Reasoning From the Scriptures with Ron Rhodes, Sola Scriptura Versus Tradition, Part Matt1618
Reasoning From the Scriptures
with Ron Rhodes

Critique of Chapter 4,
Sola Scriptura Versus Tradition, Part 2
by Matt1618

On this examination I will look at Ron Rhodes book, Reasoning From the Scriptures with Catholics, Chapter 4, entitled Sola Scriptura Versus Tradition, Part 2 , pages 65-83. In green will be Ron Rhodes comments, and my response will follow. I will also put in red Scriptural passages, generally the Revised Standard version, (unless I am quoting Rhodes directly, who generally uses the New International Version). In Chapter 3, which was Sola Scriptura Versus Tradition, part 1, Rhodes put forth his attempted Biblical support for Sola Scriptura. I have critiqued that here: In chapter 4, he attempts to rebut Catholic interpretations of Biblical verses that Catholics use to support the binding authority of tradition. He attempts to rebut Catholic uses of the following verses: Matthew 2:23, Matthew 23:2-3, John 20:31, John 21:25, Gal. 1:14, 1 Corinthians 10:4, 1Cor. 11:2, 1 Cor. 11:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 2 Tim. 2:2, 2 Tim. 3:8, and 3 John 13. I will look at the more important verses (these are the bolded verses), and discuss his treatment of those verses.

Matthew 23:2-3--”The Chair of Moses“
a Proof of Oral Tradition?

Even if Jesus were making some reference to oral tradition here (which is by no means a given), He would not thereby be giving credence to the Roman Catholic view of a continuing authoritative tradition being handed down by apostolic successors. If Jesus was referring to tradition in this verse, He did so only because the tradition in that one case contained a true statement (about the existence of the “chair of Moses”) that bore mentioning. He was not thereby saying that tradition in itself is authoritative or on an equal par with written revelation, or that an oral tradition was passed on generation by generation to those who sit in this chair. Jesus merely alluded to the existence of this chair and the fact that the scribes and Pharisees have seated themselves in this chair, Rhodes, p. 69
Before I comment, Let us look at the words of our Lord in order to see the force of His words:
1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.
His words are practice and observe whatever they tell you. How can Rhodes say that this is not authoritative? He is not talking about a mere existence of a chair. Moses seat is nowhere found in Scripture at all. Thousands of years transpired from the time of Adam to the time of Ezra in Rhodes’ book, to the time of Maccabees in the Catholic Bible, and nowhere is Moses seat ever alluded to in the Old Testament. Here Jesus legitimizes this tradition. Yes, he later castigates the Pharisees because they don’t practice what they preach. But he binded them to whatever they told them. Thus, it is an authoritative statement that binds people to obey them, even if they can be hypocrites. ’Whatever’, makes it another authoritative source that followers must obey.

In mentioning Matthew 15, then Rhodes tells Protestants to ask Catholics,

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? Rhodes, p. 70.
Well, I see the double standard of Rhodes. In the earlier chapter when he mentioned Matthew 15 to say that tradition had no binding authority, he did not balance that by mentioning Matthew 23 at all, when Jesus said that whatever they tell you to do from Moses’ seat, you obey them. Now, when Jesus legitimizes that authority, he mentions Matthew 15. If he was going to use Matthew 15 to help give insight to Matthew 23, he should have given us Matthew 23 to give insight to Matthew 15. But Rhodes does not do that. Of course, what Jesus condemned is non-legitimate traditions, that caused people to disobey commandments in Matthew 15. That was an illegitimate tradition. However, in Matthew 23 he recognized the binding authority of another tradition. Apparently, Jesus as God accepted a tradition that was binding on believers as noted in this passage. In addition, Catholicism is not found on the basis of human tradition, and thus the irrelevancy of bringing up Matthew 15 in assessing this Scripture. The tradition that Catholicism is founded upon is upon Jesus. Jesus said to his apostles to ‘Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Mt. 18:18)’
Apologist James White informs us that historically this “chair of Moses“ came into use far after the time of Moses, for synagogue worship itself emerged far after the time of Moses. Old Testament scholar Merrill F. Unger places the emergence of synagogue worship in postexilic times. This would mean there is no way the “chair of Moses“ can be traced via oral tradition back to the time of Moses. It simply did not exist back then. So reference to Moses‘s seat hardly constituted proof of tradition that is handed down generation by generation.
--Did you know that synagogue worship first emerged in postexilic times, long after the time of Moses?

