Today, we will continue with our responses to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.
Citing the four passages below, Armstrong argues for “the binding authority of tradition, according to St. Paul”:
#21) “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” – 1 Corinthians 11:2
#22) “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.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:13
#23) “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:15
#24) “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.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:6
Directly beneath the four verses, Armstrong writes, “Catholics believe that there is such a thing as a binding, authoritative Sacred Tradition and that it is explicitly indicated in the Bible (notably in the above passages). We believe that the Church is the guardian of this apostolic Tradition, passed down continuously through history from the Apostles.” – p. 38.
As you may recall, Armstrong has already made his case for the binding authority of oral tradition with his presentation of the alleged “Catholic verses” #s 4, 5, 6, & 7 (see here), so it’s a bit mystifying why he feels the need to tread the same ground once again. An editor would have easily caught this redundancy. Because I have already addressed Armstrong’s claims regarding oral tradition at length, I will keep my response to this second barrage somewhat brief.
The Greek word for tradition is παράδοσιν – parádosis – which can mean something passed on from one generation to the next, as we tend to think of a tradition, or it can mean an instruction or teaching.
Regarding 1 Corinthians 11:2, in context we see that Paul is either referring to the Old Testament warnings to flee from idolatry as he expounded upon in chapter 10, or he may be referring to his exhortations that follow in chapter 11 regarding praying, authority, and head coverings. He definitely is NOT referring to some mysterious black hole of “Sacred Tradition” by which Catholicism manufactured a multitude of unscriptural doctrines such as the immaculate conception, praying to saints, earning indulgences, etc.
Regarding 1 Thessalonians 2:13, the believers of the early church did not have the New Testament and depended on the direct teaching of Paul and the other apostles. As an apostle, Paul’s teaching authority was directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. But the things that Paul wrote in his epistle to the Thessalonians he had previously preached to them: “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” – 2 Thessalonians 2:5. In context, we see in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 that Paul is not validating some mysterious “Sacred Tradition,” but is referring to his teaching authority as an apostle of Christ.
Regarding 2 Thessalonians 2:15, in context we see that Paul is exhorting the believers to hold tightly to his teachings regarding the second coming of Christ, which he had just expounded upon in verses 1-12. Twisting this verse to prove Catholicism’s mysterious “Sacred Tradition” black hole is self-serving eisegesis.
Regarding 2 Thessalonians 3:6, in context we see Paul is referring to the exhortation to work hard and not to be idle and is linked to his preceding warnings in chapter 2 regarding the lies of false teachers. Using this verse to prove Catholicism’s “Sacred Tradition” is flagrant deception.
Context is the key to proper Bible exegesis. As my old Baptist pastor often used to say, “Text without context is pretext.” Armstrong is guilty of manipulating verses out of context to say what they do not say.
While Armstrong presents 1 Corinthians 11:2, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6 as irrefutable “Catholic verses,” which allegedly prove that Roman Catholicism’s Sacred Tradition is binding and authoritative and “confound” Protestants, we find upon careful examination that these verses, in the context in which they were written, do nothing of the sort.
For this post I am indebted to the articles below: