Did Catholicism give us the Bible?

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In almost every discussion of sola scriptura, there is a favourite jingle Catholics rehash:

“Since you Protestants hold to sola scriptura, how did you know which books of the Bible were inspired or belonged in it? Did your Bible-only theory provide you with an inspired table of contents? You only knew this by the authority of the Catholic Church. Without the Catholic Church you wouldn’t have the Bible!”

While this argument gives the Catholic a warm, fuzzy feeling, it is faulty on several levels.

1. Catholics misrepresent sola scriptura in order to tear it down. What sola scriptura really says is that inspired Scripture alone is the infallible authority of the church. It doesn’t mean that one cannot appeal to traditions, councils, confessions of faith or church authority.

What Catholics ignorantly attack is solo scriptura which means holding to the Bible alone as authority. This is not the historic, Christian position.

John Maxfield, a church historian, stated that:

“Among the sixteenth-century reformers the principle of sola scriptura … meant that scripture was the supreme authority over all other authorities” (Luther’s Lectures on Genesis and the Formation of Evangelical Identity, 2008, 43).

The Westminster Confession of Faith stated:

“The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture” (1:10).

The 1561 Belgic Confession, Article 7, The Sufficiency of Scripture says:

“Therefore we must not consider human writings – no matter how holy their authors may have been – equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.”

That Evangelicals appeal to the authority of a tradition or history in the recognition of the canon does not follow that they take it as their ultimate authority.

2. Internal evidence reveal that the New Testament was recognised as inspired right from the time they were written.

Apostle Paul, for example, placed Luke’s writings on par with the Old Testament writings when he quoted Luke 10:7 and Deuteronomy 25:4 as “the Scripture says” in 1 Timothy 5:18) Apostle Peter also recognised Paul’s writings as “Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15-16).

These inspired writings were directed “to the church of God in Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2), to be “read in the church of the Laodiceans [Colosse]” (Col. 4:16) and “read unto all the holy brethren” (1 Thess. 5:27).

Jesus told John, “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches” and this is “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants” (Rev. 1:1, 11).

A scholar reminds us that:

“Letters were expensive to produce (on parchment or papyrus), and letters from apostles were rare blessings in a time when local charismatic leadership (1 Corinthians 14). The Colossian church was instructed to read the letter Paul wrote to Laodicea and vice versa (Colossians 4:16). Clearly such letters were deemed valuable and authority” (The Portable Seminary, ed. David Horton, Bethany House, 2006, 46).

The teaching of an apostle of Christ – whether written or oral – was regarded as authoritative and a fundamental criterion of genuineness.

The fact that the Scriptures were written to the churches shows they weren’t “made” by the church and the idea that generations of Christians lived and died without knowing what was Scripture until the Roman church came on the scene is a hallowed myth.

3. Early church writings indicate that the NT books had been widely known and accepted among Christians from the first century.

Clement (c. 95 AD) makes references to at least 8 NT books. He wrote to the Corinthian church:

“Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle. What did he first write to you at the beginning of his preaching? With true inspiration he charged you.” He then refers to the matters in 1 Corinthians 1 (1 Clement 47:1-3).

Justin Martyr (100-180 AD) in his Dialogue with Trypho used the expression “it is written” when quoting from the book of Matthew (XLIX). He quoted from the 4 Gospels, epistles and Revelations.

Polycarp (105 A.D.) mentions 15 NT books, Tatian (110-180) wrote his Diatessaron based on the 4 books of the Gospel; Ignatius of Antioch (115) mentions at least 7 books; Ireneaus (185) mentions 21; Hippolytus mentions 22; Tertullian mentions all NT books except 3 while Origen mentioned all of them.

These men were neither “Roman Catholics” nor “Protestants.”

4. The canon of the NT was recognized from early times. It wasn’t “determined” by a church or council.

The Muratorian Canon (170 AD), which was a compilation of books recognized as canonical at that early date by the church included all the NT books except Hebrews, James and one epistle of John.

Many in the early church recognized the canonical books by considering its:

a) Apostolicity – if the author was an apostle or had a connection with an apostle.

b) Acceptance – if accepted by the body of Christians at large.

c) Content – if the book reflects consistency with sound doctrine.

d) Inspiration – if the book reflects the quality of inspiration and bear the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit (Everett Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1964, 103-6).