--Since historically the “chair of Moses” in the synagogue came into use far after the actual time of Moses, is it not clear that reference to this chair cannot be cited in support of an oral tradition that goes back to Moses? (Rhodes, p. 71)

Even if it is the case, that it can not be traced to Moses, Rhodes and White are missing the main point of bringing up Jesus’ validation of tradition. The point is the authority behind that tradition is what Jesus validated, whether it was directly authority handed down from Moses or not. The direct words of Jesus were "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you,”. Because they sit on that seat, you must practice and observe what they do whatever they tell you. What did Moses’ seat represent? Some scholarship gives us the answer:
Sitting on ‘Moses seat’ referred to a place of dignity and the right to interpret the Mosaic law. The scribes were the successors and the heirs of Moses’ authority and were rightfully looked to for pronouncements upon his teaching...Jesus does not appear to challenge this right”. Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell [Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 1988], 2:1498, as quoted in Stephen Ray, Upon This Rock, [San Francisco, Ca, Ignatius Press, 1999], p. 47, fn. 62.

DA Carson writes “Moreover, ‘to sit on X’s seat’ often means to succeed X’ (Exod 11:5;12:29; 1 Kings 1:35, 46; 2:12; 16:11;2 Kings 15:12; Ps. 132:12; crf. Jos Antiq. VII, 353 [xiv.5] XVIII, 2 [i.1]. This would imply that the ‘teachers of the law’ are Moses’ legal successors, possessing all his authority -- a view the scribes themselves held...Panta hosa (‘everything’) is a strong expression and cannot be limited to ‘that teaching of the law that is in Jesus’ view a faithful interpretation of it’; they cover everything the leaders teach, including the oral tradition as well’ Gaeberlein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary,, 8:472), as quoted in Stephen Ray, ibid., p. 47 fn. 62.

Now, the Pharisees can not trace themselves back to Moses. However, there is authority recognized by the Jewish tradition that had passed on this authority to the Pharisees and scribes. We also see that this Moses’ seat referred to the right to interpret the Mosaic law. Jesus validated that right, independent of Scripture. The acceptance of succession is also noted. The Pharisees are seen as legal successors. This gives precedence for succession of the apostles. BTW, Jews had no concept of Sola Scriptura.

John 21:25--Is the New Testament Incomplete?

After quoting a Catholic take on John 21:25, Rhodes writes the following:
John’s only point in this verse is that Jesus ministry was so wonderful, so miraculous, so beyond the ability of human words to fully capture that the Gospel account he wrote reflects only a portion of the wonder of Jesus. John’s sense is that he had but dipped a cup in the ocean of wonder that is Jesus Christ.
Inasmuch as John’s Gospel was directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, however, we know for sure that what is communicated in this Gospel is exactly what God wanted communicated. Sola Scriptura does not claim that what is in the Bible is exhaustive; it only claims that what is in the Bible is fully sufficient. Everything that God wanted us to have in terms of His revelation to man is found within the pages of Scripture. We need nothing further.. ..
Since John’s Gospel was inspired by the Holy Spirit, is it not clear that the exact information God wanted included was in fact included, and hence a charge of incompleteness is unwarranted? (Rhodes, pp. 73-74)
Let us look at the passage in question, John 21:24-25:
24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. 25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Yes, Rhodes is partially correct. John’s point is that Jesus’ ministry was so wonderful, so beyond the ability of human words to fully capture that the Gospel accounts reflects only a portion of the wonder of Jesus. That is correct. However, Rhodes’ admission of that does not really take into account that fact. Jesus’ full ministry was approximately three years. Part of that wonderful ministry was his full teaching for three years. Although we do have much of Jesus’ teaching, there is no indication that all of Jesus’ teaching was committed to Scripture. He nowhere in the gospels mandates that all of his doctrinal teaching gets committed to writing. On his commission he tells his twelve apostles the following, Matthew 28:19-20:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age .
Now, Rhodes admits that John saw that all the things that Jesus did are not recorded in the gospel. Matthew records Jesus as telling the apostles to teach all the things that Jesus taught. Twelve apostles had that mandate. How do they make disciples? By teaching all of what Jesus commanded. Only two of the apostles wrote gospels (Matthew and John, Mark got his info from Peter, which we only know by tradition), so the reasonable conclusion is that all the doctrine that came from his teaching is not recorded in the gospels. The apostles all heard Jesus, but none wrote all of his teachings, and only a few wrote any of his teachings. The fact is all the apostles had the commission to teach all of what he taught. They primarily did it through oral tradition.

