The Papacy’s Solid Foundation in the Bible
I have already dealt with the topic of this chapter in some length within my book, Sola Scriptura? What Scripture Alone Testifies Concerning the Church as the Body of Christ Expressing Himself in Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium: The Biblical Basis for the Early Church’s Formal Repudiation of Heretics, Which Is the Biblical Basis for Refuting Modern Doctrinally Liberal Christianity Which Likewise Rejects or Doubts Traditional Christian Faith and Morality. Hence, this chapter will consist of an excerpt from that book, from its Part II: Scripture’s Witness to Magisterium, which demonstrates the Biblical grounding of the Undivided First Millennium Christian Church’s consistent Eastern and Western acceptance of the papacy described in detail in the next chapter. I remind Protestant readers, whose instincts will be to try to interpret the Bible in a different way, one which denies the validity of the historical reality of the papacy based in these Scriptures, that such instincts are what has led the largest streams of the oldest and largest Protestant “mainline” churches to gradually lose their grip on many elements of traditional, fundamental, basic, saving Christian faith and morality as clarified in Early Church history largely under the papacy’s direction – meaning that it is important for currently orthodox Protestant/ Evangelical Christians to very seriously consider these Holy Scriptures and how they are here interpreted in support of the papacy, which is in accordance with the interpretation of the Undivided Early Church of East and West which recognized the papacy, as shown in the next chapter.
[Excerpt begins here]
Biblical Principle: Apostolic Magisterial (Teaching) Authority Is Guided by the Holy Spirit into All Truth (John 16:13)
Jesus’ words above testify to the existence of magisterial authority to lead and to teach the People of God divine truths even in the Old Covenant (Matthew 23:1-3). Jesus himself ordained the Apostles to lead and to teach divine truth to the New People of God, the Church. Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 is given only to the 11 Apostles remaining after the death of Judas (v.16). He instructs them to teach the truth and promises that He will always be with them. Earlier Jesus had promised the Apostles (only) that the Holy Spirit would “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:25-26). Moreover, Jesus told the Apostles (only), “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:12-13). So Jesus indicates that the fullness of the Truth is beyond everything he has taught them orally and the Holy Spirit will give the Apostles (not the common faithful) sure ongoing guidance in the understanding of the truth. John 20:21–23 records Jesus commissioning the Apostles and then actually giving them a special gift of the Holy Spirit including the ability to forgive sins. In Luke 10:16, seventy-two disciples (likely including The Twelve Apostles) who Jesus also personally commissioned and sent (Greek: apostello [ἀποςτεìλλω]) to preach are told by Jesus that “he who hears you, hears me; he who rejects you, rejects me,” indicating again a very special gift of the Holy Spirit, a genuine authority and a charism (spiritual gift) of truth given to the Apostles for the purpose of preaching and teaching that truth. The Bible testifies that such a spiritual gift exists as part of Apostolic authority.
Biblical Principle: Apostolic Authority Is Passed on to the Overseer/Bishop/Eparchs in an Apostolic Succession Which Is Guided by the Holy Spirit
Judas Iscariot’s Apostolic Office was passed on after his death. Finding a successor to him was important enough to be the first order of business after Jesus’ Ascension (Acts 1:17-26). The office was holy, even though the man was not. And there was an Apostolic Succession of his office. Judas’ office of authority in Acts 1:20 is episkope [ἐπιςκοπη] in the original Greek, translated as “bishopric” in older translations like the King James, a word sometimes still used today to describe a bishop (or overseer)’s jurisdiction. Episkope is also used in 1 Timothy 3:1 to describe the office of authority of a bishop (older translations) or overseer, which is the related term episkopos [ἐπιìςκοπος] in the original Greek. Episkopos appears all over the New Testament to describe the Church Leaders the Apostles personally commissioned to lead the local Churches after they left. Clearly, Judas’ Apostolic office or bishopric (episkope) which was passed on is directly related to the later office and title of bishop or overseer (episkopos) which was given by the Apostles to their successors in Church leadership. Jesus himself is later referred to in Scripture as the ultimate “Shepherd and Bishop (episkopos) of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25 KJV), implying that the local bishops the Christian faithful interact with participate in the authority which Jesus himself gave to the Apostles who commissioned the overseer/bishops (who are called “eparchs” in the English-speaking Eastern Churches, a translation closer to the Bible’s episkopos. The eparch’s jurisdiction, Greek episkope, is referred to as an “eparchy,” while modern English-speaking Roman Catholic overseer/bishops today usually use the term “diocese” for their jurisdiction rather than bishopric).
Judas was one of the Twelve Apostles specially trained by Jesus, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel and establishing the Church as the New Israel, the new People of God. His immediate successor, chosen before Pentecost (Acts 2) when the Church spread out from its place of origin to encompass the whole world, had to be one who had witnessed Jesus’ entire ministry and resurrection (Acts 1:21-22), in order to serve as one of this foundational Twelve. After Pentecost, the authoritative Apostolic Church Leadership office is passed on to more than twelve, and to people who had never met Jesus in the flesh, to accommodate the growing Church (which was meant to encompass all humanity, and not just ethnic Israel with its 12 tribes). That this Episcopal (from episkope) Church Leadership is indeed still passed on through Apostolic Succession as in the case of Judas is further demonstrated in the Bible by the fact that those Apostolic Church Leaders like the Twelve and Paul (himself post-Pentecost) appointed or “sent forth” (the Greek word apostolos [ἀποìςτολος ] literally means, “one sent forth”) Church Leaders to carry on after them like Timothy, Silas, Barnabas and others who are also referred to in Scripture as Apostles (Barnabas in Acts 14:14 and 14:4, Timothy and Silas in 1 Thessalonians 2:6, who are the “we” with Paul [see 1 Thessalonians 1:1], Andronicus and Junias in Romans 16:7, etc.). That this Apostolic Succession is guided by the Holy Spirit is testified to in Acts 1:24-25. Under Peter’s leadership the Apostles prayed to God, “Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left” – and then they cast lots to determine the Holy Spirit’s choice.
