Category: Roman Catholicism & Christianity


It would be confusing for God to give the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” and then later in the Bible to restrict us from calling our earthly father “father.” Matthew 23:9 states, “And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and He is in heaven.” The context of Matthew 23:9 tells us that referring to your biological father as “father” is not what Jesus is speaking about.

In Matthew 23:1–12, Jesus is denouncing the Jewish scribes and Pharisees for rejecting Him as their Messiah, in particular for their hypocrisy in elevating themselves above others with titles such as “teacher” and “master.” The Jewish teachers affected that title because they supposed that a teacher formed the man, or gave him real life, and they sought, therefore, to be called “father,” as if they were the source of truth rather than God. Christ taught them that the source of all life and truth is God, and they ought not to seek or receive a title which properly belongs to Him.

This denunciation is equally relevant for today. In no way should any person look up to, follow, or elevate a human leader in any religious or church organization above Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Head of the Church, His body, and our one and only Master and Teacher. He alone is the author of our salvation, source of comfort in difficulties and strength to live the Christian life, and the only One to whom our prayers should be directed.

Roman Catholics call their priests “father” and the pope is called “the holy father.” This is clearly unbiblical. The priest as “father” is problematic. Catholic priests are doing precisely what Matthew 23:9 condemns by allowing the term “father” in a spiritual sense be applied to them. In no sense is a priest or pastor a “spiritual father” to a Christian. Only God can cause a person to receive “spiritual birth”; therefore, only God is worthy of the title of “Father” in a spiritual sense.

In the case of the “holy father,” there is no doubt this is unbiblical. No man can take on the title of “holy” anything, because only God is holy. This title gives the pope a status that is never intended for any man on earth. Even the apostle Paul referred to himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and cried out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:14). Clearly, Paul made no claim to holiness. Although as Christians we have exchanged our sin for the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), holiness will not be attained until we are in heaven and have left the last vestiges of our sin natures behind. Until then, the pope has no more holiness than the average Christian and is not entitled to be called “holy father.”

But there is no reason not to call our earthly parents “father” and “mother” because in doing so we are not giving them an elevated title or position that belongs to God. Our earthly parents are worthy of honor, not just on one special day of the year (Father’s Day, Mother’s Day), but we are to honor our parents daily in the spirit of Exodus 20:12, Matthew 15:4, and Ephesians 6:1-3.

Many Christians are surprised to learn that the Catholic Bible is different from the Bible used by Protestants. While all 66 books found in Protestant Bibles are also found in the Catholic Bible, the Catholic Bible also contains other books, and additions to books. The Catholic Bible contains a total of 73 books, 46 in the Old Testament (Protestant Bibles have 39) and 27 in the New Testament (the same as Protestant Bibles).

The additional books in the Catholic Bible are known as the deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha. They are Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom (Ecclesiasticus), Sirach, and Baruch. The Catholic Bible also includes additions to the books of Esther and Daniel. Should the Apocrypha be included in the Bible? There was significant debate in the early Christian church, with a majority of the early church fathers rejecting the idea that the Apocrypha belonged in the Bible.

However, under tremendous pressure from Rome, Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, included the Apocrypha, despite Jerome’s insistence that the Apocrypha did not belong in the Bible. The Latin Vulgate became the dominant and officially sanctioned Catholic Bible, and remained that way for around 1200 years. Thus, the Apocrypha became a part of the Catholic Bible.

The Apocrypha was not formally/officially made a part of the Catholic Bible, though, until the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation. The early Protestant Reformers, in agreement with Judaism, determined that the Apocrypha did not belong in the Bible, and therefore removed the Apocrypha from Protestant Bibles.

The most popular English translations of the Catholic Bible today are the New American Bible, the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, and the New Jerusalem Bible. Aside from the inclusion of the Apocrypha, each of these Bible translations is reasonably good and accurate in how it renders the biblical text into English.

In summary, the Catholic Bible is the version of the Bible promoted by the Roman Catholic Church and used by the majority of the world’s Catholics. Aside from the inclusion of the Apocrypha, the Catholic Bible is identical to Protestant Bibles in terms of the canon (the books belonging in the Bible).

