Friday, January 30, 2009

Does Sola Scriptura Make Void the Word of God?

Over on Beggars All, a woman who is contemplating converting to Catholicism asked Rhology a question, “How does the Reformed tradition decide which traditions to follow?”

Rhology tersely responded by citing one passage out of the New Testament, Mark 7:1-13.

When I saw this answer, I decided to ask Rhology a couple questions of my own. I have studied the pericope at Mark 7:1-13 and its parallel at Matthew 15:1-9 and slowly, ever so slowly writing a paper (I promise Jamie Donald, I will get it done in 2009!) on the so-called Korban/Corban/Qorban rule which Protestants like to throw at Catholics time and again when they want to denigrate the Catholic doctrine pertaining to Sacred Tradition. Usually Catholic apologists and commentators do not deal with the actual text, content to rest their argument on the fact that Sacred Tradition is not a tradition of men, but is considered to be as divinely inspired as the written Scriptures and thus is incorporated in the phrase “Word of God.” However, when I really read the passage for the first time for purposes other than devotional reading, I understood the passage a little differently.

You see, while I was in high school, I had met a Coptic Orthodox priest who used word “korban” in a conversation. When I asked him what it meant, he told me that it was the bread that was to be blessed and broken for the Holy Eucharist. He explained to me that the word originally meant “sacrifice.” Thus, I decided to study the issue in more detail. As you will see, the results of my researches yielded some answers that vary a tad from how Protestants see the passage.

Here are my questions, Rhology's answers, and my rebuttals altogether. My questions will be in italics, Rhology’s answers in regular text, and my rebuttals in bold print.

For ease of following along, here is Mark 7:1-13 as it is set out in the Douay-Rheims version of the New Testament:

And there assembled together unto him the Pharisees and some of the scribes, coming from Jerusalem. And when they had seen some of his disciples eat bread with common, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews eat not without often washing their hands, holding the tradition of the ancients: And when they come from the market, unless they be washed, they eat not: and many other things there are that have been delivered to them to observe, the washings of cups and of pots, and of brazen vessels, and of beds. And the Pharisees and scribes asked him: Why do not thy disciples walk according to the tradition of the ancients, but they eat bread with common hands?

But he answering, said to them: Well did Isaias prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain to they worship me, teaching doctrines and precepts of men. For leaving the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, the washing of pots and of cups: and many other things you do like to these. And he said to them: Well do you make void the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition. For Moses said: Honour thy father and thy mother; and He that shall curse father or mother, dying let him die.

But you say: If a man shall say to his father or mother, Corban, (which is a gift,) whatsoever is from me, shall profit thee. And further you suffer him not to do any thing for his father or mother, making void the word of God by your own tradition, which you have given forth. And many other such like things you do. (Emphasis Added).


Here too is the passage from the Mishnah that I am referencing in my questions:

R. Eliezer says: They may open for men the way (to repentance) by reason of the honour due to father and mother. But the Sages forbid it. R. Zadok said: Rather than open the way for a man by reason of the honour due to father and mother, they should open the way for him by reason of the honour due to God; but if so, there could be no vows. But the Sages agree with R. Eliezer that in a matter between a man and his father and mother, the way may be opened to him by reason of the honour due to his father and mother.


Q. 1.A. Which tradition of the elders was Jesus refuting at Mk 7:1-13?

A. The Korban rule. Jesus says it right there in the psg.

R. Sorry, Jesus does not say that the Korban rule was a tradition of the elders. He called it "your tradition" meaning the teaching of that particular group of Pharisees, not a decision arrived at in the Great Sanhedrin of all the different schools. All of the different schools had to agree on an interpretation in order for a teaching to become a Tradition of the Elders. We know that didn't happen because the Mishnah said it didn't.

Further, the Korban rule is scriptural (Lev. 27:28) and not a tradition at all.

The tradition Jesus is actually referring to was the fact that the school these Pharisee belonged to did not teach that vows could be loosed. Take a closer look at the passage, particularly 7:12


Q. 1.B. Can you cite the appropriate passage in the Mishnah, which is the written codification of the Tradition of the Elders, where the tradition that Jesus was refuting is elaborated?

A. No. I don't, however, see why it's relevant - see 1A. Also the Mishna was begun 150+ yrs after the NT events.

R. It is relevant. Although the Mishnah was written 150 years later, it does record the oral tradition of the elders in Jesus' time. If you take a look at the Gemmara (commentary) after Nedarim 9:1 (in error earlier said 64), you would see it records the teachings (another word for tradition) of two different schools of Pharisees arguing this very point. The School of Shammai say vows can not be loosed. The School of Hillel says they can. Both of the Rabbis mentioned there by the way I believe were around when Jesus was conducting His ministry on earth.

Q. 2. Since the OT was the only Scriptures that those Pharisees and scribes would have known, can you tell us if what is written at Numbers 30:1-3, Lev. 27:26-30, and Dt. 23:21-23 figure into how the Pharisees who were there may have understood the inviolability of a Korban vow that is being discussed in that pericope?

A. Num 30 - no.
Lev 27 - no.
Deut 23 - no.

Unless you think that God is unable to distinguish between greater and lesser commandments. And wouldn't be upset with someone for making unwise or sinful vows.

