(Continued from page 259)
The true history of Bible translation and circulation?
We have briefly looked at the horrifying way the Roman church handled Bible translation, but what is the true history of Bible translation and circulation? The first complete English Bible was translated by John Wycliffe, 'the morning star of the Reformation,' about 1382. Before his time there was no Bible in English, although a few fragmentary portions had been translated. Wycliffe knew only the Latin Bible, so his version, like the Roman Catholic versions even to the present day, was a translation of a translation. The first English New Testament translated from the original Greek was that of William Tyndale, in 1525-26. That work was made possible through the publication of the Greek New Testament by Erasmus a few years earlier. But, since the church authorities in England (under the adulterous 'head of the church' Henry VIII) did not want the people to have the Bible in their own language, Tyndale was forbidden to carry on his work in England. He went instead to Germany, where the work of Luther had provided a hospitable environment for such a venture. His work was completed and published in the city of Worms, in 1526. However, it was condemned by the (Papist influenced!) English government and, in order to gain entrance into England, had to be smuggled in a few copies at a time.Infallible Popes?
But Tyndale eventually paid with his life for his devotion to the Bible. Having taken up residence in Antwerp, Belgium, opposition to his work began and continued until he was arrested and condemned. In 1536 he was put to death by strangling and his body was burned. His dying words were, 'O God, open the king of England's eyes.' That prayer was answered and, in 1536, there appeared the Miles Coverdale version of the Bible, which also was published outside England, but which circulated with considerable freedom in England. In 1539 the second edition was published in England and circulated freely. Coverdale was the friend and colleague of Tyndale, and the translation was largely Tyndale's.
The next important translation was the Geneva Bible, translated during the reign of Roman Catholic Queen Mary Tudor by a group of English scholars, exiles in Geneva, Switzerland, hence its name. This became the Bible of the intrepid John Knox and of the early Puritans. The next important translation was the King James version, published in 1611. This was the Bible brought to this country by the Pilgrims and Puritans and widely used by John Bunyan, Cromwell's army, and the Scottish Covenanters.
Up until the time of the Reformation the Bible had been a book for priests only. It was written in Latin, and the Roman Church refused to allow it to be translated into the languages of the common people. But, when the Reformers came on the scene, all of that was changed. Luther translated the entire Bible into German for the people of his native land, and within 25 years of its appearance one hundred editions of the German Bible came off the press. It was also soon translated into most of the vernacular tongues of Europe and the Reformation made it the book of the common people. Decrees of popes and church councils gave way to the Word of Life. The Protestant churches of Europe and America were the ones who laboured earnestly to put the Bible into the hands of the people in their own languages and who urged people everywhere to read it for themselves. Protestant Bible societies now circulate more copies of the Bible each year than were circulated in the fifteen centuries that preceded the Reformation! Today the Bible is available in whole, or in part, in the native tongues of probably >99 per cent of the people of the world thanks to Protestant denominations such as the Wycliffe Centre in the UK.
The Protestant ideal is that everyone should read the Bible and this is a powerful reason for the Protestant nations, the United States, England, Scotland, Holland, and the Scandinavian nations following one line of development, while the Roman Catholic nations, Italy, Spain, France, and the Latin American nations followed a distinctly different pattern. Bible-believing Christians believe that those who study the Bible in sincerity and with prayer will have no difficulty in understanding its basic truths. The words of Jesus, previously quoted, imply that the common people should know the Bible and that they are able to understand it.
It is manifestly clear that knowledge of the Bible brings men out of bondage - and keeping the Word from men leads to their descent into darkness and servitude. The Bible has been the precursor of civilization and liberty, driving out barbarity and despotism and dispelling ignorance and superstition. We only have to examine the countries ruled by the Papacy to observe the worst kinds of despotic rule, confused belief, and people kept in poverty by money-grubbing Rome.