Though this fact belongs to Tradition, that is, “the Bible as lived in Christian history” and not to the Scripture “alone,” it is certainly worth noting that the Early Church Fathers, the actual leaders of the Church after the Apostles died, understood this Biblical Principle of Apostolic Succession of authority, understood themselves to have this Apostolic authority, and they actually used it successfully to defend the Apostolic Christian faith against the challenges of many heretics with their different fundamental interpretations of the Bible throughout the following centuries.
Biblical Principle: There is a Pinnacle of Apostolic Authority in Peter, the Chief Apostle
The Scriptures Clearly Testify Peter was the Chief Apostle
Whenever Christ’s Apostles are listed in the Scriptures, Peter is always listed first. Moreover, Matthew’s gospel explicitly calls him “the first” (Matthew 10:2). Now Peter was not Jesus’ first apostle in order of time – his brother Andrew and another preceded him, and Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus (John 1:37 – 42). So why is Peter called “the first?” The Greek word Matthew uses (protos [πρωˆτος]) was commonly used to denote primacy of rank or pre-eminence. In fact, protos is translated into English as either “first” or “chief” whenever it appears in the Scriptures – even in the same translation of the same Gospel (e.g. Matthew in the KJV), protos is translated as “first” or “chief” interchangeably. So just as some translations translate protos in Matthew 20:27 “whoever would be first among you,” while other translations say, “whoever would be chief among you,” Matthew 10:2 is validly translated as referring to “Peter, the chief” of the Apostles. Even the Ancient Greek Translation of the Old Testament used by the Apostles (the Septuagint) uses protos to identify the chief priest of Israel, e.g. in Nehemiah 12:46 and 2 Chronicles 26:20. He is the “first priest” or “chief priest.” Peter’s identification as protos is an identification of rank over the other Apostles.
Peter in the Scriptures is not only given the title of Chief Apostle, he consistently acts like the Chief Apostle. Peter frequently is the spokesman who speaks what is on the mind of the whole group of Apostles, and he is the only one to do so. The whole group of Apostles is sometimes referred to as “Peter and those with him” or similar (e.g. Mark 1:36, Luke 9:32, 8:45, Acts 2:37). Others including the other Apostles consistently treat Peter like the Chief Apostle. In Matthew 17:24, those who collected the Temple tax went to Peter as the representative of the group who was with Jesus. The Angel at the empty tomb singles out Peter, telling the women to go tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus was going before them to Galilee (Mark 16:7). John, the Beloved Disciple, arrives at the empty tomb first but waits for Peter to get there and lets Peter go in first (John 20:3-8). Simon Peter is even singled out by Jesus as the first of His disciples that Jesus appears to (Luke 24:34), and this fact is considered important enough to be included in the earliest creedal statement of the primitive Church received and passed on by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, see verse 5.
The Scriptures Testify the Chief Apostle Is Given Authority Greater than That of the Other Apostles
Most significant of all, Jesus says many things to Peter which He says to no other Apostle, giving Peter greater responsibility and authority than the rest of the Apostles. Jesus says things only to Simon Peter like “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you [Greek plural, indicating all the Apostles] as wheat. But I have prayed for you [singular], Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you [singular] have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus here bestows responsibility for the other Apostles, the other Church Leaders, onto Peter. The Apostle John (who arrived at the empty tomb first but waited for Peter) makes a particular point of recording that the post-Resurrection Jesus later goes on to single out Peter from among the other Apostles and direct only Peter to “feed my lambs, feed my sheep,” while following Him (John 21:15-19), suggesting He bestows on Peter in a special way the responsibility for the shepherding, the pastoral care, of all of Jesus’ flock, the entire, Universal (that is, Catholic) Church. See below for discussions on the particularly great significance of Jesus in Matthew 16:18 uniquely identifying Peter as the Rock upon which He will build His Church, and especially His telling Peter in Matthew 16:19, “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven,” which clearly alludes to how the Old Testament designated that unique and special authority rested upon someone.
Peter, Cephas, Kepha (Rock) – The Office of the Rock on Which Jesus’ Church is Built
Immediately before Jesus gives Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 16 (the great Biblical significance of which will be dealt with next), He says (v.18) “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Scott Butler et al (in Jesus, Peter and the Keys) are far more thorough in making this point (with extensive quotations from Protestant scholars), but the fact is that although Protestants during the Protestant Reformation argued that the rock on which the Church is built is not Peter, but something else, (perhaps Peter’s powerful preaching in Acts when the Church began, Peter’s faith, or his preceding confession of Jesus as Son of God), modern Protestant scholars of all denominations are virtually unanimous in recognizing that this interpretation is not textually or linguistically valid, but only comes from the bias of the Early Protestants who were motivated to discredit the Catholic identification of the rock as Peter because it was used to help legitimize the Papacy (the Petrine Office or the Office which Peter held among the Apostles), the authority against which they were protesting. These Protestant scholars remain Protestant: they simply acknowledge that scholarly textual and linguistic honesty demands that the Protestant rejection of the papacy must be based on other arguments than the idea that Peter is not the rock on which Jesus says His Church is built. I note they do not give any compelling arguments on which to base this rejection instead.
The early Protestants felt they had a case in saying that “the rock” was distinct from “Peter” because, as in English, they are two words in the Greek original (the feminine noun rock is petra and the masculine proper name Peter is Petros). However, Aramaic, a close variant of Hebrew, was the language spoken in the Holy Land at the time. In the Aramaic Jesus actually spoke to Peter, the words are identical: kepha. “You are Kepha, and upon this kepha I will build my Church.” In English Bibles, Peter is sometimes called Cephas (e.g., John 1:42), which is the English transliteration of the New Testament’s Greek approximation of the Aramaic word kepha, “which, when translated, is rock” (John 1:42). Petra is the Greek word for rock, so naturally the New Testament authors, writing in Greek, most often use the Greek form of Peter’s Aramaic name Kepha or Cephas. Since petra is a feminine noun, however, not appropriate to use as a masculine name, proper grammar demanded petra be masculinized to Petros. The demands of proper grammar when translating from Aramaic to Greek is the only reason there is any distinction at all between “Peter” and “the rock” in Matthew 16:18. And in fact it is very likely that Matthew actually first wrote his gospel in Aramaic, recording no distinction.1 Moreover, as Jesus, Peter, and the Keys describes in more detail, the grammar of the sentence is one of emphasis on the repeated word, so that it would be legitimate to translate Matthew 16:18 “you are Rock, and upon this very rock I will build my Church.”
