Catholic Apologetics and the Bible

In a discussion board I used to host, a Catholic apologist took issue with the Christian understanding of the Apostle Peter's role in the early days of the church instituted by Jesus Christ. His words are presented in brown; mine are in black.

It seems that the Bible Believers in this discussion do not accept that St. Peter was the head of the apostles, to say nothing of that leadership being passed on to his successors.

You display an excellent grasp of the situation. In order to believe those things, one first must accept the incredibly flawed Roman eisegesis of Matthew 16:18. And to accept that, one must accept the incredibly flawed Roman declaration that only she is qualified to interpret Scripture. And to accept that, one must first accept Rome's incredibly flawed position that the Magistium's interpretations of Scripture are infallible. And to accept that . . . Well, surely you see where I am going with this.

A few things would need to be explained before any knowledgeable Catholic would accept such an idea.

Here's another flawed presupposition you would have us accept: That there are knowledgeable Catholics. Well, I'll give you a partial on that. I have encountered, on this board and elsewhere, a few Catholics who had knowledge of their church's history, dogma and doctrine. However, the vast majority of Catholics I have encountered appear innocent of such things and seem to have but the most rudimentary idea of the system in which they have placed their hopes for eternity. And, significantly, it has been demonstrated here again and again that those few Catholics who have some idea of what Rome is all about are hopelessly ignorant of biblical truth. Further, they have shown neither willingness nor ability to properly address Scripture when called to exegesis.

Indeed, there are a large number of Protestants who would need some things explained before they would accept such an idea.

I dare say that is another issue you scored well on. Before looking at the strawmen you have erected, perhaps you would care to address these few concerns of mine:

When pressed on the issue of Peter's primacy and the concept of apostolic succession, the Romish apologists we have entertained here immediately point to Matthew 16:18 as their principle "proof text." Now, I find it highly interesting that the same church, which argues against the reliability of Scripture as the sole source of doctrine, would so strenuously use that same Bible to support one of its foundation dogmas. Then, again, manifestations of RCC hypocrisy certainly are no novelty on this board.

You might argue that Rome does not rely solely on its eisegesis of Matthew 16:18 for this stand; that she also can point to sacred tradition. Well, she only can do that if the persons being asked to believe this lie are willing to accept the Roman presupposition that tradition indeed is to be considered on a par with Scripture when developing RCC dogma and doctrine.

Rome truly reveres the Word of God, or so she would have us believe. In Paragraph 81 of the new catechism, catechumens are taught that:

Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. . . -- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., (C) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

Christians understand this: the Bible is God's written revelation to man. Within it's pages are to be found all that the Lord considers necessary for our salvation. Rome, of course, disagrees. After all, if everything one needs to know in order to be saved and to live a Christian life might be found in Scripture, what mystical power could the RCC claim in order to maintain her hold over those millions who have trusted her for their eternal state? Paragraph 81 continues:

And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching. --Ibid.

The Romish cult would have the world believe that the Holy Spirit held some things back, apparently in order to give power to the Catholic priesthood. If a seeker truly hopes to learn all of God necessary for salvation, asserts Rome, then he needs more than just the revealed Word of God. He needs the Roman Catholic Church and its all-powerful and (chuckle) infallible Magisterium to clue him in on the things God intentionally left out of Scripture. In any case, Rome tells those who will believe her lies, that the common man cannot handle the task of interpreting Scripture; that it is the apostate Roman church to which the Lord entrusted both transmission and interpretation of the Scriptures and tradition. Oh! And, by the way, Mother Church informs, yea commands, in paragraph 82 of the Catechism, that her "children" accept and honor Scripture and tradition with equal devotion and reverence. Yikes!!!

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence." -- Ibid

Actually, some Catholic theologians have been more honest in their comments concerning the Catholic and the Bible:

The Scriptures indeed is a divine book but it is a dead letter, which has to be explained, and cannot exercise the action which the preacher can obtain. -- Joseph Bruneau, Our Priesthood, B. Herder Company (1911), p. 155.

