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Every Good Work: Getting the Right Equipment
As Christians, regardless of denominational background, we trust that God has never abandoned his people. Because our salvation is conditional (1 Cor. 9:27), the Lord has provided us with the conditions. So much was sacrificed by God, in his infinite mercy, for our salvation, that to neglect to provide the means of learning his conditions would be incomprehensible. This is the common ground which unites Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox Christians, and even splinter groups like Muslims, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses. We all trust that God has given us the tools to achieve salvation. The title of this article is taken from the Revised Standard Version translation of 2 Timothy 3:16,17: "All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
St. Paul informs Timothy in this passage, above all else, that the man of God may indeed be complete in his service to the Most High. True Christian completion, as idealistic and unbelievable as it may sound, is not a distant dream or an unattainable goal. It is possible, and God has provided the means: "teaching, ...reproof...correction, and...training in righteousness." One tool which is profitable toward attaining this most honorable goal is scripture. On this, all Christians agree. Disagreement lies in the interpretation of this passage in relation to the purpose of Holy Writ. Some say that only scripture is profitable, and therefore, exclusively sufficient. This does more than teach the sole material sufficiency of scripture. In its most radical (but also most consistent) form, this "Bible alon" mentality" actually prohibits the Christian to adopt any doctrine or practice not found in the Holy Writ. Other Christians, most notably Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics, acknowledge Scripture as a a divinely given tool, but do not accept it as the only such tool.
The first position is affirmed by Mr. Roy E. Cogdill:
"The sum total of what the scriptures teach is the pattern of the Lords will in any matter. When we go beyond what the scriptures teach in worship or in our efforts to serve Gods purpose, we depart from the pattern, disrespect Gods silence, and become guilty of the sin of presumption. This sin has always been condemned by God. We cannot bring into divine worship and service those things which men invent. They are profane and unholy in the service of God. We must determine whether a practice comes from God or man! (The Bible: A Complete and Perfect Guide. Guardian of Truth Publications.)
The second position is affirmed by the official doctrine of the Catholic Church:
84. The apostles entrusted the Sacred deposit of the faith (the depositum fidei), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers...
85. The task of giving an authentic interpretation ofthe Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. (Catechism of the Catholic Church. United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana.)
This article is written under five assumptions:
The man of God may indeed be complete.
The inspired Scriptures are profitable toward reaching completion.
There are truths found outside of Scripture that are profitable toward reaching completion.
Those truths are contained in the Apostolic Tradition (depositum fidei-deposit of faith), and kept pure by the Apostolic Successors.
The Bible that Christians today use contains the Sacred Scriptures.
Though far from self evident and well worth the time and effort to prove, the first two assumptions are not generally contested by Christians. Most if not all faithful Christians accept the first two assumptions. They will not be dealt with in this article. The purpose of this article is to examine the evidence supporting the latter three assumptions for the benefit of faithful Christians who wish to take an educated stand.
Extra Biblical Truths
Often when Jesus found himself in a dispute, whether with the Pharisees, the apostles, or Satan himself, the Lords response would be "Have you not read?" or "It is written." Satan's suggestions and Pharisaic practices were often contrary to the Scriptures. It is argued by Protestants that, since the religion of the Old Covenant is contained in its entirety in the written Word, so should the religion of the New Covenant. This is a sensible argument. It would be somewhat inconsistent for God to provide a complete religious handbook for the Jews, but not provide a similar manual for the Christians. If all of Jewish religious truth were not contained in the Scriptures, it would be equally inconsistent for God to deny Christians the same extra sources of truth. Some may grant this conclusion but find it irrelevant since it is so obvious that all Jewish truth is contained in the Scriptures.
Just How Obvious is It?
The scribes and Pharisees of Christ's time were often corrupt people. It was in part the Lord's consistent condemnation of their hypocrisy that inspired the conspiracy to kill him. (Cf. Wisdom 2) Despite their flaws, the scribes and Pharisees were not without redeeming qualities. Theologically, Jesus himself was a Pharisee. Before a gathered crowd, Jesus said, " The scribes and 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. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on peoples shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them." (Matthew 23:2-4) Catholics see a striking parallel between the seat of Moses in the Old Covenant Kingdom of God, the Hebrew nation, and the seat of Peter and the apostles in the New Covenant Kingdom of God, the Universal Church. Could the scribes and Pharisees have exercised the same type of religious authority that the Catholic Magesterium does? Were there unwritten truths entrusted to the scribes and Pharisees? Did God prevent those truths from being corrupted, despite the Caiaphas-esque nature of the leaders? The Catholic would affirm that the evidence supports the answer "yes" to each of those questions.
Jesus insists without qualification that they be obeyed. Why?