Further evidence, if it were needed, that popes are not infallible is found in the tragi-comic case of Galileo. In defense of Church dogma, Pope Urban VIII (1623-44) threatened an elderly and infirm Galileo with torture if he would not renounce his claim that the earth revolved around the sun. Declaring that this belief was contrary to Scripture, the pope had Galileo on his knees, in fear for his life, recanting of this 'heresy' before the Holy Office of the Inquisition! The geocentric view remained official Catholic dogma for centuries, with 'infallible pope after infallible pope' affirming it: The earth was the centre of the universe, and all heavenly bodies, including the sun, revolved around it. It was not until 1992 that the Vatican, after a 14-month study, finally admitted that Galileo had indeed been right! That admission was at the same time an acknowledgment that the many popes who had affirmed that Galileo was wrong were themselves fallible creatures capable of making false interpretations of Scripture. Yet Vatican II reaffirmed the dogma that only the magisterium led by the infallible pope may interpret Scripture and that all the faithful must unquestioningly accept their interpretation. No wonder Vatican II limits its endorsement of Biblical inerrancy to matters of faith and morals! It states, 'The books of Scripture firmly, faithfully and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures.' A Knights of Columbus edition paraphrases this section thus: 'Hence the Bible is free from error in what pertains to religious truth revealed for our salvation. It is not necessarily free from error in other matters (e.g., natural science) [emphasis in original].' Apparently the God who created the universe and who inspired the Bible doesn't know natural science!Did Peter ever claim to be 'The Rock'?
The magisterium, which claims to be infallible and the only interpreter of Scripture, is obviously far from infallible and must therefore have an excuse for the scientific errors it makes. Thus it tries to blame Scripture. In denying individuals the personal, moral responsibility of heeding God's Word (rather than what some hierarchy says about it), the Roman Catholic Church clings to the last vestiges of authority which it once exercised over the lives and consciences of all men and governments. So which 'individual has the 'right' to interpret the Scriptures as he sees fit, a teaching which has made Christianity a great scandal to unbelievers'? That's right - it has been the popes throughout history!
In contrast with the Protestant attitude toward the Bible, the Roman Church traditionally opposed its free use by the people despite clear Scriptural exhortation to memorize the Word of God for the good of each individual (Psalm 119v11). Even today, in the predominantly Roman Catholic countries, Rome keeps the Bible from the people, or at least makes no effort to provide it for them. The result is that the people in those countries know practically nothing about the Bible - as demonstrated here - except when Protestant organizations have gone in and distributed copies. In countries where the Roman Church is in keen competition with Protestantism it has allowed the people to have the Bible if there is a demand for it, but it has always insisted strenuously that the version must be the Douay, or more recently the Confraternity, each of which contains a set of notes printed on the same page with the text and giving the Roman Catholic interpretation of disputed passages. Even to this day any other version, even the Bible as such without note or comment, is considered suspect by Rome. The alleged reason is that these versions contain 'errors.' But the real reason is that the Church of Rome does not want the Bible read, apart from her interpretative notes, because there is great danger of the average reader discovering the truth about Roman Catholic doctrines simply by reading the 'Holy Mirror' which exposes error.
The Bible was first officially forbidden to the people by the Church of Rome and placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Council of Valencia, Spain, in the year 1229, with the following decree:
'We prohibit also the permitting of the laity to have the books of the Old and New Testament, unless any one should wish, from a feeling of devotion, to have a psalter or breviary for divine service, or the hours of the blessed Mary. But we strictly forbid them to have the above-mentioned books in the vulgar tongue.'
Here we see that the Bible was forbidden to the laity, except for the Psalms or breviary (book of devotions), and even then it could be only in Latin - which of course placed it beyond the reach of the common people. That decree was passed at the time the Waldensians were gaining strength, and it was enforced with bitter persecution.
The Council of Trent reaffirmed that decree and prohibited the use of the Scriptures by any member of the church unless he obtained permission from his superior. The decree read as follows:
'In as much as it is manifest, from experience, that if the Holy Bible, translated into the vulgar tongue, be indiscriminately allowed to everyone, the temerity of men will cause more evil than good to arise from it; it is, on this point, referred to the judgment of the bishops, or inquisitors, who may, by the advice of the priest or confessor, permit the reading of the Bible translated into the vulgar tongue by Catholic authors, to those persons whose faith and piety, they apprehend, will be augmented, and not injured by it; and this permission they must have in writing.'