The simple fact is that the Bible, like all dead letters, calls for a living interpreter. -- John A. O'Brien, The Faith of Millions, Our Sunday Visitor (1938), p.155.

Through Luther, although Calvin seems to have been the first to announce Monobiblicism clearly, the Bible became the arm of the Protestant revolt. A dumb and difficult book was substituted for the living voice of the Church, in order that each one should be able to make for himself the religion which suited his feelings. And the Bible open before every literate man and woman to interpret for themselves was the attractive bait to win adherents . . . -- A Catholic Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Thomas Nelson & Son (1953), p. 11.

The Holy Spirit, Who inspired the writers of Scripture, clearly does not agree with the position taken by Rome:

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart, -- Hebrews 4:12, KJV

Apparently, big brother (big mother?) Rome considers the Bible and the Gospel too difficult for minds not blessed by the Sacrament of Holy Orders to comprehend. Perhaps that is why she reserves to herself the authority to interpret Scripture. Perhaps it really isn't about power and wealth. Yeah. Right. And the moon really is made of green cheese.

For example: 1) Matthew 16:17-19 -- If the rock in this verse refers back to Jesus Himself rather than to Simon, there are questions left unanswered.

The specious Romish machinations with this passage have been chewed over so many times on this board that they really do not merit additional attention at this time.Rredundancy is the RCC way --- throw the same canned garbage (lifted, no doubt, from one of the pre-packaged Catholic "apologetics" pages which litter the web) until they finally give in and cry "Uncle" from pure boredom. I will, however, briefly address this Catholic fantasy one more time just a bit farther down the page..

For example, elsewhere in the Bible, such as with Abram, a renaming by God is a significant event, so it is logical to ask, "what is the significance of renaming Simon?"

And here we go again, being led off down a rabbit trail that will end, who knows where?

And why is his new, God-given name, what looks like a masculine version of the feminine Greek word for "rock?" (Couldn't this be analogous to a couple naming their boy "Michael" in honor of a grandmother named "Michelle?") Why is Simon given this new name with the very same breath that Jesus uses to mention the rock on which He will build His church? And even if "rock" refers to Jesus Himself in this passage, what is the significance of Simon/Peter being given the keys to the kingdom in this passage?

Well, golly. Aren't you going to answer these burning questions? I cannot imagine how I shall be able to live even another hour without knowing what mystical significance you and the Roman cult are going to assign to these issues and how you will then bend them into a podium upon which to place the false doctrine of apostolic succession.

In verse 18, the word translated "rock" (Strong's 4074) refers neither to Christ nor to His disciiple Peter. Rather, uses the Greek term Petroß in a clever play on words. A renowned scholar of Koine, the common form of Greek used in writing the Scriptures, explains:

Jesus calls Peter here by the name that he had said he would have (John 1:42). Peter (Petroß) is simply the Greek word for Cephas (Aramaic). Then it was prophecy, now it is fact. In verse 17 Jesus addresses him as "Simon Bar-Jonah," his full patronymic (Aramaic) name. But Jesus has a purpose now in using his nickname "Peter" which he had himself given him. Jesus makes a remarkable play on Peter's name, a pun in fact, that has caused volumes of controversy and endless theological strife. On this rock (epi tauth th petrai) Jesus says, a ledge or cliff of rock like that in John 7:24 on which the wise man built his house. Petroß is usually a smaller detachment of the massive ledge. But too much must not be made of this point since Jesus probably spoke Aramaic to Peter which draws no such distinction (Khpa)--A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament, Matthew 16:19, Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960.

What did Jesus mean in His use of the word translated "rock" in Matthew 16:18? Robertson explains:

What is the rock on which Christ will build his vast temple? Not on Peter alone or mainly or primarily. Peter by his confession was furnished with the illustration for the rock on which His church will rest. It is the same kind of faith that Peter has just confessed. The perpetuity of this church general is guaranteed.--Ibid.

