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Tradition Defiles Scripture

Alfred Edersheim wrote a major life of Christ called "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah." Edersheim's Jewish heritage gave him interesting insights into many of the beliefs and ways of life during the time of Christ. In his book (Vol.11, p.12), he wrote of the Jewish traditions concerning the defilement of hands and the accusation that Jesus did not keep these traditions (as recorded in Mark 7:1-9).

According to Edersheim, one of the Jewish traditional decrees from before the time of Christ taught that "the Roll of the Pentateuch in the Temple defiled all kinds of meat that touched it. The alleged reason for this decree was, that the priests were wont to keep the 'Terumah' (preserved first-fruits) close to the Roll of the Law, on which account the latter was injured by mice. The Rabbinic ordinance was intended to avert this danger. To increase this precaution, it was next laid down as a principle, that all that renders the 'Terumah' unfit, also defiles the hands. Hence, the Holy Scriptures defiled not only the food but the hands that touched them, and this not merely in the Temple, but anywhere, while it was also explained that the Holy Scriptures included the whole of the inspired writings."

Thus, by the eternally extended logic of tradition, the Scriptures themselves (the source of cleansing in this world - Psalm 119:9; John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26) came to be looked on as a source of defilement. This is a vivid illustration of the declaration of Christ: "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition" (Matthew 15:6). We must always be careful as to where our logical connections and traditional 'facts' are leading us.