To this decree, as to more than a hundred others passed by this council, was attached an anathema against anyone who should dare to violate it, and also penalties were fixed against the illegal possessor or seller of those books. Here we observe particularly the statement that the reading of the Bible in the native tongue will do 'more evil than good'! It is almost inconceivable to imagine that a church professing to be Christian could introduce this evil as deliberate policy! What an incredible insult to God to suggest that His Word could do more evil than good if read by His people! That attitude toward the Word of God is the mark, not of a true church, but of a false church in league with the Devil!
While it has been the policy of the Roman Church to withhold the Bible from the people, Peter, the alleged founder of that church, refers to Scripture as 'the word of prophecy made more sure,' and likens it to 'a lamp shining in a dark place' (1 Peter 1v19). What a blessing it would be to the world if the Roman Church had really followed the teaching of Peter! Early in the history of Israel God instructed Moses to make the words of the law known and easily accessible to all the people:
'And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest in the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. ... And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates' (Deuteronomy 6v7-9).
Another verse which expresses the preciousness of Scripture and its importance to the individual is Psalm 119v11:
'Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.'
How can you hide God's word in your heart unless you know it? Accepting second-hand words from an un-Scriptural priesthood is bound to lead to ignorance and unbelief and is reflected in the typical attitude expressed by so many who attempt to respond to orthodox Christianity.
Even where permission to read the Bible is granted by the Council of Trent - to those who presumably are so thoroughly indoctrinated with Roman Catholicism that nothing will shake their faith - that permission must be in writing! Liguori, one of the highest authorities on Canon Law, whose books are probably considered more authoritative and perhaps quoted more often than those of any other writer, says:
'The Scriptures and books of Controversy may not be permitted in the vulgar tongue, as also they cannot be read without permission.'
Four different popes during the eighteenth century made pronouncements against giving the Bible to the people in their own language. Typical was Clement XI (1713) in the Bull Unigenitus:
'We strictly forbid them (the laity) to have the books of the Old and New Testament in the vulgar tongue.'
As for the Encyclical of Leo XIII (1893) on 'The Study of the Bible,' sometimes quoted by Roman Catholics as a statement urging the laity to study the Bible, it should be observed that: (1) the Bible which was cited for study was the Latin Vulgate, which of course was not available to the common people, nor understood by them; (2) the statement forbade them to interpret it other than the church interpretation; and (3) it did not rescind or modify the prior law of the church which refused the free use of the Scriptures to the laity.
So, for centuries no one in the Papal church could possess or read the Bible in his native tongue without permission in writing from his superior and under the watchful eye of the bishop. To read the Bible otherwise was a mortal sin - and, even after following all the Papal rules, absolution could not be granted until the book was delivered to the priest. Few were able to read the Word that would have exposed Rome as the man made structure that it quickly became. The Bible was merely preserved as a reference book for Rome's theologians and priests to use to sustain the power of its priesthood by eisegesis of certain texts. Thus ignorance, superstition, poverty, and low moral conditions have long been characteristic of Roman Catholic countries peopled by those still in the extreme darkness of Rome's deception.
Only in recent years has a considerable change taken place in Roman Catholic practice after they were shamed into a different attitude because of Protestant criticism. Still, the Roman Church only began to grant her people the privilege of reading the Bible using the 'approved' versions. The annual 'Catholic Bible Week' was instituted, and indulgences granted for reading the Bible at least fifteen minutes each day. This certainly comes very late in the long, long history of the Roman Church. Unfortunately, even while this new attitude began, it remained a mortal sin for a Roman Catholic anywhere to read the King James, American Standard, Revised Standard, or any other Protestant version. So, incredible as it seems, the Bible remained on the Index of Forbidden Books for years! So the Bible is only fit for a Roman Catholic to read when it is annotated ('doctored') by an authorized theologian! What St. Paul and St. Peter wrote, if it stands by itself, is on this embarrassing Index. Roman Catholic tradition that Peter was the first pope does not stop his original inspired writings from being forbidden - unless some uninspired Roman Catholic theologian annotates his writing! The Roman Church does not claim infallibility for the theologian who annotates it, but he must correct and edit the inspired work before it is readable enough for the pope, clergy, and lay people to understand!
