Traditions of Men

Matthew 15.6

Thus you have invalidated
the instruction of
by means of your tradition.
(S4S Version)

Traditions play a significant role in our lives. They are the source for many of the beliefs, observances, and activities that have been passed on from one generation to the next.

These are the things taught to us by our parents, grandparents, and other significant people. As we accumulate this "knowledge" (actually we accumulate the habits more than the knowledge) it shapes our responses to the things we encounter in life. These things become the “wisdom of the elders”. We’re taught to respect such things because “that’s the way it’s been done for generations.”

But have you ever looked up the definition of tradition? I did. And one of the things I discovered really surprised me. Here is what Webster’s New World Dictionary says about it:

        1. originally, a surrender; betrayal.
        2. the handing down orally of stories, beliefs, customs, etc. from generation to
        3. a story, belief, custom, proverb, etc. handed down this way.
        4. a long-established custom or practice that has the effect of an unwritten law.
        5. in theology, a) among Jews, the unwritten religious code and doctrine
            regarded as handed down from Moses. b) among Christians, the
            unwritten teachings regarded as handed down from Jesus and the

The very first definition in this list is quite remarkable. It identifies “tradition” as a surrender or betrayal. This places tradition in a very unusual category. Perhaps we need to rethink our typical manner of responding to such things. Maybe they’re not as “solid” as we thought they were. Perhaps our “traditions” are merely “old wives tales”, “fables”. Indeed, many of them are precisely that.

Tradition is in fact a surrender. Its a surrender to patterns of human behavior and the instructions of others. We surrender our thoughts and actions and simply “accept as fact” what the “traditions” teach us. They could also be seen as a betrayal of the rules, regulations, or instructions that were originally set down, since those things tend to get changed in the process.

Such considerations are particularly fitting in light of the “betrayals” involved in handing down The Word of YAHWEH. As you’ll note from other pages on this site, things are not always what they seem to be. The “traditions” of our religious heritage are not all proper or correct in the light of The Word of YAHWEH. Man’s corruptions have crept in, however subtly, even into our current “translations” of The Scriptures.

Traditions begin with the foundational stories and beliefs of a culture. In the beginning those stories and beliefs have a solid historical basis. They begin with facts that could be easily verified. Yet as time moves on some of the details are remembered differently than what actually occurred. Since tradition is transmitted orally in most cases it becomes impossible to easily verify the facts at some point in time. Once this ability to verify the facts is lost tradition takes over as the new “reality” - and what was once "truth" now becomes "fiction".

When it comes to The Word of YAHWEH as we have it in our English translations, it appears this is exactly what has happened. What YAHWEH inspired the original authors to establish in written form has been modified. In some cases the modification is quite significant. In others it’s pretty mundane.

Some of this happened as a result of the process of translation. Trying to get the thoughts of one culture into that of another is sometimes very difficult. Simple attempts at single word “translations” become virtually impossible. Some words in the original language have no comparable word in the new language, so a process of “approximation”, or even “replacement” begins. It ends up being left entirely to the translator to “interpret” what he or she thinks the original language meant.

As one person relays a concept to another, he or she puts their own “spin” on the data. (We’re very familiar with this concept in today’s world.) The data is perhaps quite solid, but an interpretation of the data gets added into the mix that "colors" one's understanding of it. The result is a distortion of the original - and perhaps even an outright lie. There’s even a special term for this, eisegesis. Look it up.

This “interpreted” data is then repeated to another, with yet another “spin” placed upon it - and another, and another, etc. Pretty soon there is a significant corruption of the original data. The story sounds the same, but it’s really quite different. It’s been changed, perhaps only slightly each time, but the multiple alterations remove the true meaning of the original. The result can be, and often is, confusion.

YAHWEH tells us in His Word that He does not change; that He is faithful and reliable in the extreme; that His Word is reliable and can be trusted with our very lives. If we hold this to be true then we must believe every word He speaks as being absolutely dependable. However, this only applies to the original, or perhaps very early, manuscripts.

