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Introduction to Saint Michael's Basic Training : Apologetics

Apologetics means never having to say you're sorry. And, if done right, this
really is what apologetics means. How many of us have been asked at a barbecue,
Oh, so what is it with Catholics and Mary? And why don't you people like
homosexuals? And when are you going to allow women priests? and had to
respond with a sort of embarrassed smile and the answer, I'm sorry I don't think
I know enough to answer.

This course was designed to allow you the average Catholic with no formal
background in theology or spirituality to answer any objection or attack against
the Catholic faith, and to defend and explain any of the Catholic Church's
teachings. When Christine Cantalin (my co-author) and myself were putting
together these articles their unofficial title was Everything Your Friends Asked You
About Catholicism But You Were Afraid To Admit You Didn't Know. What we
wanted to create was a series of articles which would be user-friendly, easy to read
and understand, but which contained powerful arguments and authentic Catholic

A decision we made very early on was to have these articles be as purely

apologetic in nature as they could be so these articles do not include a great deal
of Catholic teaching. It is assumed that you will know what the Church teaches, for
example, about Mary the Mother of God. If you do not then there are references to
the Catechism of the Catholic Church on most of the articles, pointing you in the
direction of the relevant passages which explain the teaching. There seemed to be
no point in re-inventing the wheel, as it were, when the Catechism already
explained the teaching perfectly and very clearly.

Although there is not a great deal of Catholic teaching here we have explained
what non-Catholic religions believe where relevant it is important, for example,
to understand what the Mormons actually believe when attempting to refute their
particular doctrines.

But, in the main, these articles are directed solidly at apologetics they are not
designed to teach you anything except how to explain what you already know to
someone else. This is apologetics you have the faith. We want you to go spread it
to people.

These articles were written with the accompanying DVD videos in mind. At the
end of each video you will be presented with a homework section. This contains
a list of articles to read, together with a book or books of the Bible and sections
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If you click on the homework link
on the main menu then you will be able to find each of these homework
assignments on this CD.
However, if you would simply like to use these articles on their own then you can
browse through them at your leisure, using the complete list of articles as your
starting point.

This CD is best used on a computer which is connected to the internet you will
then be able to access the Bible and the Catechism online without ever taking your
hand off the mouse! Regardless of whether or not the PC is connected to the
internet you will be able to navigate between the various articles with ease.

Links appear in the text in blue and purple each of these links leads to an article
connected with the highlighted words. So within the article on the Immaculate
Conception a link will be found to the article about the typology of the Ark of the
Covenant as this is a related topic. In this way you will be able to explore the
articles by following a logical progression of topics. The link appears in blue when
you havenot visited that article recently and in purple when you have. This means
that at a glance you can tell if you have read the particular article being

Where red links appear these are to external websites which are not found on this
CD. These websites will only be accessible when you are connected to the internet.
In the main these websites are the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
hosted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops but there are other
sites referenced. These links were correct at the time of publication, but Saint
Michael's Media can accept no responsibility for broken links, nor are we
responsible for the content of any external websites.

If you do not wish to use this CD and read the articles online then you can print the
articles out either directly from your web-browser or in PDF format. To read the
PDF files you will need the Adobe Document Reader this is installed as standard
on most computers, but you can download it for free from the Adobe website.

To conclude then, both Christine and myself wish you every success in using these
articles and hope that your apologetics efforts are successful. If you would like to
contact us, please do so by emailing us

Yours in Christ,

Simon Rafe

~co-author and chief editor, Saint Michael's Basic Training : Apologetics

Homework for Class 1: Scripture is Catholic

Articles to read

What is Apologetics?

Why we engage in Apologetics

How we engage in Apologetics

Either / Or

Doctrinal Development

Doctrinal Proclamation versus Doctrinal Invention

Church Fathers


What is Revelation?

Why Do We Read Sacred Scripture?

How Do We Read Sacred Scripture?

History of the Bible

The Canon of the Bible

Why sola scriptura doesn't work

Jesus is the Messiah

The Communion of Saints

Are You Saved, Brother?

Sola Fides

Eternal Assurance & the Sin of Presumption

Mortal and Venial Sins



A Rose by Any Other Name

Catholic Prayer

Call no man Father

Anointing of the Sick


The Gospel of Mark

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Paragraphs 78, 80-84, 95, 104-105, 111-120, 131, 136-137, 702, 2653-54
What is Apologetics?

Apologetics has nothing to do with saying sorry, even though the words
apologetics and apology come from the same source. Apologetics is, in brief,
the defense of a particular viewpoint through reasoned debate and evidence. In
popular use apologetics has come to refer to the defense of a particular religious
doctrine, set of doctrines or a religion. One who engages in apologetics is called an

Apologetics is related to catechesis (which is teaching) and evangelization (which

is converting people to a particular religion) and there is a great deal of overlap
between them. A Catholic apologist will often have to engage in catechesis and
evangelization as he engages in apologetics. Pure apologetics assumes that the
person listening is already aware of what the Church's teaching is but this is not
always the case.It is very important to ensure that the person being spoken to is
aware of what the Church actually teaches.

However, apologetics does not just apply to non-Catholics there are many
Catholics today who, sadly, do not follow or agree with Church teaching on many
issues (most commonly contraception, abortion andsexual morality, and the
reception of the Eucharist). The Catholic apologist must always be ready to defend
the Church from within as well as from without.

Apologetics differs from evangelization in that it is often the defense of a teaching

which is under attack rather than the promotion of a teaching which has never been
considered. Apologetics is, in essence, evangelization on hostile ground.

This merely says what apologetics is it does not address how or why we engage
in apologetics, as this is covered in separate articles.

Why do we engage in apologetics?

Apologetics can be considered an example of the Great Commission given to the

disciples (and by extension all Christians) in Matthew 28:16-20. Here, Jesus tells
the Christian Church to go out into the world and convert people to Christianity.

When Jesus gave the Great Commission He made it clear that the disciples were to
instruct people to observe all of His commandments. This means that Jesus
considered none of His teachings to be unessential. Because of the exclusive nature
of truth, only one set of doctrines can be completely correct. The Catholic Church
rightly considers herself to be the one true Church.

The various non-Catholic religions (both non-Catholic Christian religions, non-

Christian religions and philosophical systems such as atheism and New Age
beliefs) are to a greater or lesser extent divergent from the commandments
taught by Jesus. Thus, they are wrong to a certain degree.

The Great Commission obviously applies to everyone and it applies not only to
those who have never heard of Jesus Christ and Christianity, but also to those who
have some knowledge of Jesus Christ and Christianity, but who do not know or do
not accept the full truth as taught by the authoritative Catholic Church.

Apologetics is, as described elsewhere, evangelization on hostile ground. It is the

method by which the truth of the Catholic faith can be explained to those who are
opposed to it, either through ignorance of the Catholic faith or through deliberate
misinformation. Apologetics should be based on reasoned debate, logic and
argument not merely on an emotional experience or rhetoric. As such it is more
likely to convince people of the truth of the Catholic faith that many other

How we engage in apologetics

Apologetics is the reasoned defense of a particular religion (in our case,

Catholicism) and is very important to our lives as Christians. But it is not always
easy in fact, it can be downright hard to engage in effective apologetics. This
series of articles will give you a great deal of information and knowledge but
resources are only as useful as their application. How we should engage in
apologetics is a very important thing.

I can't do this!

The initial reaction from many would-be-apologists is that this is too complex and
that there is far too much information to learn or memorize. People maintain that
they cannot remember what to say when talking with non-Catholics, or that they
loose their tempers, or that they are simply bamboozled by the things the non-
Catholic says.

There is no shame is admitting that you cannot be a perfect or brilliant apologist

as Saint Paul makes clear in I Corinthians 12:4-7 every single member of the body
of Christ has a different role to play. Not everyone has the natural skills and talent,
nor indeed the inclination or time, to be a formidable apologist. But everyone can
become a better apologist and everyone should know something of how to defend
the faith.

Firstly, because in learning how to defend the faith you learn more about the faith
and Jesus and the Bible all of which are good things to know more about! This
will deepen faith and trust in God, and will make you better able to withstand
apologetics from other religions trying to undermine your faith! Even if you cannot
argue back at the apologist, you will be able to see that his arguments are flawed.
Secondly, apologetics is not about quantity, or really quality. It is about trying and
being in the right place at the right time. It is entirely possible that a person with a
very small knowledge of apologetics and no real talent or inclination for the
subject will manage to say something that convinces a single person to become
Catholic. That is a wonderful prize - that is the goal of apologetics; to get people
to have a relationship with Jesus Christ through His Catholic Church, and by that
get to Heaven. If just one person gets to Heaven because of apologetics, the whole
thing is worthwhile!

Three areas of preparation

An apologist needs to be prepared in three ways spiritually, intellectually, and

passionately. Each of these is very important, and none of them should be

Spiritual preparation

The Catholic apologist should seek to be as holy as he can be he should regularly

pray, attend Mass, adore Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, say the rosary and
make as many devotions as he can. The Catholic apologist should also strive to live
an exemplary life avoiding sin and scandal. Why is this? Surely if apologetics is
about reasoned argument and logic it doesn't matter if the apologist is holy so long
as he is clever?

This is not true for two reasons. Firstly, and practically, the people the apologist
speaks to will tend to judge the religion by its members. If the apologist himself is
a bad Catholic and is not holy, they may conclude (erroneously, of course,
because a perfect Church can contain imperfect men) that the religion is a sham.
This is something to be avoided at all costs. An apologist does not have to be
perfect (no-one except Jesus and Mary were sinless) but he should always strive to

Secondly, very few people are converted by intellectual argument, and none remain
in Catholicism because of it. It is not the words of men which convert people, but
the Word Made Man, Jesus Christ. It is God who saves people and God who opens
their hearts to Him. A Catholic apologist should always strive to be holy, not only
talking to and arguing with the people he seeks to persuade, but also praying
earnestly for them and offering up Masses and sufferings for their conversion. The
very real, practical advantages of devotions such as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
cannot be underestimated.

Intellectual preparation

An apologist needs to know the faith very well indeed he needs to be familiar
with the teachings of the Church; how can he defend what he does not know?
The apologist should read the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn what the
Church teaches about particular doctrines. Commentaries on the Catechism and the
Churches teachings from various approved sources are also of great value. The
apologist must also be very familiar with Sacred Scripture how to do this is such
an important topic that it has its own article.

As well as knowing the Bible and the teachings of the Church the apologist needs
to know his specific subject; apologetics. This series of articles is designed to be an
extensive overview of the subject, but it is by no means complete or exhaustive.
The apologist should read webpages, magazines and books containing articles
about apologetics and also find out what non-Catholics are saying about the
Church, so as to be better prepared for the counter-arguments.

Intellectual knowledge is often considered the most important aspect of

apologetics, but it is in fact the least important. Knowledge can be looked up in a
book or an article, so it is not essential to have it in your head at all times. Passion
and piety cannot simply be found by reading a book!

Preparing to be passionate

The Catholic faith is a faith of love God so loved the world that He sent His Son
to die for us (John 3:16). The apologist must love the faith in order to defend it
properly otherwise there is no incentive to do so. In order to be a truly great
apologist this love must manifest itself as fearlessness in defending and
proclaiming the truth, no matter how difficult this might make things for him.
There must also be a willingness to engage in apologetics.

Passion for apologetics cannot be taught or acquired some people simply do not
have any real inclination to engage in apologetics. But passion for the faith itself,
while impossible to learn, can certainly be acquired. By advancing in holiness and
piety a person can increase his love of the faith. By learning more about the faith a
person can come to realize that there is even more to love, and thereby deepen his
love for Catholicism.

Each individual case is different

Apologetics is not a one-size-fits-all science; apologetics need to be tailored to the

person being spoken to. It is essential to determine what the person believes, and
why he believes it. Finding out what the person thinks the Catholic Church
believes is also very important.

Perhaps the most important aspect of apologetics is prayer before engaging in

any apologetic activity you should say (even if silently) a short prayer asking for
help from the Holy Spirit, your Guardian Angel or a favorite saint. If the person
you are talking to is willing and it is appropriate (i.e. the person is a Christian)
saying a prayer together can often break down a lot of barriers.

Specific methods

There are a number of things which an apologist should strive to remember and
they are summed up by three acronyms. The apologist should always avoid being a
LIAR by using FACTS and making a POINT.

