Apostasy—The Way to God Blocked
1, 2. (a) Why are the first 400 years of Christendom’s history important? (b) What truth on choices did Jesus express?
WHY are Christendom’s first 400 years of history so important? For the same reason that the first few years of a child’s life are important—because they are the formative years when the foundation is laid for the future personality of the individual. What do Christendom’s early centuries reveal?
2 Before we answer that question, let us recall a truth that Jesus Christ expressed: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” The road of expediency is broad; that of right principles is narrow.—Matthew 7:13, 14.
3. What two courses were available at the inception of Christianity?
3 At the inception of Christianity, there were two ways available to those espousing that unpopular faith—hold to the uncompromising teachings and principles of Christ and the Scriptures or gravitate toward the wide and easygoing path of compromise with the world of that time. As we will see, the history of the first 400 years shows which path the majority eventually chose.
The Seduction of Philosophy
4. According to historian Durant, how did pagan Rome affect the early church?
4 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.
5. How does the attitude of compromise with the pagan Roman world contrast with early Christian writings?
5 This attitude of compromise with the Roman world stands in stark contrast to the teachings of Christ and the apostles. (See box, page 262.) The apostle Peter counseled: “Beloved ones, . . . I am arousing your clear thinking faculties by way of a reminder, that you should remember the sayings previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. You, therefore, beloved ones, having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away with them by the error of the law-defying people and fall from your own steadfastness.” Paul clearly counseled: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? . . . ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing”’; ‘“and I will take you in.”’”—2 Peter 3:1, 2, 17; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17; Revelation 18:2-5.
6, 7. (a) How were early church “fathers” influenced by Greek philosophy? (b) In which teachings did the Greek influence especially show up? (c) What warning about philosophy did Paul give?
6 In spite of this clear admonition, apostate Christians of the second century took on the trappings of the pagan Roman religion. They moved away from their pure Biblical origins and instead clothed themselves with pagan Roman garb and titles and became imbued with Greek philosophy. Professor Wolfson of Harvard University explains in The Crucible of Christianity that in the second century, there was a great influx into Christianity of “philosophically trained gentiles.” These admired the wisdom of the Greeks and thought they saw similarities between Greek philosophy and 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].”
7 Such an attitude left the way open for Greek philosophy and terminology to infiltrate Christendom’s teachings, especially in the fields of Trinitarian doctrine and the belief in an immortal soul. As Wolfson states: “The [church] Fathers began to look in the stockpile of philosophic terminology for two good technical terms, of which one would be used as a designation of the reality of the distinctness of each member of the Trinity as an individual and the other would be used as a designation of their underlying common unity.” Yet, they had to admit that “the conception of a triune God is a mystery which cannot be solved by human reason.” In contrast, Paul had clearly recognized the danger of such contamination and ‘perversion of the good news’ when he wrote to the Galatian and Colossian Christians: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy [Greek, phi·lo·so·phiʹas] and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.”—Galatians 1:7-9; Colossians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 1:22, 23.
8. With what enigma has man struggled, and how have most religions tried to resolve it?
8 As we have seen throughout this book, man has constantly struggled with the enigma of his short and finite existence that ends in death. As German author Gerhard Herm stated in his book The Celts—The People Who Came Out of the Darkness: “Religion is among other things a way of reconciling people to the fact that some day they must die, whether by the promise of a better life beyond the grave, rebirth, or both.” Virtually every religion depends on the belief that the human soul is immortal and that after death it journeys to an afterlife or that it transmigrates to another creature.
9. What did Spanish scholar Miguel de Unamuno conclude regarding Jesus’ belief on the resurrection?
9 Nearly all the religions of Christendom today also follow that belief. Miguel de Unamuno, a prominent 20th-century Spanish scholar, wrote about Jesus: “He believed rather in the resurrection of the flesh [such as Lazarus’ case (see pages 249-52)], according to the Jewish manner, not in the immortality of the soul, according to the [Greek] Platonic manner. . . . The proofs of this can be seen in any honest book of interpretation.” He concluded: “The immortality of the soul . . . is a pagan philosophical dogma.” (La Agonía Del Cristianismo [The Agony of Christianity]) That “pagan philosophical dogma” infiltrated into Christendom’s teaching, even though Christ plainly had no such thought.—Matthew 10:28; John 5:28, 29; 11:23, 24.
