condemns gnostics for relying on tradition, he also specifically denounces baptism by anointing:

1. Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures...In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions (Adversus Haereses. Book 1, Chapter 8, Verse 1).

4. But there are some of them who assert that it is superfluous to bring persons to the water, but mixing oil and water together, they place this mixture on the heads of those who are to be initiated, with the use of some such expressions as we have already mentioned. And this they maintain to be the redemption. They, too, are accustomed to anoint with balsam. (Adversus Haereses. Book 1, Chapter 21, Verse 4).

Since Irenaeus is a major Roman Catholic saint, why would Roman Catholics allow baptism by anointing? This is simply not a proper tradition.

Furthermore, notice that Irenaeus condemns those who would allegorize the prophecies of the Book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse) and that he taught that there would be multiple resurrections:

If, however, any shall endeavour to allegorize [prophecies] of this kind, they shall not be found consistent with themselves in all points, and shall be confuted by the teaching of the very expressions [in question]. For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they shall become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father ...And in the Apocalypse John saw this new [Jerusalem] descending upon the new earth. For after the times of the kingdom, he says, "I saw a great white throne, and Him who sat upon it, from whose face the earth fled away, and the heavens; and there was no more place for them." And he sets forth, too, the things connected with the general resurrection and the judgment, mentioning "the dead, great and small."(Adversus Heres. Book V, Chapter 35, Verses 1,2 ).

Yet, notice what the Roman Catholics actually teach:

St. Augustine has perhaps more than any one else helped to free the Church from all crude fancies as regards its pleasures. He explained the millennium allegorically and applied it to the Church of Christ on earth (Van Den Biesen C. Transcribed by Michael C. Tinkler. Apocalypse. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

St. Augustine was for a time, as he himself testifies (De Civitate Dei, XX, 7), a pronounced champion of millenarianism; but he places the millennium after the universal resurrection and regards it in a more spiritual light (Sermo, CCLIX). When, however, he accepted the doctrine of only one universal resurrection and a final judgment immediately following, he could no longer cling to the principal tenet of early chiliasm. St. Augustine finally held to the conviction that there will be no millennium...The struggle between Christ and His saints on the one hand and the wicked world and Satan on the other, is waged in the Church on earth; so the great Doctor describes it in his work De Civitate Dei. In the same book he gives us an allegorical explanation of Chapter 20 of the Apocalypse...at all events, the kingdom of Christ, of which the Apocalypse speaks, can only be applied to the Church (De Civitate Dei, XX 5-7). This explanation of the illustrious Doctor was adopted by succeeding Western theologians, and millenarianism in its earlier shape no longer received support (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Millennium and Millenarianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Since Irenaeus is a major (as well as ancient) Roman Catholic saint, why would Roman Catholics change their position hundreds of years after Irenaeus wrote this? How can they claim to be teaching the original faith through their traditions when these traditions were clearly not part of their original history, as they so plainly admit in the above passages?

What About Melito and Tradition?

Melito was a bishop of Sardis and is considered to be a saint by both the Catholics of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox.

Who is this God? He who is Himself truth, and His word truth. And what is truth? That which is not fashioned, nor made, nor represented by art: that is, which has never been brought into existence, and is on that account called truth. If, therefore, a man worship that which is made with hands, it is not the truth that he worships, nor yet the word of truth..."There are, however, persons who say: It is for the honour of God that we make the image: in order, that is, that we may worship the God who is concealed from our view. But they are unaware that God is in every country, and in every place, and is never absent, and that there is not anything done and He knoweth it not. Yet thou, despicable man! within whom He is, and without whom He is, and above whom He is, hast nevertheless gone and bought thee wood from the carpenter's, and it is carved and made into an image insulting to God. To this thou offerest sacrifice, and knowest not that the all-seeing eye seeth thee, and that the word of truth reproves thee, and says to thee: How can the unseen God be sculptured? Nay, it is the likeness of thyself that thou makest and worshippest. Because the wood has been sculptured, hast thou not the insight to perceive that it is still wood, or that the stone is still stone? The gold also the workman: taketh according to its weight in the balance. And when thou hast had it made into an image, why dose thou weigh it? Therefore thou art a lover of gold, and not a lover of God...

