Why Catholics should stop listening to their apologists and read the Bible

The following was posted on the Catholic Answers forum on the topic of Peter as the foundation of the church. This quote represents fairly well the Catholic understanding of what the foundation of the church is. Out of everything discussed on that particular thread, this, believe it or not, was the most in-depth any Catholic ever got.

Thou art Peter [Kipha, Cephas] and on this rock [Kipha, Cephas] I will build my Church, cannot be understood save of building the Church on this man Peter (Cephas), otherwise the point of the phrase disappears. Jesus was called the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:20), but He could not be indicating Himself here: it would have been rather like a bad joke, if I may venture to say so: Thou art Peter, but it is on quite another Peter that I am going to build! Some try to return indirectly to this superannuated Protestant interpretation by making out the Rock to be Peter’s faith in the Messiahship of the Lord. It was indeed Peter’s faith that introduced the promise, but the promise is given to the person whose faith has just been displayed. If the building is a group, the foundation is their head: Jesus, says St. John Chrysostom, exalts Peter’s declaration, He made him pastor. The position of Peter in the Church is that of the rock on which the building is erected; thanks to this foundation the building will stand firm; thanks to this head the community will be well ruled.

My response:

Was it Peter’s faith that introduced the promise, or was it the collective faith of all the apostles? Let’s look at what took place there in Philippi.

Jesus wanted His disciples (the twelve) to see something they hadn’t noticed before. He wanted them to realize the uniqueness of there confession that Christ is the Son of God. He asked them, “Who do men say that I am?” There were a variety of answers but none that confessed Christ to be the Son of God. So He then asked them, “Who do you say I am?”

Note: keep in mind, Peter’s answer to this question is not new information, Nathaniel confessed it when he met Jesus, they all confessed it in the boat when Jesus walked on the water, and Peter, speaking for them all, confessed it when Jesus asked if they too would walk away like the unbelieving disciples. (Jhn. 6) It should also be understood that unless Judas understood this, Jesus would not have said of him, “Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Mar. 14:21)

So Peter answered Jesus just as he did before, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered, “Blessed are you Simon Barjona, flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.” Also, In His discourse with the Jews on the bread of life, Jesus told them, “No one can come to Me unless the Father draw him.”

As we continue to read Jesus’ answer to Peter, we cannot discard the context of the discourse. Jesus continues with an important conjunction, “kago.” Kago is typically rendered as “also,” this word means “in like manner.” “You are Peter (i.e. stone, petros), and on this rock (i.e. greater stone, petra) I will build My church.”

Peter’s confession is the confession of all the apostles, and Peter’s name implies his part in the foundation of the church. The foundation of the church, upon which we are built, is the collective testimony of the apostles in unison with Christ the chief cornerstone. Others can only share the confession that Christ is the Son of God if they hear the apostles’ testimony (the Gospel). And that is the foundation upon which we are built. (Compare Isa. 28:16, Luke 6:47-48, 1Cor. 3:10-17, Eph. 2:20-22, 2Tim. 2:19)

Then take a look at Revelation 21:9-14.

What is described in these verses is the bride of Christ, the church. “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (v9) The description is a city, spiritual Jerusalem (Christ’s church), built upon 12 foundations bearing the names of the 12 apostles of Christ (v14). This is a clear image of what the church of Christ is built upon; the testimony of the twelve apostles.

That is why Origen said that the promise was not only to Peter, but to every Peter who confesses that Christ is the Son of God. And it is why Irenaeus declared that the foundation of the church is the Gospel of Christ.

Now take a look at a few Catholic comments my post inspired. Notice how no one ever attempted to rebut my post biblically or historically but focused instead on what they learn from their apologists.

This shows a complete ignorance of the fact that Jesus wasn’t speaking in Greek – he was speaking in ARAMAIC, a cousin language of Hebrew.

In Aramaic, there is no distinction between large and small rocks – they are ALL Kepha. What Jesus said was, “…you are Kepha and on this Kepha, I will build my church.”