The attitude of the Roman Church toward the Bible societies remained that of sustained opposition. Several acts of the popes have been directed exclusively against them. In 1824 pope Leo XII, in an encyclical letter said:
'You are aware, venerable brethren, that a certain society called the Bible Society strolls with effrontery throughout the world, which society, contrary to the well-known decree of the Council of Trent, labors with all its might and by every means to translate - or rather to pervert - the Scriptures into the vulgar tongue of every nation. ... We, in conformity with our apostolic duty, exhort you to turn away your flock by all means from these poisonous pastures.'
In 1844 pope Gregory XVI again condemned these societies, and pope Pius IX, author of the decree of papal infallibility, who died in 1878, denounced 'these cunning and infamous societies, which call themselves Bible societies, and give the Scriptures to inexperienced youth.'
Many times Bibles have been publicly burned by the priests. It only takes a short trip back into history to discover that, in 1957, the depot of the British and Foreign Bible Society in Madrid, Spain, was closed and its stock of Bibles confiscated and burned. After the Spanish civil war, which brought Franco and the Roman Catholic Church to power, Spanish children returning from hospitable Swiss families with Bibles in their pockets reached the Spanish frontier and were promptly forced to hand those precious books over to the local priest. Time and again, in places like Colombia, Bibles have been taken from Protestants by fanatical Romanist groups and burned, almost always at the instigation of the local priests, usually in communities where new Protestant churches were being formed. The fact remains that only in those countries where Protestantism is dominant does the Bible circulate freely. The deceiving popes, who profess to be God's representatives on earth, forbid their people and all others to read God's own Book of Life! Such actions prove the Church of Rome to be false.
So, for a thousand years, from the early sixth century to the sixteenth century, while the Roman Church held sway, the Bible remained a closed book. The Roman Church, instead of being a kingdom of light, became a kingdom of darkness, promoting ignorance and superstition and holding the people in bondage. Even a brief discussion with Roman Catholics reveal their paucity of knowledge concerning the Bible and the man-made Papal doctrines, and horrendous history, of their church. While the Index of Forbidden Books included the Bible the Roman Church permitted the reading of some books by ecclesiastical writers outside her fold when those books contained nothing contrary to her doctrines. But the Bible was too dangerous to read unless it carried Papal interpretation!
Even the Roman Catholic people in the United States with access to the Bible are told that they cannot understand it and that it must be interpreted for them by the church speaking through the priest. Obviously, people rarely waste their time reading a book if they have been persuaded they cannot understand it without the 'spiritual leading' of the church. Examine cults, particularly the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah's Witnesses, and you find they all teach this same essential lie! The priests, just like Jehovah's Witnesses, cannot interpret the Bible for themselves, but must follow Papal leading, and according to 'the unanimous consent of the fathers.' Rome likes to deceive itself that this is a reasonable interpretation, but the facts show that the fathers they like to claim have a special 'doctrinal kinship' with the popes actually disagreed on many points of doctrine that they have made special to their corrupt kingdom. The doctrine of the immaculate conception, for instance, was denied by Anselm, Bonaventura, and Thomas Aquinas, three of the foremost Roman theologians, yet Rome now presumes to teach that Mary was born without sin, and that it was the unanimous teaching of the fathers!
In the same way the 'Christian Scientist' cult, who also claim to follow the Bible, insist that it must be interpreted by Mary Baker Eddy's book, Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures - and the Mormons claim to believe in the Bible ('as far as it is interpreted correctly'), but actually interpret it by the Book of Mormon and their convenient follow-up revelations of convenience, such as the 'Doctrine and Covenants.'
Even Rome's priests scarcely study the Bible, relying on their breviaries (books of daily devotions and prayers which are of purely human origin), as the church teaches. Thus Rome presents Christianity as a mystery religion, in which the mass and other practices are set forth as unfathomable mysteries, beyond the understanding of lay-people - but they are to be accepted with implicit faith! Thus the average Roman Catholic faithfully follows his churches teachings but neglects his Bible and, instead of following the teachings of God, the priests and people follow the traditions of men - just as Jesus spoke of the Pharisees (Mark 7:5ff.)!