“In the absence of any official list of the canonical writings of the New Testament, Eusebius finds it simplest to count the roles of his witnesses” (Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament, Oxford Univ. Press, 1997, 203).

Harry Gamble admits that “in the fifth century a more or less final consensus was reached and shared by the East and West. It is worth noting that no ecumenical council in the ancient church ever ruled for the church as a whole on the question of the contents of the canon” (Lee Donalds and James Sanders, The Canon Debate, 2002, 291).

5. On its website, Catholic Answers said “the canon of the entire Bible was essentially settled around the turn of the fourth century. Up until this time, there was disagreement over the canon … in practice Christians accepted the Catholic Church’s decision in this matter.”

While Catholics assert that the Councils of Hippo (373 AD) and Carthage (397 AD) “essentially settled” the canon of the Bible, this is refuted by Athanasius’ 39th Festal letter of 367 (and the Council of Laodicea in 363) which listed the 27 books of the NT as the only true books. This precedes Hippo and Carthage.

As explained here, the canon defined at these local councils were not the same as the one defined at Trent.

Furthermore, the councils of Hippo and Carthage never stated that their canon came from the traditions of the apostles or that it was definitive. In fact, Catholic scholars admit that there was no “infallible” listing of the canon before the Council of Trent:

“For the first fifteen centuries of Christianity, no Church Council put forth a definitive list of biblical books” (Joseph Lienhard, The Bible, The Canon and Authority, The Liturgical Press, 1995, 59).

“The Tridentine list or decree was the first infallible and effectually promulgated declaration on the canon of the Holy Scriptures” (H. J. Schroeder, Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, 178).

Going by the Catholic standard, the councils of Hippo and Carthage were local or regional ones, therefore, their canon list weren’t binding on the entire church.

Furthermore, the church of the 4th century was not the Roman Catholic Church. They didn’t believe in papal authority, sacrifice of the Mass, Marian dogmas, auricular confession and other novelties Catholics today believe.

Since Roman Catholicism didn’t exist in the first 4 centuries, its boast of giving us the Bible is at best, an empty drum noise.

6. History testifies to the antagonism Catholicism has towards the Bible.

For several centuries, Rome kept the Bible from the hands of the people by putting it in Latin only, forbidding translations, literally chaining it to the walls, restricting the people’s literacy and burning those who owned it at the stakes.

The Council of Toulouse (1229) forbade owning or reading a Bible. The Council of Tarragona (1234) forbade reading it in a native language and the third Synod of Oxford made it a heresy crime to have an English Bible.

Why these efforts? Because Catholic leaders knew too well that many of Rome’s teachings oppose the plain teachings of the Bible and the only way they could keep Catholic followers in lockstep obedience was to take the bible from their hands.

Today, Catholics are now allowed to have the Bible in their hands and are even told to read it, but Rome still keeps it from their hearts by insisting that only the Church Magisterium can interpret it.

At the same time, they undermine confidence in the Bible by touting some parts of it as “fiction” or unreliable “human traditions.”

For example, Catholicism denies that a literal prophet named Jonah was swallowed by a literal fish. Even Karl Keating wrote that “the story of the prophet being swallowed and then disgorged by a ‘great fish’ is merely didactic fiction, a grand tale told to establish a religious point” (Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Ignatius Press, 1988, 129).

Joseph Ratzinger (former pope Benedict XVI) also watered down the inspiration of the book of Genesis by dismissing its creation account for a variant of Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis:

“The moment when creation became a dominant theme occurred during the Babylonian Exile. It was then the account that we have just heard -based, to be sure, on very ancient traditions – assumed its present form” (In the Beginning, Eerdmans, 1995, 10-11).

This rejection of the Bible’s creation account has opened the door wide to evolution within the ranks of Catholicism.

For all its brag, Rome can’t still prove who wrote the books of Hebrews, Job, or Esther, instead they pick and choose which they want to accept as inspired as if they are in an ice cream parlour.

In 1955, the Pontifical Biblical Commission granted Catholics the complete freedom to believe Matthew did or did not write Matthew (Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah, 1993, 45-46).