An aside: Don't you just hate the way Roman apologists seem to avoid citing their biblical sources? I suppose that is a holdover from the way Scripture is read in the mass -- "A reading from the Gospel of St. John . . . blah, blah, blah." It is my fantasy this is done in order to confound those who would read along with the lector. With the chapter and verse not idenified, by the time the guy in the pew locates the passage, the priest has moved on to something else.

Having thus presented what he doubtless considered to be unassailable truth in support of the fanciful Romish doctrine that presents a Galilean fisherman by name of Simon bar Jonah, given the nickname Cephas by Jesus, as our Lord's choice to be the first leader of His soon-to-be-instituted new church, the Catholic apologist appeared ready to move on to some new issue.

2) Acts 15--In this chapter, there is a dispute going on until St. Peter stands and pronounces his teaching on the subject. After that, "all the multitude kept silence."

It appears you stopped reading a bit too soon. Acts 15:5-11 reads as follows in the KJV:

5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
--Acts 15:5-11

I think it interesting, and typical of the RCC style of deceptive apologetics, that you are diligent to point out that "all the multitude kept silent," without offering at least one reason -- clearly stated -- why that might be so. Perhaps we might discover the reason in the very next verse:

Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.--Acts 15:12, KJV

Gee whiz!!! Whaddaya know? Peter stood up and made a significant point, with the result the crowd seems to have settled down, which immediately was followed by the accounts of all the wonders God had worked through Paul and Barnabas among the Gentiles. I wager that, even today, if a couple of missionaries were to wander in during a struggle among the elders of a local church and begin to recount the wonderful things they attributeded to God, folks would sit quietly and listen. After all, those who truly love God are always interested in hearing first-hand accounts of his love and mercy. I will be the first to admit that may not be the reason they all shut up. However, my suggestion is every bit as probable as the invention you hint at -- Peter's supremacy and dominance.

Had you continued reading in Acts 15, you would have seen that, once Paul and Barnabas had finished, it was James, the brother of Jesus, who took charge of the meeting. After a very brief summary of Peter's contribution, and a refresher from Scripture, James is quoted as having declared:

Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and [from] fornication, and [from] things strangled, and [from] blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.--Acts 15:19-21, kjv

The NASB translates the beginning of verse 19 thusly: "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble …." (My emphasis) To me, it seems that James, son of Mary and Joseph and brother of Jesus, the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, was in charge of that council.

And then, "the apostles and elders, with the whole church" sent representatives to disperse St. Peter's teaching among the various communities that had been embroiled in the dispute.

Let's see here. "St.Peter's teaching"? Overlooking the clear fact that the teaching originated with the Lord God Almighty, your intimation that this teaching somehow was the exclusive idea and innovation of Peter is, as are most efforts by Romanists when interpreting Scripture, utterly in error. If you would open your Bible to the Book of Galations, for example, and go to Chapter 5, there you might read Paul's instructions to that local church concerning the judaizing efforts of the pharisaical Christians. Read the whole Book, I urge you. Incidentally, Paul wrote that letter before meeting with the Church council in Jerusalem. Sonuvagun!!! Seems that Rome blew it again. :o)

It seems to follow the current conception that Catholics have of the pope when theological matters arise: discussion by the faithful (particularly the apostles), final pronouncement by St. Peter, and St. Peter's teaching being pronounced to the universal church.

If St. Peter isn't acting as the leader of Christ's church on Earth in this chapter, then how would Bible Believers have Catholics (and the many Protestants who think St. Peter was leader of the apostles) understand this passage?

From the context -- including those verses you apparently neglected to mention or heed -- it would appear that James, brother of Jesus, was fully functional at this meeting in his role as leader of the Jerusalem church.

"…and the many Protestants who think St. Peter was leader of the apostles . . "? Wonder just who we are speaking of here? Episcopalians, perhaps? Anglicans? As with virtually all the RCC spokesmen I have encountered, Doug seems given to making unsupported global statements. Someone needs to contact those guys who maintain the pre-canned Catholic apologetics pages of the usefulness of including chapter and verse when calling upon Scripture and for sourcing global statements. This particular Christian likes to do as the Bereans, and check such comments out.