10. What were some consequences of belief in an immortal soul?
10 The subtle influence of Greek philosophy was a key factor in the apostasy that followed the death of the apostles. The Greek immortal soul teaching implied a need for various destinations for the soul—heaven, hellfire, purgatory, paradise, Limbo.a By manipulating such teachings, it became easy for a priestly class to keep their flocks submissive and in fear of the Hereafter and to extract gifts and donations from them. Which leads us to another question: How did Christendom’s separate priestly clergy class originate?—John 8:44; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2.
How the Clergy Class Was Formed
11, 12. (a) What was another sign of apostasy that arose? (b) What role was played by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem?
11 Another indication of apostasy was the retreat from the general ministry of all Christians, as Jesus and the apostles had taught, to the exclusive priesthood and hierarchy that developed in Christendom. (Matthew 5:14-16; Romans 10:13-15; 1 Peter 3:15) During the first century, after Jesus’ death, his apostles, along with other spiritually qualified Christian elders in Jerusalem, served to counsel and direct the Christian congregation. None exercised superiority over the others.—Galatians 2:9.
12 In the year 49 C.E., it became necessary for them to meet together in Jerusalem to resolve questions affecting Christians in general. The Bible account tells us that after open discussion, “the apostles and the older men [pre·sbyʹte·roi] together with the whole congregation favored sending chosen men from among them to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas, . . . and by their hand they wrote: ‘The apostles and the older men, brothers, to those brothers in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the nations: Greetings!’” Evidently the apostles and elders served as an administrative governing agency for the widespread Christian congregations.—Acts 15:22, 23.
13. (a) What arrangement existed for immediate oversight of each of the early Christian congregations? (b) What were the qualifications for congregation elders?
13 Now since that governing group in Jerusalem was the early Christian arrangement for general oversight for all Christians, what system of direction did they have in each congregation, at the local level? Paul’s letter to Timothy makes it clear that the congregations had overseers (Greek, e·piʹsko·pos, source of the word “episcopal”) who were spiritual elders (pre·sbyʹte·roi), men who were qualified by their conduct and their spirituality to teach their fellow Christians. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17) In the first century, these men did not constitute a separate clergy class. They did not wear any distinctive garb. Their spirituality was their distinction. In fact, each congregation had a body of elders (overseers), not a monarchical one-man rule.—Acts 20:17; Philippians 1:1.
14. (a) How were Christian overseers eventually superseded by Christendom’s bishops? (b) Who strove for primacy among the bishops?
14 It was only as time passed that the word e·piʹsko·posb (overseer, superintendent) became converted to “bishop,” meaning a priest with jurisdiction over other members of the clergy in his diocese. As the Spanish Jesuit Bernardino Llorca explains: “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 fact, bishops began to function in a kind of monarchical system, especially from the beginning of the fourth century. A hierarchy, or ruling body of clergy, was established, and in time the bishop of Rome, claiming to be a successor to Peter, was acknowledged by many as the supreme bishop and pope.
15. What gulf exists between the early Christian leadership and that of Christendom?
15 Today the position of bishop in the different churches of Christendom is a position of prestige and power, usually well remunerated, and often identified with the elite ruling class of each nation. But between their proud and elevated situation and the simplicity of organization under Christ and the elders, or overseers, of the early Christian congregations, there is an enormous difference. And what shall we say of the gulf between Peter and his so-called successors, who have ruled in the sumptuous setting of the Vatican?—Luke 9:58; 1 Peter 5:1-3.
Papal Power and Prestige
16, 17. (a) How do we know that the early Roman congregation was not under the control of a bishop or pope? (b) How did the use of the title “pope” develop?
16 Among the early congregations that accepted direction from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem was the one in Rome, where Christian truth probably arrived sometime after Pentecost 33 C.E. (Acts 2:10) Like any other Christian congregation of the time, it had elders, who served as a body of overseers without any one of them having the primacy. Certainly none of the earliest overseers in the Rome congregation were viewed by their contemporaries as bishops or as a pope, since the monarchical episcopate at Rome had not yet developed. The starting point of the monarchical, or one-man, episcopate is hard to pin down. Evidence indicates that it began to develop in the second century.—Romans 16:3-16; Philippians 1:1.
17 The title “pope” (from the Greek paʹpas, father) was not used during the first two centuries. Former Jesuit Michael Walsh explains: “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.
18. (a) Who was one of the first bishops of Rome to impose his authority? (b) On what is the papal claim of primacy based? (c) What is the proper understanding of Matthew 16:18, 19?
