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The argument often given by those within Catholicism is that the Catholic Church goes clear back to the apostle Peter as the first pope. Apostolic succession is the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession, which has usually been associated with a claim that the succession is through a series of bishops. They would also say that many early Christian writers used the term Catholicism. We will see that Catholicism goes back to Jesus, Christ, Peter, and Paul in the first century. However, not in the way that the Catholic Churchmen might want to accept, but it is nevertheless true. And having an understanding of what the word Catholicism means will help us understand why early Christian writers used it and why many Protestant authors have used it.
Acts 11:26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the congregation and taught quite a crowd; and in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Acts 1:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in both Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Before Jesus ascended back to heaven, he appointed his disciples to be witnesses. However, who were these witnesses, and who would they be witnessing for? The account says, “you will be my witnesses.” Did Jesus mean that God’s people, who were no longer natural Israel, but the Christian congregation, were no longer to be witnesses of the Father? Remember the words of Isaiah to Israel about the Father, “you are my witnesses, said Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me, there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” (Isa. 43:10, ASV)
The transition from the nation of Israel to the Christian congregation meant that the new witnesses would be both witnesses of the Father and the Son. Therefore, the first Christians were going to be witnesses concerning the role that Jesus would be playing in the sanctification of his Father’s name, as well as the sovereignty issue and the coming Kingdom of God. (Rom. 16:25-27; Phil. 2:9-11) They bore witness that the long-awaited seed, the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God, who came to be known as Jesus Christ, had been sent by his Father “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) They bore witness to the one ‘whom the people of Israel crucified, whom God raised from the dead.” (Ac 4:10) The disciples of Jesus Christ in the first century were given one primary responsibility, which every Christian has had since, including us.
Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and look, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Let us briefly consider the importance and seriousness of this assignment. Jesus said, “Go,” but to whom? The assignment is to ‘proclaim, teach and make disciples to all nations, to the most distant parts of the earth.’ Initially, when this was given, there were only Jewish believers. It was especially demanding for them. (See Acts 10:9-16, 28.) Why? For the previous 2,000 years, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the only true way to God. There was no need to go out and find followers because they were born into the pure worship of God. If a Gentile wanted to become a part of the one true way to God, he came to the nation of Israel. (1 Ki. 8:41-43) Initially, when Jesus sent out his twelve disciples, he said, “go, preach, saying” …, but it was specifically “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 10:1, 6-7) Now, things were to be different, and they were to go to people of ‘all nations, to the most distant parts of the earth.’
The Great Apostasy Began in the First Century
2 Thessalonians 2:1a, 3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
2 Now we request you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ … 3 Let no one deceive you in any way, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
On this text, New Testament scholar Knute Larson writes, “Before that great day comes, Paul declared, the rebellion must occur. The word used here is apostasia or apostasy. Before the day of the Lord, there will be a great denial, a deliberate turning away by those who profess to belong to Christ. It will be a rebellion. Having once allied themselves with Christ, they will abandon him. Within the recognized church there will come a time when people will forsake their faith. Throughout history, there have been defections from the faith. But the apostasy about which he wrote to the Thessalonians would be of greater magnitude and would signal the coming of the end.” (Larson 2000, 105)
The apostle Paul says to the Ephesian elders; that there is but “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Eph. 4:5) Paul penned those words about 60 C.E., and he was informing them that there was but one Christian faith. Yet, today we see more varieties of Christian faith than we care to count, all claiming that they are the truth and the way. Whenever a brave soul dares to be truthful and bring up that there are doctrinal differences, different doctrinal positions, and different standards of conduct, he is shouted down as an alarmist. They claim that most of these denominations are the same on the essential doctrines, i.e., the salvation doctrines. Well, this actually is not true and is an attempt at hiding the truth because even the salvation doctrines have anywhere from three to five different interpretations. Regardless, we must concern ourselves with a crucial question from Jesus Christ, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lu 18:8) This is an entirely different discussion. We concern ourselves with how these divisions came about in the first place.
The blame lies with Satan. He attempted to have Jesus killed as a baby, tempted Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism, and attempted persecution right from the start. Peter wrote, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8) Initially, the persecution of this young Christian body came from Jewish religious leaders, and then from the Roman Empire itself. With “all authority in heaven” (Matt. 28:20), Jesus watched on as the Holy Spirit guided and directed them. This infancy Christian congregation endured the best that Satan and his henchman had to offer. (See Rev. 1:9; 2:3, 19) As we know from Scripture, Satan is not one to give up, so he devised a new plan, divide and conquer. Yes, he would cause divisions within the Christian congregation. Satan broke out the ultimate weapon―the apostasy. We need not believe that the apostasy came into the Christian congregation suddenly. No, Jesus was watching from heaven, and he made sure that he warned them while he was here on earth of what was to come, and he made the young Christian congregation aware of what was coming and when it was getting started.—Colossians 1:18
“[Jesus] Be Aware of False Prophets . . . [Peter] There Will Be False Teachers Among You.”
