Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Did Jesus found the Catholic Church?

One of the regularly reoccurring topics in apologetic debate is the idea that Jesus founded an earthly church that is contiguous with today's Roman Catholic Church. The historical evidence we have almost completely contradicts any possibility of this theory being true and it worth assembling a short list of samples that demonstrates this. In general it is important to understand the arguments below are evidence. Each in isolation does not absolutely disprove the possibility of Jesus having established a material church in Palestine which became today's Roman Catholic Church. But each does make it unlikely and since they are often quite independent of one another in the aggregate they do make it at the very least statistically impossible.

Bible:

The first piece of evidence is the bible itself. Starting with the synoptic gospels. In Catholic lore Mark was a secretary for Peter, the first Bishop of Rome. Matthew was an apostle who composed his gospel independently. Luke was a late companion of Paul who wrote Luke/Acts shortly before Paul's death independently of either Mark or Matthew. As soon as literary analysis was performed it was concluded that there was clear dependency. Luke and Matthew were dependent on Mark and some other not independently existing source text. Mark itself uses literary forms not common in Catholic writing but very common in Jewish and Gnostic writings, moreover forms totally unlike those found in the Petrine corpus which makes the Petrine Catholic authorship unlikely. If the Catholic church wrote the synoptic corpus then how come they don't know how these books were authored?

Similarly, Catholic theology was that an apostle of Jesus named John wrote the Gospel of John, internally literally analysis indicates that Canonical John is a heavy redaction of a smaller work whose order has been scrambled. Which demonstrates that the Catholic church is either ignorant of the origins of the gospels, dishonest about the origins of the gospels or both. If they are ignorant than as an institution they didn't write them. If dishonest then what are they covering up?

1st and 2nd Corinthians demonstrate this sort of redacted structure indicating multiple authors. Colossians has a decided non-Catholic theology of Jesus as the greatest among the aions. There is some literary dependence between Colossians and Ephesians. The internal structure of Romans is a morass of layers between groups with different theologies. The pastoral epistles have language bearing almost no resemblance to the rest of the Pauline corpus. On the other hand they bear striking resemblance to later Catholic works. Indicating they likely were written after the primary Pauline corpus was regularly used. Incidentally the Catholic Church used to attribute Hebrews which has both entirely different literary structure and theology to Paul. Under Catholic theology all of these books were written by the same 1st century Apostle who was influential in the church from early on. If the Catholic Church wrote these books how come they don't know how they were authored?

Let's move beyond the bible's structure to the core theological debates. During the writing of the bible we see the Paul character as well as other epistles like Hebrews and John making an appeal to scripture to justify their theological point. They see their opponents as peers. These authors seem completely unaware they are living in an monarchical episcopate run by Peter in Rome. How could they be unaware of this? How could later church writers like Justin Martyr be similarly unaware in their arguments?

Biblical History:

Then let's move to the bible's history. Peter is the central figure in 1st century Roman Catholic theology, the first Bishop of Rome. In  Catholic history Bishop Serapion of Antioch has a congregation in Rhossus which is using the Gospel of Peter. Other churches in the area believe Gospel of Peter is Marcionic and complain. Serapion contacts a Rhossus Docetic church to get a timeline, believing they predate Marcion. Evidently the Catholics and the docetic church are on friendly terms even though Serapion is not docetic. He gets from the entire Petrine corpus and kicks it up the chain of command. How could the Catholic church not have had the Petrine corpus until almost the 3rd century if it were founded by Peter? Why would the status of Peter's writings not be known? Why does Bishop Serapion need to go to docetic Christians to get the history of Catholic church's founders?