We know that we do not have the original manuscripts in our modern English bibles. We know they are translations. We know they've been through several processes of editing and re-writing. We know the editors have chosen, because of “tradition" in many cases, to use certain methods of interpretation and editing. We also know, if we’ll do our homework, that some of these traditional methods of doing things have resulted in some significant corruptions of the original text.

YAHWEH warned His people about altering His Word. He advised them they were not to add to, nor subtract from, what He gave them. Yet this is exactly what has happened.

Oral tradition was added to the written Word. The written Torah was significantly expanded with the oral Torah. The Mishnah, the Talmud, the Tosefta, the Kabbala  etc., all became additions to the original written Word. They became the oral traditions that were based on what men thought YAHWEH intended to express in Scripture. This involves an addition to His Word. This is contrary to the will of YAHWEH.

This process has occurred over a period of many centuries. In the beginning, the oral traditions were pretty solid. The memories were good. The facts were properly communicated, with diligence, to keep the message faithful. In the ancient cultures such oral tradition was far more stable than oral tradition is today. People’s lives depended on the reliability of the information passed on to the next generations. They had little or no written material to work with.

But as time went on the traditions began to change. They were expanded, for purposes only those who wrote them could really address. The farther one got from the original the more potential there was for modification, and for errors to creep in.

Ii appears this is one of the reasons YAHWEH periodically made new covenants with His people. The new covenants (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Yitzhak (Isaac), Ya'akob (Jacob), etc.) were apparently intended as reminders of YAHWEH’s requirements and expectations for His people. Yet with each change of a covenant relationship we find that tradition crept in again, and eventually altered what YAHWEH had given to His people.

As we observe the Sinai Covenant, the giving of the Mosaic teachings, YAHWEH gets far more specific in the details of His requirements. In part at least, this was due to the continuing rejection of His ways by His people. By writing the instructions in stone with His own finger YAHWEH made it very clear what He expected.

Yet even in this we see the nation of Yisra’el rejecting His instructions very quickly. In some sense they did so even while He was still speaking to them. They stopped their ears and said, “Speak to us no more” We can’t stand it. Speak to Moshe instead.”

 Ex. 20:19  And they said to Moshe, 
You yourself  ta  speak with us  
and we will listen attentively, 
but let not The Elohim speak with us, 
lest we die.” 

If you read the whole story you’ll see they very quickly abandoned His teachings in favor of their worldly ways, their traditions. They blended their traditions, learned in Egypt, with the “new word” from YAHWEH. The result was a polluted worship process that denied YAHWEH His rightful place in their lives. More than once He almost destroyed them totally in the Wilderness of Sin for their rejection of His Word in favor of their traditions.

This should be a powerful lesson for us. But we, like them, do not listen attentively to The Word of YAHWEH and seek to live according to it. No, we’re far more interested in living with our own traditions than we are in following His instructions. Just look at the corruptions involved in Christmas and Easter and you'll find two perfect examples of how we ignore His Word.

By the time The Messiah, YAHUSHUA (His name is NOT Jesus), came to live on the earth the traditions of men had completely taken over the religious processes of the day. Washing your hands before you ate was more important than honoring YAHWEH. Giving to the Temple priests was more important than taking care of your needy parents. Healing on any day but The Sabbath was more important than the issue of healing.

YAHUSHUA, The Messiah, spoke often about the need to do the will of YAHWEH. This involved loving YAHWEH above all else, and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. (Love in Hebrew culture meant loyalty, not “warm fuzzy feelings”.) It meant caring for those around you, not caring about foolish rules the religious leaders had established for you to follow. Those rules were not given by YAHWEH.

Before we look at some of those Scriptures look at this passage from Isaiah:

Is. 29:13 Therefore YAHWEH said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their reverence toward Me is taught by the precept of men: 14 therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the understanding of their prudent men will be hid.”

All you need to do is read The New Covenant accounts of The Messiah and His encounters with the religious leaders of the day to see how powerfully tradition had taken the place of The Word of YAHWEH. Below are some of the accounts of these things: 

Matt. 15:1-9 
Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Yerushalaim 
came to YAHUSHUA saying, 
“Why do Your students go contrary to the tradition of the elders? 
Indeed, they do not wash their hands when they eat food.”

