An “Unbroken Chain” of Papal Succession?

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In 2013, the Vatican Information Service announced: “Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S. J., has been elected as Supreme Pontiff, the 265th successor of Peter.”

The belief that Jesus started the Catholic church is based on apostolic succession – that a succession of Popes have descended from apostle Peter to the current Pope.

Catholics believe all other churches cannot even be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense because they do not have this. But the idea that Peter was “the first pope” from whom a dynasty of popes emerged has no support in the Bible.

In the absence of Biblical evidence, Catholic apologists clutch at early church history, employing tricks to make it validate their position.

In a debate between Dave Hunt and Karl Keating titled, “Was the Early Church Catholic?” Mr Keating quoted some patristic works to support apostolic succession and papal primacy, but his quotes were out of context. Here are two examples:

He said:

Clement, the 4th bishop of Rome, writing to the Corinthians in the year 96 said: ‘Our apostles appointed those who had already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that if they were to die, other approved men should succeed in their ministry.”

This quote was taken from 1 Clement 44 but he omitted a sentence:

Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.”

Notice that plural appointed ministers were referred to here. The “office of the episcopate” refers to bishops or overseers (Gr: episcopois) which is synonymous with elders (Gr: presbuterous). See Acts 14:23, 20:17, 28, Titus 1:5-7, Phil. 1:1, 1 Pet. 5:1-5.

Karl Keating also quoted Irenaeus:

It is necessary to obey those as we have shown have succession from the apostles, those who have received with the succession of the episcopate…

This was taken from his work, Against Heresies:

It is necessary to obey the presbyters who are in the church – those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the Apostles. For those presbyters, together with the succession of bishops…” (3:3:1)

Again, the source refers to presbyters/elders, not a pope. Both citations do not support his claims.

This is one of the shortcomings of oral debates – a person can easily sway the audience with misquotes, rhetoric or body language. In a written debate, such slyness will not work.

This is not a matter of being an erudite scholar. You can be a genius of all time, but if facts and truth are not on your side, you can be defeated by an infant who knows the truth.

Why apostolic succession is false

  • It is based on false assumptions. Catholics who try to make a case for apostolic succession have a whole set of unproven axioms which colour their view of Scripture and history. These Catholics:

a) assume Peter resided in Rome. If 1 Pet. 5:13 proves he was in Rome, then 1 Cor. 1:12, 9:5 would also prove he was in Corinth. Neither passages prove he was resident in Rome.

b) assume Peter was the bishop of Rome. An apostle is a “sent one” and it differs from the office of a bishop.

Being an apostle is analogous to being a prophet; it’s a calling, not an office. That Peter was an apostle doesn’t automatically make him a bishop.

c) assume Peter was the first bishop of Rome who started the church of Rome.

The early Roman churches (note the plural) were house churches made up of Jewish or Gentile members or both (Rom. 16:5, Acts 18:2). Peter didn’t start the church of Rome.

d) assume Peter was the “only” bishop of Rome. This is refuted by the fact that New Testament church leadership was pluralistic, not monarchical. A plurality of bishops (pastor/elders) presided over a local church.

Whenever Catholics come across the word “bishop” in patristic works, they read their own idea of a monarchical prelacy into it, whereas the idea of a single bishop presiding over a plurality of churches wasn’t the early model.

e) assume Peter ordained a successor. He didn’t. Even if he ordained a candidate, that would make him a pastor, not a pope. Popes are elected, not ordained.

If the apostles appointed pastors or elders, that doesn’t really make them successors. Ordination entails a succession in teaching, not a succession in authority.

Take note also, that while Mathias was chosen to replace Judas, no one was chosen to replace James (Acts 12:1).

  • The belief is hinged on doubtful sources.

Irenaeus’ listings of bishops is said to be the “list of popes” who succeeded Peter. He listed Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Hyginus, Pius, Anicetus, Soter and Eleutherius (Against Heresies 3:3:4).

First of all, the term “pope” or “papa” was generally used for all bishops from the third century. It wasn’t until 1079 AD that the title was reserved for the bishop of Rome, so it’s anachronistic to use this list as a proof of papal succession.

Second, Irenaeus places Paul and Peter together as bishops without saying anything about the primacy of Peter. This list was compiled by Hegesippus and there was a reason it was presented:

“The first claim to a succession from the apostles in support of particular doctrines was made in the second century by the Gnostics … Hegesippus, an opponent of Gnosticism, compiled a list of bishops in Rome (Eusebius, H. F. 4.22.5f). Irenaeus of Lyons drew on the idea of the succession of bishops to formulate an orthodox response to the Gnostic claim of a secret tradition going back to the apostles” (Everett Ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 1999, pp. 94-95).

