The Truth behind Catholic Answers Early Church Quotes: Papias on Apostolic Tradition

October 28, 2009

The following is a first in a series of posts aimed at exposing the severe lack of credibility at one of Catholicism’s most popular apologetics websites, Catholic Answers. Over the years I have been inundated with quotes taken from Catholic Answers and used by Catholics as proof that the early church taught and believed all the “Sacred Traditions” of the Catholic Church. What I have found from reading those quotes over the years is that they are highly selective, unfairly edited, and deliberately misleading. If there is one admirable thing I can say about Catholic Answers it is that they provide references, which makes their culpability for fairness equally shared with those readers who fail to validate their claims. To understand what I am talking about, I am going to begin this series by examining a single quote from Papias, the first and oldest reference that appears on Catholic Answers in defense of “Apostolic Tradition.”

The early church quote from which Papias’ is the first, are prefaced by this following statement on the (Catholic Answers Apostolic Tradition page:

“The early Church Fathers, who were links in that chain of succession, recognized the necessity of the traditions that had been handed down from the apostles and guarded them scrupulously, as the following quotations show.”

The Papias quote is taken from Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History and appears on the Catholic Answers website as follows:

“Papias [A.D. 120], who is now mentioned by us, affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he, moreover, asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the presbyter John. Accordingly, he mentions them frequently by name, and in his writings gives their traditions [concerning Jesus]. . . . [There are] other passages of his in which he relates some miraculous deeds, stating that he acquired the knowledge of them from tradition” (fragment in Eusebius, Church History 3:39 [A.D. 312]).” Catholic Answers; Apostolic Tradition) (Emphasis mine)

Now read the same quote from Ecclesiastical History:

“And Papias, of whom we are now speaking, confesses that he received the words of the apostles from those that followed them, but says that he was himself a hearer of Aristion and the presbyter John. At least he mentions them frequently by name, and gives their traditions in his writings. These things we hope, have not been uselessly adduced by us.
But it is fitting to subjoin to the words of Papias which have been quoted, other passages from his works in which he relates some other wonderful events which he claims to have received from tradition.”

Where Eusebius says Papius mentions Aristion and John by name, and gives their traditions in writings, Catholic Answers inserted “concerning Jesus.” Eusebius didn’t say or even imply that the traditions Papias recorded were from Jesus,” something Catholic Answers dubiously added. By doing that, they created the premise that Papius’ writings revealed unwritten teachings of Christ.

The only thing one can ascertain from the quote is that Papias recorded some sort of tradition dating back to apostolic times. But what that tradition is Catholic Answers does not say. So it’s up to the reader to find out.

When read in context from Ecclesiastical History, one can see that Eusebius never mentions any so-called Sacred Tradition. He does, however, talk about a particular belief that Papias claims came from unwritten tradition. This is found in paragraphs 11-13.

11 The same writer [Papius] gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten tradition, certain strange parables and teachings of the Savior, and some other more mythical things.

12 To these belong his statement that there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth. I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures.

13 For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, as one can see from his discourses. But it was due to him that so many of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man; as for instance Iranaeus and any one else that may have proclaimed similar views.”

Papius claims to have received unwritten tradition from Aristion and John that proclaims a 1000-year reign of Christ on Earth after the resurrection. But Catholic doctrine expressly rejects this view. Even on Catholic Answers own website one can find the evidence that they disagree with Papius:

“As far as the millennium goes, we tend to agree with Augustine and, derivatively, with the amillennialists. The Catholic position has thus historically been ‘amillennial‘” (Catholic Answers; The Rapture)

The apostolic tradition Papias actually recorded, according to Eusebius, contradicts Catholic teaching, yet Catholic Answers passes it off as support for Catholic tradition. I wonder how many times people have pulled this quote from Catholic Answers to defend Catholic Tradition in discussions on forums, blogs, and emails, not knowing that it actually supports doctrine they oppose?