Jerusalem Bible – History
The Jerusalem Bible (JB or TJB) is a Roman Catholic translation of the Bible which first was introduced to the English-speaking public in 1966. As a Roman Catholic Bible, it includes not only the deuterocanonical books, but numerous notes and introductions, although for the most part they appear to be only marginally influenced by RCC doctrine. In 1943, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical letter on biblical studies in which he gave permission for an English version to be done by Roman Catholics on the basis of the Greek and Hebrew texts rather than upon the Latin Vulgate, as was traditional up to that time. The Jerusalem Bible derives its name and its character from an earlier French version, called La Bible de Jérusalem. This French version, published in 1956 and revised 1961, was prepared by the faculty of the Dominican Biblical School in Jerusalem, on the basis of the Hebrew and Greek. The Jerusalem Bible was translated from the French version. In 1985, the English translation was completely updated. This new translation—known as the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)—was freshly translated from the original languages and not tied to any French translation (except indirectly, as it maintained many of the stylistic and interpretive choices of La Bible de Jérusalem).

Jerusalem Bible – Translation method
The translation from the Hebrew and Greek is literal with the notes and introductions reflecting the “higher criticism” approach. This method led the translators to come to some unfortunate conclusions, notably that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses (a theory discredited by Jesus Himself in Mark 12:26). The translators adopted a “mid-Atlantic” method of translating syntax in order for it to sound neither overwhelmingly British nor particularly American in nature. The famous author of the “Lord of the Rings” series, J.R.R. Tolkien, contributed the translation of the book of Jonah. Tolkien also consulted on one or two points of style and criticized some contributions of others.

Jerusalem Bible – Pro’s and Con’s
Overall, the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible are good English translations of the Bible. Very little Roman Catholic “influence” is seen in the translation. The “higher critical” approach the translators took is troubling, but actually makes very little impact on the translation itself. With Roman Catholicism and theological liberalism as the foundation, though, the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible should not be used as a primary Bible translation.

Jerusalem Bible – Sample Verses
John 1:1, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, before Abraham ever was, I am.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.”

Titus 2:13 – “waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus.”

The issue concerning any church and its practices should be “Is this biblical?” If a teaching is Biblical (taken in context), it should be embraced. If it is not, it should be rejected. God is more interested in whether a church is doing His will and obeying His Word than whether it can trace a line of succession back to Jesus’ apostles. Jesus was very concerned about abandoning the Word of God to follow the traditions of men (Mark 7:7). Traditions are not inherently invalid…there are some good and valuable traditions. Again, the issue must be whether a doctrine, practice, or tradition is Biblical. How then does the Roman Catholic Church compare with the teachings of the Word of God?

Salvation: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation is by baptismal regeneration and is maintained through the Catholic sacraments unless a willful act of sin is committed that breaks the state of sanctifying grace. The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace which is received through simple faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and that good works are the result of a change of the heart wrought in salvation (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17) and the fruit of that new life in Christ (John 15).

Assurance of salvation: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation cannot be guaranteed or assured. 1 John 5:13 states that the letter of 1 John was written for the purpose of assuring believers of the CERTAINTY of their salvation.

Good Works: The Roman Catholic Church states that Christians are saved by meritorious works (beginning with baptism) and that salvation is maintained by good works (receiving the sacraments, confession of sin to a priest, etc.) The Bible states that Christians are saved by grace through faith, totally apart from works (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 3:10-11; Romans 3:19-24).

Baptism: In the New Testament baptism is ALWAYS practiced AFTER saving faith in Christ. Baptism is not the means of salvation; it is faith in the Gospel that saves (1 Corinthians 1:14-18; Romans 10:13-17). The Roman Catholic Church teaches baptismal regeneration of infants, a practice never found in Scripture. The only possible hint of infant baptism in the Bible that the Roman Catholic Church can point to is that the whole household of the Philippian jailer was baptized in Acts 16:33. However, the context nowhere mentions infants. Acts 16:31 declares that salvation is by faith. Paul spoke to all of the household in verse 32, and the whole household believed (verse 34). This passage only supports the baptism of those who have already believed, not of infants.

Prayer: The Roman Catholic Church teaches Catholics to not only pray to God, but also to petition Mary and the saints for their prayers. Contrary to this, we are taught in Scripture to only pray to God (Matthew 6:9; Luke 18:1-7).

Priesthood: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there is a distinction between the clergy and the “lay people,” whereas the New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9).

Sacraments: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that a believer is infused with grace upon reception of the sacraments. Such teaching is nowhere found in Scripture.