Matthew 7:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Jesus was well aware of what Satan would try to accomplish step-by-step and that divisions through those from within were on the list. New Testament scholar Stuart K. Weber says, “Jesus had an important reason for inserting the wolf metaphor (Acts 20:27–31)—to alert his listeners to the danger of a false prophet. If the false prophets were thought of as a source of bad fruit, then the disciples might think it was enough simply to recognize and ignore the false prophet, refusing to consume his bad fruit, and awaiting God’s judgment on him. But the wolf metaphor attributes a more active and malicious motive to the false prophet. He is actually an enemy of the sheep and, if not confronted, will get his way by destroying the sheep.” (Weber 2000, 101)
Weber mentions Acts 20:28-30, where Paul, about 56 C.E., warned the Ephesian elders,
Acts 20:28-30 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the congregation of God, which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Yes, those, who stood off from the Truth and the Way, would not be seeking their own disciples, but instead they would be seeking “to draw away the disciples after them.” i.e., the disciples of Christ. Jesus understood the easiest way to defeat any group is to divide them. Satan, who had been watching humanity for over 4,000 years, and especially the Israelites (Isaac and Ishmael / Jacob and Esau / Israel and Judah), “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So, it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”—2 Corinthians 11:14-15.
The apostle Peter also spoke of these things about 64 C.E., “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies . . . in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” (2 Pet. 2:1, 3) These abandoned the faithful words and became false teachers, rising within the Christian congregation, sharing their corrupting influence, intending to hide, disguise, or misleading.
These dire warnings by Jesus and the New Testament authors began in the first century C.E. Yes, they began small but burst forth on the scene in the second century.
“[Paul says the Great Apostasy] That is Coming Is Already at Work”
About 51 C.E., some 18 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, division was already starting to creep into the faith, “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.” (2 Thess. 2:7) Yes, the power of the man of lawlessness was already present, which is the power of Satan, the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:3-4), and his tens of millions of demons, are hard at work behind the scenes.
There were even some divisions beginning as early as 49 C.E., when the elders wrote a letter to the Gentile believers, saying,
Acts 15:24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
24 Since we have heard that some went out from among us and troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, although we gave them no instructions,
Here we see that some within were being very vocal about their opposition to the direction the faith was heading. Here, it was over whether the Gentiles needed to be circumcised, suggesting that they needed to be obedient to the Mosaic Law. (Ac 15:1, 5)
As the years progressed throughout the first century, this divisive “talk [would] spread like gangrene.” (2 Tim. 2:17, c. 65 C.E.) About 51 C.E., They had some in Thessalonica, at worst, going ahead of, or at best, misunderstanding Paul, and wrongly stating by word and a bogus letter “that the day of the Lord has come.” (2 Thess. 2:1-2) In Corinth, about 55 C.E., “some of [were saying] that there is no resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor. 15:12) About 65 C.E., some were “saying that the resurrection has already happened. They [were] upsetting the faith of some.” (2 Tim 2:16-18)
Throughout the next three decades, no inspired books were written. However, by the time of the Apostle John’s letter-writing days of 96-98 C.E., he tells us, “Now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18) These are ones, “who denies that Jesus is the Christ” and ones who do not confess “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” (1 John 2:22; 4:2-3)
From 33 C.E. to 100 C.E., the apostles served Christ as a restraint against “the apostasy” that was coming. Paul stated at 2 Thessalonians 2:7, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he [Apostle by Christ] who now restrains it [the apostasy] will do so until he [apostles] is out of the way.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3 said, “Let no one deceive you in any way [misinterpretation or false teachers of Paul’s first letter]. For that day [presence, parousia (second coming) of Christ] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness [likely one person, or maybe an organization/movement, empowered by Satan] is revealed, the son of destruction.”
We must remember that the meaning of any given text is what the author meant by the words that he used, as should have been understood by his audience and had some relevance/meaning for his audience. The rebellion [apostasy] began slowly in the first century and would break forth after the death of the last apostle, i.e., John. As a historian, Ariel Durant informs us that by 187 C.E., there were 20 varieties of Christianity, and by 384 C.E., there were 80 varieties of Christianity. Christianity would become one, again, a universal religion, i.e., Catholicism. This would be accomplished through torture and murder of anyone that did not accept its beliefs.
Marcion (85-c.160) was a semi-Gnostic, who believed that the teachings of Jesus were irreconcilable with the actions of the God of the Old Testament. He viewed the Old Testament God, Jehovah, as vicious, violent and cruel, an oppressor who gave out material rewards to those worshiping him. In contrast, Marcion described the New Testament God, Jesus Christ, as a perfect God, the God of unadulterated love and compassion, of kindness and quick to forgive.
Montanus (late second century) was a “prophet” from Asia Minor who believed that their revelation came directly from the Holy Spirit, which superseded the authority of Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, James, anyone really. They believed in the imminent return of Christ and the setting up of the New Jerusalem in Pepuza. He was more concerned about Christian conduct than Christian doctrine, wanting to return to the Christian values of the first century. However, he took this to the extreme, just as John Calvin would some 1,300 years later in the 16th century. Montanism was a movement focused on prophecy, especially the founder’s views, being seen as the light of their time. They believed that the apostle and prophets had the power to forgive sin.