LIAR stands for;





The apologist should avoid all of these things he should never be loud and shout
at the person he is talking to, even if he shouts back. The same goes for
being insulting or displaying anger. This can often be very difficult some non-
Catholics will say terrible things about the Catholic Church and will get very angry
and can be very insulting. The Catholic should always seek to remain calm and
polite even if this is very difficult!

The Catholic should also avoid using techniques such as rhetoric or appeals to
emotion; this is not about who can give the best presentation or who can come up
with the snappiest one-liner. All arguments must be logical and reasoned, able to
stand up to analysis and debate. Simple statements of assertion without facts,
dramatic speeches and other examples of poor debating technique must be avoided.
Apologists who are not well-versed in the nature of debate and logical argument
would do well to study this topic no-one stays convinced by rhetoric and
anything other than logic.

FACTS stands for;



Catechism & Code


This is the list of sources that the apologist should use to provide evidence for what
the Catholic Church teaches and sources of material for defense. The fathers are
the Church Fathers, the earliest Christians who recorded what the apostles handed
onto them. The archives are the Vatican Archives the writings of popes, the
declarations of councils, congregations and so forth which form part of
the officialteaching of the Church. The Catechism & Code are, obviously,
the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law. Tradition is a
catch-all term for the previous three sources this is the teaching of the Church as
handed by the apostles and their heirs. Finally, Scripture is the 73-book Bible of
the Catholic Church.

Other sources can, of course, be used for evidence but they should never be used
to provide Catholic teaching. If the teaching is not found in one of these sources
then it isn't official Catholic teaching end of story! If someone tries to suggest the
Catholic Church believes something, the apologist should always ask to see the

POINT stands for;






This refers to what the Catholic apologist should discuss and defend. The topics
discussed should be precise the apologist should avoid getting drawn into huge,
rambling discussions that try to cover every single aspect of Catholic theology. The
discussion should be kept as narrow and focused as possible, as otherwise this can
be confusing and not enough time is spent on any one subject. The apologist
should always attempt to bring the conversation back to the precise subject under
discussion there is always time to have a separate discussion about another
subject later!

The topics discussed should never be individual experiences, but

rather organizational teachings of the Church as a whole. Specific incidents
between a person and a member of the Church are not suitable for an apologist to
defend or talk about the apologist was not there and so cannot comment on that
individual case. What the apologist can (and should) do, however, is move the
individual experience into the wider context. For example, the case of a person
who was sexually abused by a Priest cannot be discussed by the apologist but the
issue of scandal in the Church can be. Individual cases are often very emotional,
and so it is best to move it to a more impersonal, organizational level if at all

The apologist should always talk about the ideal of the Catholic Church what she
teaches, not what individual members do. There is no defense, for example, that
can be made for a criminal in the Church. However, the Church herself can be
defended because she does not encourage such criminal activity. The
organizational and ideal points here are connected and very important the
apologist does not seek to defend individuals or their actions but rather the
teaching of the Church.

The Catholic faith is complex, and there are many aspects to each teaching which
cover a wide spectrum of circumstances. A good example would be baptism
when it can be performed, by whom, its necessity and so forth. The apologist
should always begin by talking about the normal practice and teaching of the
Church. For example, the Church teaches that priests are normally celibate but
there are exceptions. The Church also allows for non-Catholics
to receive the Eucharist in very limited circumstances but the normal teaching is
that they are not. Baptism is normatively necessary, but not essential
inall circumstances.

While discussing the ins and outs of a particular doctrine can be an excellent form
of apologetics (especially as many of the objections seem to stem from an Either /
Or mentality, or a belief that the Catholic Church is too rule-bound) the apologist
should always begin by discussing the normal practice and teaching.

Finally, the apologist should always insist on discussing the truth not what
someone says is the truth, and especially not what anti-Catholics say is the truth!
The apologist should never defend, for example, the slaughter of millions of Bible-
believing Christians by the Inquisition because this never happened! It is a flat
lie. The Catholic apologist must always defend the truth and never be tricked into
defending a lie which is not supported by historical evidence.

Getting it wrong

Even the best apologists sometimes get it wrong and not merely in an error in
facts or teaching, but they loose their temper and behave in an un-Christian
manner. If this happens to you, don't despair!

First, apologize to the person explain why this happened. Do not seek to avoid
responsibility, but explain what got you so angry. It may be that the person was
being deliberately offensive in an attempt to get you angry there are many people
who will do this. It may be that the person will not accept your apology, or who
will simply try to get you angry again.

Consider why you got angry this may be very obvious! - and make attempts to
avoid getting angry in the future. Pray about this, and consult a spiritual director or
confessor if you can.

It may be that there is no way that you can continue to talk to some people without
getting angry at this point, it is time to accept that there is nothing that you can

Giving up

There are some people for whom apologetics will not work without a major change
in their heart, and there are some for whom your personal apologetics may not
work (family members, for example, are often surprisingly hard to engage in
effective apologetics). With these people, after attempting dialog, there is nothing
left to do but go on your way and pray for them.

Remember, it is not the apologist and his apologetics which truly convinces people
it is the love of Jesus Christ. Always pray for the people and show that love, even
if they return it with hatred. It is the hardness of heart or head which prevents
people from accepting the truth of the Catholic Church if you, as an apologist,
present the truth in love and to the best of your ability then you have done all that
is expected of you.

Either / Or

One of the key differences between Protestant and Catholic theology is often
expressed as the difference between either / or and both . . . and.
Understanding this and being able to explain the difference to Protestants is a vital
part of apologetics.

Often, a Catholic will speak about a Catholic doctrine and a Protestant will insist
that this means the Catholic ignores or does not use what he sees as the
corresponding or opposite aspect of that doctrine. This is what is often called the
either / or attitude.

For example, the conversation may proceed something like this;

Protestant : The Bible is our sole authority and guidance for Christianity.

Catholic : Catholics believe that the Sacred Tradition is also a source of authority
and guidance.

Protestant : That means that Catholics do not believe the Bible at all.
Similar conversations and attitudes can be imagined (and experienced!) for a
number of other doctrines (praying to God & praying to the saints, salvation
through faith & salvation through good works, Christ's atoning death & the
sacraments). Many Protestants seem to think that it is one or the other they
maintain one cannot believe (for example) in
Jesus and Mary, or Scripture and Tradition.

As is manifestly clear, such an attitude can render any discussion about Christianity
impossible to have because the Catholic position is not either / or but rather
both . . . and. We believe in the Bible andSacred Tradition, for example. Before
we can persuade a Protestant that Sacred Tradition is a valid source of authority,
we need to show them that accepting Sacred Tradition does not mean rejecting
Sacred Scripture.

There are many Protestants who, as soon as you explain that you are not suggesting
that they replace prayer to Jesus with prayer to the saints (for example) but
rather add to their prayer life will understand what you are saying and the
conversation can proceed from there. But there are also many Protestants who will
not accept this, and you will need to show these people that their position is
logically wrong.

A good method of doing this is an analogy ask the person if he loves his mother.
He will probably say yes. Then ask if he also loves his father. Show the person that
it is possible to have a both . . . and relationship rather than just an either / or
one. There are many other examples liking two different kinds of food, or
listening to two different types of music, or being a member of two different clubs.

(There are, obviously, some things which are either / or propositions something
cannot be both true and false, for example. But the either / or proposition only
applies to things which are mutually exclusive and contradictory.)

If the person is unwilling or unable to accept that belief in a particular Catholic

doctrine does not necessarily lead to a rejection of some other, related but distinct,
doctrine or concept, then it may be that the apologetics conversation cannot
continue. If the only options left to the apologist are either / or then there is no
point in arguing; because the truth of the matter is both . . . and.

If you manage to persuade someone that the notion of either / or is wrong, you
must still persuade them that the particular Catholic doctrine is true and that will
require additional, specific arguments!

Doctrinal Development

A number of non-Catholics attack the Church based on their view that the Church
has changed its doctrines over the years. They disagree with the Church when
she says she has never changed her teachings. This argument ties into the two
notions of what is a doctrine (and what is not) and doctrinal development.

What is a doctrine (and what is not)

A doctrine is a formalized teaching of the Church which cannot be changed.

Doctrines are a fundamental truth of the faith (for example, that Christ is divine is
a doctrine, that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus is a
doctrine). Doctrines are never invented but are rather proclaimed.

(The word dogma is applied to certain doctrines. All dogmas are doctrines, but
not all doctrines are dogmas. However, many people use the word virtually
interchangeably. For the purposes of most simple apologetics, this is an acceptable
compromise. The difference between a dogma and a doctrine does not concern us
at this level both doctrines and dogmas are infallible teachings of the Church
which can never be changed, although they can be and are - formally defined.)

There are many other practices which the Church does, teaches and believes which
are not formally defined as doctrines. These are disciplines and customs &

Disciplines are the Church's human laws and rulings; these are things such
as priestly celibacy. They are not formally part of the teaching of the Church which
must be accepted with full and Catholic faith on the pain of heresy (as doctrines
are). They do not directly pertain to matters of faith and morals, but rather actions
and behaviors which are tailored to the current state of the Church. Although they
can change, it is rare that they do.

Customs and Devotion are things like novenas and the priest's vestments. These are
elements of the Church's life which are simply how the Church (either corporately
or individually) expresses the faith which is defined by dogmas.

Church disciplines, customs and devotions are not part of the defined teaching of
the Church and are subject to change. They can even be subject to human error
doctrines cannot.

When the Church claims to be infallible and to never change, she is

referring solely to doctrines.

Doctrinal Development

There are two misunderstandings which non-Catholics fall into when discussing
the notion that the Catholic Church might have changed a doctrine. Firstly, they
fail to understand doctrinal proclamation. And secondly, they fail to understand
doctrinal development.
Doctrinal development refers to the fact that the understanding (although not the
meaning) of a doctrine can grow over the years. This is not a changing of the
doctrine, but rather a growing understanding of precisely how it works.

As an example, the truth that Jesus Christ is really and physically present in the
Eucharist has been a teaching of the Church since the apostolic age. References to
this are found in the writings of the Church Fathers and the Scripture is very clear
on this matter. However, it was not until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 that
the word transubstantiation was first formally used, and not until the Council of
Trent in 1551 that the doctrine was formally defined.

This is an example of both doctrinal proclamation (in the face of denial and
opposition by Protestants) but also doctrinal development. It was known that Jesus
was really physically present, but it was not known precisely how this occurred. At
the Lateran Council, the word transubstantiation was used. The word refers to a
movement or a change of substance it was now understood that the physical
presence of Christ involved a change in substance. At the Council of Trent, the
doctrine was formally defined and the understanding of the Church grew.

An analogy may be helpful in defending this distinction

(between change and development). If someone says There is a woman in the
room and then proceeds to modify his statement to say There is a woman
wearing a dress in the room, there is a woman wearing a dress in the corner of
the room, there is a woman wearing a red dress in the corner of the room and so
forth, finally coming up with a statement that says there is a woman wearing a red
silk dress sitting in the corner of the room smoking a cigarette and drinking white
wine from a crystal glass he has never once said anything that would make his
first statement untrue. The development of a thought or teaching does not change
the teaching unless it contradicts an earlier statement. So, for example, if the color
of the woman's dress had changed in these statements, that would have been a
change. But these examples reflect mere developments, not contradictory changes.

All of the Church's doctrines can be understood in this manner as doctrines

which have been proclaimed and then possibly developed so that they more closely
come to reflect the absolute truth of the universe. The infallibility of the Church
and the pope means that they cannot teach error, not that they automatically teach
every single aspect of the truth in its entirety. Everyone must recognize and admit
that the mysteries at the core of all Church teachings are mysteries of God, and no-
one will ever fully understand them in this life. So it should not be surprising that
as the Church reflects ever more deeply on her Lord and Master's mysterious
presence in the Church that we come to more deeply understand the mystery of

Doctrinal Proclamation versus Doctrinal Invention

A commonly leveled charge against the Catholic Church is that she just makes
stuff up. An often circulated list is a series of dates, together with the doctrines
that the Catholic Church invented on that date. How, the critics say, are we to
understand that the Catholic Church is eternal and unchanging when she changes
her teaching?