It seems to me that it is also very significant that Jesus sets Peter up for this unique declaration about Peter in Matthew 16:18 right at the moment He meets him. Peter’s given name is Simon, son of John. When Andrew first introduces Simon to Jesus in John 1:37-42, Jesus renames him Peter (Kepha, “rock”). Interestingly, there is no ancient textual or other evidence that “rock” was used as a proper name before this time, in Aramaic or Greek! So it looks like Jesus, knowing the unique role Simon Peter will have in His Church, meets Simon for the first time and gives him a new name that nobody has ever had as a name before (Kepha), just so He can later use that name to tell him “You are Kepha, and upon this kepha I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” David B. Currie notes that Jesus is saying that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church built on Peter. The unique office of “the Rock” passed down in Peter’s successors, the popes, throughout history to this day is the primary source of Church unity and orthodoxy in faith among over 1 billion Catholic Christians – the Church is truly built upon this Rock, which allows it to withstand Satan’s attacks on its unity and orthodoxy. Without this Rock, the Eastern Orthodox Churches no longer in Catholic Communion maintain Christian orthodoxy but no worldwide unity, as they are a relatively small collection of ethnic churches (who increasingly disagree with each other – today there are even 3 separate denominations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church!). The Protestant churches are not only incredibly disunified with 35,000 distinct denominations and counting, but they are also very prone to lose the fundamental, basic Christian orthodoxy (to liberalism/modernism) on which the Catholic Church has never wavered for 2000 years.2 The Church built on Peter has perfectly maintained traditional fundamental Christian orthodoxy in its official teaching, along with maintaining an unparalleled worldwide Christian unity amongst its members throughout history and among over 1 billion members today (despite the personal failures of individual Catholics throughout history, which are to be expected from the Church that Satan will attack with all his power).
The Biblical Significance of the Keys Which Jesus (The Promised Everlasting Messianic Davidic King) Gave to Peter:
In the Old Testament the King in Line from David Gave the Keys to the Royal Minister Given Authority to Function as the “Prime Minister,” Managing the Daily Affairs of the Kingdom on Behalf of the Davidic King
The above simple Biblical testimony is more than enough to establish the Biblical Principle that Peter was truly the Chief Apostle. But it is worth a more theological discussion of the following Scripture testimony in this regard to flesh out the significance of Jesus appointing a Chief Apostle. Among the many significant things which Jesus says only to Peter to show that He is making Peter the pinnacle of the Apostolic authority in His Church, surely the most significant is when Jesus tells Peter in Matthew 16:19, “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven.” Protestants act as if the keys were effectively meaningless, but the keys Jesus gives to Peter are obviously important, or Jesus would not present them to Peter at all, never mind in such manner at such a significant moment. And Protestants foolishly do not look to their whole Bible to help discern just what the keys mean in the unity of the whole Bible. Scott Butler et al in the book Jesus, Peter & the Keys make a detailed case for the extreme significance of Jesus giving Peter the “Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” based on the way keys were symbolic of special authority in the Old Testament Scriptures.3 They are the keys, which symbolize special authority, to the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God, which Jesus talked about all the time. “Kingdom of Heaven,” and “Kingdom of God” are interchangeable terms – Matthew, writing primarily to Jews, observed the Jewish tradition of not naming God out of respect, so he consistently speaks of the “Kingdom of Heaven” in parallel passages where the other Evangelists speak of the “Kingdom of God” (in Matthew 19:23,24 Jesus repeats his point in different words, exchanging “Kingdom of Heaven” for “Kingdom of God,” confirming their equivalence in one passage). This Kingdom, which Jesus says “has come upon you,” (Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20), can be none other than the everlasting Messianic Kingdom which God promised to David and his Messianic descendant (2 Samuel 7:11-16, 1 Chronicles 17:10-14), the everlasting Davidic Kingdom prophecy of which the angel declared to Mary would in fact be fulfilled in her son Jesus:
“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33)
Even Elizabeth seems to have understood this. “Mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:43) is how Luke translated into Greek whatever Elizabeth called Mary in the Aramaic spoken in Palestine at the time, a variant of Hebrew. It is entirely possible that Elizabeth actually used the Hebrew word Gebirah, literally “Great Lady,” the title of the Davidic Queens, who were all the Mothers of the reigning Davidic King. “Mother of my Lord (the King)” would certainly be an equivalent expression to the Hebrew Gebirah. Elizabeth, as a Jew, knew that if her cousin Mary was mother of the promised Messianic Davidic King, the descendent of David who God promised would rule forever, that made her cousin Mary the Gebirah, the Queen, the “Mother of my Lord (the King).”
In the Old Testament “the keys of the House of David” were given by the Davidic King to the one who would act as his “Prime Minister” who authoritatively managed the daily affairs of the Kingdom on the King’s behalf, and Jesus the King gave Peter the Keys of His Kingdom with their power to “bind and loose” just days after He proclaimed the prophesied coming of the everlasting (spiritual) Kingdom of David’s Messianic Son (the Kingdom which Jesus says “has come upon you”) by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey just as David’s immediate son Solomon had done when he was crowned the first Davidic King after David (see 1 Kings 1:28-48; Gihon in this passage is the spring in Jerusalem south of the Temple area). The “triumphal entry” crowd joyfully received Jesus as Messiah when He entered Jerusalem on a donkey, singing “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9) and “blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38) specifically because by doing this Jesus was publicly declaring Himself to be:
1) the Messiah, David’s Son;
2) in royal line from David and from Solomon who had been received at Jerusalem in the same manner for his crowning;
3) and the prophesied Davidic King of Zechariah 9:9-10 (“Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you … riding on a donkey”) and many other prophecies.