Some say that the scribes and Pharisees exercised only civil authority, since "church" and state were not separated. It has been argued that their authority was limited to the practical responsibilities of pastoral care, and had no divine element. That being the case, the command of Jesus to obey them would be similar to his " render unto Caesar." According to that thinking, even though it was the scribes and Pharisees that established the canon of Scripture, ruled over synagogues, regulated synagogue and temple worship, and made rules of Jewish conduct, their authority was only civil and they received no divine guidance in these matters.
Cited to support this view is Mark 7:7, " In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men." Protestants opposed to the Catholic Magisterium believe that Jesus condemned here all extra Biblical traditions, thus relegating Pharisaical authority to the above described necessities of pastoral care. This view is inconsistent with the overall message of the Gospel. In the time of Jesus, the outward rituals of human traditions were being emphasized, at the expense of the true spirit of God's Law. That is how the Jews of the time could put to death the Messiah, but still remain ritually pure for the coming Sabbath. Certainly, if the traditions were of God rather than men, there would be no sin in binding them. Could there have been unwritten God given tradition? This verse does nothing to rule out the possibility, nor does it change the Lord's unqualified endorsement of Pharisaical authority. Jesus condemns the Pharisees not because they "tie up heavy burdens and lay them on peoples shoulder," but because they do not " lift a finger to help."
Here we come to a stalemate. One man says that the Seat of Moses is civil/pastoral authority with no right to bind traditions on the people. Another says that the Seat of Moses is religious authority responsible for the preservation of God given tradition, with required obedience. Which man is right? We could let them get into a shouting match or do some rasslin', but that would solve nothing. The fair solution is to examine the religious beliefs of the Jews and early Christians. If all Jewish truth comes from Scripture, then consistency requires the same for Christian truth. If there is unscriptural Jewish truth, preserved by the Seat of Moses, then we must identify the Seat of Moses in Christendom and obey those who hold it.
Show Me Book, Chapter, Verse...Anything!
The evidence of historical Judaism and Christianity does little to back up the sola scriptura view. A survey of the historical record shows much doctrine and many practices which fall into the "all things whatsoever they tell you," but are not explicitly taught in Scripture.
The wicked and jealous King Herod, upon learning of the Messiah's birth, ordered the murder of all Jewish male babies. An angel had warned Joseph of the Slaughter of the Innocents, and the holy family fled toEgypt. When Herod died, an angel instructed them to return to their homeland. Fearing the new ruler, Archelaus, Joseph did not return toBethlehem. Instead, they went to Galilee. "He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets mightbe fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazorean.'" (Matthew 2:23)
EXAMPLE ONE: By the dawn of the first century, Jews had become familiar with Messianic prophecy. They were tired of Roman control, and longed for their Savior to come and establish the Kingdom of God. Jewish readers of Matthew understood that a number of the Messiah's characteristics had been foretold. He would be a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 12), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49), a great prophet (Deuteronomy 18), born of a virgin (Isaiah 7), God with us (Isaiah 8), ruler of an eternal kingdom (Daniel 2), sacrificed for the sins of the world (Isaiah 53), killed for offending hypocrites (Wisdom 2), and called a Nazorean, among many other things. Searching the Scriptures, however, one can not find the passage which says "He shall be called a Nazorean." Yet, Matthew's audience understood that it "had been spoken through the prophets." It was part of revealed Jewish truth, part of the depositum fidei, but it was not in the Scriptures. It's preservation is not due to Sacred Scripture, but to an oral tradition which had to have been divinely preserved.
EXAMPLE TWO: In Exodus 7, Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh pleading the case for the release of the Hebrew slaves. They worked wonders to prove the power of God. "Pharaoh, in turn, summoned wise men and sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did likewise by the BlackArts." (Exodus 7:11) Centuries later, St. Paul compares evil men in the world with these magicians who opposed Moses. "Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so they also oppose the truth--people of depraved mind, unqualified in the faith." (2 Timothy 3:8). Who opposed Moses? Jannes and Jambres. Who were they? The Egyptian sorcerers. How does St. Paul, some 1300 years later, know their names, which are given nowhere in the Scriptures? Jewish tradition had preserved that information. There was even a work called the Book of Jannes and Jambres. Did St. Paul, inspired by God, believe a fictitious legendary account? That does not fit well with the notion of Biblical inerrancy, which both Catholic and Protestant believe. Or, are Jannes and Jambres, though not in the Scriptures, part of the depositum fidei? This is the more likely conclusion.
EXAMPLE THREE: The Epistle to the Hebrews describes the tragic fate of some of God's people. "They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at swords point." Sawed in two? Who in the Scriptures was ever sawed in two? Nobody. To whom is the inspired writer referring? According to Jewish tradition, this was the fate of the prophet Isaiah. The Hebrew writer quotes it as fact. Are we to believe that the inspired writer could not separate divine truth from legend, or, more likely (and far less blasphemously), could it be part of the unwritten depositum fidei as well?