R. Let's test your theory against Scripture to see what it says about the making of unwise vows. First, take a look at Judges 11:29-40 to see how seriously Jews took vows. Despite the fact that human sacrifice was forbidden, a vow had to be kept regardless and Jepthath still had to kill his daughter because that was his vow to offer the first thing that came out of his home (in ancient cultures many times, the animals lived in the house with the people~Jepthath thought it would be one of his animals that would come out first).

If you do not like Judges, look again at Numbers 30:3 "If any man make a vow to the Lord, or bind himself by an oath: he shall not make his word void but shall fulfill all that he promised." Is there anything here that suggests an exception can be made?

Dt. 23:21 "When thou hast made a vow to the Lord thy God, thou shalt not delay to pay it: because the Lord thy God will require it. And if thou delay, it shall be imputed to thee for a sin." Is there anything here that suggests an exception can be made?

Eccl.: 5:3-5 "If thou hast vowed any thing to God, defer not to pay it: for an unfaithful and foolish promise displeaseth him: but whatsoever thou hast vowed, pay it. And it is much better not to vow, than after a vow not to perform the things promised. Give not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin: and say not before the angel: There is no providence: lest God be angry at thy words, and destroy all the works of thy hands." Any exception here for foolish or unfaithful vows?

Proverbs 20:25 "It is ruin to a man to devour holy ones, and after vows to retract." Any exception here?

I could come up with more, particularly in Psalms but these are off the top of my head.

Furthermore, while we now do distinguish degrees of commandments, the ancient Hebrews did not. They treated all 613 commandments listed in the OT as equal. It was not until the Pharisees promulgated one of their traditions of the elders that held that there were greater and lesser commandments. Halachah found in the Oral Torah are generally divide into two categories: Laws in relation to God (bein adam le-Makom) and Laws about relations with other people (bein adam le-chavero). Violations of Commandments involving relations with other people are considered more serious in degree than ones only involving God in the Oral Torah, as one must obtain forgiveness both from the offended party and from God. See, e.g. “Kalot and Chamurot”: Gradation of Sin in Repentance.

Your answer reads into the passage your 20th century presuppositions instead of how a Jew in the 1st century AD would have understood things being talked about in Mk. Isn't that how Protestants are supposed to look at passages?


Q. 3. If you believe that the keeping of the Korban vow was a tradition of the elders that contradicted SCripture, please cite to any passage in the OT which permitted a person to rescind a Korban vow once made?

A. Mark 7:1-13. That's not in the OT, but I trust Jesus' interp over my own (or yours).

R. Yep, I trust Jesus' interpretation too. But one has to also understand what He is talking about. Apparently, you don't.

Of course, Jesus could negate the commandments in the OT; he does so in the very next section concerning the eating of unclean foods. That is not the point. The problem you have is that He is treating the halakhah of the Pharisees as a commandment equal to the written commandments in the OT. Jesus is chiding the Pharisees here because they weren't following their own Tradition of the Elders which required that commandments concerning relationships with people took priority over commandments concerning one's relationship with God alone. Since the commandment to honor one's parents deals with relationships between people, that was supposed to be of more importance than a commandment to honor God alone. That is why Jesus calls them hypocrites (7:6), because they were following only the written Torah and not the Oral Torah as well! He was condemning sola scriptura as a false tradition at least as practiced by the particular school of Pharisees those guys came from.


Q. 4.A. Does the Scriptures tell us which school those Pharisees had come from?
Q. 4.B. Do you believe that it makes a difference which school the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus were from there in understanding Mk. 7:1-13?

A. - Not that I know of. Nor do I see why it's relevant.

R. It makes all the difference in the world if you are going to understand the passage correctly! Throw away your bible commentary and pick up a history book instead.


Now Rhology asked me a question of his own, “So...Jesus wasn't submitting a tradition to the Word of God there? Help me out here.”

My answer: If we understand tradition of a particular school of Pharisees yes. Again, your problem is that Jesus was treating the Oral Torah (Tradition of the Elders) as the Word of God and saying it trumped what was in the written Torah!

I realize that you have probably never heard this before. I have looked at what Calvinists (and many Catholic) commentators have written on this passage as well as Jewish ones (yes there are Jewish commentaries on the NT). If you can really poke a hole in this, please do. My thoughts above do need to be tested to see if they ring true as opposed to getting a sound bite or two response.

---------------------------

As I asked Rhology, I will ask anyone reading this blog, please give me your thoughts as to where I am reading this passage wrong.

God bless!

23 comments:

Martin T said...

Dang Paul ! I was still reading your last post. Slow down ! :)

I cannot critique your comments, I've read some of this from you before but never stopped and actually thought about it. I will try to re-read it a few times and see.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Martin, People usually complain that I do not post often enough.

As for my take on the Korban rule issue, I want folks to critique and tell me where my argument falls flat. One test that my understanding of the passage passes is that it dovetails nicely with what Jesus says at Matt. 23 about tradition and obeying the Pharisees.

Enjoy reading!

God bless

Martin T. said...

Ok, first question: If I understand you, you suggest that Jesus chastises the Pharisees for not following the oral tradition over the OT. But how can two valid traditions hold opposite views? And, if one is invalid, in this case, it's the scriptures.

Or to try again in different words, there are two valid traditions: one is scriptural and says never break a vow, the other oral and says you can break a vow and the Ph's are to be remanded for following the first but not the second. I don't get it.

hmmm...unless you're saying that the "never" applies to vows to God and the "sometimes" applies to vows involving people. Though I have trouble with the idea of a vow that "only" affects God. Your example from Judges being a case in point. His daughter was affected by his vow to God. :O

Martin T. said...