All this indicates that the historical, political, earthly Davidic Kingdom is a type which foreshadows the promised everlasting, spiritual and Heavenly Kingdom of David’s Messianic son Jesus. One prominent feature of the earthly Davidic Kingdom was the “Prime Minister” who held the keys of the Kingdom and managed the daily affairs of the Kingdom on behalf of the Davidic King – so Jesus giving Peter the keys of the Kingdom designates Peter as the “Prime Minister” of the promised everlasting (spiritual) Davidic Kingdom Jesus proclaimed at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with authority to manage its daily affairs on Earth for King Jesus. The Kingdom of which the Church Jesus told Peter He would build upon him at the same time He gave Peter the keys is the seed – the Church, meant to encompass all humanity under the saving reign of David’s Messianic son Jesus, is the beginning of the Kingdom which is not fulfilled completely until the end of time. The Scripture James the Apostle and first overseer of Jerusalem quotes in support of Peter’s declaration during the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council which decided Church policy regarding the admittance of Gentiles into the Church (Amos 9:11-12) is a prophecy about the Messianic Davidic Kingdom, which shows that James understood the Christian Church to be the promised Everlasting Kingdom. All members of the Church, the Body of Christ, are also members of the Kingdom of King Jesus (the Church and the Kingdom in fact can be regarded as simply the Earthly or the Heavenly perspective upon the same mysterious reality of the Body of Christ).
It is likely that only Matthew records Jesus giving Peter the keys because Matthew wrote specifically to Jews who would understand the significance of the keys in the Davidic Kingdom. Jews who knew their Bible would know that keys were symbolic of special authority – whereas the gentile audience of Mark and Luke and John would not comprehend what Jesus’ giving the keys to Peter meant. But Matthew’s Jewish audience who knew their Jewish Bible would catch the obvious allusion to Isaiah 22:22’s keys of the House of David that “open and shut” in Jesus the Messianic Son of David giving Peter keys of the Kingdom of Heaven that “bind and loose,” and they would understand that Jesus was here giving Peter special authority in Jesus’ spiritual Kingdom on Earth, which is the Church, the only place on Earth where Jesus reigns as King. And in the Book of Acts, we repeatedly see Peter initiating what actually gets done or gets decided in the primitive Church – he is recognized as the leader of the Church, the “Prime Minister” among the other ministers (the Apostles) of Jesus’ spiritual Kingdom.
In any case, it would be irresponsible Bible study, disrespectful of the Holy Scriptures, to not consider Matthew 16:19, where Jesus tells Peter “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven” in the light of Isaiah 22:22 and Revelation 3:7: the parallels are so obvious that (at least) the Divine Author of the Scriptures clearly intends us to see parallels between these Scriptures. Speaking of Eliakim, who will be the “Prime Minister” holding the key of David, God says through the prophet, “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” ( Isaiah 22:22). And Jesus in Revelation 3:7, speaking of Himself, says, “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”
First of all, the Old Testament holder of the key of David, with his definitive authority/power from the King to “open and shut,” the “Prime Minister” who wields authority over the Davidic Kingdom, its capital in Jerusalem, “will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah” on behalf of the King (Isaiah 22:21). Then Jesus, days after announcing the coming of the promised Messianic Davidic Kingdom in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem deliberately patterned after Solomon’s entry intro Jerusalem to be crowned the first Davidic King, gives Peter the keys of His (Davidic) Kingdom, confirming that these keys likewise come with the definitive authority/power to “bind and loose,” clearly paralleling “open and shut.” The authority conferred with the keys of the Messianic Davidic Kingdom are of a higher level than that conferred by the keys of the earthly Davidic Kingdom: Eliakim can “open and shut” any door in Jerusalem and Judah, but Peter can “bind and loose” on earth and in Heaven. The keys are clearly connected with the Davidic Kingdom because of the clear Old Testament parallel and so on, and clearly connected with the Church which Jesus immediately before told Peter He would build upon Peter as a rock foundation (Matthew 16:18). In the book of Revelation which concerns the end of time, Jesus again confirms that He is the Davidic King, the one who holds (and owns) the key of David with its authority/power to “open and shut” – which he distributes as he wills, as he earlier gave it to Peter. But at the end of time there will be no need for anyone but Jesus to hold the key of David with its authority. As Eliakim the holder of the key “will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah” on behalf of the Davidic King, so Peter (and his successors) who holds the keys will be a father4 to those in the Kingdom of God on behalf of King Jesus, Peter will take care of Jesus’ “sheep” given to him (John 21:15-19), but this responsibility of earthly management of Jesus’ Kingdom will end “in that day” at the end of time, as Isaiah 22:25 suggests.
Whatever questions may be asked of the above Biblical theology, which is in concert with the Catholic understanding of the pope’s authority as the successor of Peter, there is a great deal of Biblical evidence presented in this section which clearly demonstrates that at the very least Peter was the Chief Apostle (whatever the full implications of this are for the Church). But for all the use Protestants make of these many Scriptures relating to Peter’s pinnacle authority in the Church, all of these Scripture passages may as well not even be in the Bible, because they have no impact whatsoever on Protestant theology and doctrine. Protestants either ignore them or study them only in order to develop an excuse which they think justifies their ignoring them, so that they do not have to deal with the reality of the papacy which in historical fact existed (at least implicitly, as in Clement of Rome) since apostolic times5 and which used the authority to “bind and loose” to defend and even to define the fundamentals of Christian faith against the heretics.6 But these many passages are in fact in the Scriptures, and so the challenge of the Scriptures to Protestants is to make positive use of them, to seek to discover why the Holy Spirit thought it was important that all this testimony concerning Peter be in the Holy Scriptures.7
Understandable Protestant Concerns about the Magisterial Church Offices (Especially the Petrine Office of the Papacy) and Why They Are Unfounded
This section briefly leaves the Biblical discussion in order to address specific concerns and objections which I know Protestant readers have. As a former Evangelical Protestant Christian, I know that Evangelical and other conservative Protestant Christians have concerns that although the Catholic Church’s Magisterium, especially the office of the pope, has consistently supported traditional Christian morality and the fundamental doctrines of traditional Christian orthodoxy, it has also supported some doctrines which Protestants believe compromise that orthodoxy. Obviously, I am now a Catholic Christian (Byzantine Rite, not Roman Rite) because I no longer have any fear that those doctrines Protestants are concerned about are in any way inconsistent with the common Christian fundamentals which were in fact first explicitly proclaimed against the early heretics by the very same Catholic Magisterium.