The truth of the matter, of course, is that the Church has never changed a teaching
or a doctrine. Doctrines may develop over time, but this is not the same as the
changing of a doctrine or the invention of a new one. But, if this is the case, what is
this list of dates and doctrines? Aren't these the dates that these doctrines were

No, they are not. Most of the lists get the dates and doctrines are accurate (there are
some lists which have the wrong date for a particular doctrine) but the dates refer
to the date the doctrine was solemnly defined or proclaimed not the date the
doctrine was invented. Doctrines are never invented they are proclaimed.

The dates given are usually the date of a particular Church Council which defined
that doctrine (so, for example, the date 1854 is given for the doctrine of
the Immaculate Conception of Mary). Non-Catholics seem to think that this means
that the Catholic Church suddenly invented this teaching at that point, and forced
people to believe it. But this is not the case.

In all cases, the doctrines are ones that have been believed by the majority of the
faithful since the time of the Apostles, and have been treated as part of the teaching
of the faith. One finds many, many examples of the teaching of the Immaculate
Conception (although not under that name) in the writings of the Church
Fathers and other Christians. This was not a radical new doctrine which no-one had
ever heard of, nor are any other doctrinal proclamations. It was simply a formal
declaration of the ancient belief.

The Protestant tactic of listing the dates of Councils and saying that those dates
were when the doctrines were invented (that is, they did not exist before then and
were wholly new and radical ideas withing Christianity, without any precedent) can
and should backfire on them. For example, no Christian would ever say that the
teaching about Christs Divinity was suddenly invented in 325 AD at the Council
of Nicea.

Catholics properly understand this to be a solemn declaration of Christs

Divinity that had always been believed all the way back to the Apostles.
Now, are the Protestants seriously going to hold onto the notion that a doctrine did
not exist before it was solemnly defined? That no-one believed it before it was
proclaimed? Of course not because it is obvious (from both Biblical and extra-
Biblical evidence) that the early Christians believed that Jesus was (and still is, and
always was, and always will be) God.

Doctrinal proclamation is not doctrinal invention it is simply the confirming of

something which the Church has always taught, but in a formal language which
leaves no room for doubt or confusion.

Why does doctrinal proclamation occur? There are three main reasons.

The first is that, as theological understanding grows and more precise details of the
nature of God are revealed to humanity, spiritual matters can be better described.
This is the process of doctrinal development, which leads to the formal declaration
of doctrines which clearly define what the theological term is. A good example of
this would be the eventual declaration of the Real Presence of Christ in the
Eucharist. The fact that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ was
well-known and clearly understood from the earliest times, but the precise nature
of how this happened was a matter of debate until the doctrine was formally

The second reason for formally proclaiming a doctrine is that the doctrine has been
formally challenged. When an established truth of the faith is challenged by a
heresy, the Church chooses to clearly define this truth in order to establish it as a
fact of the Catholic faith. A good example of this would be the declaration
that Jesus is God this doctrine was defined in the face of the Arian heresy (which
denied thedivinity of Jesus) and managed to clearly separate the Christians from
the Arians. Truths which are not challenged, or which are not essential to the faith,
are not defined as doctrines. So, for example, no group of heretics has ever
suggested that Jesus had only one arm but it is assumed that He had two (based
on common sense and the references to hands in the New Testament). The
Church has never defined this as a doctrine, despite the fact she holds it as a truth.
Similarly, the question of whether or not Mary died before being assumed into
Heaven has never been defined as a doctrine firstly because the Church does not
know and secondly because it is not something which is essential to the faith.

The third reason for the formal declaration of a doctrine is because the
proclamation of the doctrine will encourage devotion among the faithful. An
example of this would be the proclamation of the Assumption in 1950, which
encouraged greater Marian devotion among the faithful.

When explaining doctrinal proclamation to a non-Catholic, the important points to

focus on are;

The proclamation of a doctrine does not mean that it is invented then

Doctrines which are proclaimed have been believed by the faithful since the
earliest days of the Church

Doctrines are formally defined because of doctrinal development, in the face

of opposition, or to encourage devotion

Even if you manage to convey all this information and get the person to accept it as
true, you may still have to defend and explain any individual doctrines which they
have a problem with. For this, you will need to refer to the specific materials
geared towards defending that doctrine but explaining what doctrinal
proclamation actually is will be a very good start!

Church Fathers

Many modern Christians are of the opinion that what previous generations of
Christians did or believed or thought is of no concern to them. Some Protestants
are even of the opinion that it does not matter what Martin Luther (one of the
pillars of the Reformation) taught or believed. Well, that is something both
Protestants and Catholics can agree on!

If these people reject the historical forms of Christianity, what are they using in
their place? For the most part, they are using the Bible and the doctrine of sola
scriptura (which is as is discussed elsewhere not just the Bible alone, and
really means their own personal interpretation of the Bible) to create some form of
Christianity. Virtually all Protestant denominations also use a number of Catholic
Traditions either consciously or unconsciously (such as the doctrine of the
Trinity and the union of God and Man in Jesus Christ).

Of course, many Protestants (especially those who adhere to sola scriptura) will
deny that they are using anything other than the Bible itself to provide a source of
Christian knowledge. As a Catholic apologist, you have two main avenues which
you can pursue in persuading people of the correctness of the Catholic use of extra-
Biblical sources.
Firstly, you can show them that they actually are using extra-Biblical sources for
example, if the non-Catholic believes in the Trinity and uses the words which came
out of the Council of Nicea, he or she is using a non-Biblical source. This may be
enough to show to some Christians that their view of how we obtain Christian
knowledge is naive and inaccurate.

Secondly, you can demonstrate that sola scriptura doesn't work, either logically or
theologically. You also need to show that extra-Biblical sources most especially
the writings of the Church Fathers and other early Christians are significant and
valid sources of Christian knowledge and understanding. Other articles in this
series have shown how to discredit the doctrine of sola scriptura and so this article
will concentrate on why the Church Fathers and other early Christians are a valid
source of Christian knowledge and understanding.

In a very real sense, each Christian is the inheritor of what he or she is taught by
the people or person who taught him or her; even the Christians who say that they
believe in sola scriptura will admit that their pastor's or parents' theology and
interpretation of the Bible has influenced their understanding of Christianity. The
Scriptures are replete with references to traditions which have been handed on -
most often in the letters of Saint Paul, where he speaks of handing on traditions,
beliefs and practices to the churches he founded.

This process of believing what was handed on to us should continue all the way
back to the Apostles who themselves believed and did certain things because they
were taught them by Christ Himself! Some of these things (although not all of
them) were eventually written down by the Apostles as Sacred Scripture.

Of course, most people will say that this method of oral transmission, of passing on
teachings and beliefs, is not perfect because it may lead to misunderstandings and
confusions. Over the years and generations, it may be that the beliefs will be
changed as they are passed on. The change may be a result of a deliberate
alteration of the beliefs and practices, or it may be completely accidental.

We can see that this is, in fact, what has happened because there are over 35,000
different denominations of Christians today! Each of these denominations has
sprung, ultimately, from the same set of beliefs the Jesus handed onto the Apostles
but all of them are different from each other. Which set of beliefs is right (if any
are!) and how can we know?

A number of people might say that we can never know or that the only source we
have is the Bible. However, as is demonstrated elsewhere, sola scriptura does not
work and the pillar and foundation of the truth is not the Bible it is the Catholic
Church. But how can we know for certain which beliefs and practices are the ones
which Jesus handed onto the Apostles?
This is where the writings and testimony of the early Christians and most
especially the Church Fathers come into play. These men were living in the very
early years of the Church some of them (called the Apostolic Fathers) were living
at the same time as many of the Apostles themselves. These men were taught by
the Apostles, or by men the Apostles taught. They lived very close to the time
when Jesus walked on the earth and was teaching His followers the truth.

All things being equal, whatever these men wrote down as accurate teachings of
the Church (especially if there is agreement among them) is going to be what Jesus
Christ taught directly to the Apostles. It is certainly more likely to be the truth than
a modern notion or idea which does not appear anywhere until much later.

It is for this reason that we use the Church Fathers because they were early
Christians who were much closer to Jesus and the Apostles, spoke the same
language and lived in the same world. It is much more likely that these men would
have a better understanding of the true teachings of Christ than men living many
hundreds of years later.


The two halves of the Bible do not exist in isolation. The Old Testament
prepared the way for the New Testament, and the text of the Bible reflects this. The
Old Testament contains many persons, images and events which prefigure persons,
images and events in the New Testament. These are known as types and the
study of them is known as typology.

The Church has understood, from the earliest times, that the New Testament lies
hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (CCC 129) and
that a type is an Old Testament sign of a New Testament reality (CCC 128-130). In
order to gain a complete understanding of the Old Testament and how Christ's
Church is revealed, we have to read the Scriptures in terms of types.

A number of non-Catholics complain about a typological reading of Scripture

especially as typology supports a number of key Catholic doctrines! - saying that
the original events should be understood simply as those events, and never be
looked at as a preview of a New Testament reality. Typology is derided as a non-
Scriptural practice.

There are two ways to deal with this the first is to refute the notion of sola
scriptura and to point out that the early Christian writers (that is, those who were
writing outside the Scriptures) used and even relied on typology. It was a standard
way of understanding religious texts during the first century.

The second important point to make is that a typological reading of the Scriptures
is not just something which later Christians have come up with, but is in fact
mandated by Sacred Scripture itself. In Matthew 12:40, Jesus teaches us that the
story of Jonah and the great fish is a prefiguration of Jesus in the tomb.

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will
the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The phrase type specifically appears in Romans 5:14, where Saint Paul calls
Adam a type of Christ;

Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like
the transgressions of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

There are many more examples of types which are specifically and explicitly
referenced in the New Testament. Good examples are John 3:14 (the bronze
serpent is a type of Christ) and I Peter 3:19-21 (the Flood is a type of baptism). In
many examples, these types are shown using metaphorical language, but in some
cases the comparison is more explicit as suits the importance of typology. For
example, in I Corinthians we are told that the rock was Christ, not that it was
merely like Christ. At the end of chapter 11 of Revelation and the beginning of 12,
we are told that Saint John saw the Ark of the Covenant, which is immediately
followed by a description of the woman clothed with the sun. This is a clear
reference to the fact that the Ark of the Covenant was the woman clothed with the
sun (who we can clearly tell is the mother of Jesus, Mary the Blessed Virgin).

In order to fully understand the New Testament, we must read it in light of the rich
typology of the Old Testament.

There are many examples of typology in the Bible, all of which are interesting and
relevant to our understanding of the Catholic faith. From a standpoint of pure
apologetics, however, some are far more relevant than others. Accordingly, these
articles cover a number of specific examples of typology in separate articles while
other examples of typology are covered within other articles. This should not be
taken to mean, however, that there are no other examples of typology than the ones
given in these articles.

What is Revelation? (CCC 74-100)

One of the key points of contention between Catholics and non-Catholics is in the
concept of revelation. Many Protestants accept no source of revelation except
Sacred Scripture (the so-called sola scripturadoctrine) while Catholics have a
fuller and more correct understanding of what revelation is.

Revelation comes from the word reveal and refers to the truths about Himself
that God has made known to humanity. There are two main types of revelation
general and special revelation. Each is defined by how that information is
conveyed to humanity.

General Revelation

As the name implies, general revelation is the information and truths which God
has revealed via ordinary means. Because human beings have a spiritual soul made
in the image of God, we are capable of love, understanding and choice. With this,
we are able to determine certain things about God by observing the world around
us and contemplating the natural law which all men are endowed with.

The obvious order, power and beauty of the material world are a clear indication
that the universe did not come into existence randomly, but is rather the result of an
action or actions taken by an all-powerful, divine being. The book of Wisdom in
the Old Testament explains this best in chapter 13 where it says that all men who
were ignorant of God were foolish by nature. (Wisdom 13:1). In Romans 1:20,
Saint Paul says that the hand of God is clearly visible in the natural world which
He has made.

The other source of general revelation is the natural law. This does not refer to the
physical laws or the laws of nature, but rather the law written in our hearts
(Romans 2:15) as it is often described.

The natural law can be fairly accurately described as those things everyone knows
are right (or wrong). Throughout history, all men have instinctively known that
there are certain things which are good (honesty, helping others, keeping your
word) and things which are bad (lying, cheating, murder). These universal moral
constants are what the Church means when she talks about the natural law.

The natural law is not simply an expression of a survival instinct; it has been
placed in the hearts and minds of humanity. The natural refers to nature the
human nature all humans share. God has encoded this law in our natures, and it
reflects His own law. By studying and considering the natural law in our hearts, we
can learn much about the nature of God.

