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Catholic bishops decided canonicity of the New Testament?
When was the New Testament Canon Established?
Catholicism's claim that the New Testament comes from the Church by decision of the councils is also false. No early council even ruled on what was canonical; yet in these councils, to support their arguments, both sides quoted the New Testament, which had obviously been accepted by general consensus without any conciliar definition of the canon. The Synod of Antioch, in A.D. 266, denounced the doctrine of Paul of Samosata as 'foreign to the ecclesiastical canon.' The Council of Nicea in 325 refers to 'the canon'; and the Council of Laodicea in 363 exhorted that 'only the 'canonized' books of both Old and New Testaments be read in the church.' Yet none of those councils deemed it necessary to list the canonized books, indicating that they were already well-known and accepted by the common consent of Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit. So your claim that any council in 382, or the 'Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397 and 405)' had any significant say in the canon is another falsehood.
The Third Council of Carthage, in A.D. 397, gave the first conciliar decision on the canon, but this is rather late if, without it, Christians didn't know what books were in the New Testament and therefore couldn't use them, as Rome claims today! History proves that the books of the New Testament were known and accepted by Christians and in wide circulation and use at least 300 years before Carthage listed them. Historian W.H.C. Frend writes:
The Gospels and epistles were circulating in Asia, Syria, and Alexandria (less certainly in Rome), and being read and discussed in the Christian synagogues there by about 100. In Polycarp's short letter there is an astonishing amount of direct and indirect quotation from the New Testament: Matthew, Luke, and John, Acts, the letters to the Galatians, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Romans, the Pastorals, 1 Peter particularly, and 1 and 2 John are all used....The Christian Scriptures were quoted so familiarly as to suggest that they had been in regular use a long time.'
No rabbinical body decided upon the canon of the Old Testament. That canon was recognized by Israel and available as it was being written. Daniel, a captive in Babylon, had a copy of Jeremiah written only a few years earlier and was studying it as Scripture (Daniel 9v2). Since every Israelite believer was instructed to meditate upon the Word of God day and night (Psalm 1v2) we can be sure that the entire Old Testament was well-known when Christ was walking the earth and, undoubtedly, long before. That fact, as well as its availability to all, is very clear from Christ's rebuke of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: 'O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken . . .' (Luke 24v25). He would not have used such harsh language in holding these two ordinary people responsible for their ignorance of prophecies had not all of the Old Testament Scriptures been readily available, familiar, and understandable to the ordinary Jew. He then expounded unto them in all the Scriptures (which must therefore have been known) 'the things concerning himself' (Luke 24v25-27). All of the Scriptures were even available to the faraway Bereans north of Greece, who, as we have seen, 'searched the Scriptures daily' (Acts 17v11).
The same evidence is found in the fact that Timothy knew the Old Testament from early childhood (2 Timothy 3v15) and that it was not taught to him by the rabbis in the synagogue but at home by his mother and grandmother, who themselves were women of faith (2 Timothy 1v5). It is certainly clear that no one in Old Testament times looked to any hierarchy for an official interpretation of Scripture, neither did the early church and neither should we today.
The plain words of the Bible, without Rome's attempt to misrepresent its interpretation (as is the habit of all false teachers), expose the Papal system for the total fraud that its 'pope' and 'priesthood' are in reality. Priscilla and Aquila were an ordinary husband and wife who laboured daily at tent-making (Acts 18v3) while a 'church [met] in their house' (1 Corinthians 16v19) and they were capable teachers of God's Word, even instructing a man as eloquent as Apollos (Acts 18v26). Paul referred to them as 'my helpers in Christ Jesus' (Romans 16v3), yet they had never been to seminary and were not part of any clerical hierarchy (which didn't exist), but they knew God and His Word by the Holy Spirit indwelling them as do all true Christians!
According to Paul, ordinary Christians are to judge whether a preacher is speaking God's truth. Paul submitted his writings to the same criteria, inviting his readers to judge by the Holy Spirit within them whether his epistles were from God or not:
'If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord' (1 Corinthians 14v37).