Valentinus (c.100-c.160) was a Greek poet who founded his school in Rome and was the most prominent early Christian Gnostic theologian. He claimed that though Jesus’ heavenly (spiritual) body was of Mary, he was not actually born from her. This belief came about because Gnostics viewed all matter as evil. Therefore, if Jesus had been a real human with a physical body, he would have been evil. Another form of Gnosticism was Docetism, which claimed that Jesus Christ was not a real person, i.e., it was mere appearance and illusion, which would have included his death and resurrection.
Manes (c. 216-274) was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion. He sought to combine elements of Christianity, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism, based on a rigid dualism of good and evil, locked in an eternal struggle. He believed that salvation is possible through education, self-denial, fasting, and chastity. He also believed that he was an “apostle of Jesus Christ,” (Ramsey 2006, 272) although, strictly speaking, his religion was not a movement of Christian Gnosticism in the earlier approach.
THE RISE OF CATHOLICISM
The Latinized Greek term Christianos (Christian) appears only in Acts 11:26; 26:28, and 1 Pet. 4:16 in the Greek New Testament, which was a designation by the Gentles for those who followed Jesus Christ, to make a distinction between them and the Jews, as they were not Grecian Jews. Of course, the Jews used the Greek term Χριστος [Christos, Messiah] because they believed in the coming of the Messiah, so they would have never referred to the followers of Jesus as Christianos. The Jews referred to the followers of Jesus as the Galileans or Nazarenes. Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) reads, “The disciples also were divinely called first in Antioch Christians.” This suggests that God had something to do with their being called Christianos (Christian). However, when we look at over fifty other translations, we find “first called” not “divinely called.” Why do we find such a difference? The Greek verb chrematisai in this text is generally rendered simply as “were called.”
The word catholic (derived via Late Latin catholicus, from the Greek adjective καθολικός katholikos ‘universal’) comes from the Greek phrase καθόλου katholou ‘on the whole, according to the whole, in general,’ and is a combination of the Greek words κατά ‘about’ and ὅλος ‘whole.’
Again, historians Will and Ariel Durant state: “Celsus [second-century enemy of Christianity] himself had sarcastically observed that Christians were ‘split up into ever so many factions, each individual desiring to have his own party.’ About 187 A.D. Irenaeus listed twenty varieties of Christianity; about 384 A.D. Epiphanius counted eighty.”—The Story of Civilization: Part III—Caesar and Christ.
Professor Wolfson of Harvard University explains in The Crucible of Christianity that in the second century, there was a significant influx into Christianity of “philosophically trained gentiles.” These esteemed the wisdom of the Greek thinkers and felt as though there were similarities between Greek philosophy and the teachings of the Scriptures. Wolfson continues: “Sometimes they variously express themselves to the effect that philosophy is God’s special gift to the Greeks by way of human reason as Scripture is to the Jews by way of direct revelation.” He continues: “The Fathers of the Church . . . entered upon their systematic undertaking to show how, behind the homely language in which Scripture likes to express itself, there are hidden the teachings of the philosophers couched in the obscure technical terms coined in their Academy, Lyceum, and Porch [centers for philosophical discussion].”
In time, the word episkopos (overseer) was transformed to “bishop,” which meant a priest with legal power over the clergy in his diocese. The Spanish Jesuit Bernardino Llorca informs us: “First, there was not sufficient distinction made between the bishops and the presbyters, and attention was only paid to the meaning of the words: bishop is the equivalent of superintendent; presbyter is the equivalent of older man. . . . But little by little the distinction became clearer, designating with the name bishop the more important superintendents, who possessed the supreme priestly authority and the faculty to lay on hands and confer the priesthood.” (Historia de la Iglesia Católica [History of the Catholic Church])
In 313, Constantine the Great legalized Christianity, making it equal to paganism. Emperor Theodosius, I banned paganism and imposed “Christianity” as the State religion of the Roman Empire.
According to The Moody Handbook of Theology, the official beginning of the Roman Catholic Church occurred in 590 CE, with Pope Gregory I. This time marked the consolidation of lands controlled by the pope’s authority, and thus the church’s power, into what would later be known as “the Papal States.”
The build-up to Catholicism is not like turning on a light switch. It happened progressively from about 313 to 590 CE. What once was pure Christianity in the first century CE had now become one part Christian and nine parts Greek philosophy. So, as stated at the outset of this article, Catholicism did go back to the first, to Jesus, Peter, and Paul. It was now the great apostasy that Paul had warned of. It was the false teachers that Jesus and Peter warned us of.
Historian Will Durant explains: “The Church took over some religious customs and forms common in pre-Christian [pagan] Rome—the stole and other vestments of pagan priests, the use of incense and holy water in purifications, the burning of candles and an everlasting light before the altar, the worship of the saints, the architecture of the basilica, the law of Rome as a basis for canon law, the title of Pontifex Maximus for the Supreme Pontiff, and, in the fourth century, the Latin language . . . Soon the bishops, rather than the Roman prefects, would be the source of order and the seat of power in the cities; the metropolitans, or archbishops, would support, if not supplant, the provincial governors; and the synod of bishops would succeed the provincial assembly. The Roman Church followed in the footsteps of the Roman state.”—The Story of Civilization: Part III—Caesar and Christ.