In light of Papias’ support of millennialism, let me once again share Catholic Answers preface to his quote:

“The early Church Fathers, who were links in that chain of succession, recognized the necessity of the traditions that had been handed down from the apostles and guarded them scrupulously, as the following quotations show.”

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Mary Ever Virgin: Why the doctrine should not be believed

October 22, 2009

The cousin argument

In order for anyone to believe that Mary remained a virgin, they first have to believe the Bible doesn’t really say what it appears to say. The apostles called Jesus’ relatives brothers and sisters, but they really meant cousins? Then why didn’t they say cousins? Luke, a Greek speaking gentile, referred to Elizabeth as Mary’s cousin (syggenēs); why did he not call her Mary’s sister (adelphē)? The cousin exegesis makes Luke out to be inconsistent.

The Mary at the cross argument

They also propose the idea that Jesus had no brothers because on the cross He gave His mother to John. Someone has told you that it would have been customary for Jesus to place His mother’s care in the hands of His brother, and since He did not do that He must not have had a brother. Sounds logical, but there is one major problem; had Jesus given His mother to one of His brothers, His actions would have contradicted His teachings.

Jesus said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” I think you would agree that there is enough evidence from the Gospels to conclude that Mary believed in Jesus, but we know with certainty that His brothers did not (John 7:5). So if Jesus were to give His mother to His brothers He would have contradicted His own teaching.

What about the obvious conclusion just from reading the Bible?

I am sure most would agree that if a person who never heard the Gospel read them for the first time, they would believe that Mary had other children based simply on the text. It would take someone to come in and tell them that what they read isn’t as it appears. That means the burden of proof lies with those who dispute the obvious conclusion drawn from the text.

The evidence that the doctrine of Mary remaining in her virginity perpetually is not orthodox

“For the one and the same Spirit of God, who proclaimed by the prophets what and of what sort the advent of the Lord should be, did by these elders give a just interpretation of what had been truly prophesied; and He did Himself, by the apostles, announce that the fullness of the times of the adoption had arrived, that the kingdom of heaven had drawn near, and that He was dwelling within those that believe in Him who was born Emmanuel of the Virgin. To this effect they testify, saying, that before Joseph had come together with Mary, while she therefore remained in virginity, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” (Against Heresies; 3:4)

“And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or The Book of James, that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end.” (Origen; Commentary on Matthew; 17)

“Thus is the temptation about His birth unsuitable, for it might have been contrived without any mention of either His mother or His brethren. It is clearly more credible that, being certain that He had both a mother and brothers, they tested His divinity rather than His nativity, whether, when within, He knew what was without; being tried by the untrue announcement of the presence of persons who were not present.” (Tertullian; On The Flesh of Christ; 7)

How and when did the doctrine take hold?

The belief that Mary remained a virgin seems to have developed out of the Christology debates of the mid to late fourth century. A very large schism occurred over the notion of whether or not Mary was the mother of God, i.e. Jesus’ divinity and humanity, or merely the mother of His’ humanity. The idea that Mary remained in her virginity blossomed out of that controversy. The only group I have come across from the ante-Nicene period that believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity is the Mary-worshiping Callyridians. And in my personal opinion, they are the catalyst for the Marian doctrines that developed in the fourth and fifth centuries.

So the evidence really is stacked against the belief that Mary remained a virgin. Historically it’s a no-brainer. But no amount of evidence will ever persuade people who just choose to believe the doctrine. But this evidence does matter to people who are willing to let go of ideology and seek truth.


The Source of Sacred Tradition

October 16, 2009

The Roman Catholic Church indelibly asserts that their “sacred tradition” was truly transmitted by the apostles and preserved through the ages by the “teaching Authority.” The assertion is clearly stated in the Catholic Encyclopedia under “Tradition and Living Magisterium.”

“The Council [of Trent], as is evident, held that there are Divine traditions not contained in Holy Scripture, revelations made to the Apostles either orally by Jesus Christ or by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and transmitted by the Apostles to the Church.”

