Matthew 15:1-9 – Human Traditions


Matthew 15:1-9


As Jesus’ relationship with the scribes and the Pharisees deteriorates, he distances himself from their teachings on the importance of traditions.


One of the goals of the Pharisees was to help Jewish people bring their religious practices into their everyday lives. They believed that acts as simple as the preparing of meals could be a way to glorify God. As part of this practice, they developed the so-called “Oral Torah,” a set of teachings and traditions related to daily life. As this tradition developed, it was traced back to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. This Oral Torah brought the Pharisees and Jesus into conflict. In response to a question about washing hands before eating, Jesus rejects the Pharisees’ customs through an appeal to the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13).

While the Pharisees thought of the Oral Torah as in harmony with the scriptures, Jesus reads the scriptures against it. He takes special issue with a practice known as Corban (cf. Mark 7:11). This practice involved dedicating personal wealth to the service of the Temple. This dedication, however, restricted the use of this wealth in supporting the dedicator’s aging parents. By naming this practice as contrary to God’s word, Jesus takes a swipe at not only the Oral Torah but also the practice of supporting the Jerusalem Temple, both of which would have offended the scribes and the Pharisees.