Confession: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that unless a believer is hindered, the only way to receive the forgiveness of sins is by confessing them to a priest. Contrary to this, Scripture teaches that confession of sins is to be made to God (1 John 1:9).

Mary: The Roman Catholic Church teaches, among other things, that Mary is the Queen of Heaven, a perpetual virgin, and the co-redemptress who ascended into heaven. In Scripture, she is portrayed as an obedient, believing servant of God, who became the mother of Jesus. None of the other attributes mentioned by the Roman Catholic Church have any basis in the Bible. The idea of Mary being the co-redemptress and another mediator between God and man is not only extra-biblical (found only outside of Scripture), but is also unbiblical (contrary to Scripture). Acts 4:12 declares that Jesus is the only redeemer. 1 Timothy 2:5 proclaims that Jesus is the only mediator between God and men.

Many other examples could be given. These issues alone clearly identify the Catholic Church as being unbiblical. Every Christian denomination has traditions and practices that are not explicitly based on Scripture. That is why Scripture must be the standard of Christian faith and practice. The Word of God is always true and reliable. The same cannot be said of church tradition. Our guideline is to be: “What does Scripture say?” (Romans 4:3; Galatians 4:30; Acts 17:11). 2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

New Revised Standard Version – History
The NRSV was translated by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches, an ecumenical Christian group. It is called the New Revised Standard Version because it is a revision of, and meant to replace, the Revised Standard Version of 1952. Released in 1989, the NRSV has three versions: the NRSV, containing the Old and New Testaments, the NRSV Common Bible, which includes the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books, and the NRSV Catholic Edition containing the Old Testament books in the order of the Latin Vulgate. There are also anglicized editions of the NRSV, which modify the text slightly to be consistent with British spelling and grammar.

New Revised Standard Version – Translation Method
The NRSV was intended to take advantage of manuscript discoveries made since the printing of the Revised Standard Version and to reflect advances in scholarship since the RSV had been released. The NRSV translators chose to eliminate archaic language, especially the pronouns “thee” and “thou.”  However, they chose to keep them when the pronouns refer to the deity, a somewhat controversial decision. Also controversial was the decision to translate some gender-specific words using more gender-neutral wording in places where gender was not seen to be an issue, e.g., “people” in place of “mankind.” The goal of the translators was to be “sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender” (Preface to the NRSV from the National Council of Churches website). The NRSV also sought to expand gender-specific phrases such as “brothers” into “brothers and sisters.”

New Revised Standard Version – Pro’s and Con’s
Overall, the New Revised Standard Version is a good English Bible translation. The fact that the NRSV has a Catholic version (including the Apocrypha), and the fact that it is “gender-inclusive” in some of its renderings, prevented it from being adopted by most conservative and evangelical Christians. Also, many consider the NRSV to not be as free-flowing and natural-sounding English as it could be.

New Revised Standard Version – Sample Verses
John 1:1,14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Titus 2:13 – “while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

New American Bible – History
Not to be confused with the New American Standard Bible, the New American Bible (NAB) is a Catholic Bible translation first published in 1970. It was specifically translated into English by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine under the liturgical principles and reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) after a long and confused history of translation, re-translation, revision and re-revision beginning in 1943 with Pope Pius XII’s encyclical letter. Shortly after the publication of the complete Bible, American bishops decided that the 1970 NAB New Testament leaned too much on paraphrasing rather than translation for general use, and so the New Testament was “revised” and published in 1986, employing dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought) translation in places for the sake of inclusive, gender-neutral language. Pope John Paul II and other Vatican officials were not happy with this version, mainly because of the inclusive language, which was mandated by liturgical guidelines issued by a committee of the U.S. Catholic Conference in 1990. Richard John Neuhaus described the confused state of affairs surrounding Roman Catholic Bible versions in 2001: “At present, three translations are approved for Catholic liturgical use: the New Jerusalem Bible, the RSV, and the New American Bible (NAB). The lectionaries and the several publishers of Mass guides, however, use only the NAB. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a wretched translation. It succeeds in being, at the same time, loose, stilted, breezy, vulgar, opaque, and relentlessly averse to literary grace.”

New American Bible – Translation method
Like all Catholic Bibles, the NAB includes the deuterocanonical (apocryphal) books. The NAB was translated from original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls for the NT and OT, with some influence from the Vulgate in the Apocrypha. As stated above, there are several versions of the NAB, some using dynamic (thought-for-thought) equivalence and some using formal (word-for-word) equivalence.