The Secondary Doctrines (Especially Marian Doctrines) the Papacy Has Supported Do Not Compromise the Common Christian Fundamentals as Protestants Fear
I realize that some Evangelical and other Protestant readers may still be wary of the Living Catholic Magisterium even after reading about this Biblical support of it and learning that it has in fact successfully defended the orthodox fundamentals of traditional Christian faith much better than Protestant Christianity has, because they believe that that Magisterium has also supported doctrines which they believe compromise the basic Christian truths, especially doctrines concerning Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As a former Evangelical Protestant Christian, I had all the same concerns, but I found that the Catholic Marian doctrines, properly understood, are all well rooted in Scripture and were all developed explicitly in the Living Sacred Tradition of the Christian Church from the earliest times. It is in fact the Church leaders (like Saint Irenaeus, the Church’s first systematic theologian) in episcopal succession from John, who lived with Mary (John 19:27), who first early on developed Catholic Marian ideas as part of their successful defense of the Christian fundamentals against the heretics! Liberal Protestant Christians today would be less likely to doubt or deny the the Divinity of Jesus, the true Incarnation of God the Son in Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, if they had a Catholic understanding of Mary, His true mother and source of His human nature. All of the Catholic doctrines concerning Mary are based on theological reflection upon the fundamental Christian belief in the Incarnation (enfleshment) of God the Son in Jesus Christ through Mary’s virgin birth, and the insight that Mary – who believed the angel’s message (Luke 1:38), who pondered her experience of God Incarnate in her son Jesus in her heart (Luke 2:19), who was around during His ministry from His first miracle at Cana to His Cross, and who was part of the praying Christian Church from its beginning (Acts 1:14) – is the first believer in Jesus, the first disciple of Jesus, the first Christian, who, because of her unique relationship with Him as His true mother, is the first merely human member of Christ’s Body, the Church, who goes before the rest of us every place we will go as humans beings who like Mary have been saved by Jesus. Far from compromising the basic fundamental Christian truths which the same Catholic Magisterium officially defined against the heretics, the Catholic Marian doctrines are merely “an appendix to Christology,” developed within the framework of the fundamentals by the same early Living Tradition and Living Magisterium of Christ’s Body the Church which defined the fundamentals and so they do not compromise them in any way. I recommend that readers who still have any concerns about the Catholic Magisterium and about its support of Marian doctrines read Volume II of So That The World May Believe, entitled Who is Mary in the Church? Understanding Highly Developed Catholic Mariology and the Mediatrix of All Graces Doctrine: Linking Christ the Head to His Body the Church Through Mary, First Believer in Jesus and First Member of the Body, In Ways Which Protect the Traditional Christian Fundamental Truths about Mary’s Fully Divine Yet Fully Human Son Jesus from Heresies Ancient and Modern.8
“Papal Infallibility” Does Not Mean What Protestants Fear it Means: the Pope Instead Is Accountable to Uphold and Defend the Traditional Christian Scriptures and Fundamentals Against All Challenges Throughout History and Infallibility Helps Him Do This
Catholic Christians believe that in the ongoing maintenance of Christian orthodoxy throughout all time, with ever-new challenges to traditional Christian faith appearing, the Living Catholic Magisterium of every age is important in the gradual explication of the previously more implicit Christian faith since ancient times (the process of the Ecumenical Councils), and that this Magisterium has a pinnacle in the pope, the chief overseer/bishop and Head Pastor of the entire Christian Church. As Peter the Chief Apostle often spoke for all of the Apostles, and first declared on his own the truth of the disputed matter of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, Catholics believe Peter’s Successor the pope, the chief overseer/bishop, is capable, in a very limited set of circumstances, of being the mouthpiece for the Holy Spirit-guided Living Body of Christ the Church even without an Ecumenical Council of all the overseer/bishop/eparchs together with him, which is the more common way for the Living Body of Christ to express itself at the highest level of authority, in order to clarify and more precisely define some element of traditional Christian faith or morality which has come to be challenged.
Non-Catholic Christians today usually grossly misunderstand the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility (which itself can be traced back to the early centuries of Christianity in less explicit form, especially in the 517 AD Creed of Pope Saint Hormisdas which was accepted throughout the Early Church, East and West). The doctrine absolutely does NOT mean that “whatever the pope says, goes” for Catholic Christians, which is what non-Catholic Christians fear it means (so they need not fear). Papal infallibility only means that under a very rigid and limited set of circumstances (which has very rarely occurred in history), the otherwise entirely normal and humanly fallible pope is capable of making explicit “binding and loosing” (Matthew 16:18-19) pronouncements relating only to Christian faith and morals for the purpose of preserving the ancient (often initially implicit) Christian faith as passed on in the Living Church, in new eras with new challenges to traditional Christian faith, pronouncements which are preserved from error by the Holy Spirit (independent of an Ecumenical Council, which together with the pope also makes such Holy Spirit-guided infallible pronouncements). Thus the living pope can only define more clearly and precisely things which go back to the Early Church at least in more primitive and implicit form, generating no entirely new doctrines, and he has no authority to contradict the previous infallible pronouncements of popes and Ecumenical Councils (which are part of the already-clarified Deposit of Christian faith it is his responsibility as Head Pastor of the Church to preserve) – which means that the Catholic Church can never doubt or deny the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy, pronounced by the early popes and Ecumenical Councils of ordained overseers/bishops eparchs, as so many Protestant denominations (including the one I was raised in) have.
The Catholic Church (in all its varied Rites or Sister Churches) believes in all the traditional, orthodox fundamentals of Christianity because it believes in these Apostolic Church offices (overseers/ bishops/ eparchs and patriarchs with the pope as their chief) as rooted in the Mystery of “Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:32) revealed in the Bible, which makes the Church with its offices “the pillar and foundation of the truth”(1 Timothy 3:15). Protestant/Evangelical Christians have numerous concerns about the papacy and the Apostolic Succession of overseer/ bishop/eparchs, which should be discussed with Catholic and Orthodox Christians in brotherly Christian love, recognizing that whatever their concerns, however they think Church offices might be handled better, at least these offices to this day have kept ALL the Catholic and Orthodox Churches fundamentally orthodox, whereas liberal Protestant Churches doubt or deny the traditional fundamentals of Christianity precisely because as Protestants they do not believe the popes and overseer/ bishop/eparchs of the Early Ecumenical Councils had genuine Apostolic authority to settle for all time the major disputes among early Christians as to the Bible’s only proper interpretation with respect to the fundamental tenets of Christian faith (and the Bible’s Canon).