Nice try – but even a rudimentary investigation into the linguistics involved here should have been a huge red flag . . .

That was the extent of opposing views generated by my biblical exegeses. However, it did spark an offshoot discussion (sort of) on the language of Matthew’s Gospel.

The following is from a Catholic named, Carl W. Betts.

Matthew’s Gospel, in my honest opinion, was written in Aramaic by Matthew. There are no extant copies of the Aramaic Gospel, but there is a homily by Pope Leo the Great, where he quotes Matthews Gospel as saying “And you are Cephas…”, which would indicate he had access to the Aramaic Gospel. The Gospel was either written first, or alternately, the Q source (a non-extant source composed of Jesus’ sayings in Aramaic) was written first, with other details added later. At some point, it was transcribed into Greek, which would explain the Aramaic “peeking through” such as in Matthew 16:17 (the Bar-Jona reference, which is obviously NOT Greek, but Aramaic.) Now, you may not accept the Two Source Hypothesis. There is also the Two Gospel Hypothesis, which is the minority view, and the Augustinian Hypothesis, which is held by very few. At any rate, Matthew provided the earliest material. So what was your point? Unless you are one of those who erroneously hold that only the material in Q and Luke are reliable, and everything else is a fabrication?

My response to Carl:

There is absolutely no way Leo had access to an Aramaic Gospel; your opinion is completely unfounded.

My point is, just about every early ecclesiastical writer that talked about the New Testament believed Matthew’s Gospel was originally written in Hebrew. What is interesting is that they said they knew this from tradition, which probably originated with Papias. That means the Hebrew transcript was not extant in there time. The people I am referring to are Irenaeus and Origen, both Greek-speaking, Greek-writing ECFs. It is obvious from the evidence of their writings that Matthew’s Gospel existed only in Greek at the time they wrote.

If the tradition is correct (and I know how you Catholics love tradition) the Greek was translated from Hebrew not Aramaic. So however petros and petra in Matthew 16:18 might have appeared in Hebrew, they were understood as distinctly different words when translated to Greek. If the early church believed Jesus said, “You are Peter and on you Peter I will build my church,” why would they render it differently in the Greek? And furthermore, why would Irenaeus not acknowledge Peter as the foundation if, as Catholics say, the Greek is wrong?

Origen wrote a commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, and it he talks in detail about the “rock” upon which Christ builds His church. I hope you read this; it refutes your idea of Roman authority springing out of Jesus’ promise to Peter.

“For all bear the surname of rock who are the imitators of Christ, that is, of the spiritual rock which followed those who are being saved, that they may drink from it the spiritual draught. But these bear the surname of the rock just as Christ does. But also as members of Christ deriving their surname from Him they are called Christians, and from the rock, Peters. And taking occasion from these things you will say that the righteous bear the surname of Christ who is Righteousness, and the wise of Christ who is Wisdom. And so in regard to all His other names, you will apply them by way of surname to the saints; and to all such the saying of the Saviour might be spoken, You are Peter, etc., down to the words, prevail against it. But what is the it? Is it the rock upon which Christ builds the church, or is it the church? For the phrase is ambiguous. Or is it as if the rock and the church were one and the same? This I think to be true; for neither against the rock on which Christ builds the church, nor against the church will the gates of Hades prevail; just as the way of a serpent upon a rock, according to what is written in the Proverbs, cannot be found. Now, if the gates of Hades prevail against any one, such an one cannot be a rock upon which Christ builds the church, nor the church built by Jesus upon the rock; for the rock is inaccessible to the serpent, and it is stronger than the gates of Hades which are opposing it, so that because of its strength the gates of Hades do not prevail against it; but the church, as a building of Christ who built His own house wisely upon the rock, is incapable of admitting the gates of Hades which prevail against every man who is outside the rock and the church, but have no power against it.” (Origen, Commentary on Matthew 12:11)

In addition, Eusebius claims exactly what we have been claiming all along; that the apostles laid the foundation of churches and moved on to other locations. They did not sit as bishops anywhere; they appointed bishops before they moved on.