This was the same witness given by the Holy Spirit within each individual believer that caused the first-century church to recognise the canonical books while rejecting the false books - the pseudo-epigrapha. The same Spirit witnesses in exactly the same way to Christians today, causing them to recognize the Bible as God's inspired Word while rejecting every false 'scripture', such as the Book of Mormon, Science and Health - or any 'Bull' from Rome.
While the Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit speaks to individuals through the words of the Bible, Rome has made this anathema (a curse!) - which speaks volumes about the inspirer of the Church of Rome - Satan! Karl Keating, one of the leading Catholic lay apologists, wrote:
The Catholic believes in inspiration because the Church tells him so - that is putting it bluntly - and that same church has the authority to interpret the inspired text. Fundamentalists have no interpreting authority other than themselves.
The truth is clear. 'Fundamentalists' are correctly following the Scriptural exhortation, as proven here, and look to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, by comparison of doctrinal exposition from each believer, the truth can clearly be discerned in every aspect of every major doctrine. Thus it is found that all of the Christian 'denominations' believe the same major doctrines, e.g. the 'Triunity' of God, the Deity of Christ, salvation by faith through grace alone. Catholicism claims this guidance, but only for its hierarchy who alone can be led by the Spirit to understand the Bible. Two simple findings utterly destroy the claims of Rome. Firstly, the Bible says every faithful Christian is indwelt, empowered, and led by the Holy Spirit and, in fact, the Bible makes it clear that one is not even a Christian without this inner witness and leading of the Holy Spirit:
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.... For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons ......... The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God... (Romans 8v9,14,16).
But God hath revealed them [the 'things of God'] unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God..., the things of God knoweth no man but [by] the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth (1 Corinthians 2v10-13).
Secondly, when Rome makes claims, such as the long held heresy that Mary enjoys the un-Biblical position of 'co-Mediatrix' with the Lord Jesus Christ, we simply demolish the claims by comparing every Scripture that mentions her and compare the clear and proven role of Christ in our salvation. By comparison, every devout Catholic is at the mercy of his Church and must believe whatever it teaches because, they tell him, he is simply incapable of understanding the Bible for himself. We will soon see whether any Papist is justified in putting such faith in fallible men. The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine bluntly declares:
Man can obtain a knowledge of God's Word [only] from the Catholic Church and through its duly constituted channels. … When he has once mastered this principle of divine authority [residing in the Church], the inquirer is prepared to accept whatever the divine Church teaches on faith, morals and the means of grace.'
This is, again, the plain first principle of every cult: 'Check your mind at the door and believe whatever the group, or church, or guru, or prophet in charge says.' The idea certainly appeals to many who think that, by surrendering their minds in this way to an infallible authoritarian leadership, they escape their individual moral responsibility to God. Fear also plays its part for those who, afraid to think for themselves because that would put them outside the Church where 'there is no salvation,' cling to Rome and fail to do the basic research that would unravel the centuries of evil deception. Far from making God's Word available to each individual, Rome holds it just out of reach for the whole lifespan of each individual Catholic.
It is vile acts of this kind that have 'made Christianity a great scandal to unbelievers'!
The New Testament canon, exactly like the Old, was accepted and recognized by a consensus of believers as it was being written - as clearly shown by the historic evidence above. And we also have the clear testimony of Peter:
Even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [twist], as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction (2 Peter 3v15,16).
So we see that Peter acknowledges Paul's writings to be Scripture. So has, apparently, the entire body of believers at this time. 'The other Scriptures' by that time would have included most of the remainder of the New Testament. It is also clear that these books were so readily available and well-known by believers at this early date (about A.D. 66) that Peter didn't even need to name them. Christians knew these writings were inspired by God by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. While Rome thought she could force natives in South America and other countries to convert to Catholicism under pain of death the natives chose to die rather than surrender to this false gospel which the Holy Spirit did not 'bear witness to' (John 15v26)!
The Sufficiency of Scripture
Even more embarrassingly, Rome not only teaches that the Church hierarchy alone can interpret the Bible, but that no one can believe it without the Church attesting to its authenticity. Historian Keating suggests that the gospel itself has no power without this endorsement, quoting Augustine:
'I would not believe in the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.'
Those who know the truth about Rome's history can enjoy the humour of this foolish nonsense that would mean that no one prior to the Third Council of Carthage in A.D. 397 could have believed or preached the gospel!