EXAMPLE FOUR: Because of Moses' sin, he was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land. "After viewing the land, 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." (Deuteronomy 34:5,6) Jewish tradition holds that that Moses was visibly assumed into heaven, and that Satan attempted to interfere with his burial, to be put in his place by St. Michael the Archangel. Does this sound ridiculous to you? It didn't to St. Jude. "Yet the Archangel Michael, when he argued with the devil in a dispute over the body of Moses, did not venture to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him but said, May the Lord rebuke you!" (Jude 9) The only recording of such an event is in a work called The Assumption of Moses, which was not written until the first century AD. The story existed only in verbal form until then (a 1200 year span), but is considered truth by the inspired writer. Not only is it considered truth, but so little details are given that it seems Judes audience knew the story well. Where is the dispute between Michael and Satan? Its not in the Scriptures, but it is in the depositum fidei.
EXAMPLE FIVE: In Jude 14, St. Jude writes, " Enoch, of the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied about them when he said, ‘Behold, the Lord has come with his countless holy ones to execute judgment on all and to convict everyone for all the godless deeds that they committed and for all the harsh words godless sinners have uttered against him.'" (Jude 14,15) Enoch is a very early figure in the Scriptures. According to Genesis 5, " When Enoch was sixty-five years old, he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. The whole lifetime of Enoch was three hundred and sixty five years. Then Enoch walked with God, and hewas no longer here, for God took him." (Genesis 5:21-24) Aside from a brief retelling of his story in the Book of Sirach, this is the scriptural account of Enoch in its entirety. So where does Jude get his prophecy? It is a direct word for word quotation from a Jewish work called the First Book of Enoch, or the Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 1:9.
EXAMPLE SIX: 1 Enoch holds a few other surprises. 2 Peter 3:19,20 mentions " the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah." Jude elaborates. "The angels, too, who did not keep their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains, in gloom, for the judgment of the great day." (Jude 6) These angels are the ones who, in Genesis 6, are believed by many to have mated with women and produced a race of giants. It was this evil which provoked God to flood the world. What about the chains and imprisonment of the angels? Its all outlined in full detail in 1 Enoch.
EXAMPLE SEVEN: 1 Enoch is also the key to understanding some of the Book of Revelation. To cite one example, Revelation 8:2 reads And I saw that the seven angels who stood before God were given seven trumpets. Which seven angels? John doesn't just say seven angels, but he says " the seven angels." 1 Enoch states that there are seven Archangels: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraquel, Gabriel, and Remiel. The Scriptures only mention three. With the New Testament relying so heavily on it, even going so far as to quote it directly, why isn't 1 Enoch canonical? Because its an obvious forgery. 1 Enoch was written in the second or third century BC, ages after the time of Enoch. Didn't the inspired writers know this? They certainly did. It is not the actual Book of First Enoch which is authoritative. It is the time honored tradition of the depositum fidei divinely preserved therein which is authoritative.
EXAMPLE EIGHT: Along with the oral traditions which were later verified by New Testament writers, a substantial amount of ancient Messianic prophecy exists which is never mentioned in the canonical Scriptures. Jewish apocalyptic literature is full ancient prophecies which must be attributed to divine revelation outside of Scripture. One example is the Testament of Judah, a first century work which preserves the traditional last message of the patriarch to his children. One would dismiss the words as fiction since they were put into his mouth some 1800 years after the fact, were it not for the striking accuracy of his prophecy. Judah declares that
" there shall be continual wars in Israel; and among men of another race shall my kingdom be brought to an end, until the salvation of Israel shall come. Until the appearing of the God of righteousness, that Jacob and all the Gentiles may rest in peace. And he shall guard the might of my kingdom forever; for the Lord sware to me with an oath that he would not destroy the kingdom from my seed forever...[T]he Lord shall bring upon you famine and pestilence, death and the sword...And after these things shall a star arise to you from Jacob in peace, and a man shall arise from my seed, like the sun of righteousness, walking with the sons of men in meekness and righteousness; and no sin shall be found in him. And the heavens shall be opened unto him, to pour out the Spirit, even the blessing of the Holy Father; and he shall pour out the Spirit of grace upon you; and ye shall be unto him sons in truth, and ye shall walk in his commandments first and last. Then shall the scepter of my kingdom shine forth; and from your root shall arise a stem; and from it shall grow a rod of righteousness to the Gentiles, to judge and to save all that call upon the Lord." (Testament of Judah 3:12-14,17,20-26)
EXAMPLE EIGHT: Even more remarkable than the prophecies in Jewish apocalyptic literature are those found in pagan classical literature.
" Perhaps the most dramatic and almost certainly the most familiar was the prophecy of the Roman poet Vergil in the fourth of his Eclogues . It predicted the breaking in of a new order of the ages; for now the virgin is returning [jam redit et virgo] and a new human race is descending from the heights of heaven. What would bring about this change would be the birth of a child [nascenti puero], with whom the iron age of humanity will end and the golden age begin. His birth would achieve a transformation of human nature; for Under your guidance, whatever vestiges remain of our ancient wickedness, once done away with, shall free the earth from its incessant fear.