Again, there are persons who say: Whatsoever our fathers have bequeathed to us, that we reverence. Therefore, of course, it is, that those whose fathers have bequeathed them poverty strive to become rich! and those whose fathers did not instruct them, desire to be instructed, and to learn that which their fathers knew not! And why, forsooth, do the children of the blind see, and the children of the lame walk? Nay, it is not well for a man to follow his predecessors, if they be those whose course was evil; but rather that we should turn from that path of theirs, lest that which befell our predecessors should bring disaster upon us also. Wherefore, inquire whether thy father's course was good: and, if so, do thou also follow in his steps; but, if thy father's course was very evil, let thine be good, and so let it be with thy children after thee. Be grieved also for thy father because his course is evil, so long as thy grief may avail to help him. But, as for thy children, speak to them thus: There is a God, the Father of all, who never came into being, neither was ever made, and by whose will all things subsist...

And then shall those who have not known God, and those who have made them idols, bemoan themselves, when they shall see those idols of theirs being burnt up, together with themselves, and nothing shall be found to help them (Melito. Translation by Roberts and Donaldson. A DISCOURSE WHICH WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF ANTONINUS CAESAR, AND HE EXHORTED THE SAID CAESAR TO ACQUAINT HIMSELF WITH GOD, AND SHOWED TO HIM THE WAY OF TRUTH. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 9/04/05).

Notice that Melito taught against the use of images/idols/icons AND then taught NOT to accept them even if it was handed down by fathers. Since Melito is considered to be both a saint and a 'father' of the Church by those Catholics and Orthodox, then they should heed what he said.

Perhaps a brief discussion of what is often called 'liturgy' should be addressed. In Melito's Homily on the Passover, Melito stated that one spoke earlier in the service that day. The idea of having two separate messages, while not ordered in scripture, is consistent with what happened with Jesus (Luke 4:14-31) and the Apostle Paul (Acts 13:13-15). This has remained a tradition, if you will, in the Church of God, in groups such as the Continuing Church of God. Traditions that are consistent with scripture, but that do not contradict scripture are fine. However, it should be noted that versions of the 'liturgy' that various Greco-Roman churches have adopted are not consistent with scripture, but are more consistent with pagan practices and hence not acceptable (see also Were the Early Duties of Elders/Pastors Mainly Sacramental? What was there Dress?).

That being said, all 'traditions' in the Church of God are not above being reviewed as some traditional understandings of matters sometimes do need to be re-examined in the light of the word of God, including prophetic misunderstandings that the Laodicean churches have clung too (see The Laodicean Church Era).

Interesting, in Asia Minor in the fourth century, notice a tradition that the Greco-Romans formally adopted after the Synod of Laodicea in 364:

Canon 16

The Gospels are to be read on the Sabbath [i.e. Saturday], with the other Scriptures. (Synod of Laodicea (4th Century). Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3806.htm>)

They probably got that from what the true Christians in Asia Minor did before.

What About Those Trained By Philip, John, and Their Successors?

Other early Church leaders clearly did not accept the authority of Roman tradition above that of the Bible or the true teachings of the Apostles. One leader who made that clear was Polycrates, who claimed to have been a successor of John, Polycarp, Melito, and other faithful leaders.

Look at what Polycrates wrote to Victor, who was then Bishop of Rome:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus" (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 25).

Note that Polycrates:

1) Claimed to be a successor of the Apostle John
2) Claimed that he was being faithful to the teachings of the Gospel
3) Relied on the position that teachings from the Bible were above those of Roman-accepted tradition
4) Claimed that he was being faithful to the teachings passed down to him
5) Was then the spokesperson for the Church in Asia Minor
6) Claimed he and his predecessors observed the time of unleavened bread
7) Refused to accept the authority of Roman tradition over the Bible
8) Refused to accept the authority of the Bishop of Rome
9) Claimed that his life was to be governed by Jesus and not opinions of men

It is critically important to note that even though they refused to accept Roman tradition on the date of Passover, Catholics, Orthodox, and others still consider that Polycarp, Thraseas, Sagaris, and Melito were all faithful saints (as well, of course, as John and Philip).