The Knights of Columbus postulated, without evidence, that the Roman Catholic Church produced the Bible and that we received it from her. They claimed that the canon of the Bible was established in the fourth century, by the pope and council of Carthage, in 397 A. D. But this claim relies on the ignorance of people for, in the first place, there was no actual pope in 397 A. D.! The bishop of Rome was designated pope for the first time at the Council of Chalcedon, in 451 A.D. - and the authority of the bishop of Rome has never been acknowledged by the Eastern churches who embrace enough error themselves. Up to that time all priests and bishops were called popes (Latin, papa) and, in the Eastern churches, that title is applied to ordinary priests even to the present day. The Council of Chalcedon attempted to restrict the title exclusively to the bishop of Rome, who at that time was Leo I, and then dishonestly conferred it posthumously on all previous bishops of Rome in order to make it appear that an unbroken succession of popes had proceeded from Peter!
The second fact ignored by Roman Catholics is that the New Testament was assembled during the first century of the Christian era and had assumed its present form centuries before the Roman Catholic Church degenerated even further from its inauspicious beginnings into an outright cult. Ironically, for your claims, at that time the Eastern churches were dominant in Christian affairs, and the Church in Rome was relatively insignificant. Gregory I ('Gregory the Great'), who was consecrated pope in 590 and died in 604 A.D. was, in reality, the founder of the papal system. He reorganized the church, modified the ritual, restored monastic discipline, attempted to enforce celibacy among the clergy (in clear violation of Scripture: 1 Timothy 4v1-3), and expanded the authority of the Roman Church into many countries abutting Italy. Thus it was Gregory I who was predominantly responsible for giving the Roman Church its distinguishing constitution that set the course it was to follow in its later history.
So, long before the Council of Carthage, the true universal church had determined the canon of inspired and infallible books that are the True Word of God, making up the New Testament, purely on the basis of their authenticity and authority. All the Council of Carthage did was place its 'stamp of approval' on the selection that the Holy Spirit had already ensured was the New Testament canon. The Old Testament canon was completed and had assumed its present form long before the coming of Christ and the Roman Church, of course, had nothing whatsoever to do with that either!
'Binding and Loosing'
With regard to the claim that Peter's place in the Church, and therefore his authority to interpret the Scriptures, is defined by Matthew 16v13-19, an examination of the passage points out many other contrary facts:
'Now Jesus, having come into the district of Caesarea Philippi, began to ask his disciples, saying, 'Who do men say the Son of Man is?' But they said, 'Some say, John the Baptist; and others, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Then Jesus answered and said, 'Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood bath not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt hind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Confraternity Version).
To this passage the Confraternity Version adds the following interpretation:
'The rock was Peter. ... The gates of hell: hostile, evil powers. Their aggressive force will struggle in vain against the Church. She shall never be overcome; she is indefectible. And since she has the office of teacher (cf. 28, 16-20), and since she would be overcome if error prevailed, she is infallible.
'Keep: a symbol of authority. Peter has the power to admit into the Church and to exclude therefrom. Nor is he merely the porter; he has complete power within the Church. 'To bind and to loose' seems to have been used by the Jew's in the sense of to forbid or to permit; but the present context requires a more comprehensive meaning. In heaven God ratifies the decisions which Peter makes on earth, in the name of Christ' (pp. 36-37).
The late Cardinal Gibbons, a former archbishop of Baltimore and therefore a leading American Roman Catholic, wrote these words concerning the church of Rome:
'The Catholic Church teaches that our Lord conferred on St. Peter the first place of honor and jurisdiction in the government of His whole church, and that the same spiritual supremacy has always resided in the popes, or bishops of Rome, as being the successors of St. Peter. Consequently, to be true followers of Christ all Christians, both among the clergy and laity, must be in communion with the See of Rome, where Peter rules in the person of his successor' (Faith of our Fathers p. 95).
Thus the Roman Church is built on the assumption that, in Matthew 16v13-19, Christ appointed Peter the first pope and so established the papacy that constructed the un-Scriptural and abusive priesthood through his successors.
Such claims entirely founder when examination shows that: (1) Matthew 16v13-19 does not teach that Christ appointed Peter a pope; (2) there is no proof that Peter ever was in Rome; and (3) the New Testament records, particularly Peter's own writings, show that he never claimed authority over the other apostles or over the church, and such authority was never accorded to him.