Once Understanding the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility, it Is Clear That Galatians 2:11-14 in No Way Contradicts It, as Some Protestants Have Claimed
Note that the fact Peter was once rebuked by Paul for (temporarily) not living according to the truth and falling into sin (as recorded in Galatians 2:11 – 14) says nothing about Peter’s authority as Chief Apostle being invalid in any way. Many later saints of the Church also rebuked Peter’s Successors, the popes, for their human weaknesses and sins and reminded them of their accountability before God, while still respecting their holy and authoritative office as Pope. This is just another example of a sadly very typical Protestant tendency to not bother to educate themselves about what Catholic Christians actually believe, to not try to dialogue with Catholic Christians to clarify the subtleties about what Catholics believe and identify their own Protestant misperceptions of what Catholics believe, yet they try to find Bible verses which contradict what Protestants mistakenly think Catholics believe, so that they can smugly (and uselessly) say “see, the Catholics are wrong because of this verse which contradicts what (I mistakenly think) Catholics believe.” The doctrine of papal infallibility has extremely limited applications, and in no way means that either Peter or his successors the popes were infallible generally nor that they were perfect, sinless people. Papal infallibility only applies to the extremely rare dogmatic pronouncements of popes and papal guidance of Ecumenical Councils of the kind that in history clarified and established the very fundamental doctrines of orthodox Christianity against heretical challenges, and in settlement of early Christian controversies. And without believing in papal infallibility as a function of the Church as truly the Body of Christ Himself, no Christian can be truly sure that the traditional Christian fundamentals which in historical fact were clarified or ratified (against alternate Bible interpretations) by popes and the Councils they guided are truly divinely revealed (hence the widespread Protestant “doctrinal liberalism” which no longer believes the basic Christian truths with certainty).
Even the Cases of Bad Popes in History Supply Evidence That the Papacy Is Specially Graced by God with Infallibility, since Even Morally Bad Popes in History Were Prevented from Ever Using their Papal Office to Teach Heresy
In general the popes of history are strongly associated with the defense of Christian orthodoxy against heresies. A great many popes besides Pope Saint Leo the Great (who clarified and established “Jesus is fully God and fully man” as fundamental Christian orthodoxy against the 5th Century Monophysite heretics) were the champions of orthodox Christianity against heretics in their day. And when the Patriarch of Alexandria Saint Athanasius (who in 367 AD first proposed the 27-book New Testament Canon as we know it today), the great defender of the Divinity of Jesus against the Arian heretics who had temporarily swayed half the Church and had had Athanasius exiled, needed shelter, it was the Pope in Rome who gave him refuge.
There are some exceptions to this general rule, but even these supply evidence of the specially graced nature of the papal office which is incapable of misusing its authority to teach heresy. The one pope in all of history later accused of personally being a heretic, Honorius, on the basis of one private letter of his, inexplicably never used his office as pope to teach or promote in the Church the Monothelite heresy he apparently personally believed (he is accused mainly of not using his papal office to help stamp out the Monothelite heresy, as his successor Pope Saint Agatho did together with the 6th Ecumenical Council which formally acknowledged Pope Agatho as “the Head of the Church”).
Similarly, Vigilius was a heretic and the thrall of a heretic Empress who installed him as an anti-pope (not legitimately ordained) after she exiled the true pope for his orthodoxy. Once the true pope died and Vigilius’s heretic Empress used political power to force the Christian overseer/bishop/eparchs to legitimately ordain him pope, he inexplicably after his ordination stopped teaching heresy, and he betrayed his Empress by starting to teach the true Christian faith even though he suffered a slow martyrdom at her hands for it.
Even in the cases of those several personally immoral popes of history who acquired the position through various political machinations during dark times when the Church was bullied into largely being the pawn of the State, and/or had sought the spiritual position dishonestly because it came with civil governorship of the Papal States which had been donated to the Church,9 these grossly unworthy popes also inexplicably never used their authority to promote heresy or seek to change the orthodox Christian faith (in not a few cases, such popes died suddenly and/or mysteriously).
I will digress further from the more scholarly Biblical presentation to here posit that all of this indicates that the office is indeed divinely graced to support the unity and fundamental orthodoxy of the Christian Church. The Pope is still today the symbol and guardian of the unity and the orthodoxy of just over half of the world’s 2 Billion professed Christians, and over 70% of the world’s “doctrinally conservative” or fundamentally orthodox Christians, since half of the non-Catholic half of the world’s professed Christians are “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox Protestant Christians! I certainly understand the Protestant concerns that the papacy means one man has too much power in the Church, which they fear will be used to alter the orthodox Christian faith, as they think it already has by more recently dogmatizing the ancient Marian doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption which Protestants regard to be early errors (when they are even aware of how old these doctrines are!). But I have shown (see Volume II: Who is Mary in the Church? Understanding Highly Developed Catholic Mariology and the Mediatrix of All Graces Doctrine: Linking Christ the Head to His Body the Church Through Mary, First Believer in Jesus and First Member of the Body, In Ways Which Protect the Traditional Christian Fundamental Truths about Mary’s Fully Divine Yet Fully Human Son Jesus from Heresies Ancient and Modern) that, even if Protestants continue to disagree with these doctrines, they not only do not compromise the orthodox fundamentals of traditional Christian faith, they actually defend them against the early heretics and modern “liberals.” Eastern & Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians who all have a developed Mariology and Marian devotion all unfailingly worship Jesus as God, considering it the highest act of Christian worship to have Holy Communion with the Divine Jesus in the Bread and Wine as He instructed. It is only Protestants who reject Catholic Mariology who are so prone to doubt Jesus’ Divinity or cease to worship Jesus as Divine at all, becoming “doctrinally liberal” or “unorthodox” or “heretical.”
