He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as was his custom. And he stood up to read . . . ~Luke 4:16

Jesus followed the tradition of his day, as illustrated by Luke; the synagogue tradition was not something that was described or prescribed in the Bible (Torah), instead this “tradition” most likely developed during the exilic period of Israel (i.e. when they no longer had their temple). The implication is that there is tradition that is good, but there is also tradition that is bad. In Mark 7 Jesus challenges the bad tradition of the Jewish religious system:

And he said to them: You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10. For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother, and, anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death. 11. But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12. then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that. ~Mark 7:9-13

Bad tradition needs to be challenged. Bad tradition is any tradition that nullifies the word of God. Here we see Jesus assuming the primacy of God’s Word as the standard for determining if tradition is good or bad. Rex Koivisto says:

Why would Jesus support and practice this tradition [the synagogue tradition], while rejecting other traditions (such as Corban)? Because the synagogue tradition did not detract from (“nullify”) the Word of God. Rather, it enhanced the place and teachings of the Word of God. It was the synagogue where the Scriptures were taught and applied most consistently and regularly. It was there that the covenant community of Israel kept itself nourished in matters of faith. But nonetheless the institution of the synagogue is a tradition unfounded in the Scriptures. And yet Jesus found it worthwhile. So, while Jesus vociferously rejected the Pharisaic tradition of Corban in Mark 7, He actively supported the tradition of the synagogue. Jesus supported some traditions and rejected others. [brackets mine] (Rex Koivisto, “One Lord, One Faith,” 140-41)

This should be the model for us, if we have tradition, in the church, and we do (whether we are Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, etc.), then we need to be about the business of discerning whether that tradition enhances the teaching of scripture, or nullifies it. If the latter, we need to challenge bad tradition, with scripture as the norming norm; but if the former, we should enjoy tradition that magnifies or exalts what God magnifies (i.e. His Son)–again with scripture as the norming norm. Jesus recognized scripture as the core of the core as determinative for discerning whether tradition is good or bad . . . so should we!

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