Chapter 4 – Sola Scriptura Versus Tradition – Part 2
The Issue: Catholics offer some examples of tradition that is found in the New Testament and this chapter addresses those verses offered as proofs.
The Facts: Let’s see what he has to say.
1. (65) Matthew 2:23 - He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazorean."
The issue – Catholics point to this verse which claims that Jesus is fulfilling an oracle of the prophets. But when the Old Testament writing are searched there is no prophecy given it writing, but there was an oral prophecy, which is what the verse suggests, that was in circulation at the time of Jesus and that is what is being fulfilled here.
He Asks – He suggests that the town of Nazareth in Biblical times was infamous for being associated with sinners. This makes some sense because Philip asks the question John 1:46 – can anything good come out of Nazareth? So in Jesus’ day being called a Nazorean would be associated with being despised and hated. The prophets in the Old Testament do tell us that the Messiah would be despised and hated and Jesus is partially fulfilling this by living in a despised and hated town.
I Respond – It is as simple as this – A prophetic statement has been made – It can’t be found written – therefore it must be in oral. It is authoritative because it comes from God so it must be believed. That is what we call Oral Tradition. We don’t have to do mental gymnastics over the character of the town of Nazareth, find that character in the Old Testament applied to the Messiah, and then apply it to Jesus. The Catholic apologist is simply trying to point out that there are authoritative statements made by God that might not be written down.
· (67) He Asks – ‘Did you know that Nazarene was a term of scorn back in biblical times, indicating “one who is despised”?’
I would say - I know that now.
· (67) He Asks – Since numerous Old Testament passages indicate that the Messiah would be a despised character, can you see that possibility that Matthew’s use of Nazarene in reference to the Messiah was intended to give the substance of many Old Testament prophecies and not a direct quote from a single prophet?
I would say – I hear what your saying but I think here the Scriptures are clear. A prophetic statement has been made – It can’t be found written – therefore it must be in oral. It is authoritative because it comes from God so it must be believed. That is what we call Oral Tradition. To bring this into modern times let’s say Jesus He went and dwelt in a town called Gloucester, Massachusetts, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Gloucesterite? ( I might be butchering that one)." Hey, Gloucester is known for its fisherman, let’s see what the Old Testament says about fisherman. It says God would some day call many fisherman as fulfilled by Jesus. Therefore it doesn’t need to say explicitly by any one prophet in the Old Testament that He shall be called a Gloucesterite.
I just say stick with the word of God.
2. (68) Matthew 23:2, 3 saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.
The issue – Catholics point out these verses to non-Catholics because of the term “the chair of Moses.” Just from the context we can tell that this is a place of authority. Historically it was a physical seat in a synagogue. The idea of the “chair of Moses” is not found in the Old Testament. Now I have never used this verse to prove Sacred Tradition, but I have used it to prove just plain old oral tradition. Not everything was written down.
· (70) He Asks – “Since Jesus in this same Gospel of Matthew indicates that tradition can be wrong and lead people astray – and since He places God’s Word over tradition (Matthew 15:6) – is it not unwise to argue for the authority of tradition from Matthew 23:2, 3?”
I Respond – I don’t think so, for two reasons. The first is that Jesus condemns the traditions of man that nullify the Word of God. We agree and do that as well. The second is that Matthew himself is only writing down a portion of his experience with Jesus. Think of this, Matthew spent three years of his life with Jesus, and yet his Gospel can be read in about 2 hours. We know Jesus said more, because of the other Gospels. We know that there is more important information to be known because of the teachings of St. Paul and the other inspired writers. Dare we say that is all that there is, how can we be so sure?
I would follow up with – Would you be obedient to Jesus’ words here is they were in your hearing? “Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you” Would you do that? If you say no, then we disobey Jesus. If you say yes, then you are subjecting yourself to an authority, namely the Pharisees, whose position has no Biblical basis. There are no Pharisees in the Old Testament mentioned. Yet Jesus recognizes them as those who are to be obeyed, yet not imitated.
· (71) He Asks – “Did you know that synagogue worship first emerged in postexilic times, long after the time of Moses?” (Meaning synagogues weren’t probably invented until after the Jews returned from their exile in Babylon 500 years before Jesus.
I respond – Yes, I know that now.
· (71) He Asks – “Since historically the “chair of Moses” in the synagogue came into use far after the actual time of Moses, is it not clear that the reference to this chair cannot be cited in support of an oral tradition that goes back to Moses?”
I Respond – It doesn’t matter if it goes back to the time of Moses or not, my point in bringing up the “chair of Moses” was that there was an idea of this in the first century that is not written about in the Old Testament, yet existed obviously in Old Testament times. What I am trying to show you is that there ideas that were lived out by the Jews that were not explicitly written down before Jesus yet they had a place in the lives of the Jewish people in Jesus’ day.
I Would Ask – If you agree to this then why couldn’t that be true about the apostles day? There were things they did and taught that were legitimate, but didn’t make it into the pages of Scripture, yet made it into the lives of the first Christians.
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