The Papacy Has Already Passed the Hardest Tests History Could Throw at It: If it Was Possible the Holy Spirit Could Allow Popes to Dogmatically Teach Heresy and Mislead the Catholic Church Away from Fundamental Christian Orthodoxy (like “Mainline” Protestant Churches), it Would Already Have Happened
History itself demonstrates the Protestant fears about the papacy ungrounded, since the papacy has already passed the hardest tests that history could throw at it. I think it is very reasonable to argue that if there was any chance that God would allow a pope to use his authority as pope to officially deny or change traditional, fundamental orthodox Christian truth because the papal office was not actually divinely graced, surely it would have already happened in the last 2000 years. But in actual historical fact, even during the darkest of dark ages, when the popes along with society had sunk to the deepest levels of moral degradation, the official teaching of the Catholic Church pastored by popes has remained steadfastly orthodox – while in less than 500 years of Protestantism (well past such dark ages), the numerical bulk of Protestants are “doctrinal liberals” who are unsure of or who deny Christian fundamentals. Even the Anglican/Episcopalian Church, the Protestant Church most like the Early Church, which maintains the Early Church’s overseer/bishop structure but not the papacy, in its largest stream is entirely “liberal,” compromising traditional Christian faith and morality. I find it very inconsistent that Protestant Christians who may otherwise be attracted to the Catholic Church might choose to not become Catholic due to the ungrounded fear that the Catholic pope has too much power and might one day compromise Christian orthodoxy within the Catholic Church even though this has never happened in 2000 years, and so they remain in a Protestant church – when many Protestant churches have in fact compromised basic Christian orthodoxy in only the last 500 years! They and their children and grandchildren who they want to remain orthodox Christians would be much safer in the Catholic Church, especially since it is not in fact even possible for a pope to ever contradict any previous infallible Catholic dogma including all the common fundamentals of traditional, orthodox Christianity.
Whatever papal or other concerns about Catholic doctrine or practice or Church history an Evangelical or other Protestant Christian may have, I can assure them that there are good Catholic answers to all of them, because I had the same concerns, and a deep-rooted prejudice against the Catholic Church, all of which through prayerful research and coming to understand the nature of Christ’s Body, the Church, as testified to in the Bible, I was able to lay to rest so that I could enter into a deeper relationship with God than I ever thought possible.
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© 2005, 2009 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
Go To Chapter 5: The Papacy’s Solid Foundation in Undivided Early Church History Since Apostolic Times:
The Papacy’s Long and Wide Acceptance in the East Before the 2nd Millennium Schism of the Largest Portions of the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches from the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion of Orthodox Eastern and Western Catholic Sister Churches Collectively known as the Catholic Church
1 As an interesting aside, it is likely that Matthew originally wrote his gospel in Aramaic, so that in the original text there was no distinction at all, but Matthew 16:18 originally read “You are Kepha, and upon this kepha I will build my Church.” It is well known that Matthew specifically intended his gospel for an audience of Jews. He uses far more Jewish terms and writes of more Jewish customs than the other evangelists, and he does not explain Jewish terms and customs like the other gospel authors do; he also constantly refers to the Jewish Messianic prophecies, etc. Thus it makes sense that he might have written his gospel first in Aramaic, a variant of Hebrew, the language of the Jews in Palestine where he himself lived. The reason this is actually very likely is because the overseer/bishop Saint Irenaeus (who was ordained and trained by the bishop and martyr Saint Polycarp, who was taught by the Apostle John himself), in writing of the history of Christianity from his very close vantage point to the events, writes in his famous Against Heresies that Matthew first wrote his gospel in Aramaic, which Matthew himself later translated into Greek. Even though there are now no copies of Matthew’s gospel in Aramaic extant, seeing as it is from the writings of Irenaeus and others Early Church Fathers like him that we even know that Matthew and Mark and Luke and John were the ones who wrote the gospels attributed to them (the authors do not identify themselves) it is quite reasonable to take Irenaeus’ word for it. Greek being the common language of the Roman Empire at the time, it is natural that the Greek version would have been more popular so that the Aramaic version was copied less and thus no copies survived to the present day.
2The common fundamentals of traditional Christian orthodoxy which are shared by Catholic Christians (Eastern and Western), Eastern Orthodox Christians no longer in Catholic Communion, and conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christians (but not necessarily “liberal” Protestant Christians, who are “liberal” because they do not necessarily “conserve” these) are the following: the One God, Creator of the Universe, who is Love, exists as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Incarnation (enfleshment) of God the Son in Jesus Christ through Mary’s Virgin Birth, making Jesus fully God and fully man, able to make Atonement for the sins of all humanity, which He did by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead so that humanity can be forgiven and saved (and find human fulfillment) through Him; we acquire this forgiveness from sin and salvation unto eternal life through, drawn and empowered by God’s Grace, our turning away from sin (anti-love), accepting what Jesus has done for us and coming into loving, saving relationship with Him (and His Father and Holy Spirit) through belief and baptism, as He taught (Mark 16:16), which makes us members of the one Body of Christ the Church; Jesus’ literal Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven; Jesus’ future return in glory and judgement and the bodily resurrection of all the dead; the tenets of traditional Christian morality (described in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, among other passages of Scripture) as how to be loving and so how to please the God who is Love; the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures which testify to all these things.
3Scott Butler, Norman Dahlgren, Rev. Mr. David Hess, Jesus, Peter & the Keys: A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy (Santa Barbarba, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1996), 39-77.
4Which is why Peter’s successors are called popes – which simply means father. The Pope’s title in Italian is il Papa.