Now, to the question that since John was inspired by the Holy Spirit, he should have gotten everything down, and why are Catholics calling Scripture incomplete? Well, that is Rhodes presumption that everything we needed to know was recorded in Scripture. Just because Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit does not meant that everything that we needed to know for doctrine was reduced to writing. The Holy Spirit guided the apostles to all truth (Jn. 16:13). However, nothing indicated that truth was ultimately reduced to writing.

Now, John had heard that commission that Matthew recorded in Mt. 28:19-20. He also wrote that all of Jesus did was not reduced to writing. However, there is no indication of what Rhodes says: ‘Everything that God wanted us to have in terms of His revelation to man is found within the pages of Scripture.’ We do know that what God communicated to us in Scripture was recorded, and all that was written was guided by the Holy Spirit. That is correct. However, nothing in the gospel of John or any where else in Scripture indicates that everything that we needed to know was put down in Scripture. In fact, this passage indicates otherwise.

John writes this at a time when his book is possibly the last book of Scripture (in conjunction with his three epistles and the book of Revelation). We assume he knows what was written by the other apostles. If Sola Scriptura was the way, as all the other apostles are now dead and no longer orally teach, here he would write that all the New Testament books (which, if Sola Scriptura was the way, he would identify all of them) are the foundation of all things necessary for the faith of Christianity. He would let us know what the canon was. Instead, he ends his book indicating that this book does not hold all the things (including Jesus’ teaching) that Jesus did. He does not say, ‘well all these other things that he did, aren’t that important, I got everything written down that you need to know.’ Of course he had orally taught (assuming 90 AD or so for his written Scripture) for about 60 years before his writing and eventual death. But he does not say that what he orally taught is now no longer necessary, and retired, now that Scripture is or on the verge of being completed, and no other apostles are living. Instead he indicates here in John 21, (also John 20:25, 3 John 13) that Jesus taught other things (since the statement ‘there are also many other things which Jesus did’ would include teaching) as well. Oral tradition is thus, by inference directly pointed to, as a source of revelation.

