Greek paradosis, instructions "delivered" (1 Corinthians 15:3) as inspired, whether orally or in writing, by the apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). The only oral tradition designed by God to be obligatory on the church in all ages was soon committed to writing in the apostolic age, and recognized as inspired by the churches then having the gift of discerning spirits. Only in three passages (1 Corinthians 11:2 margin; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6) has tradition a good sense; in ten a bad sense, man's uninspired tradition (Matthew 15:2-3; Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:3; Mark 7:5; Mark 7:8-9; Mark 7:13; Galatians 1:14; Colossians 2:8). Jesus charges the Jews with "making the commandment of God of none effect through your tradition." Hilary the deacon says, "a surfeit to carnal sense is human tradition."
Tradition clogs heavenly perceptions. Paradosis is one of the only two nouns in 2,000 in the Greek Testament which numerically equals 666, the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:18). Tradition is the grand corrupter of doctrine, as "wealth" (euporia; Acts 19:25, the other equivalent of 666) is of practice. Only those words of the apostles for which they claim inspiration (their words afterward embodied in canonical writing) are inspired, not their every spoken word, e.g. Peter's dissimulation (Galatians 2:11-14). Oral inspiration was needed until the canon of the written word was completed. The apostles' and evangelists' inspiration is attested by their miracles; their New Testament Scriptures had the additional test without which even miracles would be inconclusive (Deuteronomy 13:1-6), accordance with the existing Old Testament revelation (Acts 17:11).
When the canon was complete the infallibility was transferred from living men's inspired sayings to the written word, now the sole unerring guide, interpreted by the Holy Spirit; comparison of Scripture with Scripture being the best commentary (1 Corinthians 2:12-16; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27; John 1:33; John 3:34; John 15:26; John 16:13-14). The most ancient and universal tradition is the all-sufficiency of Scripture for salvation, "that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:15-17). The apostles never appeal to human tradition, always to Scripture (Acts 15:2; Acts 15:15-17; Acts 17:11; Acts 24:14; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If tradition must be followed, then we ought to follow that oldest tradition which casts away all tradition not in, or provable by, Scripture.
We receive the Christian Lord's day and infant baptism not on the inherent authority of the fathers, but on their testimony as witnesses of facts which give force to the infiltrations of Scripture. Tradition can authenticate a fact, but not establish a doctrine. Paul's tradition in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 is inspired, and only continued oral in part until the Scripture canon was completed by John; altogether different from Rome's supplementary oral tradition professing to complete the word which is complete, and which we are forbidden to add to, on penalty of God's plagues written therein (Revelation 22:18). By adding human tradition Rome becomes parent of antichrist. How remarkable it is that from this very chapter (2 Thessalonians 2:15), denouncing antichrist, she draws her argument for tradition which fosters antichristianity. Because the apostles' oral word, whenever they claim inspiration, was as trustworthy as the written word, it does not follow that the oral word of those neither apostles nor inspired is as trustworthy as the written word of those who were apostles or inspired.
No tradition of the apostles except their written word can be proved genuine on certain evidence. The danger of even a genuine oral tradition (which scarcely any of the so-called traditions are) is illustrated in the "saying" that went abroad among the brethren that John should not die, though Jesus had not said this, but "if I will that he tarry until I come, what is that to thee?" (John 21:22-23). We are no more bound to accept the fathers' interpretation (which by the way is the reverse of unanimous; but even suppose it were so) of Scripture, because we accept the New Testament canon on their testimony, than to accept the Jews' interpretation of the Old Testament because we accept the Old Testament canon on their testimony; if we were, we should be as bound to reject Jesus, with the Jews, as to reject primitive Scripture Christianity with the apostate church.
See the Church of England Articles 6, 8, 20, 22-34, on the due and the undue place of tradition in the church. What were once universal traditions (e.g. the epistles for centuries ascribed to 11 popes, from Anacletus, A.D. 101, to Victor I, A.D. 192, now universally admitted to be spurious) are no longer so regarded. Whately likened tradition to the Russian game a number sit in a circle, the first reads a short story in the ear of his next neighbour, he repeats it orally to the next, and so on; the last writes it as it, reaches him; the amusement is, when read and compared with the original story it is found wholly metamorphosed, and hardly recognizable as the same story.
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