Sketchy Catholic versions of the Bible were stepping stones to salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone

I’ve mentioned many times previously that I grew up in a large Catholic family. I was the youngest child, a boy, with five older sisters. Oy vey! There were daily estrogen-fueled drama battles at our house like you wouldn’t believe. Our family wasn’t devout as some of my Catholic friends’ families were back then, with statues in every room of the house, in the yard, and rosaries hanging from rear-view mirrors, but we did attend mass every Sunday and I was even an altar boy from 5th through 8th grades. My sisters and I all attended Catholic parochial school and Catholic high school. In all of those years of Catholic indoctrination, the nuns and brothers never had us read from the Bible. We read short Bible quotes from Catholic booklets, but never from the Bible itself. I didn’t own a Bible and neither did my sisters. I don’t remember either of my parents ever reading the Bible. I don’t know if there was a single Bible in the entire house. I never saw one. The Catholic church did not promote Bible-reading among its members. In my experience, our religious teachers often recommended books about Mary and the saints but never the Bible.

I can’t explain it other than to attribute it to the Lord drawing me to Him, but in the mid-1970s, after I married my bride, I became curious about the Bible and began visiting the local (c)hristian book store, Alpha and Omega, which was situated in those days at the four corners of Penfield, NY. I was kind of embarrassed about entering the establishment and would look around first to see if anyone I knew was watching. Wow! I was amazed at the number of Bibles on display. “These Protestants really love their Bibles,” I thought. Well, I looked around a little bit and came across the Catholic version of the student edition of The Living Bible, called “The Way” (see the above photo), an easy-to-read Bible paraphrase.* I brought the Bible home but hid it from my nominally Catholic wife – I didn’t want her to think I was turning into some kind of a religious nut. I read that Bible on and off for several years.

After our two boys were born and we moved into our first house in 1979, I wanted to be a responsible Catholic parent so I started attending mass again. I even asked the co-pastor of our new parish, “father” Roy Kiggins, to come over and bless our house withNew Am holy water. Yes, I did! I also went back to Alpha and Omega and bought what I thought was a “real” Bible, the Catholic New American Bible version (second photo), which wasn’t a paraphrase. Catholic versions of the Bible contain seven more Old Testament books – referred to as the Apocrypha – than Protestant Bibles. I began diligently reading the New Testament, which, over time, led to a mounting personal crisis. God’s Word repeatedly contradicted Catholic doctrines. The more I read, the more the Holy Spirit convicted me that the Catholic church was wrong on many counts. I eventually stopped going to mass. A few years later, after being further led by the Holy Spirit, I repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior! Praise the Lord!

Four of my sisters are now self-described atheists or agnostics, while the fifth one claims to be a Catholic (c)hristian although she has firmly stated a couple of times that she doesn’t believe the Bible is divinely inspired or that Jesus was and is God. Do you find that strange? Actually, you’ll find millions upon millions of similarly mixed up and confused people within Catholicism. She has zero use for the Bible but finds comfort in the familiar Catholic rituals and traditions she remembers from childhood. Looking back, I’m puzzled why I was the only one in my family to be drawn to God’s Word. I’m actually grateful for those spotty Catholic versions of the Bible that I initially read. They were stepping stones to the true Word and salvation by God’s grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone.

*Bible paraphrases, like the New Living Translation (NLT), are useful tools when studying the Bible, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone use them as a substitute for actual word-for-word translations of the Bible like the NASB or ESV.

Were Peter and the apostles wrong to select Matthias as Judas’s replacement?

My wife and I finished our reading of Deuteronomy the other night. Like the other books of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy’s not the easiest of reading, especially if you don’t have any Bible aids. As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses repeated the Law to them, requiring their obedience but also emphasizing trust in the Lord. Moses, personifying the Law, was not allowed to enter the Promised Land himself. It was left to Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus (“Jehova saves”) to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, one of my favorite foreshadowings of Christ in the Old Testament.

Last night, in preparation for our journey into our next study, the Acts of the Apostles, I did a deep dive (at least for me) into the first chapter accompanied by my Bible dictionary, two commentaries, and concordance and I came across some interesting information that I’d like to share.