“And when they had only laid the foundations of the faith in foreign places, they appointed others as pastors, and entrusted them with the nurture of those that had recently been brought in, while they themselves went on again to other countries and nations, with the grace and the co-operation of God.” (EH 3:37:3)

Peter was never a bishop in the church in Rome, but he did lay the foundation there with Paul.

Now one would think that my response would offer the opportunity for educated Catholics to discuss the history behind the their church’s claims. Instead I received this response from Carl:

Why should we believe your flawed, fallible interpretation, especially since it is obviously poisoned with anti-Catholic hatred.

And later…

No further evidence of your hatred is needed than your unceasing diatribe consisting of nothing more than poor scholarship and twisted “facts.” You have never made a completely honest statement.

To be fair, Carl did post a list of six biblical reasons the Catholic position is the right one.

  • Any time a list of the Apostles is given, Peter is always first
  • Peter is mentioned by name more than all the others combined
  • Peter acts as the head of the Church when he suggests the office of Judas must be filled with another
    Peter preaches at Pentecost
  • Peter presides at the Council of Jerusalem
  • It is Peter upon which Jesus says He will build His Church
  • Did I mention that Carl is a postgraduate theology student?

    23 Responses to Why Catholics should stop listening to their apologists and read the Bible

    1. FYI: Comments that contain two or more links are automatically held for moderation. Doing this helps keep spam off the blog. Please keep this in mind when commenting. You are welcome to have as many links as you like, but your comment will not appear until I am able to log on and approve it.

    2. mepatri says:

      Hi Andrew!

      You wrote:
      1) Mike Patrick “However the disconnect in thought that is required to reach your conclusion makes your position a little simplistic and questionable” then went onto write “Its clear to me that Jesus’ reference to the gates was not a common phrase”
      It is not only my position, but that of the Church, and as demonstarted, your own protestant scholarship. It is therefore “clear to you” that both the Church and the protestant scholarship conclusions on this are questionable and simplistic.

      Response: I disagree that this is “everyone’s” position. I think it’s a little reckless to suggest so, especially without proper citation, which I think would be impossible to find, since no one could possibly know what everyone, everywhere has to say on the subject. I hope that’s not what you’re suggesting.

      2) Mike Patrick “Because you are directed to by Scripture, if that teaching adds to, takes away, or changes anything that rests in scriptures. Its those things I object to ”
      So you object to Sola Scriptura since its not taught in the Bible? No biblical passage teaches that Scripture is the formal authority or rule of faith in isolation from the Church and Tradition.
      There is nothing in the Catholic faith which is contrary to the Bible. It is only a fallible interpretation of the scriptures that may lead one to believe it does, or a lack of understanding about what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

      Response: I disagree – it is taught in the Bible. Hebrews 4:12 explains it well enough. Scripture is “sufficient” to equip us all. Nothing else is needed. Not surprisingly, I can find no similar scripture ascribing this definition to tradition – oral or otherwise. I understand your belief about tradition and the lack of sufficiency of the Scriptures is derived from your Catholic teaching. I hold that view is not Biblical.

      3) Mike Patrick “God gave us all we need to know in the Scriptures, and it’s the Holy Spirit who protects the writings, and doesn’t alter or add to them.”
      And yet, it was Martin Luther, the initiator of the Protestism Refromation that both added and took away from Holy scripture. It was Martin Luther who tossed out seven books considered canonical. He also rejected the epistle to the Hebrews and the book of Revelation. He also called the epistle of James “an epistle of straw” because James 2:14–26 conflicted with his personal theology on good works. He also added the word (in his German translation) only in Romans 3:20 and Romans 4:15 and he inserted the word alone in Romans 3:28.