The Catholic Encyclopedia does correctly state the following,

In the hands of masters Scripture may become a sharp defensive and offensive weapon against error and heresy. When a controversy rises recourse is had first to the Bible (Tradition and Living Magisterium. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

Hence, while there is certainly times for church leadership to make judgments on certain matters, scripture, and not tradition, is the first place Catholics (and other professed believers) are supposed to look. And no, they should not consider tradition to be of equal value to scripture--tradition is always to be subservient to scripture.

It should be understood that the Bible does make it clear that regular people (and not just masters) are expected to look into the Bible to verify that oral teachings are correct. Look at what Luke wrote,

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men (Acts 17:10-12).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Tradition

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) is considered a cult by most who profess Christ. Part of the reason for this is that the LDS accept private revelations of their leaders and books of that the COG and Protestants do not accept as part of the Bible (specifically the Book of Mormon, which is actually a collection of a lot of writings).

The LDS have a book called the Book of Doctrines and Covenants, which is roughly the equivalent to the Living Magisterium that Roman Catholics accept. In the Book of Doctrines and Covenants its section 108A states:

1.a. "The assembly being duly organized, and after transacting certain business of the church, proceeded to appoint a committee to arrange the items of doctrine of Jesus Christ, for the government in the Church of the Latter Day Saints, which church was organized and commenced his rise on the sixth day of April 1830.
b. "These items are taken from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the revelations which have been given to said church up to this date, or until such arrangement is made.

Thus, the LDS accept that a combination of the Bible, other writings, and orally received traditions as the basis for preparing their book on church doctrine. Like the Living Magisterium, the Book of Doctrines and Covenants can be changed if the top leader of the LDS church thinks it should (and I have seen different versions of it).

Another area where the LDS is similar to the Roman Catholics is that the LDS essentially admit that they go to church on Sunday, based on an understanding that one of their leaders had, as opposed to doing that for strictly biblical reasons as shown in section 119 (from pages 450 and 453 of my copy) from which I will quote below:

Revelation given April 11, 1887, through Joseph Smith III...

7.a. And the Spirit saith further: Inasmuch as there has been much discussion in the past concerning the Sabbath of the Lord, the church is admonished that until further revelation is received, or the quoreums of the church are assembled to decide concerning the law in the church articles and covenants,
b. the saints are called to observe the first day of the week...

Notice that Joseph Smith is saying that the Spirit says that the Sabbath will be first day of the week unless it reveals something further (it did not know then?) or a quorum of the church decides differently. Thus, this really seems to be a doctrine based on tradition. Also, it can probably been inferred that those wanting to keep the seventh day Sabbath appealed to scripture, and to avoid that discussion, Joseph Smith simply says he is doing what the Spirit now wants.

Is that the type of revelation one would receive from a proper Spirit? Recall the Paul taught:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines (Hebrews 13:8-9 NKJV).

I conclude that the Mormon church really arbitrarily changed the Sabbath to Sunday and that it believes it has the authority to change it back if it wants to.

Yet, while most of the professing Christian world picks on the Mormons for their added books and revelations, they seem to think this is acceptable if Roman Catholics, Orthodox, or even Protestants do that. If it is wrong for the Mormons, would it not be wrong for others to rely on tradition above the Bible?

Does not this type of logic lead to discounting the Bible and putting it on a lower standing than human reasoning?

(An article related to the LDS is available titled Five Dissimilarities Between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Continuing Church of God.)

The Seventh-day Adventists and Tradition

The Seventh-day Adventists, correctly, teach that the Sabbath is to be kept by Christians as it is in the Bible. They also teach that Sunday is essentially a pagan tradition adopted by most who profess Christ. They then normally argue that scripture should always trump tradition and that those who do not accept the biblical truth about the Sabbath are in extreme error.

However, they too, strongly rely on traditions outside of the Bible. Basically the SDAs rely much too heavily on the writings of Ellen White. Writings that they often tend to call "inspiration".

This has led them to often proclaim an odd and non-biblical message.

