Catholic Doctrines In Scripture by Greg Oatis Part 3
Mary's Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception refers to the birth of Mary without original sin. Like the term, 'Holy Trinity,' the words, 'Immaculate Conception,' are not found in the Bible. But the foundation for the teaching most certainly is.
Ex. 25: 8-16 – "'They shall make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst. This Dwelling and all its furnishings you shall make exactly according to the pattern that I will now show you.'" The old ark was prepared with great care, using all virgin materials, at the express and detailed direction of the Lord. As we saw above, Mary is the new ark; would she have been prepared with less care by God himself? Such a thing would be unthinkable.
Gen. 1: 27 – "God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." Eve, the Old Testament archetype, was created without original sin; so too Mary, who is the New Testament fulfillment of Eve and who therefore is far greater than Eve, must have been created without original sin as well. It is not possible that the fulfillment would have been created lesser than the archetype. Nor is it possible that the new ark that would give life to the Immanuel would have been besmirched with sin, when the ark of the old covenant was created with perfect care and pristine materials.
Lk. 1: 28 – Gabriel praises Mary: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." Greek word translated as, "full of grace," is actually a grammatical construction meaning, "One who has been perfected in grace." Nowhere else does an angel honor a human in this way. Gabriel could not have used these words if Mary had been touched by sin.
Lk. 1: 49 – "'The Mighty One has done great things for me...'" Mary makes the point that she has received wonderful and unique blessings from God. She does not say, 'for us,' or, 'for all of humanity,' but instead sets herself apart.
Rev. 21: 27 – "…nothing unclean will enter it [heaven], nor any [one] who does abominable things or tells lies." Anyone who thinks that Jesus could have been formed within – and by – a sinful person is misconstruing the nature of God and the nature of sin. God simply cannot be in communion with sin, which is why no one sinful can enter into heaven.
Rom. 3: 10-18 – This is the primary proof-text of those who say Mary – along with the rest of humanity – was born in sin: "There is no one just, not one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have gone astray; all alike are worthless; there is not one who does good, [there is not] even one. Their throats are open graves, they deceive with their tongues; the venom of asps is on their lips…" Those who hold this position would seem to have a point – at least from a cursory reading. However there are two major problems with the universalist interpretation of this text. First, if this passage is to be taken literally, then we must conclude that Jesus himself was a sinner. For he at least is "one" who understands and seeks God; yet the text says there is "not one." Second, in this passage
Mary's Virginity (see also "The 'Brothers' of Jesus" section below)
Jn. 19: 27 – From the cross, Jesus places Mary in John's charge; Jesus could not have done this if he'd had brothers. This gesture would have been highly disrespectful to them.
2 Sam. 6: 6-7 – Uzzah was killed for simply touching the ark, even though he meant no harm; he only wanted to save it from tipping over. Mary is the new ark and spouse of the Holy Spirit. Joseph could not have defiled her without suffering the same punishment that was meted out to Uzzah.
Ex. 40: 34-35 – "Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling. Moses could not enter the meeting tent because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling." If no one, not even Moses, could enter into the meeting tent; what man could have "entered" the new ark and lived?
1 Cor. 7: 37-38 – "The one who stands firm in his resolve, however, who is not under compulsion but has power over his own will, and has made up his mind to keep his virgin, will be doing well. So then, the one who marries his virgin does well; the one who does not marry her will do better." To
1 Cor. 7: 29 – "I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them..."
Rev. 14: 2-5 – "These are they who were not defiled with women; they are virgins and these are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed as the firstfruits of the human race for God and the Lamb. On their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished."
The 'Brothers' of Jesus
Protestants dispute Mary's perpetual virginity because of this verse: "'Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon?" (Mk. 6: 3). Seems pretty clear, right? However, this interpretation is an example of the danger of viewing the scriptures through the lens of our modern language and culture. Because, as any scripture scholar will attest, the Israelites commonly referred to men who were totally unrelated by blood as 'brother':
1 Chron. 6: 18-28 – This passage refers to two men, Heman and Asaph, as 'brothers.' Yet in their genealogies – both of which are fully chronicled here – we can see that they have different fathers, different grandfathers and different great-grandfathers. The only ancestor they share, many generations back, is the father of their tribe, Levi. So it is clear that at times the Israelites used the word, 'brother,' to signify relationships of men who were neither 'brothers' nor even 'cousins' in modern parlance, but what we would call 'tribesmen.' This makes sense, of course, since in the Israelite's past a person's life and livelihood depended more upon the fortunes of the tribe than on those of his immediate family. Life was difficult enough that a nuclear family alone would have had little chance of surviving. Further, this regarding of fellow tribe members as 'brother' would have meant greater cohesiveness – and smoother relations – within the tribe. This use of the word 'brother' – quite foreign to most modern-day Americans – is an excellent illustration of why we cannot impose our own assumptions about family, society and language upon the scriptures without seriously distorting their meaning. This is a big reason why relying on one's own understanding of the Bible as the ultimate authority of faith is so very dangerous.
2 Sam. 1: 26 – "'I grieve for you Jonathan, my brother!'" Jonathan was Saul's son, no relation to David. This is another example of the usage of the word 'brother' to denote a close, non-filial relationship.
1 Kings 9: 13 – "'Where are these cities you have given me, my brother?'" Hiram refers to Solomon as 'brother' when they are not even of the same nation. Hiram is king of
Amos 1: 9 – "Thus says the Lord: For three crimes of Tyre, and for four, I will not evoke my word; because they delivered whole groups captive to Edom, and did not remember the pact of brotherhood, I will send fire upon the wall of Tyre, to devour her castles." The political and military alliance forged by Solomon with Hiram (above) is referred to by God himself as a "brotherhood." So we see that allies of no blood relation were referred to as brothers, even by God.
1 Kings 20: 32 – "'Your servant Ben-hadad pleads for his life,' they said. 'Is he still alive?' the king asked. 'He is my brother.'" Ahab calls Ben-hadad 'brother,' although they are not even of the same nation.