4.A. Does the Scriptures tell us which school those Pharisees had come from?
Q. 4.B. Do you believe that it makes a difference which school the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus were from there in understanding Mk. 7:1-13?

A. - Not that I know of. Nor do I see why it's relevant.

R. It makes all the difference in the world if you are going to understand the passage correctly! Throw away your bible commentary and pick up a history book instead.


There's a comment loaded with hidden meaning. Are you going to explain this after you fix the plumbing?

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hi Paul,

Although I'm sympathetic to your interest in harmonizing this passage with Mt. 23, I'm not sure I buy into what you're saying. Of course, that may be because I don't understand it, which may be because my brain is too small. So don't read too much into my opinion of it :-)

they were following only the written Torah and not the Oral Torah as well!

It does not say that they were following Scripture to the exclusion of Tradition; it says that they were making void the Scripture for the sake of keeping their (false) tradition. Verse 9. That seems to me to be the contrary of what you are asserting, don't you think?

they weren't following their own Tradition of the Elders which required that commandments concerning relationships with people took priority over commandments concerning one's relationship with God alone.

This seems to be contradicted by Acts 5:29. Wouldn't you agree?

Peace,

RdP

Reginald de Piperno said...

This seems to be contradicted by Acts 5:29. Wouldn't you agree?

Okay, that was a lame-ish reply. Let's try again.

It seems to me that the fact that the order of things - namely, that we are to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves - demands that commands relating to our relationship with God are of the highest priority. After all, our end - the very purpose of our existence - is to enjoy the beatific vision.

There. That seems to be a stronger reply. I hope. :-)

Peace,

RdP

Martin T. said...

Yes-RdP the same question crossed my mind..in Catholic thought an offense against God is greater than an offense against man. Paul says the Rabinnic tradition takes the opposite view.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi RdP and Martin, I have been neglecting my own blog commenting over at Beggars All.

First, I need to correct something-

Martin you said: "in Catholic thought an offense against God is greater than an offense against man. Paul says the Rabinnic tradition takes the opposite view" to corroborate a point RdP made.

To clarify--the Rabbinic tradition treated offenses against an individual as a more serious one because they considered it an offense against both God and man. The reason was that the offender would have to repent of the sin to God and then go and make things right with the person he offended. A person's sacrifice to God seeking forgiveness of sin would not be effective unless they first reconciled with anyone they offended as well. Cf. Mt. 5:21-26. I apologize for not stating that point accurately. If you look at Mt. 22:34-40; Mk. 12:28-34; and Lk. 10:25-28, Jesus seems to certainly link the two together.

Now to address your questions.

Martin you said "Or to try again in different words, there are two valid traditions: one is scriptural and says never break a vow, the other oral and says you can break a vow and the Ph's are to be remanded for following the first but not the second. I don't get it."

You have hit on the whole point of this problem. Without an authority to interpret the Scriptures and decide what to do in such situations, the problem is not solvable. In the OT, Moses appointed judges to render such decisions and those decisions ultimately became the Oral Torah. After the Jews came back from the Babylonian Captivity, the group that became the Pharisees and scribes assumed that role.

Here Jesus doesn't even address the Tradition of the Elders that the Pharisees raised-the ritual purification of washing hands before eating. Insteads, He counters the Pharisees' denunciation with one of His own which was particularly damaging because their denunciation suggested that Jesus wasn't a very good teacher because his disciples violated a halakhah that was to emphasize that all men belonged to a priesthood of believers. Jesus turned it around and showed them that their own teacher must have really sucked (oh that word--been around teenagers too much this weekend) because their teacher's teaching violated a halakhah that was designed to protect the Written Torah. Hence when Jesus called them hypocrites, that was in fact a charge that their teacher was incompetent.

One of the fascinating things about the Gospels is how they show that Jesus used the methods of argumentation and teaching that was appropriate to his audience. When Jesus confronted Pharisees, He used Rabbinic methods of argumentation and debate. When He confronted Saducees, He confined His rebuttals to what was in the first five books of the OT, which were the only ones they recognized. When he taught the masses, he used parables and stories which the common folks would have understood because that was how they were taught.

As for your query about Rhology tossing out his bible commentary, in studying this issue, Reformed Protestants from John Calvin, Matthew Henry, John Rice, and James White all have used this passage as an excuse to take a potshot at Catholic rituals and traditions. These guys all were so focused on attacking Catholicism and its Traditions, customs and rituals that they forgot to actually address the point made in the text.

One of the alleged cornerstones of Protestant interpretation of Scriptures is that "Revelation is Accomodated", meaning that when the revelation of Scripture was communicated it was communicated in words that were then understood by the people to whom it was communicated to. Thus, in order to understand Scripture one should be studying the history and culture of the people to which the Scriptures were originally written and how they would have understood the words. In actuality, Rhology and his fellows do not do this as a rule and they are dismissive of when someone does try to explain things from a historical perspective.

RdP wrote: It does not say that they were following Scripture to the exclusion of Tradition; it says that they were making void the Scripture for the sake of keeping their (false) tradition. Verse 9. That seems to me to be the contrary of what you are asserting, don't you think?"

My response: The purpose of the Oral Torah was interpret and protect the commandments of the Written Torah from being violated as written in the first sentence of the Mishnah. See, Pirke Avot 1:1. Thus, if a tradition, or more properly an interpretation, that was passed down as a teaching violated that rule it could not be valid.