One significant non-biblical message is the inaccurate sanctuary interpretation of 1844 by Ellen White. Notice that she taught essentially explained "a complete system of truth":

THE SUBJECT OF THE sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonius, showing that God's hand directed the great advent movement, and revealing present duty as it brought to light the position and work of His people (White E.G. Will America Survive? 1888; Reprint, 1988 by Inspiration Books East, Jemison (AL), p. 405).

Now while I do believe that Ellen White was correct that prophecy is important, I do not believe that the message of the Bible is that the Advent movement is correct because of her sanctuary interpretation. It is the Bible, and not Ellen White's interpretations, that unlock the mysteries of God and which is the complete system of truth.

The plain truth is that the Church of God people had a lot of biblical doctrines in the 1800s. The Whites came in contact with some of them and accepted many of their doctrines, and hence did teach many biblical truths. However, their excessive fixation on Ellen White's prophetic interpretations, combined with the fact that she (and ultimately nearly all other SDAs), began to lose many biblical doctrines shows that the SDAs are simply not part of the true Church of God (though some who believe that they are in that movement may be).

If you are an Adventist, should your "system of truth" be the Bible or traditions outside of it? Please pray about that.

For additional information, please see the article SDA/COG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666.

Teachings from Certain High Ranking Roman Catholic Leaders Against the Bible

Some of the dangers of relying on tradition over the Bible were even highlighted by the media in recent years. For example, the Times On-Line UK posted the following article:

THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.

“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture...In their foreword to the teaching document, the two most senior Catholics of the land, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, and Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrew’s and Edinburgh, explain its context.

They say people today are searching for what is worthwhile, what has real value, what can be trusted and what is really true...

UNTRUE

Genesis ii, 21-22

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man

Genesis iii, 16

God said to the woman [after she was beguiled by the serpent]: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Matthew xxvii, 25

The words of the crowd: “His blood be on us and on our children.”

Revelation xix,20

And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone.”

It is astounding that any who claim to be leaders of any Christian Church could declare parts of the Bible untrue. The entire article was at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,13509-1811332,00.html in mid-2005.

It should be noted that most Catholics do not accept the position of these two arch-bishops that portions of the Bible are untrue, however the fact that such high leaders would state this should bring to Catholics reasons for concern.

The current pope has taught that "public Revelation" comes from the Old and New Testaments and that nothing else is needed:

The term “public Revelation” refers to the revealing action of God directed to humanity as a whole and which finds its literary expression in the two parts of the Bible: the Old and New Testaments. (Raztinger J, Cardinal, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Theological Commentary. May 2000)

However, sadly, the idea of accepting the traditions through allegory is praised even by the current Pontiff as he praised Origen for developing that idea. Notice:

In our meditations on the great figures of the ancient Church, today we will get to know one of the most outstanding. Origen of Alexandria is one of the key people for the development of Christian thought...

In truth, the characterizing mark of Origen's doctrine seems to reside in his incessant invitation to pass from the letter to the spirit of the Scriptures, to progress in the knowledge of God.

And this "allegoristic" approach, wrote von Balthasar, coincides precisely "with the development of Christian dogma carried out by the teachings of the doctors of the Church," who -- in one way or another -- accepted the "lesson" of Origen. In this way, Tradition and the magisterium, foundation and guarantee of theological research, reach the point of being "Scripture in act" (cf. "Origene: il mondo, Cristo e la Chiesa," tr. it., Milano 1972, p. 43). (Benedict XVI. Homily On Origen of Alexandria. Vatican City. Zenit - April 25, 2007).

Origen was around during the time of the Smyrna Church era, and was apparently a factor in the takeover of the churches in Asia Minor and Antioch by those who preferred allegory over the plain teachings of the Bible (for more historical information, please see the article The Smyrna Church Era; more on allegory can be found in the article What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?).

Protestant Views on Tradition

While Protestants tend to blast Roman Catholics for relying on traditions of men above the Bible, the simple truth is that Protestant scholars not only realize that Protestants do this, they actually teach that relying on human traditions is more important than the Bible. Look at this admission from the Protestant scholar and theologian H. Brown:

Although classical theology is certainly not without its problems, historically it is almost always the case that the appeal to the Bible alone...leads to the reemergence of ancient heresies...The Reformation began with the slogan "To the sources!" and sought to deal a fatal blow to the place of church tradition in shaping life and faith...Despite their efforts not to be influenced by the authority of tradition, each of the major Reformation churches found itself borrowing from the past and building up a traditionalism of its own...when the Anabaptists and other radicals discovered Scripture to be teaching things the Lutherans found detestable, Lutherans learned the usefulness of tradition...(Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 335,350-351).

