LandMarks Magazine  

May 2011 Table of Contents


Editor's Letter - Tradition
By John J. Grosboll

The Roman Catholic belief is that tradition is equally valid with the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments but the Protestant position is that only writings inspired by God are valid as authority in matters of faith and religion. What is your position?


In an attempt to prove that tradition has authority, it is common for Roman Catholics to quote II Thessalonians 2:15: “Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, either by word or our epistle.”  This text is supposed to support the authority for oral tradition (“by word”) and written tradition (“an epistle from us”). These churches had received instruction both orally and in written form from the apostles and they recognized, as we also recognize today, that this instruction was inspired of God and had divine authority. Peter refers to the writings of Paul as inspired Scripture (II Peter 3:15, 16) and the rule of the early church was that if the writing was from an apostle then it had divine authority and was part of Scripture. But if the writing was not from an apostle, then it did not have divine authority and was not part of Scripture. The only question then and the only question now is, Is this epistle or book from an apostle of Jesus Christ or not?


Today, it is impossible to know for sure whether what is called “apostolic tradition” is actually from the apostles or whether it is a product that has been corrupted during the last 1900 years. This same problem existed in Jesus’ day. There was a multitude of ancient tradition that was held to be authoritative, but Jesus did not espouse the use of any tradition as authoritative in religious matters. This is why New Testament Protestant Christians today do not espouse the use of any tradition as authoritative—because there is no proof of divine source. In Jesus’ day, the method used to show that a writing was divinely inspired was to attach the name of a prophet as the author, or attach the writing to a book of the Bible, just as later it became a practice to claim that some tradition or written document had an apostolic source.


Jesus had the following to say about these traditions: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:8, 9.


Paul taught that following tradition could deprive one of eternal life (see Colossians 2:8). All traditions, customs and teachings from any source must be tested by the inspired word of God.

May 2011 Table of Contents



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