There would even be changes in nature: For your sake, O child, the earth, without being tilled, will freely pour forth its gifts. Your very cradle shall pour forth for you caressing flowers. The serpent too shall die. " (Pelikan, Jaroslav. Jesus Through the Centuries. New York: Harper & Row, 1987. p. 35.)
Even the unbeliever must be taken aback by the striking similarities between this pagan prophecy of the child of the gods and Biblical Messianic prophecy. Compare Vergil's virgin birth with Isaiah 7:14. Vergil states that the iron age of humanity will end and the golden age begin. Daniel 2 says that " there shall be a ... kingdom, strong as iron...In the lifetime of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom." Vergil adds that, with the coming of the child, " the serpent too shall die." Compare that to the words of Genesis 3:15. Vergil possessed divine foreknowledge, completely apart from the Scriptures. According to Jaroslav Pelikan, Vergil was not alone among the enlightened pagans.
EXAMPLE NINE: "But Socrates and Plato could also serve the interpreters of Christ as the source of prophecy about Jesus--not only, as in the case of Vergil, about the birth of the Child, but even his death on the cross. In the course of listing various pagan prophecies about creation, the Sabbath, and other biblical themes, Clement came to one prophecy in which, he said, Plato all but predicts the history [oikonomia] of salvation. This remarkable passage is from the dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon in book 2 of Plato's Republic. Drawing a distinction between righteousness and unrighteousness, Glaucon postulates that, instead of beings who are both righteous and unrighteous, as most of us are most of the time, there would arise one unrighteous man who is entirely unrighteous and one righteous man who is entirely righeous.' Let this one righteous man, in his nobleness and simplicity, one who desires, in the words of Aeschylus, to be a good man, now be accused of being in fact the worst of men. Let him, moreover, remain steadfast to the hour of death, seeming to be unrighteous and yet being righteous.' What will be the outcome? The answer, for whose gruesomeness Glaucon apologizes in advance to Socrates, must be nothing other than the following: ‘He shall be scourged, tortured, bound, his eyes burnt out, and at last, after suffering every evil, shall be impaled or crucified.'" (Pelikan 44,45)
Other evidence could be presented, but this is enough to make the case. Divinely revelaed religious truth exists outside of the Scripture. Sola scriptura has been disproved. The depositum fidei contains truths entrusted not to the inspired writers, but to the teachers, scribes, and Pharisees: the Seat of Moses. The Catholic Church Magesterium claims to be in the Seat of Moses today, preserving the depositum fidei from now until the end of the world through successors to the apostles. Is the claim true? The Scriptures do not rule it out. The entire message of salvation history illustrates that the Catholic Church is the New Israel, inheriting the Old Israel's prerogatives as the chosen of God. It would seem more consistent to have the Seat of Moses occupied during the New Covenant as well as the Old. Consistency is the first argument in favor of the Catholic claim, and it should not be underestimated.
"Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours." (2 Thessalonians 2:15) According to Paul, there are truths to which a faithful Christian must stand firm and hold fast that are not recorded in the Scriptures, but only in oral form. Some argue that this was true only during a transition period. Before the Scriptures were finished, oral traditions did contain the truth, but once the Scriptures were complete, there was no more oral traditions. This is merely an assumption which can not be proven or disproved. Nowhere do the Scriptures indicate that a Bible is to be compiled to take the place of authoritative apostolic teaching preserved by Church leaders. Such an interpretation does render God inconsistent. It also ignores the truths about Enoch, Moses, Isaiah, and others which still had not been put into the Scriptures. Did those traditions, once part of the depositum fidei, cease to be true? Is this verse obsolete, now that oral tradition has been done away with? It is more plausible to count this verse as the second piece of evidence for the Catholic claim.
The Universally Recognized Apostolic Successors
No faithful Christian will deny that the depositum fidei was given to the apostles. Jesus said to his apostles, "But when he comes,the Spirit of truth, he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13) The apostles received the truth, and taught it with authority. Over this there is no controversy among Christians. Here is the point of difference: Did the apostles write all of the truth into the Scriptures or did they pass it down to successors? Certainly, whatever was written by the apostles would be authoritative. The apostles had authority to teach Gods truth, and their writings are to be revered as Scripture. Did they give their authority to successors? Many Christians deny that they did. They don't realize it, but even those who deny apostolic succession recognize four apostolic successors.