Mk. 6: 3 – Most of the confusion regarding Mary's virginity stems from liberties taken with this verse: "'Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon? Are not also his sisters here with us?'" It is interesting to note that this verse does not say, "a son of Mary," or "one of the sons of Mary." Besides the misapprehension about the word, 'brother,' the difficulty also stems from the fact that the mother of James and Joseph is also named Mary:
Mt. 27: 55-56 – "And there were there many women afar off, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among whom was Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph…" Clearly, however, this Mary is not Jesus' mother, since the evangelist would not have failed to identify her as such on Calvary. As is evident as well in the following passage:
Mk. 15: 40 – "And there were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joseph…" These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him." Again, the fact that this Mary is not Jesus' mother is quite clear.
Lk. 6: 15-16 – This passage which lists the names of the apostles clarifies the matter further, since "James the less," who is referred to in the passage above as the son of a certain Mary, is said to be "the son of Alpheus" – and not the son of Joseph.
Jn. 19: 25 – The Evangelist John identifies this additional Mary at the cross as, "...his mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas..." So apparently both Mary's – Jesus' mother and the mother of James and Joseph – were close blood relatives. This is an important clue about the Mk. 6: 3 verse, above, which lists James and Joseph as Jesus' "brothers." Close blood relatives – including cousins and nephews – were frequently called "brothers," since the most important social unit was the tribe rather than the nuclear family. The male members of a tribe regarded all other males in the tribe as "brothers." And tribesmen always considered themselves descendents of the tribe's founder, even though that may not have been true, as happened in the case of individuals who were cast out of one tribe and joined another.
Mt. 10: 2-4 – Neither of the apostles named James is a son of Joseph and Mary, so neither can be termed a 'brother' of Jesus in the sense we use the term. James the elder is said to be the son of Zebedee, and James the younger the son of Alpheus. The Bible is very clear on this point: "And the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the publican, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him."
Lk. 2: 41-52 – In the account of the young Jesus being found by his parents in the temple in Jerusalem, no mention is made of siblings. By this time, Jesus was twelve years old. Chronologically, this is the latest mention of St. Joseph found in the gospels, yet we see no mention of other children.
Jn. 19: 27 – From the cross, Jesus places Mary into the care of St. John. Jesus could not have done this if he'd had brothers. The gesture would have been highly disrespectful to them.
A remaining objection to this scenario is, of course, the question of why James and Joseph are identified as sons of Alpheus, while their mother is said to be the wife of Cleophas. Two possibilities exist: Either the mother of James and Joseph re-married Cleophas after the father of her sons died, or Alpheus and Cleophas were the same person – since men in Hebrew society were at times known by more than one name. Also, in ancient Israel, it was disrespectful for younger brothers to advise older brothers, but Jesus' "brothers" do advise him – most rudely, in fact (see verse below). So if Jesus had brothers by blood, they must have been older, or they never would have talked to him like this. But scripture is absolutely explicit that Jesus was in every sense firstborn. Therefore, he could not have had brothers by blood:
Jn. 7: 3-4 – "So his brothers said to him, 'Leave here...'" In the highly structured and hierarchical society of the time, younger brothers could not have spoken so brusquely to an older sibling; they would have risked being stoned.
Mk. 3: 21 – "When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind...'" These verses alone, in which his supposed 'relatives' speak out harshly and publicly against Jesus, are alone enough to prove that there could not have been younger brothers among this group. In this society, younger brothers could never have treated an elder sibling with such contempt.
Mary's virginity is most often attacked by citing Mt. 1: 25, where we find this reference to Joseph and Mary: "He had no relations with her until she bore a son…" However, concluding that this passage implies that Joseph and Mary had relations after Jesus was born is a serious misinterpretation of the term 'until' as it is used in the scriptures. In the Bible, the word 'until' is often used in a specific way to imply only the fulfillment of certain conditions. It implies nothing about what occurs after those conditions are fulfilled. Thus, the verse in question does not in any way imply that Joseph and Mary had relations after Jesus' birth. It only states that they did not up till that point. The following examples will doubtless help clarify the matter:
1 Cor. 15: 25 – "...he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet." Clearly, Jesus reigns after that as well.
Mt. 28: 18-20 – "'… behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.'" Who would conclude from this that Jesus will no longer be with us after the end of the world? Yet we must hold to that interpretation if we also conclude that Joseph and Mary had relations after Jesus' birth.
2 Sam 6: 23 – "And so Saul's daughter Michal was childless to the day of her death." It is hardly likely that after her death she had children. However, we must make that assumption if we are to be consistent with the assumption that Joseph and Mary had relations after Jesus was born.
Deut. 34: 6 – "Moses, the servant of the Lord, died as the Lord had said; and he was buried in the ravine opposite Beth-peor in the land of Moab, but to this day no one knows the place of his burial..." They still don't, of course, thousands of years after this verse was written.
1 Mac. 5: 53 – "…and Judas kept rounding up stragglers and encouraging the people the whole way, until he reached the land of Judah." It is hardly likely that such encouragement ceased after their arrival in the land of Judah.
Jn. 5: 17 – "…Jesus answered them, 'My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.'" Did the Father stop working upon the birth of the Messiah?
While not specifically attested to in scripture, Mary's assumption is not in the least contrary to scripture, since we find several examples of biblical precedents for such occurrences.
Acts 2: 27 – "...because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption." Refers to:
Ps. 16: 10 – "...For you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit." The body's eventual decay is caused by sin. The very holy are spared bodily corruption.
Gen. 5: 24 – "Then Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him." Enoch was assumed, body and spirit, into heaven. So we see that such an occurrence has scriptural precedent.
Heb. 11: 5 – "By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death... he was attested to have pleased God." There is clear scriptural precedent for the idea that holy ones are taken into heaven, body and soul.
2 Kings 2: 1-13 – Elijah is taken bodily into heaven in a chariot. So the idea that another holy person would be taken bodily into heaven does not contradict the scriptures in the least. The scriptures never claimed to contain every saying and every event in the life of Jesus and the early Church. In fact we know they do not (Jn. 16: 12-13; Jn. 21: 25). If Mary lived to old age – 90 or 100 years – she could have outlived the writing of the scriptures. So her assumption would have been impossible to record.
Ps. 132: 8 – "Arise, Lord, come to your resting place, you and your majestic ark." The Old Testament resting place of God is the Dwelling within the temple sanctuary in Jerusalem. The New Testament fulfillment of Jerusalem, seen in Revelation, is heaven. The New Testament fulfillment of the temple is the sanctuary of heaven. Since the New Testament fulfillment of the ark, as we saw above, is Mary's body, we can conclude that Mary's body – as opposed to just her spirit – must be in heaven. Otherwise this passage of scripture would not be true.