Special Revelation

While general revelation is a very good guide to the nature of God, it is not
complete or sufficient. In order to gain a more complete and full understanding of
God, we need access to special revelation.

Special revelation is the information about the universe and Himself that God has
revealed to humanity via more direct methods. This includes details of what
humans must do in order to achieve the destiny which God has planned for us, and
information about the nature of God which is not immediately clear from studying
the world and the natural law.

God chooses to reveal this special revelation to humanity via inspired prophets and
other individuals. We see many examples of this in the Bible prophets such as
Isaiah and Jeremiah are spoken to directly by God, Moses is given the Decalogue
on Sinai and so forth. One form of special revelation described in the Bible (which
many people do not immediately see as special revelation from God) is all the
words, commandments, parables, instructions and so forth given by Our Blessed
Lord during the Incarnation.

There are two types of special revelation private, and public revelation. Private
revelation is a particular revelation to a specific Christian. Beliefs in such
revelations is not obligatory for Catholics; only belief in universal
or public revelations are obligatory. An example of private revelation would be the
Lourdes Apparitions of the Virgin Mary, or the message of Divine Mercy received
by Saint Faustina. While private revelation is (once it has been approved by the
Church) valid and truthful, it is not part of the deposit of faith which Catholics
must believe and which forms public revelation.

Public revelation is the special revelation which God began with His direct
communication with His inspired prophets and which ended with the death of the
last Apostle (Saint John the Evangelist, around 100 AD). This public revelation is
also known as the deposit of faith.

Private revelation can never supplant, contradict or replace public revelation any
private revelation must be in accord with the public revelation, or it is clearly false.
This important aspect of private, post-Apostolic special revelation is ignored or
denied by groups such as the Mormons, who constantly rely on new alleged
revelations to support their novel and constantly changing doctrines.

Public revelation is found in two forms; Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

It is at this point that the greatest divide between Catholics and Protestants
concerning revelation occurs (there are other divides many Protestants do not
accept the notion of private revelation, for example but this is the main one).
Protestants who hold to a notion of sola scripture (scripture alone - the false and
heretical doctrine that the Bible alone provides the sole rule of faith and that all
spiritual truths are contained in the Bible) reject the fact that there are two forms of
public revelation. They only accept one; Sacred Scripture.

Sacred Tradition is possessed by the Church and is the oral Traditions of the
Apostles handed down through the centuries (as we can see in the letters of Saint
Paul (II Thessalonians 2:15) he instructs his disciples to stay faithful to both the
written and the oral Traditions). Much (if not all) of this oral Tradition has now
been written down in catechisms, encyclicals, council documents and so forth but
it is called oral Tradition to distinguish it from Sacred Scripture. It is as Saint
Paul's words to us in II Thessalonians 2:15 show just as important and vital to a
Christian as Sacred Scripture for determining doctrine.

But what is Sacred Scripture? We have seen that it is a form of revelation

(information about the nature of God and the spiritual universe revealed to us by
God). It is a form of special revelation (that is, revelation communicated directly to
humanity by God). It is also written down under the inspiration and guidance of the
Holy Spirit, and is therefore considered to be inspired and free from error (as Jesus
says, the Holy Spirit will teach us all truth.)

Therefore, we can safely say that Sacred Scripture is the divine special public
revelation which has been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As
the Lord makes clear in Jeremiah 30:2, He does command people to write some
things down. However, there are many things which are not written down but are
still of God John 21:35 makes it very clear that not even all the things Jesus did
during the Incarnation are written down. To attempt to write down everything there
is to know about God would be impossible.

Sacred Scripture is the portion of the deposit of faith which has been written down
under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by inspired men. It occupies a unique
position in the Church, but is not our only source of information about the nature
of God.

In Summary

There are several types of revelation;

General Revelation is the understanding of God and His nature which we as

humans can learn via our own senses and reason. We can obtain general revelation
through observing the natural world and thenatural law.

Special revelation is that revelation which is directly revealed to humanity through

a special communicative act of God.

Private revelation is a form of special revelation which is provided to support and

exist in harmony with public revelation. It does not seek to replace or redefine the
deposit of faith, but rather seeks to provide a greater understanding of particular
devotions which can lead to a growth of spirituality. No private revelation is a
source for new teachings (because there are no new teachings) although it can
provideconfirmation and support for a newly defined doctrine.

Public revelation is the form of special revelation given to the Church by Jesus
Christ and passed on via the Apostles and their disciples. This revelation ended
with the death of the last Apostle (Saint John, around the year 100 AD) meaning
that all the truths of Christianity were imparted at or before this time and that no
new doctrines or teaching can be invented or created nor can any be removed if
Christianity is to remain authentic.

Sacred Oral Tradition is the form of public special revelation which

was not written down under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, although it may have
been committed to paper.

Sacred Scripture is the public special revelation which has been written down
under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and has been assembled through the actions
of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (acting in accord with the will of
God) in the Bible.

Why do we read Sacred Scripture?

Why should we bother to read Sacred Scripture at all? If the Tradition of the
Church is the method by which God has revealed Himself to humanity, why bother
reading the Bible at all?

Although this question seems like a ludicrous one which you would never get
asked, it is possible that you may be asked this very question in a sarcastic manner
by those Protestants seeking to discredit your views by creating a straw man
argument about Catholic beliefs in the Bible. Because we do not hold to sola
scriptura then we must not believe the Bible at all! (This is yet another example of
the ProtestantEither / or view of theology.) It is also advantageous to understand
the value of the Bible in concrete terms it may be that the question will be asked
by those who do not believe there is any value to the Bible, and so you may have to
show them that there is.

The answer to the question is obvious Sacred Scripture is part of the Tradition of
the Church, and the Church is the Body of Christ. As the written Tradition, it is
perhaps the most obvious form of the Tradition. And the Bible itself gives us plenty
of reasons for reading Scripture. In II Timothy 3:16, we are told that All Scripture
is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and
for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for
every good work. It is on these four purposes that we shall concentrate.


The greatest advantage which the Bible has over any other Church document is
that it is written in the words of God, rather than the words of men. Thus, while we
can learn the teachings of the Church (which are the authentic teachings of Christ
and His Apostles) from works such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and
the various encyclicals and so forth issued by the popes and bishops (and, in some
cases, these teachings are presented in a more direct and accessible manner in these
texts than in the Bible) it is only in the Bible that we find the transcendent truth of
God expressed in His own words. This absolutely does not mean that the Bible is
the sole rule of faith but rather that there are layers and understandings of the
Truth which can only be found in Sacred Scripture.

Clearly, this is a very compelling reason to read Sacred Scripture and to use it for
all manner of theological education. In fact, the Catholic Church has made it very
clear that sacred theology should be taught by making extensive use of Sacred
Scripture and that all of the preaching and teaching efforts of the Church should
be nourished and ruled by Sacred Scripture. In the sacred books the Father who is
in heaven comes lovingly to meet His children, and talks with them. (Vatican II,
Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, 21). We should read Sacred Scripture
in order to be taught more about God in His own words.


This is the purpose which is of most interest to apologists we can use the Bible to
correct the errors of those who need admonition. As the first pope makes very
clear, there are those who twist the scriptures to their own ends (2 Peter 3:16)
either through ignorance and lack of understanding or, sadly, through a desire to
impose their will on the Word of God and the deposit of faith.

Many individuals who are prideful or obstinate seek to discredit the Catholic
Church by making the claim that the Church teaches things which are against the
Bible somewhat of a bold claim given the fact that the Catholic Church wrote the
Bible! Fortunately, as apologists we can use other passages of the Bible to show
that they have misinterpreted or taken verses out of context. Other people
genuinely do not understand or are mistaken an apologist can use the correct
interpretation of the Bible to correct their misunderstandings.


The Bible contains descriptions of all kinds of human behavior from the
exemplary to the reprehensible. Unlike many other books, it not only identifies
which behaviors are good and which are bad, but does so according to God's moral
standards, not ours. This objective, absolute morality is something which is of
great us to us as readers, as we are able to take these practical examples and rules
and apply them to our lives. Even if we were to discount the holy and sacred nature
of the Bible, the simple practical advice can assist us in overcoming bad habits and
encouraging good ones.

But, of course, the Bible is not just a guidebook for morality it is the very word
of God and its words are therefore far more effective, if approached correctly, than
any secular helpbook could be.
Training in Righteousness

Perhaps the most significant and important purpose reading of the Bible can
accomplish is an increase in holiness or piety. The Bible is, as mentioned before,
the inspired Word of God and by reading it appropriately we can get very close to
God and His message for us. This message is presented in His own words, and so
the Bible can help us grow spiritually more than any other book we have. This is
not to say, however, that the Bible is the only way in which we can grow
spiritually, nor indeed that it is the most effective. Bible reading is, however, an
essential part of our spiritual life and growth.

How do we read Sacred Scripture? (CCC 101-141)

There are three main ways of answering this question; how we read the Bible from
a spiritual perspective, from a practical perspective and from
an intellectual perspective. There is, of course, some overlap between these three
answers, but in the main this is a good way of looking at it.

As this is a course on apologetics, the answers are geared towards reading the
Bible for the purpose of apologetics rather than any other purpose. However, the
tips on how to read the Bible will enhance your understanding and appreciation of
Sacred Scripture even if you never engage in any apologetics.

Spiritual tips for reading the Bible correctly

Although it is possible to read any book and learn something from it, it is always
best to read a book in the way the author intended, and keeping in mind the
message which he intended to imbue the text with. While there are literary critics
who seem to delight in reading a text and finding meanings which the author never
intended or envisaged, saying Well, in light of modern scholarship . . . or some
such nonsense, this is clearly not the correct way to read any book (that is not to
say that one should not read a literary work searching for a meaning that no-one
else has found, but that one should not deliberately seek to find a meaning which is
isolated from or in opposition to what the author intended.)

So, how can we read the Bible in this manner (i.e. in accord with what the author
meant?) The best way would be to learn what the author meant but this is
difficult because (as the history of the Bible shows) the Bible does not have a
single human author, and all of the human authors are long dead!

Fortunately, the Bible was not just written by human beings. It was written by
human beings under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the author of Sacred
Scripture can be said to be the Holy Spirit we should read the Sacred Scriptures
in the way He wants them to be read. The CCC reminds us that Sacred Scripture
must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written

And it is this the authorship of the Holy Spirit of the Sacred Scriptures which is
at the heart of all guidelines about how one should read the Bible.

The Bible should be read Prayerfully and Humbly

Because the Bible is the word of God, it is necessary that we pray before reading it.
As techniques such as lectio divina show, it is possible to pray using the words of
Sacred Scripture. If we do not approach the Bible mindful of the fact it is a sacred
text then we run the risk of treating the Bible as nothing more than another
historical document. The Bible is far more than this, and we should always read it
with a concern for holiness.

We should also read the Bible humbly the Bible is the word of God which has
been passed down to us by Jesus Christ's Holy Catholic Church. When we read the
Bible we are reading something that is much, much bigger than we are! We should
remember that we are limited creatures reading the words of the limitless Creator.
As is clear from the many different interpretations of the Bible in the world, a large
number of passages of Scripture are difficult to understand (Saint Peter says this of
the letters of Saint Paul in II Peter 3:16). We should have humility when reading
the Scriptures, realizing that our intellects and minds may be insufficient to provide
us with the correct interpretation. This is not to suggest that it is impossible for a
human mind to correctly interpret the Scriptures, but rather that it is possible a
human mind could make a mistake or not understand. As II Peter 1:20 tells us, no
prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private interpretation we should not be so
proud as to say that we are capable of interpreting the Scriptures as private
individuals, rather we should humbly interpret them in accordance with the public
interpretation of the Church. We should never seek to impose our own views and
doctrinal opinions on the Bible we should read it, aware of the fact it is a
Catholic Church document.

Perhaps the best example of this humility regarding Bible reading is Saint
Augustine writing to Saint Jerome;

And if in these writings [the Scriptures] I am perplexed by anything which appears

to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is
faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself
have failed to understand it. (Letter LXXXII, 3)

The Bible should be read as a Unity

The Bible is not a single book it is a collection of many different books. Each
book is made up of many separate verses. But this does not mean that we should
seek to read and interpret the Bible as anything other than a unified whole. To
focus on only isolated passages or to take them out of context risks seriously
distorting Scripture's meaning. We should read the Bible as a consistent whole
(CCC 112) this is why it was assembled under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
into a single book, rather than being left as separate documents.

