Tradition in the New Testament and 2 Thess. 3:6

In this third of three related articles on Roman Catholic Tradition, we examine 2 Thess. 3:6.  The other two other articles cover 1 Cor. 11:2 and 2 Thess. 2:15.  The first part of each article is the same because it is relevant to each article.  To jump to the analysis of 2 Thess. 3:6, scroll down.

  • 2 Thess. 3:6, "We instruct you, brothers, in the name of (our) Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us.." (New American Bible, vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/__PZG.HTM)
  • 2 Thess. 3:6, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us."   (NASB)
  • 2 Thess. 3:6, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." (KJV)

Background information on the word "tradition" in the New Testament

The word "tradition" is  "παράδοσιν."  It occurs 13 times in the Greek New Testament.  The NASB has 13 occurrences of the word.  The NIV has 11 occurrences.  The KJV has 13.  Following is every occurrence of the word in the New Testament.

  1. Matt. 15:2, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
  2. Matt. 15:3, "And He answered and said to them, “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"
  3. Matt. 15:6, "he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition."
  4. Mark 7:3, "For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders."
  5. Mark 7:5, "And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, 'Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?'"
  6. Mark 7:8, "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."
  7. Mark 7:9, "He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition."
  8. Mark 7:13, "thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that."
  9. 1 Cor. 11:2, "Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you."
  10. Gal. 1:14, " and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions."
  11. Col. 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."
  12. 2 Thess 2:15, "so then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us."
  13. 2 Thess. 3:6, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us."

Of the 13 occurrences of the word "tradition" in the New Testament, one (Matt 15:3) is where the Pharisees ask Jesus why his disciples didn't follow the tradition of the elders.  One is a comment by Mark (Mark 7:3) of how the Pharisees washed before eating.  In each of the remaining accounts in Matthew and Mark (six occurrences), Jesus responds to the Pharisees by condemning them for their traditions (Matt 15:3, 6; Mark 7:5, 8, 9,13) and thus negating the word of God.  This is hugely important because Jesus is telling us that traditions are not to contradict God's word.

This leaves us with five other occurrences.  Of those, Gal. 1:14 is where Paul mentions his ancestral traditions.  He is not referring generically to the traditions of Israel but of the Pharisees. Col. 2:8 is speaking generically of the "traditions of men" as contrasted against the Gospel of Christ. 

This leaves us with three verses (1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Thess. 3:6) that use the word tradition, and it is from these three verses that the Roman Catholic Church attempts to support its view that the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church is to be followed.

2 Thess. 3:6

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us."

At the beginning of Chapter 3 (verses 1-2) Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray for him.  In verse 3 he says that the Lord is faithful. In verse 4 he says his confidence is in the Lord. In verse 5, he offers a blessing that the Thessalonians would love God.  Then in verse 6, the verse under discussion, we see a change of topic because Paul says "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us."  Paul then elaborates on what he meant by such tradition.  He goes on to say in verse 7 that the Thessalonians should follow his example because Paul did not act in an "undisciplined manner."  In verses 8-9 he speaks about how he worked day and night so as not to be a burden on them.  Then in verse 10 he writes that if someone would not work, neither should he eat. In verses 11-15, Paul admonishes the Thessalonians to work hard, not to be weary in well doing, and to avoid those who would refuse what he had written. 

Conclusion

The context shows us that the tradition Paul is speaking of is the tradition of working hard and not being idle.  This admonition is presumably related to what he wrote about in the preceding chapter (chapter 2) regarding the false teaching that Jesus had already returned.  People had probably decided to give up their livelihoods and stop working. Paul warns them not to do that. Instead, they are to keep the traditions that they have been taught, namely, to work hard and not be idle.

2 Thess. 3:6 has nothing to do with the "Sacred Tradition" claimed by the Roman Catholic Church.  It is about not being idle and failing to work.  But that hasn't stopped the Roman Catholic church from reading into the scripture the idea that "tradition" means apostolic pronouncements that were orally deposited to the Roman Catholic Church which then releases them over time.  They should stick with what the text actually says and not what it does not.

 

 

 

 
 
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