18 One of the first bishops of Rome to impose his authority was Pope Leo I (pope, 440-461 C.E.). Michael Walsh further explains: “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 actions on the Catholic interpretation of Jesus’ words found at Matthew 16:18, 19. (See box, page 268.) 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) By this move, Leo I made it clear that while the emperor held temporal power in Constantinople in the East, he exercised spiritual power from Rome in the West. This power was further illustrated when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 C.E.
19, 20. (a) How has the pope been viewed in modern times? (b) What are some of the pope’s official titles? (c) What contrast can be seen between the conduct of popes and that of Peter?
19 Since 1929 the pope of Rome has been viewed by secular governments as the ruler of a separate sovereign state, Vatican City. Thus, the Roman Catholic Church, like no other religious organization, can send diplomatic representatives, nuncios, to the governments of the world. (John 18:36) The pope is honored with many titles, some of which are Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor to the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Sovereign of the Vatican City. He is carried with pomp and ceremony. He is given the honors assigned to a head of State. In contrast, note how Peter, supposedly the first pope and bishop of Rome, reacted when the Roman centurion Cornelius fell down at his feet to do obeisance to him: “Peter lifted him up, saying: ‘Rise; I myself am also a man.’”—Acts 10:25, 26; Matthew 23:8-12.
20 The question now is, How did so much power and prestige ever accrue to the apostate church of those early centuries? How was the simplicity and humility of Christ and the early Christians converted into the pride and pomp of Christendom?
21, 22. What great change supposedly took place in the life of Constantine, and how did he exploit it?
21 The turning point for this new religion in the Roman Empire was 313 C.E., the date of Emperor Constantine’s so-called conversion to “Christianity.” How did this conversion come about? In 306 C.E., Constantine succeeded his father and eventually, with Licinius, became coruler of the Roman Empire. He was influenced by his mother’s devotion to Christianity and his own belief in divine protection. Before he went to fight a battle near Rome at the Milvian Bridge in 312 C.E., he claimed that he was told in a dream to paint the “Christian” monogram—the Greek letters khi and rho, the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek—on his soldiers’ shields.c With this ‘sacred talisman,’ Constantine’s forces defeated his enemy Maxentius.
22 Shortly after winning the battle, Constantine claimed that he had become a believer, although he was not baptized until just prior to his death some 24 years later. He went on to obtain the support of the professed Christians in his empire by “his adoption of the [Greek letters] Chi-Rho [Artwork—Greek characters] as his emblem . . . The Chi-Rho had, however, already been used as a ligature [joining of letters] in both pagan and Christian contexts.”—The Crucible of Christianity, edited by Arnold Toynbee.
23. (a) According to one commentator, when did Christendom begin? (b) Why can we say that Christ did not found Christendom?
23 As a result, the foundation of Christendom was laid. As British broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in his book The End of Christendom: “Christendom began with the Emperor Constantine.” However, he also made the perceptive comment: “You might even say that Christ himself abolished Christendom before it began by stating that his kingdom was not of this world—one of the most far reaching and important of all his statements.” And one most widely ignored by Christendom’s religious and political rulers.—John 18:36.
24. With Constantine’s “conversion,” what change came about in the church?
24 With Constantine’s support, Christendom’s religion became the official State religion of Rome. Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion, explains: “Christian bishops, once targets for arrest, torture, and execution, now received tax exemptions, gifts from the imperial treasury, prestige, and even influence at court; their churches gained new wealth, power, and prominence.” They had become friends of the emperor, friends of the Roman world.—James 4:4.
Constantine, Heresy, and Orthodoxy
25. (a) By Constantine’s time what theological debate was raging? (b) Before the fourth century, what situation existed with regard to the understanding of Christ’s relationship to his Father?
25 Why was Constantine’s “conversion” so significant? Because as emperor he had a powerful influence in the affairs of the doctrinally divided “Christian” church, and he wanted unity in his empire. At that time debate was raging among the Greek- and Latin-speaking bishops about “the relation between the ‘Word’ or ‘Son’ of ‘God’ which had been incarnate in Jesus, and ‘God’ himself, now called ‘the Father’—his name, Yahweh, having been generally forgotten.” (The Columbia History of the World) Some favored the Biblically supported viewpoint that Christ, the Loʹgos, was created and therefore subordinate to the Father. (Matthew 24:36; John 14:28; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28) Among these was Arius, a priest in Alexandria, Egypt. In fact, R. P. C. Hanson, a professor of divinity, states: “There is no theologian in the Eastern or the Western Church before the [fourth century] outbreak of the Arian Controversy, who does not in some sense regard the Son as subordinate to the Father.”—The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God.