5Clement, who may well have been Clement, the “fellow-worker” of Paul mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:3, was overseer/bishop of Rome (where Peter died) while some of the Apostles like John were still alive and knew them. The Corinthian Church which Paul had earlier written to wrote to Clement in Rome to settle a dispute even though the Apostle John, at Patmos, was alive and closer to them. Clement wields authority with humility, but he does wield it like a modern pope, giving commands to the Christian community in Corinth in settlement of the dispute which he clearly expects to be obeyed even though he is so far away, in Rome – indicating both Clement and the Corinthians understood that Clement possessed a jurisdiction far beyond that of the local Christian overseer/bishop of the city of Rome. Clement, who was martyred for his faith in Jesus, was very highly regarded by the very Early Church and his Letter to the Corinthians and another letter attributed to him were collected, copied and passed on side by side with the Apostle John’s letters in the early New Testaments used by orthodox Christians before the Catholic Church finalized the Canon of the New Testament as we know it today in 367-405 AD (see below).
6For example, Pope Saint Leo the Great (in his famous Tome of Leo) developed the solid Biblical theology behind the fundamental Christian doctrine which can be encapsulated in the non-Biblical phrase “Jesus is fully God and fully man,” and it was Pope Leo (understanding he had Peter’s power from Matthew 16:19 to “bind and loose”) who insisted that the 4th Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD adopt this formulation of Christian orthodoxy as binding on the whole Church, even though the Eastern overseer/bishop/eparchs (where the Monophysite heresy arose) were willing to compromise with the heretics by adopting a less precise and clear doctrinal definition.
7There are in fact a great many passages of Scripture which Protestants simply ignore or otherwise make no positive use of at all, because they do not fit into Protestant doctrine – while they fit perfectly into Catholic doctrine and practice preserved in Living Sacred Tradition from the early years of the Church. For example, in John 20:21-23, Jesus says to his disciples chosen to be Apostles, “ ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending [apostello] you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’ ” Protestants act as if these words are not even in the Bible. But the Early Christian, Catholic Church enacted these words in the Sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation ministered by overseer/bishop/eparchs and elder/presbyter/priests in Apostolic Succession (who declare the forgiveness of sins confessed in genuine sorrow for offending God not in their own name, but in the name of Jesus who they are ordained to represent in this manner, as testified to in this passage of Scripture).
As another example, 2 Kings 13:21 says, “Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.” Acts 19:11-12 says, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” These Scripture passages testify to a spiritual reality ignored by Protestants which is recognized in the ancient Christian Tradition of the Catholic use of relics (a first order relic being part of the body of a saint, as in 2 Kings 13:21, a second order relic being something worn or touched by a saint, as in Acts 19:11-12): God uses His people, members of Christ’s Body the Church, as instruments of His power, and even sometimes works miracles through them, sometimes even after they are dead or are not present except through things they have touched or used. It seems God in this way calls attention to a holy life that is worthy of emulation, and God is not afraid that such miracles associated with a particular human instrument of His will take away from the glory due to Him who worked the miracle through that human instrument: rather God is confident that those who see their good works (including miracles) will glorify their Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).
These and many other examples show that Catholic Christian doctrine and practice passed on in Church Tradition is much more fully Biblical than Protestant doctrine and practice, it makes positive use of much more of the Holy Scriptures which God inspired. This is one of the reasons why so many former Protestant Christians who became Catholic Christians, like myself, later testify that “the Bible made me do it.” My Protestant upbringing taught me to highly respect the Bible as the very words of God Himself. Yet it was because I had such great respect for the Bible that I found Protestant theology, for all the good things in it, insufficiently respected the Bible. Huge portions of the Scriptures could be simply deleted from the Scriptures and it would have absolutely no effect upon Protestant theology and doctrine, yet Catholic theology and doctrine and practice since the early centuries of Christianity made positive use of these Scriptures! I feel that I am much more fully a “Bible Christian” as a Catholic than I ever did as a Protestant, since I actually use and respect the whole Bible and I no longer find myself motivated to ignore so many Scriptures or to study them only to find an excuse to justify ignoring them or to label them “hard to understand” so I could ignore them and the quite reasonable use the Catholic Church made of them.
8All of the Catholic Church’s beliefs concerning Mary, the mother of Jesus, flow from the ancient and continuing meditation of Christians upon the central mystery of Christianity: the Incarnation (enfleshment) of God in the person of Jesus Christ, who is God the Son made Man through the instrument of the Virgin Mary, fully Divine (His heritage from His fully Divine Father) and also fully human (His heritage from His fully human mother), enabled by His dual nature to as the New Adam make atonement for the sin of Adam and the sins of all humanity descended from fallen Adam, in His human yet Divine person offering perfect human obedience to God and repairing the damaged relationship between God and humanity, becoming the bridge, the “one mediator between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5) for the salvation of all mankind.
Since Protestant Christians often cite this passage against Mary’s mediation, it must be noted that the Greek word translated “one” in this passage is not monos, “sole” or “exclusively one,” but eis, “primary” or “first one.” Jesus is not the “sole, exclusive mediator” – this would contradict the Bible’s testimony about the mediation of angels (Galatians 3:19 explicitly, and in fact essentially every Biblical reference to angels in both testaments is an example of their mediation between God and men! If this passage was meant to make Christ the exclusive mediator, angels would literally have nothing to do), and it would contradict the Bible’s testimony about the effectiveness of human prayer. Rather, 1 Timothy 2:5 testifies that Jesus is the “primary mediator,” whose mediation between God and men allows other mediators to share in His “one mediation” which is effective because of His Incarnation. And this only makes sense, since Christ is the “one mediator” but we are His Body, we partake of his Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and share His life (Galatians 2:20). This is why we can intercede in prayer for others as He intercedes for us before the Father, and our prayer makes a difference, such that as His Body we are involved in the mediation of God’s Grace in the world through our prayers (and through our love which comes from the God who is Love). It is precisely because we are the Body of Christ the one, primary mediator, sharing in His mediation that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16 KJV) – by our prayers for them we mediate the grace of God to others. All of the members of Christ’s Body the Church are mediators of Grace by the prayers and love we give, and Mary’s unique motherly mediation of all graces as “Mediatrix” (female mediator) is a special function of the one mediation of Christ Jesus which is shared by His entire Body the Church, including its first merely human member, Mary. For much more, see Volume II: Who is Mary in the Church?
9 Most Catholics today would agree that giving up the Papal States, so that the Pope was once again only a spiritual leader, not also a feudal lord or civic governor, was an excellent thing for the spiritual health of the Church. There have been no morally bad popes since then!