New American Bible – Pro’s and Con’s
Overall, the New American Bible is a relatively good English translation of the Bible. Very little Roman Catholic “influence” is seen in the renderings the translation makes. The inclusion of the Apocrypha, the “higher critical” background of the translators, and the inconsistency of the translation method, though, prevent us for recommending the New American Bible as a primary Bible translation.

New American Bible – Sample Verses
John 1:1, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.’”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”

Titus 2:13 – “as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ,”

After the separation of the Eastern and Western churches in 1054, the holding of councils by the pope became a way to give guidance to the church, both locally and ecumenically (for the entire church), on varying ecclesiastical matters. One of the most significant of these was the Council of Trent, held in the mid-1500s, which considered such weighty matters as the Lutheran Protestant Reformation and how to counter it, disciplinary reforms in the church, the definition of dogma, and ways to establish key tenets of Roman Catholicism. In fact, the growing complexities of the issues at stake grew so voluminous that it took 18 years, spanning the reigns of five popes, for the Council of Trent to actually convene.

During the Council of Trent, both Scripture and tradition were declared authoritative for the Roman Catholic Church, with tradition just as authoritative as Scripture. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone, one of the Reformers’ rallying cries, was dumped overboard in favor of “sacramental” and “works” righteousness.

There are seven sacraments instituted by Christ, according to the council: baptism, confirmation, communion, penance, unction, orders and marriage. The council condemned anyone who said sacraments were not necessary for salvation, or that through faith alone without any sacrament man can be justified. “Works” righteousness is the belief that one can win God’s favor by doing good things.

The council also confirmed the belief in transubstantiation, that the substance of bread and wine given during communion (the “Eucharist”) is changed into the actual body and blood of Christ, while the appearance of bread and wine remains.

Trent attendees stressed man’s incapacity to save himself, yet confirmed the necessity for the cooperation of his free will, including his resolve to receive baptism and begin a new life. They denied that predestination to salvation can be known with certainty (one rebuttal to this belief is found in Romans 8:28-30). Modern Roman Catholicism, in general, continues to hold to the beliefs put forward and accepted at Trent.

“The Vulgate” is the popular name given to the Latin version of the Bible, a translation usually attributed to Jerome. Before Jerome’s time, as the number of Latin-speaking Christians grew, the Bible was translated into Latin so that the Christians of the time could understand it. It is believed that the first Latin translation was completed around A.D. 200, although no manuscripts of this era exist today. The first Latin manuscripts were surely created in North Africa, for it seems that the church in North Africa was Latin-speaking from the start as compared to the predominantly Greek-speaking churches in Asia and Europe.

Two centuries later Pope Damasus I commissioned a scholar by the name Jerome to produce one standard Latin text of the Bible; there were as many different Latin versions of the Bible as there were different forms of the text, and Damasus wanted the church to have a standard version to promote universal doctrine. Jerome completed the translation in A.D. 400, and his version was known as the editio vulgate (the current text of Holy Scripture), because he used the common (or vulgar) language of early medieval times.

Jerome started by revising the Gospels, using the Greek manuscripts available. This he did because of the vast differences he found in the various Latin texts that were available. About the same time, he started revising the Old Testament by using the Septuagint (a Greek version of the Old Testament). Jerome also translated the Old Testament into Latin by using the Hebrew text, a task he did without ecclesiastical sanction. The present Vulgate contains elements which belong to every period of its development, including

(1) an unrevised Old Latin text of the Book of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch;
(2) an Old Latin form of the Psalter, which Jerome corrected from the Septuagint;
(3) Jerome’s free translation of the books of Job and Judith;
(4) Jerome’s translation from the Hebrew Old Testament excluding the Psalter;
(5) an Old Latin revision of the Gospels from Greek manuscripts;
(6) an Old Latin New Testament, revised.

Some of the books mentioned belong to a division known as the “Apocrypha,” normally considered books of Jewish origin which lie outside the canon of the Old Testament.

The Roman Catholic Church contends that its origin is the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ in approximately A.D. 30. The Catholic Church proclaims itself to be the church that Jesus Christ died for, the church that was established and built by the apostles. Is that the true origin of the Catholic Church? On the contrary. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament will reveal that the Catholic Church does not have its origin in the teachings of Jesus or His apostles (Compare with “Origins of Christianity“). In the New Testament, there is no mention of the papacy, worship/adoration of Mary (or the immaculate conception of Mary, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the assumption of Mary, or Mary as co-redemptrix and mediatrix), petitioning saints in heaven for their prayers, apostolic succession, the ordinances of the church functioning as sacraments, infant baptism, confession of sin to a priest, purgatory, indulgences, or the equal authority of church tradition and Scripture. So, if the origin of the Catholic Church is not in the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, what is the true origin of the Catholic Church?