Rev. 11: 19 – 12: 1 – The ark of the covenant is described by John as being visible in the sanctuary of Heaven. This is a clear reference to Mary, the ark of the new covenant, being present in body in the heavenly sanctuary. For heaven is about perfected New Testament fulfillments, not imperfect Old Testament types: "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple... A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." The ark of the covenant parallels this queenly personage who can only be Mary, since her offspring is said to be "…destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod" (12: 5). Note that the separation between chapters is an arbitrary device that was not introduced until the thirteenth century. So we should read the above verses as a unit.
The early Church fathers recognized the parallel between Eve and Mary, upon which much of the Church's teachings about Mary are based. At the end of the second century – still more than 100 years before the canon of the New Testament was established – we find the great theologian, St. Irenaeus, writing: "Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith" ('The Faith of the Early Fathers,' Vol. 1, Jurgens, p. 93).
NEW COVENANT FULFILLS OLD
The new covenant did not destroy the old; it fulfilled it. The Catholic Church looks at salvation history as a seamless garment. We are the children of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. Our liturgies have much in common with those of our Jewish brethren. For example, no other Christian faith tradition enshrines the Holy Writ, processing in at the beginning of each Mass with the Bible held aloft. Yet our Jewish brethren do precisely that. The most ancient Christian tradition founded by Jesus and the apostles – in other words, the Catholic Christian faith – is in truth the faith of the Jews in the full blossom of its fulfillment.
2 Cor. 3: 2-3 – "You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, shown to be a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets that are hearts of flesh." The new covenant is living and vital, not legalistic and dead.
2 Cor. 3: 7-9 – "Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, was so glorious that the Israelites could not look intently at the face of Moses because of its glory that was going to fade, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit be glorious?" This passage refers to Ex. 34: 29-35. It clearly shows that the new covenant is more glorious than the old.
Heb. 8: 13 – "When he speaks of a 'new' covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing." Since the new covenant has blossomed forth from the stump of the old, it is the new that we see bearing fruit. Yet they are both expressions of the same family of God – the old having been fulfilled by the new.
Heb. 9: 23-28 – "Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified by these rites, but the heavenly things themselves by better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf." The old covenant prefigures the new.
Heb. 10: 1 – The Old Testament types – prefigurements only – are fulfilled in New Testament truths: "Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them..."
The Catholic Church treats scripture the way Jesus treated scripture. The Church knows that much of the truth in the Bible is hidden and is not easily or automatically grasped by all. Jesus himself had to open the truth of the scriptures for his followers before they could understand many of the passages that pertained to his life – even after most of them had been fulfilled. The Bible is actually a tremendously complex set of books, written over a span of many hundreds of years, by people with very different cultural backgrounds, different languages, and different world views. Certainly, the Holy Spirit inspired each of the Bible's authors. But that does not mean that the personality or the knowledge of each was overwhelmed by God or that the individual ceased to exist while he was writing. To ascertain the meaning of so much that is found in scripture, we must seek to understand the assumptions, the perspectives, the languages and the customs of the authors. Only then can we begin to come to an appreciation of the depths of the books we know as the Bible. Which is why the Protestant doctrine of 'sola scriptura' – whichever of the several different ways it can be defined – is hardly reassuring. Coming to a clear understanding of the scriptures is in fact an immensely daunting challenge, absolutely insurmountable to all but the most erudite scholars of scripture, ancient languages and Jewish history and culture.
Lk. 24: 13-35 – Jesus had to teach his disciples the meaning of the scriptures before they could understand. 'Scripture alone' was not enough for them to grasp the truth: "Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures." Although they had access to the scriptures, the disciples needed an authoritative interpretation of what they had read so many times before they could understand. Are we so different that we believe we can come to a full and complete understanding of these difficult passages on our own?
Acts 17: 10-12 – "These Jews were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all willingness and examined the scriptures daily to determine whether these things were so." This passage about the Beroeans is often the primary text used to support 'sola scriptura.' However, it actually supports the dual authority of Sacred Tradition and Scripture, since nowhere does it suggest that the Beroeans, without St. Paul's presence and without the help of his authoritative and apostolic oral teachings, could have ever concluded that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Indeed, they could not have. They were looking to the scriptures to see if what St. Paul said was contradicted there – and it is not. But there was no way they – or Nicodemus, or anyone else – could have come to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah by simply using 'scripture alone.' Even perhaps the greatest scripture scholar of all time, St. Paul, needed the help of direct divine revelation – being thrown to the ground, rendered blind and hearing the voice of Jesus – before he was able to grasp the truth. Indeed, although St. Paul tells us he was thoroughly schooled in the scriptures (Phil. 3: 5), we know that 'scripture alone' was not enough to lead him to the simple fact that Jesus was the Messiah. Nor did the Holy Spirit enlighten him on this point when he sat and read the scriptures, as he had done so often as a Pharisee.
Eph. 3:8 – "To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light [for all] what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things." This is what Paul did for the Beroeans (Acts. 17: 10-12); they needed Paul to teach them before they understood the hidden truths of the scriptures. The Spirit did not directly enlighten each individual. (See passage above.)
1 Cor. 2: 7-8 – God's truths are not instantly grasped by all; we need teachers like Paul to unlock them: "...we speak God's wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew..."
1 Cor. 2: 12-13 – "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God." Discernment of the truth – whether in the scriptures or elsewhere – is not easy or automatic. We have no guarantee from God that he will spontaneously grant every individual insight into the truths of the Bible.
Num. 11: 27-29 – "…when a young man quickly told Moses, 'Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,' Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses' aide, said, 'Moses, my lord, stop them.' But Moses answered him, 'Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!'" But despite Moses' wish, the Lord has not bestowed his Spirit upon all, and all are not prophets. If they were, Moses would not have had to say this. Yet this is the basis for the false doctrine of 'sola scriptura,' which states that the Holy Spirit will automatically lead all the faithful to the truth of the scriptures, or, in other words, that he will turn all into prophets.
Heb. 9: 23-28 – "Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified by these rites, but the heavenly things themselves by better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf." Typology is specifically referred to here.