Yet when put those traditions to the test, nothing from ante-Nicene history can be found to support them but sketchy out-of-context evidence. And that’s for only a few of the doctrines, for most no evidence can be found at all. The Catholic Church, however, is not ignorant of this fact; in fact they justify the discrepancies in the same article.

“The designation of unwritten Divine traditions was not always given all the clearness desirable especially in early times… The living magisterium, therefore, makes extensive use of documents of the past, but it does so while judging and interpreting, gladly finding in them its present thought, but likewise, when needful, distinguishing its present thought from what is traditional only in appearance. It is revealed truth always living in the mind of the Church, or, if it is preferred, the present thought of the Church in continuity with her traditional thought, which is for it the final criterion, according to which the living magisterium adopts as true or rejects as false the often obscure and confused formulas which occur in the monuments of the past. Thus are explained both her respect for the writings of the Fathers of the Church and her supreme independence towards those writings–she judges them more than she is judged by them.”

In other words, the truth does not exist within the historical evidence, according the Catholic Church it resides in the mind, or present thought of the “teaching authority.” But it stands to reason that if the apostles passed on those doctrines, history must support it. It is not reasonable that present thought should contradict traditional thought and still be regard as truth. Why would the Holy Spirit lead early church leaders to believe something contrary to what He leads current leaders to believe?

The truth of history makes no difference to the Catholic hierarchy because they believe that they alone are the keepers of truth. They decide what is true or untrue regardless of the evidence. Since they alone are the true interpreters of the Bible, guided by divine assistance, according to them, they interpret Mathew 28:20 as applying to them. And in their ostentatious minds, they like to imagine that God has granted them infallibility. One might logically ask, as if logic has anything to do with it, why the Bible is not expanding with time. But I suppose that even the most pretentious have their limits.


Catholic Apologist Refutes Own Logic

October 13, 2009

Catholic apologist John Martignoni’s own “logic” has handed him a shovel and he’s digging deep. While attempting to defend the Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception from Revelation 12, John Martignoni logically states that since Jesus and Satan are real people, the woman mentioned in that verse must also be a real person; and that real person, Martignoni claims, is Mary. Here is a quote from his newsletter for context.

“Now, some will say that the woman represents the Church, because it is the Church that brings Jesus to the world; or that she represents Israel, because Jesus is a child of Israel. And, at one level of interpretation, they would be right. The image of the woman can be a metaphor for either the Church or Israel. There are many passages of Scripture that can have different levels of meaning, and this is one of them. However, at the most basic level of meaning, the woman is also a real person – Mary, the mother of Jesus. After all, no one ever says that the male child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron is a metaphor. Nor do they say that the ancient serpent, Satan, is a metaphor. Why then do they claim “the woman” is only a metaphor? They claim that because they do not want her to be Mary. To admit that could damage some of their arguments against Catholic teaching on Mary. So, in the parallel passage of Gen 3:15, we see three real persons, but in chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation, we supposedly only have two real persons and a metaphor?” (John Martignoni; Apologetics for the Masses – Issue #127)

If it is only logical that the woman be a real person in Revelation 12, than the same logic must apply to the woman in Revelation 17; the two chapters refer to the same woman. In Rev. 12:6 the woman flees to the wilderness, in Rev. 17:3 John is taken to the wilderness where he finds the woman. It’s obviously the same woman. The dragon never became something different later in Revelation so why would anyone think the woman was something different- especially when we have the location to tie the two together?

No Christian would ever say that the woman in chapter 17 is Mary, so why accept that interpretation in chapter 12? The woman is a metaphor plain and simple. Martignoni defeated his own logic, unless of course his logic allows for double standards. I would ask him, but he’s probably tired of digging.


Meet “Ardi”

October 8, 2009

Evolutionists aren’t yet sure if they should call it a human ancestor, but one thing they do know is that “Ardi” does away with the idea of a “missing link.”

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