 Non-Catholics claim that Marcion invented the concept of a New Testament and brought the Pauline corpus to the attention of the wider Christian community including Catholics. The early church fathers are ignorant of Paul. Clement (1Clement 47:1) seems to believe there is only a single epistle a form of 1Corinthians. Ignatius (Ephesians 12:2) believed that Paul was exclusively associated with Ephesus. Polycarp (Philippians 3:2) has Paul writing to them. How is that level of ignorance possible for early Catholics if Paul is a central founder of Catholicism? Given that the earliest commentaries we have are from Basilides and Hereacleon isn't it more likely that Paul and early Paulism has no association with Catholicism at all during his life? That the Catholic story of his central role is pure fabrication?

Non-Catholic Christianity Record:

Then there is the evidence from the Gnostics, both Jewish and Christian. With the recent archeology men like John Turner and Birger Pearson have been able to reconstruct timelines for Gnostic sects and regions. And they have shown quite decisively that Christian Gnosticism developed from Jewish Gnosticism not Catholic Christianity. If Catholicism was around during the early 2nd century why doesn't it know how Christian Gnosticism developed? Why did it present over and over a theory of an origin from Catholicism?

In addition to documents we have archeological evidence.

Ignorance of Judaism:

Finally,  there is the issue of the breathtaking ignorance of Judaism one finds in Catholic literature. The Catholic theory is that the Catholic church emerged directly from Judaism. Yet early Catholic writers makes statements about Judaism which are simply so far from realities of first or second century Judaism that they must have emerged from groups who had no or little contact with the Jewish religion.   A perfect example being the role of "priest" in Catholicism and the apologetic for it based on "priests" in Judaism.  In the Judaism of the 1st century priests were primarily involved in the sacrificial cult, it was not a governing office, outside Jerusalem, nor was it a teaching office a role primarily occupied by the Pharisees.  Catholic Priests, while certainly performing ritual, are also responsible for teaching and governing, the three are united.  Far from embracing the Jewish priestly system typologically, this is an outright rejection of it.  Which would be fine were it not for the fact that the Catholic authors are ignorant of the Jewish system, a system which at least for the Ignatius letters was still in effect during his life.  This sort of ignorance couldn't have happened if Catholicism had emerged directly from Judaism. Christian Gnosticism, as an aside, might quite often despise Judaism and the Jewish God but it shows extensive knowledge of the religion. The difference between an x-wife and someone pretending to know a man she's never met.

Conclusion:

Almost every piece of evidence we have is consistent with Christianity having emerged organically from 1st century Judaism primarily Jewish Gnosticism and later developing towards Logos Christianity and Encratite forms of Christianity. If Jesus founded the Catholic church why is it the case that almost all the evidence we have is supports Catholicism having evolved came from these sects and contradicts Catholicism originating from a foundation in the Palestine of the 30s?

6 comments:

Caleb W said...

Just read and appreciated your comment over on DG Hart's blog re: Christian educational institutions. Although I come at the issue not as an atheist, I agree. I have been pestering the Gospel Coalition and other places for some time now about the anti-intellectualism of evangelicalism and the much lower standards for scholarship, teaching, and education at evangelical schools. But I get met with either denial, cliches about different worldviews, or accusations that I have fallen prey to secularism. The rhetoric of Mohler and co about the freedom of the evangelical "life of the mind" drives me crazy.

I particularly appreciated your point that in theory lack of rigor and confessionalism do not need to correlate but they do. My point on Hart's blog is that this may partly be because the confessionalism is so strict...and so insular! You cannot be an honest thinker (in MOST cases) and teach at these institutions. And that is sad. Which isn't to say that the secular academy is wholly free of this problem, but it is much less prevalent.

Education, for me, is partly about guided exposure to ideas. Evangelical institutions offer guided indoctrination to a confession.

Steve Finnell said...

OF WHAT CHURCH ARE YOU A MEMBER?
The question has been asked "Of what church are you a member?"

WHAT CHURCH?

Acts 20:28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

I am a member of the church of God which Jesus purchased with His own blood.

Romans 16:16 .....all the churches of Christ greet you.

I am a member of the church of Christ.

Galatians 1:22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which are in Christ.