Heb. 10: 1 – "Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them..." The Catholic Church views the scriptures – Old Testament and New – as a seamless garment. The personages, institutions and practices of the Old Testament prefigure and illuminate the New. The truth weaves the scriptures together until they are an infinite tapestry. It is not compartmentalized.
1 Pet. 3: 20-21 – Another reference to typology: "...God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now." St. Peter is illustrating how the scriptures are a unified and tightly woven work. To fail to grasp this fact is to fail to perceive the profound depths of God's written word.
Jn. 3: 14-15 – "'And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.'" Jesus himself uses typology to teach us the meaning of the scriptures. Here he is stating that he is the fulfillment of the bronze serpent which Moses held up on a pole and which saved the Israelites from snakebite. The bronze serpent was the 'type,' or precursor, and Jesus is the fulfillment.
Acts 8: 30-31 – The Holy Spirit does not infuse wisdom or knowledge of scripture to individuals simply through the act of picking up a book. We need an authoritative teacher to help us discern its truths: "Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I unless someone instructs me?'"
OUR ULTIMATE AUTHORITY NOT 'SCRIPTURE ALONE '
The Protestant doctrine of 'sola scriptura' is not really about scripture at all. It's about the claim that each person who picks up a Bible will be unerringly guided to the truth by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is, in short, a claim of infallibility – not for one faithful and learned man sitting in Rome, who has been anointed by the authority which Christ bestowed upon his apostles, but for millions of individuals regardless of their education, their sensitivity, their knowledge of those who wrote the Bible or the forms of literature contained in it, their prayer life or their spirituality – or even the nature of their intentions. It is an exceedingly dangerous doctrine, since it leaves good and faithful Christians vulnerable to unscrupulous, unaccountable leaders. In the words of author Robert Sungenis, "Fallible men will invariably produce fallible interpretations of Scripture." Our Lord and Savior loves his flock too much to leave us under the dangerous influence of "false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves." (Mt. 7: 15.) Which is why he established his Church, directing Peter to tend his sheep (Jn. 21:16), and promising to send his Spirit to guide her leaders to all truth (Jn. 16: 13).
2 Thess. 2: 15 – "...brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours." St. Paul is exceedingly clear as he upholds both tradition and oral teaching and commands the faithful to preserve them. If 'sola scriptura' were true, he would have been required to urge his readers to hold fast to scripture and to leave everything else behind. Of course nowhere does he – or any other apostle, or any Church Father – make any such statement. Thus, the principle of 'sola scriptura' is self-negating. It states, in effect: "Scripture alone is the supreme authority in every principle of faith except this one, which is not found – or even hinted at – anywhere in the scriptures."
2 Thess. 3: 6 – "We instruct you, brothers, in the name of [our] Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us." Again, St. Paul expects his followers to acknowledge the authority of oral traditions, not just his letters. In fact, in every instance, his letters were written to support the teachings he had previously imparted verbally.
1 Cor. 11: 2 – "I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you." Apostolic tradition seems to be worth preserving, at least according to St. Paul.
Mt. 23: 1 – In this single passage, Jesus himself acknowledges both the authority of Church hierarchy and oral tradition: "...Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, 'The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.'" The uprightness of the Pharisees was not the basis of their authority, for with their hard hearts, they were hardly worthy of emulation. Instead, their authority derived from their position as the leaders of the community. Note also Jesus' use of the phrase, 'chair of Moses.' These words are not found in the Old Testament, so Jesus is himself adhering to the oral tradition of the Jews in formulating this teaching. It is clear that 'sola scriptura' is not found in the Bible, either in word or in practice. We must conclude it is one of the traditions of men which St. Paul warns us against in Col. 2: 8.
Acts 8: 30-31 – Scripture itself tells us that it is in fact not self-revealing. The Holy Spirit does not infuse wisdom or knowledge of scripture to individuals simply through the act of picking up a book: "Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I unless someone instructs me?'"
Eph. 3: 10 – St. Paul tells us the Church – not the scriptures – instructs even the angels: "...so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens."
2 Tim. 3: 16-17 – This is the passage most often cited by those trying to uphold the doctrine of 'sola scriptura': "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work." However, here St. Paul is saying nothing about the scriptures as a source of spiritual authority, nor is he comparing the scriptures to other sources of spiritual authority. He is only saying the scriptures are very helpful in preparing believers for life in the spirit – which of course is not in dispute.
Jas. 1: 4 – "And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Refutes – or, better, balances – 2 Tim. 3: 16-17 (immediately above), which is usually cited as the primary proof of 'sola scriptura.' Does scripture make us complete and lacking in nothing, or does perseverance? Obviously, we cannot interpret these passages literally, or they would contradict one other.
1 Cor. 2: 12-13 – In addition to his writings, St. Paul's speech is also inspired by the Holy Spirit when he speaks: "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God. And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms." Of course 'sola scriptura' would have us ignore everything but the written form of revelation. If the Corinthians to whom St. Paul was writing had subscribed to 'sola scriptura,' they would have ignored his preaching and heeded only his letters. This would have been an obviously absurd approach for them to take. Yet it is the position 'sola scriptura' adherents would expect us to hold to today.
Acts 17: 11 – "These Jews were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all willingness and examined the scriptures daily to determine whether these things were so." This is probably the primary proof text used to support 'sola scriptura.' However, it actually supports the dual authority of Sacred Tradition and scripture, since nowhere does it suggest that these people, the Beroeans, could have ever concluded that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah without the oral teaching of St. Paul. Indeed, they could not have. When you think about it, there was one New Testament group that actually did cling to 'scripture alone' and refused to believe the oral testimony of even Jesus himself – the Pharisees. They were the ones who sought to counter Jesus' influence with verse after verse of scripture. Yet the truth did not come to them through 'scripture alone.'
Eph. 3: 8 – "To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light [for all] what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things." This is what St. Paul did for the Beroeans (Acts. 17: 10-12); they needed Paul to teach them before they understood the hidden truths of the scriptures. The Spirit did not directly enlighten each individual. (See passage above.)
3 Jn. 13-14 – "I have much to write to you, but I do not wish to write with pen and ink. Instead, I hope to see you soon, when we can talk face to face." John equates the authority of the apostles' spoken word with the authority of the written word. They are one and the same.
