Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Tradition of the Elders

     In Mark's account of the life of Christ, we read about the "tradition of the elders."
We encounter the phrase twice in Mark chapter 7 verses 3 and 5. It has reference to
the oral law of the rabbis. Josephus refers to this as the "tradition of the fathers."
(cf. Josephus' Antiquities XIII.16.2, 408) Pharisees believed that not only had Moses
given the written law at Sinai, but that he had also given an oral law which had been
preserved by word of mouth. This oral law was considered equally binding with
the written law. (Josephus Antiquities XIII.x.6, 297) This was finally collected and
written down by Judah the Prince, about A.D. 200, and formed the Mishna. The oral
law actually constituted the body of customs to define the points of law. It was a
body of commentary in addition to the law!

     Jesus referred to their oral law, the tradition of the elders, as "your tradition," 
differentiating it from the "commandment of God." (Mark 7:9,14) He also refers to
their tradition as "the tradition of men." (v.8) By doing this, he refused to accept the
authority of their tradition. He challenged the binding nature of their oral law! Their
code of customs was not "the word of God." (Matthew 15:6) The rules they were
seeking to impose on the Lord's disciples had no divine authority, and the Lord
Jesus rejected them. Jesus did not strive to be politically correct, but he was always
religiously correct. His mission was to practice and teach the will of his Father in
heaven, not to submit to uninspired human traditions. (John 5:19, 30; 6:38)

     Human  tradition  is  like  the  talons of an eagle holding a fish. When it takes
hold, it is hard to break away from its grip. The longer human tradition is practiced,
the deeper it sinks into the heart, and the harder it is to "cry freedom." Efforts to
renounce man-made traditions are often described as heresy or damnable. One
reason for this is the fact that people do not like to be different, and they suspect
anyone or anything that is different from what they have always believed and
practiced. Divine "traditions" (teaching from God through the apostles) are binding
(1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6) , but doctrines and practices imposed
by human beings must not ever be thought of as laws from God. They must be rejected.

     I have known elders and leading men within the congregations of Christ that have
made the law that only the King James Version of the Bible may be used in public
reading, preaching, and teaching. Some have even said, "Look at where the KJV has
brought us. It has been used successfully in debates with denominational preachers.
Thousands have been saved from sin by the KJV." The KJV is a useful translation,
but King James onlyism has no place among the people of God or anyone else.
It cannot be defended. Not even the KJV translators believed in King James onlyism.
A person who prefers to use a version  that  speaks  through older archaic English
forms  will  likely  enjoy  the  KJV.  But  they  have  no more right to bind their
preference on others, than the Pharisees had  to  bind  the necessity of washing of
one's hands before eating. (Mark 7:1-8) Neither do they have the right to criticize
other versions of the Bible on the basis that they differ from the KJV. Rejecting
human tradition does not make a person a "liberal." Jesus said the Pharisees, the
lawmakers, the ones who bound human traditions were in error because they "were
teaching human rules as their doctrines." (Mark 7:7)  That is the taproot of liberalism;
breaking away from the word of God to follow man-made rules.

     In response to the statement that "The KJV is not the only acceptable version
of the scriptures that a person may use," it is sometimes said, "The elders are to
guard the congregation from doctrinal error, therefore, we only use the KJV."
It is true that the overseers are to protect God's congregations from false doctrine.
( Acts 20:28-31; Titus 1:9) But it is not true that King James onlyism is the proper
response to the problem. In order to demonstrate this, one question is appropriate:
is   there any   doctrinal  error in the KJV?  If   you  answer  "No," look  at  two
frequently quoted verses of scripture; (Acts 2:47 and Acts 3:19). Notice the phrase
"such as should be saved" in 2:47, and the phrase "be converted" in 3:19. Neither
translation is what the Greek text says. Both phrases are incorrectly translated, and
are therefore doctrinal errors. Someone  may  respond,  "But the person reading
or teaching from the KJV can explain this fact and teach the truth to the people."
The respondent is correct. And since this is true, why can't the same thing be done
if a person uses the ASV, ESV, RSV, and NIV when teaching and preaching if
they encounter errors in the text?

     Jesus exposed the inconsistency of those who were attempting to bind "the
tradition of the elders." The same thing should be done whenever people bind any
human traditions. No one has the right to make and bind  laws God did not make.

                                                                                                                 R. Daly
Copyright 2015

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