      Response: I disagree with the Roman Catholic view on the apocryphal texts. In this case, I defer to the insufficiency of the texts, their errors and omissions in matters such as chronological errors, errors in numbers, historic error and the like. There is no conflict in James. Catholics misread the text – as did Luther, if they see genuine conflict. If there were genuine conflicts as you suggest between the different books, then what the Bible says about itself would be in error. This cannot happen. If you suggest it does, then you should trash the entire Bible as unreliable, and rest your faith fully and publically on the RCC teachings alone apart from the Bible. The problem then would be that the RCC itself rests many of its teachings on the Biblical text. You seem to have a conundrum Andrew.

      4) Mike Patrick “After all, Jesus’ sinless state was easily communicated right from the start in order to make Christianity work – why not Mary’s, if she is truly sinless, and your mediator to Christ? Even she claimed the opposite by plainly stating she needed a Saviour, yet the RCC decided (presumably through its “greater insight”) to not clarify, but to actually change her statement. Its truly unbelievable.”
      I’m glad you’ve brought it up. The Church does not hesitate to profess that Mary needed a saviour. It was by the grace of God, and not the work of Mary, that she was saved from sin in a most perfect manner. Mary was preserved from sin at the time of her natural conception. Just as John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb prior to his birth (Luke 1:15), Mary was sanctified at her conception.
      God can “save” a person from a sin by forgiving them, or by providing them the grace never to fall into that particular sin (by the Grace of God there go I). An ancient analogy is often useful to explain this: A person can be saved from a pit in two ways; one can fall into it and be brought out, or one can be caught before falling into it. Mankind is saved in the first manner and Mary in the second. Both are saved from the pit of sin.

      (I see you either read Scott Hahn, or you listen to Catholic Answers on the radio. His explnation is clever, but has absolutly nothing to do with the subject. It might be a way someone could explain away the Catholic problem of Mary’s alleged sinless state, but is it in fact true?)

      Besides historical evidence and the authority of Tradition, several biblical texts can be offered. One of them is Genesis 3:15, God states that there is to be an enmity between the “woman” and the serpent, and this enmity is shared between her seed and its seed. Her seed is the messiah, who stands in opposition to the seed of the serpent. The mother of the messiah is said to share the same enmity—total opposition—with Satan. If Mary, “the woman” had any sin, then she would not be in complete opposition to the devil.
      Pope Pius IX officially defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. When Fundamentalists claim that the doctrine was “invented” at this time, they misunderstand both the history of dogmas and what prompts the Church to issue, from time to time, definitive pronouncements regarding faith or morals. They are under the impression that no doctrine is believed until the Pope or an ecumenical council issues a formal statement about it. (For abundant evidence that the sinlessness of Mary is not a new idea in the Church, visit http://www.catholic.com/answers/tracts/_fullgra.htm).

      Response: No need to take up so much space. I’m well aware of the Catholic position on thes subject. In the interest of expediency, let’s just say that it’s bad apologetics to speak about what “could” happen. Your case on Mary is nonsense (no offense intended.) The Catholic view on Mary is quite clearly the limited human view that somehow God was not capable of preserving Jesus from sin, so He needed to make Mary sinless in order to insure Jesus was born sinless. The problem is it makes no sense, and is not supported by God’s Word. God was perfectly capable of keeping Jesus sinless while being carried in the womb by sinful Mary. God is God, case closed. It’s man’s view that introduces the problem. Your argument breaks down because you can give no reasonable “cutoff” point for this sinless requirement of Mary to cease. In other words, was Mary’s mother “sinless” in order to preserve Mary from sin so that she could then maintain that sinless state for Jesus? How about Mary’s great, great grandmother, or her mother, or hers, or hers, and on and on and on, all the way back to eve? No, the doctrine of the immaculate conception, given its untenable premise, and how it came into being in the first place, coupled with the obvious omission of the idea in Scripture, Mary’s explicit rejection of the idea, and the fact that there is virtually no mention of the concept at all in the Scriptures that Jesus, the apostles, or anyone else had the RCC view can only mean one thing – it’s a false doctrine.