2 Pet. 1: 20 – "Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation..." Personal interpretation alone can lead us astray. We do not have the authority to come to a definitive interpretation of the scriptures on our own. And note the importance which St. Peter attaches to this truth – "know this first of all."
2 Pet. 3: 16 – "...there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures." The Bible may be misinterpreted, intentionally or not. God has given us no guarantee that our insights into the scriptures will be without error. And without an authoritative voice to interpret the scriptures, a voice that is guided by the Holy Spirit, discord will reign. This is what we see in the tens of thousands of Protestant denominations that exist in America today. While they all agree that the scriptures are their ultimate authority, no two denominations can agree on what the scriptures actually say. This tragic condition – which can result in a loss of faith as doctrinal disputes arise, leaders and teachings change, and groups within congregations are expected to keep pace or else break away – is not authored by the Holy Spirit.
1 Cor. 11: 27-34 – "Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that your meetings may not result in judgment. The other matters I shall set in order when I come." St. Paul is explicit: On this serious matter – the abuse of the Eucharist, which is actually
resulting in the illness and death of some of the abusers – Paul says he has teachings he wishes to impart in person, apart from his written message. But the doctrine of 'sola scriptura' would not have us consider those oral teachings inspired or binding.
Gal. 1: 8 –"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed!" Note that St. Paul is referring to the truth of the gospel having been 'preached' to the faithful, not 'written.' Nowhere does he instruct believers to adhere to the gospel in written form.
2 Thess. 2: 5 – In referring to the "lawless one," Paul refers to oral teachings and prophesies he made at an earlier date which he expects his readers to recall and to heed: "...do you not recall that while I was still with you I told you these things?" He expects his readers to consult his oral teachings in order to discern the truth. He intends his writings to support and reinforce his teaching and preaching, not simply to stand alone.
Lk. 24: 13-35 – Jesus had to teach his disciples the meaning of the scriptures before they could understand. 'Scripture alone' was not enough for them: "Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures." An aside: many believe that the Church's Sacred Tradition contains much of what the Lord imparted to his followers on the road to Emmaus – specifically the parallels between Adam and Jesus, Moses and Jesus and the prophets and Jesus, not to mention the astonishing convergences of Calvary and Passover. Yet, since these are interpretations taught us by the early fathers, and not formally stated in scriptures, the more fundamentalist brands of 'sola scriptura' would have us reject it.
Lk. 7: 18-23 – Even John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Spirit from before his birth (Lk. 1: 15), could not discern Jesus' true nature from 'scripture alone.' He sent his followers to query Jesus. And this is important: Jesus did not answer them with any direct claim. Instead, he interpreted the hidden truths in scriptures for them, "'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.'" John's followers get no new information here. Only an authoritative interpretation of scriptures. If 'sola scriptura' were true – that we need no authority to interpret scriptures for us – John and his followers would not have required this clarification from Jesus.
Jn. 5: 39-40 – If 'sola scriptura' were true, the Holy Spirit would have inspired the temple leaders to discern the fullness of truth through the scriptures which they so scrupulously searched. Instead, Jesus condemns them for relying on scripture alone: "'You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.'" We know that the scriptures testify on behalf of Jesus. But the Pharisees, relying on 'scripture alone,' could not discern that truth. Indeed, not even Jesus' own followers could (Lk. 24:13-35). They needed Jesus to open the truth of the scriptures for them.
Jn. 16: 12-13 – Jesus tells us he is not able to disclose "all truth" during his time on earth. He says he will send the Holy Spirit who is to come; this is a clear statement concerning inspired teaching and the deepening of our understanding of the faith: "'I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.'"
Eph. 3: 3 – "...the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly earlier." St. Paul specifically states that he not fully imparted the entirety of his revelation through his writings. He also imparts them verbally. He intends his writings to support and reinforce his preaching, not to stand alone. Also, note that St. Paul did not come to faith in Christ Jesus through 'scripture alone', but through revelation. Indeed, nowhere do we see a single person converted by reading the scriptures, nor do we see a single instance of any holy person appealing to the scriptures as their ultimate authority. Only Satan and the Pharisees and scribes do that, and in each instance it is in an attempt to trip up Jesus.
1 Tim. 3: 15 – St. Paul says the foundation of truth is the Church, not the scriptures: "...Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth." This is only logical, since it was the Church that declared which of the texts that were being read during Mass by the early believers were in fact inspired. So history shows us that the Bible rests on the authority of the Church, not vice versa.
Lk. 10: 16 – "'Whoever listens to you listens to me...'" Jesus upholds oral teaching, telling his followers to go out and preach. In fact, Jesus never instructed his followers to write a single word.
1 Jn. 4: 6 – "...anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit." Submitting to apostolic authority – not adherence to 'scripture alone' – is the hallmark of the truth of our beliefs.
Heb. 13: 17 – "Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you..." The writer urges believers to obedience, not to developing their own individual Bible interpretations, nor even to an exhaustive study of the ancient languages, cultures and customs so that they might come to a more complete understanding of the scriptures. Those of us who are too busy with our daily responsibilities – jobs, families, etc. – to mount such a monumental scholastic undertaking need not worry. As long as we follow the teachings of our anointed leaders – and defer to them – we will not be led astray.
2 Tim. 2: 2 – Nowhere does St. Paul teach 'sola scriptura.' On the contrary, we see him invoking apostolic succession. St. Paul is Jesus' near contemporary, and he is writing to the younger Timothy about sharing the Truth with the generations to come. But the written word is not mentioned: "So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well." Timothy is explicitly instructed to preserve the oral teachings of St. Paul. Of course he did, as did his successors, and that is how the deposit of Sacred Tradition has been passed along to the present generation.
1 Thess. 2: 13 – "And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe." St. Paul is telling us his speech is as inspired and authoritative as his writings. The word is not static and limited to the page. It is dynamic – alive in the mind, on the lips and in the heart of the Church he founded.
Rom. 10: 14-15 – Again, we do not see St. Paul invoking the authority of the scripture, but the authority of those who preach: "And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!'" Those who brought the good news were speaking it out loud. In fact, most historians agree that this letter of Paul's was written before the gospels.