Beginning with the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E., Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in an attempt at reuniting the empire. He fully understood that religious division threatened the continuation of the Roman Empire. However, Emperor Theodosius I (347 – 395 C.E.) banned paganism and imposed Christianity as the State religion of the Roman Empire. The Roman Catholic Church can trace its existence back to the council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. at best. Protestantism had its beginnings in the Reformation of the 16th century. However, there were Protestant uprisings and dissensions within Catholicism for a thousand years.
The title “pope” (from the Greek papas, father) was not used in the first and second centuries. Former Jesuit Michael Walsh informs us: “The first time a Bishop of Rome was called ‘Pope’ seems to have been in the third century, and the title was given to Pope Callistus . . . By the end of the fifth century ‘Pope’ usually meant the Bishop of Rome and no one else. It was not until the eleventh century, however, that a Pope could insist that the title applied to him alone.”—An Illustrated History of the Popes.
Pope Leo I (pope, 440-461 C.E.) was one of the first bishops of Rome to impose his authority. Michael Walsh further informs us: “Leo appropriated the once pagan title of Pontifex Maximus, still used by the popes today, and borne, until towards the end of the fourth century, by Roman Emperors.” Leo I based his moves on the Catholic interpretation of Jesus’ words as found in Matthew 16:18-19. He “declared that because St. Peter was the first among the Apostles, St. Peter’s church should be accorded primacy among the churches.” (Man’s Religions) In this, Leo I pointed out that, yes, the emperor retained temporal power in Constantinople in the East, the pope maintained spiritual power from Rome in the West. This power was additionally made clear when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 C.E.
A Brief Papal History
Stephen VI was Pope from 896 to 897. Fueled by his anger with Pope Formosus, his predecessor, he exhumed Formosus’s rotting corpse and put “him” on trial in the so-called “Cadaver Synod” in January 897.
With the corpse propped up on a throne, a deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff, who was condemned for performing the functions of a bishop when he had been deposed and for receiving the pontificate while he was the bishop of Porto, among other revived charges that had been leveled against Formosus in the strife during the pontificate of John VIII.
The corpse was found guilty, stripped of its sacred vestments, deprived of three fingers of its right hand (the blessing fingers), clad in the garb of a layman, and quickly buried; it was then re-exhumed and thrown in the Tiber. All ordinations performed by Formosus were annulled.
The trial excited a tumult. Though the instigators of the deed may actually have been Formosus’ enemies of the House of Spoleto (notably Guy IV of Spoleto), who had recovered their authority in Rome at the beginning of 897 by renouncing their broader claims in central Italy, the scandal ended in Stephen’s imprisonment and his death by strangling that summer.
Benedict IX was Pope from 1032 to 1044, again in 1045, and finally, from 1047 to 1048, the only man to have served as Pope for three discontinuous periods and one of the most controversial Popes of all time. Benedict gave up his papacy for the first time in exchange for a large sum of money in 1044. He returned in 1045 to depose his replacement and reigned for one month, after which he left again, possibly to marry, and sold the papacy for a second time to his Godfather (possibly for over 650 kg /1450 lb of gold). Two years later, Benedict retook Rome and reigned for another year until 1048. Poppo of Brixen (later to become Pope Damascus II) eventually forced him out of Rome. Benedict’s place and date of death are unknown, but some speculate that he made further attempts to regain the Papal Throne. St. Peter Damian described him as “feasting on immorality” and “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest” in the Liber Gomorrhianus, a treatise on papal corruption and sex that accused Benedict IX of routine homosexuality and bestiality.
Sergius III was Pope from 897 to 911, and has been the only pope known to have ordered the murder of another pope and the only known to have fathered an illegitimate son who later became pope; his pontificate has been described as “dismal and disgraceful.” The pontificate of Sergius III was remarkable for the rise of what papal historians call a “pornocracy,” or rule of the harlots, a reversal of the natural order as they saw it, according to Liber pontificalis and a later chronicler who was also biased against Sergius III. This “pornocracy” was an age with women in power: Theodora, whom Liutprand characterized as a “shameless whore… [who] exercised power on the Roman citizenry like a man” and her daughter Marozia, the mother of Pope John XI (931–935) and reputed to be the mistress of Sergius III.
John XII was Pope from 955 to 964. In 963, Holy Roman Emperor Otto I summoned a council, leveling charges that John had ordained a deacon in a stable, consecrated a 10-year-old boy as bishop of Todi, converted the Lateran Palace into a brothel, raped female pilgrims in St. Peter’s, stolen church offerings, drank toasts to the devil, and invoked the aid of Jove, Venus, and other pagan gods when playing dice. He was deposed but returned as pope when Otto left Rome, maiming and mutilating all who had opposed him. In 964, he was apparently beaten by the husband of a woman with which he was having an affair, dying three days later without receiving confession or the sacraments.