26. By the early fourth century, what was the situation regarding the Trinity teaching?
26 Others considered that viewpoint of Christ’s subordination to be heresy and veered more toward the worship of Jesus as “God Incarnate.” Yet, Professor Hanson states that the period under question (the fourth century) “was not a history of the defence of an agreed and settled [Trinitarian] orthodoxy against the assaults of open heresy [Arianism]. On the subject which was primarily under discussion there was not as yet any orthodox doctrine.” He continues: “All sides believed that they had the authority of Scripture in their favour. Each described the others as unorthodox, untraditional and unScriptural.” The religious ranks were thoroughly divided on this theological issue.—John 20:17.
27. (a) What did Constantine do to try to settle the debate over Jesus’ nature? (b) How representative of the church was the Council of Nicaea? (c) Did the Nicene Creed settle the controversy about the developing Trinity doctrine?
27 Constantine wanted unity in his realm, and in 325 C.E. he called for a council of his bishops at Nicaea, located in the Eastern, Greek-speaking domain of his empire, across the Bosporus from the new city of Constantinople. It is said that anywhere from 250 to 318 bishops attended, only a minority of the total number, and most of those attending were from the Greek-speaking region. Even Pope Sylvester I was not present.d After fierce debate, out of that unrepresentative council came the Nicene Creed with its heavy bias toward Trinitarian thought. Yet it failed to settle the doctrinal argument. It did not clarify the role of God’s holy spirit in Trinitarian theology. Debate raged for decades, and it required more councils and the authority of different emperors and the use of banishment to achieve eventual conformity. It was a victory for theology and a defeat for those who held to the Scriptures.—Romans 3:3, 4.
28. (a) What have been some of the consequences of the Trinity doctrine? (b) Why is there no Biblical basis for the veneration of Mary as the “Mother of God”?
28 Over the centuries, one result of the Trinity teaching has been that the one true God Jehovah has been submerged in the quagmire of Christendom’s God-Christ theology.e The next logical consequence of that theology was that if Jesus really was God Incarnate, then Jesus’ mother, Mary, was obviously the “Mother of God.” Over the years, that has led to veneration of Mary in many different forms, this in spite of the total lack of texts that speak of Mary in any role of importance except as the humble biologic mother of Jesus.f (Luke 1:26-38, 46-56) Over the centuries the Mother-of-God teaching has been developed and adorned by the Roman Catholic Church, with the result that many Catholics venerate Mary far more fervently than they worship God.
29. What development did Paul warn about?
29 Another characteristic of apostasy is that it leads to division and fragmentation. The apostle Paul had prophesied: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Paul had given clear counsel to the Corinthians when he stated: “Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” In spite of Paul’s exhortation, apostasy and divisions soon took root.—Acts 20:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 1:10.
30. What situation soon developed in the early church?
30 Within a few decades of the death of the apostles, schisms were already evident among the Christians. Will Durant states: “Celsus [second-century opponent 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 [C.E.] Irenaeus listed twenty varieties of Christianity; about 384 [C.E.] Epiphanius counted eighty.”—The Story of Civilization: Part III—Caesar and Christ.
31. How did a major split develop in the Catholic Church?
31 Constantine favored the Eastern, Greek, side of his empire by having a vast new capital city built in what is today Turkey. He named it Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The result was that over the centuries the Catholic Church became polarized and split both by language and by geography—Latin-speaking Rome in the West versus Greek-speaking Constantinople in the East.
32, 33. (a) What were further causes for divisions in Christendom? (b) What does the Bible say about the use of images in worship?
32 Divisive debates about aspects of the still-developing Trinity teaching continued to cause turmoil in Christendom. Another council was held in 451 C.E. at Chalcedon to define the character of Christ’s “natures.” While the West accepted the creed issued by this council, Eastern churches disagreed, leading to the formation of the Coptic Church in Egypt and Abyssinia and the “Jacobite” churches of Syria and Armenia. The unity of the Catholic Church was constantly threatened by divisions on abstruse theological matters, especially regarding the definition of the Trinity doctrine.
33 Another cause for division was the veneration of images. During the eighth century, the Eastern bishops rebelled against this idolatry and entered into what is called their iconoclastic, or image-destroying, period. In time they returned to the use of icons.—Exodus 20:4-6; Isaiah 44:14-18.
34. (a) What led to a major rift in the Catholic Church? (b) What was the end result of this rift?