In chapter one, in the opening verses, the apostles witness the ascension of Jesus into Heaven and then return to Jerusalem and wait to receive the Holy Spirit as Jesus had commanded them. In verses 15-22, while still waiting for the Holy Spirit, Peter, always an impetuous fellow, proposes to the 120 believers gathered in the upper room, that they must choose an apostolic replacement for Judas Iscariot. Two men are nominated, Joseph-Barsabbas-Justus and Matthias. A prayer is said, lots are cast, and the lot falls to Matthias, so he is chosen as Judas’s replacement in vs. 26. but that’s the very last time we read of him.

I’ve read this chapter many times previously and always accepted it pretty much at face value as written, but John MacArthur and J. Vernon McGee had some interesting observations in their commentaries. First, MacArthur observes that this was the last instance of the casting of lots by believers in the Bible. He writes, the casting of lots was “a common OT method of determining God’s will” that was “made…unnecessary” by the “coming of the Spirit.”

So should Peter have waited for the Holy Spirit rather than plowing forward?

In his commentary, J. Vernon McGee proposes the selection of Matthias was possibly an error, that the apostles should have waited for the Holy Spirit and His leading on this matter rather than forging ahead. He suggests that the Lord subsequently chose His own replacement for Judas by selecting Saul/Paul, “an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Gal. 1:1).

But the opponents of the “Paul over Matthias” viewpoint say the twelve apostles were chosen to eventually reign over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt.19:28) as opposed to Paul, who was distinctly chosen to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom.11:13). Paul didn’t meet the apostles’ criterion for apostleship but did the Lord have His own criterion?

McGee presents his argument as his own personal conviction and obviously not as essential dogma. It’s an interesting viewpoint and I’d be interested to hear if others have come across it as well. This situation with the differing opinions on the Matthias-Paul question is probably “old news” to many of you but it was the first time I had encountered it.

Did Jesus or the apostles ever quote the Apocrypha?

If you take a trip to your local (c)hristian book store, you’ll of course see plenty of Bibles on the shelves. There will be many different Protestant Bibles (including a few very dubious translations) side-by-side with Catholic Bibles. Have you ever wondered what the differences are between Protestant and Catholic Bibles?

Today, I was listening to the 05/19/17 podcast of the Calling All Catholics talk radio show (The Station of the Cross, WLOF, 101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY) featuring moderator, Mike Denz, and priest-host, Dave Baker, taking questions from the listening audience.

Towards the end of the show, Denz took a question regarding the Bible:

Mike Denz: We’re going to go to Athena, who emailed us this question: “I am currently converting (to Catholicism) and I just received my Catholic Bible in the mail. I’m wondering if you have advice on how I should approach reading it? I grew up reading the King James Bible and just by skimming through the Douay-Rheims Holy Bible, I notice some pretty major differences already. Should I start by reading straight through first or should I just jump between chapters with focus on certain chapters?”

Denz then immediately commented that the King James Version is not a translation approved by the Catholic church. The church used to be forbid its members from reading the KJV or any other Protestant Bible upon pain of “mortal” sin, although the “unchangeable” church seems to have taken a less-militant stand in recent years (see the comments section). Denz also mentioned that Catholic Bibles contain seven Old Testament books that Protestant Bibles do not, as well as four additions to other OT books. This debated material is called the Apocrypha, which was all written in the 400-year period after the last OT book, Malachi, and before the time of Christ. Denz went on to blame Martin Luther for removing the Apocrypha from the Bible but the Jews in 1st-century Palestine didn’t consider this material to be Scriptural. Ancient historians, Philo and Josephus, rejected the Apocrypha. The rabbinical writers of the Talmud from 200 AD to 500 AD excluded the Apocrypha. Jesus and the apostles never quoted the Apocrypha. Even Jerome, the translator of the Septuagint, rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture.

However, Denz claimed the apocryphal books “were quoted in the New Testament,” followed by priest Baker chiming in, “…by Jesus Himself!” I had never before come across a claim from a Catholic source that Jesus or the apostles had ever quoted from the Apocrypha. I did a little digging and found that objective Catholic sources admit that direct quotes of the Apocrypha cannot be found in the New Testament “and that the (religious) themes (alluded to in the NT as quotes from the Apocrypha by overzealous Catholics like Denz and Baker) are so prevalent in Judaism that our Lord may not have intended these works (i.e., the Apocrypha) specifically.” See here. Thanks for your objectivity, priest John Echert.