How different this is from the instructions of Jesus to preach the gospel to the whole world:
Matthew 28v19-20: Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
The gospel was preached from the very beginning and Paul and his fellow disciples followed Christ's instructions implicity so that we read they had 'turned the world upside down'(Acts 17v6) with this gospel! They clearly didn't hang around waiting for Papal Rome to be constructed and, within the first two centuries, about 10 percent of the Roman Empire became Christians and were studying the Old and New Testament Scriptures exactly as we have them today. These believers knew what books were inspired and could be guided by them without requiring the authenticating stamp of the Roman Catholic Church (which didn't yet exist), just as we can to this day.
It is truly a monumental Satanic deception to teach that the Gospel in itself does not have the power to save, or that the Holy Spirit cannot use the Bible to speak directly to hearers' hearts. Only Satan would seek to usurp Christ by making a man - the respective 'pope - and his Church - run by more utterly feeble and fallible men - the vehicle of salvation. Instead, our eternal destiny no longer depends upon our relationship to Christ, who is revealed in His Word, but upon our relationship to the 'popes,' their Church, and participation in the sacraments of that corrupt edifice.
Read and believe the Bible and you find that Christ sent His disciples to preach the gospel before any church was established: 'and they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel' (Luke 9v6). Eleven times in the four Gospels we are told that Christ and His disciples were engaged in preaching the gospel, a gospel which is 'the power of God unto salvation' to those who believe it (Romans 1v16). Obviously there was no Roman Catholic Church in existence to verify that the gospel was true - and contemporary preaching does not need Rome's endorsement any more now than it did then!
Three thousand souls were saved on the day of Pentecost without Peter claiming to be an infallible 'pope' leading an 'infallible Church' which needed to give approval on what he preached. After Pentecost, Christians 'went everywhere preaching the Word' (Acts 8v4), which is 'living and powerful ... a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart' (Hebrews 4v12), and they managed this in the power of the Holy Spirit - not through and with the approval of any 'proven to be utterly fallible' human agency.
'Show us one verse in the Bible that clearly declares Sola Scriptura, that the Bible is sufficient in itself,' is the specious challenge thrown out by Catholic apologists. One might as well demand 'just one verse that states that God is a triune being of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.' No single verse says so, yet the doctrine of the Trinity - or, more correctly, the Tri-Unity of God - is accepted by both Catholics and Protestants as Biblical. Nor is there a single verse which contains the words 'the Bible is sufficient.' However, when we put together the many verses in the Bible on this topic it is clear that the Bible teaches its own sufficiency both to authenticate itself to the reader and to lead to spiritual maturity and effectiveness all who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and read it with open hearts.The Central Issue - A Clear Choice
Paul declared that Scripture was given for 'doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness' and that the Bible itself makes the man or woman of God 'perfect [i.e., mature, complete, all that God intended], thoroughly furnished [equipped] unto all good works' (2 Timothy 3v16,17). In other words, the Bible contains all the doctrine, correction, and instruction in righteousness that is needed for those who heed it to become complete in Christ.
Catholic apologists often quote nineteenth-century Cardinal John Henry Newman to the effect that if this passage proves the above, then it 'proves too much,' that 'the Old Testament alone would be sufficient as a rule of faith, the New Testament unnecessary' because all Timothy had was the Old Testament. The argument is fallacious for several reasons.
First of all, Timothy had more than the Old Testament. This is Paul's second epistle to him, so he has at least two epistles from Paul in addition to the Old Testament. Paul goes on to say that he is about to be martyred (2 Timothy 4v6-8), making this the last epistle Paul wrote. So Timothy, obviously, has all of Paul's epistles. The date is probably around A.D. 66, so he also has the first three Gospels and most of the rest of the New Testament.
Furthermore, when Paul says 'all Scripture' it is clear that he means the entire Bible, not merely that which had been written up to that time. Similar expressions are often used in Scripture, but they never mean only the Bible written to that time. When Jesus said, 'The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day' (John 12v48), He didn't mean only what He had spoken to that time. Likewise, when He said, 'Thy Word is truth' (John 17v17) He obviously meant all of God's Word, though all had not yet been written.