Then He answered and said to them, 
“Why do you also go contrary to the instruction of YAHWEH 
because of your tradition?

Indeed, YAHWEH instructed saying, 
‘Honor your father and your mother’. 
(Ex. 20.12

He who curses father or mother, 
let him be put to death.’ 
(Ex. 21.17
But you say, 
‘Whoever may say to his father or mother,
“Whatever benefit you might have received from me 
is now a sacrifice to YAHWEH.”, 
then he need not honor his father or mother.’ 

Thus you have invalidated the instruction of YAHWEH 
by means of your tradition. 

Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you saying, 
‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, 
and honor Me with their lips, 
but their heart is far from Me. 
And in vain they worship Me, 
teaching as doctrines the instructions of men.’ “ 
(Is. 29.13

Mark 7:3 Indeed, the Pharisees 
and all the
religious Yisra’elites, 
unless they cleanse the hands thoroughly, do not eat, 
holding fast to the tradition of the elders.

Mark 7:5 After that the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him,
“Why do Your students not walk according to the tradition of the elders, 
but instead eat bread with unwashed hands?”

Mark 7:8-9  Indeed, 
abandoning the instruction of YAHWEH
you are holding fast to the tradition of human beings; 
the washing of pitchers and cups 
and many other similar things of this sort you do.” 

He said to them, “Very effectively you set aside the instruction of YAHWEH 
in order that you may protect your

Col. 2:8 Watch out - so that not anyone will lead you captive 
through philosophy and empty delusion,  (vain deceit) 
according to the tradition of men
according to the basic principles of the world, 
and not according to The Messiah,

Note: The translations above are from S4S, Scripture For Seekers

Somehow we seem to think we’re smarter, wiser, and better than the Yisra’elites were. We seem to have convinced ourselves, even through our own traditions, that we’re not guilty of these same gross misinterpretations of The Word of YAHWEH. Surely we’d never do what the scribes, Pharisees and lawyers did in those days.

But, alas, we are indeed just as guilty as they were. We’ve allowed our own traditions to cloud our judgment just as they did. We’ve allowed our traditions to modify our obedience to The Word of YAHWEH. We’ve put our own “spin” upon Scripture to satisfy our own interests, and justify our own actions.

If The Messiah were to come to earth today to live among us we’d would most certainly condemn Him and put him to death all over again – in order to maintain our traditions! We’d want no part of His Truth, because it would identify just how corrupt we’ve become in relation to The Word of YAHWEH.

Christmas is a prime example. Its roots are as pagan as you can get. It’s based on pagan winter solstice traditions. Here’s what Alexander Hislop wrote in the 1800’s in his book, The Two Babylons

"The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in pagan Rome and pagan Egypt. In Egypt that tree was the palm tree; in Rome it was the fir; the palm tree denoting the pagan Messiah. ... The mother of Adonis, the sun god and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have been changed into a tree, and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son. If the mother was a tree, the son must have been [recognized] as the "Man the branch." And this entirely accounts for the putting of the yule log into the fire on Christmas Eve, and the appearance of the Christmas tree the next morning. ... Therefore, the 25th of December, the day that was observed at Rome as the day when the victorious god reappeared on earth, was held at the Natalis invicti solis, "The birthday of the unconquered sun." Now the yule log is the dead stock of Nimrod, deified as the sun god, but cut down by his enemies; the Christmas tree is Nimrod redivivus ? the slain god come to life again."

Do a little research of your own on the traditions involved in the celebration of Christmas. Most of them come straight out of paganism. 

We give gifts to each other, and expect them for ourselves. Few present gifts to The Messiah. Where did that tradition come from? Billions of dollars are wasted each year on these traditions of men. Santa Claus gets far greater attention than YAHUSHUA (Jesus), or YAHWEH who sent The Messiah into the world for our redemption. And the gifts come from “Santa”, not from “YAHWEH”.

The gift process itself is very misdirected, typically motivated more by tradition than by any real sense of love and concern for others. The debt created often causes very real problems for many. Feasting, partying, drinking – they’re all part of the big celebration. Yet precious little activity of the holidays has one single thing to do with The Messiah and His coming to earth.

