Oral Law


I would like to know why the Catholic Church chose to imitate the Pharisees, who claimed an Oral Law passed down from Moses gave them exclusive knowledge about following God, in claiming an Oral Law passed down from the Apostles gave exclusive knowledge about following God.


Before the OT was written, how was teaching passed down?

The problem with the Pharasies was placing the law above God. They also created (t)raditions that were actually opposed to the Law. Things like if you pay the temple, you can get out of your obligation to helping a widow.

Notice though, Jesus did NOT criticize the Pharasies for in their teaching of the law, he criticized them for the hypocrisies. He even went so far as to say do as they say, but do not do as they do indicating that the pharacies DID have authority, and that it was an authority given to them by God.

Notice also, John says the not all of what Jesus said and taught is held with in the written word.

We are also told to obey that which receive by letter, and by word of mouth. Some translate this to obey scripture AND (T)radition.

God never limited himself to the written word. There is no indication in scripture he ever even intended to.

I guess a follow up question for you would just be why do you think God IS limited to the written word?

He used a Visible ‘church’ and group of elders in the OT. There is even an event that took place in Moses time about a group of people that thought God should talk to all, and there is no need for elders, not just a small group of priests… much as many protestants say today. This infuriated God in their arrogance and he smote them down.

Why would he not continue what he already start? Doesn’t he finish all good things that he starts?

In Christ


Well, before getting into the rest of it, I have to disagree about the Pharisees not being criticized for their teaching of the Law. Jesus did criticize them for it.

Matthew 16:11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.


Jesus also criticized them for false commandments and traditions that did not agree with God’s Word:

Matthew 15:3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Right there in that passage Jesus condemns the Pharisees for their “commandments”, their “doctrines”, and their “tradition”.


AS mentioned, they were hypocrites. I don’t argue that… Notice though i spoke specifically about the Law as handed down by God. I am not talking about the (l)aws they created… this is the leaven spoke of.

I do not argue they added to the law for their own benefit, but I also mentioned that they were criticized by this adding onto the law. This is what is being referred to in your passages

They were wrong, and Jesus rightly criticized them for it… But as mentioned, he also says, with respect to the Law, do as they say, not as they do…

If your passage is right, then we have a situation were Jesus misspoke as the two meanings would be opposite…


he could be referring to the extra junk they started teaching

In Christ


You mean this passage?

Matthew 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

You’re right, it does seem to be conflicting. However, Jesus never says here that the Pharisees are right in their commandments or laws. He simply says to observe and obey them.

Likewise we are commanded to obey authorities and those that have the rule over us, even when they may be doing or commanding unjustly.

1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

Matthew 17:26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

When Paul was unjustly beaten at the order of a Pharisee, he first pronounced God’s judgment, but then apologized upon realizing the priest was in authority… not because the priest’s actions were any less evil, but simply because he was in authority.

Acts 23:3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?
4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?
5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

Paul did not obey the leader because he was right, but simply because he was the leader of the people.

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?
5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

Obviously rulers can abuse their power and position. But we are still commanded to be in obedience, returning good for evil, because of their authority.

I see it the same with the Pharisees. Jesus commanded the disciples to obey them not because their commandments were right, but simply because of their status as leaders of the Jewish people.

Likewise, we are commanded to obey all rulers. The disciples were commanded specifically to obey the Pharisees simply because they were the rulers of the Jewish people, of which the disciples were a part of.


This also is why the Bible has been accused of supporting slavery, because it tells slaves to be in obedience to their masters. The confusion comes in thinking this means that the masters are right.

But the Bible tells us to obey all who have the rule over us simply because God has put them in authority, and if they do wrong to make them realize it by doing good peacefully.

The Bible obviously does not condone slavery, for it says in Christ there is neither slave or free, but all are one before Him. In the letter to Philemon Paul calls upon the slaveholder to free his slave and treat him as a brother, even offering to pay the slaveholder anything the slave owes him, but sends the slave back not because the master is right, but because of this principle of God-given authority.


There are a few key points I would like to mentioned about the logic put forth…

If it is to mean exactly as you say, that I am to obey them simply because they are leaders, then what if they told me to sin? Am I still to obey them? This then creates a logic problem if (1) we were told to obey them, and (2) we are being told their teaching is wrong…

First, this would mean that God is asking us to follow a wrong teaching. I understand your comparison between Slaves obeying masters and this, but, would God actually tell us to follow someone in matters of Him of they were wrong? This would mean he is effectively saying you must follow my teachings, but you must also obey the church leaders, by the way the church leaders are wrong about my teachings, but you need to follow them any way.

Makes no sense because god would be telling us to follow teachings about him that are not true.

However, if, as scripture frequently mentions, The Elders were right when it came to the Law, but wrong about living it themselves, and thus become hypocrites, then these passages would make sense. It would mean “Listen to what they say about me and my law, but don’t follow their example”

In Christ


The logic is very simple. Even if what they are telling us is unjust we are to obey them because they are in authority… so long as what they tell us doesn’t contradict God’s commandments as presented in the Bible.

After all, if it is an issue of obeying God or men, we are called to obey God every time.

This is the reason the apostles gave for continuing to teach in the name of Jesus when the high priest and council told them not to:

Acts 4:18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

Acts 5:28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.
29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.


Even if what they are telling us is unjust we are to obey them because they are in authority… so long as what they tell us doesn’t contradict God’s commandments as presented in the Bible.