When the writer of Hebrews said, 'The Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword,' he didn't mean only that part of the Word of God that had been written to that time. Nor did Paul by 'all Scripture' mean only that which had been written to that time. He clearly meant all Scripture. So Cardinal Newman was wrong, and naively so. Yet Catholic apologists confidently quote his folly to disprove the sufficiency of Scripture.
'That the man of God may be perfect' simply means that the Word of God is all one needs to be 'perfect' in the sense of being mature and all that God wants a Christian to be. Catholic apologists refer to other verses where the word 'perfect' is used, such as: 'If you would be perfect, sell all you have and give to the poor,' or 'Let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire,' etc. They then contend that if it can be argued from 2 Timothy 3v17 that the Bible is sufficient to perfect believers, then selling everything one has and giving it to the poor or being patient is also sufficient to make one perfect.
Again the argument fails. Suppose an athletic trainer offers a perfect diet with all the nutritional elements one needs to produce a perfect body. This doesn't mean that other things, such as exercise, aren't necessary. Paul is saying that the doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness contained in Scripture is sufficient teaching for the man (or woman) of God to be all God desires. This does not mean that one doesn't have to exercise patience, faith, obedience, charity, etc., which themselves are taught by Scripture. It does mean that in the area of doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness the Bible needs no supplementation from tradition or any other source.
Moreover, Paul goes on to say that the man (or woman) of God is, by the Scriptures themselves, 'thoroughly prepared unto every good work.' The Bible never makes such a statement about patience or love or charity or tradition or anything else. Paul is clearly teaching Sola Scriptura. This doctrine was not invented by the Reformers; they derived it from Scripture.
Sola Scriptura remains the central issue at the heart of the Christian faith and is the reason Martin Luther and others brought it to the forefront at 'the Reformation.' One must choose between submitting to the authority of the Bible or to that of the Roman Catholic Church. One cannot do both because of the clear conflict between the two.What is the truth about Rome's treatment of the Bible?
The choice one must make is obvious. Blind submission to any earthly hierarchy in itself contradicts the Bible. Moreover, a careful examination of history proves that the Roman Catholic Church, and its utterly fallible popes, have proven Scripture right - man's fallible inventions are not to be trusted for only the Word of God s is to be trusted to bring an honest seeker into the truth of the one path to salvation.
The most tragic consequence of the blind faith in their Church as the sole interpreter of God's Word for mankind is that hundreds of millions of Catholics consequently trust it for their eternal destiny. The question of salvation, therefore, is also a key issue necessarily separating Catholics and evangelicals.
It is true that Jerome was commissioned by bishop Damasus near the close of the fourth century to prepare a standard Latin version of the Bible, and his purpose was to put the Bible into the common language of the people in accurate, readable form. Had the Roman Catholic Church continued to promote the study of the Bible by the common people the course of church and world history might have been very different! But unfortunately that course was reversed by later popes, the Bible was withheld from the people, and to a large extent even from the priests. Only in recent years has Rome given the Bible to the people in some countries, and then mostly because of Protestant pressure.
The Roman Church has long held the Latin Vulgate translation of about 400 A. D., to be infallible. The Council of Trent decreed: 'If any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts ... as they are contained in the Old Latin Vulgate edition let him be anathema!' The Vatican Council of 1870 (the council that set forth the doctrine of the infallibility of the pope) reaffirmed the declaration of the Council of Trent that 'these books of the Old Testament and New Testament are to be received as sacred and canonical, in their integrity, with all their parts, as they are enumerated in the decree of the said council, and are contained in the ancient Latin edition of the Vulgate,' adding that 'they contain revelation, with no admixture of error' (Chapter II).