First, regarding Peter as 'the Rock':
'And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' (Matthew 16v18, Confraternity Version).
Rome's interpretation is intended to establish the claim for papal authority in a typical example of poor exegesis - or rather eisegesis (interpreting Scripture to obtain the predetermined result required). But in the Greek the word Peter is Petros, a person, masculine, while the word 'rock,' petra, is feminine and refers not to a person but to the declaration of Christ's deity that Peter had just uttered - 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'
Using Peter's name and making, as it were, a play upon words, Jesus said to Peter, 'You are Petros, and upon this petra I will build my church.' The truth that Peter had just confessed was the foundation upon which Christ would build His church. He meant that Peter had seen the basic, essential truth concerning His person, the essential truth upon which the church would be founded, and that nothing would be able to overthrow that truth, no matter what forces of evil might be aligned against it. Christ commended Peter for the spiritual insight that recognised our Lord as the Christ of God, and said that His church would be founded upon that fact. This is a far different thing from founding the church on Peter, as Rome attempts to demonstrate.
Had Christ intended to say that the Church would be founded on Peter, He would not have shifted to the feminine form of the word in the middle of the statement, which would have been tantamount to declaring: 'And I say unto thee, that thou art Mr. Rock, and upon this, the Miss Rock, I will build my church.' Clearly the church was to be founded on the truth that Peter had expressed - the deity of Christ - and not upon weak, vacillating Peter. The Greek 'petros' is commonly used of a small, movable stone that is nothing more than a pebble! But 'petra' means a massive, immovable, colossal ROCK - and Christ deliberately extracted this basic truth that Peter had just confessed, the deity of Christ.
The Bible confirms this for us and shows that the church is not built upon Peter, but 'built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone' (Ephesians 2v20). And again, 'For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ' (I Corinthians 3v11). This is the foundation without which the true Christian church could not exist.
If Matthew 16v18 had been intended to teach that the church is founded on Peter, it would have read something like this: 'Thou art Peter, and upon you I will build my church'; or, 'Thou art Peter, and upon you the rock I will build my church.' But that is not what Christ said. He made two complete, distinct statements. He said, 'Thou art Peter,' and, 'Upon this rock (change of gender, indicating change of subject) I will build my church.'
The gates of Hell were never to prevail against the true church, but they have certainly revealed the true, evil nature of Rome! But we know that Peter shortly afterward revealed that he was not infallible, never mind the first 'infallible pope' (or any kind of 'pope'!) as recorded in this chapter almost immediately afterward, when he attempted to deny that Christ would be crucified and, in the presence of the other disciples, received the stinging rebuke, 'Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art a stumbling block unto me, for thou mindest not the things of God but things of men' (v23). How can we believe that this strong rebuke would ever have been delivered to a man chosen as a unique and founder of the church - to one who had supposedly just been appointed 'infallible' pope! To make the claims that Rome attempts is to embarrass yourself and force the admission that the Roman church is founded on the weak foundation of a mere man who repeatedly showed his fallibility - as we shall demonstrate from Scripture.
Later we read that Peter slumbered in Gethsemane during Christ's agony and then, when Christ had already emphasised that Scripture prophesied that He would be delivered up to His enemies and crucified (Matthew 26v2), Peter rashly struck off the servant's ear (Mark 14v47), thus earning another rebuke from Christ. He boasted that he was ready to die for his Master, but shortly afterward shamefully denied with oaths and curses that he even knew Him (Mark 14v68ff.). And even after Pentecost Peter still was subject to such serious error that his hypocrisy had to be rebuked by Paul, who says: 'But when Cephas came to Antioch (at which time, according to Papal doctrine, he was in full possession of his papal powers!), I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned' (Galatians 2v11). And yet Papists allege that their pope, as Peter's successor, is always infallible in matters of faith and morals!
The Gospel written by Mark, who is described in early Christian literature as Peter's close companion and understudy, does not even record the remark about the 'rock' in reporting Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8v27-30). The evidence clearly indicates that Christ never built His church upon a weak, sinful man but, rather, the essential deity of Christ was correctly set forth by Peter in his confession and it was this fact, that Christ is the foundation stone, the starting point, on which the church would be built, that Peter was clearly commended for stating.