For an excellent analysis of the Apocrypha from an evangelical perspective, see the article below:

Is the Apocrypha Scripture?
http://pleaseconvinceme.com/2012/is-the-apocrypha-scripture/

If you’ve never read the apocryphal material I would advise you not to waste your time. But the Apocrypha is important to Catholic doctrine because in one of the books, II Maccabees 12:38-46, Jews are exhorted to pray for the souls of fallen soldiers who had worn idolatrous amulets under their tunics. Catholics cite this passage as support for the doctrine of purgatory and praying for the dead. But how could that be? These soldiers were blatant idolaters. In Catholic dogma, idolatry is a “mortal sin,” so these fallen soldiers with their idolatrous good luck charms would have been in hell, not in a spurious purgatory.

Catholic priest: The Bible is full of errors!

Roman Catholicism has an interesting relationship with the Bible. While the church officially recognizes the Bible is God’s Word, it places its non-biblical traditions and teaching authority (Magisterium) on equal par with Scripture. Catholicism did not encourage the laity to read the Bible because it contains so many teachings that contradicted Catholic dogma. I attended Catholic schools for twelve years and although we were told stories from the Bible, we never read it. Not once.

This past Saturday I was driving down the road with my radio tuned to the local Catholic station. A priest (name unknown) was talking about the Bible and said many parts can’t be taken literally, but that one must sift through the myth and error to mine the overarching moral or spiritual message.

As an example, the priest pointed to Mark 2:23-28, where Jesus says David and his men ate the bread of Presence during the time of Abiathar the High Priest. Yet, 1 Samuel 21:1-6, the passage Jesus was referring to, records that the High Priest at the time was Ahimelech. The priest stated that either Jesus was wrong or Mark was wrong but either way the Bible was in error. But he said this technical error wasn’t actually a big deal because the overarching message of the passage, that love conquers doctrinal scrupulosity, was the point. Famous atheist, Bart Ehrman, cites the alleged Ahimelech/Abiathar contradiction as the initial seed of his personal doubt regarding the Bible and Christianity.

But was Jesus, Mark, or Mark’s probable source, Peter, in error regarding Mark 2:23-38? I reject any suggestion out of hand that Jesus the Word was ever in error about anything. But what about Mark? Could the Holy Spirit have allowed him to write an error, especially a glaring one that would have been immediately obvious to any devout Jew?

The article below points out a very plausible solution to the alleged contradiction from an inerrantist point of view.

Was the high priest Abiathar or Ahimelech?
http://www.evidenceunseen.com/bible-difficulties-2/nt-difficulties/matthew/mk-226-was-the-high-priest-abiathar-or-ahimelech/

It might be surprising to some ecumenically-minded evangelicals that a Catholic priest would claim on national radio that the Bible was full of errors but the Catholic clergy includes many such liberal errantists. But as I also mentioned, Catholicism often relegates Scripture to a secondary role in favor of its man-made teachings and traditions.

Why did Jesus use mud salve to heal the blind man’s eyes?

“Having said these things, he (Jesus) spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” – John 9:6-7

In reading John 9, I’ve often wondered why Jesus made a mud salve and applied it to the blind man’s eyes? Why didn’t Jesus just heal the man’s eyes outright with a verbal or non-verbal command? What was the mud salve all about?

In his single-volume Bible commentary, John MacArthur suggests that “Jesus may have used the clay to fashion a new pair of eyes.” Hmm, that’s certainly a possibility but it seems like a stretch given the text. In his Thru-the Bible commentary, J. Vernon McGee doesn’t even attempt to explain Jesus’s use of mud salve.

Yesterday, I may have stumbled across the answer. A book I’m currently reading points out that the Mishna of the Talmud prohibited Jews from applying soothing mud salves to a person’s ailing eyes on the Sabbath:

“To heal a blind man on the Sabbath…it is…prohibited to make mud with spittle and smear it on his eyes” (Shabbat 108:2).