The historical record that shows The Messiah, YAHUSHUA (Jesus), was born at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, in the early fall (Late September to early October), not in December. So I must ask, "How are we honoring YAHWEH and His Messiah with our perverted celebrations of 'Christmas'?"

Easter is a term brought to us by the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. Easter eggs, bunnies, sunrise services patterned after the worship of the sun god, new clothes to impress our neighbors, gifts to one another, Easter-egg hunts honoring the goddess of fertility, ham dinners that feature meat that was unclean for YAHWEH's chosen ones – all this is what our "traditions" have done to one of the most sacred festivals YAHWEH established for His people, Passover.

Passover, Pesach in Hebrew, is a wondrous story of sacrifice and deliverance. It’s the foundational story of our faith. The Son of YAHWEH came to earth to give his very life as The Lamb of YAHWEH to deliver us from the bondage we live in. Without the resurrection of The Messiah we have no hope whatsoever. We are condemned to suffer the consequences of our rejection of the sovereignty of YAHWEH in our lives. Yet our traditions have turned it into yet another time of self-indulgence and perversity.

We've swallowed up The Word of YAHWEH with the traditions of men. We’ve buried it under selfishness, greed, pride and arrogance - and ignorance. No wonder YAHUSHUA called the scribes (recorders of religious traditions of men) and Pharisees (promoters of religious traditions or men) hypocrites, serpents, vipers, fools, blind guides. They corrupted The Word of YAHWEH, making the traditions of men far more important than The Word and the intentions of YAHWEH, the God of all creation, the God of Yisra’el.

It’s time to return to YAHWEH
- with our whole heart and mind and
inner essence and strength.
It’s time to honor His Word, - not men’s traditions.
It’s time to learn what it really says,
- and to live according to those words.
It’s time to abolish the traditions of men that have corrupted The Word of
It’s time to re-establish the Word and the ways of
in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. 

YAHUSHUA, The Messiah, spoke strongly against the abuse of the traditions of men. The scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees had added major rules and regulations to The Torah (YAHWEH’s Word). Many things they taught as part of these traditions actually violated YAHWEH’s Word. They added requirements for the common people that were extremely difficult to bear.

And these religious leaders refused to do the very things they taught the people they must do in order to be acceptable to YAHWEH. The Messiah, YAHUSHUA, spoke the following words to these groups. It’s worth reading several times so you get the sense of what was wrong with these traditions, and an appreciation of just how upset He was over this abuse of The Word of YAHWEH.

Matt. 23:13 – 24.1 
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! 
because you shut up The Kingdom of The Heavens In front of persons. 
Indeed, you neither enter yourselves, 
nor do you allow those who are entering to enter.  

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! 
because you devour widows’ houses, 
and for a pretense make long prayers. 
Because of this you will receive much greater condemnation. 

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! 
because you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, 
and when he becomes one you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. 

Woe to you blind leaders who say, 
‘Whoever swears by The Temple, it is nothing, 
but whoever swears by the gold of The Temple, he is under obligation.’
Fools and blind! 
Indeed, which is greater, the gold, 
or The Temple that sanctifies the gold?
And, ‘Whoever swears by the slaughter site, it is nothing, 
but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obligated.’ 
Fools and blind! 
Indeed, which is greater, the gift 
or the slaughter site that sanctifies the gift? 

Therefore, he who swears by the slaughter site 
swears by it and by all things on it.
He who swears by The Temple 
swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. 
And he who swears by The Heaven 
swears by the throne of The Elohim 
and by Him who sits on it. 

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! 
because you tithe mint and anise and cummin, 
yet have set aside the weightier matters of The Torah; 
justice and compassion and trust. 
These you ought to do without setting aside the others.  

Blind leaders 
who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!  

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! 
because you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, 
but inside they are filled with extortion and self-indulgence.  

Blind Pharisee! 
First cleanse the inside of the cup and dish 
in order that the outside of them may be clean also. 

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! 
because you resemble white-washed tombs 
which indeed appear beautiful outside, 
but inside are full of bones of the dead and every impurity.