The canon of the Bible is based on its divine inspiration. This inspiration bears witness within the readers who are themselves indwelt by the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of Scripture. God gave us the Bible – not a religious system. He used the Jewish prophets to give us the OT and the apostles of Christ and their associates to give us the NT.

If the Catholic church wasn’t needed to give us the Old Testament, then it was not needed to give us the New either.

Is Rome the Infallible Bible Interpreter?

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Sometimes, when you confront the errors of Rome with the Bible, some Catholics will likely respond saying:

“What makes your interpretation of the Bible infallible? Are you an authentic interpreter of the Bible?”

Marcus Grodi, a Catholic convert, also employed this rhetoric device:

All of this wrangling [over] how to interpret Scripture gets one nowhere if there is no way to know with infallible certitude that one’s interpretation is the right one. The teaching authority of the Church in the magisterium [is] centered around the seat of Peter. If I could accept this doctrine, I knew I could trust the Church on everything else” (Surprised by Truth, 1994, p. 56).

There are several weaknesses in this claim.

(I) The Catholic assumes that the Bible is so cryptic, so confusing and esoteric, that one needs to be “infallible” in order to understand or interpret it.

To them, we can’t even understand a verse like Matthew 24:1 “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when the disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings,” unless we are infallible.

But the Berean Christians didn’t have an infallible church to guide them as they “examined the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). Reason? They didn’t need to be infallible to understand the Scriptures.

When Jesus chastised the Sadducees for being in error and held them accountable to what God has said to them in Matthew 22:31, why did the Sadducees not respond, “We didn’t have an authentic interpreter of the Bible?” Because one doesn’t need an “infallible church” to know God’s Word!

II. Rome has a problem with the Bible. They described it as, “A dumb and difficult book [which] was substituted for the living voice of the Church, in order that each one should be able to make for himself the religion which suited his feelings” (A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1953, p. 11).

The Roman Catholic institution doesn’t want the Bible which God gave to all of mankind to speak to each person. Not only that, the role of the Holy Spirit in enlightening each Believer to Scripture has been totally eradicated and replaced with the Church (pope and bishops).

So, to a Catholic, the Holy Spirit is just like a theological abstraction or a sentence at the end of the Apostles’ Creed. But the Holy Spirit has been given to every Believer, and He’s not just a bystander, He’s a Teacher.

Romans 8:9, 16 “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his … For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God…

1 Corinthians 2:10-12 “But to us God hath revealed them, by this Spirit. For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him? So the things also that are of God no man knoweth, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God; that we may know the things that are given us from God

If all Christians are “led by the Spirit of God,” then they must be able to understand the Scriptures inspired by God’s Spirit.

Since Christians have received the Spirit of God and have “the mind of Christ” (1Cor. 2:16), we don’t need a church Magisterium to understand or interpret the Bible. This is a truth that Rome hates.

III. The doctrine of the “infallible interpreter” implies that God didn’t make Himself clear in His Word. It assumes that God gave us a revelation that still needs revealing or failed in His attempt to give man a revelation.

It’s ludicrous to teach that God inspired infallible Scripture yet denied to all except an elite few, the ability to understand it, requiring billions of people to surrender their minds to a hierarchy by blindly accepting their interpretation of His Word.

If “the entrance of His word gives light and understanding unto the simple” (Ps. 119:130) then one doesn’t need the Pope to know what it says.

If the Holy Spirit can convince the world “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement” then surely He can teach all those in whom He dwells (John 16:8).

Apostle John says that the Christians to whom he writes don’t have to look up to a class of men for teaching but have an “anointing [of the Holy Spirit which] teaches you all things” (1 Jn. 2:27).

Sadly, the very book that should bring life and freedom to Catholics have been spiritually chained out of their reach.

IV. Popular Catholic apologists teach their fans that anytime someone shows how Catholic doctrines contradict the Bible, they should dismiss it by saying, “That’s your fallible interpretation.”

This is obfuscation by rhetoric. Catholics who use this line have two priori assumptions:

(a) That the Bible is too complicated – This is untrue. In fact, a non-Christian can exegete a Bible verse and comprehend a passage in its context.

The difference is that his understanding will not have the Holy Spirit’s illumination and his conclusion would be the deadness of the letter.