The unasked question is why did this school promulgate this interpretation in the first place? If they were following their Tradition of the Elders, they would say that they were building a fence around a commandment of the Written Torah, that found at Numbers 30:1-3, Lev. 27:26-30, and Dt. 23:21-23. In doing so, their interpretation would cause someone to violate more important commandments potentially. I say potentially because Jesus was referencing a hypothetical situation as opposed to an actual one "you say, 'if a man'...". In making up this teaching, they neglected to follow one of their other Traditions, to make interpretations that would cause one not to harm others.

It is important to note that Jesus was not condemning the Korban rule itself. People could and did make vows to leave gifts for use by the priests and for the care and upkeep of the Temple all the time. We make charitable gifts as well. However, Jesus was saying that taking care of one's destitute parents should be given priority over charitable giving.

One aspect that I do need to finish studying is whether it would have made a difference how the Rabbis would have treated the man if he had made this vow specifically to harm his parents.

RdP wrote: "It seems to me that the fact that the order of things - namely, that we are to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves - demands that commands relating to our relationship with God are of the highest priority. After all, our end - the very purpose of our existence - is to enjoy the beatific vision."

My reply: That is true but remember what we are going to be judged on in order for us to enjoy the beatific vision. Mt. 25:31-46.

You mentioned Acts 5:29, "We must obey God rather than men. I do not see where there is a conflict here. In the instance of the Korban rule issue, you have a situation where the facts bring two different commandments of God irreconcilably into conflict. One has to take priority over the other. As seen from the Mishnah, and from Mk. 7, the school of Shammai chose the wrong commandment to keep. At Acts 5:29, the apostles were responding to directive made at Acts 4:1-21 by the leaders of the council, not a commandment nor even of the council itself.

I really appreciate you both asking questions. Please ask more!

Jamie Donald said...

Paul,

In the combox, you wrote, One aspect that I do need to finish studying is whether it would have made a difference how the Rabbis would have treated the man if he had made this vow specifically to harm his parents.

My understanding is that this is exactly what the situation was. In Leviticus there are examples where property could be dedicated to God (or to God via the temple and priests). Various rules allowed for sale of that property (subsequent to the dedication), as well as stating to whom the property would revert at the jubilee year (to the priests or to the original hereditary owner). This implies that the owner may still have the benefit of, or may profit wealth from, his property even after the dedication. But were he to sell it (in order to care for his parents), he would incur a 20% tax. I've always understood Korban, as referenced in Mark, to be some sort of financial shelter to avoid other obligations. And since that shelter had dedicated (or sacrificed) to God "stamped" on it, people found it difficult to argue against Korban.

For Martin and RdP, I think if you see it this way, you can easily come to the same conclusion as Paul has.

Remember that the prophets (Malachi, Micah, Joel, Hosea), Proverbs, and Psalms all tell us that God does not desire a sacrifice if it is with impure intentions or an impure heart. So the son who creates a Korban as a primitive financial shelter and invokes Korban as a reason for avoiding other obligations is not truly, in his heart, sacrificing to God. He is self-serving and has already sinned against God in the dedication.

Certainly God will require him to keep his vow. Leviticus disallows substitution of scarifices. e.g. if one were to dedicate an animal to the Lord, the choose to substitute it with even a better animal, both would become as dedicated to the Lord. We can see that God demands we keep our vows.

So the question here is this: Will the son aggravate his current sin against God by also committing another sin against his parents? One school thought that the vow couldn't be broken and ignored the aggravating factor. The other school felt that the son should not increase his sin. Jesus condemned the former school as a tradition of men, while exhaulting the latter as the Word of God. (Note, he did not say that they nullifed "Scripture," but the "Word of God")

I'm feeling like I've left this about as clear as mud. Maybe Paul can better explain if he understands my point.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Paul,

Rather than dump a giant text bomb here, I've done it on my blog instead.

Grace and peace,

RdP

Martin T. said...

RdP has said what I would have said and you answered it there. I will re-read to soak it into my brain

Do you see Mk 7:14-23 as referring to vows? " what comes out are what defile"?

Martin T. said...

...and, as a rule of thumb I try to avoid reading into scriptures eg:though it's said everywhere that the Pharisees were using the Corban as a dodge -that's not in my reading of the actual text. I much prefer Paul's method of working with what's actually on the page.

Mike Burgess said...

This was an absolutely fascinating discussion for me, Paul, Martin, RdP, Jamie. Very stimulating and informative. Paul, could you recommend some source material for further development of understanding the Pharisaic and Talmudic milieu and methodology? I would very much appreciate it.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Mike, thank you for the kind words. Jamie has seen my hypothesis develop over the last two years since I first raised it over on Messrs. Akin and Armstrong's blogs. He probably knows it as well as I do.

The discussion that Jamie, RdP, Martin and Nick T have had with me here and over at RdP's blog have been very helpful. I seriously need to get the final version of my paper on this subject written.

BTW, I sent you an e-mail highlighting some of the material I have read and consulted pertaining to this issue.

For the reader, Henri Daniel-Rops provides a great beginning overview of life in Jesus' time. The on-line version of the old Jewish Encyclopedia is also very helpful in understanding how the Jews thought and lived at the time of Christ. Pertaining to the Korban issue directly, I came across another article on-line this very night and it appears to concur with how I am reading the text in question. See, http://www.haderek.ca/articles/way/vow.htm

God bless!

