Passages on Oral Tradition or the Written Law?

Madrid argues that the Old Testament provides evidence against Sola Scriptura. There are three main passages that he adduces to prove his point: Deuteronomy 17:8-12, 2 Chronicles 29:25, and 2 Chronicles 35:4. Let’s examine each of these in turn to see if they prove what Madrid says they prove.

Deuteronomy 17:8-12 says this:

8 If a case is too difficult for you—concerning bloodshed, lawsuits, or assaults —cases disputed at your gates, you must go up to the place the LORD your God chooses. 9 You are to go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who presides at that time. Ask, and they will give you a verdict in the case. 10 You must abide by the verdict they give you at the place the LORD chooses. Be careful to do exactly as they instruct you. 11 You must abide by the instruction they give you and the verdict they announce to you. Do not turn to the right or the left from the decision they declare to you. 12 The person who acts arrogantly, refusing to listen either to the priest who stands there serving the LORD your God or to the judge, must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. (HCSB)

It is difficult to see what Madrid is trying to prove by quoting this, but if I would make a guess, he is trying to say that God had given the Church an infallible teaching authority, both in the OT and in the NT. While he doesn’t specifically reference this text as providing it, he does say that there are “clear references to an authoritative body of teachers” (p. 15). My question is simple: how does this passage prove an authoritative (as in Roman Catholic authoritative!) body of teachers? It merely proves that the priests and magistrates of Israel had the authority to pronounce just sentences, and that, following the fifth commandment, those who received said verdict were to abide by it. Why does this passage speak of some kind of infallible magisterium? That would read into the text a fair bit.

The next passage is 2 Chronicles 29:25: “Hezekiah stationed the Levites in the LORD’s temple with cymbals, harps, and lyres according to the command of David, Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet. For the command was from the LORD through His prophets” (HCSB). Madrid argues that this passage, as well as 2 Chronicles 35:4 (“Organize your ancestral houses by your divisions according to the written instruction of David king of Israel and that of his son Solomon,” HCSB) offer “examples in which authoritative oral Tradition is at work alongside Scripture in the Old Testament” (p. 15). It is rather difficult to believe that Madrid has read these texts very carefully, if he gets oral tradition out of them. Take the second passage, for instance: the author explicitly mentions written instruction, not oral instruction. Wondering where this instruction originated? For the second passage, which explicitly mentions written instruction, we should look at 1 Chronicles 23:6- “Then David divided them into divisions according to Levi’s sons: Gershom, Kohath, and Merari” (HCSB). The written instructions regarding the first passage come in 1 Chronicles 15:16- “Then David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their relatives as singers and to have them raise their voices with joy accompanied by musical instruments—harps, lyres, and cymbals” (HCSB). In both cases, what we find is that the specific instructions were given to the prophets, who then wrote them down. We have a record in both cases of those instructions. We are therefore not moving in the realm of oral tradition at all, but rather the written tradition of Scripture itself.

One final point must be made here: it is quite true that God revealed things to His prophets that were not written down. The question is this: how do we view such happenings? There is no record that we have such oral traditions today. What happened was that such revelation served its purpose at that time, was not recorded, and we therefore don’t have it. If Madrid is seriously seeking to argue that oral tradition from the Old Testament is around today, where is his proof?