For the first 280 years of Christian history, Christianity was banned by the Roman Empire, and Christians were terribly persecuted. This changed after the “conversion” of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Constantine “legalized” Christianity with the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313. Later, in A.D. 325, Constantine called the Council of Nicea in an attempt to unify Christianity. Constantine envisioned Christianity as a religion that could unite the Roman Empire, which at that time was beginning to fragment and divide. While this may have seemed to be a positive development for the Christian church, the results were anything but positive. Just as Constantine refused to fully embrace the Christian faith, but continued many of his pagan beliefs and practices, so the Christian church that Constantine promoted was a mixture of true Christianity and Roman paganism.

Constantine found that with the Roman Empire being so vast, expansive, and diverse, not everyone would agree to forsake his or her religious beliefs to embrace Christianity. So, Constantine allowed, and even promoted, the “Christianization” of pagan beliefs. Completely pagan and utterly unbiblical beliefs were given new “Christian” identities. Some clear examples of this are as follows:

(1) The Cult of Isis, an Egyptian mother-goddess religion, was absorbed into Christianity by replacing Isis with Mary. Many of the titles that were used for Isis, such as “Queen of Heaven,” “Mother of God,” and theotokos (“God-bearer”) were attached to Mary. Mary was given an exalted role in the Christian faith, far beyond what the Bible ascribes to her, in order to attract Isis worshippers to a faith they would not otherwise embrace. Many temples to Isis were, in fact, converted into temples dedicated to Mary. The first clear hints of Catholic Mariology occur in the writings of Origen, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, which happened to be the focal point of Isis worship.

(2) Mithraism was a religion in the Roman Empire in the 1st through 5th centuries A.D. It was very popular among the Romans, especially among Roman soldiers, and was possibly the religion of several Roman emperors. While Mithraism was never given “official” status in the Roman Empire, it was the de facto official religion until Constantine and succeeding Roman emperors replaced Mithraism with Christianity. One of the key features of Mithraism was a sacrificial meal, which involved eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a bull. Mithras, the god of Mithraism, was “present” in the flesh and blood of the bull, and when consumed, granted salvation to those who partook of the sacrificial meal (this is known as theophagy, the eating of one’s god). Mithraism also had seven “sacraments,” making the similarities between Mithraism and Roman Catholicism too many to ignore. Constantine and his successors found an easy substitute for the sacrificial meal of Mithraism in the concept of the Lord’s Supper/Christian communion. Sadly, some early Christians had already begun to attach mysticism to the Lord’s Supper, rejecting the biblical concept of a simple and worshipful remembrance of Christ’s death and shed blood. The Romanization of the Lord’s Supper made the transition to a sacrificial consumption of Jesus Christ, now known as the Catholic Mass/Eucharist, complete.

(3) Most Roman emperors (and citizens) were henotheists. A henotheist is one who believes in the existence of many gods, but focuses primarily on one particular god or considers one particular god supreme over the other gods. For example, the Roman god Jupiter was supreme over the Roman pantheon of gods. Roman sailors were often worshippers of Neptune, the god of the oceans. When the Catholic Church absorbed Roman paganism, it simply replaced the pantheon of gods with the saints. Just as the Roman pantheon of gods had a god of love, a god of peace, a god of war, a god of strength, a god of wisdom, etc., so the Catholic Church has a saint who is “in charge” over each of these, and many other categories. Just as many Roman cities had a god specific to the city, so the Catholic Church provided “patron saints” for the cities.

(4) The supremacy of the Roman bishop (the papacy) was created with the support of the Roman emperors. With the city of Rome being the center of government for the Roman Empire, and with the Roman emperors living in Rome, the city of Rome rose to prominence in all facets of life. Constantine and his successors gave their support to the bishop of Rome as the supreme ruler of the church. Of course, it is best for the unity of the Roman Empire that the government and state religion be centered in the same location. While most other bishops (and Christians) resisted the idea of the Roman bishop being supreme, the Roman bishop eventually rose to supremacy, due to the power and influence of the Roman emperors. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the popes took on the title that had previously belonged to the Roman emperors – Pontificus Maximus.