Well, of course. That’s it. Jesus not only ignored the traditions of the Pharisees by healing the blind man on the Sabbath, but he purposly used a mud salve in the healing in direct defiance of the specific regulations of the Talmud! This would seem to be an excellent explanation of Jesus’s use of the mud salve.

“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” – Matthew 15:8-9

Praise the Lord for curing my spiritual blindness and allowing me to comprehend the “Good News!” of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone! Are man-made religious traditions coming between you and salvation in Christ Jesus? Accept Jesus as your Savior by faith alone!

Please pray for Paul Washer after heart attack

PW

The media reported yesterday that 55-year-old preacher and missionary, Paul Washer (pictured), suffered a heart attack Monday night. See here.

A post on Paul’s Twitter account from one hour ago reports he’s doing well and resting comfortably. See here.

Please pray for Paul’s health.

There’s a ton of junk on the internet masquerading as “Christian,” but I’m grateful to the Lord for the sermons and teaching from godly preachers like Paul Washer. Paul’s sermons seem to specialize in zealous admonishment, not always easy to listen to but certainly needed in this day of wishy-washy, Laodicean Christianity.

Thank you.

God is not that fuzzy notion you dreamed up in your head!

NO

None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible
By John MacArthur
Reformation Trust Publishing, 2017, 134 pages

Many people have in their minds their own distorted conception of “God” based upon cultural influences, non-Scriptural teachings of religious institutions, and their own ideas. But surely the God of the Universe is not revealed by the whimsy of imperfect human beings. Wouldn’t God give us a definitive guide as to who He really is? Yes, He has! God reveals Himself to mankind through His Word. The Bible is the only sure and true source of information about God.

In the six chapters of this short book, pastor John MacArthur focuses on on some of the basic characteristics of God made manifest by Scripture:

  • The God of the Bible is Gracious
  • The God of the Bible is Sovereign
  • The God of the Bible is Good and Powerful
  • The God of the Bible is Holy
  • The God of the Bible is Loving
  • The God of the Bible is a Saving God

In the first chapter, MacArthur explains the graciousness of God from a Reformed/Calvinist perspective with emphasis on election/predestination. I’m personally somewhere in the middle of the Arminius-Calvin debate (probably leaning a bit more toward Calvin). But don’t be alarmed my Arminian friends! In the second chapter, MacArthur comments on the sovereignty of God and actually does an even-handed job of juxtaposing Bible passages that support God’s overriding will with passages that support man’s free will. The remaining chapters continue to examine the amazing and glorious characteristics of God, leading the reader to the “Good News” of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

This short, Scripture-filled book would make a great gift for unbelievers who are open to examining Christianity, to young believers who are new to the faith, and to those who accepted Christ decades ago but would enjoy a grounding in some of the main attributes of God once again.

“Don’t trust the Bible but you can trust us.”

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This morning before church, my wife and I were drinking our coffee in the kitchen and watching CNN as is our habit. The CNN hosts started plugging the second season of “Finding Jesus,” which begins tonight. I definitely won’t be watching. I sat through a single episode of this series last season and it’s basically a group of modernist unbelievers trying to explain away God and the Bible.

Anyway, they said tonight’s opening episode will be focusing on Pontius Pilate among other things. They mentioned the Pilate Stone, which was excavated at Caesarea By The Sea in 1961. My blogosphere friend, Wally, who’s currently touring Israel, and I were discussing this stone just the other day! A fantastic archaeological find, the stone has Pilate’s name inscribed on it. Yes, there was a historical Pontius Pilate and there was and is a Jesus Christ.

The CNN morning hosts then interviewed a Catholic priest (sorry, didn’t catch the name) to get a “religious expert’s” take on Pilate. The priest said the writer of the Gospel of John (I always thought the apostle John was the writer?) purposely portrayed Pilate as weak and indecisive because he was trying to give the impression that the Jews were largely responsible for Christ’s crucifixion, not the Roman Gentiles. The priest went on to say the Gospel of John was written following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD, afterwhich the Jewish nation was in complete disarray, so the author was catering to a Gentile audience and its prejudices rather than to a Jewish one.

How to respond? This Catholic priest is unabashedly stating that he does not believe the Bible is God’s Word and that the writers of the New Testament were attempting to manipulate their readers. And people trust this priest and his ecclesiastical associates with their souls?