Ken Temple said...

Paul,
That is a very interesting take on Mark 7/Matthew 15. It certainly made me think.

At first I thought you had a good point, until I studied the difference between the Hebrews words for sacrifice ( Zbh) and offering ( qorban) and “dedicated to the ban for destruction” ( Haram or Herem). The verse you used for your main point, Lev. 27:28-29 is not about “qorban”, but about the Herem – dedicating the pagan nations and spoils for destruction in the holy wars against the Canaanites, Armorites, and later, Amalakites.

Reading and thinking about the vows of Leviticus 27 and “dedicating things to the ban” ( Hareem) and the seriousness with which the Jewish people had to take vows ( Eccl. 5) is indeed something that made me stop and think more.

The commands on “putting things under the ban” (Hebrew: Herem; not “Corban”) (Lev. 27:28-29) for destruction are about the commands to kill and drive out the pagan Canaanites and Amorites from the land. (Deut. 7, 9); they are not about vows or offering things to God. The word here is “harem”, not “corban”, so, this verse is not the historical background of Mark 7 or Matthew 15.

“These are not things vowed to the Lord by an individual but spoils of war devoted to destruction by the Lord. The best known examples are the spoils of Jericho ( Joshua 6:24) and of the Amalakites of Saul’s day ( I Sam. 15:3-9). Such spoils could not be redeemed, sold, or ransomed.” R. Laird Harris, Commentary on Leviticus, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2, Genesis – Numbers, Zondervan, p. 651.

Jephthah’s example, (Judges 11) always seemed to me like he took his vow too seriously and that God would have never have held him to such a stupid and rash vow as killing his own daughter. I confess I do not see that as a good thing at all; and I cannot believe that God thought that Jepthah was being righteous for “keeping his vow”. Jepthah’s vow was an evil vow that should never have been made or kept.

The external law of keeping the letter of the law misses the motives on why people do things. Jamie’s take on it was actually better, in my opinion.

Your background work on the 2 interpretations of oral Jewish traditions is very interesting; but it is not apparent in the text itself. Would God require that much knowledge of all that, when the bare text gives no indication of it?

The Jews would know that "Corban" is about dedicating animals as offerings in worship to God; not about the "herem" dedications of the pagans and the spoils for destruction.

The text itself is contrasting the word of God ( 3 quotes from Scripture) over against the traditions of man.

The key is that Jesus, in the text of Mark 7 and Matthew 15 does not go into the historical background of the two kinds of interpretations of the tradition of the elders, but, as Jamie has pointed out, starts with dealing with the heart motives and quotes from Isaiah 29:13. Jesus pits Scripture against the selfish motives, and rash or selfish vows, in order to not help their parents. Jesus quotes from the Law of Moses, “for” (verse 10) and then quotes from the ten commandments, Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16 and Exodus 21:17 and Leviticus 20:9. Jesus is pitting 3 (5 with 2 parallels) Scripture texts against the evil and selfish motives of the heart in the Korban vows.

Jesus did the same thing as far as the Sabbath day laws. There seems to be no exceptions in the Torah. A teenager was killed for picking up sticks on the Sabbath day. And yet Jesus Himself rebuked the Pharisees constantly for interpreting the laws on the Sabbath day too woodenly. Jesus said it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath day, to heal, and to prepare food for eating.
Jesus also goes to heart of other laws against murder and adultery and exposes the deeper heart issues of hatred, anger, and lust.

So, studying the historical background of a passage is very important; but in this case you seem to be overlooking the obvious, bare text itself and looking for hidden and deeper meanings by the oral, man-made traditions and Mishna, etc..

Therefore Sola Scripura stands as true and does not make void the word of God; rather it is still human and man-made traditions, which the RCC has made in addition to Scripture that cancel out the word of God and make it void. ( eg. PVM, Indulgences, Purgatory, ICM (1854), BAM (1950), Infallibility of Pope(1870), transubstantiation(1215), Trent's condemnation of justification by faith alone( 1545-1563), etc. - these are all man-man human traditions that did not come from God at all.)

Ken Temple said...

(Note, he did not say that they nullifed "Scripture," but the "Word of God")

But since in the passage, Jesus quotes three Scripture passages, then yes, He does mean "Scripture" by the Word of God.

Paul Hoffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Ken, As always, I do appreciate your comments and your thoughts. As I indicated in my post, I posted my korban argument even though it has not been fully researched yet.

However, with that being said, I am aware of the usage of "herem" in the manner in which you have used it. As I understand the word "herem" though, it is more descriptive of what is to happen to the offering, not what the offering is. The noun "herem," or the verb "heherim," translates as "utterly destroyed" (Ex. 22:19 ; Num. 21:2-3; Deut. 2:34, 7:2; I Sam. 15:3), "devoted" (Lev. 27:28-29; Num. 18:14), "dedicated" (Ezek. 44:29), or "consecrated" (Micah 4:13). These usages suggest a meaning far more than merely war booty.

Particularly, if you look at the context of what is going on Lev. 27, it is easy to why your usage of herem fails as something is being offered other than war booty as the property, land and/or persons are being vowed to God. While some of the property, land and/or persons could be redeemed, that which was vowed to God could not. Obviously, in such a context, a person would not have been able to vow something taken as war booty as such property or persons were already subject to the "Ban" (or anathema) and was to automatically be destroyed (Num. 7:2). How could someone vow to God something that was already had to be destroyed in the first place?