Ireneaus’ list contradicts that of Tertullian (Praescriptione, xxii) in which Clement comes after apostle Peter. Interestingly, the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say about “pope” Linus:

We cannot be positive whether this identification of the pope as being the Linus mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21 goes back to an ancient and reliable source, or originated later on account of the similarity of the name … The dates given in this catalogue, A.D. 56 until A.D. 67, are incorrect . Perhaps … Linus had held the position of head of the Roman community during the life of the Apostle … But this hypothesis has no historical foundation … The “Liber Pontificalis” asserts that Linus’ home was in Tuscany, and that his father’s name was Herculanus; but we cannot discover the origin of this assertion.”

The Vatican has published conflicting lists of popes from Peter which had to be revised. The earliest list is from the Liber Pontificalis (presumably first composed in the 6th century), yet even the New Catholic Encyclopedia says:

“But it must be frankly admitted that bias or deficiencies in the sources make it impossible to determine in certain cases whether the claimants were popes or antipopes” (1967, 1:632).

The ugly truth is, the Catholic “church” is yet to verify an accurate and complete list of the popes. The so-called “unbroken line of succession back to Peter” is pure fiction.

  • The nature of papal successions.

For apostolic succession to occur, each pope must choose his own successor and personally lay hands on him and ordain him.

This was how Paul and Barnabas were appointed before they were sent forth by the church at Antioch (Acts 13:3). Timothy’s appointment to the ministry was also by the elders laying hands on him (1 Tim. 4:14).

This biblical procedure is never followed with regard to successors of Catholic popes or bishops. Papal succession has most often followed ungodly procedures:

a) Many popes were installed by political intrigues.

During the Middle Ages, the papacy was owned by powerful families (e.g the Caetani, Conti, Orsini, Colonna etc). Pope Boniface VII, a Caetani, had to battle the Colonna to remain in power.

In 1303, he was seized by the emissaries of Philip the Fair of France and Rome fell into French possession. As a result, the papacy was moved to France, and from 1309-77, the popes were French and resided at Avignon.

“From the 4th to the 11th century, the influence of temporal rulers in papal elections reached its zenith. Not only the Roman emperors, but also, in their turn, the Ostrogoth kings … attempted to control the selection of Roman pontiff. This civil intervention ranged from the approval of elected candidates to the actual nomination of candidates (with tremendous pressure exerted on the electors to secure their acceptance) and even to the extreme of forcible deposition and imposition.” (Cath. Ency. 11:572b)

That pagan rulers rigged papal elections proved that the popes weren’t chosen by the Holy Spirit.

b) Many popes bought the papal seat.

Wealthy candidates bought their way to becoming pope (simony) or bribed their opponents to step down.

Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) bought the papal throne with “villas, towns and abbeys …[and] four mule-loads of silver to his greatest rival, Cardinal Sforza, to induce him to step down” (Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ, 1988, p. 104).

The papal throne was so commercialized that John XII became pope at 16 and Benedict IX at 11, because their families were wealthy. As a Catholic historian notes, “the Apostolic throne … was now bought and sold like a piece of merchandise.”

When Benedict IX was tired of being pope and was eager to devote himself to his favourite lover, he sold the papacy for 1500 pounds of gold to his godfather, Giovanni Gratiano, who then became pope in 1054 under the name Gregory VI. Apostolic succession? No.

c) Many became popes through violence and murder.

Gregory of Tusculum, a powerful warlord, used the power of the sword to install three of his sons and a grandson (one succeeding the other) as popes.

When Pope Benedict IX fled his papal chair, John, bishop of the Sabine hills, entered Rome and installed himself as pope Sylvester III (1045). Then Benedict stormed back overpowered him and ruled again as pope (Dave Hunt, A Woman rides the Beast, 1994, p. 106).

It’s sheer mockery to call this “apostolic succession.”

In the 9th century, “popes scrambled onto the bloodstained [papal] throne, maintained themselves precariously for a few weeks – or even days – before being hurled themselves into their own graves” (E. R. Chamberlin, The Bad Popes, 1969, 21).

Pope Alexander V (1409-10) who was notably attended to by 300 females in his regal palace, was poisoned to death by Baldassare Cossa who then became Pope John XXIII.

At a point, there were three popes ruling over different portions of Rome which their private army controlled, until Emperor Henry III marched into Rome with his army and presided over a synod that deposed all three “popes” and installed Clement II, his own choice.

d) Papal succession has been influenced by sex.

Not less than six popes (e.g Pope Anastasius, Pope Lando etc.) were put in their offices by a mother-and-daughter pair of prostitutes. A historian notes that:

“The influence of two prostitutes, Marozia and Theodora, was founded on their wealth and beauty, their political and amorous intrigues. The most strenuous of their lovers were rewarded with the Roman mitre …The bastard son, the grandson, and the great grandson of Marozia – a rare genealogy – were seated in the Chair of St. Peter” (Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1830, xlix).

That harlots – Theodora and Marozia – determined who became pope disproves apostolic succession.

Marozia’s grandson, Octavian, also became John XII – a pope so obsessed with illicit sex that he was killed by a husband who caught him having sex with his wife!