It should be noted that the above is not limited to one Protestant scholar, even Martin Luther truly did not believe in rallying cry sola scriptura and even discounted several books of the Bible (an article of related interest may be Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?). (The Anabaptists are mentioned in the article on the Sardis Church era).

The reality is the fact that Protestants, Orthodox, and Roman Catholics accept tradition, they call many biblical practices that were enjoined upon and practiced by the early New Testament church, heresies. But if practices were original and based upon the Bible, can they logically be called heresies?

Are not the heretics, those that changed the teachings of the Bible in favor of traditions of men?

A Few Admitted Catholic (and often Protestant and Orthodox) Traditions

There are many admitted traditions that the Catholics and others follow. The Catholic Encyclopedia reports,

...it is an old tradition that Jesus Christ was born on 25 December...The designation of unwritten Divine traditions was not always given all the clearness desirable especially in early times; however Catholic controversialists soon proved to the Protestants that to be logical and consistent they must admit unwritten traditions as revealed. Otherwise by what right did they rest on Sunday and not on Saturday? How could they regard infant baptism as valid, or baptism by infusion? How could they permit the taking of an oath, since Christ had commanded that we swear not at all? The Quakers were more logical in refusing all oaths, the Anabaptists in re-baptizing adults, the Sabbatarians in resting on Saturday. But none were so consistent as not to be open to criticism on some point (Tradition and Living Magisterium. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

It is true that those are practices that most in the Catholic and Protestant churches accept (the Orthodox do as well, except they do use immersion for baptism). Since those traditions do contradict the biblical accounts (and even the Catholic writer admitted that on most of them), those practices should be rejected and should not be part of the traditions of either of those groups. This rejection is consistent with the previously cited writing by Irenaeus, who is accepted as a Saint by the Catholics, the Orthodox supporters, and many of the Protestants. It is also consistent with the Sola Scriptura position publicly taken by Martin Luther and most of the Protestant followers. Most importantly, rejecting those practices is consistent with the teachings of Jesus that we are not to accept the traditions of men above the commands or other words of God.

It is of interest to note that those in the Churches of God (which are not Protestant--though there are some Protestants who use the name Church of God) do not believe the Bible supports the idea that Jesus was born on December 25th, do rest on Saturday instead of Sunday, do not regard infant baptism as valid, do not baptize by infusion, do refuse swearing by oath, do only baptize adults, nor do they hold to a long list of non-biblical doctrinal traditions that most in those groups hold.

Thus, there always has been a Christian movement (the true Church of God) that has refused to accept the authority of human determined, Catholic/Orthodox (and often also Protestant) accepted, tradition over the Bible. Because of this, it is unclear what scripturally accurate criticism Catholic and Orthodox writers could direct towards those in the true Church of God.

It is interesting to note that the Bible teaches:

And all Your commandments are truth (Psalm 119:151).

And this would seem to include the Sabbath commandment, which is recorded in the word of God in both the Old (Exodus 20:10, Deuteronomy 5:14) and New (Hebrews 4:9) Testaments.

Interestingly, the Bible further teaches:

He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked (1 John 2:4-6).

Jesus, of course, kept the seventh day Sabbath.

Satan vs. True Doctrine

The Bible calls Satan "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2) and his 'broadcasts' have impacted the world to walk the wrong way (Ephesians 2:1-3). Satan's influence in the Garden of Eden affected Eve, who then in turn affected Adam to make the wrong choice (Genesis 3).

While the Bible teaches "in the multitude of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14), it also teaches "You shall not follow a crowd to do evil" (Exodus 23:2).

Throughout history, people have followed the crowd to do evil. 

The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), where people got together in defiance to God's instruction to replenish the earth (Genesis 9:1) as well as the golden calf idolatry of the children of Israel (Exodus 32:1-6) are two ancient events that come immediately to mind.

