The Tradition of Men Mk. 7:5-13 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
There are many professing Christians who believe that the tradition of men is of equal authority with or superior authority to scripture. This was the problem with the Pharisees in Mk 7:5-13. They were “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” [Mk 7:7].
You can see the preference for tradition over scripture when you quote the Bible to people who hold to tradition. They will not believe what the Bible verse or passage you show them says in the context where it appears and compared with the verses that cross reference it. Instead, they believe their tradition and will change the words in the verse you show them or lift the verse out of its context in order to make the verse line up with their tradition. Professing Christians who follow the tradition of men read into the verses things that are not even there. That’s exactly what the Pharisees did. And by doing that they made the word of God of none effect.
The greatest culprit of teaching the tradition of men is the Roman Catholic Church. The priest reads from scripture but the doctrine of the church is predominately tradition. For instance, Paul never once, anywhere in his epistles, mentions anything about prayers for the dead, making the sign of the cross, use of images, the exaltation of Mary, priests (as a clergy), extreme unction, purgatory, prayers to Mary, popes, holy water, cardinals, canonization of dead saints, lent, celibacy (except in a negative sense as the doctrine of devils), the rosary, killing believers (except in a negative sense), the sale of indulgences, the sacraments, transubstantiation, auricular confession, adoration of the wafer, the scapular, immaculate conception, assumption of Mary, or Mary as the mother of the Church or as the mother of God.
Paul doesn’t mention any of these traditions because these are the traditions of men warned against in Col 2:8. Tradition is mentioned 13 times in the Bible, and 11 times it is in a negative context. Specifically, Paul says, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” [Col 2:8].
Of course, many Catholics believe that the church has the authority to establish these traditions and, therefore, that tradition is of equal authority with scripture (declared by the Council of Trent in 1546). But Jesus rejected tradition outright. Catholic Church tradition is used by the Catholic Church in the same way that the Pharisees used tradition in Mk 7, and with the same results. Jesus said, “laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men” [Mk 7:8]; “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” [Mk 7:9]; and “making the word of God of none effect through your tradition” [Mk 7:13].
Jesus always spoke against tradition but never against the scriptures. When Jesus revealed himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he “expounded unto them IN ALL THE SCRIPTURES the things concerning himself,” [Lk 24:27]. When challenged by the Pharisees, he said, “Search THE SCRIPTURES; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me,” [Jn 5:39]. After the Lord’s ministry, the scriptures, not tradition in the Catholic sense, were what the people believed.
When the Bereans wanted to “check out” Paul’s preaching, they “searched THE SCRIPTURES daily, whether those things were so,” [Acts 17:11]. When Apollos preached Jesus, he showed the people “by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ,” [Acts 18:28]. When Philip dealt with the Ethiopian eunuch, he “opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus,” [Acts 8:35].
Catholics believe that there are other sayings and writings that were referred to by the apostles. True enough, but every time something is referred to in the Bible that was not written in the canon of scripture [i.e., Acts 17:28], it is NEVER used to contradict, subtract from or add to scripture. Yet in the Catholic Church, tradition commonly does all three of these based on its own authority. Just look:
- Catholic Church tradition demands that its priests be called Father absolutely contrary to the command of Jesus in Matt 23:9.
- Catholic Church tradition teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin absolutely contrary to Mk 6:3, Jn 2:17 and Ps 69:8-9.
- Catholic Church tradition allows for images and genuflection before those images upon being seated in the church absolutely contrary to Ex 20:4-5 and multitudes of scriptures showing the results of using images as “aids to worship.”
- Catholic Church tradition teaches the use of the rosary which is absolute confusion when compared to Matt 6:7.
- Catholic Church tradition teaches transubstantiation, and therefore the consumption of literal blood, in absolute contradiction to Gen 9:4, Lev 17:10 and Acts 15:20.
And on and on this list goes.
If I were a follower of the tradition of men, upon seeing these verses, I would reject tradition full scale – and so I have. I was in St. Anthony’s Seminary in San Antonio, in 1968, studying to become a priest. In the entire year of schooling we never ONCE opened a Bible. Not one time!! You know why? The reason that we didn’t open a Bible is that the Bible is less important in the practice of Roman Catholicism than the tradition that contradicts it. Just ask a Roman Catholic how many times he has read through the Bible cover to cover.
The Bible says that 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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works [2 Tim 3:16-17]. In the seminary they were trying to furnish us unto all good works and yet they never once opened a Bible??!! Who were they trying to kid?? The Bible was on the forbidden book list in the Catholic Church (Council of Valencia 1229). Isn’t that weird considering that Jesus himself said “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” [Matt 4:4]. So, the Catholic Church, at that time, cut off the people from their very source of life!!
Today, things have changed and the Bible is being utilized more in CCD classes and Bible studies. But when it comes to tradition, the Bible is used to prove what Catholics already believe. They are not being taught to believe the Bible. Thus, they will justify what they already believe or argue against what they don’t believe. But that is a waste of time. The Bible is to be believed [Lk 24:25] not used by unbelievers to justify their unbelief.
Now, the Catholic Church is not alone in its teaching of tradition. Many other religions and doctrinal positions are taught exactly the same way. They reject the clear doctrine of scripture by inserting words, changing words and removing words in verses in order to “prove” their tradition. Rather than study the teachings of these traditions, why don’t you just pick up a Bible and read it for what it says. Then line your doctrine up with the Bible rather than making the Bible line up with your doctrine. I believe that’s what Jesus was getting at in Mk 7.