I am a member of the church that is in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 2:14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea......

I am a member of the church of God in Christ.

I am a member of the church of the Messiah.

I am a member of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am a member of the church of the King of Kings.

I am a member of the church of the Lord of Lord's.

I am a member of the church of the Lamb of God.

I am a member of the church of the Prince of Peace.

I am a member of the church of the Son of Man.

I am am member of the church of God's only begotten Son.

I am a member of the church of the Living God.

I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

My church membership is written in the Lamb's book of life. (Rev. 20:15, Rev. 21:17)

The Lord adds the saved to His church. (Acts 2:47 ... and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.)

Jesus gave the instruction on how to be saved and added to His church. (Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved....)

THE CHURCHES I AM NOT A MEMBER OF

The church of King Henry the VIII.
The church of Alexander Campbell.
The church of the Pope.
The church of John Calvin.
The church Eudorus N. Bell.
The church of Alexander Mack.
The church of Mary Baker Eddy.
The church of Joseph March.
The church of John Knox.
The church of Freemasons.
The church of Charles Taze Russell.
The church Martin Luther.
The church of Menno Simons.
The church of Joesph Smith.
The church of George Fox.
The church of William Booth.
The church of Ellen G. White.
The church of Herbert W. Armstrong.
The church of John Smythe.
The churches of Catholics.
The churches of Lutherans.
The churches of Baptists.
The churches of Methodists.
The churches of Episcopalians.
The churches of Pentecostals.
The churches of Mormons.
The churches of the Salvation Army.
Etc.
Etc.
Etc.

You can join a denomination, but the Lord adds the saved to His church.

YOU CANNOT JOIN THE LORD'S CHURCH!

YES, I AM A MEMBER OF THE church of CHRIST. Why, because the Lord adds the saved to His church.

THE LORD ADDS ALL THOSE, TO HIS CHURCH, WHO HAVE OBEYED HIS TERMS FOR PARDON.

FAITH: John 3:16
REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38
CONFESSION: Romans 10:9-10
BAPTISM: (IMMERSION IN WATER) 1 Peter 3:21

THEN, THE LORD ADDS YOU TO HIS CHURCH!


YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

CD-Host said...

Steve --

I like you. Anyone who lists the Anglican church, the stone campbell churches, and then the Catholic church is trying to be equally quixotic.

CD-Host said...

Caleb --

I agree with you. And even if one is going to indoctrinate you often need to teach what other ideas are and why they are wrong. For example people learn the earlier theory of flat space and flat time before learning about relativistic curved space-time.

I think there is a real tendency to fail to see the difference between apologetics and research.

____

Anyway I responded to the secular point later in the thread.

angelo said...

I think the official Catholic position is a little bit more nuanced than you're letting on. (Although the rhetoric is exactly as you describe.) For one, Catholics only recognize one Church (at least today). They don't re-baptize people from other denominations. They consider Protestants to be part of the true Church of Christ. (Officially, theologically speaking.) There is usually no theological difference between a dissenting Catholic and a Protestant, for example.

So what does it all mean? The basis for the rhetoric and tracing the Holy See back to Peter is a particular Catholic understanding of Church: Church is the universal Body of Christ (Nicene creed still has catholic in lower-case), but the true leadership resides in Rome whether people choose to recognize it or not.

angelo said...

I think the official Catholic position is a little bit more nuanced than you're letting on. (Although the rhetoric is exactly as you describe.) For one, Catholics only recognize one Church (at least today). They don't re-baptize people from other denominations. They consider Protestants to be part of the true Church of Christ. (Officially, theologically speaking.) There is usually no theological difference between a dissenting Catholic and a Protestant, for example.

So what does it all mean? The basis for the rhetoric and tracing the Holy See back to Peter is a particular Catholic understanding of Church: Church is the universal Body of Christ (Nicene creed still has catholic in lower-case), but the true leadership resides in Rome whether people choose to recognize it or not.