Jesus condemned a crowd of Jews in His day for following Satan's lying influence instead of the truth (John 8:42-47).

But what about now?

Well, much that passes for Christianity is the result of following non-biblical traditions that crowd pressures seem to keep most deluded to follow.

There are many doctrines and traditions that people accept that they certainly did NOT independently find in the Bible that are false.

Basically, notice the following from the Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God, many of which most who profess Christianity do not accept:

Baptism of Christians was by immersion and did not include infants.

The complete Bible with the proper Old Testament and New Testament was relied on by the true Church in Asia Minor.

A Binitarian or Semi-Arian view, that acknowledged the Holy Spirit, was held by the apostolic and post-apostolic true Christian leaders.

Birthdays were not celebrated by early Christians.

Born-Again meant being born at the resurrection, not at the time of conversion, which is when a spiritual begettal occurs.

Celibacy for Bishops/Presbyters/Elders was not a requirement.

Church Governance was properly hierarchical.

Christmas was not observed by any professing Christ prior to the third century, or ever by those holding to early teachings; December 25th did not come from the Bible.

Circumcision, though not required, was long practiced by original Nazarene Christians.

Confession of sins were not made to priests and did not require penance.

Deification of Christians (which begins after the first resurrection) was taught by the early leaders of the Church.

Duties of Elders/Pastors were pastoral and theological, not predominantly sacramental–nor did they dress as many now do.

Easter per se was not observed by the apostolic church.

The Fall (and Spring) Holy Days were observed by true early Christians.

The Father was considered to be God by all early professing Christians.

The True Gospel included the kingdom of God and obedience to the law of God and was so understood by the faithful.

Heaven was not taught to be the reward of Christians.

Holy Spirit was not referred to as God or as a person by any early true Christians.

Hymns were mainly psalms, not praises to Christ.

Idols were taught against, including adoration of the cross.

Immortality of the soul or humans was not taught.

Jesus was considered to be God by the true Christians.

The Kingdom of God was preached.

Leavened Bread was removed from the homes of early Christians when the Jews did the same.

Lent was not observed by the primitive church.

Limbo was not taught by the original church.

Mary was the mother of Jesus, was blessed (Luke 1:28) and called blessed (Luke 1:48), but was not prayed to, etc. by true early Christians.

Military Service was not allowed for true early Christians.

Millenarianism (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, often called the millennium) was taught by the early Christians.

Monasticism was unheard of in the early Christian church.

Passover was kept annually on the 14th of Nisan by apostolic and second century Christians in Asia Minor.

Pentecost was kept on Sunday by certain Jews and was observed then by professing Christians.

Purgatory was not taught by the original apostolic church.

The Resurrection of the dead was taught by all early Christians

The Sabbath was observed on Saturday by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church.

Salvation was believed to be offered to the chosen now by the early Church, with others being called later, though not all that taught that (or other doctrines) practiced “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

God’s Six Thousand Year Plan for humankind to rule itself was believed by early professors of Christ.

Sunday was not observed by the apostolic and original post-apostolic Christians.

The Ten Commandments were observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians–and in the order that the Church of God claims they are in.

Tithes and Offerings were given to support the ministry, the churches, the needy, and evangelical travels and proclamation.

Tradition had some impact on the second century Christians, but was never supposed to supersede the Bible.

The Trinity was not a word used to describe the Godhead by the apostolic or second century Christians, though a certain threeness was acknowledged.

Unclean Meats were eaten by the early allegorists, but not by true Christians.

The reason that most do not accept all of them is that they have accepted improper group-think that Satan has been able to influence (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3).

The Bible shows, however, that the time will come when people will realize that the religious traditions they accepted were false and that God will show them the truth:

19 O Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble,  o you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say:

“Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit. 20 Can man make for himself gods? Such are not gods!”

21“Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord.” (Jeremiah 16:19-21, ESV)

As far as being stupid goes, consider the following:

21 Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1)

Will you accept instruction?  Or will you instead, follow the crowd to do evil? Will you accept the word of God over tradition when there is a conflict?

Does the Bible Teach that Tradition or the Word of God is Truth?

For what its worth, as one raised as a Roman Catholic, I too accepted the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in areas that I understood when I was a child. However, after I "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11), I felt led to follow the truth as revealed in the Bible.

