Jesus and The Tradition of the Elders – Beresford Job

The tradition of the Elders. Have you heard of it? Perhaps you have come across it in the bible and have wondered about it.

Mat 15:1  Then there come to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying,
Mat 15:2  Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
Mat 15:3  And he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?

What I have learnt so far from the book that I am reading called “Biblical Church – A challenge to unscriptural traditions and practice” by Beresford Job is really, really interesting.

In his first chapter called “The Tradition of the elders – God-ordained vs. Man-made Traditions” he explains the difference between the Mosaic Law and the Oral Law. The Mosaic Law was handed down to Moses directly by God on the Mount and the Oral Law was put in place by man as a protector of the Mosaic Law (the Pharisaic law, or the laws of the fence or hedge as it is known).

The Fence (Oral Law or secondary law) was originally constructed as some sort of defence so that if you broke the fence laws you would be pulled up short by them before you went any further and break any of the actual Mosaic Laws.

In the early days (OT) everyone understood that these fence laws were not divinely inspired at all. But by the time Jesus entered into history  a religious system had developed that acknowledged the divine authority in not only the Mosaic Law but the Oral Law which is called the “Tradition of the Elders”.  The Pharisees and Scribes at the time of Jesus believed that the Oral Law was given by God to Moses along with the Mosaic Law and was therefore a divine commandment. During Jesus’ time there was Pharisaic Judaism that was based on the Oral Law.

This chapter points out very clearly the difference between the Mosaic Law and the Oral Law. It shows how the Oral Law is problematic and how it has added to the Commandments of God. I am reminded of the verse…

Mat 15:9  But in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”


In the Chapter 2 “Jesus and the Tradition of the Elders” it speaks about how Jesus dealt with the expectations of the Pharisees and Scribes. It was expected by this group of people that there would be “Three Messianic Miracles” These three are:

Sometime prior to the coming of Yeshua (Jesus), the Rabbis divided miracles into two separate categories: those that anyone could perform if empowered to do so and those reserved only to Messiah. As Yeshua performed both types of miracles during His First Coming, There are three main miracles that would help the Jewish people recognize who the Messiah is when he came. There are three main miracles that were reserved for the Messiah that would help the Jewish people recognize who the Messiah is when he came.

1) The first Messianic miracle was the healing of a leper. The Mosaic Law, stated a person could only be defiled by a living human body by touching a leper. One was called ceremonially unclean or defiled, by touching a dead human body, a dead animal body, or a live, unclean animal body, such as a pig. under the Mosaic Law, their was only one type of living human that could possibly cause defilement, that was a leper. Mk.1:40-45 records Jesus’ first description of a healing miracle. Leprosy affected everything they were considered unclean and it was associated with sin. One could not come in contact with people who were afflicted they needed to stand down wind and if a leper were coming near they needed to cry out unclean. When Jesus came, he knelt and asked if he is willing, which of course he was… there was no healing of a Jewish leper- from the time of Moses and the completing of the Mosaic law no leper had been healed in Israel. This would include Mariam who was healed of leprosy  (Num 12:10-) before the the Mosaic Law was completed and Naaman who was not a Jew (2 Kings 5:1-; Mt.8:2-4; Lk.5:12-16; Mk.1:40-45).  The Scripture makes it clear that only God can heal a leper. Jesus healed the lepers.

2) Healing and casting out a dumb demon- This miracle only the messiah could perform. The Pharisees recognized this as a messianic miracle, this is why they asked could this be the son of David. At the time their were exorcisms performed within Judaism. For this to be accomplished the exorcist needed to communicate with the demon and then force him to tell them his name (as Jesus did with the demoniac). However in this case where someone was affected by the demon to become dumb this exorcism could not take place because there could be no communication made. According to the Rabbis only the messiah could cast out a demon like this.

3) the healing of a blind man Jn.9:1-32 Jesus broke the tradition of the elders (Mishnaic law) which prohibited the healing of the blind by his putting mud and water in the blind mans eyes which was to the Pharisee’s unclean. Only the messiah could heal someone that was blind from birth.

These miracles started a chain of events that the Pharisees and Scribes had to follow. Investigations had to be initiated. The first stage was purely of observation, and a delegation of leaders would be dispatched to the miracle maker and they observed for a period of seven days. During this time they were not permitted to ask questions or raise objections. The second stage was implemented once they had all agreed that a miracle had indeed taken place. This second stage involved sending out a second delegation but the object now was to ask questions and raise objections in order to ascertain whether or not the Messiah had indeed appeared. Obviously we all know that Jesus according to the gospels had indeed fulfilled the “Three Messianic Miracles”. And this set off an event that is also documented. The clash between the Pharisees, Scribes and Jesus the Messiah.


Chapter 3 “Jesus’ Campaign against the Tradition of the Elders”.

This chapter outlines how Jesus did not accept the Pharisaic Law and that he actually hated it and pretty much declared open warfare on it by breaking as many laws as he could on any occasion that presented itself. It also explains how Jesus used the Pharisaic Law to His advantage as you will soon see.

I will just give you one example so that you can understand why Jesus did the things that He did. Concerning one of the Messianic Miracles Jesus made a very public statement about it.

The miracle of healing a blind man.

Joh 9:1  And as he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth.

Joh 9:6  When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed his eyes with the clay,
Joh 9:7  and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing.                                                                                  
Joh 9:14  Now it was the sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.

The Oral Law stipulates concerning healing a blind man on the Sabbath as such…

“To heal a blind man on the Sabbath it is prohibited to inject wine into his eyes. It is also prohibited to make mud from spittle and smear it on his eyes.” Shabbat 108: 20

There was a final insult, Jesus told the man to go to the pool of Siloam to wash. The pool of Siloam was the centre of attention and interest at that specific time during the Feast, and Jesus sends a man there to be healed in full view of all present; including, of course, the religious leaders whose job it was to enforce these laws he was so publicly breaking.

With all of what happened during the life of Jesus and with His many Messianic Miracles… His name was on everyone’s lips; Jesus performed ten consecutive miracles. In one tactically masterful act he commits the religious leaders to ten sets of initial investigations, ten sets of observation stages and ten sets of interrogation stages. In short he keeps them virtually glued to His side so they hear every word He speaks and see every action He performs. He turns the ‘tradition of the elders’ against its most ardent adherents and uses it to keep them as a captive audience to His ministry.

All this sets up the task of the next part of Job’s book: exposing “our very own Christian version of the tradition of the elders.” Clever hey?

So… there you have it. I have outlined 3 chapters of this most fascinating book. If you want to learn more or hear Beresford speak go HERE. Also from Job’s website you can learn more about the Tradition of the Elders HERE.

I hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I have enjoyed learning more about the times of which Jesus lived.


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