A reader writes:
What is the Korban Rule, and why does James White make such a big deal about it when he speaks of sola scriptura?
By the first century, a custom had arisen among Pharisees whereby sons would circumvent their obligation to care for their parents’ financial needs by consecrating to God the financial support that their parents otherwise would have received.
This came up in Mark chapter 7 when some Pharisees attacked the fact that Jesus’ disciples at with unwashed hands, contrary to the tradition of the Jewish elders.
Their having made tradition an issue, Jesus turned the subject around on them by pointing to their own misuse of tradition, and he cited the korban custom just mentioned, stating that it violated the Ten Commandments, which require us to honor our parents and, by implication, support them in their old age so that they do not become financially destitude (which was the fate of almost anybody back then whose children didn’t care for them once they could no longer work).
He therefore concluded that they were "making void the word of God through your tradition" (Mark 7:13) and stated "You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8).
I haven’t read or heard specifically what James White may have been doing with this passage, but it is a staple of Protestant anti-Catholic apologetics.
The reason is that in this passage Jesus sets the korban tradition in opposition to the word of God and this is frequently taken as an indicator that all tradition is opposed to the word of God or that there is a fundamental opposition between tradition and Scripture.
It is thus common to hear Protestant ministers and apologists waxing eloquent on this passage–and even getting emotionally worked up from the pulpit or behind the microphone about how horrible a thing it is to set tradition above the word of God–and how we must therefore cling to the precious principle of sola scriptura or "by Scripture only."
The problem, of course, is that this argument commits the logical fallacy of hasty generalization.
The fact that in this passage Jesus says that particular aspects of Pharisaical tradition are contrary to God’s word does not mean that all traditions are contrary to God’s word. Nor does it say that we must use Scripture only and not Tradition. The fact that one tradition or one set of traditions must be excluded does not mean that all traditions must be excluded.
This conclusion is made even more clear when one realizes that the New Testament praises other traditions, which are in harmony with God’s word.
Thus Paul tells the Corinthians, "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you" (1 Cor. 11:2), and he commands the Thessalonians, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess. 2:15). He even goes so far as to order, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us" (2 Thess. 3:6).
Paul also seeks to ensure that the apostolic traditions would be passed down after the deaths of the apostles, and he tells Timothy, "[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). In this passage he refers to the first four generations of apostolic succession—his own generation, Timothy’s generation, the generation Timothy will teach, and the generation they in turn will teach.
So from the perspective of the New Testament, Pharisaical tradition was unreliable and could be contrary to the word of God (not that it always was), while apostolic Tradition was normative and binding for Christians.
By the way, you may have some difficulty making some of these points to a Protestant who is using the New International Version. That translation displays a prominent bit of translator bias when it comes to rendering the term for "tradition" in the Greek text (paradosis). Whenever the term is used in conjunction with Jewish traditions, it renders the word "tradition(s)", but when it is used in connection with apostolic tradition (as in the passages above), it mistranslates the word as "teaching(s)." The net effect is to make tradition sound bad by hiding the positive references to it and using the word in passages where it is subject to critique.