Jesus said to his apostles, " [T]he Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. On the grounds of this command, the apostles were given the authority to teach and, by extension, write, their writings being Scripture. Although only three of them did write anything that was later considered Scripture, Peter, John, and Matthew, plus, by extension, Paul, what little they left behind is, by virtue of apostolic authorship, authoritative Scripture. There are five other men whose writings are considered Scripture: Mark, Luke, Sosthenes, Timothy, and Silvanus. Apostolic writings are Scripture because they're apostolic, written on the authority of Christ's commandment. What about the gospels of Mark and Luke? Besides the evangelists, there are three other often forgotten inspired writers. Sosthenes co-wrote First Corinthians, Timothy, Bishop of Crete, co-wrote Second Corinthians, Phillipians, Colossians, First Thessalonians, Second Thessalonians, and Philemon. Silvanus, also known as St. Silas, co-wrote both Epistles to the Thessalonians. These men were not apostles. They did not follow Jesus on the earth. They came later, or succeeded the apostles. What makes their writings Scripture? One must admit that apostolic succession took place in at least five instances. These five bishops were given authority to write Scripture which was just as binding as that of the apostles. Where is apostolic succession in the Scriptures? Mark, Luke, Sosthenes, Timothy, and Silvanus are scriptural examples of apostolic successors. Where is the end of apostolic succession in the Scriptures? Nowhere. This is the third piece of evidence.
Monarchical Bishoprics in the New Testament
The New Testament names three offices in Church government: bishop, presbyter, and deacon. Often there was no distinction between the titles of bishop and presbyter. Some Protestants use this fact to try to disprove the legitimacy of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox episcopate. They argue that the Catholic system is a corruption, resulting from the unlawful arroagation of authority by individual members of the councils of presbyters of each church. Using the lack of clearly designated titles as evidence is sophistry. The Scriptures and the early tstimony of the Church always shows that amidst the presbyters of the churches was oneleader, from whom the others inherited their authority. Before the three titles were clearly set apart, that leader was called bishop, overseer, presbyter, elder, pastor, guide, and even as late as 160 AD in the isolated case of St. Justin Martyr, he was called the president. The president was chosen from among the presbyters, so could be referred to as a fellow presbyter. Most historians, Catholic and Protestant, recognize St. James as the Bishop of Jerusalem, the first Christian community. In Acts 15, after St. Peter gives his opinion, St. James declares the matter settled and drafts the letter to the churches. It could be argued that St. James was simply writing on behalf of his fellow (equal) presbyters, but the text strongly implies that, as president, he had the prominent role. St. Paul describes the Jerusalem Council in Galatians 2, calling St. James a pillar along with Ss. Peter and John. The earliest Christian writers support that St. James was the Catholic Bishop of Jerusalem.
"Peter, James, and John, after the Ascension of the Savior, did not claim pre-eminence because the Savior had specially honored them, but chose James the Righteous as Bishop of Jerusalem." (Clement, Outlines Book VI, via Eusebius)
"Control of the Church passed to the apostles, together with the Lord's brother James, whom everyone from the Lord's time till our own has called the Righteous, for there were many Jameses, but this one was holy from birth; he drank no wine or intoxicating liquor and ate no animal food; no razor came to his head; he did not smear himself with oil, and took no baths. He alone was permitted to enter the Holy Place, for his garments were not of wool, but of linen. He used to enter the Sanctuary alone, and was often found on his knees beseeching forgiveness for the people, so that his knees grew hard like a camels from his continually bending in worship of God and beseeching forgiveness for the people. Because of his unsurpassable righteousness he was called the Righteous and Oblias--in our own language Bulwark of the People, and Righteousness-fulfilling the declarations of the prophets regarding him.
Representatives of the seven popular sects...said toJames: ‘Be good enough to restrain the people, for they have gone astray after Jesus in the belief that he is the Christ'... He replied as loudly as he could: ‘ Why do you question me about the Son of Man? I tell you, he is sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Great Power, and he will come on the clouds of heaven'....[T]he scribes and Pharisees said to each other: ‘ ...We had better go up and throw him down.'" (Hegesippus, via Eusebius)
"After the martyrdom of James and the capture of Jerusalem which instantly followed, there is a firm tradition that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord who were still alive assembled from all parts together with those who, humanly speaking, were kinsmen of the Lord--for most of them were still living.Then they all discussed together whom they should choose as a fit person to succeed James, and voted unanimously that Symeon, son of the Clopas mentioned in the gospel narrative, was a fit person to occupy the throne of the Jerusalem see. (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History)
There are at least two other examples in Scripture of what may be monarchical bishoprics. (I use the word "may" for diplomatic reasons only. There is no doubt that these men were Catholic Bishops when all evidence is examined. The "may" comes into the picture only when, without just cause, we limit the admissible evidence to Sacred Scripture, which never explicilty uses the term "monarchical bishopric." ) Tradition holds that St. John was the Bishop of Ephesus until his banishment to Patmos. St. John identifies himself in his second and third epistles as "the Presbyter." Does this exclude other presbyters at John's church? Not explicitly, but it strongly implies that he was the one and only presbyter. Since the Theologian is not writing only to his own congregation, but is writing a Catholic Epistle to the Church Universal, his designation as "the Presbyter" implies that he was Presbyter of a large area including many churches. If there were other equal presbyters ruling with him, wouldn't John have included his name in the epistles? Instead, he calls himself only "the Presbyter," expecting Christians around the world to know who he is.
