Subtitle: Roman Catholic doctrine teaches that only the Pope has the final authority to interpret the Holy Bible. What does the Bible say?
The following quote is from Paragraph 100 in the Catholic Catechism:
"The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him."
Yes, that is Paragraph 100 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church; I'm not making this up. Now, it is not saying that the Pope is the only one who does research. The Catholic Church has many scholars who study and interpret the texts of the Catholic Cannon in their original languages. It is saying that the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, and the bishops under him validate the correct view of Scripture. So, if you are a good Catholic, you should have the Catechism close by every time you read the Bible to guard you from forming independent and I dare say, heretical ideas.
The Catechism is a good example of this validation. I don't know the exact history of the production of the Catechism, but following is my best stab at what probably took place. Many scholars searched the traditions and codes of the Catholic tradition. They worked separately and together. They conferenced and they toiled. They inserted certain words and struck others. They boiled down the theological system in a huge and time consuming process. The Pope, the bishops, and many other card-carrying Catholic clergy reviewed the drafts and made suggestions. At last, the final draft was presented to the Pope. He looked it over, made some last minute changes, and then put his stamp upon it. And that's the point; the Pope decides what God actually says in the Scripture for all Catholics.
Let's examine Paragraph 100 word by word to get the full idea of the statement:
Interpreting: this is the process of explaining. In this statement, it means that the Pope explains the Bible for "the Church."
Word of God: the Catholic Cannon or roughly, the Bible plus some other stuff. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes things as the Word of God that the Protestants and Evangelicals would never. This partly explains why the veneration of Mary has come about (but let's not get off the subject).
Authentically: to me, this is the million dollar word of the statement. It is basically saying, "You can read the Bible for yourself, but you can never know its genuine meaning without consulting the Pope's interpretation." This thinking truly diminishes the importance of the Catholic to read his or her Bible. This thinking is illustrated by a story I heard from a lady in Ireland. She believed on Christ alone through the witness of a missionary church in Dublin, but she was afraid to leave "the Church" and become a member of the Baptist church. Being fearful of joining an unknown group, she went to her priest concerning their practice and beliefs. The priest responded, "Stay away from those Baptists -- they take the Bible seriously." The lady retorted, "Aren't we supposed to take the Bible seriously?"
Entrusted: this means that the Pope has been assigned with the duty of explaining Scripture. We ask, "By who?" The answer is God. Catholic doctrine holds the Pope, as an apostle in the line of Peter, has been given power, apostolic power, to explain what the Bible really means. The Pope's God-given job is to tell us what the Bible means. I say, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Solely: is the final word to focus on. It is saying that the Pope is the only one with the authority or right to decide what truth is. Never has such power belonged to a mortal man. The Pope is entitled to his opinion, but should he be the final word on the Word?
By my tone, you know that I disdain the idea of Papal authority over the Scripture. The concept is wholly against the teaching of the New Testament. A simple place to look at this is an interesting account in the 17th chapter of Acts: "And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (vv.10-11). These folks were hearing the preaching of an apostle and his assistant, but they did not just accept their teaching without question. They took the Scriptures they had (the Old Testament), and checked the various prophecies for themselves. Luke, the writer of Acts and the fellow worker of the Apostle Paul, regarded this as "noble" behavior. The Bereans were double-checking the teaching of Paul with the Word of God. In a "noble" fashion, they were deciding what truth was. Therefore, if the Pope claims to be an Apostle, let us check his teachings with the teachings of the Bible. If he is an Apostle, his teaching would match up to the testimony of Scripture.
Finally, let us look at some reasons why all Believers can look into the Scriptures for themselves and discern truth.
1. The message of the Bible is clear and plain. We should not have to worry about any "secret code" which is only available to those in seminaries. Psalm 19:7 says, "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple." The simple mind can understand, grow wise, and be changed by the clear teaching of Scripture.
2. All Believers are part of an ordained priesthood, equal in status with each other, equal in status before God. No Christian should be considered as having the corner on truth or able to overrule the conscience of another. We are accountable to Christ alone, our High Priest and Shepherd (1 Peter 2:2,3,9; Rev. 5:10).
3. Every Believer in Christ has the Holy Spirit to help in the discernment of what the Bible says. 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 teaches this: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man."
As Spirit-filled priests, we are able to see what God is saying in His wonderful Book. No man should be able to claim sole authority to truth unless that man is Jesus Christ, who is worthy to break open the seven-sealed book at the end of time. The root of this error in Paragraph 100 is that the Pope is regarded as the head representative of Christ on Earth and has been regarded as having the authority of Christ. Let us wholeheatedly deny and condemn this Catholic teaching and read our Bibles in the power of the Holy Spirit.
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