There is another fact that shows that no superior standing was ever conferred upon Peter: the later disputes among the disciples concerning who should be greatest among them! Had such rank already been given, Christ would simply have referred to His grant of power to Peter. Instead we read:
'And they came to Capernaum: and when he was in the house he asked them, What were ye reasoning on the way? But they held their peace: for they bad disputed one with another on the way, who was the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve; and he saith unto them, If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all' (Mark 9v33-35).
'And there came near unto him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him, Teacher, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? And they said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left band, in thy glory. ... And when the ten heard it, they began to be moved with indignation concerning James and John. And Jesus called them unto him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you: but whosoever would become great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all' (Mark 10v34-44).
Rome does not advertise the fact that some of the influential church fathers, Augustine and Jerome among them, gave the Protestant explanation of this verse, understanding the 'rock' to mean not Peter but Christ. Others, of course, gave the papal interpretation. But this reveals clearly that there was never any 'unanimous consent of the fathers,' as claimed by Rome, on this subject.
As mentioned, Mark's Gospel is connected with Peter by all early Christian tradition and it does not even include this word of Jesus to Peter. But this is not all! The Epistles of Peter also fail to make any such claim. In 1 Peter 2v6-8 Christ is called a rock and a chief cornerstone, but Peter claims nothing for himself. In fact he is explicit in calling all believers living stones built up in a spiritual house with Christ as the head of the corner. Christ is repeatedly called a Rock. The background for this is that around thirty-four times in the Old Testament God is called a Rock or the Rock of Israel. It was a appellation of God and, in the Messianic passages, Isaiah 8v14; 28v16; and Psalm 118v22, Christ is called a Rock or Stone upon which we should believe and, since these passages are quoted in the New Testament, we know that Christ is clearly identified as the Divine Rock of Scripture. Another very revealing Scripture is 1 Corinthians 10v1-4:
1 For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and did all eat the same spiritual food; 4 and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them: and the rock was Christ.
The evidence clearly shows that true believers are children of Christ the Rock and living stones built upon Him. Ephesians 2v20 says this plainly. We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone and Paul testifies that the Rock from which the Israelites drank was Christ (I Corinthians 10v4). In the New Testament there are twelve foundations with the names of the twelve apostles on them and not once is one of them made pre-eminent.
Regarding 'binding and loosing' which Rome claims is a prerogative of the popes alone - we read:
'And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Matthew 16v19, Confraternity Version).
Rome would hope we do not notice that this authority to bind and to loose was not given exclusively to Peter. In the Matthew 18 the same power is given to all of the disciples. There we read:
'At that hour the disciples came to Jesus. ... Amen I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven' (vss. 1, 18, Confraternity Version).
Consequently Matthew 16v19 does not prove any superiority on Peter's part. Another point that Rome hopes you miss is that even the scribes and Pharisees would have had this same power, if they had been faithful to their calling, for Jesus said to them:
'But woe upon you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer them that are entering in to enter' (Matthew 23v13).
On another occasion Jesus said:
'The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses' seat: all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not. Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be born, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger' (Matthew 23v2-4).
The Word of God had been in the hands of the scribes and Pharisees and they had the power of declaring that Word to the people, and thus to open the kingdom of heaven to them but, in withholding that Word, they effectively shut the kingdom of heaven against people. Moses' function was to give the law which convinces men of their sin and need for salvation. It was, therefore, a declaratory power, the authority to announce the terms on which God would grant salvation, but not an absolute power to admit or to exclude from the kingdom of heaven. Only God can do that and He never delegates that authority to men.
In Luke 11v52 Jesus said:
'Woe unto you lawyers! for ye took away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.'
The key of the knowledge of the way of salvation, by which entrance into the kingdom of heaven is obtained, was in the hands of the Pharisees in that they had the law of Moses in their possession, and were therefore the custodians of the Word of God. Only in that sense did they possess the key to the kingdom and they threw away that key in their failure to proclaim the Word of God to the people. Just as Jesus clearly stated: they were not entering into the kingdom of heaven themselves, and they even hindered those who wanted to enter.
