Col 2:8; Tit 1:14, a doctrine, sentiment, or custom not found in the Bible, but transmitted orally from generation to generation from some presumed inspired authority. In patriarchal times, much that was valuable and obligatory was thus preserved. But tradition has long been superseded by the successive and completed revelations of God's will which form the inspired Scriptures, the only perfect and sufficient rule of belief and practice. With this, even before the time of the Savior, Isa 8:20, all traditions were to be compared, as being of no value if they conflicted with it, added to it, or took from it, Re 22:19. The Jews had numerous unwritten traditions, which they affirmed to have been delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai, and by him transmitted to Joshua, the judges, and the prophets. After their wars with the Romans under Adrian and Severus, in view of their increasing dispersion over the earth, the Jews desired to secure their traditions by committing them to writing. Accordingly Rabbi Judah "the Holy," composed the Mishna, or second law, the most ancient collection of the Hebrew traditions, about A. D. 190-220. To this text two commentaries were afterwards added: the Gemara of Jerusalem, probably about A. D. 370; and the Gemara of Babylon, A. D. 500; forming, with the Mishna, the Talmud of Jerusalem and that of Babylon. The contents of these voluminous works poorly remunerate the student of the laborious task of reading them. Our Savior severely censured the adherents of such legendary follies in his own day, and reproached them with preferring the traditions of the elders to the law of God itself, and superstitiously adhering to vain observances while they neglected the most important duties, Mt 15:1-20; Mr 7:1-13. The traditions of the Romish church, with less apology than the ancient Jews had before the New Testament was written, are still more in conflict with the word of God, and still more deserving of the Savior's condemnation.
In 2Th 2:15; 3:6, "tradition" means inspired instructions from the lips of those who received them from God, and were authorized to dispense them in his name. These apostolic sayings were obligatory only on those who received them as inspired directly from the apostles. Had any of them come down to our times, the only means of endorsing them must be by showing their agreement with the word of God, since inspiration and miracles have ceased.
any kind of teaching, written or spoken, handed down from generation to generation. In Mr 7:3,9,13; Col 2:8, this word refers to the arbitrary interpretations of the Jews. In 2Th 2:15; 3:6, it is used in a good sense. Peter (1Pe 1:18) uses this word with reference to the degenerate Judaism of the "strangers scattered" whom he addresses (comp. Ac 15:10; Mt 15:2-6; Ga 1:14).
Greek paradosis, instructions "delivered" (1Co 15:3) as inspired, whether orally or in writing, by the apostles (2Th 2:15; 3:6,10). 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 (1Co 11:2 margin; 2Th 2:15; 3:6) has tradition a good sense; in ten a bad sense, man's uninspired tradition (Mt 15:2-3,6; Mr 7:3,5,8-9,13; Ga 1:14; Col 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 (Re 13:18). Tradition is the grand corrupter of doctrine, as "wealth" (euporia; Ac 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 (Ga 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 (De 13:1-6), accordance with the existing Old Testament revelation (Ac 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 (1Co 2:12-16; 1Jo 2:20,27; Joh 1:33; 3:34; 15:26; 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" (2Ti 3:15-17). The apostles never appeal to human tradition, always to Scripture (Ac 15:2,15-17; 17:11; 24:14; 1Co 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 2Th 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 (Re 22:18). By adding human tradition Rome becomes parent of antichrist. How remarkable it is that from this very chapter (2Th 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?" (Joh 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.
?????????. This may be described as that which is handed down as oral teaching. It may be from God, as in 2Th 2:15; 3:6; and 1Co 11:2 (where it is translated 'ordinance'), instruction handed down before the word of God was complete. Or it may be from man, as was the tradition of the elders of Israel, which was strongly denounced by the Lord, and declared to be a subverting of the commandments of God. Mt 15:2-6; Mr 7:3-13; Ga 1:14. In Col 2:8 it is the mere teaching of the moralists, of which much has survived to the present day. What man institutes, man holds to most tenaciously.
TRADITION. See CABBALA.