Deut. 19: 15 – Scripture itself requires more than one witness to establish truth: "One witness alone shall not take the stand against a man in regard to any crime or any offense of which he may be guilty, a judicial fact shall be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses." Thus, the Hebrews would never have upheld the doctrine of 'sola scriptura,' for it asks us to trust the testimony of a single witness – the scripture alone.
Jn. 8: 17 – Jesus affirms the fact that a single witness is not sufficient, even when that witness is Jesus himself: "'Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men can be verified. I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.'" Jesus did not expect even his own testimony to be accepted without corroboration by another – the Father. Yet the Protestant position would have us look to a single witness only – that of scripture.
2 Cor. 13: 1 – St. Paul reinforces the above passage: "This third time I am coming to you. 'On the testimony of two or three witnesses a fact shall be established.'" But the doctrine of 'sola scriptura' would have us believe that a single witness – that of scripture – is sufficient.
Eph. 4: 11-16 – "And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God... so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery..." Scripture writers alone are not enough "for building up the body of Christ..."
Rom. 10: 17 – "Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ." St. Paul upholds oral instruction and tradition. Indeed, he is correct, since nowhere in the Bible do we see a single conversion that stems from someone just reading the scriptures.
Ex. 28: 30 – The oracle of God is spoken through high priest via the Urim and the Thummim. These mysterious oracular devices were in no way scriptural. Yet the scriptures tell us that in ancient times, the Israelites consulted them regularly to determine the will of God. Thus, the Jewish people were not proponents of the doctrine of 'sola scriptura.'
Deut. 17: 8-12 – The Old Testament had its own form of the Magisterium, one in which disagreements were to be settled by priests and judges: "Any man who has the insolence to refuse to listen to the priest... shall die." The high priests spoke with the authority of God. This passage alone is a refutation of 'sola scriptura.' Nowhere in the scriptures do we see 'scripture alone' upheld as the final authority of our faith.
2 Tim. 3: 14 – "...you remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it..." i.e., spiritual authority is derived from apostolic succession, not 'scripture alone.' Yet 'sola scriptura' would have us hold that the words of apostles who did not write – Andrew, Matthias, Bartholomew and the rest – had little or no authority, since their writings were not recorded in the scriptures. St. Paul's statement here indicates quite clearly that the Church's authority, at its most fundamental level, derives from apostleship, not from the scriptures.
1 Cor. 15: 11 – Again St. Paul upholds the oral tradition: "...so we preach and so you believed." Nowhere in scriptures do we see a single individual who is converted by the 'scriptures alone.' And St. Paul never states, "…so we write and so you believed."
Acts 2: 42 – St. Luke upholds oral teaching: "They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles..." As opposed to "the writings of the apostles," which St. Luke of course never states.
Mt. 2: 23 – Oral tradition is cited as authoritative: "...so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled." Note that not all the prophets wrote. Yet 'sola scriptura' would have us believe that their words had no authority until they were written down into the sacred texts. Nathan never wrote a single word that we know of. So when he spoke, were his words not deemed authoritative? When he intoned to David, "Thou art the man," were his words not divinely inspired? Clearly David felt they were, and he treated them as pronouncements from the mouth of God.
Mt. 10: 19-20 – Jesus testifies to the fact that the Holy Spirit inspires more than just the scriptures. He can also inspire our speech: "'When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.'"
Jn. 21: 25 – Not everything Christ did and said is in scripture: "There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written." Are these things not worthy of our consideration because they were not written down? Would the apostles have failed to discuss these things because they somehow foresaw that they would not be written down? The absurdity of such a notion is obvious – but 'sola scriptura' requires one to hold some such position, because it denies authority to the words of Jesus that did not happen to have been recorded on paper.
Is. 59: 21 – Inspired oral tradition passes from generation to generation: "...my words that I have put into your mouth shall never leave your mouth, nor the mouths of your children." Note that the prophet refers here to the spoken word. This is a clear reference to the Sacred Tradition that is preserved and passed on from one generation to the next. Note as well the involvement of the Holy Spirit, by whom the prophet's speech is inspired. It seems that it is not the 'scripture alone' which is God-breathed.
1 Cor. 14: 3 – Not all of God's truth is imparted through scripture. St. Paul says the prophets also are prompted by the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the faithful: "...one who prophesies does speak to human beings, for their building up, encouragement, and solace."
2 Pet. 3: 1-2 – "...I am trying to stir up your sincere disposition, to recall the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles." The key word is 'spoken,' not 'written.'
2 Chron. 19: 6-10 – When God instructs the priests on how to settle disputes, he does not instruct them to go to the scriptures to arrive at their decisions: "...and he said to them: 'Take care what you do, for you are judging, not on behalf of man, but on behalf of the Lord; he judges with you. And now, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Act carefully, for with the Lord, our God, there is no injustice, no partiality, no bribe-taking.'"
Mal. 2: 7 – "...the lips of the priest are to keep knowledge, and instruction is to be sought from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts." The priest has the authority to instruct, not just to read from scripture.
Rom. 6: 16-17 – "...you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted." Paul is explicit. Our obedience is to apostolic teaching, not to scripture. Indeed, scripture was never intended to teach the faith at all, but only to strengthen the believers in their faith. In the Bible, we see individuals being instructed by teaching and preaching – never, not even a single time, by 'scripture alone.'
Gen. 17: 14 – "If a male is uncircumcised, that is, if the flesh of his foreskin has not been cut away, such a one shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." The apostles were not adhering to the authority of the 'scripture alone' when they countermanded this clear and ancient teaching. They felt they had the authority to receive inspiration in addition to the scriptures – specifically, the Holy Spirit's guidance of Sts. Peter and Paul to accept uncircumcised Gentiles into the Church – which cast the scriptures in a totally new and unexpected light. But any Jewish adherent of 'sola scriptura' at that time would have been altogether scandalized, incensed – and wrong.
Jer. 23: 1-4 – "I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the Lord." Nowhere does God say he will protect his sheep by providing for them the scriptures. Instead, he raises up leaders from the community for them to follow, shepherds through whom he guides them. He is still doing so.
