We have all heard the statement “Truth or Tradition.” Sometimes it is used as a title for a teaching to extol the virtues of abandoning all traditions for a Bible-only stance. But, is this justified? Are the terms mutually exclusive? Must we choose between truth and tradition?
If this were set up as a mathematical sentence, it would look like this:
What if this statement is a logical fallacy?
WHAT IS A ‘LOGICAL FALLACY?’
An argument may be determined to be logical fallacy when it is set up as an either/or statement. What do I mean by that? When the terms on either side of the argument are not equal it constitutes an error in reasoning.
Is this setting up a false paradigm? It could be an honest mistake!
“However, not just any type of mistake in reasoning counts as a logical fallacy. To be a fallacy, a type of reasoning must be potentially deceptive, that is, it must be likely to fool at least some of the people some of the time. Moreover, in order for a fallacy to be worth identifying and naming, it must be a common type of logical error.” (http://www.fallacyfiles.org/introtof.html)
How can choosing truth over tradition lead to deception?
IS TRUTH THE OPPOSITE OF TRADITION?
On the surface, the above statement does not seem to be a logical fallacy. But, are ALL traditions false?
Here we have the thorny question of what ‘traditions’ are contrary to the truth?
Most of you who visit this site are convinced that ‘traditions of men’ are contrary to scripture and are false. We’ve come to understand that many ‘traditions of men’ (Takinot) that were added to the Torah by the Pharisees were contrary to the Word of YHVH.
At my house we want to dispense with the traditions of men that are contrary to the Torah. We no longer observe holidays that are rooted in paganism (Christmas, Easter, Halloween etc.). They are contrary to scripture (Torah), even if they are construed to be based in truth.
Instead of basing ‘holy days’ on the clear instruction of scripture, many have adopted false worship first, and then have twisted scripture to fit those traditions.
We have it backwards! We need to base our traditions on the Word.
ARE THERE TRADITIONS BASED ON THE WORD?
Are there traditions that were mandated by the Torah? Can we look at the Seven Feasts of Leviticus as a tradition? Hebraic calendars are cyclic. We repeat things year after year. Isn’t that a definition of tradition?
What is a tradition, anyway?
According to the Bing Dictionary: TRADITION Is:
[A] custom or belief: a long-established action or pattern of behavior in a community or group of people, often one that has been handed down from generation to generation
[A] body of customs: a body of long-established customs and beliefs viewed as a set of precedents
[A] handing down of customs: the handing down of patterns of behavior, practices, and beliefs that are valued by a culture
Using this understanding of tradition, might we understand that YHVH has mandated that we observe some things in a ‘traditional’ way?
YHVH GAVE US TRADITIONS?
Of course YHVH gave us traditions! When we received The Ten Commandments He gave us patterns of behavior and beliefs! He also gave us our first ‘tradition!’ A tradition we practice every single week!
What? I don’t see a ‘tradition’ there!
What about this?
Exo 20:8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work…
So, if we observe, remember and teach our children about the Sabbath day, we establish a tradition. It is one that is handed down from generation to generation, it is a belief that is viewed as a precedent, and it is valued as a pattern of behavior!
The same is true for the Feasts of YHVH that were given to Moses! (See Leviticus 23) The Shema tells us to teach these things (that were commanded on that day) to our children!
How can we say that the observance of Passover or the Sabbath, for example, is NOT a tradition? He told us to make it a tradition!
The problem lies in making our own traditions that are not based on His clear instruction!
IS IT FAIR TO SAY THIS?
On the surface, this seems to be a fair statement. But what is it saying?
Are the terms mutually exclusive? Can we only choose one? Is it Truth OR Tradition?
Can we have Truth AND Tradition? Is there a common ground where both sides of this statement are equal? Or is it optional? Can we mix Truth with Tradition?
IS IT EITHER, NEITHER OR BOTH?
If we say Truth AND Tradition we are saying that Truth is found in all Traditions. That doesn’t seem to add up to me. I grew up thinking that attending church on Sunday was a good tradition! It was not, however, based on Torah! And therefore it was not Truth!
Scripture says (Psa 119:142) Your righteousness is righteousness forever, And Your Torah is truth.
Yeshua argued with some of the Pharisees when they scolded him and the disciples for eating with unwashed hands.
Was this a bad thing? We all understand that washing our hands before a meal is a good idea. It even has some validity in keeping people healthy! So, in a sense washing hands is a ‘truthful’ thing to encourage.
But, what was the problem as Yeshua saw it?
Yeshua scolded the Pharisees because they were putting a man-made tradition above the Torah. They were speaking as religious authorities! They made their man-made traditions and laws (Takinot) a condition of righteousness. They used their own Takinot as a way to discipline others to their laws and statutes! Their hearts were to exalt themselves and their religious doctrine!
They didn’t want to relinquish their authority to that of Yeshua whose discipline came from His Father’s Torah!
In this instance, the truth was not found in the tradition because they had exalted themselves above the Word!