  • The holy order quicksand

Only a valid priest can become a valid bishop and only a valid bishop can become a cardinal and then a valid pope. I use the word “valid” because there are certain conditions which can invalidate a person from receiving a lawful holy order.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia (7:89) states that “the lawful reception of Orders demands outstanding and habitual goodness of life, especially perfect chastity . Solid possession of this latter virtue is an indispensable condition of clerical vocation and its presence must be positively evident.”

How can a person’s “habitual goodness” be verified? Do the administers read the minds of the candidates? How can “perfect chastity” be “positively evident” in males (since females don’t become popes)? How do they prove male virginity? Can you see the quicksand here?

The person administering the holy orders must also meet up with certain conditions: “the sanctity and dignity of the sacrament [of holy orders] demands for lawful and worthy administration that the minister be in a state of grace, free of ecclesiastical penalties” (Ibid, 7:88a).

How many priests or bishops, from the medieval period to this present day, meet up to all these conditions? By Rome’s own standards, there is a high probability that they have been electing anti-popes!

When we also consider the fact that many popes were heretics, this automatically breaks the link in the apostolic succession chain.

And if just one papal link is “missing” – whether by dubious records, political, sexual or corrupt ascension to the papal seat – then the whole “unbroken chain of apostolic succession” becomes a grievous lie!

Why Rome’s apologists still defend this falsehood was summed up by Ignatius of Loyola:

“That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner pronounce it black” (Rules for Thinking with the Church, Rule 13).

In God’s kingdom, however, truth is more important, and only those who love and embrace the truth will be set free (John 8:32).

Facts About Bible Versions


How was the Bible preserved? Why are there many Bible versions? Do we really need them? Which Bible is God’s Word? Have modern versions removed verses from the Bible?

These questions have formed a crescendo in the church and have been fuelled, in part, by a fringe movement known as “King James Onlyism” (KJO).

The KJO crowd believe that “God wrote only one Bible, and for us today it is the Authorized Version – 1611, King James Version.”

They are aggressive and dogmatic about their claims and often appeal to wild conspiracy theories for support. (Gail Riplinger’s dishonest and slanderous book, New Age Bible Versions readily comes to mind).

A notable KJ onlyist, Steve Anderson and his friends, also produced a New World Order Bible Versions movie, which repeats the same slippery-slope, conspiracy-driven arguments against Bible versions except the KJV – a tirade not easily dismissive as a laughable hogwash.

A reviewer on Amazon aptly points that the movie “seems to be a direct plagiarism of the book New Age Bible Versions by Gail Riplinger … [It] is nothing but a tiny, unprofessional version of [her book].”

This divisive controversy calls for presenting facts about Bible translations. When Christians are well informed in this area, they can easily make up their minds and not get caught up in fanatical conundrums.

Autographs and Manuscripts

The Bible was given by divine inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16). “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21).

The prophets and apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write. The OT was written in Hebrew, the book of Daniel, in Aramaic and the NT in Koine Greek. The original writings, which have not been discovered, are called “autographs.”

The first time a person writes something, it’s called an original autograph. After then, it is a copy. For instance, there are no autographs of the 10 commandments, since Moses destroyed it (Ex. 32:19). But God gave him a copy of the exact words (Ex 34:1).

This is the principle behind Biblical preservation – making exact copies of original writings. Scribes carefully copied the books of the Bible from the autographs into scrolls and preserved them.

These copies gave rise to use of manuscripts (meaning “hand copy”) which was necessary to spread God’s Word across the globe and reach people of different languages.

Some manuscripts were materials like papyrus and leather which decayed quickly in damp climates, so original writings were recopied many times even within the Biblical period.

Due to the climate, papyrus documents from this period were mostly preserved in a dry desert, cave or shelter.

In the first few centuries after Christ, the prevalent style of NT Greek was the uncial text. In later centuries, the form of writing Greek was the minuscule or Byzantine text.

Because there are more Byzantine-style texts (dated to 8th-10th centuries) discovered than others, the Byzantine texts are also called “the Majority Text.”

While copying texts, scribes sometimes had difficulties writing their copies perfectly, thus, there were some textual variations in manuscripts – mostly spelling or numerical errors – which affected no doctrine.

Bible scholars who made translations had to critically examine the manuscripts and get the earliest Hebrew or Greek copies available.

The closer the text was to the time of the apostles, the more important. The number of manuscripts containing a verse was also considered. Through this manuscript tradition, translators could reconstruct the original readings and give a more accurate rendering.

The remarkable preservation of the Bible is a fulfillment of God’s promises: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Mt. 24:35; Is. 40:8).

These promises stand true for the Word of God in every language or translation. It’s the height of irrationality to limit these Bible promises to a 17th century Bible version.

Erasmus and The Textus Receptus

All through church history, people have always had affinities for particular Bible translations.

The first Old Testament translation into Greek – the Septuagint (shortened as LXX) – was made circa 280 B.C. It was used extensively in the time of Christ and the apostles and also by Greek-speaking Jews. Some people debated its use in the early church but it was later accepted.