Leo X was Pope from 1513 to his death in 1521. He is known primarily for selling indulgences (letters of pardon issued by the pope for sins) to reconstruct St. Peter’s Basilica and his challenging Martin Luther’s 95 theses. The Catholic Church’s campaign of selling indulgences, which to Luther amounted to divine bribery, the selling of forgiveness of sins. The selling of indulgences arose during the Crusades when they were awarded to believers who were willing to risk their lives in a “holy” war. Later, it was expanded and given to people providing financial backing to the church. Shortly thereafter, indulgences became a favorable procedure for raising money for building churches, monasteries, or hospitals. “The noblest monuments of the Middle Ages were financed in this way,” says professor of religious history Roland Bainton, dubbing indulgences “the bingo of the sixteenth century.” Desiderius Erasmus wrote, “Everywhere, the remission of purgatorial torment is sold; nor is it sold only, but forced upon those who refuse it.”
Luther called his 95 theses Disputation for Clarification of the Power of Indulgences. Here are three:
5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties, except those which he has imposed by his own authority. . . .
20. Therefore the pope, when he speaks of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean really of all, but only of those imposed by himself. . . .
36. Every Christian who feels true compunction has of right plenary remission of punishment and guilt even without letters of pardon.
According to Alexandre Dumas, “under his pontificate, Christianity assumed a pagan character, which, passing from art into manners, gives to this epoch a strange complexion. Crimes for the moment disappeared, to give place to vices; but to charming vices, vices in good taste, such as those indulged in by Alcibiades and sung by Catullus.” When he became Pope, Leo X is reported to have said to his brother Giuliano: “Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it.”
His extravagance offended not only people like Martin Luther, but also some cardinals, who, led by Alfonso Petrucci of Siena, plotted an assassination attempt. Eventually, Pope Leo found out who these people were, and had them followed. The conspirators died of “food poisoning.” Some people argue that Leo X and his followers simply concocted the assassination charges in a moneymaking scheme to collect fines from the various wealthy cardinals Leo X detested.
Alexander VI was Pope from 1492 to 1503. He is the most controversial of the secular popes of the Renaissance, and his surname (Italianized as Borgia) became a byword for the debased standards of the papacy of that era. Originally Cardinal Borgia from Spain, Pope Alexander’s claims to fame were taking over much of Italy by force with the help of his son Cesare (yes, his son), a racy relationship with his daughter Lucrezia (some say her son was his), and his affinity for throwing large parties, bordering on orgies, that usually culminated with little naked boys jumping out of large cakes.
Innocent IV was Pope from 1243 to 1254. Certainly, the Inquisition represents the darkest of Roman Church history, and it was Innocent IV who approved the use of torture to extract confessions of heresy. He aggressively applied the principle that “the end justifies the means.” It is shocking to learn about the deranged instruments of torture that were used on so many innocent people. Galileo was one of the most famous people to suffer at the hands of Roman inquisitors. The church condemned Galileo for claiming that the earth revolved around the sun.
Urban VI was Pope from 1378 to 1389. He was the first Pope of the Western Schism (which ultimately lead to three people claiming the Papal throne at the same time). Once elected, he was prone to outbursts of rage. The cardinals who elected him decided that they had made the wrong decision and they elected a new Pope in his place, so he took the name of Clement VII and started a second Papal court in Avignon, France. Later he would launch a program of violence against those he thought to have been conspiring against him, imprisoning people at will and mistreating them brutally. Later historians have considered seriously that he might have been insane.
The second election threw the Church into turmoil. There had been antipopes, rival claimants to the papacy, before, but most of them had been appointed by various rival factions; in this case, the legitimate leaders of the Church themselves had created both popes. The conflict quickly escalated from a church problem to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe. Secular leaders had to choose which pope they would recognize. The schism was repaired forty years later when all three of the (then) reigning Popes abdicated together and a successor elected in the person of Pope Martin V.
John XV was Pope from 985 to 996. The Pope’s venality and nepotism had made him very unpopular with the citizens, as he split the church’s finances among his relatives and was described as “covetous of filthy lucre and corrupt in all his acts.”
Clement VII was Pope from 1523 to 1534. A member of the powerful Medici family, Clement VII possessed great political and diplomatic skills – but he lacked the understanding of the age necessary to cope with the political and religious changes he faced. His relationship with Emperor Charles V was so bad that, in May 1527, Charles invaded Italy and sacked Rome.
Imprisoned, Clement was forced into a humiliating compromise, which forced him to give up a great deal of secular and religious power. Eventually, Clement became ill and never recovered. He died on September 25, 1534, hated by the people of Rome, who never forgave him for the destruction of 1527.
These wicked men are supposed to be the supreme leader of God’s kingdom here on earth, having the authority to forgive sins, are supposedly infallible, and unable to err or make mistakes when issuing decrees on faith and morals. When we examine the facts, it becomes all too clear that the claim of infallibility for the Pope is a complete falsehood intended to deceive trusting people. The Bible has the following to say of religious leaders who deceive, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:13) Jesus warned what would happen if anyone were to blindly follow such men as this, “If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”–Matthew 15:14.