The canon of the scriptures was established by Pope St. Damasus I around the year 400 A.D. Prior to that, there was no agreement in the early Church on which of the hundreds of texts which were believed by some to be sacred were actually inspired. So for nearly 400 years – a time roughly equivalent to the period from the establishment of the first permanent American settlement at Jamestown till today – there was no Bible for a Christian to refer to. Everyone who learned the faith was taught it by another – the same method of instruction used by the apostles. Eventually, the Church in her authority, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, determined the canon of the scriptures, which provided the faithful with a reliable reference for use in the building up of the faith. So if we believe the scriptures are truly inspired, then it follows that the Church must be infallible, for it was the Church's authority – not the scriptures themselves – that declared these specific writings to be God-breathed. And if the Church is not infallible in her teachings, then we cannot assume the scriptures she validated are God-breathed, since the authority that declared them so is not trustworthy. So if the Catholic Church can err, then we must condemn the scriptures she has passed down to us as spurious. Trusting the Bible while distrusting the Church that assembled, pronounced and then protected the Bible through the ages flies in the face of both logic and history. Without the Catholic Church, the Bible would never have been.
Many Fundamentalist and Evangelical Protestants adhere to a belief known as the 'Rapture.' There are many variations on the 'Rapture' doctrine. The popular 'Left Behind' series of novels, written by Lahaye and Jenkins, presents just one of them. To defend their ideas, Rapturists cite a few broad-brushed passages of scripture, including 1 Thess. 4: 15-17 ("…we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air"), and 1 Cor. 15: 51-52 ("We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed").
Yet from these few mysterious passages are drawn precise and detailed predictions that fill volumes, complete with timetables, dates, charts and graphs. The version propounded in the 'Left Behind' books is known as pre-millennial, pre-tribulational dispensationalism. It states that in the future the earth will experience a literal 1,000-year reign of Jesus. Just prior to this reign, 'true believers' will be 'raptured' by Jesus and lifted up by him, secretly and silently, into the clouds. (Never mind that the Bible mentions a loud voice and a trumpet; most Rapturists claim the event will take place in secrecy.) Those unfortunate ones who are 'left behind' will suffer a seven-year period of tribulation – a sort of last chance for faith. At the conclusion of the seven years, Jesus will return – for a second Second Coming – this time, with legions of his faithful ones. Together they will defeat the anti-Christ, and the 1,000 year reign of Jesus will ensue on the earth. The irony of all this is that Protestants believe it is the Catholic Church that holds to 'unbiblical' teachings, and they cite Catholic doctrines on Mary as the primary example. Yet we find scores of Old and New Testament passages referring to Mary (see the section, 'Mary, the Mother of God,' in this booklet), while belief in the 'Rapture' is accepted without question – and with very little in the way of scriptural substantiation. It is also ironic that many Protestants believe that the Catholic Church has changed its teachings over the centuries. But the present-day concept of the 'Rapture' is found nowhere in Christianity – neither in Protestant nor Catholic literature – until the early nineteenth century, when it was invented by an Anglican priest-turned-fundamentalist-minister named John Nelson Darby.
The Catholic Church's teachings on the end-times are far less detailed – and far less dramatic – than Darby's and Lahaye's. The Church certainly holds to the Second Coming of Jesus (note the line, "He will come again to judge the living and the dead," from the Nicene Creed) and the fact that the faithful will be 'caught up' to the Lord at that time, as St. Paul states. However, concerning the date and nature of those events, the Church says little ("'But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only'" [Mt. 24: 36].) For an authoritative look at Catholic teachings concerning the end times, see paragraphs 671-679 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The following works served as resources for both the scripture references and the ideas represented in this booklet. Each is excellent in its own way. Tim Staples' tapes, listed first, were particularly instructive. But you will have no trouble finding dozens of books and tapes that will provide you with valuable information in far greater depth and detail than can be presented in this modest volume. Whatever is of merit in this small work is due to the scholarship and insights of the authors whose works are listed here, and of untold other believers who have shared their wisdom throughout the ages. And of course whatever is lacking or incorrect in this booklet is due to the compiler's innumerable faults, failings and limitations. Finally, if any teaching, thought, sentence or word of this booklet contradicts the teaching of the Catholic Church, it is only through ignorance. As always, when in doubt, cling to the Rock, the successor to St. Peter, and the Catholic Church which Jesus placed in his care.
Biblical Apologetics Course, and All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, both by Tim Staples. These are tape series published by St. Joseph Radio, Orange, California. Mr. Staples, now a celebrated Catholic apologist, is a former evangelical whose intellectual integrity and hunger for the truth drew him – despite some 'kicking and screaming' – to embrace the Catholic faith. In the tapes he provides stirring, scripture-based explanations of the Church's teachings in a variety of areas.
Radio Replies, by Rev. Dr. Leslie Rumble and Rev. Charles Carty, published in three volumes by TAN Books, Rockford, Illinois. Fascinating answers to incredibly wide-ranging questions addressed during a long-running radio program dedicated to apologetics.
Faith of Our Fathers, by James Cardinal Gibbons, published by TAN Books, Rockford, Illinois. A simple, concise, understandable explanation of the Catholic faith by one of the giants of nineteenth century American Catholicism.
Surprised By Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic, edited by Patrick Madrid, published by Basilica Press, San Diego, California. Intimate portraits of the sometimes joyful, sometimes anguished journeys of a number of serious, seeking Christians to the Catholic faith.
Not By Scripture Alone, by Robert A. Sungenis, et al, published by Queenship Publishing, Santa Barbara, California. An exhaustive, enlightening – and, to my mind anyway, decisive – exploration of this key issue between Catholic and Protestant believers.
The Faith of the Early Fathers, translated and edited by William Jurgens, published in three volumes by The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota. An eye-opening digest of the writings of the early Church fathers. Provides clear, unequivocal confirmation that the Catholic Church's doctrines – the priesthood, the sacraments, the primacy of the bishop of Rome, reverence for the Blessed Mother, in fact virtually everything the Church teaches today – actually date back to the very earliest community of Christian believers; in fact all the way back to the communities of faith who were taught by the apostles themselves. The excellent index allows for quick, illuminating research.
Catholicism & Fundamentalism, by Karl Keating, published by Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California. A detailed discussion of the attacks on the Church by fundamentalists.
Glad You Asked: Scriptural Answers for our Times, by John H. Hampsch, C.M.F., published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Huntington, Indiana. A basic, succinct, scripture-based compendium of Catholic theology and apologetics, written for the layman. Written in a Q&A format, it discusses cultural as well as doctrinal issues.
