Every once in a while I come across a fact about Roman Catholicism that’s STUNNING in its implications, like the one below.
I’m currently reading an interesting examination of Roman Catholicism – “Exodus from Rome: A Biblical and Historical Critique of Roman Catholicism” (2014) by Todd Baker. A review of the book will be forthcoming, but Baker brings to light a very interesting circumstance that deserves a post of its own.
On July 18, 1870, the First Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic church issued the doctrinal constitution, Pastor Aeternus (“Eternal Shpherd”), which declared the pope is infallible under certain limited conditions. The doctrine of papal infallibility asserts that the pope cannot err or teach error when he speaks on matters of faith and morals, ex cathedra, or “from the chair” of the Apostle Peter—that is, in his role as supreme teacher of the church. The RCC asserts the Holy Spirit directly assists/guides the pope when “he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals.”
Some non-Catholics and even Catholics mistakenly believe the doctrine of papal infallibility applies to everything the pope says, but it’s supposedly only when he speaks ex cathedra, in his capacity as supreme teacher of the church, is the pope alleged to be infallible. So when has the pope spoken ex cathedra? Although the Roman Catholic church has been in existence for 1500 years, Catholic theologians can only agree on two papal declarations as being ex cathedra and infallible: Ineffabilis Deus (“Ineffable God”) of 1854 in which pope Pius IX defined the immaculate (free from original sin) conception of Mary and Munificentissimus Deus (“The most bountiful God”) of 1950 in which pope Pius XII defined the assumption of Mary bodily into Heaven.
None of the above is Biblical, but now that we’ve gotten the papal infallibility basics out of the way, we can get to RC-ism’s papal infallibility very-sticky-wicket that Todd Baker pointed out.
In Ineffabilis Deus, pope Pius IX declared that Mary was conceived without sin and lived a sinless life thereafter. Pius IX appealed to Genesis 3:15 as his primary Scriptural proof-text. However, Jerome (d. 420 AD) had mistranslated Genesis 3:15 as part of his Latin Vulgate. Below is the translation of Genesis 3:15 from the 1899 edition of the Douay-Rheims English Bible (formerly the official RC English translation), which was based upon Jerome’s Latin Vulgate mistranslation:
“I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”
Jerome’s interpretation had Mary as the victor over Satan. However, Jerome had mistranslated the masculine Hebrew pronouns as feminine.
The RCC eventually acknowledged its interpretation of Genesis 3:15 was incorrect. The New Revised Standard Version Catholic Bible (1989) translates Genesis 3:15 as:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The verse prophetically declares that Jesus Christ, not Mary, will strike the head of/defeat Satan. Yes, RC Bible scholars now acknowledge that Jerome mistranslated Genesis 3:15.
Let’s now get back to Pius IX. In Ineffabilis Deus, Pius appealed to Jerome’s mistranslation of Genesis 3:15 in support of Mary’s alleged immaculate conception as sinless co-victor with Christ over Satan. He wrote:
“Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.“ – for the full text of Ineffabilis Deus see here.
This is important, folks. Understand this. There is no ambiguity. What we have here is an allegedly infallible decree by an allegedly infallible pope that was at least partially-based upon an admittedly erroneous translation of a Scriptural text. It’s crystal clear from the evidence that Pius IX was not under divine guidance when propagating the dogma of the immaculate conception. His argument was a false premise partially-based upon an erroneous translation. If Pius IX had been infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit as the RCC claims, he would have certainly discerned that his church’s interpretation of Genesis 3:15 was faulty. The evidence is irrefutable. Ineffabilis Deus and Pius IX are proven to be fallible beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I’m indebted to Todd Baker for alerting me to this papal infallibility sticky-wicket. Of course, the dogma of the immaculate conception of Mary is altogether un-Biblical as I’ve addressed many times in the past (see here). Today, I just wanted to focus on how this Genesis 3:15 mistranslation quandary absolutely debunks the RCC’s claims of papal infallibility.
Postscript: The painting above is just one example. There are literally hundreds (thousands?) of Catholic paintings, statues, and illustrations depicting Mary standing victoriously upon Satan/the serpent, all based upon Jerome’s mistranslation of Genesis 3:15.