However, in the year 1590 A.D., Sixtus V issued an edition of the Vulgate which he declared to be final, and prohibited under an anathema the publication of any new editions thereafter unless they should be exactly like that one. However, he died soon after, and scholars found numerous errors in his edition. He had rewritten the entire Bible, adding phrases and sentences with no regard for accurate translation, leaving out entire verses, changing the titles of the Psalms - and inventing his own system of chapters and verses! In a Papal Bull, Aeternus Ille (an allegedly infallible declaration on faith and morals to the entire Church), he declared by 'the fullness of Apostolical power' that his new 'translation' of the Bible must be 'received and held as true, lawful, authentic and unquestioned in all public and private discussions, readings, preachings and explanations.' Anyone who disobeyed was to be excommunicated. When genuine scholars read his work they were horrified, but none more than the Roman clergy - for Sixtus had instantly made obsolete the Council of Trent's approved Latin Bible and all textbooks based upon it! After the death of Sixtus a massive cover-up was devised by Bellarmine. Papal Roman Catholic historian De Rosa writes:
A Bible had been imposed with the plenitude of papal power, complete with the trimmings of excommunication, on the whole church - and it was riddled with errors. The academic world was in turmoil; Protestants were deriving enormous pleasure and amusement from the predicament of the Roman church.
On 11 November 1590, Bellarmine returned to Rome.... Personally relieved that Sixtus, who had wanted him on the Index [of forbidden books and authors], was dead, he feared for the prestige of the papacy.... Bellarmine advised the [new] pope to lie. Some of his admirers have disputed this. Their task is formidable.
The options were plain: admit publicly that a pope had erred on a critical matter of the Bible or engage in a cover-up whose outcome was unpredictable. Bellarmine proposed the latter.
Bellarmine and a group of dedicated scholars sworn to secrecy went to work taking about six months to correct the past pope's errors. Clearly Sixtus V was in error - another example of the absurdity of that doctrine which holds that the pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals. The new edition of the 'Sixtus Bible' was published under pope Clement VIII, and went into general use (among those allowed to read it!) having been presented as though it were merely another printing of the same, and a massive effort was made to recover the original copies of the heretical publication, which were then destroyed. As one would suspect - just as Caliph Uthman's attempted clean-up of the Koran failed for the same reasons - a few copies escaped the search and have been preserved (one in the Bodleian Library in Oxford). These 'Bibles' constitute one more proof that popes are far from infallible and, worse, to maintain this lie the Church is willing to tell other lies as well.
This doctrine of the authority or infallibility of the Vulgate has caused Roman scholars great difficulty in recent years, because many errors have been pointed out and are now acknowledged by un-biased scholars. This is on a par with the Mormon cult, whose founder and leader, Joseph Smith, claimed to have a God-given gift as a seer and translator of ancient texts - he produced a complete translation of the Bible which was full of errors and actually contradicted his own earlier 'revelations.' It is no accident that Rome has a comparable record of error!
The Roman Catholic Douay version of the Bible (New Testament, 1582, and Old Testament, 1609) was made from the Latin Vulgate, as are the Roman Catholic translations into modern languages. The 1941 Confraternity version of the New Testament carried the notation: 'Translated from the Latin Vulgate.' The inaccuracies of Jerome's Vulgate are legion, as measured by present day scholarship, and the text has not been revised for centuries. So even the best of present day Roman Catholic versions, according to the notation on its own flyleaf, is a translation of a translation - an English translation of a Latin translation of the original Greek.
It is one thing for Roman Catholics to pride themselves on a long history for their Bible translations, but it is a fact that the Protestant translations are much more accurate! Protestant scholars go back to the original Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, which are much older than the Vulgate to which Roman Church bound itself, and they have used all the aids that modern scholarship and research provides. Yet Roman Catholic priests have long declared that it is a mortal sin to read a Protestant Bible, and destroyed Protestant Bibles for centuries, claiming that they contain error - whereas the truth is the opposite! Roman Catholic Bibles, despite their limitations, contain God's truth clearly enough to enlighten any who will read them in a sincere search for truth. A greater danger is their interpretative notes which , like the heavily biased mis-translation of the Bible produced by Jehovah's Witnesses, point the reader towards the unique doctrines of the Roman Catholic religion rather than the absolute truth of the Word of God.