When Jerome translated the LXX into the Latin Vulgate in 405 A.D., it sparked a controversy as the people preferred the LXX translation. This brought Jerome into disagreements with Augustine of Hippo. Later, the Latin Vulgate became “the only Bible known and read in Western Europe” for 1000 years! (David Schaff, Our Father’s Faith and Ours, 1929, p. 172).

The rationale behind Godly translations is to put God’s Word in a language or form that can be widely understood by people. The language we read the Bible is not important; what matters is that we read its inspired message in a form that we can understand and respond to.

Since the Gospel is to be preached “to every creature” and “among all nations” (Mk. 16:15, Lk. 24:47), everyone should be able learn God’s Word in their own language without having to learn another language. Erasmus had this intention.

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) was a Catholic priest and scholar with a unique outlook. He said:

I vehemently dissent from those who would not have private persons read the Holy Scriptures nor have them translated into the vulgar [common] tongues...” (Preserved Smith, Erasmus: A Study of His Life, Ideals and Place in History, 1962, 184).

He decided to produce a Greek translation of the New Testament. He had 10 manuscripts: 4 from England, 5 from Basle and one borrowed from his friend, John Reuchlin. These texts however, weren’t ancient (they were largely Byzantine texts). For instance, Reuchlin’s manuscript, the oldest, dates to 10th-12th century (Mangan, Life, Vol 1:374-375).

When the work was completed, Erasmus dedicated it to Pope Leo X. In spite of being based on ten not very ancient Mss., Erasmus’ Greek text was later regarded as “Textus Receptus” (the Received Text). It was later edited and the King James version was translated from it.

His Greek text was criticized because the people were used to the Latin Vulgate. However, there were some problems with his work.

In a bid to quickly complete his work, he added some margin notes from the manuscripts into the text of some verses (which eventually found their way into the KJV).

The Reuchlin manuscript he used didn’t have the last 6 verses in Revelation 22, so Erasmus had to translate them from the Catholic Vulgate to fill in the gap, and noted this in a footnote. This was how a blunder crept into the KJV wherein the “book of life” appears in Rev. 22:19 whereas, every extant Greek manuscript has “tree of life.”

First John 5:7 (Johanneum Comma) was also missing from every Greek text he had, so he omitted the verse.

When his work was published, this omission sparked an outrage and charges of heresy were about to be levied on him. After some effort, he found the verse in a 16th century Greek minuscle 61 text (which he suspected was doctored) and eventually introduced it so “that there be no calumny” (Erasmus, 166).

Perfect Version Anyone?

Before the KJV, there were other English versions: the Tyndale (1525), Coverdale (1535), Matthew (1537), Great (1539) and Geneva Bible (1560). When King James I ascended the English throne in 1603, the Geneva Bible was the people’s favourite.

In 1606, King James approved an English translation to be used in all the churches of England, which was easily understood by the people. The KJV was translated by 54 scholars and completed in 1611. In the preface, they wrote:

But how shall they understand that which is kept close [veiled] in an unknown tongue? … indeed without translation into the vulgar [common] tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which was deep) without a bucket or something to draw with…” (The Translators to the Readers, 4).

This proves that the KJV translators would not object to modern translations if they were intended to present the Scriptures in a language understandable to everyone.

The KJV translators never claimed to have produced the only true Bible version, but rather stated that “a variety of translation is profitable for finding out the sense of the Scriptures.”

They admit to consulting other “translators and commentaries” to improve on their work. Yet KJ onlyists attack those who use other translations!

The KJV was criticized in its time too. In fact, it took 40 years before it replaced the Geneva Bible which the people loved. The translators stated that “the very worst translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession … is the word of God.”

Nowhere does the Bible teach that God will preserve His word only in form of a 17th century English translation.

If the Geneva and Coverdale English Bibles weren’t God’s Word, neither is the King James Bible. The KJV owes much to these earlier translations.

If the KJV alone was God’s preserved Word, then the great Reformation (1517-1603) took place without God’s Word and the KJOs can as well swim to Rome. This would also imply that German, Chinese or Twi Bibles are not Bibles, since the whole world must learn 17th century English and read the 1611 KJV if they would have God’s Word.

The KJV 1611 translation wasn’t perfect or inerrant since it “rapidly went through several editions, nearly all of which had changes in the text. The edition of 1614, for example, differs from the original in over 400 places” (The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Oxford Univ. Press, 1993, 730).

The 1611 edition had the apocrypha books as well as listings of Church feasts including the Virgin Mary’s feast days, which were later removed.

The 1613 edition (called the “Wicked Bible”) left the word “not” out of the 7th commandment, thus endorsing adultery. The present KJV we use was revised in the 18th century (James B. Williams, Editor, From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man. Greenville, S.C.: Ambassador-Emerald International, 1999, p. 159)

For the KJV to be perfect in every word, the translators must have the same infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their translating as the writers of Scripture, but the translators never claimed inspiration or perfection for their work.