You asked: "Your background work on the 2 interpretations of oral Jewish traditions is very interesting; but it is not apparent in the text itself. Would God require that much knowledge of all that, when the bare text gives no indication of it?"

My answer: I agree with you that neither Matthew nor Mark give historical detail and this is one of the marks against the notion of Sola Scriptura. The lack of historical background material is one of the reasons that suggests why Sola Scriptura can not be a divinely inspired doctrine, but a false man-made one-it does not work in practice. A first century AD audience made of up of Jews and Gentiles who lived in cultures that featured sacrifice and ritual vows would have understood the context in which Jesus was talking. We, 20 centuries later, would not. (This also suggests why Protestants have so much difficulty understanding the Eucharist and the Mass as a sacrifice because sacrifices are alien to our culture.) Without background material being proffered, how is one to overcome this unless one has a knowledge of archaeology, history, ancient languages, ancient theology, etc?

Catholics overcome this by having a Magisterium, Sacred Tradition, a history of using Patristic sources, and recognizing the sensum fidelium, all combining to making the Church the authoritative living witness that it is. By using Sola Scriptura and private judgment, Protestants voluntarily deny themselves that witness. While individuals can avail themselves of concordances, lexicons, history books etc, to help them understand the Sgriptures, they refuse to avail themselves of the one witness which Christ Himself said would be guided by the Holy Spirit~the Church~and instead are left to their own devices and intellect to decide what they are going to believe.

I, as a Catholic, in candor can admit that the Protestant version of Sola Scriptura is more workable than the Pharisaic notion of it that Jesus condemned, because Protestants do tend to read the Scriptures with an understanding of faith through love. However, it is problems such as the one you recognize here that cause me to disbelieve that God would have us rely on Sola Scriptura as our Rule of Faith and accept the Catholic Rule of Faith instead.

Finally, Your argument that Jesus equated the Word of God with the written Old Testament here is valid only if you can show me where in the Old Testament someone can be loosed from their vow without committing sin. Only the Oral Torah provided such a means. The Scripture passages that Jesus quoted explained the reason WHY the vow should have been loosed, not the HOW it could be loosed.

Anyway, It is my turn to thank you for making me think my argument through even further!

Ken Temple said...

Thanks Paul,

The noun "herem," or the verb "heherim,

Don’t know what forms you are using, the verb dictionary form is “Haram”. It builds from that 3 letter root in Hebrew.

Most, (but not all) of the passages of Herem (noun), and Haram (verb) are "to utterly destroy" and are indeed in the context of the spoils of the war of the pagans that the Israelites were to "put under the ban" and "utterly destroy." The I Sam. 15:3 is about Agag and the Amalekites; and most of the other passages are concerning that context of destroying the pagans, putting them under the ban. And the Lev. 27:28-29 verse you used does indeed seem to be talking about that, because of verse 29, which speaks of people - that they must be put to death - that seems like it would surely be only the war contexts on the pagans. There is no mention of a vow in the context of Lev. 27:28-29.

Moreover, Jesus makes it clear that it is the heart motives that He is able to discern as the reasons for not holding people to vows. If the motive is wrong - as the Pharisees did in order to protect their money from helping their parents; Jesus said the vow was wrong.

Your interpretation makes no sense, because Jesus is pitting the Word of God ( the quoting of 3 verses) vs. the tradition of the elders ( putting aside money, etc. to avoid helping their parents.) You have not proven that the “Korban” rule was Scripture. Jesus called it their human traditions and not the word of God and gives no indication that it was from Leviticus 27:28-29.

And God does not hold people to the stupid vow that Jephthah made in Judges 11. Judges was all about how everyone was doing was right in their own eyes, and was showing how the Israelites had allowed the pagans and Canaanite tribes to influence toward paganism. Human sacrifice was pagan; God did not approve of it.

The oral interpretations and 2 choices you give are not necessary; the 3 verses of Scripture are enough.

Micah 4:13 - is in the context of destroying the pagan nations.

"Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion,
For your horn I will make iron
And your hoofs I will make bronze,
That you may pulverize many peoples,
That you may devote to the LORD their unjust gain
And their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.

The sacrifice language is understandable to us who study the OT. There are also “pagan sacrifices”.

My answer: I agree with you that neither Matthew nor Mark give historical detail and this is one of the marks against the notion of Sola Scriptura.

no; it is not against the notion of Sola Scriptura at all here.

The lack of historical background material is one of the reasons that suggests why Sola Scriptura can not be a divinely inspired doctrine, but a false man-made one-it does not work in practice.

Wrong. Jesus quotes from Isaiah 29 about the heart motives in worship. He could read the Pharisees motives for their hypocrisy and false worship – trying to hide sheep and money, in a “monetary shelter’, but outwardly claiming that it was “Qorban”. Jesus quotes the other 2 verses from the law, one from the ten commandments and other one on the punishment for disrespect to parents to show clear Scriptures that trumped their evil motives and their traditions of man.

A first century AD audience made of up of Jews and Gentiles who lived in cultures that featured sacrifice and ritual vows would have understood the context in which Jesus was talking. We, 20 centuries later, would not.

If we study OT, we can understand it well enough.

(This also suggests why Protestants have so much difficulty understanding the Eucharist and the Mass as a sacrifice because sacrifices are alien to our culture.)