In many ways it is pointless for a Roman Catholic to even begin discussing the Bible, for the most controversial issue between Bible-believing Christians and Roman Catholics is the question of authority. The final seat of authority for Bible-believing Christians is the Bible alone. It is the final rule of faith and practice, while Roman Catholics hold that it is the Bible and tradition as interpreted by the church. In actual practice the Roman Church, since the infallibility decree of 1870, holds that the final seat of authority is the pope speaking for the church. But we need only read church history to discover that, when another source of authority is placed alongside Scripture as of equal importance, Scripture eventually becomes relegated to the background. Whether that other source be reason, emotion, or tradition, the inevitable result is that it supplants Scripture and causes it gradually to fade away. This is painfully easy to prove in the case of every doctrine of Rome that is at odds with Biblical truth - e.g., the Papacy, Mariology, the male priesthood, salvation by works-sacraments, the Mass etc.
Bible-believing Christians find the following quotes from 'popes' to utterly reveal their true nature:
Every cleric must obey the Pope, even if he commands what is evil; for no one may judge the Pope. - Pope Innocent III (1198-1216)
The First See [Rome/papacy] is judged by no one. It is the right of the Roman Pontif himself alone to judge.., those who hold the highest civil office in a state....There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff - Code of Canon Law
The extraordinary position of the pope in relation to members of the Church was expressed succinctly in Rome's La Civilta Cattolica, which a papal brief described in the mid-nineteenth century as 'the purest journalistic organ of true Church doctrine':
It is not enough for the people only to know that the Pope is the head of the Church... they must also understand that their own faith and religious life flow from him; that in him is the bond which unites Catholics to one another, and the power which strengthens and the light which guides them; that he is the dispenser of spiritual graces, the giver of the benefits of religion, the upholder of justice, and the protector of the oppressed.
Thus the 'popes' usurp Christ and the Holy Spirit - truly anti-Christ doctrines. Similar words have been spoken by the followers of Joseph Smith, Sun Myung Moon, and other cult leaders. The pope presents himself as 'another Christ' and 'God on earth' to his followers, and, as Vatican II declares, he can be judged by neither man nor tribunal.
The pope, and therefore the Church through him as its head, both claim to be infallible. Ordinary Catholics must not question anything the pope or Church have to say concerning faith and morals. The councils and catechisms have for centuries declared the need for such total submission and still insist upon it today. The Catholic World reminded all Roman Catholics in the United States at the time of the First Vatican Council:
Each individual must receive the faith and law from the Church... with unquestioning submission and obedience of the intellect and the will.... We have no right to ask reasons of the Church, any more than of Almighty God.... We are to take with unquestioning docility whatever instruction the Church gives us.
Here we have as clear a denial of individual moral responsibility as can be found in any cult. The same requirement of unthinking submission is demanded in Vatican II. The Code of Canon Law likewise reasserts the same rule:
The Christian faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound by Christian obedience to follow what the sacred pastors, as representatives of Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or determine as leaders of the Church.
When it comes to faith and morals and the way of salvation, Catholics must check their minds at the door and accept whatever the Church says. They can't even study the Bible for themselves because only the Magisterium can interpret it. Obviously, this prohibition against freedom of conscience is related to the total suppression of basic human rights for all mankind everywhere, which is the unchanging goal of Roman Catholicism.
At the time of the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther took his stand solidly on the Bible and refused to be moved unless it could be shown that his teaching was contrary to the Bible. Summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms to give an account of his beliefs, the closing words of his masterful address were: 'Here I take my stand; I can do no other; so help me, God.' It could not be shown that his teaching was contrary to the Bible, and his position was unassailable. There are many aspects of Luther's ministry that we would question seriously, such as his clear anti-Semitism. But, since he was trained in the anti-Semitic church of Rome it is not too surprising that there were many sinful aberrations that he failed to fully shake off after he discovered for himself the Biblical truth of salvation through faith alone. It is to his credit that he rediscovered the Biblical truth that one enters into eternal life by faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, whether by looking forward in faith to his work on the cross, as did the Old Testament saint, or in looking back in faith, as does the believer today. Doing the works of the Mosaic covenant never saved anyone, whether in the Old Testament, New Testament, or today. Eternal salvation was always by faith alone (cf. Genesis 15v6; Romans 4v5; Ephesians 2v8-9). Those, like the papacy, who try to restore Pharisaical regulations (that never existed in God's Word in the first place!) forget that the stipulations of the Mosaic covenant were given to a people who were already in a trusting relationship with God.