(b) That only the Catholic Magisterium can interpret the Bible – This is also false.

Respected Catholic scholars have even denied this, thus forcing the Catholic himself to resort to excessive amounts of private interpretation:

A wide field is still left open to the private student, in which his hermeneutical skill may display itself with signal effect and to the advantage of the Church. On the one hand, in those passages of Holy Scripture which have not yet received a certain and definitive interpretation, such labors may, in the benignant providence of God, prepare for and bring to maturity the judgment of the Church” (Providentissmus Deus, On the Study of Holy Scripture [Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII Nov 18, 1893]).

Very few texts have in fact been authoritatively determined and there consequently remain many important matters in the explanation of which sagacity and ingenuity of Catholic interpreters can and should be freely exercised…” (Dom Bernard Orchard M.A.; ed, A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1953, p. 60).

If the Catholic church has not yet given her followers the infallible interpretation of the Bible, but “a wide field is still left open” that virtually everyone can share the pasture, then it’s a spiritual tragedy to look up to them for any guidance.

Catholic scholar, Raymond Brown even stated:

“To the best of my knowledge, the Roman Catholic Church has never defined the literal sense of a single passage of the Bible” (The Critical Meaning of the Bible, New York: Paulist Press, 1981, 40).

Yet Catholics are told by pop apologists that their church is the infallible interpreter of Scripture. We refuse to submit to such duplicity.

V. Since the Magisterium hasn’t infallibly interpreted most of the Bible, on what basis then do Catholics trot out Bible texts at will?

Why, for instance, don’t Catholic apologists go to debates with the Catechism or the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, but rather go around with that “dumb and difficult Book” that no one can understand outside of Rome?

If these guys have the hotline to God through the living voice of the Mother Church, why do they use the Bible or even quote it? Doesn’t that make you a bit suspicious?

Devin Rose, in his book The Protestant Dilemma wrote:

“We know that Christ established a Church visible and unified, to which he gave his divine authority. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that ‘he called to him his twelve apostles and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out and to heal all diseases and every infirmity.’ (Matt 10:1). But according to Protestantism, this authority must have been lost when the visible Church became morally and doctrinally corrupt.”

So here we have a lay apologist using his private judgement of the text to tell us “we know that Christ established…” Has his Magisterium given him an infallible interpretation of that verse? No. That’s his fallible opinion.

The text also shows that the authority Christ gave His apostles was to cast out demons and heal the sick. Until the Magisterium of the Catholic church starts going to demon possessed folks or hospitals to cast out demons and heal the sick, they should discard this spoof text.

This Catholic even assumes that everywhere the Bible mentions the apostles of Christ, it must be referring to the Roman Catholic Church! Such a giant leap is a Catholic dilemma.

VI. If the Old Testament saints didn’t need a magisterium, why should it be necessary for New Testament saints?

Some Catholics appeal to “the seat of Moses” mentioned in Matthew 23:2. Aside from the fact that their idea of Moses’ seat is wrong (it’s referring to the seat from where the teachers read the Law, not the chair of a pope), for Catholics to use this text, they will first have to explain how the “Jewish Magisterium” could fallibly pass on the Corban rule which Jesus attacked in Mark 7:1-13.

And they must also explain how and where the Jewish Magisterium “magically” became the Roman Catholic magisterium.

VII. Rome forbids Catholics from using their private judgement in understanding the Bible, yet many Catholic converts used their private judgement and reasoning in whatever they read to arrive at Rome.

But once they get into the circle, they are mandated to give up their private judgement and submit to the Rome. Eric Svendsen pointed this out:

“The fact is, he had to engage in the very same principle of private judgment that we all must use to decide among the various options; namely, a thinking, objective reasoning process apart from reliance upon the system to which he would eventually subscribe… The Roman Catholic cannot introduce a double standard at this point and still be consistent.” (Upon This Slippery Rock, New York: Calvary Press, 2002, p. 34)

VIII. We’re not infallible, neither are Catholics. But if they claim their church (or pope) is infallible, then how did fallible Catholics “know” this?

Their claim of an infallible church is their own fallible opinion. How do fallible Catholics even infallibly understand and interpret Rome’s infallible teachings?

