Thursday, April 19, 2018

Historic Roman Catholicism And Private Interpretation

        Historically speaking, the Church of Rome has displayed unreasonably hostile opposition against the personal ownership of Bible translations. For centuries, the average laymen were forbidden by the hierarchical structured Church government to interpret Scripture independently of its intense supervision and restriction. There were times when circulated Bibles would even be burned. The Roman Catholic Church demanded unquestioning loyalty of adherents. Even in modern times, devout followers are indoctrinated from childhood to submit to the allegedly infallible, God-ordained Papacy. Dissuasion of personal Bible study has lessened somewhat within the past few decades, around the timing of the First and Second Vatican Councils (part of its Ecumenical agenda). Thus, Roman Catholics have been instructed to defend "Mother Church" at all costs, even at the expense of contradicting plain scriptural teaching.

        While the apologists of Roman Catholicism may contend that their Church's prohibiting the reading of Scripture was never meant to serve as a permanent establishment, the decrees issued by councils such as Toulouse and Tarragon were essentially unconditional prohibitions on Bible reading. During that time, the only way that a person could actually read the Bible was if they had obtained special permission from the local bishop. In fact, most members of the laity could not even read Latin! Men such as Tyndale and Wycliffe were killed simply because they wanted to translate the Bible into the common language. Pope Innocent III (1161-1216) likened teaching the Bible to casting pearls before swine. The Council of Trent had placed the Bible in its list of forbidden books. Pope Leo XII (1760-1829) expressed condemnation of Bible societies in his encyclical titled Ubi primum. All of this could be elaborated in much more detail. In short, harsh penalties were imposed on those who challenged the authority of the Roman Catholic Church:

        “In the West, the clergy had begun to assert an exclusive interpretive, indeed custodial, right to the Bible as early as the ninth century; and from about 1080 there had been frequent instances of the Pope, councils and bishops forbidding not only vernacular translations but any reading at all, by laymen, of the Bible taken as a whole. In some ways this was the most scandalous aspect of the medieval Latin Church. From the Waldensians onwards, attempts to scrutinize the Bible became proof presumptive of heresy - a man or woman might burn for it alone - and, conversely, the heterodox were increasingly convinced that the Bible was incompatible with papal and clerical claims.” (Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 273)

        If these bans on Bible reading by Rome were only supposed to be temporary, then surely, successive popes would not have repeatedly issued them. Quotes on the prohibition of personal Bible reading from sources do not seem to indicate anything about being "temporary." If the motives of the Papacy were really to preserve doctrinal purity, then it would most certainly would have published and circulated doctrinally safe translations, rather than forbade them. Consider, for example, canon fourteen from the Council Of Toulouse which was assembled by Roman bishop Folquet de Marselha in AD 1229 for the express purpose of forbidding the laity access to the Holy Scriptures in vernacular languages:

          "We appoint, therefore, that the archbishops and bishops shall swear in one priest, and two or three laymen of good report, or more if they think fit, in every parish, both in and out of cities, who shall diligently, faithfully, and frequently seek out the heretics in those parishes, by searching all houses and subterranean chambers which lie under suspicion. And looking out for appendages or outbuildings, in the roofs themselves, or any other kind of hiding places, all which we direct to be destroyed. Directs that the house in which any heretic shall be found shall be destroyed. We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; unless anyone from motive of devotion should wish to have the Psalter or the Breviary for divine offices or the hours of the blessed Virgin; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books." (Canons 1, 6, 14)

        How come Jesus Christ and the apostles never took the scrolls from the Scribes and Pharisees who obviously promulgated doctrinal error? Why would any genuine Christian argue against translating the gift of God's Word for other people? Whatever happened to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44)? Why has Rome stopped persecuting so-called heretics today? Obviously, the Roman Catholic Church would have to admit that its conduct was evil. It would not pass the examination of knowing people by their fruits (Matthew 7:20). In other words, Rome is a bad tree which simply refuses to accept reproof. It is an arrogant church. It is a center for moral and political corruption.

        If it were not for the invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press in 1436, then, most likely, Bible translations in the common tongue would not exist today. If the Church of Rome truly was confident in possessing the truth, then it would not raise opposition to people examining its claims in light of an objective standard. If any of this were false, then can anybody account for the widespread biblical illiteracy amongst Roman Catholic circles? If Scripture is understandable, then why would we need an infallible interpreter in the first place? Even today, there are strict restrictions placed on Bible translations:

        Can. 825 § 1. "Books of the Sacred Scriptures cannot be published unless they have been approved either by the Apostolic See or by the conference of bishops; for their vernacular translations to be published it is required that they likewise be approved by the same authority and also annotated with necessary and sufficient explanations."

1 comment:

  1. Rome did have an approved English Bible published, with all the appropriate Papist commentary notes. I used to have one: The New American Bible. I used it for a long time for access to their commentaries for apologetics purposes. I finally got rid of it a couple years ago because it was taking up shelf space!

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