The primary and almost immediate result of the Reformation was to bring the doctrines of Scripture clearly before men's minds as the Reformers based their teaching squarely on the Scriptures to the exclusion of all accumulated tradition. While the Church of Rome declared that 'it belongs to the church to judge of the true sense of Scripture,' the Reformers, both on the Continent and in England, declared that even lay people, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can interpret Scripture by diligent and prayerful searching and reading.
It is true, of course, that the person who has not been born again and the object of the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, and who therefore is not a Christian, is not able to understand spiritual truth. This too is clearly taught in Scripture: 'Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged' (1 Corinthians 2v14). But every born again Christian has the gift of the Holy Spirit, and is therefore able to understand the basic essentials of what God has written. It is also true that many people, even among born again believers, differ on minor points. But that is because they have not read the Scriptures carefully enough and compared the various parts. The remedy for that is more devoted, patient, diligent Bible study. In any event there is no reference whatever in the Bible that even hints that God has delegated the interpretation of Scripture to any one individual or group of individuals.
We would ask you to explain how the Church of Rome, which contains elements of truth, has become a semi-pagan organization? The answer is clearly that the illegitimate authority that Rome has given to uninspired tradition has produced the effect. That development had an almost exact parallel in the nation of Israel. Israel had the inspired prophets, but she preferred the pleasing and flattering teachings of the false prophets, and so developed a set of traditions which in time came to supplant the true teachings of the prophets. In the teachings and writings of the false prophets the rulers of the Jews found the things they wanted, just as the popes and bishops have found in the man-made traditions of their church things which appeal to their selfish and prideful natures and which gave them what they wanted under the cover of religion. A study of religious errors will show that they have this common characteristic: They consist either of additions to Scripture, or of subtractions from Scripture, or a mixture of the two. It is Protestant doctrine that the Bible contains all that is necessary to salvation, and no other writings or church pronouncements are to be regarded as having divine authority.
Numerous references set forth the sufficiency of Scripture. Nowhere do we find even a hint that these need to be supplemented by church councils or papal decrees of any kind. Some of these are as follows:
'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them' (Isaiah 8v20).
'All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness' (II Timothy 3v16).
'Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me' (John 5v39).
Our Lord proclaimed the infallibility of Scripture, for He said: 'The scriptures cannot be broken' (John 10v35).
The brothers of the rich man had sufficient evidence because, said Jesus, 'They have Moses and the prophets' (Luke 16v29).
Jesus' rebuke to the Sadducees was, 'Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures' (Matthew 22v29).
When Jesus reasoned with His disciples after His resurrection in regard to the purpose and necessity of His death, we are told:
'And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself' (Luke 24v27).
'And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place. .. . For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit' (1 Peter 1v19,21).
James quoted Scripture in the Council of Jerusalem to settle the question that was at issue (Acts 15v16-18).
Paul repeatedly appealed to Scripture, as when he asks: 'For what saith the scripture?' (Romans 4v3).
Paul wrote to Timothy: 'From a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation' (II Timothy 3v15).
The diligence of the Bereans in testing all things by Scripture is commended:
'Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were so' (Acts 17v11).
The Scriptures which the Bereans had were the Old Testament. They compared Paul's teachings about Jesus with what the Old Testament had predicted. They were not theologians or scholars, but ordinary religious people, and yet the writer of the book of Acts (Luke) implies that by comparing the teachings of the great apostle Paul with Scripture they were able to determine whether he was right or wrong.
The book of Revelation pronounces a blessing on both the reader and those who hear:
'Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein: for the time is at hand' (Revelation 1v3).
Thus the sufficiency of Scripture is everywhere assumed. In all these cases our Lord and the New Testament writers referred to Scripture as clear, authoritative, and final. Never once did they say or imply that extra-Scriptural tradition was needed to supplement Scripture, or that any man or group of men was authorized to give authoritative interpretations of Scripture.
In New Testament times the Jews had a great body of tradition, the accumulation of centuries, which they gave precedence over Scripture. But Jesus never mentioned tradition except to condemn it and to warn against it. He rebuked the Pharisees with these words:
'Ye leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men. ... Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition ... making void the word of God by your tradition' (Mark 7v8,9,13).