- MATTHEW 16:18 “Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church”?
- APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION: Were There Divinely Appointed Successors of the Twelve Apostles with Authority, and Is the Pope the Successor of Peter?
- CHURCH HISTORY: From the Edict of Milan (A.D. 313) to Charlemagne (A.D. 800)
- CHURCH HISTORY: (Monasticism) The Monastic Life as a Vocation from God? Biblical?
Outline of Christian Divisions
Start of Apostasy of the Catholic Church In Earnest—2nd Century
Roman Catholic Church
- 4th Century (Constantine)
- 5th Century Coptic
- 1054 C.E. Eastern Orthodox
- Romanian and others
- 16th Century Reformation
- American and others
- Salvation Army
- Reformed Churches
- Bishop Agobard of Lyons, France (779-840) was against image worship, churches dedicated to saints, and church liturgy that was contrary to Scripture.
- Bishop Claudius (d. between 827 and 839 C.E.)
- Archdeacon Bérenger, or Berengarius, of Tours, France (11th century C.E.), excommunicated as a heretic in 1050
- Peter of Bruys (1117-c. 1131) left the church because he disagreed with infant baptism, transubstantiation, prayers for the dead, worship of the cross and the need for church buildings.
- Henry of Lausanne (died imprisoned around 1148), spoke out against church liturgy, the corrupt clergy, and the religious hierarchy.
- Peter Waldo (c. 1140–c. 1218) and the Waldenses, rejected purgatory, Masses for the dead, papal pardons and indulgences, and the worship of Mary and the saints.
- CHURCH HISTORY: The Origin, Persecutions, and Doctrines of the Waldenses
- THE WALDENSES: From the Catholic Church to Heresy to Protestantism?
- THE WALDENSES: Unorthodox or Searchers of Truth?
- John Wycliffe (c. 1330-1384) preached against corruption in the monastic orders, papal taxation, the doctrine of transubstantiation (doctrine that the bread and wine of Communion become, in substance, but not appearance, the body and blood of Jesus Christ at consecration), the confession, and church involvement in temporal affairs.
- Jan Hus (c. 1369-1415) preached against the corruption of the Roman Church and stressed the importance of reading the Bible. This swiftly fetched the anger of the hierarchy upon him. In 1403, the church leaders ordered him to stop preaching the antipapal notions of Wycliffe, whose books they had openly burned. Hus, nevertheless, went on to pen some of the most hurtful impeachments against the Church and its practices, such as the sale of indulgences. He was condemned and excommunicated in 1410.
- Girolamo Savonarola (1452-98) was of the San Marcos monastery in Florence, Italy, spoke out against the corruption in the Church.
- Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a monk-scholar, was also a Doctor of Theology and a professor of Biblical studies at the University of Wittenberg. He took issue with papal indulgences, power, purgatory, plenary remission of all penalties of the pope, among many other issues.
- Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) was a Catholic priest, who agreed with Luther in many doctrinal areas, in addition to the removal of all vestiges of the Roman Church: images, crucifixes, clerical garb, and even liturgical music. However, he disagreed with Luther’s literal interpretation of the Eucharist, or Mass (Communion), as he said it “must be taken figuratively or metaphorically; ‘This is my body,’ means, ‘The bread signifies my body,’ or ‘is a figure of my body.’” This one issue caused them to part ways.
- Anabaptists (i.e., rejected infant baptism, so rebaptized adults, ana meaning “again” in Greek), Mennonites (Dutch Reformer Menno Simons), and Hutterites (Tyrolean Jacob Hutter), felt that the Reformers did not go far enough in rejecting the failings of the Catholic Church.
- John Calvin (1509-64) published Institutes of the Christian Religion, in which he summarized the ideas of the early church fathers and medieval theologians and Luther and Zwingli. His theological views would take too much space. John Calvin had Michael Servetus burned to death as a heretic. Calvin defended his actions in these words: “When the papists are so harsh and violent in defense of their superstitions that they rage cruelly to shed innocent blood, are not Christian magistrates shamed to show themselves less ardent in defense of the sure truth?” Calvin’s religious extremism and personal hatred made him unwilling to see and understand the radicalness of his judgments and choked out any Christian principles.
- William Tyndale (1494-1536) had to flee from England, published his New Testament in 1526, and completed most of the Old Testament after his betrayal and arrest, in a dungeon. He would be strangled at the stake, and his body was burned. The 1611 King James Version was actually 97 percent Tyndale’s translation. He denounced the practice of prayer to saints. He taught justification by faith, the return of Christ, and mortality of the soul.
- Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), graduated from Holland’s Leiden University, after which he spent six years in Switzerland, studying theology under Théodore de Bèze, the successor to Protestant Reformer John Calvin. Rather than support Calvinism, he went against it, especially the doctrine of predestination, which was at the core of Calvinism.
