Orthodoxy is defined as “correct belief”. Something that is considered orthodox is an interpretation, an opinion, that in some way won out to be the predominant interpretation for a particular group. Every denomination and religious group has its own set of beliefs they consider to be orthodox. Oftentimes these sets of beliefs that each group considers to be orthodox run at odds with another group’s set of beliefs that the group considers to be orthodox. Over time orthodoxy becomes a tradition. That is, after all, the purpose of defining a particular interpretation as orthodox.

Yahushua on many occasions spoke against and taught against the traditions and orthodoxy of the Jews. At some point in time, the leaders of the Jews interpreted certain things in certain ways, and as leaders, they declared their interpretations to be the orthodox, or correct belief, that the laity should follow and believe as well. They truly thought their interpretation was the correct interpretation. The laity considered these leaders to be educated with at least some degree of wisdom. The majority of the laity simply accepted the interpretations of their leaders for various reasons. As a result, these interpretations of the Jewish leaders were accepted and declared to be the orthodox belief on a particular subject and soon became tradition.

Traditions are not inherently wrong in and of themselves and orthodoxy is simply a traditional way of thinking or interpreting something. The problem with orthodoxy arises first and foremost when an orthodox belief runs contrary to the teaching of scripture. Secondly, another problem with orthodoxy arises when certain people militantly and fanatically hold to the set of beliefs that they consider to be orthodox. These fanatics of orthodoxy, or traditional way of interpretation, will at the very least try in some way to convince others that their way of interpretation is the correct and only way. Sometimes even holding their particular orthodox belief to be more correct than what the scriptures teach.

These orthodox fanatics are rarely civilized during discussions or interactions involving what they consider to be orthodox. In the past, this breed of fanatics would go so far as to torture and even kill people who did not hold to their particular beliefs of interpretation or orthodoxy. This was the entire purpose behind the inquisition: to find those who did not fall in line with a particular group’s way of interpreting scripture.

Times have changed and laws have been passed, at least in most civilized countries, that prevent such fanatics from actually taking the lives of people they disagree with on interpretation, but this has not completely stopped them from continuing in a line of oppression. Now in the 21st century, instead of taking someone’s life for not falling in line with their interpretation, they do everything they can to take away a person’s livelihood, turn family and friends against each other, banish them from fellowship, or at the very least assume that their traditional way of interpretation is the actual way of salvation instead of the method of salvation found in scripture.

‘Yehuḏah, also, did not guard the commands of יהוה their Elohim, but walked in the laws of Yisra’ĕl which they made.’
Melaḵim Bĕt (2 Kings) 17:19

In the same way that the Jews of New Testament times persecuted the early Christians not for going against scripture, but going against the orthodoxy that the Jews had decided on and held to, so also today even Catholics and Protestants persecute their brothers and sisters for not falling in line with their own specific interpretations.

We read on several occasions in the New Testament where Yahushua came against the orthodoxy or traditions of the Jews. In Matthew 15 the Jewish scribes and Pharisees are coming against Yahushua and the disciples for not washing their hands before eating bread:

‘Then there came to יהושע scribes and Pharisees from Yerushalayim, saying, Why do Your taught ones transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’
Mattithyahu (Matthew) 15:1-2

These scribes and Pharisees are questioning Yahushua based on their own orthodoxy: their traditional interpretations and not scripture. The leaders of the Jews at that time had made it a ruling of orthodoxy that required people to wash their hands before eating bread.

“There are various customs regarding how the water should be poured, but a common practice is to pour twice on the right hand followed by twice on the left (this is reversed for those who are left-handed). Hasidic custom is to pour three times on each hand.”
Ritual Hand Washing Before Meals

The Jews actually considered this to be a commandment from Yahuweh:

“Rav Idi bar Avin says that Rav Yitzḥak bar Ashyan says: The first waters, i.e., washing of the hands before eating bread, are a mitzva [commandment] by rabbinic law, but the final waters, washing of the hands upon conclusion of the meal and before reciting Grace after Meals, are an obligation, a more stringent requirement.”
Chullin 105a
The William Davidson Talmud(Koren – Steinsaltz)

The Jews even went so far as to create a prayer/blessing just for hand washing:

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments, and commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.”
Ritual Hand Washing Before Meals

However, this flies in the face with the first problem with orthodoxy: it runs contrary to the teachings of scripture. This is no commandment in scripture telling us to wash our hands. Granted, it is a good idea to wash your hands before eating and modern civilizations understand this now. But the fact of the matter is that scripture does not command us to wash our hands. Furthermore, by stating that this hand washing is a commandment, the Jews are ADDING to scripture, something that scripture tells us not to do.