34 A further big test came about when the Western church added the Latin word filioque (“and from the Son”) to the Nicene Creed to indicate that the Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son. The end result of this sixth-century emendation was a rift when “in 876 a synod [of bishops] at Constantinople condemned the pope both for his political activities and because he did not correct the heresy of the filioque clause. This action was part of the East’s entire rejection of the pope’s claim of universal jurisdiction over the Church.” (Man’s Religions) In the year 1054, the pope’s representative excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople, who in return put a curse on the pope. That split eventually led to the formation of the Eastern Orthodox Churches—Greek, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Bulgarian, Serbian, and other self-governing churches.
35. Who were the Waldenses, and how did their beliefs differ from those of the Catholic Church?
35 Another movement was also beginning to cause turmoil in the church. In the 12th century, Peter Waldo, from Lyons, France, “engaged some scholars to translate the Bible into the langue d’oc [a regional language] of south France. He studied the translation zealously, and concluded that Christians should live like the apostles—without individual property.” (The Age of Faith, by Will Durant) He started a preaching movement that became known as the Waldenses. These rejected the Catholic priesthood, indulgences, purgatory, transubstantiation, and other traditional Catholic practices and beliefs. They spread into other countries. The Council of Toulouse tried to check them in 1229 by banning the possession of Scriptural books. Only books of liturgy were allowed and then only in the dead language of Latin. But more religious division and persecution was yet to come.
Persecution of the Albigenses
36, 37. (a) Who were the Albigenses, and what did they believe? (b) How were the Albigenses repressed?
36 Yet another movement got started in the 12th century in the south of France—the Albigenses (also known as Cathari), named after the town of Albi, where they had many followers. They had their own celibate clergy class, who expected to be greeted with reverence. They believed that Jesus spoke figuratively in his last supper when he said of the bread, “This is my body.” (Matthew 26:26, NAB) They rejected the doctrines of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, hellfire, and purgatory. Thus they actively put in doubt the teachings of Rome. Pope Innocent III gave instructions that the Albigenses be persecuted. “If necessary,” he said, “suppress them with the sword.”
37 A crusade was mounted against the “heretics,” and the Catholic crusaders massacred 20,000 men, women, and children in Béziers, France. After much bloodshed, peace came in 1229, with the Albigenses defeated. The Council of Narbonne “forbade the possession of any part of the Bible by laymen.” The root of the problem for the Catholic Church was evidently the existence of the Bible in the language of the people.
38. What was the Inquisition, and how did it function?
38 The next step that the church took was to establish the Inquisition, a tribunal set up to suppress heresy. Already a spirit of intolerance possessed the people, who were superstitious and all too willing to lynch and murder “heretics.” The conditions in the 13th century lent themselves to the abuse of power by the church. However, “heretics condemned by the Church were to be delivered to the ‘secular arm’—the local authorities—and burned to death.” (The Age of Faith) By leaving the actual executions to the secular authorities, the church would ostensibly be free of bloodguilt. The Inquisition started an era of religious persecution that resulted in abuses, false and anonymous denunciations, murder, robbery, torture, and the slow death of thousands who dared to believe differently from the church. Freedom of religious expression was stifled. Was there any hope for people who were seeking the true God? Chapter 13 will answer that.
39. What religious movement started in the seventh century, and how?
39 While all of this was happening in Christendom, a lone Arab in the Middle East took a stand against the religious apathy and idolatry of his own people. He started a religious movement in the seventh century that today commands the obedience and submission of nearly one thousand million people. That movement is Islām. Our next chapter will consider the history of its prophet-founder and explain some of his teachings and their source.
a The expressions “immortal soul,” “hellfire,” “purgatory,” and “Limbo” are nowhere found in the original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible. In contrast, the Greek word for “resurrection” (a·naʹsta·sis) occurs 42 times.
b The Greek word e·piʹsko·pos literally means ‘one who watches over.’ In Latin it became episcopus, and in Old English it was transformed into “biscop” and later, in Middle English, to “bishop.”
c A popular legend says that Constantine saw a vision of a cross with the Latin words “In hoc signo vinces” (In this sign conquer). Some historians say it was more likely in Greek, “En toutoi nika” (In this conquer). The legend is doubted by some scholars because it contains anachronisms.
d The Oxford Dictionary of Popes states regarding Sylvester I: “Although pope for almost twenty-two years of the reign of Constantine the Great (306-37), an epoch of dramatic developments for the church, he seems to have played an insignificant part in the great events that were taking place. . . . There were certainly bishops whom Constantine made his confidants, and with whom he concerted his ecclesiastical policies; but [Sylvester] was not one of them.”
e For a detailed consideration of the Trinity debate, see the 32-page brochure Should You Believe in the Trinity? published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1989.
f Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned by name or as his mother in 24 different texts in the four Gospels and once in Acts. She is not mentioned in any apostolic letter.