Roman Catholicism has tainted itself with its history of immorality, bloodshed, and pagan-tainted religious ideas and practices. The centuries-long oppression, torture, rape, pillage, and murder of tens of millions of men, women, and children cannot come from true Christianity. They were the biggest offenders of the apostasy that Paul said had to come before the return of Christ. So, yes, in that sense, they go back to first-century Christianity.
The Reformation gave us a return to the Bible in the common man’s languages, which the Catholic Church had locked up in the dead language of Latin for 500 years. The Reformers brought the common folk freedom from papal authority and from many erroneous Bible doctrines and dogmas that had gone on for a thousand years. However, the Protestant denominations have found themselves so fragmented and divided; one can only wonder where the truth and the Way lie.
Over eighty percent of Protestant Christianity is liberal-progressive as to their biblical and social beliefs, which began in the late 18th century up to the present. This covers too much area for a summary, but to mention just a few, they treat the Bible as being from man, not inspired, and fully inerrant. They prefer to explain away the Bible accounts of miracles as myths, legends, or folk tales. They do not believe in the historicity of Bible characters such as Adam and Job. They say that Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible but that they were written by several writers from the tenth to the fifth centuries B.C.E. and were compiled after that. They say Isaiah did not author the book bearing his name in the early eighth century B.C.E., but that two or three writers penned it, centuries later. They claim that Daniel did not pen his book in the sixth century B.C.E., but rather it was written in the second century B.C.E. They claim that the Bible is full of errors, mistakes, and contradictions as to history, science, and geography. Higher criticism has opened Pandora’s Box to an overflow of pseudo-scholarly works whose result has been to weaken, challenge and destabilize people’s assurance in the trustworthiness of the Bible. Who needs enemies like agnostics and atheists when we have liberal Bible scholars? We have not even delved into their unbiblical views of social justice, gay marriage, homosexual priests, women in the pulpits, and far more.
Some may ask what about the remaining twenty percent of Christian denominations. Most of those are moderate in beliefs, which cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the Scriptures and give fodder to the liberal-progressive denominations. These fence-riders have abandoned the truth and the Way, pure Christianity. Before delving into the so-called conservative parts of Christianity, let us look at the charismatics.
We have charismatic Christianity, the fastest growing segment, which emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and modern-day miracles, speaking in tongues and miraculous healing, even snake handling in some areas. All of this is unbiblical and based on emotionalism.
Those who believe that charismatic Christianity is false Christianity, individuals such as this author Edward D. Andrews, are said to be overly critical. Supporters of Charismatic Christianity say we “should be focusing on the fact that while many in the church continue to abandon our Christian faith, the Pentecostal/Charismatic community continues to offer the church a legitimate growth mechanism.” I would respond that a denomination founded on, grounded in unbiblical beliefs is not true Christianity and are the false teachers and prophets that we were warned were coming by Jesus and the New Testament writers. Therefore, charismatic Christianity is no Christianity at all, and all who are being brought in are being obscured from finding the path of true Christianity.
So-called conservative Christianity is so minuscule that it barely gets the press. We should not confuse radical Christianity, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, with truly conservative, fundamentalist Christianity. However, even here, we find differences doctrinally, even in the so-called salvation doctrines. Are all the 41,000 different varieties of Christianity just different roads leading to the same place? Are all the various conservative churches the truth and the Way? The answer is no, as far as this writer is concerned. We need to return to the question that Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lu 18:8) Jesus would not find faith on earth, not at the level that one might expect, not at present. However, do not lose hope because Jesus was able to …
- found Christianity,
- led the apostles to maintain its purity as one form of Christianity, and
- restrained the apostasy as it grew from 120 disciples to over a million within 130 years. It is not beyond his authority and power to merge and solidify those who have a receptive heart into the faith, the truth and the Way of the 21st
The reader may be disappointed that I did not identify some Bible scholars of moderate and liberal Christianity or the truly conservative denominations or churches, but that was done on purpose. It is up to each reader to wade through these different forms of true Christianity and find the path that best fits the first-century Christianity example. How I best do that, one may ask. To personalize this, I will move to the second-person pronoun, you, because it is all about you.
- Be willing to buy out the time. If you do not have the time, then all is for not. If you cannot invest a decent amount of time in our short life now, knowing that an eternity of time is on the horizon, you cannot see the forest for the trees.
- You need particular kinds of knowledge to enable you to make wise decisions.
- You need to understand hermeneutics and exegesis, big words for biblical interpretation rules and their application. How can you identify a form of Christianity plagued with unbiblical doctrines without the knowledge of how to interpret the Scriptures correctly? Yes, it is the same Bible scholars explaining these rules. Thus, we ask, ‘how can we trust them to give us rules that do not lead us astray?’ Generally, they give the rules correctly but sometimes violate them in their own books. Below are the best books for such a venture.
- You need to have a decent understanding of Bible translation differences and the translation process. Below are books that will help you with this venture.
- You need to have a decent understanding of old and New Testament textual criticism. Below are books that will help you with this venture.
- You need to have a decent understanding of the Bible as a whole. Below are books that will help you with this venture.
- You should get a book on Bible difficulties as well. You should study it along with the commentary volumes as you are doing your Bible reading.