By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition, by Mark P. Shea, published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Huntington, Indiana. A clear and powerful look at the arguments for and against 'sola scriptura' and Church authority. Rich in both scripture and history, it presents a compelling, clear and rational case.
Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church, by Stephen K. Ray, published by Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California. An impressive compendium of texts – from both scripture and the early Church fathers – which establish beyond question the fact that the entire community of the faithful, from the earliest times, acknowledged Peter's office and authority. Ray's assiduous scholarship has rendered this issue virtually beyond disputing.
Crossing the Tiber: Evangelicals Discover the Historical Church, by Stephen K. Ray, published by Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California. An in-depth account of the conversion of Mr. Ray, a former Baptist and Evangelical, and his family. A detailed chronicle of one man's thought processes, including many allusions to critical scripture passages, as well as the witness of the earliest believers. He covers most of the important issues here – the question of authority, 'scripture alone,' Baptism, the Real Presence, etc.
On Being Catholic, by Thomas Howard, published by Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California. A prominent former Evangelical scholar and author provides a personal witness to the majesty and truth of the Catholic faith. A strikingly beautiful statement of faith, it helps make complex concepts accessible.
A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture, by Scott Hahn, published by Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Michigan. A detailed exploration of the progress of the covenantal relationship between God and man through salvation history, by the man who has been called today's most prominent Bible scholar in America. His courageous conversion – along with those of people like Thomas Howard and Peter Kreeft – initially helped convince many non-Catholic Christians that they should take a closer look at Catholic teachings and their basis in the Bible. Thanks in large part to their love of Christ Jesus and their willingness to suffer for him – and a level of intellectual integrity that would not let them rest until they found the fullness of Truth – the Great Returning has begun.
The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, by Scott Hahn, published by Doubleday, New York. A captivating picture of the Book of Revelation as a mystical description of the Mass as Jesus' immutable Paschal sacrifice celebrated eternally in Heaven – and constantly on earth.
Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God, by Scott Hahn, published by Doubleday, New York. An engaging exploration of the scriptures that prophesy and reveal the role of Mary in salvation history. As Hahn puts it, to miss Mary is to miss the humanity of our Savior.
Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, by David B. Currie, published by Ignatius Press, San Francisco, California. A scripture-steeped exploration of one believer's struggle to accept his increasing conviction – prompted by careful study of scripture and history – that the Catholic Church is the one, true, holy and apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ.
Any Friend of God's Is a Friend of Mine, by Patrick Madrid, published by Basilica Press, San Diego, California. A direct and unembroidered look at the biblical and patristic basis for such critical doctrines as the Communion of Saints, the veneration of Mary and intercessory prayer. An excellent sourcebook for apologists.
Biblical Evidence For Catholicism website, by Dave Armstrong. An excellent source for a tremendous variety of information on the Catholic faith, including references to scriptures, Catholic thinkers, Church history, hyperlinks to other Catholic sites, and dialogues and debates about the faith. At this printing, the URL for the site remains:
Ninety-Five Reasons for Becoming or Remaining Catholic, by Paul R. Key, published by Coming Home Network International, Steubenville, Ohio. A personal and insightful account of the thinking of a former Presbyterian minister who, after 18 years of study, realized that, "In the midst of a world which has become very secularized, the Catholic Church has retained a spiritual foundation and spiritual resources that are unmatched among the other churches of the West" (p. 53). Concise, clearly stated and well organized.
The Catholic Controversy, by St. Francis de Sales, published by TAN Books, Rockford, Ill. A 17th century classic of apologetics written by a great saint to combat error. It resulted in tens of thousands of conversions.
The Spirit of Catholicism, by Karl Adam, published by Crossroad/Herder & Herder, New York. A remarkable statement on the nature of Catholicism first published in Germany in 1924. One of the most profoundly beautiful books about the faith – and what it means to humanity – ever written. The splendid translation, by Dom Justin McCann, also merits mention.
Thanks to Carl Olson, Brent Arias, Fr. Fred Barr, Martin Beckman, Jamie Gilcrest, Dave Keene, Joselyn Schutz, Dave Turner, John Hellman, John-Paul Ignatius, Andrew Holt, Tony Kovach, Patrick Sweeney, Patrick Madrid, Jay Damien, Larry Nolte and the rest of the cinapol network contributors, 1998 and 1999, for their wisdom and their perspicacity. Thanks as well to the many tireless online defenders of the Catholic Faith, including Dave Armstrong, Stephen K. Ray, Scott Hahn, Mark P. Shea and Robert Sungenis. Particular thanks to Mr. Sungenis for his fascinating insight into the 1 Samuel passage in the section on 'Free Will,' and to the estimable Mr. Olson for lighting the way through the thickets of speculation and fear that enmesh the Protestant doctrine of the 'Rapture.'
Thanks are also due ‘This Rock’ and ‘Envoy,’ two excellent and useful magazines of the Catholic faith. For subscription information in the U.S., dial 1-888-291-8000 (for ‘This Rock’) and 1-800-55-ENVOY (for 'Envoy'). And heartfelt thanks to the various Protestant believers – particularly Michael, Sharon S., Liz M., and Vance – whose many hours of questionings and disputations prompted the research into many of the matters contained here.
Thanks too to my friend and brother in Christ, Van, whose questions and wanderings among so many faith traditions led to much research and many discussions, and finally to his incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ. Truly, "...all things work for good for those who love God..."
Also, many thanks to Mark B., Joe M. and Jason W., who have kindly assisted in the production of these booklets.
Finally, I am greatly indebted to true and generous friends Jay D., Jamie G., Cynthia O., Carolyn S., Carl O., Jeff L., Jackie Z., Peg S., Rose Mary D., Lee Anne M., Val G., Kimberly M., Anne A., Charlotte M., Marion L., Mary Ann W., Joan M., Rick O., Julie H., Marlena L., Paul and Carol D., Paul P., Kent M., Chris L., Sharon C., Lori L., Michael and Melanie S., Dottie N., Madeline N. – and so many others – who have given so much time and energy to helping cast them upon the waters.
If you find this volume useful, please be kind enough to say a prayer for all the individuals who are credited here, for the companies that publish and distribute the excellent books and tapes cited, and for the faith of the children of the person who compiled this material.
Thanks be to God.