Reading verses in isolation can cause what appear to be contradictions; John

3:16 says that we need faith to be saved. This is perfectly true, but if that were the
only verse we read it would sound as if all we needed was faith (sola fides) but it
says in James 2:24 that we are saved by works and not by faith alone. As shown by
other verses we are required to keep God's commandments (Matthew 19:17) and to
have charity (I Corinthians 13:1-13) in order to be saved if we only read one
of these verses, we might think that all we needed was to obey, or to be charitable.

In order to stand a chance of understanding the whole picture of salvation (or,

indeed, of any aspect of Christianity) we need to read the Bible as a unified whole.
(The fact we need to read the whole of Scripture in order to get a complete
understanding of Christianity does not mean that Scripture is solely sufficient,
without anything else, to determine doctrine. What it means is that if we use the
Scriptures we must use them as a whole.)

The Bible should be read within the living Tradition of the Church

No-one who reads any verse the Bible today is the first person to read and try to
understand that verse; there is a living Tradition of almost 2000 years of Biblical
scholarship and understanding. Most of the men who have been responsible for this
scholarship have not only been exemplary scholars, but also saints of the Church
men who were exceptionally holy and humble during their lives. Many of them
were blessed with having known the Apostles personally, or had mystical
experiences or other events which afforded them a greater understanding of the
truth of the Scriptures.
Modern scholarship cannot compete with the Tradition of the Church in this
regard. Although modern technological, archaeological and linguistic analysis can
provide us with additional understanding of such things as the history of the Bible,
the techniques used and stylistic connections to other works of antiquity, they
can never provide us with a newer and better theological understanding. To suggest
that there might be some vital truth in Scripture which was not revealed to the
Apostles and passed onto the Catholic Church flies in the face of the simple
statement that Jesus will send the Holy Spirit to teach the Apostles all truth.

For modern scholars to say that they are able to get to further theological truths and
to what the authors really meant ignores the historical origins of the Bible. The
Bible is the Catholic Church's document, and while it is possible to interpret it in a
thousand different ways, only those interpretations which are in accord with the
living Tradition of the Church are correct (CCC 113).

The Bible should be read according to the Analogy of Faith

Because there can be no contradiction in God, and Jesus has established His
Church personally and sent the Holy Spirit to teach her all Truth, all revealed truths
must be consistent with each other. This Holy Spirit guides and protects both the
Scriptures and the Church from error. Because the Holy Spirit cannot contradict
Himself, any interpretation of the Bible must be consistent with the teaching of the
Catholic Church.

We know that the Magisterium of the Church is without error and that we are
fallible human beings who do not have the right and authority to interpret Scripture
ourselves (II Peter 1:20). Scripture does not interpret itself it is always interpreted
by an authority. Scripture is without error, but interpretations are not. Therefore, if
we read the Bible in a correctly humble state of mind, we should realize that our
interpretations must agree with those of the Church in order to be accurate.

Does this limit us, or place restrictions on our intellectual freedom? The answer is
clearly yes but it does so in a way which is beneficial to us. The restrictions
placed on us by our interpretations having to agree with the Church's teaching can
be likened to a highway through the desert if we stick to the highway we will get
where we should be going, without risking dehydration, attacks by scorpions or
sunburn. This is what the analogy of faith is a highway which allows us to
benefit from the wisdom and understanding of previous Christians and the Church
as a whole.
The ideal form of intellectual freedom is not freedom to make an error, but
freedom from error. Reading the Bible according to the analogy of faith gives us
this freedom it allows us to increase our knowledge of Scripture by learning
correct truths about it. There is no value in knowing things which are false or
which are spiritually dangerous. The confidence inspired by knowing that, by
interpreting the Bible in union with the teachings of the Church, we cannot err is a
wonderful gift which allows us to grow in holiness.

Practical tips for reading the Bible correctly

Bible versions & extra-Biblical study aids

It seems as if there are hundreds of Bible versions, different translations,

paraphrases and so forth, with different footnotes and introductions. It can be very
confusing trying to work out which Bible one should read.

Fortunately, most translations are accurate enough to ensure that no major

doctrines are under threat from the words of translation itself (there are some
obvious exceptions, such as Bibles produced by theJehovah's
Witnesses or Mormons which have been inaccurately translated). It is a good idea
to avoid Bibles which are merely paraphrases rather than translations, as they can
obscure the meaning.

While the adage The best Bible is the Bible you will read, one should exercise
caution. Firstly, one should read a Catholic Bible that is one which contains all
73 books (46 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament). Protestant Bibles
are missing seven whole books and portions of two more; these were removed by
Martin Luther because they supported Catholic doctrines which he did not agree
with. Obviously, therefore, in order to read the Bible in union with the Church's
understanding of Scripture, we need those seven books!

Also, the majority of Bibles contain footnotes which provide interpretation and
commentary care must be taken to ensure that the footnotes are not advancing a
theological agenda contrary to the truth of the Catholic Church. Most Protestant
Bibles, for example, will have footnotes for Matthew 16:18 which deny the plain,
literal truth of the verse.

In addition to the actual text of the Bible, there are many study aids and other
resources which can be useful when reading Sacred Scripture. Many of these are
provided within the Bible itself (such as footnotes or cross-references) but some of
them (such as concordances) are usually available in separate books.

Introductions are often included at the beginning of each book, or set of books (for
example, the Pentateuch or the Gospels) and offer information and insights into the
history, structure and main points of this section of the Bible. Care must be taken
that the introductions do not advance heretical or incorrect theological notions
remember, nothing in the Bible but the text itself is inspired.

Footnotes and endnotes are found either at the bottom of the page or at the end of
the chapter or book. These can explain difficult verses by providing typologies,
glosses for uncommon words, and even variant readings found in different
manuscripts. Many complex books of the Bible are very hard to understand
without footnotes. Because you do not have to turn the pages and flip back and
forth to read footnotes, but you do with endnotes, footnotes are generally easier to

Cross-references are very useful too. They provide the reader with information
about passages where similar themes are discussed, or where Jesus or an Apostle
quotes from an Old Testament work. Reading with cross-references can increase
your understanding for the Bible as a unified whole.

A Doctrinal or Topical Index is a feature found in a number of Bibles, although

they do exist as separate publications. This lists the various verses which address a
particular topic or doctrine, allowing you to locate the Bible verses which support
that doctrine or discuss that subject.

A concordance is a special type of dictionary which give the verses where any
particular word appears in the Bible. Some concordances are called exhaustive and
they list all the occurrences of all the words such books are very large!
Concordances can be very helpful in finding a specific verse or in doing word

A number of Bibles include a commentary running alongside the text, providing an

explanation of what the passages mean. Commentaries can provide a great deal of
additional understanding and enhance your appreciation of Sacred Scripture.
Conversely, a bad commentary which is contrary to the Church's teaching can
cause spiritual harm.
So, which Bible versions are recommended? The NAB (New American Bible) and
the RSV:CE (Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition) are both excellent texts
with generally good footnotes. Hyperlinked verses in these articles link to the NAB
(although any Catholic translation you choose to use will be perfectly fine). If a
Bible with a commentary is desired, then the Navarre Bible is recommended.

Mechanical aids & tips on annotation and memorization

You will want to read your Bible often and make notes in it. Selecting a good Bible
is about more than taking care over the translation and footnotes; you need a book
which will stand up to the rigors of extensive reading!

Choose a Bible which is sturdy and has pages that are not easily torn and which
stop ink bleeding through from one side to the other. A Bible which is bound in
such a way that the pages can lie flat when you place it on a table is a good
investment as well.

Your Bible should be large enough so that the print size can easily be read and
there is enough room to make notes in the margins, but not so large you cannot
carry it easily on the plane, subway or to Adoration Chapel.

A Bible which has the text of Scripture laid out in columns and with subheadings is
to be recommended, as this is often easier to read and certainly easier to find verses
in. Many Bibles have cut-outs or tabs (these can also be bought separately) which
make locating particular books easier. A bookmark or two either a ribbon
attached to the spine, or separate ones (even just a few Holy cards!) can also be
extremely useful.

Do not be afraid to make notes in, highlight or otherwise mark your Bible this is
a Bible, not the spotless garment you will need to present at the feast of the Lamb!
Highlight verses or footnotes, and make clear notes.

When memorizing, do not attempt to memorize word for word, and is it often not
necessary to remember chapter and verse. If you have highlighted and made notes
well, you will be able to find the relevant verse simply by checking your
highlighting and notes.

Intellectual tips for reading the Bible correctly

The Four Senses of Scripture

The words of Sacred Scripture can be read in a number of different ways, but there
are four main ways of reading and understanding them. We call these ways senses.

Scripture can (and should be) read in a literal sense. Although the word can mean
without figures of speech, idiom or metaphor, it is used in this context to refer to
what the author intends. For example, the phrase I was frightened to death does
not mean that the writer literally died, but rather that he was very scared. It is very
important to first read Scripture in the literal sense of what is being said, taking
into account the metaphor and idiom of the time and place when Scripture was
written, before proceeding to any other understanding. As the Catechism says, All
other senses of Scripture are based on the literal (CCC 116).

An allegorical reading of Scripture is the second sense. This is a form of typology.

In an allegory, one event represents another through certain important similarities.
As an example, the crossing of the Red Sea is an allegory of Christian baptism (in
both events the believers are saved by water). It is important to understand that
allegorical readings rely on the literal sense both events are to be read as literally
happening; an allegory is not the same as a parable.

The moral sense of Scripture is also an essential aspect of it. The literal events we
read about should inspire us to read good and moral lives. They were written
down for our instruction (I Corinthians 10:11). The miracle accounts in the
Gospels are literal truth, but each contains a moral message most often that we
must have faith in Jesus Christ as the center of our universe and the one to whom
we must always look for guidance and protection.

The final sense is the anagogical this refers to passages in Scripture which can be
read as a foreshadowing of what Heaven will be like. This sense is similar to, but
distinct from, the allegorical.

Every single verse in the Bible has at the very least the literal intended meaning
(although see below for details on determining if the passage is literal in
the technical sense or the ordinary sense). But most passages have some form of
spiritual meaning as well a good example is the story of God feeding the
Israelites with manna during their wanderings (Exodus 16). This refers to a literal
event where the Jews were literally fed by God, but allegorically the manna
foreshadows the Eucharist where Jesus feeds us spiritually with His real flesh and
real blood. In moral terms, this miracle encourages us to humbly trust in God's
provision. Anagogically, this story reminds us that just as the manna ceased when
the Jews reached the promised land, so will the Eucharist end when we enter
Heaven and see God face to face.

Ordinary and Technical Use of the Term Literal

The ordinary meaning of the term literal is that the words should be read without
taking into account any figures of speech, idiom, metaphor, exaggeration and so
forth. Thus, if someone were to say, Abortion makes me sick the ordinary literal
interpretation would be that the person feels physically ill or vomits because of

However, the technical meaning of the term literal takes into account these figures
of speech and other literary techniques, and realizes that the meaning is the one
intended by the author. So, when someone says Abortion makes me sick the
technical literal interpretation would be that the person is shocked and horrified by
abortion, and that he might not feel physically sick at all.

