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The Roman Catholic Church and Scripture
by Dr. Johnny O. Trail, LMFT
Just recently an individual offered some questions that he had regarding the Roman Catholic Church. These responses are not offered to attack any person, but in examination of claims made by Roman Catholic authorities and various documents regarding the collection of scripture.

In part, the querist quoted one unidentified source as saying, “The Catholic Church is the authority that collected, selected, canonized, and translated the books of the New Testament. Since the Apostles, the Church has safeguarded the Faith. The Deposit of Faith includes both Sacred Scripture (“written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit”, with “God as their Author”), and unwritten Sacred Tradition (“which were received by the apostles from the lips of Christ himself or came to the apostles by the dictation of the Holy Spirit”). Christ entrusted His Apostles and their Successors with a sound interpretation of doctrine, and the authority to carry out the work of His ministry using both written and oral teachings. Christ’s plan is for one, unified church, which requires visible leadership to maintain. St. Peter and his successors are the Vicar of Christ, the chief pastor of the Church.1

These statements are fraught with factual and biblical errors. The Roman Catholic Church had nothing to do with canonizing scripture. Copies of the New Testament were in circulation before the Roman Catholic Church was established. Colossians 4:16 says, “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” 2 Peter 3:15-16 says, “And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” The collection of inspired writings was well underway in the first century as evidenced by these passages.

Despite attempts at revisionist histography, the Roman Catholic church was not established until at least three centuries after the establishment of the New Testament church in A.D. 30. Roman Catholic apologists attempt to twist the words of Ignatius of Antioch (75-110 AD) who wrote even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church.”2 The term “catholic” means “general” and has nothing to do with the concept of the Roman Catholic church.3 In recent times, some have attempted to change the term “catholic” by inserting at capital “C” to make it appear that ancient historians were referencing the Roman Catholic Church. Such revisions of the text are dishonest to say the least.

To determine the establishment of the church and its character one must examine

scripture separate and apart from Roman Catholic traditions. For one thing, Peter was not the first pope entrusted with handing down the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. They attempt to use Matthew 16:13-20 as a proof text for this assertion. For our purposes, we will examine verses fifteen through nineteen which read, “ He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter [Petros—Gk.], and on this rock [petra—Gk.] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

The term Petros is masculine in gender while the term petra is feminine. The change in gender denotes a distinction is being made by Jesus in these passages. Petros typically refers to a small stone or small rock while petra references a large stone or bedrock like structure. Peter would not be the foundational stone of the church and the gatekeeper at the same time.4

The bedrock, foundational principle that the church was built upon was the identity of Jesus. He was the Son of God per Peter’s confession and the church would be built upon Him. Jesus uses the possessive pronoun to indicate that the church would be His possession. Scripture demonstrates that the blood of Jesus would be the purchase price of the church. Acts 20:28 says, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

Unlike what the Roman Catholic Church teaches5, Peter was not the first pope. “ The Church teaches universally that the Pope is Peter’s successor.”6 While Peter had an important role in preaching Christ on the Day of Pentecost to the Jews assembled in Jerusalem and sharing the gospel with Gentiles, he was not named the vicar of Christ upon earth. One source defines the vicar of Christ as, “A title of the pope implying his supreme and universal primacy, both of honor and of jurisdiction, over the Church of Christ.”7

Peter was never named head of the church. That title and distinction belongs to Jesus alone. Ephesians 5:23-24 says, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” The body of Christ is in submission to Christ alone since He is its only “head.”

Roman Catholics teach that their clergy must remain celibate, thus they cannot be married.8 This seems odd because scripture teaches that Peter was married. Luke 4:38 says, “Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon's house. But Simon's wife's mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.” As matter of fact he was

married as late as the missionary efforts of the Apostle Paul. 1 Corinthians 9:5 says, “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?”

Suffice to say, this study barely scratches the surface of the errors that abound in Roman Catholic tradition. More will be written in subsequent articles for your consideration. Again, these words are written to examine doctrine—not attack the people who hold these views.

1 This can be found in “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Catechism of the Catholic Church - PART 1 SECTION 1 CHAPTER 2 ARTICLE 3 ( 2 CHURCH FATHERS: Epistle to the Smyrnaeans (St. Ignatius) ( 3 “When it entered the English language in the sixteenth century, catholic simply meant "general" or "common." Applied to the Western Church, it essentially meant "the Church universal," or the whole body of Christian believers, as opposed to separate congregations. After the Reformation, the Western Church called itself the Catholic Church to distinguish itself from communities of faith that were no longer obedient to Rome. This usage remains the most common, although you can still use catholic to mean general.” Catholic - Definition, Meaning & Synonyms | 4 Catholics try to avoid the force of this difference in Greek words by asserting that Matthew was originally written in Aramaic and that it used the same word for both Peter and rock. This is merely an assertion because there is no proof that Matthew was written in Aramaic. All available credible evidence demands the conclusion that Matthew was originally written in Greek. The Standard Bible Encyclopedia agrees with this conclusion also. Furthermore, if it had been written in Aramaic, a distinction must have existed between the meaning of Peter and rock anyway because two different words were used in both the Greek text as well as the Latin Vulgate.” Was Peter The First Pope? - Monte Vista church of Christ ( 5 Peter as Pope? – Catholic Telegraph ( 6 Understanding Papal Titles: From “Pontiff” to “Vicar of Christ” ( “The Roman Pontiff is the successor of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 882). 7 Vicar of Christ - Encyclopedia Volume - Catholic Encyclopedia - Catholic Online 8 Why Can't a Priest Ever Marry? | Catholic Answers Q&A