They wrote alternate meanings “in the margins, where the text is not so clear.” There are over 8,000 alternate English renderings in the margins of the KJV. Why? Because the translators were not inspired to know the exact meanings.

For example: the KJV failed to distinguish between the Devil (Gr. diabolos) e.g in Matt. 4:1 and demons (Gr. daimonion) e.g in John 13:2. It also fails to distinguish between hell (Gr. hades) in Luke 16:23 and the lake of fire (gehenna) in Matt. 5:22.

It uses the pronoun “it” for the Holy Spirit in John 1:32, Rom. 8:16, 26 and 1 Peter 1:11.

It renders the Greek word hierosulous in Acts 19:27 as “robber of churches” whereas it should have been “robber of temples.” Yet some KJOs insist the KJV is more accurate than the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts!

The KJV’s obsolete English words grossly obscure the meaning of passages like Num. 20:14; 1 Cor. 16:13, 2Kgs. 22:14; Esther 3:13; Acts 28:13; Cor. 6:11-13, 1 Thess. 4:15, Songs of Solomon 5:4; 2:11, 12 etc. Compare the obsolete wordings used in the KJV with modern translations to see how confusing the former can be even to a native English speaker.

It uses the word “unicorn” for wild ox, “satyr” for wild goat, “cockatrice” for common viper, “apothecary” for perfumer, “dragon” for monster, “barbarian” for foreigner and “shambles” for meat market.

To argue that a 400-year old translation with words like “firkins”, “ouches”, “bolled”, “sottish”, “besom”, “chode”, “bruit”, “anon”, “wotteth” or “strakes” is clearer than modern English translations requires a high degree of mulishness. This was why newer English translations were necessary. An obsolete rendition obscures understanding.

Reuben A. Torrey sums up the Christian position on Bible versions:

No one, as far as I know, holds the English translation of the Bible as absolutely infallible and inerrant. The doctrine held by many is that the Scriptures as originally given were absolutely infallible and inerrant, and that our English translation is a substantially accurate rendering of the Scriptures as originally given” (Difficulties in the Bible, Chicago: Revell, 1907, 17)

The Modern Versions

In the 19th and 20th centuries, more Bible manuscripts were discovered: codex Sinaiticus (c. 350 AD), the Bodmer 14, 15 (c. 175 A.D.), Ryland 547 (c. 125), and Magdalen (c.70-80).

Thousands of pieces of manuscripts older than the Byzantine texts (which the Textus Receptus [TR] or “Received Text” relied on) have also been discovered. These earlier texts became the foundation for modern Bible versions.

The main difference between the KJV and modern translations (like the NIV, RSV, NASB etc.) is that the latter are based on more ancient manuscripts. Manuscript textual variation is another reason. These variants resulted from:

1. Copyist error – papyrus is not as clear as white paper, so a little imperfection on it can be mistaken for a letter.

2. Expansion of piety – a scribe, in attributing honour to the Lord may write “the Lord Jesus Christ” or “Jesus Christ” instead of Jesus.

3. Marginal notes – these were sometimes written to explain the text because one Greek word can have different English meanings.

For example, John 3:36 (KJV): “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life.” The NASB reads: “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life.”

The Greek word apeithco has a primary meaning (disobedience) and secondary meaning (unbelief).

The NASB chose the primary meaning, while the KJV chose the secondary. Both are correct because faith in Christ naturally results in obedience to Him.

4. Parallel influence – a scribe copying the epistles can come across a sentence in Colossians that looks like Ephesians. Though the passages do not read the same, he may be tempted to render them as same.

For instance, Col. 1:14 and Eph. 1:17 read the same in the TR, but in earlier texts, only Eph. 1:17 has the phrase “through his blood.” But KJOs still run around like chickens with their heads cut off, screaming “This is a conspiracy to remove the blood of Jesus!”

Translational differences also occur when there are no textual variations, but differences in sentence structure, grammar or influences of culture-centric words.

The KJV used what are called dynamic equivalents or culture-centric words e.g in Romans 3:4 which reads “…God forbid” (There is no “God” in the TR). The term “God forbid” was a common expression in 17th century England. The NIV reads as: “may it not be.”

Let’s examine some verses KJOs use to “prove” that modern versions have turned our swords into butter knives.

(a) KJV: “And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him” (Lk 2:33)

NIV: “The child’s father and mother…”

Is this denying the Virgin Birth?

No. In Luke 2:48 (KJV) Mary refers to Joseph as Jesus’ father. In John. 6:42, Jesus is called the “son of Joseph.” In Lk 2:27 and 2:41, the KJV talks of Jesus’ parents.

If KJOs are being consistent, they must also attack the KJV. That Joseph was called Jesus’ “father” is not a denial of the Virgin Birth. What do you think Jesus called Joseph?

b) KJV: “…Lo, I see four men walking loose…and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (Dan 3:25)

NIV- “…like a son of the gods.”