Many more examples could be given. These four should suffice in demonstrating the true origin of the Catholic Church. Of course the Roman Catholic Church denies the pagan origin of its beliefs and practices. The Catholic Church disguises its pagan beliefs under layers of complicated theology. The Catholic Church excuses and denies its pagan origin beneath the mask of “church tradition.” Recognizing that many of its beliefs and practices are utterly foreign to Scripture, the Catholic Church is forced to deny the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

The origin of the Catholic Church is the tragic compromise of Christianity with the pagan religions that surrounded it. Instead of proclaiming the gospel and converting the pagans, the Catholic Church “Christianized” the pagan religions, and “paganized” Christianity. By blurring the differences and erasing the distinctions, yes, the Catholic Church made itself attractive to the people of the Roman Empire. One result was the Catholic Church becoming the supreme religion in the “Roman world” for centuries. However, another result was the most dominant form of Christianity apostatizing from the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the true proclamation of God’s Word.

Second Timothy 4:3-4 declares, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (emphasis added:)

The early church fathers fall into three basic categories: apostolic fathers, ante-Nicene church fathers, and post-Nicene church fathers. The apostolic church fathers were the ones like Clement of Rome who were contemporaries of the apostles and were probably taught by them, carrying on the tradition and teaching of the apostles themselves. Linus, mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21, became the bishop of Rome after Peter was martyred, and Clement took over from Linus. Both Linus and Clement of Rome, therefore, are considered apostolic fathers. However, there appear to be no writings of Linus that have survived, while many of the writings of Clement of Rome survived. The apostolic fathers would have largely passed from the scene by the beginning of the second century, except for those few who might have been disciples of John, such as Polycarp. The tradition is that the apostle John died in Ephesus around A.D. 98.

The ante-Nicene fathers were those who came after the apostolic fathers and before the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. Such individuals as Iraenus, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr are ante-Nicene fathers.

The post-Nicene church fathers are those who came after the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. These are such noted men as Augustine, bishop of Hippo, who is often called the father of the [Roman Catholic] Church because of his great work in Church doctrine; Chrysostom, called the “golden-mouthed” for his excellent oratorical skills; and Eusebius, who wrote a history of the church from the birth of Jesus to A.D. 324, one year before the Council of Nicea. He is included in the post-Nicene era since he did not write his history until after the Council of Nicea was held. Other post-Nicene fathers were Jerome, who translated the Greek New Testament into the Latin Vulgate, and Ambrose, who was largely responsible for Augustine’s conversion to Christianity.

So, what did the early church fathers believe? The apostolic fathers were very concerned about the proclamation of the gospel being just as the apostles themselves proclaimed it. They were not interested in formulating theological doctrine, for the gospel they had learned from the apostles was quite sufficient for them. The apostolic fathers were as zealous as the apostles themselves in rooting out and exposing any false doctrine that cropped up in the early church. The orthodoxy of the message was preserved by the apostolic fathers’ desire to stay true to the gospel taught to them by the apostles.

The ante-Nicene fathers also tried to stay true to the gospel, but they had an additional worry. Now there were several spurious writings claiming to have the same weight as the established writings of Paul, Peter, and Luke. The reason for these spurious documents was evident. If the body of Christ could be persuaded to receive a false document, then error would creep into the church. So the ante-Nicene fathers spent a lot of their time defending the Christian faith from false doctrine, and this led to the beginnings of the formation of accepted church doctrine.

The post-Nicene fathers carried out the mission of defending the gospel against all kinds of heresies, so more and more the post-Nicene fathers grew interested in methods of defending the gospel and less interested in transmitting the gospel in a true and pure form. Thus, they began to fall away from the orthodoxy which was the hallmark of the apostolic fathers. This was the age of the theologian and endless discussion on arcane topics such as “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”

The early church fathers are an example to us of what it means to follow Christ and defend the truth. None of the early church fathers were perfect, just as none of us are perfect. Some of the early church fathers held beliefs that most Christians today consider to be incorrect. What eventually developed into Roman Catholic theology had its roots in the writings of the post-Nicene fathers. While we can gain knowledge and insight by studying the early church fathers, ultimately our faith must be in the Word of God, not in the writings of early Christian leaders. Only God’s Word is the infallible guide for faith and practice.