[Box on page 262]
Early Christians and Pagan Rome
“As the Christian movement emerged within the Roman Empire, it challenged pagan converts, too, to change their attitudes and behavior. Many pagans who had been brought up to regard marriage essentially as a social and economic arrangement, homosexual relationships as an expected element of male education, prostitution, both male and female, as both ordinary and legal, and divorce, abortion, contraception, and exposure [to death] of unwanted infants as matters of practical expedience, embraced, to the astonishment of their families, the Christian message, which opposed these practices.”—Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, by Elaine Pagels.
[Box on page 266]
Christianity Versus Christendom
Porphyry, a third-century philosopher from Tyre and an opposer of Christianity, raised the question “as to whether followers of Jesus, rather than Jesus himself, were responsible for the distinctive form of the Christian religion. Porphyry (and Julian [fourth-century Roman emperor and opposer of Christianity]) showed, on the basis of the New Testament, that Jesus did not call himself God and that he preached, not about himself, but about the one God, the God of all. It was his followers who abandoned his teaching and introduced a new way of their own in which Jesus (not the one God) was the object of worship and adoration. . . . [Porphyry] put his finger on a troubling issue for Christian thinkers: does the Christian faith rest on the preaching of Jesus or on the ideas forged by his disciples in the generations after his death?”—The Christians as the Romans Saw Them.
[Box on page 268]
Peter and the Papacy
At Matthew 16:18, Jesus said to the apostle Peter: “And I tell you, you are Peter [Greek, Peʹtros], and on this rock [Greek, peʹtra] I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (RS) Based on this, the Catholic Church claims that Jesus built his church on Peter, who, they say, was the first of an unbroken line of bishops of Rome, and Peter’s successors.
Who was the rock that Jesus indicated at Matthew 16:18, Peter or Jesus? The context shows that the point of the discussion was the identification of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” as Peter himself confessed. (Matthew 16:16, RS) Logically, therefore, Jesus himself would be that solid rock foundation of the church, not Peter, who would later deny Christ three times.—Matthew 26:33-35, 69-75.
How do we know that Christ is the foundation stone? By Peter’s own testimony, when he wrote: “Coming to him as to a living stone, rejected, it is true, by men, but chosen, precious, with God . . . For it is contained in Scripture: ‘Look! I am laying in Zion a stone, chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious; and no one exercising faith in it will by any means come to disappointment.’” Paul also stated: “And you have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone.”—1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:20.
There is no evidence in Scripture or history that Peter was regarded as having primacy among his peers. He makes no mention of it in his own letters, and the other three Gospels—including Mark’s (apparently related by Peter to Mark)—do not even mention Jesus’ statement to Peter.—Luke 22:24-26; Acts 15:6-22; Galatians 2:11-14.
There is not even any absolute proof that Peter was ever in Rome. (1 Peter 5:13) When Paul visited Jerusalem, “James and Cephas [Peter] and John, the ones who seemed to be pillars,” gave him support. So at that time Peter was one of at least three pillars in the congregation. He was not a “pope,” nor was he known as such or as a primate “bishop” in Jerusalem.—Galatians 2:7-9; Acts 28:16, 30, 31.
[Picture on page 264]
Christendom’s Trinity Mystery Triangle
[Pictures on page 269]
The Vatican (flag shown below) sends diplomats to the world’s governments
[Pictures on page 275]
The Council of Nicaea laid the foundation for what would later be the Trinity doctrine
[Pictures on page 277]
The veneration of Mary with a child, center, echoes much older worship of pagan goddesses—left, Egypt’s Isis and Horus; right, Rome’s Mater Matuta
[Pictures on page 278]
Eastern Orthodox churches—Sveti Nikolaj, Sofia, Bulgaria, and, below, St. Vladimir’s, New Jersey, U.S.A.
[Picture on page 281]
“Christian” crusaders were organized not only to free Jerusalem from Islām but also to massacre “heretics,” such as the Waldenses and the Albigenses
[Pictures on page 283]
Tomás de Torquemada, Dominican monk, led the cruel Spanish Inquisition, which used implements of torture to extract confessions