Is this denying Christ’s pre-existence?

Not at all. Nebuchadnezzar’s servant speaking here was a pagan who believed in many gods, so in context, “a son of the gods” is correct.

While the pre-existence of Christ is well supported by the NIV, this verse is a wrong one to use as support. The fourth man in the fire was an angel of God.

c) KJV: “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:37)

NIV: Verse missing.

Is the NIV denying faith in Christ as a condition for baptism?

No. This verse is not in the NIV and others because only a very few Greek manuscripts have it – none earlier than the 6th century.

Erasmus inserted it into the TR due to its presence in the Catholic Vulgate and the margin of one manuscript he had. Marginal notes are not part of the Bible.

d) KJV: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life…” (Mt 7:14)

NKJV: “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life…”

Is the NJKV ‘the devil’s bible’ for rendering this “difficult”?

No. The Greek word here is thlibo (Strong #2346). Out of the 10 times it occurs in the NT, the KJV renders it as “narrow” only here. Elsewhere: throng (Mk. 3:9), afflicted (2Cor. 1:6, 1Tim. 1:10, Heb. 11:37), troubled (2Cor. 4:8; 7:5, 2Thess. 1:7), suffer tribulation (1Th. 3:4) and trouble (2Th. 1:6).

Therefore, the term “difficult” is closer in meaning than “narrow.” The KJO argument is quite unfortunate because a good translation ought to be consistent.

e) KJV: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus…” (Acts 4:27)

NIV: “…against your holy Servant Jesus…”

Is the NIV denying the Sonship of Jesus?

No. The Greek word there is pai (Strong #3816) and it means a male child, boy, a male servant, especially as a title of the Messiah.

The “servant” rendering would be more correct since in context, Jesus ascended as a Man (not a boy), and the apostles were presenting Him as Israel’s Messiah (“whom thou hast anointed”). Both the Sonship and servanthood of Christ are taught in the KJV and NIV.

f) NIV: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement.” (Mt 5:22)

NIV: Jesus “looked around in anger…” (Mk 3:5).

KJOs say that while the KJV adds “angry without cause” to Matt. 5:22, modern versions omit the word making Jesus out as a sinner under judgement.

True, modern versions have the word “without cause” (Gr: eivkh) in their footnotes though it’s found in a wide number of manuscripts. It was apparently deleted due to the seeming contradiction.

However, if one reads Matthew 5:22 in context, it’s clear that Jesus was speaking of sinful anger or calling one’s brother a “fool.” He wasn’t speaking of righteous anger like the one directed at the rebellious Pharisees.

In a bid to poison the well, KJO folks fault the NIV, claiming Virginia Mollencott, a lesbian, was a part of its translators. Nice try. She was only a literary (stylistic) committee – not a translator – for a few months; and she resigned when her sexual view was exposed.

Until the day comes when the homosexual lifestyle of King James I invalidates the KJV, this moot point doesn’t merit a response (see King James and Letters of Homoerotic Desire by David M. Bergeron).

The KJV (which I do use) is a good version. In areas where it differ from modern versions like the RSV, NKJV or NIV, no doctrine is affected (except in cases of New World Translation, Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version, The Message etc.).

They all present the gospel and the cardinal doctrines of the Bible – if one reads the entire text and doesn’t take an isolated verse here or there to prove a point.

A position maintaining that the KJV is God’s Word while others are not, is dishonest, incoherent and intellectual suicide.

To tell millions of Christians saved and nurtured in the faith by the NIV or NKJV that they use the devil’s bibles, is harmful to the body of Christ.

KJO advocates should stop making an idol out of the KJV and start studying its message, praying and living a Christ-centered life.

By Faith Alone

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Justification by faith alone (sola fidei) was Martin Luther’s cry after he read Romans 1:17 and realized that God’s righteousness could become the sinner’s righteousness by faith alone.

After he nailed his 95 thesis on October 31, 1517, his view was condemned by Rome and the Reformers equally condemned Rome’s view of justification.

After more than 400 years, on October 31 1999, in Augsburg, Germany, representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and of the Roman Catholic Church signed a Joint Declaration of Justification, disclaiming previous differences.

As a result, “the corresponding doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century do not apply to today’s partner.

This consensus presupposes that the Reformation was unnecessary; that it was based on a “misunderstanding” on Luther’s part or that he was deceived to think he had found “sola fidei” in Scripture whereas the Catholic church had taught it all along.

But to the shame of the joint declarers, none of the condemnations Rome placed on Protestant beliefs has been removed till date.

This is why Catholics still attack sola fidei (and sola scriptura) as a novel concoction by Luther – a notion refuted by the fact that other Reformers (Calvin, Zwingli, Denck, Hess, Propst, Voes etc) also stood for sola fidei.

Sadly, many Christians today are not well informed of the issues behind the Reformation, thus they are ill-equipped to respond to the Catholic well-worn rhetoric.