- Once you have invested a couple of years in getting some foundational understanding, it is time to pay better attention.
- The apostle Paul went by his Jewish name “Saul” before he started using Paul. He was a Pharisee in Judaism. To him, the truth was natural Israel, which was actually the truth and the way to Good for 1,500 years. Saul/Paul saw Christianity as a sect of Judaism, a cultish sect, and he persecuted them. Once he correctly understood the Old Testament, he could better see that Christianity was now the truth and the Way. He had to humble himself and leave Judaism, which had lost favor with God. Then he had to join what he had formerly viewed as the enemy. Humility!
If ever we see that our variety of Christianity is not the truth, we need to be like Paul and find the truth or the closest thing to it. Moreover, we need to keep our eyes open to Jesus’ transitioning some of Christianity to be the faith that he will be looking for upon his return. If we fail to arm ourselves with knowledge, understanding, thinking ability, and wisdom, we are subjecting ourselves only to other people’s interpretations and our 21st-century opinions as to who has the truth. I am going to offer one last piece of hope. There are great, biblically grounded conservative churches and denominations out there. There are definitely many hundreds of thousands, if not tens of millions, of genuine true Christians. Before the Great Tribulation, Jesus can pull it all together, and we have that pure form of worship, unity of thought. Another option is that he can simply have only the true Christians from different denominations survive the Great Tribulation and Armageddon.
SCROLL THROUGH DIFFERENT CATEGORIES BELOW
BIBLE TRANSLATION AND TEXTUAL CRITICISM
BIBLICAL STUDIES / INTERPRETATION
CHRISTIAN APOLOGETIC EVANGELISM
CHURCH HEALTH, GROWTH, AND HISTORY
 Gr ekklesia (“assembly;” “congregation, i.e., of Christians”)
 The words “a great many people” of (ESV) is not in the Greek text but are implied.
 Presence; Coming: (Gr. parousia) The Greek word literally means,” which is derived from para, meaning “with,” and ousia, meaning “being.” It denotes both an “arrival” and a consequent “presence with.” Depending on the context, it can mean “presence,” “arrival,” “appearance,” or “coming.” In some contexts, this word is describing the presence of Jesus Christ in the last days, i.e., from his ascension in 33 C.E. up unto his second coming, with the emphasis being on his second coming, the end of the age of Satan’s reign of terror over the earth. We do not know the day nor the hours of this second coming. (Matt 24:36) It covers a marked period of time with the focus on the end of that period. – Matt. 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 16:17; 2 Cor. 7:6-7; 10:10; Php 1:26; 2:12; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:2.
 Or seduce
 Apostasy: (Gr. apostasia) The term literally means “to stand away from” and is used to refer to ones who ‘stand away from the truth.’ It is abandonment, a rebellion, an apostasy, a refusal to accept or acknowledge true worship. In Scripture, this is used primarily concerning the one who rises up in defiance of the only true God and his people, working in opposition to the truth. – Ac 21:21; 2 Thess. 2:3.
 B.C.E. means “before the Common Era,” which is more accurate than B.C. (“before Christ”). C.E. denotes “Common Era,” often called A.D., for anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord.”
 In the Greek New Testament, the noun “apostasy” (Gr., apostasia) has the sense of “desertion, abandonment or rebellion.” (Acts 21:21, ftn.) There it predominantly alludes to abandonment, a drawing away from or abandoning pure worship.
 Gr ekklesia (“assembly;” “congregation, i.e., of Christians”)
 Lit with the blood of his Own.
 This means that some left the Christian faith and were not trying to subvert (undermine) the faith of others.
 (1) Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy B. Zuck; (2) INTERPRETING THE BIBLE: Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics by Edward D. Andrews (3) Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics By Bernard Ramm; (4) Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old by Robert L. Thomas; and (5) HOW TO INTERPRET THE BIBLE: An Introduction to Hermeneutics by Kieran Beville
 (1) The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation By Leland Ryken; (2) Understanding English Bible Translation: The Case for an Essentially Literal Approach By Leland Ryken; (3) Do We Still Need a Literal Bible?: Discover the Truth about Literal Bibles Authored by Don Wilkins [Coming Soon]
 (1) FROM SPOKEN WORDS TO SACRED TEXTS: Introduction-Intermediate New Testament Textual Studies by Edward D. Andrews (March 16, 2018); (2) THE READING CULTURE OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY: The Production, Publication, Circulation, and Use of Books in the Early Christian Church by Edward D. Andrews (May 04, 2017); (3) INTRODUCTION TO THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT: From The Authors and Scribe to the Modern Critical Text by Edward D. Andrews
 (1) Holman Old Testament Commentary Series- 20 volume set [buy them one at a time, as you are doing your Bible reading]; (2) Holman New Testament Commentary (12 volume set). (3) INTERPRETING THE BIBLE: Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics by Edward D. Andrews
 (1) The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation By Norman L. Geisler, Thomas Howe; (2) New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties By Gleason L. Archer Jr. (3) BIBLE DIFFICULTIES: How to Approach Difficulties In the Bible by Edward D. Andrews [Coming soon]