Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 10, 1961
NUMBER 14, PAGE 4-5,13a

Errors And Dangers Of Roman Catholicism --- No. 3

Frank Van Dyke (Spiritual Life, May, 1961)

We continue our study of the errors and dangers of Roman Catholicism giving consideration to some of the major claims of the Catholic Church. Thus far, we have traced the development of the Roman hierarchy and also the development of its temporal power after the papacy was full grown. Now we want to give some of the major claims of Catholicism and do it in their own words.

The first claim that I want to list is their claim that they gave us the Bible. But for the Catholic Church, we would not have the Bible and would not know what the Bible consists of anyway, is their claim. They make the pompous claim that they decided what books should go into the Bible; that they passed on which books are inspired and which books are not inspired. Let me give you that claim in the words of the magazine article of recent date (1952 A.D.) put out by the Knights of Columbus as a part of their current propaganda program, if I may put it that way, and I think that is exactly what it is! Here is the claim:

"For the first three hundred years of Christianity, the Bible existed but not as we have it today. During those early times, parts of the Bible were scattered among the various churches, no one of which had the complete Bible as we have it now. Then in 390 A.D., at the Council of Hippo, the Catholic Church gathered together the various books which claim to be scripture, passed on the claims and merits of each, and this council decided which were inspired and which were not. The Catholic Church therefore gave to the people in the world the Bible as we have it today."

That is the quotation, and I think you can see that we have not misrepresented their claims in the least.

There are really two parts of that claim on their behalf. One is that they originally decided which books should go into the Bible. Then, after that, they make the claim of perpetuating and preserving the Bible even until now, and but for them, we would not even have the Bible. Now you will notice that the above quotation says that "in 390 A. D. at the Council of Hoppo, the Catholic Church gathered together these many different books that claim to be scripture, passed upon the merits of each and decided which ones should go into the Bible." Well, as we have already learned, the Catholic Church in its present form and full grown stage did not exist that early, in spite of all the claims to the contrary. So, they have the Catholic Church doing something before the Catholic Church, as the world knows it today, ever existed. But we will take it on the basis of their claim that the Catholic Church existed back that far, and still it can be shown, I think conclusively, that they did not even do then what they claim to have done. Let us add this statement here. Sometimes you will find that it is said that in the Council of Carthage in 397 A. D. that this was done instead of the Council of Hippo. But we need not be confused about that. It seems that this was undertaken in the Council of Hippo in 390, and then the Council of Carthage just seven years later continued the work of the previous council. But the important question is, Did the Catholic Church then and there decide what books would make up the holy canon? There are some significant facts involved, and I mention a few of them.

In the year 383 or 384, Pope Damasus designated Jerome to make a revision of the then existing Latin copies of the Bible. Now notice, this is six or seven years before the Council of Hippo, yet the Knights of Columbus say that it was not until the Council of Hippo that it was decided what should constitute the Bible. How was it possible then for the pope, as they designated, six or seven years before that time to commission Jerome and give him the work of revising the Bible which work of revision actually resulted in the Latin Vulgate Version, if it were not known what books composed the Bible? Jerome started that work of revision and said in effect, "I will just go back and make an outright translation of the Bible, into the Latin language." The results was the Latin Vulgate Version, but keep in mind that this work was begun by Jerome six or seven years earlier than the above statement says that they met in the Council of Hippo and decided what books should be put in the Bible. I think that is sufficient evidence to show you that at least that much earlier than this statement from the Knights of Columbus claims, the Bible already existed. Not only this, but the oldest manuscripts that we have — the Sinaitic, the Vatican, and the Alexandrian are dated back as early as 325 A.D. to 331 A.D. These old Greek manuscripts contain the Bible substantially as we have it now. I say ''substantially" because there are omissions or places where perhaps parts have been lost from particular parts of these old manuscripts, but taking them all together, they give us the Bible substantially as we have it today. Those old copies of the Bible were away back as early as 325 A. D. That is some 60 or 65 years earlier than the time that the Knights of Columbus say that the Catholic Church decided what should make up the Bible.

But again, the oldest translations of the Bible date back even older than that. A manuscript is a copy in the same language in which the scriptures were written, but a version is a translation into another language. We have versions of the Bible older than the oldest manuscripts which we have. Sometimes that is a little confusing to people. They say, "If a manuscript is a copy of the original and a version is a translation from the original into another language, how can a version be older than the original?" Right in that last expression is where the confusion original but are older than the copies which we have that were made from the original. That is why we have versions that are older than the oldest manuscript available. These oldest versions such as the old Latin, the Coptic versions, and particularly the Peshito Syriac Version which simply means the "simple Syriac Version" date back as early as the second century, so scholars tell us. These versions contain the Bible substantially as we possess it now, and they were translations made back as early as the second century. So you see, we have it traced back far beyond the time in 390 or 397 A. D. when the Catholic Church claims they decided what books should make up the Bible. In fact, if one is inclined to take the time and put forth the effort in research and investigation, he can trace the catalog and the list of the books of the Bible all the way back nearly to the days of the apostles. This shows that the statement that until the last of the fourth century "the books of the Bible existed but were scattered among the churches and none had the complete Bible as we know it today", just simple is contrary to the facts in the case.