Contact with anything dead made one "unclean", defiled  under The Torah.

Even so you also indeed appear just outside to human beings 
but inside you are full of hypocrisy and violations of Torah.

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! 
because you build the tombs of the prophets 
and decorate the monuments of the innocent, and say
If we had lived in the days of our fathers 
we would not have been partakers with them 
in the blood of the prophets.’

Therefore, you are witnesses against yourselves, 
that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 
You fill up then the measure of your fathers’ guilt!  

Offspring of poisonous snakes! 
How can you escape the condemnation of hell?

Because of this, behold! 
I send you prophets, and wise men, and scribes.
Some of them you will kill and crucify, 
and some of them you will scourge in your assemblies 
and will persecute from city to city, 
so that upon you may come
all the innocent blood shed upon the earth,
from the blood of innocent Abel 
to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah,
whom you murdered between The Temple and the slaughter site. 

Assuredly I say to you, 
all these things will come upon this generation.  

Yerushalaim! Yerushalaim
Who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to her! 
How often I desired to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, 
but you were not willing!

Behold! Your house is left to you desolate! 

Indeed, I say to you, you will see Me no more until you say, 
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of YAHWEH!’ ” 
                        (Ps. 118.26)

Then YAHUSHUA went out and went away from The Temple.    

Surely you get the picture. The Son of YAHWEH did not take kindly to those who had added their own traditions to the Word of His Father. He rebuked them sharply for doing so. His words could well be applied to the religious leaders of our day as well.

In Titus we’re warned about those who abuse The Word of YAHWEH for their own selfish purposes. They were to be reproved sharply. And we are instructed to not pay attention to Jewish" myths and precepts of men. We would do well to avoid these “old wives tales” and human traditions that have little or nothing to do with honoring YAHWEH and His Son, YAHUSHUA. 

Titus 1:10 – 2.1

Indeed, there are many insubordinate,
and idle talkers, and deceivers, 
especially those of the circumcision, 
whose mouths must be silenced; 
who subvert whole households, 
teaching things which they ought not 
for the sake of dishonest gain. 

One of them, a prophet of their own said, 
“Cretans are always liars, 
harmful beasts, lazy gluttons.” 
This testimony is true. 
For this cause rebuke them sharply, 
so that they may be sound in the faith, 
not paying attention to Yisrae’lite myths 
and precepts of men who turn away from the truth. 

Indeed, on the one hand, 
to the pure all things are pure; 
but on the other hand, 
to those being defiled and disbelieving 
not one thing is pure.
Indeed, even their mind and conscience are defiled.

They profess to know YAHWEH 
yet by works they deny Him, 
being detestable, and disobedient,
and disqualified for every good work.

But you are to speak the things which are appropriate 
to sound instruction.  (not corrupt)

The following passage from 1 Peter refers to these things as “the useless way of life handed down from your fathers”. 

1Pet. 1:17-21 
And if you are calling on The Father, 
who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, 
pass the time of your foreign residence (sojourning) in reverence, 
understanding that you have not been ransomed (redeemed) 
with corruptible things, by silver or gold, 
from your profitless behavior, by traditionalism, 
but instead you have been ransomed  
with the costly blood of The Messiah, 
as of a lamb without a flaw  (blemish) 
and without a spot;  (stain) 
Who truly was known beforehand,
before the foundation  (conception) of the world, 
but has been rendered apparent in these final times 
for the sake of you who through Him are trusting in
who has raised Him up from
being dead 
and has given Him honor 
so that your trust and expectation might be in

It’s time for the people of YAHWEH to return to YAHWEH.

It’s time for us, who claim we believe in Him and are seeking to be like Him to get serious about what we proclaim that we believe. We need to re-evaluate what we’ve been taught. We need to re-think what it means to follow the ways and The Word of YAHWEH. To do less than this is to make a mockery of our faith.

All of our professions of faith and faithfulness to “God” are meaningless unless we’re willing to live with His Word as the priority in our lives, and not "the traditions of men."

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May YAHWEH speak to your heart and bless you with understanding as you explore His Word.