It is held by tradition that Titus was Bishop of Crete. In St. Paul's Epistle to Titus, the Apostle encourages him to " set right what remains to be done, for this reason I left you in Crete." Titus seems to be solely in charge of Cretan operations, not just an evangelist subject to the presbyters in his town. In fact, Paul gives Titus the authority to "appoint presbyters in every town." (Titus 1:5) Titus is also granted the authority to excommunicate. "After a first and second warning, break off contact with a heretic, realizing that such a person is perverted and sinful and stands self-condemned." (Titus 3:10) Ordination and excommunication are rights which through the ages centuries were reserved only to bishops. These scriptural examples of what may be monarchical bishoprics, a fact supported by history, are a fourth piece of evidence for the Catholic view.
St. Ignatius of Antioch on Monarchical Bishoprics
St. Ignatius of Antioch has been accused by some who oppose monarchical bishoprics of inventing the idea in order to increase his own power. This refuted by his own writings. Rather than his own invention, monarchical bishoprics were the universal norm in his time, the dawn of the second century. He was far from a man with a hunger for power. His desire was solely to serve Christ, and died a martyr's death for it.
"For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is sent by the will of the Father; as the bishops, appointed to the utmost bounds of the earth, are by the will of Jesus Christ. Wherefore it will become you to run together according to the will of your bishop, as also ye do. For your famous presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop, as the strings are to the harp." (Ignatius to the Ephesians 1:12-14)
" Pray for the church which is in Syria, from whence I am carried bound to Rome [for execution]; being the least of all the faithful which are there, as I have been thought worthy to be found to the glory of God." (Ig. Ephesians 4:18)
"Seeing then I have been judged worthy to see you, by Damas your most excellent bishop; and by your very worthy presbyters, Bassus and Apollonius; and by my fellow servant Sotio, the deacon; in whom I rejoice, for he is as much subject unto his bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbytery as to the law of Jesus Christ; I determined to write unto you. Wherefore it will become you also not to use your bishop too familiarly upon the account of his youth; but to yield all reverence to him according to the power of God the Father; as also I perceive that your holy presbyters do: not considering his age, which indeed to appearance is young; but as becomes those who are prudent in God, submitting to him, or rather not to him, but to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the bishop of us all."(Magnesians 1:4-6)
" In like manner, let us reverence the deacons as Jesus Christ; and the bishop as the father; and the presbyters as the Sanhedrin of God, and college of the Apostles. Without these, there is no Church." (Trallians 1:8,9)
" Only pray for me, that God would give me both inward and outward strength [in the face of execution], that I may not only say, but will; nor be only called a Christian, but be found one." (Ignatius to the Romans 1:10)
" Let fire, and the cross; let the companies of wild beasts; let breakings of bones and tearing of members; let the shattering of the whole body, and all the wicked torments of the devil come upon me; only let me enjoy Jesus Christ. All the ends of the world, and the kingdoms of it, will profit me nothing: I would rather die for Jesus Christ, than rule to the utmost ends of the earth. Him I seek who died for us; him I desire, that rose again for us. This is the gain that is laid up for me." (Ig. Romans 2:13,14)
" Be not deceived, brethren; if anyone follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. If anyone walks after any other opinion, he agrees not with the passion of Christ. Wherefore let it be your endeavor to partake all of the same holy Eucharist. For there is but one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ; and one cup in the unity of his blood; one altar; as also there is one bishop, together with his presbytery, and the deacons my fellow servants: that so whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to the will of God." (Philadelphians 1:9-12)
" Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people also be: as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." (Smyrneans 3:4)
St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, born in the first century AD, penned letters to numerous churches encouraging them to hold fast to their faith. Along with Polycarp, he was a personal disciple of St. John. He shows in his writings a willingness to die for his faith, and implies that the monarchical bishopric system was universally accepted as the norm in the early years of the second century. This is the fifth piece of evidencefor the Catholic position.
Early Testimony of Apostolic Succession
Evidence has been shown that within the depositum fidei are truths not recorded in Scripture. Paul says to hold fast to oral traditions, provided of course that they be part of the depositum. Scriptural and historical evidence has been shown for the early existence of monarchical bishoprics, the same Episcopal system which exists in the Catholic Church today. It has also been established that all Christians accept at least four authoritative apostolic successors: Mark, Luke, Sosthenes, Timothy, and Silvanus. Scripture nowhere limits the authoritative succession to those four. What about others? Did the early Christians believe that bishops were successors to the apostles?
