Saturday, 17 April 2010

Sola: Part III

There are many more examples of the positive nature of ‘sacred tradition’ as opposed to the ‘traditions of men’ presented in scripture, however, the following is probably the most notable as it demonstrates how Christ himself acknowledges the validity of sacred tradition: 'The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do; they do not practise what they preach' (Mt. 23:2-3; RSV). 'The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not' (KJV). Nowhere in scripture is ‘Moses’ seat’ referred to but here – Christ is referring to an extra-biblical, Jewish tradition relating to teaching authority in Israel.

When Christ ‘sits down’ on ‘the mountain’ to teach the Beatitudes to all present, He is adopting the normal posture for a rabbi to teach his ‘torah’ (with a small ‘t’). However, this act by Christ – the new Torah – is an obvious symbolic parallel with Moses’ giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai: The new Moses and the new Torah. When Christ sits down on the mountain to teach, he is sitting in the seat of Moses, quite literally. This is the gesture denoting His rightful place as the authentic teacher of Israel. As we see on Mt Tabor, when Christ is transfigured and speaks with Moses and Elijah, we are shown that Christ surpasses the Law and the Prophets: ‘listen to Him.’ But, this position of religious authority is a part of Sacred Tradition – not Sacred Scripture – which is here validated and acknowledged by God Himself. (See the Jerome Bible Commentary Vol.2, p.102; Rabbi Jacob Neusner, A Rabbi Talks With Jesus and The Way of Torah: An Introduction to Judaism, amongst others, for further details on the non-scriptural sacred Tradition of the teaching office of Israel and Christ).

Now, as for ‘philosophies’, the scripture passage you quote is obviously referring to any system of thought which is manufactured by man, as opposed to the law of God. This also can be proven by scripture NOT to be a universal condemnation of philosophy as such, but as a specific teaching against those man-made creeds which would seek to present themselves as somehow superior or as an alternative to the divine law, or generally contradict the sacred deposit of revelation in some way. In fact, not only are philosophies in general not condemned under this censure, but St Paul directly quotes at least three pagan philosopher/poets, calling one of them a prophet of his people! (Acts 17:28, 1 Cor 15:33, Ti 1:12) This, not only contradicts the blanket condemnation of philosophy you infer, it also challenges ‘sola scriptura’ per se, as Paul is quoting a lot more than just scripture! To be continued...

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