We can understand the concept; that you have ignored the NT emphasis on the final sacrifice and historical evidence and destruction of the temple, etc. and gone back to things that were NEVER intended to be in the NT church. The OT priesthood and temple and sacrifices are all gone and fulfilled in Christ. It is your church that sought to add legalisms and ceremonies in the NT to keep the people in bondage to the external church and the leaders, priests and the whole sacramental system.

Without background material being proffered, how is one to overcome this unless one has a knowledge of archaeology, history, ancient languages, ancient theology, etc?

We do a good job in that area.

Regarding the Eucharist and sacrifice --
Christ was the final blood sacrifice and God Himself destroyed the Jewish temple in 70 AD, thus abolishing sacrifice. (Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 24:1-3; Hebrews chapters 7-10)

That the RCC goes back to pagan ideas and exalts them, when God did away with the temple and tabernacle and sacrifices is something that Protestants have always pointed to as a problem for the RCC interpretation of things.

Catholics overcome this by having a Magisterium, Sacred Tradition, a history of using Patristic sources, and recognizing the sensum fidelium,

[ please translate into English – faithful or trustworthy or faith sense?]

all combining to making the Church the authoritative living witness that it is.

We also use church history and the history of interpretation, but subject it to the Scriptures. Your Magisterium just got it wrong on many things. We have teachers and church authority also; they are just not infallible and have no right to interpret things wrongly or claim infallibility or contradict Scripture. Your magisterium actually contradicts Scripture, therefore it is wrong.


By using Sola Scriptura and private judgment, Protestants voluntarily deny themselves that witness. While individuals can avail themselves of concordances, lexicons, history books etc, to help them understand the Sgriptures, they refuse to avail themselves of the one witness which Christ Himself said would be guided by the Holy Spirit~the Church~

No, because as noted above, we have a church and the Holy Spirit and history also. We believe Protestant teachers have been lead by the Spirit to interpret Scripture better than that RCC does on those issues ( listed above).


and instead are left to their own devices and intellect to decide what they are going to believe.

No again. We have the Holy Spirit and history and church authority also.

Ken Temple said...

Finally, Your argument that Jesus equated the Word of God with the written Old Testament here is valid only if you can show me where in the Old Testament someone can be loosed from their vow without committing sin.

Jesus did by the quote from Isaiah 29, and focusing on the heart motives. The quote of the other 2 verses shows the honor they are to show toward parents, putting all 3 verses together, they should have known that hiding under the external law was a sin and that God does not hold people to stupid and rash vows.

Remember the Sabbath day thing also; in the OT law; there is not an exception either - but Jesus comes along and shows the 2 exceptions - for deeds of mercy (healing someone) and deeds of necessity ( preparing food and getting donkey out of a ditch).


Only the Oral Torah provided such a means.

no

The Scripture passages that Jesus quoted explained the reason WHY the vow should have been loosed, not the HOW it could be loosed.

You assume that harsh and rash and stupid vows could not be loosed. the example of Jepthah is not a good example. You cannot prove by that that Ecc. 5 and the Proverbs passage means "no exceptions". The Sabbath laws seemed to communicate "no exceptions either". The circumcision laws are called "eternal". But the Lord fulfilled them and interpreted things right for us. That is why we have the NT - it interprets the spirit of the law; fulfilling the OT law, and giving us new and complete revelation. That is why we have the NT, to fulfill the OT and with the help of the Holy Spirit, to lead us into all the truth.

Thanks for a good discussion.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Temple et al.,

Please note that while three scripture passages are being quoted in Matt.15:3-9 and Mark7:6-13, only one of them is being voided by their tradition. Further note the alternation between the terms commandment and word in referring to the commandment being voided. The term word here, like the comparable passages at Rom. 3:2-3; Deut.4:10-14; Ex.20:1-20, refers to the Ten Words that thundered down upon the people of Israel gathered together in covenant into the ecclesia, qahal, or congregation of God at Mt. Sinai. These Words established the terms of the covenant into which Israel entered with their sovereign God.

To void one of these Ten Words was to attack the very foundation of the Covenant of God with His people. It is hardly surprising then that in the next hundred years after this the Temple would be destroyed in the first rebellion of the Jewish War of 66-70A.D. and then Jerusalem itself after the Bar Kokeba rebellion. The city was rebuilt as a pagan city with a new name and all Jews were prohibited from entering it. The was their punishment for voiding the Law, rejecting the Messiah who came to bring them back to God, and continuing in their rebellion.

The people of Israel began breaking these Words before they were given them in writing.

While Moses was up on the mountain receiving the stone tablets from the hand of God, the people made a Golden Calf to worship. God remained faithful to His Covenant,but the people did not as Rom. 3 tells us. The Logia of God at that time were still only an oral law and not written.

When the Karaites rose up later claiming that only the writtten word was authoritative, the Rabbis referred them to Deut.17:8-13 which states that the final judgement in the interpretaion of the Law was that of the priests, levites, and judge of the central sanctuary. There was no appeal from their judgement to the text or any where else. It was a capital crime to reject their judgement. The only remedy for a bad judgement is that provided in Deut.18:15-22. The extraorinary magisterium of the prophet is the final judgement that all must obey because the LORD will put His words into his mouth. Jesus in Matt.15 and Mark 7 is acting as the Prophet of Deut.18. It is God who corrects his ministers, not the people. The Church is a Kingdom of priests, not a democracy.