      5) Mike Patrick “How does it protect them from giving false teaching, if it doesn’t even keep the higher levels of leadership from such severe levels of wrong behaviour and wicked actions? I believe it’s all a case of “you will know them by their fruits”
      Let’s deal with the Pope first. The Catholic Church’s teaching on papal infallibility is one which is generally misunderstood by those outside the Church. The charism of papal “infallibility” is often confused with “impeccability.” They imagine Catholics believe the pope (or other members of the clergy) cannot sin. Others, who avoid this blunder, think the pope relies on some sort of amulet or magical incantation when an infallible definition is due.
      Infallibility is not the absence of sin.

      Response: Understood. It’s not that difficult of a topic. It’s well documented what the RCC believes on the subject, and I believe I understand it.
      Nor is it a charism that belongs only to the pope. Indeed, infallibility also belongs to the body of bishops as a whole, when, in doctrinal unity with the pope, they solemnly teach a doctrine as true. Christ instructed the Church to preach everything he taught (Matt. 28:19–20) and promised the protection of the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). That mandate and that promise guarantee the Church will never fall away from his teachings (Matt. 16:18, 1 Tim. 3:15), even if individual Catholics might.

      Response: Yes, I agree with you. Which is why it is so difficult to see how the RCC bishops, cardinals, and possibly even the pope in his early days were all involved in the cover-up, and promotion of such evil acts. What’s even more unbelievable is many (not all) of today’s Roman Catholics still defend the institution. It’s heartbreaking for them, the laity, and the victims of abuse. Christ’s promise you mention was given to the apostles alone.

      6) Mike Patrick “Then tell it to Paul – I’m surprised you would suggest he was unchristian.”
      In what way did I suggest Paul was unchristian? I said “transferring the guilt from recalcitrant members or officials to the Church they disgraced is not only monstrous but unchristian”. Where does Paul teach us to transfer the guilt of an individual onto the whole Church?
      The RCC does indeed excommunicate individuals, just as prescribed by Paul, in fact here’s a published link about it if you would care to read up on it http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05678a.htm and perhaps you would be so kind as to send me a link to your churches excommunication process?

      Response: Yes, they do excommunicate people. But have they yet to date done so to any of their own higher authorities as Paul directed? I have only seen the priests and the laity suffer through excommunication. I guess the oath of the blood red robe surpasses Paul’s admonitions. Since my church is not a “club”, there is no formal excommunication process that I know of. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one, it’s just that it’s never been used while I’ve been attending. Then again, none of our pastors, deacons, or elders have ever been accused of, or convicted of child molestation either.

      7) Mike Patrick “They did nothing for years, and very little only after the heat was turned up. When exposed, the pull the “we’re being attacked” defense as you do below. Even now we see next to nothing being done, with no bishop or cardinal, or high official held accountable”
      This is not the first time that the Church has had to deal with scandal and sin within its ranks; nor is the Church unique in this regard, every church, every school, every human organisation of any size faces similar issues. Moreover, we must always remember that the vast majority of bishops and priests are in no way involved in these scandals. There will always be saints and heroes as well as offenders and cowards in the Church.
      Even in the Old Testament, Israel, God’s chosen people, was often compared by the prophets to Sodom, Babylon, and other pagan nations. In fact, the prophets sometimes said that Israel was more wicked than these other nations. Yet they were still the chosen people, and their institutions, the Jerusalem Temple, the Levitical priesthood, the Davidic monarchy, the Law of Moses, were still divinely ordained.
      Likewise, abuses and scandals within the Church can never undo Christ’s institution of the seven sacraments or his giving of the keys to Peter, the rock on which the Church was built.