In their usual manner, the Papacy failed to notice the exact words spoken to Peter: it was 'things,' not 'persons,' that were to be bound or loosed. We read that 'whatever' or 'whatsoever,' not 'whomsoever,' shall be 'bound' or 'loosed' meaning that things such as the ceremonial laws and customs of the Old Testament dispensation were to be done away with, and the new rituals and practices of the Gospel age were to be established. Thus the 'keys' symbolize the authority to open, in this instance, the kingdom of heaven to men through the proclamation of the Gospel. What the disciples were commissioned and privileged to do was the opposite of what the scribes and Pharisees were doing, that is, they were to facilitate the entrance of the people into the kingdom of heaven. There was, of course, no physical seat which had been used by Moses and which now was being used by the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees had been in possession of the law of Moses, having been given precepts which in themselves were authoritative and good and which were to be obeyed, but they had failed to live up to those precepts and the Gospel of Christ had come to fulfil the Law and set the people free from following their failed leaders example.
Clearly the keys were symbolical of authority, which here is specified as the power of binding and loosing, and it is also clear that the consequences of what the disciples did in this regard would go far beyond earth and would have their permanent results in heaven and in eternity. In referring to the keys of the kingdom Jesus continued the figure in which He compared the kingdom of heaven to a house which He was building and which would be built upon a solid Rock (Matthew 7v24) - Himself! Entrance into that house was through the door of faith which was to be opened, first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. Peter, who had been the first of the disciples to comprehend the person of Christ in His true deity and to confess that deity before the other disciples, was commissioned to be the first to open that door and only in this sense can we say the keys were first given to him. To him was given the distinction and high honour among the apostles of being the first to open the door of faith to the Jewish world, which he did on the day of Pentecost when, through his sermon, some three thousand Jews were converted (Acts 2v14-42), and a short time later was given the distinction and high honour of opening the door of faith to the Gentile world, which he did in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10v1-48). While the keys were, in this respect, first given to Peter, they were soon afterward also given to the other disciples as they too proclaimed the Gospel both to Jews and Gentiles. Although Peter was given the distinction and honour of being the first to open the kingdom to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles, he never claimed or assumed any higher authority and was in all other respects on precisely the same footing as all the other apostles.
Possession of the keys never meant that Peter had sovereignly, within his own person, the authority to determine who should be admitted to heaven and who should be excluded, as the Roman Church now attempts to claim for popes and priests. Ultimate authority is in the hands of Christ alone and it is He 'that openeth and none shall shut, and that shutteth and none openeth' (Revelation 3v7). Peter, and later the other apostles, being in possession of the Gospel message, truly did open the door and present the opportunity to enter in as they proclaimed the message before the people and the same privilege of opening the door or of closing the door of salvation to others is given to every Christian, for the command that Christ gave His church was to go and make disciples of all the nations. Thus 'the power of the keys' is a declarative power only.
Roman Catholics try and build a doctrine, which would make their church unique, upon two verses which speak of the 'rock' and the 'keys,' so they can claim that the power given to Peter was absolute and that it was transferred by him to his successors. However, it is clear that there is not one verse in Scripture which teaches that this transfer ever occurred. But the Roman Church tries to use this false claim of the 'power of the keys' to state that: 'In heaven God ratifies the decisions which Peter makes on earth' (Footnote, Confraternity Version, p. 37).
How did Peter understand the authority that he - and the other apostles - had been given? These are the actual words Peter used that reveal the true exercise of the power of 'the keys': 'And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved' (Acts 2v21). At the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius he again gave a universal Gospel invitation: 'To him (Christ) bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins' (Acts 10v43). Clearly, Peter preached here and everywhere in the New Testament that salvation is based only on faith in Christ - obedience to Peter, or to any pope or man is not even hinted at anywhere in Scripture!
In claiming the 'power of the keys,' Rome attempts to force church members to obey her un-Biblical ordinances and commands and leaves them fearful, believing that the church alone has the power to grant their salvation. Thus Rome becomes the cult of 'Mother Church,' convincing members so much of her great 'power' that they are afraid to even read or listen to anything that might be frowned on by the Pope and his false priesthood. Conditioning from childhood makes this power over the mind of Catholics capable of stunting any truly logical response you might have to orthodox questioning.
(Continued on page 261)