Now, why is sola fidei so important? Because it provides the foundation of the bridge that reconciles God and man. Take this doctrine away and Christianity falls.

If we allow this vital doctrine be discarded into the theological dung hill, the door to apostasy, legalism and ecumenism is thrown wide open.

The Declaration was a result of a 30 year dialogue between Lutheran and Catholic leaders. Yet when a jailer asked apostle Paul “what must I do to be saved?” He answered: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). It was that simple. He didn’t say “give me 30 years to explain it to you.”

If the Bible teaches justification by faith alone apart from human works of any kind, to water it down or reject it would be a perversion of the Biblical Gospel that saves.

Justification – What is it?

The Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines justification as “the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. It is a legal term signifying acquittal.”

Another reference work defines it as “a divine act where God declares the sinner to be innocent of his sins.” Note these Biblical usages of the term “justify”:

Deuteronomy 25:1 “…that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.”

Job 13:18 “Behold, now I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.”

Isaiah 5:23 “Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!”

From these and other passages, to justify implies to “declare,” “reckon” or “show to be righteous.” It doesn’t mean to make righteous. A man is justified before God when He reckons him righteous.

Justification involves 3 things: pardon from sin’s penalty, imputation of righteousness and a position of right-standing before God.

I. Pardon

Since Adam’s fall from his position of right-standing before God, all of mankind stands guilty and condemned. “There is none righteous … For all have sinned” is God’s declaration (Rom. 3:10, 23).

Jesus had to come to pay sin’s penalty to remove this guilt so that man can be justified and “have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1).

To pardon means to forgive; to release a person from punishment or to acquit like when the death penalty was lifted from Barabbas as the guilty criminal and Jesus took his penalty (Luke 23:25).

Or, when Paul mediated with Philemon over Onesimus and asked him to put his debt to his own account (Phile. 1:18). This is what being justified means.

Jesus told a parable in which a sinful tax collector was placed in a better position spiritually than a praying Pharisee. The tax collector “went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14). The tax collector’s justification was an instantaneous reality.

There was no process, no time lapse, no flames of purgatory. The man only understood his own helplessness and knew he owed an impossible debt he could not pay. He did not recite what he had done, he only pleaded for divine mercy and looked to God to do for him what he could not do for himself.

In essence, justification is solely based on what Christ – not man – has done.

II. Imputation of righteousness

When Adam sinned, his sin was imputed on the human race. “So death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

When Christ died at Calvary, the sin of the human race was “imputed” on Him (2 Cor. 5:18-21). He died for our sins and rose again for our justification (Rom. 4:24-25).

Jesus Christ spoke of a divine righteousness. “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:20) “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).

A sinner is justified when he obtains this perfect righteousness – God’s righteousness – which exceeds that of the Pharisees, and stands before God as if he never sinned. When a person is justified, Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to him and he receives it by faith (Romans 4:9-11).

III. A position of right standing before God

Justification is a divine judicial edict which changes our status. It doesn’t change our nature, but our position.

For example, when a pastor says to a man and woman at an altar, “I now declare both of you husband and wife,” legally, they become married. Nothing inside them actually changes when those words are spoken, but their position or status before God, the law and everyone present changes.

When a jury reads his verdict in court, a defendant is no longer “the accused.” He either becomes guilty or innocent, depending on the verdict. His nature is not changed, but his position is.

So he is either imprisoned if guilty, or walks away free. This gives us a picture of justification.

A sinner who puts his faith in Christ’s work is pardoned and has Christ’s righteousness imputed to him. Thus, his position changes from that of a sinner under God’s wrath to that of acceptance and a recipient of full privilege in Jesus Christ.

He becomes freed from any charge of guilt because the merit of Christ is reckoned to his account (Rom 8:33). When a person is justified:

(a) He is made a fellow heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17).

(b) He becomes God’s spiritually adopted child (Rom. 8:15).

(c) He is “united with the Lord” (1Cor 6:17).

(d) He is in Christ and Christ is in him (Gal. 3:27; Col. 1:27).

Faith Alone or Not Alone?

Roman Catholicism also teaches justification by grace through faith. But what is missing, however, is the word “alone.”

By omitting this vital word, they re-define justification, grace and faith in a way that undermines what the Bible teaches on these subjects.

Rome declares:

If anyone saith that he who has fallen after baptism … is able to recover the justice which he has lost … by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance … let him be anathema” (The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Ch. xiv, Can. xxix).

In Catholic theology, through baptism (often done at infancy), all sins are pardoned and the Catholic receives initial justification. This grace of justification which can be lost through mortal sin is restored through penance.

Evidently, the work-based sacramental system of Rome blinds Catholics to justification by faith alone.

Baptism does not confer any grace, neither does the water have any cleansing power. An infant cannot understand the gospel “which is the power of God unto salvation to them that believe” (Rom. 1:16).