We should always begin by attempting to interpret the Bible as literal in the

ordinary sense of the word before proceeding to the technical definition. Of course,
that does not mean we should stick to an ordinarily literal definition when that
would be foolish it means that we should not immediately assume that Scripture
is speaking figuratively. There are four conditions which apply to the figurative
sense of Scripture; at least one of them must be met in order for the passage to be
reasonably interpreted in a figurative way.

i. The Bible itself makes it clear that it is figurative. For example, if the phrase
Jesus told them a parable is used, or if the words like or as are used.
This does not change the truthful nature of what is said, but means that we
must read the words as a figure of speech or metaphor.

ii. The literal interpretation is contrary to common sense. For example, when
Jesus calls Herod a fox (Luke 13:32) is it only reasonable to assume that
Jesus means he is sneaky, deceitful, rapacious or other characteristics which
foxes are purported to have. To suggest that the King was a small
carnivorous mammal would not only be silly, but is also not supported
anywhere else in Scripture or secular history.

iii. The literal interpretation challenges known facts. For example, Joshua
10:13-14 describes the sun as orbiting the earth, but modern science has
proven this to be incorrect. Joshua is using phenomenological language (that
is, describing things the way they appear). When we say I went up north
or down south we are doing the same thing. This figurative language does
not invalidate the literal truth of Scripture, but merely shows that we must
read it correctly. It is very important, however, to ensure that we do not read
passages as phenomenological or figurative because of unprovenfacts. It
would be a gross error to read Jesus' Resurrection as figurative because
someone has proven that His death was merely a swoon, and it
simply appeared that He died. This is against the Catholic faith, and is also
completely unproven. We must always be very careful to weigh so-called
facts against the unfailing teaching of the Church.

iv. The literal interpretation would cause God to contradict Himself. Most of
these examples are an example of hyperbole, exaggeration or over-
simplification. For example, when we are told that all men sin this does
not mean that Mary ever sinned this is an example of hyperbole. When
Jesus tells us to call no man father (Matthew 23:) but earlier has referred
to Abraham as our father (Matthew 3:9) we know that we cannot take Him
completely literally. A more reasonable assumption, which is in accord with
the teaching of the Church, is that Jesus was using exaggeration and
hyperbole to illustrate His point.

When reading Scripture, we must always assume that the story is literally true
unless one of the above conditions is present. A good example would be the story
of Jonah and the great fish. We are not told anything more about the fish other than
it is very large and capable of swallowing a man. Even though it is described as a
fish and whales are mammals, it seems more reasonable to assume that the
creature is a large whale (which were described as fish during the time the
Scripture was written) as only very large whales are capable of swallowing a man
whole. This is an example of figurative phenomenological language a whale lives
in the sea and looks a lot like a fish.

But we cannot suggest that the story of Jonah being swallowed is figurative (that
is, a parable or something similar) the story is incredible and hard to believe, but
that does not mean it did not happen. TheVirgin Birth, Resurrection and Ascension
are very hard to believe but that does not mean they are not true. In the absence
of solid evidence, we should always read the Bible as if the stories contained in it
are literally true.

Understanding Miracles in Scripture

There are two main reasons that God performs miracles (or uses a human being or
other created object to perform miracles) firstly, to protect His people (in order
that He can bring forth the Messiah from Israel, or protect His Church) and
secondly to illustrate an important theological and spiritual point. It is possible for
a single miracle to be performed for both of these reasons (such as the parting of
the Red Sea).

The practical protection miracles require little explanation they are necessary if
God's people are to survive and His word is to be spread in the manner He wants it
spread! But, the miracles will illustrate an important point are ones which reward a
greater understanding and more in-depth study.

Miracles are performed to establish God's divinity and power, and to prove it to
those who see the miracle. Most of Jesus' miracles fall into this category (although
they may fall into other categories too). Many miracles carried out by the disciples
and Apostles are of this form as well people believe in the Gospel message
because those who are preaching it perform signs and wonders.

Some miracles are also performed in order to show the compassion and mercy of
God; many of the healing miracles fall into this category. God cares for us, both
body and soul, and He desires us to be happy.

A number of miracles are a form of supernatural metaphor or allegory which

illustrates a deeper spiritual truth. When Jesus raises Lazarus form the dead, He is
foreshadowing the Resurrection. The turning of water into wine is an allegory for
the wellspring of grace available under the New Covenant.

It is very important to realize that no miracle story in the Bible should be read as
figurative; all of the miracle stories should be read as historical events which
actually happened. Modern scholarship has sought to discredit many of the miracle
accounts, saying that they did not happen or have a mundane, scientific
explanation. While having an understanding of how the universe works (the laws
of the physical world) is to be encouraged, if it leads to a denial of a revealed truth
of the Catholic faith it can never be a good thing.

As an example, some modern scientists have discovered that at certain times

the Red Sea can suddenly run dry within a few hours, and then equally quickly
flood again. This scientific knowledge is good and even laudable; to understand
God's creation is a wonderful thing. However, if one says that the Israelites were
therefore not saved by God and that it was pure chance, one is denying the
Israelites' role as the chosen people and the fact that they were saved by God. This
leads to a lack of belief in God's power and providence, and is spiritually

A better way of looking at the revealed truth of the faith and the scientific evidence
would be to say that God, who has control of all things in the universe, caused the
Red Sea to part by creating the very special circumstances which are required to
make this event happen. This does not detract from God's power and sovereignty,
and perhaps even allows us a greater understanding of how He effects the world.

Reading Parables Correctly

Parables are a form of analogy they are short stories, the characters and situations
of which represent elements in our spiritual lives. Their plots and denouements
allow us to understand a profound truth in an easily accessible manner, illustrating
supernatural realities through natural events.

It is Jesus who makes the greatest use of parables in His teaching. In Matthew
13:3 we are told that He told them many things in parables. The Gospels record
over 30 parables told by Christ.

Parables can be read on a number of levels, and most of them do not have a single
interpretation. Not all interpretations are correct, and when dealing with parables
we should be mindful of the fact we need to be guided to interpret the Bible in light
of the teaching of the Church.

For example, we might read the parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32)
and conclude that the Kingdom of God can be cut down like a tree and thus
destroyed. But this is clearly contrary to the teaching that the gates of Hell will not
prevail against the Church this simple example illustrates the dangers of personal
interpretation and not reading the Bible as a unified whole.

Parables can also be hard to understand they are puzzles in many ways, which
require specialized skills to decipher and interpret. Jesus says that He teaches in
parables so that people will not understand, and He also explains may parables in
private. We have not only many of the private interpretations of the parables from
Jesus in the Gospels, but also the teaching authority of the Church. We have no
excuse not to interpret a parable correctly although that does not mean we should
not read them in order to increase our holiness.

The History of the Bible (CCC 105-108)

A very complex and large subject

The history of the Bible is a very large subject and is very complex, involving
many dates, councils, people and political events. It is far more complex than can
be dealt with in a single article. Saint Michael's Media recommends the
book Where Did The Bible Come From? by the co-author of this series of
articles (available from Saint Michael's Press) as an excellent overview of the
subject in greater detail than this article can provide. Also available is the Where
Did The Bible Come From? Collection which contains the book, DVDs and a
timeline this is also available from Saint Michael's Media.

This article is concerned with the history of the Bible as it relates to Catholic
apologetics particularly the fact that the Bible is historically accurate and that the
Bible is inspired scripture. The fact that the human agency which can be called the
author of the Bible is the Catholic Church is also part of this article partially
because it is the simple truth, but additionally because it directly relates to the
argument concerning sola scriptura.

The authorship of the Bible

The Bible does not have a single author it is a collection of 73 books which were
written by many different authors over a long period of time. It is divided into two
main sections the Old Testament and the New. The Old Testament is the Jewish
Scriptures which were used by faithful Jews before the time of Christ. The New
Testament consists of books and letters written by the early Christians.

The compilation of the Old Testament

The canon (list of books) of the Old Testament was not formally fixed and varied a
great deal between different groups of faithful Jews. The Pharisees, Sadducees,
Samaritans and other groups all had different lists of books which they considered
to be Sacred Scripture, although there was agreement on the core of which books
were part of the canon.

Christians have the current 46 book Old Testament because this was the canon used
by the leaders of the early Christian Church; the apostles and their followers. This
canon was found in a Greek translation of the Scriptures known as the Septuagint.
This was the version used by very many Jews in the first century.

The Jews were using a Greek translation because very few Jews actually spoke
Hebrew any longer. Owing to their capture by the Babylonians and subsequent
freeing by the Persians, most Jews no longer spoke Hebrew, but rather spoke
Aramaic a Persian-derived language. The priestly class still spoke Hebrew, but
the average Jew did not. In addition, owing to the massive conquests of Alexander
the Great of Macedon, the Greek language had become the common language of
business and culture in the Near- and Middle East. Accordingly, the Greek
translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was very popular.

It can clearly be seen that the Septuagint was used by the early Christians when
the Old Testament is quoted in the New Testament over 90% of the quotations are
taken from the Septuagint text. Many Protestants will argue that the Septuagint
canon is not the correct one but it is clear that the correct canon of the Bible is
the 46 book Septuagint one.

The compilation of the New Testament

The assemblage of the New Testament is a very interesting process and a highly
complex one. It can, however, by summarized relatively simply as follows.

Various Christians wrote books explaining the history of the Christian Church
(including Gospels about the life of Christ and more general histories such as the
Acts of the Apostles) and letters addressed to specific communities and persons
(such as the letters of Saint Paul) and also what are best considered to be open
letters (such as Hebrews). There were hundreds of different documents circulating
around, all of them purporting to the authentic Christian teaching and accurate
history and doctrine.

However, many of these documents were not what they claimed to be they were
forgeries not written by the people whose names they bore, or were heretical
documents advancing novel notions about Christ. Some of these documents have
survived today examples are the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Thomas.
Neither of these documents were written by their alleged authors they are late
forgeries designed to cash in on the success and popularity of Christianity.

Out of all these hundreds of documents many of them forgeries the current 27
book New Testament appeared. This process took a long time roughly 300 years
went by from the writing of the last book of the New Testament (Revelation) until
the list was finalized.

The list was compiled by the bishops of the Catholic Church. Initially, local canons
were assembled by individual bishops. These canons were lists of books which
could be read aloud in Churches at Mass. Despite the fact that these canons were
independently assembled they bore a great deal of similarity to each other
because the Catholic bishops were all using the same criteria to determine which
books should be included. They looked to see if the books were written by an
apostle or someone who was reporting the words of an apostle. They checked to
see how much the book was being used by other bishops and priests in their
Masses, and also looked at how often the book was quoted by the Church Fathers
in their writings. Only those books which scored favorably on all three of these
criteria made it into their canons.
In the early fourth century Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman
Empire and it became possible for the bishops to meet without being imprisoned or
killed by the pagan authorities. Beginning in the late fourth century and continuing
until the very early fifth century the Catholic Church met at a number of councils
where the canon of the Bible was debated. These councils produced canons which
were identical to the current 73 book Roman Catholic canon.

As can clearly be seen the canon of the Bible was produced by the Catholic
Church. The Church also existed long before the Bible it was the early fifth
century before the Bible existed as we might recognize it today, and none of the
books of the Bible were even written until around 50 AD. But the Catholic Church
began 20 years earlier, at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the

The Christians who wrote the New Testament were Catholic they were Catholic
for two reasons. One, they believed everything which the current Catholic Church
(and only the Catholic Church) teaches (as is shown by the writings of the Church
Fathers). And they were Catholic because there was no other church at the time.
Myths such as the Trail of Blood simply do not hold water the Catholic Church
was, quite literally, the only game in town.

Accordingly, the Bible can be considered to be two things it is younger than the
Catholic Church and it is the product of the Catholic Church. This means that the
Bible is not the sole rule of faith for Christians, but rather the Church is the pillar
and foundation of the truth as it says in I Timothy 3:15.

The copying of the Bible

The way the Bible was disseminated to the various churches around the world
and the way it ended up being commonly available in virtually every bookstore in
the world is also a very interesting story, but is long and complex and not very
relevant to apologetics. There are, however, a number of points which the apologist
needs to be able to answer.

Firstly, a commonly-made charge is that the Catholic Church is somehow anti-

Bible. This is a typical anti-Catholic slander and is totally untrue. If the Catholic
Church really wanted to destroy the Bible, why did she not do so when she was the
only Church there was and was the sole protector of the Bible? For over one
thousand years the Bible was the possession of the Catholic Church alone, as there
were no other Christians! The Bible was copied by monks in monasteries if the
Church had wanted to get rid of the Bible she could have done so simply by not
copying it!

A number of anti-Catholics say that the Catholic Churchs doctrines are contrary to
the Bible what they mean is that their interpretation of the Bible is at odds with
the Catholic Churchs. But if it were truly the case that there were verses in the
Bible which were against the Catholic Churchs doctrines, why did she not change
them when she had the chance? The Catholic Church could have changed the Bible
to remove such embarrassing verses. The fact she did not shows that these verses
are, in fact, not embarrassing at all and that the interpretation of non-Catholics
must be considered incorrect!

The Bible is generally very historically accurate

A common charge leveled against the Bible by atheists and others is that the Bible
is not historically accurate and is simply a collection of myths and stories. This is
not the case. Modern archaeology and history have shown that the Bible is
generally very historically accurate. The events described in the Bible are
supported by secular historians such as Tatian and Josephus.