The Bible itself is clear it is that the word of God that is truth and that God sanctifies, sets apart, those who live by the truth:

17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth (John 17:16-18).

When Jesus was on earth (as previously mentioned) He cited the word of God for the truth and specifically taught against relying on the anti-scriptural traditions that the religious leaders of His day were what God really wanted. It is those that are set apart by the living by the truth as shown in the word of God--this is never said of those who rely on tradition.

Do not fear obeying the word of God over tradition (see also Christian courage vs. cowardice).

I should mention that I believe that the typical genuine Roman Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant member, priest/minister, and even Pope is dedicated and sincere, but that they have been misled by some of the early leaders who they never should not have listened to (Justin Martyr is an example of one such person, and is generally accepted by such groups). (It should be noted that the true Church of God is not Protestant--as it does not claim to have descended from the Reformation, but from the beginning of the Church on the first Pentecost in the Book of Acts--more information can be found in the article Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, & Rome).

The Bible is clear that in the end-times, it is needed for all to have a "love of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11). And only traditions and teachings in accordance with the truth are acceptable to God.

Consider also the following prophecy:

4 ... Their lies lead them astray, Lies which their fathers followed. (Amos 2:4)

Many peoples have chosen to rely on lies, sometimes called tradition (though not all traditions are based on lies), instead of acting on the truth.

Did you realize that the Bible itself also tells of a time after the resurrection that people will admit that they had been deceived by traditions that they inherited from their fathers? Notice what God's prophet Jeremiah was inspired to write:

From the ends of the earth and say, "Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things." Will a man make gods for himself, Which are not gods? "

Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know My hand and My might; And they shall know that My name is the LORD (Jeremiah 16:19-21).

Thus the time will come, and it has not yet come, that the vast majority of those whose religion is based upon traditions that contradict the Bible will realize that they have inherited lies. Once they realize that, God will then cause them to know Him. And then even those misled by tradition can be saved!

(Two articles of related interest may include Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis and Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from most Protestants.)

Do you want to wait until then to know God or do you want to know God now?

The Bible is clear that while traditions can be lies (Jeremiah 16:19-21; Matthew 15:1-19), the word of God, the Bible is truth. Notice from both the Old and New Testaments:

The entirety of Your word is truth (Ps 119:160).

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (John 17:16-18).

Lest any feel that the above translations are distortions by those against tradition, notice how the Douay Rheims Bible (the Catholic-approved translation of the Latin Vulgate into English) renders those verses, plus one other:

The beginning of thy words is truth (Psalm 119:160, Douay OT).

Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth (John 17:17, Rheims NT).

All Scripture inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to argue, to correct. to instruct
in justice: That the man of God may be perfect, instructed to every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17, Rheims NT).

Anyway, no matter what translation one uses, it is clear that the Bible teaches that it is truth. And that it has what is needed to instruct the people of God "to every good work". Thus, the word of God and not tradition, should be relied upon in case of any differences between the two.

Conclusion

The Eastern Orthodox Church correctly has noted, "The Bible is the supreme expression of God's revelation to the human race, and Christians must always be 'People of the Book' "(Ware, p.199).

When it comes to you personally, which will you do?

Will you rely on what the Bible teaches or do you prefer those changes that are based on the traditions of men? Will you listen to the truth as taught from the Bible? Will you also follow that practices of the true early saints and refuse to accept the authority of Rome when it contradicts the Bible. Remember that Peter himself refused to accept the authority of the religious leaders of his day. Or will you compromise and accept practices that come not from the Bible or apostles, but from pagan sources (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?).

Jesus taught:

37 I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice (John 18:37).

46 And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God (John 8:46-47).

24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

Truth, not preferred traditions, are what is important to God. Are you one who has a genuine love of the truth? If any of your traditions conflict with biblical teaching, will you change?

Are you truly of God? Do you hear God's words? Are YOU sanctified by the truth? Or do you prefer to accept the traditions of men over the teachings of the Bible?

A related sermon video is titled Tradition and Scripture.

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Thiel B., Ph.D. Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings. (c) 2005/2006/2007/2008/2009/2011/2013/2014/2016/2017 0120