Now then, after the canon was completed, did the Catholics preserve the Bible for us through the middle ages? Have they kept it and would it be possible for us to have the Bible if it were not for them? You know that is a rather pompous claim and makes a deep impression upon the hearts of the people and causes them to feel very grateful and indebted, but this claim, as the one before, is contrary to related facts. The Catholics have preserved that version made by Jerome which was completed near the beginning of the 5th century — the Latin Vulgate. To Catholics, that version is until this date the official scripture. They have an English version — the Douay Version, but they have preserved with an attitude of reverence the old Latin Vulgate. Now, they have added to the Latin Vulgate the apocryphal books which we shall discuss later. The Latin Vulgate with the apocryphal books added is the Bible which the Catholics have preserved for us. Now, keep that thought in mind for just a moment while we look at something else. We have access to the Bible today from sources independent from that which the Catholics have preserved. The Sinaitic and Alexandrian Manuscripts were not preserved by the Catholics. These old manuscripts and other sources of textual criticism have produced the Bible today independent of that which the Catholics preserved. Not only that, but we reject the one which they did preserve. They have added the apocryphal books, and we do not accept the Bible that they did preserve with its human additions. You can just sum it up this way. They not only did not preserve our Bible for us, but we reject the one which they did preserve! We have the English Bible now from sources independent of that which the Catholics preserved.

The next claim of the Catholic Church which we wish to notice is one which we have already had occasion to mention. That is the claim of superiority and supremacy of the Roman Bishopric and the supremacy of the Roman Bishop himself as the successor, so-called, of Peter who, according to them, was the first pope of the church, and that the Roman Pontiff even until this day enjoys that superiority. Let me read to you again this decree from the Council of Florence in 1493: "Also we decree that the Holy Apostolical See and the Roman Pontiff himself is the successor of Saint Peter the prince of the apostles and the true vicar of Christ and the head of the whole church and father and teacher of all Christians; and that to him in the person of the blessed Peter, our Lord Jesus Christ has committed full power to feed, rule, and govern the universal church according as it is contained in the acts of general councils and in the holy canons." It is significant to note that the general councils and holy canons referred to in this decree are simply not on record. That is, general councils and holy canons through the centuries before that date had not given to the Roman See this superiority. As we have already seen, that was a gradual development that reached its climax in the year 606 A. D. when old Emperor Phocas through a political trade-out gained for himself the approval of the Roman Bishop as the rightful emperor in Constantinople, and in turn confirmed the bishop in Rome, who was Boniface III, as the universal head of the church. Allow me to mention again that the Council of Nice in the year 325 A. D. passed a decree that all the bishops in the different provinces would be of equal rank, independent of one another, free to conduct their own affairs without interference or intervention from any other bishop. That shows that, up to that time at least, no one particular See or particular bishop was considered supreme. Also in the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A. D. in the 28th canon of that council, it was decreed that equal precedency should be given to Constantinople with Rome, since the seat of government had been transferred from Rome to Constantinople. They said that the fathers of old had given Rome a sentiment of superiority and precedency to Rome because it was the seat of the empire. Whatever superiority, whatever precedency that had been attached to Rome at that time was simply a matter of sentiment, because it was the seat of government, and not because it had that by divine right.

I want to consider their claim now with you from the standpoint of the scriptural proof which they offer for it. We have seen that the claim is contrary to the facts of history. It is simply a matter of historical record that Rome did not have that position of superiority from the first, but do the scriptures bear out their claim? That claim is usually based upon the language of our Lord in Matt. 16:18, 19 where the Lord said to Peter, "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 unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." There are really two points in this passage which they attempt to use as a basis for their claim that Peter was superior and the first head of the church universal, and along with this, their claim for the precedency of the Roman See.

The language that the Lord used is this: "Thou art Peter (Greek Petros), and upon this rock (Greek petra) I will build my church." The Catholics say that the Lord there promised to build the church upon Peter — "thou art Petros"; "thou art a rock, and upon this rock — the rock that thou art, I will build my church." But that is not what the Lord said. The word "Peter" and the "rock" upon which the Lord said he would build his church are two different words. The word "Peter" is the Greek "Petros" which is masculine gender and means a small stone or a little pebble, while the "rock" upon which the church was to be built is the Greek "petra" which is feminine gender and means a large ledge or foundation rock. See the difference? "Thou art 'Petros,' a certain kind of stone, yes, but upon this 'petra,' a different kind of rock, I will build my church. So it was the great truth which Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God upon which Christ said he would build his church. He never did promise to build it upon Peter.

Now the other point in the passage is this: They claim that the Lord gave to Peter special power, superiority, and prerogative when he said, "I give unto thee the keys of the kingdom." They say that he gave to Peter there something that he did not give to the other apostles. But it so happens in Matt. 18:18, that the Lord made that very same statement to all the apostles, saying, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." He did not use the part in regards to the "keys of the kingdom" but relative to the "binding and loosing", the Lord used the same language in promising all the apostles what he had promised to Peter in the language in Matt. 16:18.

Hence all the apostles had equal right with Peter. He possessed no supremacy over any other apostle and had no power to bind and loose which the others did not have. Enough then for the claim of the superiority of the Roman Bishopric and the primacy of Peter. We have seen that it is contrary to both the facts of history and the teaching of the scripture.