The Law of God in both the O.T. and N.T. was promulgated in oral and written form. Both were equally authoritative. In the New Testament, the term word of God usally refers to a spoken word, whether of God or man, not necessarily to its written form. The sword of the Spirit is the Rhema of God, and faith comes from that Rhema of God (Eph.5:17; Rom.10:17). "The word (Rhema) is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is the wored of faith which we preach (Rom.10:8). Rhema refers to a word spoken.

The tradition which Jesus condemns was the decision of the school of Shammai which had the ascendancy at that time and whose opinions were then upheld in the courts of law. It was only later around 70 A.D. that the School of Hillel gained its ascendancy over the Shool of Shammai. The Talmud, in its discussion of this issue, reflects that shift. The Talmud actually agrees with Jesus here against the School of Shammai. Honor to one's parents is a necessary part of proper worship of God. The breaking of any one of these Ten Words is actually to break all of them simultaneously because they are so closely interlinked with each other.


In both the O.T. and the N.T., it was the officers of the congregation who wrote the Scriptures, Moses and the Prophets of the O.T. and the Apostles and Prophets on which Christ has continued to found His Church, and to the officers of the Church were given the duty of resolving the disputes over its interpretation (Deut.17:8-13; 18:15-22; 2Chron.19:10; Matt.23:2-3; Matt.18:15-20; Heb.13:7,17; etc.).

The proximate rule of faith is that of the rulers of the church and we are commanded to obey them because they are responsible to God for us.

"Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering their conduct...Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account (Heb.13:7,17)."

The remote rule of faith is both tradition and Scripture, which regulates the preeaching of the rulers.
See e.g. 2Tim.3:10-17.
"But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith...But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them (tradition) AND that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures...that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

It is both Scripture and Tradition that regulates the preaching of the rulers from whom we receive the one faith once delivered to the saints.

These passages here in Matt.15 and Mark 7 have often been appealed to in objection to the traditions of the Church. Our Lord certainly did condemn certain specified traditions, but how condemnation of particular traditions can be construed into a general condemnation of all traditions is certainly not obvious. If He had intended a general condemnation of all tradition He would not have used language specially confined to a particular class of traditions then in existence. His language would have been general, so as to include the future, as well as the past and the present. When a lawgiver specifies a single error, and denounces that, the denunciation cannot be extended to other matters not designated. So, to show that Jesus condemned only certain traditions, is to show that He did not intend to condemn others not mentioned.

Bill Zuck

Ken Temple said...

Bill Zuck wrote:
"The Law of God in both the O.T. and N.T. was promulgated in oral and written form. Both were equally authoritative. In the New Testament, the term word of God usally refers to a spoken word, whether of God or man, not necessarily to its written form. The sword of the Spirit is the Rhema of God, and faith comes from that Rhema of God (Eph.5:17; Rom.10:17). "The word (Rhema) is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is the wored of faith which we preach (Rom.10:8). Rhema refers to a word spoken."

Yes, during the process that revelation is being given, and before everything is written down; before the canon was finished, both oral teaching and written exist together. But once it was all written down; that is all we have.

But once it was all written down, we have all that we need. Surely Paul preached the gospel content to the Thessalonians orally that is written in Galatians and Romans, right?

There is no evidence that the NT writers left anything out that we needed for future generations.

That is what Peter meant in 2 Peter 1:12-21 and 3:1 - by his diligence in putting it in writing so that after he is dead, the beleivers would be able to "Stir up their sincere minds" and "remember" and have the words in front of them; and he even calls this "a prophetic word made more sure" - because it was written down and they did not follow myths but were eyewitnesses.

Jamie Donald said...

Ken,

For a guy who believes in Sola Scriptura, you certainly add a lot to the Word of God in order to make it fit your mold. I've seen you try to use 2 Peter before in an effort to prove the concept of sola scriptura. But it just isn't there. Your efforts convolute the order of the written word, taking sentences and verses out of context, in order to make your point. That is not the way to do sound study of the Scripture.

You start with 1 Pet 1:12. A very good place to start. But notice that he is trying to remind the readers of what they already know. In other words, he's not trying to encapsulate all the readers should know, but only stir up memories. The complete knowledge is contained beyond Peter's written words. Clearly a stronger implication of Tradition than sola scriptura.

You should note that in v15, Peter says his letter is a part of everything (not the only thing) to be done to ensure we remember. Again, not so strong an indication of sola scriptura, but rather that there is more to be done to keep the entire Word of God in the minds and hearts of the faithful.

Next you say and he even calls this "a prophetic word made more sure" - because it was written down and they did not follow myths but were eyewitnesses. But in the explanation of why the prophetic word was more sure, there is absolutely nothing about writing it down making it more sure. In fact, v16-18 contain nothing about writing at all! You've pulled the because it was written down part out of thin air - a clear addition to Scripture - when attempting to make your point. The prophetic word is more sure because he was an eyewitness to the Transfiguration (interestingly enough, the Gospel for this weekend).

In v20-21, where Peter does mention writing (the Scriptures - by context Old Testament), he is explaining what prophecy is made more sure. And context will tell you that it is the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah which are made more sure. In other words, Peter was using his (proto) magesterial authority to validate the written Old Testament by means of his eye witness experience. The first chapter of 2 Peter does not make the argument you want it to make.

2 Pet 3:1 doesn't either. All he is doing is restating is desire to do everything he can to stir up reminders in the faithful. It must be interpretted with respect to what Peter has already stated in chapter 1, and does not indicate that the written word is the only conduit of the Word of God to the faithful.

In His Name,