St. Clement I, Bishop of Rome and fourth on the list of Popes is called by St. Paul a coworker, whose name [is] in the book of life. A controversy arose when the church at Corinth deposed properly ordained presbyters. In the first example of the Roman church executing authority in a foreign land, the Pontiff sent his first epistle to Corinth to fix the problem. The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, or 1 Clement, was considered Scripture and publicly read in churches as late as the fourth century. Says Clement:
"And thus preaching through countries and cities, [the apostles] appointed the first fruits of their conversion to be bishops and ministers over such as should afterwards believe, having first proved them by the Spirit...So likewise our Apostles knew by our Lord Jesus Christ, that there should contentions arise, upon account of the bishops office. And therefore having a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed persons, as we have before said, and then gave direction, how, when they should die, other chosen and approved men should succeed in their ministry...For it would be no small sin in us, should we cast off those from their ministry who holily and without blame fulfill the duties of it. Blessed are those priests, who having finished their course before these times have obtained a fruitful and perfect dissolution." (1 Clement 19:4,16,17,19,20)
In the Scriptures, Mark, Luke, Sosthenes, Timothy, and Silas are apostolic successors, or else their writings would not be authoritative. Titus and Barnabas appear to be successors also, especially in the light of Clement's writings. St. Clement, once a coworker of Paul "whose name [was] in the book of life," either rejected Paul's teaching and fell into the heresy of continued apostolic succession, dragging forthcoming centuries of Christians with him, or simply passed down from the Seat of Peter what was given to him: that apostolic succession is part of and entrusted with the depositum fidei. St. Ignatius also comments on apostolic succession. See the above quote from Trallians 1:8, in which Ignatius calls the presbyters the Sanhedrin of God, and college of the Apostles.
"Continue inseparable from Jesus Christ our God, and from your bishop, and from the commands of the Apostles. He that is within the altar is pure; but he that is without, that is, he that does anything without the bishop, the presbyters, and deacons, is not pure in conscience." (Trallians 2:4,5)
"See that you follow your bishop, as Jesus Christ, the Father; and the presbytery, as the Apostles. And reverence the deacons, as the command of God." (Smyrneans 3:1)
"I exhort you that ye study to do all things in a divine concord: Your bishop presiding in the place of God; your presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles; and your deacons most dear to me being entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ." (Magnesians 2:4,5)
St. Clement, of the first generation after Ss. Peter and Paul, and St. Ignatius, of the first generation after St. John, taught that those ordained bishops and presbyters were successors to the apostles. They were to be obeyed because they taught the truth. These were Paul's oral statements, the unwritten portion of the depositum fidei. Rejecters of apostolic succession, believing in sola scriptura, should take special notice of the words of St. Irenaeus regarding heretics who claimed to possess a secret apostolic tradition.
"When they are refuted out of the Scriptures they betake themselves to accusing the Scriptures themselves as if there were something amiss with them and they carried not authority, because the Scriptures, they say, contain diverse utterances, and because the truth cannot be found in them...
"Yet when we appeal again to that tradition which is derived from the apostles, and which is safeguarded in the churches through the succession of presbyters, they then are adversaries of tradition, claiming to be wiser not only than the presbyters but even the apostles, and to have discovered the truth undefiled...
"Those that wish to discern the truth may observe the apostolic tradition made manifest in every church throughout the world. We can enumerate those who were appointed bishops in the churches by the apostles, and their successors down to our own day, who never taught, and never knew, absurdities such as these men produce. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries which they taught the perfect in private and in secret, they would rather have committed them to those to whom they entrusted the churches. For they wished those men to be perfect and unblameable whom they left as their successors and to whom they handed over their own office of authority...This we do by pointing to the apostolic tradition and the faith that is preached to men, which has come down to us through the successions of bishops; the tradition and creed of the greatest, the most ancient church, the church known to all men, which was founded and set up at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul. For with this church, because of its position of leadership and authority, must needs agree every church, that is, the faithful everywhere; for in her the apostolic tradition has always been preserved by the faithful from all parts...
"And then Polycarp, besides being instructed by the apostles and aquatinted with many who had seen the Lord, was also appointed by the apostles for Asia as Bishop of the church in Smyrna. Even I saw him in my early youth; for he remained with us a long time, and at a great age suffered a martyrdom full of glory and renown and departed this life, having taught always the things which he had learnt from the apostles, which the Church hands down, which alone are true. (Adv. haereses 3:2:1,2;3:3:1,4)
Tertullian offers this challenge to any outside of the Catholic Church who attempt to identify themselves with the original Church:
"But if any of these are bold enough to insert themselves into the Apostolic age, in order to seem handed down from the apostles because they existed under the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the origins of their churches; let them unroll the list of their bishops, an unbroken succession from the beginning so that first bishop had as his precursor and the source of his authority one of the apostles or one of the apostolic men who, though not an apostle, continued with the apostles. This is how the apostolic churches report their origins; thus the church of the Smyrnaeans relates that Polycarp was appointed by John, the church of Rome that Clement was ordained by Peter..." (De praescriptione haereticorum 32)
The testimony of these early writers as to the general opinion of the early Church, without any record of disputation, are the sixth piece of evidence for the Catholic position.