'And he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition. ... Ye have made void the word of God because of your tradition. ... But in vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men' (Matthew 15v3,6,9).
Thus our Lord rebuked the Pharisees for doing precisely what the Church of Rome does today, for substituting a body of human teachings and making it equal to or even superior to the Word of God. Early in the Old Testament Moses warned against this same danger:
'Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you' (Deuteronomy 4v2).
Paul gave a clear warning against the use of tradition:
'Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and with deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ' (Colossians 2v8).
In the final book of the New Testament, John set forth the severe penalty for adding to or taking away from the Word of God:
'I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, out of the holy city, which are written in this book' (Revelation 22v18,19).
In the Roman Church of today we have a perfect illustration of the attitude which characterized the Pharisees and scribes, who substituted a body of human teachings and made them equal to the Word of God. And when it suited their purpose their teachings became even superior to the Bible - in their eyes! In Jesus' day traditionalism had become so perverse and powerful that it finally crucified Him. In time the Church of Rome followed its own set of traditions, accumulated through the centuries, and elevated them in the same manner to justify doctrines and practices with no basis in Scripture, or which violated Scripture. In the same way that Pharisaism led to the murder of Christ this tradition led Rome to persecute and murder all they considered to be in opposition.
To defend her use of tradition, which came into use long after the New Testament was completed, it was necessary for Rome to assert that the authority of the church is superior to that of the Scriptures. Protestantism followed the Biblical position which was upheld by the apostles and the early church and declared that Scriptures alone is the infallible rule of faith and practice, and that the church as an institution and all believers must be governed by that authority. Papal Rome, on the other hand, holds that she is the supreme authority in matters of faith and practice. Thus, she even attempts to say that the Papal Roman Catholic Church produced the Bible, and that the pope as the vicar of Christ on earth has the right to legislate for the church. But such claims are absurd, because the New Testament was completed in the first century of the Christian era while the Roman Catholic Church with its distinctive features and its separate existence did not come into being until about four centuries later! Furthermore, the sin and corruption that have characterized the Roman Church, particularly during the Middle Ages when so many of her doctrines and practices originated, is proof that she is in no sense superior to the Bible but quite the contrary. But because of that teaching the average Roman Catholic accepts the doctrines of purgatory, the mass, indulgences, penance, the use of images, Mariolatry, etc., which are not in the Bible but are actually contrary to the teachings of the Bible. He did not learn these things from Scripture, but from the church tradition.
The reason that the Jews had departed from their Scriptures was that they accepted tradition and the decisions of their councils and corrupt priesthood as their guide of faith. The Roman Church followed the same path - compromising the truth of the Bible in order to follow tradition. When she began putting herself on a par with Scripture she found it impossible to stop there. The next step was to place herself above Scripture, and she has assumed that position ever since.
Blind faith in the pronouncements of the pope and the clergy is bolstered by the false assurance that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church which alone can be traced back to the original apostles, and that its papal authority comes directly from Christ through Peter, supposedly the first Bishop of Rome, by a long and unbroken line of apostolic succession.
As proof, the Church provides a list of its popes (263) all the way back to Peter. Few Catholics know that these 'infallible' popes quarrelled and fought with one another, excommunicated one another, and sometimes even killed each other. It is difficult to find even a few among the popes after the fifth century who exhibited the basic Christian virtues. Their lives as recorded in the Catholic Encyclopedia read like an unbelievable soap opera of lust, madness, mayhem, and murder. Nevertheless, all of these master criminals, poisoners, adulterers, and mass murderers are considered to have been infallible when they spoke ex-cathedra - that is, made dogmatic pronouncements upon faith and morals to the whole church.
Catholic apologists argue in vain that the character and conduct of these popes is irrelevant, for they still retained their infallibility in faith and morals! Knowledgeable Catholics readily admit that many popes were incredibly evil, but even try to argue that this merely proves the wonderful 'preservation' of the church by God. Was the church established by Christ Himself, who made Peter the first pope, as supposedly proved by the Scripture: 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church' (Matthew 16v18). We will look at this interpretation shortly.
(Continued on page 274)