WHAT ABOUT TRUTH OR TRADITION?
If we say Truth OR Tradition we are saying that Truth may never be found in Tradition! Is that true as well?
I have friends that refuse to observe Hanukkah because it is not mandated in the Torah. Even though Yeshua went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, they refuse to entertain the idea that following the tradition is okay. Even though it is likely that Yeshua was conceived on or near this festival! Because it is not written in Leviticus it is rejected.
While I agree that this Hanukkah is not a commanded pilgrimage feast, does that invalidate it as an observance? If it was a bad tradition, why did Yeshua go up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication? Wouldn’t he have spoken out against it?
Don’t forget, it was at the Feast of Dedication that Yeshua declared He was the Light of the World!
DID YESHUA (TRUTH) OBSERVE TRADITIONS?
Another word for tradition is custom. A brief word-search in my e-Sword brought up several instances where Yeshua was found to observe ‘customs.’
Luk_2:27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
Luk_2:42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
Luk_4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
All of these ‘customs’ were right in line with Torah instructions. And, although he was observing the Sabbath day, there is no directive in Torah to observe it in a synagogue. That, we must understand, was a tradition!
He even used an admonishment to clarify that some customs and traditions are okay, even when they are not exactly spelled out in the Torah!
Mat 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Nowhere does scripture mandate that herbs are to be included in the tithe. But, Yeshua doesn’t say that tithing herbs is wrong! He just said it wasn’t enough because they were missing the weightier matters!
According to Hollisa Alewine, the teaching Yeshua made in Matthew 23:23 is that the tithe of the herbs was a ‘tradition’ not specifically written in the Torah. It was based on the ‘seed’ of Torah…the good seed that didn’t contradict the Torah.
Tithing herbs was fine to do because it was based on the intent of Torah. It is okay to follow customs and traditions for the right reasons! Traditions are fine as long as the weightier matters (the right reasons…intent of our heart?) are not left undone!
Yeshua put it another way:
Mar_7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
So, when is a tradition a rejection of YHVH’s commandment?
THE STUMBLING BLOCK!
We have all taken to heart the following verse!
Deu 4:2 You must not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it, so that you may keep the commands of the LORD your God I am giving you.
So many of us have come out of church doctrine and are terrified of falling back into error! But, how narrow is this admonishment? Does this speak to the letter or to the spirit of the law, or both?
If it is impossible to add to or take away from the Torah, why were judges necessary?
Obviously, not every eventuality can be spelled out in the Torah. It is our guide! In a real sense when we understand the ‘weightier matters’ we are getting in touch with the ‘spirit’ of the Torah!
It helps us to understand how it is okay to do good on the Sabbath day. We don’t leave our cows un-milked or unfed just because it is the Sabbath day. Likewise, if your neighbor fell and broke his leg, you wouldn’t abandon him because it would be ‘work’ to carry him to a doctor on the Sabbath! How ridiculous we can become when we look at the ‘letter’ and ignore the ‘spirit’ of the law.
When a tradition is grown from the good seed of Torah, shouldn’t it illuminate our walk?
At Passover this year, I downloaded a traditional Jewish Haggadah. It was a wonderful teaching tool for me. I saw things in the Haggadah that reinforced and added to my understanding! In the midst of the tradition, I saw my Messiah!
We met a wonderful believer in Yeshua. She grew up in Judaism but came to accept Yeshua as her Messiah entirely through the Old Testament writings! I cannot help but think that her upbringing contained a bed-rock of tradition that informed her understanding.
Could it be that many of the ‘Jewish’ traditions are able to inform our understanding as well? Should we be quick to reject all traditions because they are not explicitly written in the Torah?
Alewine concludes that many of the references in the New Testament speak of traditions that were handed down to the new believers. Why would the disciples have handed down traditions if they were wrong to observe?
The important thing to realize is that the tradition has to be considered. Does the tradition twist or replace an actual commandment? The weight of a tradition is lighter than an actual commandment from YHVH! Does the tradition have justice, mercy, and faithfulness at its heart? These are the ‘weightier matters!’
HOW ARE WE TO DETERMINE A ‘WEIGHTIER’ MATTER?
Is it a tradition that has grown from the good seed of Torah? Does it replace or diminish the Torah?
If it is good seed, and does not diminish or replace the Law of YHVH, isn’t it possible to have Truth AND Tradition? Isn’t it okay to observe the Sabbath day in a synagogue, or in your ‘traditional’ home assembly? Don’t both of these ‘gathering together’ with other believers fulfill the instruction of the Torah?
Mal 4:4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
I consider the Patriarchs to be fathers of our faith. What can we learn from them? Shall we throw the baby out with the bathwater when we return to Torah? Or is there much to be gleaned and understood by some of the traditions we may be too quick to reject?
Alewine’s caution is this: “You can love the traditions, but don’t fall in love with them.” In other words, don’t forget your first love! Weigh traditions carefully in the light of Torah. Then, we can have Truth WITH Tradition!