An infant cannot choose whom to serve, let alone believe in Christ. Even if the recipient is an adult, his faith in physical objects – water, candles, chants, or incense – to impart grace, is misplaced and unscriptural.

Biblical faith “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith always involves what is unseen. It is no more faith to believe in something present in a visible form.

Since grace and justification are invisible qualities, receiving them can only be by faith which is invisible. Faith reaches out to the unseen world of the spiritual and eternal.

In fact, the Christian Faith is not based “on the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” Because “the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

Grace, justification or salvation are eternal and invisible, and therefore are received only by faith – not by objects, ceremonies or rituals.

Another problem is that sacraments and rites have nothing to do with justice or punishment and therefore cannot pay for sin. No ritual can satisfy a court of law in paying the penalty prescribed for a major crime, let alone God’s infinite penalty.

The sinner can either reach out in faith and receive God’s pardon offered in Christ or reject it and face the penalty.

The Council of Trent also says:

If anyone saith that by faith alone the impious is justified in such wise as to mean that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtaining the grace of justification…let him be anathema” (Ch. xvi, Can. ix).

Roman Catholicism teaches that justification is when an individual’s soul is being infused with grace through the sacraments which makes him righteous and enables him to perform good works.

These works supposedly make him justified enough to merit eternal life. So in Catholicism, justification is a long process of the individual being made righteous in a moral sense.

But Scripture is clear that the grace of justification is not “infused” through sacraments; it is received by faith. No amount of works can justify (Gal. 2:16). “Therefore, it is of faith, that it might be by grace” (Rom. 4:16). If it’s by grace alone, then it’s also by faith alone.

“To the man who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5). The justified one does not work; he trusts God, confesses his wickedness and his faith is credited as righteousness.

The tax collector in Jesus’ parable went away justified without performing any good works or ritual whatsoever because it was solely on the basis of his faith that he received a new status.

Everything necessary to atone for his sin and provide forgiveness had already been done on his behalf. All he had to do was receive it by faith.

Catholics love to quote James 2:14 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man says he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?

James was writing to Christians – those who were already saved. There is an outworking of the grace received in justification evidenced by good works (1 Tim. 6:18, Tit. 3:8, Eph. 2:10 etc). This is sanctification, which is distinct from justification.

Catholics flog around this line because Rome confuses justification with sanctification without noting the distinctive between both:

1. In justification, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to the sinner’s account (Rom 4:11). But in sanctification, the righteousness is imparted to the sinner practically and personally.

Justification is like being given a white Tuxedo coat to cover your stained shirt while sanctification is being given a good detergent to wash your shirt.

2. Justification changes a believer’s status or position (Rom. 5:1-2) while sanctification changes his nature and internal state.

3. Justification is an event while sanctification is a process. Though both are elements of salvation, (God doesn’t sanctify whom He doesn’t justify), we need to keep these distinctions in mind.

To muddle them up as Rome has done, is to have a religious system where people trust their works in place of Christ’s work. This makes out justification as an incomplete process without any assurance of salvation.

Luther’s “Alone”

It is argued that Martin Luther added the word “allein” (alone) to Romans 3:28 in his German Bible translation – by his own authority – to promote sola fidei. But Luther himself explained in his Open Letter on Translating, why he rendered the text this way:

The text itself, and Saint Paul’s meaning, urgently require and demand it. For in that passage he is dealing with the main point of Christian doctrine … So, when all works are so completely rejected which must mean faith alone justifies – whoever would speak plainly and clearly about the rejection of works will have to say ‘Faith alone justifies and not works.’ The matter itself and the nature of the language requires it.

There are Catholic New Testament versions also containing “alone” in Romans 3:28. The Nuremberg Bible (1483), Italian Bibles of Geneva and of Venice (1538) all had it.

Luther’s translation was completed before the Council of Trent defined justification. By Roman Catholic rule, if a doctrine is yet to be defined by an infallible council, one can disagree with it or even contradict it.

Luther also indicated where he got his authority:

Furthermore, I am not the only one, nor the first to say that faith alone makes one righteous. There was Ambrose, Augustine and many others who said it before me.

Catholic scholar, Joseph Fritzmyer cited these examples:

Augustine in De Fide et Operibus (22:40): “God’s commandments pertain to faith alone if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as live faith which operates through love.”

Victorinus: “But only faith in Christ is salvation for us” (Pauli Ephesios 2.15-16)

Thomas Aquinas: “Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone. Rom 3:28″ (Expositio in Timotheum cap. 1, lec. 3)

Ambrosiaster: “through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God” (Romanos 3:24)

Bernard: “…is justified by faith alone” (Canticum serm. 27.8). Origen noted the same in his Commentary on Romans (cap. 3), as well as John Chrysostom (Hom. Titum 3:3) (Romans, A New Translation with Interpretation and Commentary, Yale University Press, 1993, pp. 360-361).

The Joint Declaration fraud notwithstanding, Rome still teaches a false gospel that is opposed to the totality of Scripture.