The sages of Judaism created this tradition, this orthodoxy, based on Exodus 30:17-21:

“’And יהוה spoke to Mosheh, saying, “And you shall make a basin of bronze, with its stand also of bronze, for washing. And you shall put it between the Tent of Appointment and the slaughter-place, and shall put water in it. “And Aharon and his sons shall wash from it their hands and their feet. “When they go into the Tent of Appointment, or when they come near the slaughter-place to attend, to burn an offering made by fire to יהוה, they wash with water, lest they die. “And they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a law forever to them, to him and his seed throughout their generations.”’
Shemoth (Exodus) 30:17-21

However as you noticed, this command in the scriptures is for the priests when they go into the tabernacle/temple and not for everyone in general. This tradition/orthodoxy of the Jews also flies in the face of the second problem with orthodoxy: people militantly and fanatically holding to a set of beliefs that they consider to be orthodox. We saw in Matthew 15 where the Jewish scribes and Pharisees came against Yahushua and the disciples claiming that Yahushua had transgressed the traditions/orthodoxy of the elders, insinuating that they had sinned. One rabbi even stated that eating bread without washing your hands is equivalent to consorting with a prostitute:

“Rav Avira interpreted a verse homiletically; there were times he said this interpretation in the name of Rabbi Ami and there were times he said it in the name of Rabbi Asi: Concerning anyone who eats bread without washing his hands, it is as if he engaged in sexual intercourse with a prostitute, as it is stated: “For on account of a harlot a man is brought to a loaf of bread.”
Sotah 4b
The William Davidson Talmud(Koren – Steinsaltz)

And this hand washing tradition/orthodoxy is just one example among many when it comes to Judaism. Likewise, Catholics and Protestants also run into these problems with the orthodoxy that they create. For example, we see from scripture:

“And the children of Yisra’ĕl shall guard the Sabbath, to perform the Sabbath throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant. ‘Between Me and the children of Yisra’ĕl it is a sign forever. For in six days יהוה made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.”
Shemoth (Exodus) 31:16-17

Here we can see scripture commanding us to keep the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, FOREVER as an EVERLASTING covenant. But the Catholic church thought themselves to have the authority to be able to change the day of the sabbath:

“Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.”

Like we have seen before, this orthodoxy of the Catholic church flies in the face of the clear teaching of scripture. Scripture states that the seventh day Sabbath would be forever, but the Catholic church contradicted scripture thinking they had the ability and authority to change the Sabbath to Sunday. Sadly, most protestants have retained and adopted this false orthodoxy of the Catholic church. And like with the example above with the Jews, this is just one among many incorrect orthodoxies of the Catholics and the Protestants.

An additional context with Catholics and Protestants is salvation through Yahushua. Since Judaism rejects Messiah Yahushua, they do not have this particular aspect with regard to their orthodoxy. But Catholics and Protestants will sometimes even declare that a person does not have salvation unless that person holds to the interpretations/orthodoxy of the church. This flies in the face of scripture. At the very least this adds to scripture, but more realistically this contradicts scripture.

“That if you confess with your mouth the Master יהושע and believe in your heart that Elohim has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, and so is saved.”
Romiyim (Romans) 10:9-10

We can plainly see from scripture that salvation does not come from the orthodoxy of a particular organized group and the people who claim that another person is not saved for not following their particular interpretation/orthodoxy is contradicting and replacing scripture. That is something that is a grievous offense to the word of God.

Even though it is sad to see Catholics contradicting scripture with the orthodoxy that they create, it gets even sadder when we realize that protestants adopt these same contradictory orthodoxies as their own. Protestants claim to have broken away from the Catholic church with the Protestant reformation, but in reality, much of Catholicism remains within Protestantism. The Catholic orthodoxy of Sunday sabbath is just one of them. It even got so bad that the protestant John Calvin established an oppressive protestant regime in Geneva, Switzerland. Here in Calvin’s Geneva, church attendance on Sunday was compulsory.

“In Calvin’s Orwellian theocracy, established in 1542, acts of God—earthquakes, lightning, flooding—were acts of Satan. (Luther, of course, agreed.) Copernicus was branded a fraud, attendance at church and sermons was compulsory, and Calvin himself preached at great length three or four times a week. Refusal to take the Eucharist was a crime.”
Dr. Stephen Hicks
John Calvin’s Geneva

Calvin’s regime went much further than compelling people to attend church. In one instance a man created a poster accusing Calvin of hypocrisy. As a result, the man was arrested, tortured, and beheaded. All of this happened at the same time as the Catholic Inquisition: the Catholic’s violent, militant campaign designed not to ensure people follow scripture, but rather that people followed Catholic orthodoxy. Much of which remains as Protestant orthodoxy.