I love you, Jesus!!!

Many of you know I walked away from the Lord for a very long period. But when I returnedilyj to Him three years ago, OH! to be welcomed back in His arms again! And it wasn’t so much that I returned to Him, but He had kept calling me back to Him all that time.

Shortly after my return, someone placed a white sign on the Tryon Park overpass over Interstate 590 North, which read, “I Love You, Jesus!” So every day,  half-way on my drive into work, I got to read “I Love You, Jesus.” What a way to start the day! Yes, I do love you, Jesus! For paying the penalty for my sins. For knocking on the door of my soul. For saving me and being my Shepherd, my Rock, and my High Tower. The sign came down several times and was quickly replaced but then there was an interval of about two years with no sign. Argh! But when I drove to work yesterday, there it was again; “I Love You, Jesus.” Praise the Lord! Tens of thousands of people pass under that sign everyday and I know it will convict both unbelievers and backslidden saints. Praise Jesus!

My parents weren’t mushy by any stretch. They kept their emotions pretty close to the vest. Growing up, the only time I came across “We love you” was on birthday cards. It was easy to tell my wife I loved her because romance will generally do that to you but growing up the way I did, it was hard for me to say it to anyone else, even to our two sons. I still struggle. I even struggle to say “I love you” to the Lord when I pray aloud to Him with my wife. Yes, I love you Jesus! I love You!!! Let’s hang a sign from every overpass! Lord bless the sign hangers, the literal ones and those who show their love for the Lord with their lives!

“We love him, because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19 

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” – Deuteronomy 6:5

Fundamentalism and a family: I couldn’t put it down

The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Familyjr
By Andrew Himes
Chiara Press, 2011, 344 pages

Several weeks ago I posted a message regarding “The Sword of the Lord,” a Christian fundamentalist newspaper I subscribed to for a couple of years back in the early 1980s. See here.

Evangelist John R. Rice (pictured) was the original editor and publisher of the Sword. Although he had been dead for a few years by the time I started my subscription, I came to admire the man through his archived sermons and writings. Yes, the Sword often featured some hard-nosed fundamentalist diatribes that rubbed me the wrong way and eventually led to my letting my subscription run out, but I still have a soft spot for Rice and for much of what he preached.

I saw this book on Amazon when it was first published and was intrigued but not enough to buy it. After posting the message on the SOTL, I ordered a used copy from an Amazon 3rd-party seller and I’m so glad I did. I enjoyed this book immensely.

The author, Andrew Himes, is a grandson of John R. Rice and he gives the reader an intimate account of the rise of fundamentalism in the early 20th-century and the rise of Rice’s ministry. Few evangelical Christians know about John R. Rice these days but the man was perhaps the most influential leader of Christian fundamentalism from the 1940s through the 1970s. The movement had its struggles especially in regards to segregation and race relations (Rice’s minister father was a member of the KKK), the emergence of Billy Graham and evangelical ecumenism, and increasing involvement with politics which peaked with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. Himes gives fantastic insight into the life of his grandfather and the movement he shepherded.

Relatively few churches still preach the hard-core brand of fundamentalism championed by J. Frank Norris, William Bell Riley, John R. Rice, Bob Jones, Sr., and Jack Hyles, where the Gospel was mixed with a certain degree of arrogance and judgmentalism.  Unfortunately, many of today’s evangelical churches lean toward the opposite extreme with Joel Osteen-Rick Warren-TBN loosey gooseyism. Andrew Himes says he accepted Christ as a child, became a Marxist atheist, but now encourages everyone to discover the enigmatic “God within ourselves.” But don’t let that stop you. Hime’s New Age/Universalism soliloquy only lasts a paragraph or two. Although this book is harshly critical of several aspects of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, Himes combines criticism with love and a good degree of respect.

For anyone interested in the history of Christian fundamentalism with a very personal twist, this book is the ticket. I couldn’t put it down.

p.s. Be forewarned. “The Sword of the Lord” traces the Rice family history from 1778 onward, sometimes with exacting detail. Those who dislike history will find this book more than a little daunting. Himes has definitely done his research.

jrr