1 Corinthians 11:2--
Are we to Hold Firmly to Tradition?

This is reading more into the verse than is warranted. This verse simply refers to information that Paul personally and directly handed down to the Corinthian believers with whom he had spent time. As an apostle, Paul communicated God’s truth to the Corinthians in person, face-to face. As the International Critical Commentary points out, as yet there were no written Gospels to appeal to, and hence such face-to-face transmission of information was necessary up until that information could be permanently recorded in written form. ...The oral traditions once communicated by the apostle Paul have been committed to apostolic writing for all generations to come. All that God intends us to have is found within the Scriptures. Nothing outside the pages of Scripture is needed, (Rhodes, p. 77).
Let us look at the verse:
2 I commend you because you remember me in everything maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.
Paul here commends the Corinthians because they maintain the traditions. He uses the plural. So he has taught them plural traditions and he commends them for keeping them. This is the tradition of God, and he commends them for holding on to it. It is to be maintained. Not just held on to until Paul dies. Now Rhodes is partly right and partly wrong. Yes, the oral tradition is only speaking about the oral tradition of what Paul has taught to the Corinthians. He is not specifically directly speaking about future transmissions of the faith. However, the deposit of faith is being passed on orally to the Corinthians. The oral transmission is the means of that very deposit of faith. He commends them for this. This is the way that Paul mainly intends to teach is through that oral transmission of faith. But since he commends them for maintaining that oral tradition, what do you think the Corinthians who read this are supposed to respond to this commendation? Since Paul is commending them for ‘maintaining the traditions’ this means that the Corinthians are to maintain those traditions. If I was a member of the Corinthian community, ‘maintain’ would mean, ‘pass this on as authoritative’ to the children of God who follow them. And of course this passing on of this truth, would be expected to be passed on in the same way that Paul delivered to the Corinthians. Rhodes is imagining Paul saying, ‘Well, I am commending you because of you maintaining the traditions, but once I have written Scripture (and of course you must ignore the writing that is not Scripture, see 1 Cor. 5:9), those traditions are no longer binding!!!’ That is foolish and not any way a rational person would think. If one is commended by the apostle for maintaining apostolic tradition, if they read this, they will pass on this tradition to the next generation of Christians and mandate that this gets passed on to future generations. Otherwise there would be no use for maintaining those traditions if they are just merely to be done away with as no longer binding!! So even though the immediate text does not speak of future generations passing on this oral tradition, the implications of the verse is that it must be passed on this way.

Paul does not write or give any hint whatsoever that oral tradition is only good until Scripture is written, and then its binding power is retired. That is Rhodes’ presumption that is read into 1 Corinthians 11. Ultimately, for us Christians, Rhodes sees this Scripture as really something to be ignored. However, where does Paul say or even hint at this anywhere within this letter to the Corinthians: ‘The oral traditions once communicated by the apostle Paul have been committed to apostolic writing for all generations to come. All that God intends us to have is found within the Scriptures. Nothing outside the pages of Scripture is needed?’ (Rhodes very words) He gives no hint of this whatsoever. Nowhere does Paul write that ‘all the oral traditions have been transmitted in my own apostolic writing.’ ‘You can ignore Thomas, Bartholomew, Phillip, Thaddeus, Simon, Andrew, etc. because they did not write anything.’ He does not say, ‘well my writing in this letter, has priority over the tradition that I am commending you for keeping.’

In fact, in the context of this Scripture, in this very same chapter we see more evidence of oral tradition being passed on, giving further instruction, 1 Cor. 11:34:

If any one is hungry, let him eat at home--lest you come together to be condemned. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
This further confirms that Paul’s outlook is not to make sure that all directions that are necessary are given in Scripture. As a matter of fact, he says that further instruction, directions on the Christian life will be given orally, in his upcoming trip. If his Scripture encompassed all of his oral instruction, all the directions would have been given in this letter to the Corinthians. The Corinthians would not have to wait until he come. Instead, they are to wait for further instructions from Paul himself. This is oral tradition that he is going to give directions to the Corinthians. This is exactly the kind of tradition that Paul tells them in 1 Cor. 11:2 to maintain.