      Response: I agree that this is not the first time scandal has come up in the church. I mentioned Paul’s admonition to the church as an example. It goes to show how sin can infiltrate the man made organizations that are set up to reach out to God, such as the RCC. It doesn’t appear that Paul shares your sentiments that sin could not undo things. It is only the church that Christ setup that will not fall to such things. It’s disingenuous to compare God’s people Israel to the RCC. The RCC is not made up of God’s chosen people, and therefore there is no comparison. However, God’s record of dealing with His people shows that He will extract justice. Still, that is no reason to hold to a church that has not only sinned, but continues to do so at its highest ranks. The problem is compounded by the RCC’s characterization of itself. It declares it is the one true church, sets the stage for it’s own self-declared authority to administer grace through the sacraments, and changes the Word of God through the different doctrine it teaches. These are clearly offenses for which there appears to be no remedy until and unless the church authorities truly repent. To date there is no apparent sign of repentance, or sincere change of direction in the RCC.

      7) Mike Patrick “I’m comfortable that if I tell Christ I was not a Roman Catholic because of all that I saw, how I knew it was wrong, and how I realized it was not within His character as it is revealed in His word that He would understand and forgive me. How could he do otherwise?”
      Do you think that might not place judgment on His whole Church (His body) for the sins of the few and judge His Church (His body) through a lack of understanding about what it actually teaches (as opposed to what you think it teaches).

      Response: I don’t think that’s placing judgment, I think it’s being discerning. We are directed to separate truth from error in the Bible, and “rightly divide the word of God.” We are not to judge a persons standing with God regarding their salvation, but that doesn’t mean we are to check our brains at the door and refuse to call sin sin. “Judging” people wrongly is a popular tactic used to discourage us from exercising Godly discernment. I don’t judge these people, God does.
      I’m not speaking of what the RCC teaches here, as much as I am of what has come to light publically about their wicked behavior. In Isa. 1:18, God says: “Come, let us reason together.’ What is reasonable about brushing aside lightly the actions of the RCC as “actions of a few bad apples?” What is unreasonable about drawing the line in the sand? It think it is much more unreasonable to defend it, refusing to decide what is wrong out of fear of judging, and looking the other way to the problems in the church looking out for its interest at any cost.
      It appeared that you were genuinely impressed by the “miracles” you say he performed, and “how his bones were hardly touched by time”. How was I supposed to take these statements?
      You may take my words as written.

      Response: Very well. So taken.

      “MANY Roman Catholics are impressed with men they think are somehow greater that my High Priest – Christ”. This statement is addressed to the many and not to the individual. Apart from me who else do you claim believes this?
      “I would say you do – you at least put Pio on par with my Lord”, I have already expressed that I don’t know a single person Catholic or otherwise, who thinks Padre Pio is somehow greater than Christ (or even on a par) and yet you continue to accuse me (and probably the MANY) of this.
      However, I will gladly accept your apology, not only for myself but the MANY Catholics you may have “misunderstood” in this manner.
      Response: You say you were misunderstood, yet you do not clarify. My assumption stands.

      9) Mike Patrick “Really? This is a strange statement…”
      You are taking Matt 16:1-4 out of context, I have not asked for sign. Jesus said signs accompany those who believe. No offense taken and no need for a rethink.
      Thanks Mike and also for the debate.

      Response: I don’t believe Matt. 16 is taken out of context. I noted that within the context in which the question was asked of Jesus… He answered it rightly, and it applies to your example. Jesus did speak of signs, but not in that context. If we take your position, then Jesus would have had to have spoken for signs, and against signs in the same context. This is silly. So, it’s reasonable to conclude there is a misunderstanding on your part somewhere.


    3. Carl says:

      I am flattered. I have never been smeared on an anti-Catholic Blog before. I stand by every statement I made, as I believe them to be true. I have actually written an exegetical paper on Matthew 16:13-20, one of the most ignored passages in all of Scripture. If anyone wants a copy, just ask, I would be more than happy to e-mail you a copy. In the interest of charity that is all I will say, other than to express my extreme disappointment that Brian feels that there is nothing wrong with slamming someone on a public forum without the decency to notify them be e-mail, if for no other reason to allow for rebuttal. I see that fairness is of no concern here.

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