In order to refute the charge that the Bible is not historically accurate it is
necessary to understand something very important about the nature of historical
documents and history. Historical documents are notgenerally assumed to be
inaccurate and packs of lies; they are generally assumed to be accurate because
people are not assumed to be liars. Additionally, historians do not automatically
require there to be two, three or four sources in order to actually believe something.

If historians were very skeptical about all documents and required multiple sources
we would not know very much about history for most of the historical events
which humans beings believe to be true and to have really happened, there is only a
single source which is not attested elsewhere.

Additionally, historical records which do not precisely agree on all the details
are not automatically thought to be inaccurate or flawed. As an example, we only
have two accounts of Hannibal crossing the Alps into Italy with elephants. These
two accounts cannot be reconciled with each other yet no historian says that
Hannibal did not cross the Alps.

Most historical documents concerning events in the ancient world were written
down long after the events they describe, and the copies which have survived are
much later than the already late originals. This is true for the histories about
Alexander the Great, for example. In comparison it is a simple fact that the
documents of the Bible were written within living memory of the events (this is
shown by the fact that the Church Fathers are quoting from the documents which
make up the Bible very early indeed). Pauls letters are written during the life of
Paul he was executed around 68 AD. Such temporal proximity to the events
means that, firstly, there is less chance of legendary development and, secondly,
that any errors would be corrected by the people who were there!
The question of legendary development that is, the addition of legendary,
fantastical elements to a story which turn it into a myth is one which
many atheists raise. They say that the Gospels originally did not contain any
supernatural elements and that these were added afterwards but this is not
consistent with legendary development. There is not enough time for legendary
development to take place; legendary development takes centuries to occur (it does
not occur, for example, with the histories of Alexander the Great until the middle

The people who say that the Bible is historically inaccurate are not historians, or at
least are not unbiased historians. They do not understand the nature of historical
documents; the fact that there are seeming contradictions or that the documents are
not detailed, identical, or supported elsewhere does not automatically mean that the
documents are flawed and are lies.

The Catholic apologist should always ask the non-Catholic precisely what about
the Bible is allegedly historically inaccurate. Then he should determine if that
alleged inaccuracy can be overcome by reading the Bible correctly. Many of these
so-called inconsistencies are based on scientific assumptions which have not been
proven (a good example is the Genesis creation story the scientific theories of the
creation of the world have never been proven and so cannot be treated as definite
fact. In addition many Biblical scholars consider that the Genesis account should
not be read literally, but rather allegorically).Historical evidence is often flawed,
and comes from sources which are opposed to Christianity. The Bible is often the
only source we have for information concerning the events described in the Bible
why is the Bible being automatically considered to be unreliable when no
other historical document contradicts it and there is no evidence to suggest it is
wrong? This is an unfair double standard which shows bias and prejudice against

In addition the alleged inaccuracy of the Bible is often simply assumed without any
evidence. In many cases the non-Catholic will simply say that the supernatural
does not exist and so every time a supernatural event is depicted it must be false
and a lie. That is simply an assertion without evidence the non-Catholic
must prove that the supernatural does not exist.

But, most importantly, it is not necessary to prove that the supernatural events in
the Bible actually happened in order to prove the truth of Catholicism. It is merely
necessary to prove that the Bible is generally historically accurate. Provided the
person is not an atheist and does not deny the existence of God, that is all that is
needed in order to prove that the Bible is divinely inspired and that the Catholic
Church has authority. Of course, supernatural events such as the resurrection of
Christ can be proven quite easily if the atheist is open-minded and honest.

The Bible is inspired scripture

This particular point of apologetics is relevant to two different groups, and for two
different reasons. Firstly, to atheists and others who do not believe the Bible it is
important to show them that the Bible is the inspired word of God and contains
accurate information about spiritual matters. Secondly, to non-Catholic Christians
who already consider the Bible to be the inspired word of God by showing
themwhy the Bible is known to be the inspired word of God the authority of the
Catholic Church can be supported.

The reason the Bible is considered divinely inspired is because the Catholic
Church says so and the Catholic Church has the authority to do so. This is not an
argument most people have heard most people are expecting something along the
lines of The Bible says so or I was told so by God. But this is not the reason.
As shown in the article concerning sola scriptura the Bible cannot self-authenticate
itself as inspired Scripture; there has to be an external authority which provides not
only the canon of the Bible but also accurate interpretation of the Bible and the
assurance that it is divinely inspired. This authority is the Catholic Church.

In order to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible to an atheist the Catholic
apologist should first show that the Bible is historically accurate, then show
that the Catholic Church has authority (based on the existence of God and the
accuracy of the Bible) and then explain that the Catholic Church was the authority
which put the Bible together and is the only authority which can correctly interpret
it and declare it divinely inspired.

Some atheists will call this a circular argument but this is not the case. It is
perhaps best described as a spiral argument. The conclusion is not contained in the
premise and an earlier logical step does not depend on a later one; the first point is
that the Bible is historically accurate and that means the Catholic Church has
authority. The Catholic Church assembled the Bible and then declared it divinely
inspired. Because the Church has authority she can declare the Bible to be divinely
inspired. Divinely inspired is not the same thing as historically accurate and hence
this is not a circular argument.

For a non-Catholic Christian who already accepts the divine inspiration of the
Bible the Catholic apologist should ask Why do you believe the Bible is divinely
inspired? Various answers will be offered but none of them are logically
consistent and satisfying except the fact that the authority of the Catholic Church
states that it is divinely inspired. The question which should then be put to the non-
Catholic is Dont you think that, because the Catholic Church was the
organization who put the Bible together and the organization who declared it
inspired, the Catholic Church has to have authority in order to do this? This is not
actually the correct order for argument it is arguing the cause from the effect
but it may convince non-Catholics of the essential truth that the Catholic Church
has authority.
Canon of the Bible (CCC 120-130) Church Fathers

It is a simple fact of history that the Protestant Bible with its 66 books is missing
seven whole books (I and II Maccabees, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, Tobit, and
Judith) and portions of two others (Daniel and Esther). These were removed
primarily for doctrinal reasons (II Maccabees supports the doctrine of purgatory,
for example).

Protestants will make a number of claims regarding these books, and the Catholic
apologist should be prepared for them all.

These books weren't in the Hebrew Scriptures

It is true that these seven books and portions of Daniel and Esther were not written
in the Hebrew language. However, they were part of the Septuagint translation of
the Jewish Scriptures. As mentioned in the history of the Bible article, during the
Hellenic period many Jews spoke Greek. It was for this reason that the Jewish
Scriptures (in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic) were translated into Greek in
Alexandria. Although these Scriptures were not written in Hebrew, they were part
of the Scriptures used by the Hebrew people.

The Jews rejected these books

The so-called council of Jamnia held around 100 AD allegedly rejected these
books. The word allegedly is used because it is not certain if the school of
Jamnia (it was never an official council, and to call it one suggests it had an
authority which it absolutely did not have) rejected these books. Historical
evidence is unclear on this matter although it may be generous to give the
Protestants the benefit of the doubt and agree that it is certainly possible that
Jamnia rejected these seven books.

What else did Jamnia reject, and why did it reject anything at all? To answer in a
somewhat facetious fashion, the Jews rejected Christ and the Christian Scriptures.
What the Jews rejected were all the Christian writings (which included the books
which eventually became the New Testament) and the Septuagint. They rejected
the Septuagint because the Christians were using it to support their own views
ofwho the Messiah was (namely, Jesus Christ) and quoting from it in their writings.

Thus, if a Protestant chooses to reject the Septuagint canon because the Jews did
so, why is he not rejecting Christ and the New Testament? The Jews did not reject
these seven books or the Septuagint as a whole for roughly 250 years. From the
completion of the Septuagint to the school of Jamnia a large group of Greek
speaking Jews were happy to use the Septuagint. This group of Jews included Jesus
and His disciples.
Saint Jerome rejected these books

No, he didn't. What Saint Jerome (the man who compiled and translated the first
unified Bible in the early 400s) did was believe in Hebraica veritias (Hebrew
truth). He believed that the Scriptures written in Hebrew were superior and gave a
better witness to Christ. He expressed misgivings about the seven deuterocanonical
books but agreed to the authority of the Church and the pope and included them in
his translation. Jerome was criticized for his views on the Septuagint, and he flew
in the face of most scholarship of the time.

Jerome's opinions are not infallible, and his actions are a clear demonstration that a
perfect Church can contain imperfect men and that the authority of the Church is

These books contain fantastical and inappropriate elements

Many Protestants (forgetting or never knowing Luther's real reasons for rejecting
these books) latch onto the notion that because they contain fantastical elements
or things which are against their personaltheology, they should be rejected. A short
consideration will suggest just how ludicrous this is.

As an example, some Protestants complain that the tale of a dragon in the

expunged sections of Daniel is fantastical and impossible. But the Gospels
contain a man being resurrected from the dead, the ascension of Jesus. Genesis
contains the creation of the whole universe! These things are just as fantastical as
anything in the deuterocanon.

The foolishness of suggesting that because something does not match up with a
personal theology it can be discarded is easily dealt with too; there are some people
today who deny certain aspects of Christian moral teaching (such
as homosexuality, for example). Would it be appropriate to discard any sections of
the Bible that put forward those moral views, or not?

The canon of the Bible is not open to interpretation and modification by people
who are doing so because it doesn't agree with their personal theology. If a book of
the Bible disagrees with a personal theology it is a sign that the personal theology
is wrong, not that the book should not be in the Bible!

Deuterocanon means secondary canon - thus, it is inferior

Deutrerocanon means second canon. Deuteronomy means second book. II

Peter is also second book. III John is a third book are these books all inferior in
some way?
The term deuterocanon refers to the fact that these books were written and
accepted later in time than the rest of the Old Testament canon. The word was
never intended to imply that these books were not suitable to be read.

Defending the deuterocanon

There are many ways to defend the deuterocanon one of the best ways is to show
that the Church Fathers not only quoted from the deuterocanon, but that all the lists
of the canonical books of the Bible prepared by the Church Fathers (the people
who put the Bible together) contain these seven books. Additionally, the number of
quotes from the Septuagint in the New Testament (some of which come from the
deuterocanonical books) show that Jesus and the apostles considered the
Septuagint (which contained the deuterocanon) to be Scripture.

A very important point to stress to non-Catholics who deny the inclusion of the
deuterocanon is that the final lists produced by the various councils who were
inspired by the Holy Spirit to determine which books were in the Bible are the very
same lists which give us the books of the New Testament. If they don't trust the
lists for the Old Testament, why do they trust them for the New Testament?

The answer is simple they are creating their own theology and are seeking to
reject anything and everything that does not fit with that; including the books of
the Sacred Scriptures given to us by the Holy Spirit.

Why sola scriptura doesn't work (CCC 80-90, 100) Church Fathers

What is sola scriptura?

Sola scriptura is Latin for scripture alone and is a doctrine of many Protestant
faith communities. The word doctrine is placed in inverted commas because it is
not a formal doctrine as the Catholic Church understands or defines it; it has a
number of differing interpretations and applications among the myriad Protestant
denominations. Very few Protestant communities agree on precisely what the
doctrine means, but there is a broad consensus of its meaning.

Sola scriptura refers to the notion that the Bible alone is the sole source of
authority for Christians and the sole source of Christian doctrine. It also includes,
inevitably, the notion that the Bible is self-authenticating as inspired and that the
doctrines obtained by the sola scriptura approach are repeatable and obvious. It is
these two inevitable features, and some others, which we will concentrate on when
refuting sola scriptura.

The Bible doesn't say it

One of the major arguments against sola scriptura is that the Bible itself does not
say anywhere in its 73 books that it is totally sufficient for Christians. If the Bible
were totally sufficient then all the information regarding Christianity (including
what information should be used to determine what is Christianity) should be in the
Bible. But we do not find this information anywhere in the Bible there are only
one logical conclusion the Bible is not the sole source of Christian teaching.

Ah, but it does!

Many Protestants will eagerly quote a number of Scripture passages which seem to
give the impression that the Bible is the sole rule of faith but these passages do
not actually say that. The most commonly quoted is II Timothy 3:16-17; All
Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction,
and for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be equipped,
prepared for every good work. On the face of it this verse can seem to suggest
that sola scriptura is a valid argument but it is not.