1 Corinthians 11:23--Tradition Delivered?

This verse can only be used to support the fact that that apostolic teachings were for a time orally transmitted. It is reading something into the verse to draw the sweeping conclusion that Paul was saying that oral tradition would continue for thousands of years into the future though a line of Roman Catholic bishops. As noted above, the apostolic teachings were communicated orally only until the time when they could be put into writing. Once those writings were complete, oral transmission ceased, Rhodes, pp. 77-78.
Let us look at the passage to see why Catholics use this verse, 1 Corinthians, 11:23:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread. 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also
This passage does more than just show ‘for a time that apostolic teaching were orally transmitted.’ In fact, Paul gives us here only a hint of the way that the Christian Church worshipped. Here three generations have passed on this information that the Lord has given. Now, we see that he says ‘For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you’. In the following verses, he gives his citation of the Lord’s Supper, and how the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ (1 Cor. 11:24-30), but he cites Jesus. Now in Acts 9, when Paul has the vision of Jesus, there is no record of Jesus telling him the words of the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist. Thus, the only way that Paul knows how Jesus consecrated the bread and wine, with Jesus’ words and the theology behind it (that he has elaborated on in 1 Cor. 10 & 11) is because he received this information from the apostles. Thus, although he is a first generation apostle himself, he only received the instruction on what Jesus said at the Lord’s Supper via the other apostles via oral tradition. He received these instructions indirectly. However, he is so confident of the reliability of the oral instruction that he received from the other apostles, that what he is passing on, he gets that from ‘the Lord’.

Paul says that he had already delivered this to the Corinthians. This is an example of the oral tradition being passed on that did become Scripture (The Lord‘s Word‘s in the consecration). However, Rhodes says, oral transmission ceased. Again, Paul did not say that at all. As just seen, he said he was going to give more instructions and directions just a few verses later (1 Cor. 11:34). Now, another thing that shows that oral transmission had not ceased is because of this passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. Now, there are hints of what happens at worship here, because we get Jesus’ consecration of the bread and wine to make it become the Body and Blood of Christ. And Paul does give us some theology behind the sacrifice of the Eucharist, (1 Cor. 10:14-22, 11:24-30). However, there is nowhere here where anybody is given any instructions on how Christians worshipped God!!! A thing of essential importance in our relationship with God is how do we worship God in an assembly, or Church. In fact, we are only given very little hints in the New Testament on how God was worshipped at an assembly. In 1 Cor. 10 Paul speaks of the breaking of the bread and how it becomes the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10, and he laments that people get drunk before coming to worship (1 Cor. 11:20-22). The Church receives contributions on the first day of the week, 1 Cor. 16:1-2. It says that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42). We have hints that when they get together, they sing Psalms to one another (Eph. 5:19-20). However, that is all Scripture gives us.

Scripture gives us no detail on how worship is organized. What are the apostles prayers in Acts 2? How does that play in with the Eucharist, which is apparently celebrated on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2)? 28 chapters of Acts give us very little in reference to how God is worshipped in an assembly. Are their set, specific prayers, or does somebody wing it? Well, we only get hints of it. No detail is given on what must be the most important thing that Christians can do, when they offer their worship to God. So to say that ‘oral transmission ceased’ shows that Sola Scriptura is insufficient, because there are absolutely no instructions except to not get drunk before coming, and to sing spiritual songs, and have the Eucharist which is Jesus’ Body and Blood. How long does it last, how does it start, etc. is not answered!!! The Bible is silent on that. However, the oral tradition that Rhodes says ‘ceased’ is the only way that the worship of Christians has been made known. Some of this oral transmission did get put down in early Christian works. We get much more information through things such as ‘The Didache’ (the Teaching of the 12 apostles) which gives us not only important theology, but gives certain prayers that are said in liturgy. We have tradition via St. Justin Martyr in the 2nd century. We have the prayer of St. Hippolytus, and early Liturgies. This oral tradition that Paul writes of in 1 Cor. 11, is the only way that we know how the early church worshipped, which is absolutely essential. This referral to this oral tradition on worship that Paul speaks of in 1 Cor. 11:23, is played out not in Scripture, but almost exclusively oral tradition, which in some areas did eventually get put down in writing. The Churches found by the apostles were taught by the apostles themselves how to worship, and Liturgies. The early liturgies were in fact more important for the apostles than the writing of Scripture. Some of this oral tradition was put in writing in early liturgies. Most was not. No Sola Scriptura Protestant should say that the very way we worship God as a church is not important.