Catholic lay apologists are the most interesting to watch. On the one hand they attack private judgement, but in reality, their lives depend on it because their church is infected with liberalism.

Steve Ray refers to the “pitiful additions and deletions to the sacred liturgy, or priests who think they are 2,000 years smarter than Jesus, the gospel writers and the holy popes” and hope “never to have to endure another such arrogant and foolish homily.”

This dude must be competent to interpret the Bible more correctly than his liberal seminary-trained priests.

Karl Keating of Catholic Answers complains that “many Catholics are confused because some priests tell them contracepting is immoral, while others tell them the practice is morally neutral, some priests speak as though Mary had one child while others imply she was the mother of the ‘brethren of the Lord.”

Catholic apologist, Bob Sungenis too admits:

“Today’s Catholic scholars took over where the Protestant liberals left off at the turn of the 20th century, and they are much worse than the Protestant liberals ever were. They simply do not have the traditional faith of our Fathers and medievals any longer.”

It’s gratifying to learn that the same Magisterium they are asking us to submit to have abandoned their own theology! These guys live in a context of contradictions.

IX. If an institution claims to be “infallible,” it musn’t contradict itself or make any blunder. Like God-breathed Scripture, it must be perfect and not contradict itself. Does Rome meet up to this criteria? Here are some blunders:

(a) Traditionally, the magisterium emphasised the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, extending to its factual inerrancy.

This doctrine was sustained by Vatican I, Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors and Benedict XV. But later in an encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu, Pius XII made allowance for Bible criticism which opened the door to a de-historical reading of Bible narratives.

Vatican II, however, stripped the Bible of its authenticity by affirming only a partial inspiration.

(b) Rome condemned Galileo’s view of heliocentricity in the 17th century, and forced him to recant his views before the Holy Office. Yet centuries later, they realized he was right and affirmed heliocentricity in 1992.

(c) The belief in Limbo was affirmed in the 12th century and was defended all through the Middle Ages. Several “visions” of Mary had even called for prayers for the babies on Limbo, yet in 2007, the Vatican smoothly discarded the belief and declared Limbo non-existent. The word has quietly disappeared from the recent catechism.

(d) In its canonical list, the Council of Trent mistakenly attributes the composition of the book of James to the Apostle rather than the Lord’s brothers. This error has been discarded by modern Catholic scholars.

(e) The Council of Trent also codifies Paul as the author of Hebrews, yet this cannot be sustained on either internal or external grounds and has been discarded by modern Catholic scholarship (See Luke T. Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, 1999, 460-61).

(f) In the papal bull “Unam Sanctum,” Boniface VIII declared that there is only one true Church, outside of which there is no salvation or remission of sin and made submission to the pope necessary for salvation.

This position was codified by the councils of Florence and Lateran IV. But in Vatican II (Lumen Gentium 16) and also in Pope Benedict XVI’s book, God and the World, the actual salvation of non-Catholics and even non-Christians is admitted. Pope Francis has perfected this universalism to a tee.

(g) According to Vatican II, the universal consensus of the laity cannot err in matters of faith and morals (LG, 12).

Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae,” declared artificial birth control as inherently evil. This position is reaffirmed in the Catechism (2366-2370), yet this teaching has provoked the most uniform dissent on the part of the laity (not to talk of the priests and theologians). So which side is valid?

(h) In 1590, Pope Sixtus V issued an edition of the Vulgate accompanied by a bull in which he endorsed it with apostolic fullness as an irreformable text.

But this Sistine edition was so riddled with errors that it had to be withdrawn from circulation after his death and a revised edition was issued under Pope Clement VIII. How can Rome be infallible?

(i) In the Tridentine canon on Confirmation, no appeal is made either to Scripture or tradition.

They also appealed to Gen. 2:23 in defense of marriage. But this appeal would show that marriage was a creation mandate rather than a sacramental institution. Besides, Rome now regards the first two chapters of Genesis as allegory.

(j) According to a Catholic historian:

“Innocent I and Gelasius … declared it to be so indispensable for infants to receive communion that those who died without it go straight to hell. A thousand years later the Council of Trent anathemised this doctrine.” (The Pope and the Council, 1870, 42).

All these show us that Roman Catholicism is not an infallible, Bible-interpreting institution.