And that is the key issue right there…

If a slave owner tells you something unjust and you are forced to follow, then it has no effect (more than likely) on your eternal soul…

However, it is a completely different animal when talking about the Elders. Here, everything they say and teach can either be for, or contradict God. Thats their Job. to teach about god. If they say something that contradicts God, yet I am to obey as you suggest, I end up in a state of possibly severe sin.

Thats why it is not the same as mentioned… The very statement i quoted from you means you acknowledge we are not to follow if it is against God. But we are told to follow the Teachers of the Temple…


They may have been wrong in how they did it themselves, BUT what they taught about the (L)aw was right. Otherwise we would be told to follow sin…

Something god would Never do…

(won’t be back probably today to post, so if you respond, it may be tomorrow before I get back to you)

IN Christ


The two words I do not understand are “oral” and “exclusive.” There is nothing exclusive in Catholic traditions as most of them are practiced by at least one other denominations and they are open to all. Also, they were not passed on orally. The life of Christ as contained in the Bible was passed around orally for a while. Is this what you refer to?


But I am not saying to believe their teachings. Simply to obey what tasks they order.

I might not like obeying parents, for example, if they want me to do something there seems no good reason for, but I realize now I should do it anyway.

I don’t have to accept the reason or teaching as right, I just have to complete the task. I think that’s what the apostles were told to do, to observe and complete the tasks the Pharisees put them to, so long as those did not conflict with God’s commands, while still being wary of their doctrine and teachings.

I do not believe what the Pharisees taught about the Law was right, or Jesus would not have called them blind leaders of the blind and stood against them so much.

Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Matthew 15:14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

John 5:45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

Jesus specifically said the Pharisees were incapable of speaking good things because they were evil and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks:

Matthew 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

Therefore, how could the teaching of the Pharisees be right if their hearts were wrong? How could their teaching be right when they were evil?

Luke 6:43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.


Some examples where the Pharisees taught wrongly about the Law:


Matthew 19:7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Honoring Parents

Mark 7:10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.


Mark 7:2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Matthew 15:17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.


Acts 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Working On The Sabbath

Matthew 12:1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

Healing On The Sabbath

Matthew 12:10 And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.
11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.


Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!
17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?
20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.
21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.
22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.


Can you please explain what “exclusive knowledge” means?

Also, Sacred Tradition is not considered “law” in the way canon law is. Not sure how you are using this term here.

The Catholic church imitates Jesus, and Jesus practiced and taught from Sacred Tradition. The reason this is offensive is that you are misattributing the source of the practice. It makes it seem like you are deliberately anticatholic. However, I am prepared to accept that you are ignorant, and maybe don’t know that Jesus believed, practiced, and taught this way.


More examples (it seems harder to find an issue of the Law they were right on, then ones they were wrong on):

Punishing By The Law

John 8:5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

Casting Out Devils

Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:
26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?
27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.

Fellowship With Sinners**

Mark 2:16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.


Mark 2:18 And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?
19 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.
20 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
21 No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.
22 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.
23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.


Luke 19:39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.


This answers one of my questions above. It appears you are making no distinction between the traditions of the Pharisees (doctrines of men) and the Sacred Oral Tradition. All Sacred Oral Traditions are consistent with the written word. The catholic church also has disciplines and practices that are not found in scripture that are called tradition (with a small “t”) and are equivalent to customs or practices. These types of traditions are not at all limited to Catholics, as all religious groups have these.

So, can we focus this discussion on one or the other?


At any rate, the teachings, doctrine, and commandments of the Pharisees are all said to be wrong. Jesus clearly condemned all types of teachings, commandments, and traditions of theirs as wrong, in numerous areas crucial to following God.

My question to you is, what doctrines or traditions of the Pharisees that the New Testament mentions do you believe were right according to their Oral Law?


Well, clearly they did not teach everything right. However, their disobedience does not nullify the Word of God. His Word does not go out void, but accomplishes the purpose to which it is sent. Not all of what they taught was the Word, and that is what Jesus criticized.

Nevertheless, they were the custodians, and they were the teachers of Israel.


It is necessary to cite your source here.

This is not a good example. The Pharisees taught what they had from Moses, which was their charge. Jesus changed what Moses gave. It is not right to criticize them for teaching what they received. In fact, they were teaching exactly what Moses gave them!

This is a better example, because it is about how they changed what Moses gave them.

It clearly states here that this is a tradition of the Elders (custom) and not the Law of Moses. Therefore, this is not a good example of the Pharisees distorting the Law of Moses.

Working On The Sabbath

Matthew 12:1 7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

This is only a partial example, since the Sabbath laws were very strict. The problem was not so much that they were applied but the spirit in which it was done. They had lost sight of the purpose of the Sabbath. Their bigger fault was not accepting Jesus’ correcting them about how to honor the Sabbath.

I don’t think this is a very good example either. Obviously, getting an animal out of a well is a lot of work, and work is forbidden on the sabbath. Jesus is giving new teaching here, and trying to help them understand better the meaning of the sabbath. They were acting in accordance with the revelation they had, which was incomplete. Their fault was not accepting Jesus’ Light shed on the matter.

Again, this is not a teaching against an oath, but the spirit in which it was done. They had become so legalistic that they had lost sight of what was holy. There is nothing wrong with an oath, in and of itself. In fact, we see Paul in the book of Acts taking an oath.


Very true, and that is why Jesus criticized them so much. Those with greater authority are also even more accountable to God.

James 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

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