2 Thessalonians 2:15-
Holding Firm to Traditions?

After quoting the passage Rhodes writes:

At first sight, this verse might seem to support the Roman Catholic position. But notice the critically important words, “from us” (that is, the apostles. Paul was taking to people he had personally taught as an apostle of God. The Greek word for “traditions” (paradosis) simply refers to “that which has been passed down.” Paul had earlier passed down some apostolic teachings about the second coming of Christ to the Thessalonian Christians, and Paul reminds them in this verse to hold firm to those teachings.

As noted earlier, the apostles for a time communicated their teachings orally until those teachings could be permanently recorded in written form. Once the apostles committed their teachings to written form and then died (so they could no longer exercise their living authority as apostles), the written Scriptures alone are our final authority for matters of faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:15-17), (Rhodes, p. 79).

What is the verse that at first sight, Rhodes admits, might seem to support the Catholic position? 2 Thes. 2:15:
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
Paul in writing to the Thessalonians tells them to hold on to two things, both his written and oral tradition. Rhodes asserts that the big idea that he can find is that the ‘critically important’ words were ‘from us’, the apostles. However, he does not say ‘from me.‘ Yes, that is critically important, that those words were received from the apostles, however that fact says absolutely nothing in distinguishing written from oral tradition. Just as in 1 Corinthians 11:2, he commended them for maintaining the traditions, here he not only commends them, but he tells them of the necessity of holding firm to those traditions taught by ‘us.’ Who is us? Not, just Paul, but also, Silvanus, and Timothy (2nd Thes. 1:1, and 1 Thes. 1:1). It doesn’t say ’from me’, Paul only. We know that Timothy is Paul’s son (2 Tim. 2:1) spiritually. Now the reliability of this is such that Timothy and Silvanus’ teaching, though they are next generation in the spiritual sense, is included with Paul. Neither Silvanus nor Timothy are known as apostles, but their tradition is linked with Paul, as the oral ‘word of God.’ However, even if it was only ‘from me’ the Thessalonians are to hold fast, stand firm to traditions.

In his prior letter he had written that the oral tradition that they received from Paul (and Silvanus and Timothy) was indeed the Word of God (1 Thes. 2:13):

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
What the apostle Paul (and Silvanus and Timothy, who were not apostles) gave to them, was the Word of God. The source of that Oral tradition is that word of God, even if the means of that tradition is not the Word of God. Rhodes and the Sola Scripturist’s presumption is again false: that the oral tradition is replaced by written Scripture. Neither Paul, nor Timothy, nor Silvanus, gives the hint that whatever is written would replace oral tradition. In fact, if that was the case, Paul should have written ‘So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, that which is written only, because the word of mouth thing is replaced by the written’. The oral tradition is thus, of equal status. Since the oral is of equal status, according to Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, if the written tradition is to be passed on to all generations, so is the oral tradition to be passed on to all generations. The Church was commissioned by Jesus (Mt. 28:19-20) to teach for all generations, not just one.

2 Thessalonians 3:6--Live According to Traditions?

After quoting the Scripture, Rhodes writes:

Again, as noted above, tradition (Greek, paradosis) in this verse simply refers to what the apostle Paul had orally passed down to the Thessalonian believers--that is, orally teaching direct from the mouth of an apostle. Specifically, in context, the tradition” of which Paul spoke relates to the importance of living a productive and disciplined life, instead of living in an unruly way. Eventually, this oral teaching was committed to writing so that the oral teaching was rendered obsolete (Rhodes, p. 80).
Here is the scripture, 2 Thes. 3:6:
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
Yes, the background included the importance of living a productive and disciplined life. However, the importance of living within tradition is so encompassing that tradition included the way that one lives one life. Again, this letter is not only from Paul, but Timothy and Silvanus (non-apostles). With the background of the comments of the need for holding fast to the traditions in 2 Thess. 2:15, this passage again enforces the absolute necessity of tradition. Basically, it says that if one departs from tradition, one is anathema. This is the same when Jesus talked about the necessity of the Church, when He said, Mt. 18:17-18:
17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Tradition is of such importance that in effect one will be excommunicated if one does not live in accordance with it. Again, Rhodes repeats his mantra that the written letters make the oral tradition obsolete. There is no hint in this 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, that this is so. Nothing in this letter even says much about Scripture (by itself, although it is in passing mentioned along with oral tradition) at all, let alone that once Scripture is compiled, then you can forget about the binding authority of tradition.