James the Just, the brother (or half-brother) of Jesus ( cf. Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal. 1:19)

The New Testament and early Christian writers refer to this James as the brother of Jesus . . .It was this James who assumed leadership of the church in Jerusalem while the other apostles were gone on missionary journeys . . . Indeed, one who was the brother of Jesus, even though not one of the Twelve, would have had the stature necessary for such leadership.

James dominates the accounts of official actions of the council at Jerusalem; he cast the deciding vote when the question of Gentile circumcision was discussed (Acts 15:13). . . It was James and the elders of the church who advised Paul to join in the sacrifices at the temple (Acts 21:17-26). It was emissaries from James who supported Peter against Paul (Gal. 2:12). When Peter was freed from prison, he requested that James be informed (Acts 12:17) . . .

According to Church tradition, James was the first bishop of Jerusalem. Jewish Christianity placed James above Peter and Paul. . . ." -- Allen C. Myers, Ed., The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, William B. Eermans Publishing Company (1975)

The defender of things Catholic continued his laundry list of examples:

3) Acts of the Apostles -- What is the significance of St. Peter being the first to preach to the Jews, the first to preach to the Gentiles and the first to perform miracles after the Ascension?

Was Peter really the first to preach to the Jews? When I go to Acts 2:3-6, I read these words:

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. . . KJV

Beginning with verse 14 , Luke recounts Peter's teaching to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem. Please note that this apparently was a group teaching.

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all [ye] that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:--Acts 2:13, KJV

Whether the whole group who were visited with the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues was teaching Christian doctrine when they were talking within earshot of the polyglot multitude or whether they were merely saying such things as "Wow! Listen to me!!," it is important to note they were standing with Peter when he preached the sermon recorded in Acts 2. And a great sermon it was.

Whether Peter was the first to perform a miracle after Christ's ascension is not provable. We know, from Acts 2 and a multitude of other places in Scripture, there were 12 apostles. Unfortunately, Luke has not given us a full account of the activities of many of these, including Peter and Paul. It may well be that Matthias, or John, or Andrew or or Phillip (Acts 8:6) or one of the others may have beaten Peter to the miracle punch. We do not know, and for you or Rome to build a stand based on the silence of Scripture is most assuredly not good theology.

Why shouldn't this be seen as supporting the idea that St. Peter was leader of the apostles, the rock in the absence of the ultimate Rock? Why else would God have chosen St. Peter to be the first to preach and the first to perform miracles?

These rhetorical questions are not theology. They truly are little more than red herrings carelessly tossed out. Opinions. Rather than throwing bones to we poor, benighted Christians, why don't you go to the Bible and prove your case?

Still another example from the Romish apologist:

4) Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke: 6:14-16, 8:45, 9:32 -- Why do the Gospels list St. Peter as the first of the apostles, or simply mention the apostles as "Peter and the others."

I don't know. Perhaps you can come up with some compelling reason for this. Something other than your opinion, as supported by the silence of Scripture.

Why shouldn't this be seen as supporting the idea that St. Peter was leader of the apostles?

Why should it be seen as support for the idea? You have provided no unassailable results of sound exegesis, no indisputable statements from the Word of God. All you have given us is fantasy as fact. And that ain't cutting it.

Why else would the New Testament authors list St. Peter first, or even abbreviate the apostles by simply mentioning him alone by name?

Permit me ask you a question, Sir. Why wasn't Peter the first chosen to be one of the Twelve? He wasn't, you know. Not that it seems to have any salvific importance, but John and Andrew were the first to follow Jesus.

John 1:35-42, Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John [speak], and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.--John 1:35-42, KJV

Hope that doesn't keep you up all night, searching through the pre-canned apologetics sites for a response.

You surely are better advised to forget Rome's self-serving and self-sustained dogma and doctrine and look instead to the Word of God.

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