The Eternal Kingdom of God
The following Scriptures offer, in order, a gradual revelation of God's plan to establish his Covenant family and kingdom in all nations of the earth, the Church. Notice that the kingdom is to remain strong forever, never being delivered up into another rulers hands. It is also interesting that the kingdom is to overcome the Roman empire, and that faithful members of the kingdom need not fear death. Why does the Catholic Church believe it has the protection of infallibility in preserving the depositum fidei? Consult these passages:
"The scepter will not depart from Judah nor the rulers staff from between his feet,until he comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is his." (Genesis 49:10)
" For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on Davids throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:6,7)
Daniel foretold the futures of four world empires: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
" In the lifetime of these [Roman] kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever...The great God has revealed to the king what shall be in the future; this is exactly what you dreamed, and its meaning is sure." (Daniel 2:44,45)
" Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power." (Mark 9:1)
"And so I say to you, you are the Rock, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-20)
"And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
"Striv[e] to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:3-6)
"You should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth." (1 Timothy 3:15)
The testimony of the Scriptures regarding the permanence and authority of the Church is the seventh piece of evidence supporting the Catholic view.
The fourth of our five propositions was that gospel truths are contained in the apostolic traditions and kept pure by the apostolic successors. Here is a review of the six pieces of evidence:
-Evidence: There is religious truth which is part of the depositum fidei which is not part of the Scriptures.
-Evidence: 2 Thessalonians 2:15. Paul endorsed both oral andwritten traditions.
-Evidence: There are five universally recognized apostolic successors.
-Evidence: Scripture strongly suggests monarchical bishoprics for James, John, and Titus.
-Evidence: St. Ignatius accounts of widely accepted monarchical bishoprics.
-Evidence: Testimonies of St. Clement I, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus, and Tertullian to the widely held doctrine of apostolic succession.
-Evidence: Scriptures guarantee that the Church will increase forever and never be delivered up to another people.
Why Do You Believe in the Bible?
The final proposition is that the Bible Christians use today actually contains the Sacred Scriptures. No mention is made within the Sacred Scriptures as to the canon of the Bible. Perhaps the sola scriptura believer will claim that the overwhelming weight of evidence can lead each individual to make an objective determination of what is or is not Scripture. What evidence is that? It would have to be the testimony of the early Christians, specifically the ones before the Great Apostasy. There is no such testimony. The earliest attempt to list New Testament Scripture is by Origen in his commentary on Matthew in 210 AD. Origen was a firm believer in both apostolic succession and the supremacy of the successor to Peter, yet even his canon is still incomplete. As late as the fourth century, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation were disputed, while 1 Clement was accepted. If the Scriptures are the only thing profitable for completion and the sole source of the depositum fidei, by what authority is the canon of Scripture put together? How does the Protestant know what is or is not Scripture? The Jews relied on the educated decisions of those on the Seat of Moses. What about Christians? They rely on the decisions of the Catholic Church at the fourth century councils of Rome and Hippo. Here is the Protestant dilemma: If the authority of the apostolic successors was valid on the day they established the canon, why not the day before or the day after?
The canon of Scripture is not the only question about which sola scriptura adherents must rely on Catholic Tradition. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Hebrews, 1,2, and 3 John are anonymous. Using just the Scripture, it cannot be determined who wrote these books. It is apostolic tradition which credits Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul with writing the anonymous Scriptures. I dare say that not just anyone can write Scripture: it has to be an apostle or a so-called New Testament prophet. If it cannot be trusted that the anonymous Scriptures are by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul, they lose their credibility, and we lose our gospel.
In matters of faith, upon what do you stand? Do you stand on just the Scriptures? If you do, God bless you. You'll need it. Look at the confusion in todays religious world. Look at the fruits of sola scriptura: 20,000 competing denominations. Is God the Father of such chaos?
If you plan to reject the authority of the apostolic successors, then you must realize something. You are rejecting the authority of the men who put your Bible together. Without those apostolic successors, you would not know what Scripture is or isn't. Standing against apostolic succession is standing against a doctrine which was held by faithful Christians for three centuries before your Bible was put together. Sola scriptura is a doctrine which can not be proven from the Scriptures, and thus cancels itself out. Scripture claims for itself profitability, nothing more and nothing less. Rejecting the apostolic succession puts you in schism from the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. If that's the position you choose, allow us to close with the challenge earlier quoted from Tertullian: " Let them then produce the origins of their churches; let them unroll the list of their bishops, an unbroken succession from the beginning."
That the Man of God May Be Complete
Why was Scripture given to us? So that the man of God may be complete. Why is the Magisterium here to guide us? So that the man of God may be complete. Thats God's purpose for mankind: true Christian completion. It's possible. It's attainable. It's available. Pray for it. God bless you.