Now in this letter, we see Paul reiterate the importance of what he just wrote in this second letter to the Thessalonians, 2 Thes. 3:14-15:

14 If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
Now, we have to read this as though we are Thessalonians, since it is written to the Thessalonians in the 1st century. You are told to hold fast and firm to the traditions both written and oral. The oral proclamation is most of what you have heard from Paul. In the passage in 2nd Thess 2, he says nothing about the written replacing the oral after Paul dies, or after Scripture is completed. In 2nd Thess. 3, he again mentions tradition without even bringing up Scripture. The tradition that they have from Paul is mostly oral, and very little of the tradition that they have from Paul is written Scripture. BTW, Paul in this letter doesn’t even identify this letter as Scripture itself. If one departs from this mostly oral tradition, one is to avoid that person (2 Thes. 3:6), in the same way that Jesus says that the person is anathema if he doesn’t listen to the Church. Then he reads again that if a person avoids holding fast to the tradition, or lives not in accord with tradition, have nothing to do with that person (2 Thes. 3:14-15). Now, let us say that one is in the next generation of believers, who still has access to the Thessalonian letters (which may not necessarily be a given). What would make the next generation of Thessalonian believers think when Paul wrote ‘Hold fast to the traditions, whether by word or by letter’ and ‘If one lives not in accord with tradition depart from him’, he actually meant, ‘Hold fast to the written tradition only’, or ‘depart from him only when he does not live in accord with the written tradition, but if he does not live in accord with the oral tradition it is ok?’ It is highly unlikely that anybody in the Thessalonian community would read these passages to their church in that fashion. They would obviously think that the traditions that Paul taught that community would be binding on the next generation as well. You don’t hold fast to the tradition, you are basically anathema not only in 60 AD, but also 90 AD, but also 120 AD. Thus, anybody who reads this letter would take the obvious meaning of Paul’s letters at face value. What he told the Thessalonian community orally in 50-60AD, would be binding in 90 AD, as well as 120 AD. What is binding in 120 AD, is binding on Christians in 2003 AD as well. That is how anybody in the Thessalonian community who reads this Scripture would approach this, and with nothing in either letter to the Thessalonians indicating that the oral tradition ceases, one would continue to hold on to those traditions he taught. Of course Rhodes is reading this with his Sola Scriptura bias, and has Paul saying something that he never wrote (that oral tradition ceased upon the completion of Scripture).

2 Timothy 2:2--Entrust Tradition to Faithful Men?

The Roman Catholic view assumes that what Paul taught was different from what Paul wrote in his Epistles...I know this is redundant, but I must repeat it again: Oral teachings from the apostles were necessary for a time until they could be committed to writing, and once they were in written form, there was no further need for the oral teachings. Paul viewed Scripture alone as having final authority (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
Let us look at the passage in question, 2 Tim. 2:2, but also to also see the background see about 6 or 7 verses before then. Then see the brown highlighted which tells us the number of generations in question, 2 Tim. 1:13-14, 2 Tim. 2:1-2:
13 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; 14 guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. 1 You then, my son, (2) be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me (1) , before many witnesses entrust to faithful men (3) who will be able to teach others (4) also.
First, the background shows us Paul telling Timothy to follow the pattern of sound words. He tells him in 2 Tim. 1:14 to guard the truth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, the apostles were given by Jesus a promise by the Holy Spirit. It is clear that from the apostles, Paul had by oral tradition that the Holy Spirit would be necessary to assist future generations, for those succeeding the apostles, to fulfill what Jesus promised in reference to the truth and Holy Spirit. Here is what Jesus said to his disciples, John 16:13, and 14:26:
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Paul in his letter to Timothy, obviously has been taught by the apostles that the means of Timothy being able to guard the truth of the pattern of sound words that he had taught them (2 Tim. 1:13-14), is by the Holy Spirit, who will guide unto all truth. Now this will not be new truth, as the full deposit of truth is indeed given through the apostles. But the successors will have that same protection in guarding that truth that Paul tells Timothy to do.