Another Catholic-created orthodoxy that went so far as to murder people for not following is the belief that God almighty has multiple personality disorder. And again Protestants did not break from Catholic guidance on this towards a more biblical view, but rather they adopted this Catholic orthodoxy as their own orthodoxy. Calvin was no different on this point either. John Calvin even had Michael Servetus executed regarding this point of Catholic orthodoxy.

The unfortunate reality is that this way of thinking and adherence to Catholic orthodoxy persists amongst protestants even to this day. Nowadays Catholics and Protestants are restrained by law in most countries from killing people who do not follow a particular group’s orthodoxy, but this has not stopped the fanatics of orthodoxy from oppressing non-adherents, even going so far as to assume the authority to determine salvation based on their personal orthodoxy instead of scripture.

And it is this fanatical adherence to orthodoxy, a particular group’s set of interpretations, over and above and even sometimes contradictory to scripture that destroys the brotherhood of believers and tarnishes the reputation of the church. It is this fanatical adherence to orthodoxy that is one of the main reasons for divisions within the church.

There are clear, undeniable things that scripture teaches. For instance, we saw from Exodus 31:16-17 that the seventh day sabbath is forever, an everlasting covenant, meaning that it cannot be changed. However, some groups may believe, for whatever reason, that the sabbath has in some way for some reason been changed. This is not a salvation issue though and therefore rejecting those who believe differently, or hold to a different orthodoxy/interpretation, is unbiblical and un-Christ-like. There are many  beliefs or orthodoxies that exist nowadays that are not clearly and distinctly spelled out in scripture and most, if not all, of these are not matters of salvation. We can clearly see from scripture what the bible says about the orthodoxy of salvation and for anyone who is a bible believing, christ following brother or sister should follow the orthodoxy of the bible and not the orthodoxy of a particular group of men.

“That if you confess with your mouth the Master יהושע and believe in your heart that Elohim has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, and so is saved.”
Romiyim (Romans) 10:9-10

Looking at the life and teachings of our Messiah Yahushua we can gain insight into following a particular group’s orthodoxy and oppressing those who do not follow that groups interpretations/orthodoxy. As we saw in Matthew 15 the Jewish scribes and Pharisees were coming against Yahushua and the disciples for not falling in line with Jewish orthodoxy. In response Yahushua did not burn anyone at the stake or behead anyone. Instead, He responded appropriately with words, and facts from scripture that exposed the orthodoxy the Jews were holding to. As we read through the life of Yahushua in scripture, we see that this is how He always responded to the Jews when they tried to enforce their orthodoxy and this is our example for how to respond to others in our lives.

When a particular group who holds to a different interpretation/orthodoxy than us comes at odds with our interpretation/orthodoxy, our response should imitate that of the response of Yahushua. We should answer with facts and scripture instead of oppression, hate, and the false assumption that we can determine salvation based on our own orthodoxy/interpretation. We should not be afraid to question and examine our own orthodoxies from time to time and civilized discussions with facts and scripture could even help to shine some light on what we ourselves hold to, further expanding our understanding, knowledge, and wisdom.

So in conclusion, let us learn from the atrocities of the past when some held their interpretations or orthodoxies over and above scripture even to the point of oppressing and murdering their brothers and sisters. Let us not repeat these atrocities of orthodoxy from the past, but instead let us learn from Yahushua and imitate the response that He had when faced with those who held to a different orthodoxy. Yahushua did not murder anyone for holding to a different orthodoxy/interpretation. He did not slander them, destroy their livelihood, banish them, or try and turn their friends and family against them. Instead, He only responded in a civilized manner with facts, evidence, and scripture and sometimes speaking in parables. It will only be on judgment day when Yahushua judges the world for issues and orthodoxy based on salvation and reward each according to his works (Ḥazon (Revelation) 22:12, Mattithyahu (Matthew) 16:27, Yoḥanan (John) 5:28-29, etc).

It is not our responsibility or position to judge the salvation of our brothers and sisters. That belongs to Yahushua alone. Neither is it time for that yet as judgment day is not yet upon us. Until then and until it is Yahushua judging our salvation, let us instead respond to each other and our differing orthodoxies/interpretations with facts, evidence, scripture, truth, brotherly love, tact, and in a civilized Christ-like manner. And let us not fear the fanatics of a particular orthodoxy. Yahushua told us “And do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the being. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both being and body in GĕHinnom.” (Mattithyahu (Matthew) 10:28). We, therefore, should not fear the fanatics of orthodoxy even when they claim to be able to determine salvation. Instead, we should fear Yahuweh, holding to His word, the scriptures, over and above the orthodoxy of others.

We hope that this has blessed you. Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Yahuweh bless you and shalom!

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