Next, Rhodes makes an error when he says that the Catholic assumes that the oral proclamation is different from the written record. The Catholic who accepts material sufficiency of Scripture (that Scripture implicitly teaches all the truths necessary) would not accept that. He would say that the oral tradition teaches what is in the Bible, in a more explicit manner. The oral tradition would make more explicit the truths that are found in the Bible. However, if a Catholic does not believe in the material sufficiency, and believes that the oral proclamation is different from the written record, this passage does lend credence to that. Because the oral proclamation is based on what he told Timothy in the pattern of sound words, 2 Tim. 1:13-14. And those pattern of sound words is nowhere noted as being merely proclamations of Scripture.

Next, as to the reason why I highlighted those numbers, in 2 Timothy 2:1-2. Here Rhodes repeated his mantra that once the Scripture is complete, these oral traditions will pass away. In the other passages that have been brought forward, such as 1 Cor. 11:2 and 2 Thes. 2:13 and 3:6, I said the normal reading of those passages assumes that these traditions are to be passed on to all future generations, including us. We are to hold on to those same traditions. And I wrote that Rhodes saying that oral tradition’s binding authority would cease after Scripture’s completion is false. A normal reading of those passages would tell us that Rhodes is false. However, in this passage in 2 Tim. 2:1-2, we have even more direct proof of that. Why do I say that? Because here, Paul is at the end of his life. He gives us no indication that he knows that in the future that there his writings are Scripture and his and the other writings by or sanctioned by apostles are the only binding authority for future generations. This must be at 66 or 67 AD or so, just before his death. He tells us in this letter that he is about to sacrifice his life for Christ, he is ready to depart this life right now (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Thus, if this is his last letter, then for all he knows this is the last letter of Scripture. (Although to be honest, he gives us no indication that he knows that this letter is even Scripture itself!!!). Instead, he gives us four generations which are to pass on this oral tradition. What Timothy (2nd generation) has heard from me (1st generation) entrust to others (3rd generation) who will teach others also (4th generation). And in the background Paul trusts that this tradition will be guarded and protected by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 1:13-14). However, Paul does not write anything like this about this letter, per se. He does not say, ‘read all the Scriptures in the New Testament, and have them passed on to two other generations‘ and that is the only binding authority. He does not write that of Scripture, but he says that of oral tradition!!! Thus, at the point of death his reference for future generations is not Scripture, but his oral traditions. Yes, in 2 Tim. 3:15-17 he speaks of Scripture as being profitable, but he does not say that it retires oral tradition. Neither does he say, that his oral tradition stops (which he just said must be passed on by Timothy to two new generation of believers), when this letter, which is his last, officially becomes Scripture. So thus, 2 Tim. 2:1-2 shows the exact opposite of what Rhodes claims. Future generations are to abide by this oral tradition, which is thus binding, while making no mention of future generations as being bound to New Testament written tradition, which is Scripture.

Page created by: Matt1618.
Send email with questions or comments on this article to Matt1618


Go to Critique of Chapter 8
On Justification, Part 1


Return to Matt's Authority Page


Return to Examination of Ron Rhodes Page


Return to Matt's Catholic Apologetics Page

© 2003 Reasoning From the Scriptures with Ron Rhodes Chapter 4, Sola Scriptura Versus Tradition, Part I - Part 2, Matt1618... This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.

Last modified December 16, 2003.