The word used is profitable, not sufficient. It is certainly true that reading the
Scriptures can lead to a man being prepared for every good work - but this does
not mean that just the Scriptures are needed. The most that this verse says is that
the Scriptures are useful and that they are possibly essential but that is not the
same thing as sufficient. This is another example of Protestant Either /

In addition, few Protestants read these verses in context when the passage II
Timothy 3:14-17 is read it is clear that Saint Paul is reminding Timothy to
remember what he learned and from who he learned it, and also to stick to the
Scriptures which he knew from childhood.

This passage shows two things firstly, Paul is advocating the following of
Tradition. And, secondly, Paul is revealing what he means by Scriptures - he
means the Old Testament, the Seputagint as it was known. Timothy is urged to read
the Scriptures which he has known all his life the New Testament did not exist
when Timothy was a child, the only Scriptures were the Jewish Scriptures. So, if
this verse shows sola scriptura it in fact shows sola Old Testament the New
Testament should be abandoned. But, if we abandoned the New Testament, we
wouldn't have this verse so we wouldn't need to abandon the New Testament!

Another verse often cited is John 20:31 which says why that book was written
but saying why something was written is not the same as saying it is sufficient and
nothing else is needed. For example, a hammer exists to help with carpentry but a
hammer is not sufficient for carpentry. The Scriptures were written for teaching,
for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16) and
this is why we read them. But they are not sufficient, nor should they ever be
thought of in that way.
Protestants may quote a number of other verses from the Bible pretty much any
one which mentions Scripture and writing and attempt to say that this verse
defends sola scriptura. In every case the verses do not there are
literally no verses which defend sola scriptura. The Catholic apologist should look
at verses very carefully, always reading the Bible as it is supposed to be read, and
will then be able to determine what the verse actually means.

Historical arguments against sola scriptura

The history of the Bible shows, very clearly, that the Church was the organization
who made the Bible and that the Church is older than the Bible. The Bible itself
shows that there were Christians before a word of the New Testament was written
the whole of the book of Acts, for example, describes the early life of the Church
from the Ascension of Jesus onwards. There is no doubt whatsoever that these
people were Christians.

However, these people cannot have had a copy of the New Testament the last
book of the New Testament was written around 100 AD. Before that date no
Christian could have had a complete Bible as we understand it today. If the Bible
is the sole source of Christian teaching and knowledge as sola scriptura claims,
how can these people have been Christians? Peter, Paul, James, John and Andrew
never saw a complete modern Bible what they had was the Old Testament
Scriptures and the preaching and Tradition of the Church.

Arguments against sola scriptura stemming from Bible ownership

It is a simple truth that not all Christians have a Bible in many places in the
world not everyone can read, and certainly not everyone can afford a Bible.
Historically, this was certainly the case before the advent of cheap printing Bibles
were very expensive (the equivalent of $100,000 in today's money!) and few
people had them. Is it the case that these people were not Christians?

The claim that Christianity is the Bible and nothing but the Bible is a very
modern, privileged Western notion based on the ease of access to the Bible,
affluence and literacy. Many Protestants simply have no idea about the historical
facts of Christianity and how for centuries the Bible simply was not read by the
common man because he could not afford to buy one or because he could not read.

Arguments against sola scriptura stemming from the Biblical canon

As mentioned in the articles concerning the history of the Bible and the
deuterocanonical books, the Catholic Church determined which books belonged in
Sacred Scripture. Even if the Protestant does not accept this, if sola scriptura is
true then the list of which books belong in the Bible is of vital importance. Without
this list, the Christian could never be sure if he has all the books that contain the
truth of Christianity, of indeed if he has any books which he should not have. But
this list however it was arrived at is not part of the Bible. There is no list of
inspired books in the Bible, and even if there weresuch a list, how could it be
proven this list itself is correct? In all cases an external authority is needed to
verify the Bible as accurate and inspired that authority is the Church.

Arguments against sola scriptura stemming from Protestant disagreements

Not all Protesants agree with the doctrine of sola scriptura, although many do. But
virtually no Protestants agree with each other on what the Bible means this is
why there are over 35,000 different denominations of Protestants, each with their
own interpretation of the Bible.

If sola scriptura is true then it must be possible to read the same passage of the
Bible and always get the same conclusion concerning what the appropriate
teaching is. There are some teachings in the Bible which are explicit and
reasonably clear for example Thou shalt not kill in Deuteronomy 5:17 but
there are many verses which are much less clear. The inclusion of water in John
3:5 is interpreted by some Christians as a teaching on baptism, and by others as a
reference to the amniotic fluid of birth.

If sola scriptura were true, would not the whole Bible be very clear and easy to
understand? Would not the Scriptures be written in plain and simple language, and
in fact all be written as a form of Catechism containing many Thou shalts and
Thou shalt nots.

But this is not what we see Saint Peter himself says that the Bible can be hard to
understand in II Peter 3:16. Because different Christians have different
interpretations of the Bible it cannot be self authenticating. This means that
it must have an external source of authority in order to be correctly interpreted.
That source of authority is the authority which wrote and assembled the Bible; she
is theauthoritative Catholic Church.

Arguments against sola scriptura from simple logic and reason

The Bible is a book it is an inspired and holy book, but it is still a book. Books
are made up of words, not meanings. A meaning only exists when an intelligent,
thinking being reads the words and interprets what they might mean. For example,
the words The cat is blue have no meaning until someone reads them and
interprets them to mean that there is an animal of a particular sort which has fur
which is a particular color. But those words could be interpreted in a number of
ways the word cat might mean a little housecat, or possibly a much larger cat
like a panther or cougar. The word cat could even be slang some people call
their friends and associates cats, for example. The word blue could refer to a
color of fur, but could also mean something else it might mean the cat is
unhappy, for example.

When we ask someone What does the book say? we do not always want them to
simply quote the words to us we want them to tell us what the words mean. That
is a person's interpretation. If we are not given a person's interpretation, we have to
provide our own or choose someone else's. We have no way of reading a book
without an interpretation it is just impossible.

That interpretation is external to the book and is external to the Bible. As

Christians we can either choose to go with out own interpretation (which is wrong
as is made clear in II Peter 1:20) or we can choose someone else's. The only person
who has the authority to determine what is the correct interpretation of Scripture is
the Catholic Church.

Arguments against sola scriptura from the Bible itself

Of course, those who believe in sola scriptura may not be impressed by any
argument which uses anything other than the Bible as a source fortunately, in
addition to not supporting sola scriptura, the Bible is also dismissive of it.

I Corinthians 11:2, II Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:16 all give explicit instructions to
follow Traditions which were passed on. These are clearly oral Traditions as well
as those in letters or other Scriptures. A number of non-Catholics cite verses such
as Matthew 15:3, Mark 7:9 and Colossians 2:8 which condemn tradition but this
refers to the man-made traditions which are detrimental to the truth of Christianity.
The Bible tells us to follow the apostolic Traditions which are handed on from
Jesus Christ. These Traditions are part of revelation and some of them made their
way into Sacred Scripture (as is said in Luke 1:1-4).

It is clear from John 21:25 that the Bible does not record everything that Jesus said
and did. In Acts 20:35 Paul records a saying of Christ's not found anywhere in the
Gospels where did he get this from if he did not get it from a source outside the
Bible (such as being told it by one of the apostles)? Why would he refer to this
saying if he did not expect his readers to accept the fact that sayings of Christ not
recorded in the Gospels can be used (the very opposite of sola scriptura)?
In Matthew 28:20 Christ commands us to obey all His commands how can we
obey all His commands without going outside the Bible if not everything He taught
is in the Bible?

The Bible is full of examples of preaching being the foundation of the Christian
faith II Timothy 1:13, 2:2, I Peter 1:25, Romans 10:17, I Corinthians 15:1-
2 and Mark 16:15. All of these are clear verses which show that the first
proclamation of Christ was oral it was preaching, preached by the Church and
handed on as Traditions. Eventually, some of that preaching was written down and
formed the Bible but the core of the Christian faith has never been a book. It has
been the word which will never pass away (Mark 13:31) it is made very clear that
that word is the word preached (I Peter 1:25).

A Distinction Without A Difference Solo or Sola?

A modern phenomena is the claim among certain Protestants that sola scriptura
does not mean scripture alone, but rather it means the Bible is the only infallible
authority, but there are other authorities (such as the body of believers) which are
authoritative, but not infallibly so. These individuals claim sola scriptura
recognizes these other authorities, but solo scriptura does not. This is a spurious
and, frankly, ridiculous argument for several reasons.

Firstly, solo scriptura is simply bad Latin, and was never used by the Reformers. It
is cod-Latin at best; the correct word is sola. There is nothing in the word sola
which implies only the Bible has a particular charism or quality; the word means
the Bible stands alone, without anything else.

Secondly, none of the Reformers taught anything like the modern interpretation of
sola scriptura what they taught was what the modern individuals call solo
scriptura, and which they called sola scriptura. It is a lie to claim Luther et al taught
the modern notion of sola scriptura, and not the modern solo scriptura.

Thirdly, sola and solo scriptura are completely identical. If an authority is not
authoritative, then what is the point of it? If it can be disregarded, then what weight
does it carry? The answer is it carries none which is precisely the claim of sola

As mentioned above, the Bible is a book and must be interpreted and that
interpretation is outside of the Bible. The modern definition of sola scriptura
claims these interpretations are not infallible which means anyone can make one,
and no-one else's has to treated with respect unless the person wishes to agree with
it. That is, ultimately, precisely the same as the traditional, and correct, definition
of sola scriptura.

Jesus is the Messiah (CCC 436-440)

One of the most common views held about Jesus is that He was just a wise man
and that there was nothing special about Him. Of course, this view is contrary to
the teaching of the Catholic Church (and most other mainline Christian sects)
which teaches that He is divine (the Son of God and God) and also the Messiah of
Jewish prophecy.
The people who believe that Jesus was nothing more than a wise man fall into two
main categories they are those who deny all supernatural elements (atheists) and
maintain He was nothing more than a wise philosopher; and non-Christians who
consider that Jesus was merely a prophet or herald. This second group is most
commonly represented by Jews and Muslims.

What is a Messianic Prophecy?

The Old Testament books of the Bible were written long before Christ was born
and contained hundreds of prophecies about an anointed one (Messiah in
Hebrew) who would appear in the future. The Messiah would deliver or save
all the Jewish people, bringing them to paradise or Heaven. These prophecies also
stated that the Messiah would save all the other people in the world through the

When the New Testament is read it is clear that Jesus Christ fulfilled these
Messianic prophecies, and is therefore the long-awaited Messiah.

Use of Biblical Prophecy

It may seem odd to use Biblical prophecy in order to convince people who do not
use the Christian Bible (atheists, Jews and Muslims) that Jesus is the Messiah. But
in point of fact this can be a very effective method. Even if the Bible is not
accepted as a divinely inspired work it is generally accepted by most secular
historians as being historically accurate. The fact that a figure from New Testament
times fulfilled prophecies which were written in Old Testament times should make
even the most cynical atheist sit up and take notice!

The Old Testament prophecies were part of the Jewish Scriptures for centuries
before Jesus' time. The historical facts about Jesus' life (even just the non-
supernatural elements such as His birth in Bethlehem, His childhood in Galilee
and His death on the Cross) match up with the prophecies very accurately indeed.

Septuagint versus Masoretic Text

In attempting to use these prophecies to convince a Jewish person of the fact that
Jesus is the Messiah the Jewish person may talk about the Masoretic text and the
Septuagint, saying that the Septuagint is a corrupted translation which (deliberately
or otherwise) contains errors which make it seem as if the prophecies refer to Jesus.

The truth of the matter is that the Septuagint was (as discussed in the canon of the
Bible) used by Jews for over 250 years without any objections. It was only when it
was discovered that the prophecies matched very closely to Jesus' life that it
was rejected at the Council of Jamnia. In addition, while certain prophecies read
differently in the Masoretic and Septuagint texts, the vast majority of them are very
clear. Simply consulting the texts is enough to show this.

One of the most profound arguments to make to a Jewish person is that people like
Saint Paul (a very well-educated Rabbi) were converted; these people were experts
in the Jewish scriptures. Why would they follow a Messiah if He did not actually
fulfill the prophecies?

A Special Note on Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53

The best place to begin is with Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52:13-53:12. These two
passages tell stories that perfectly parallel events in the life of Christ that took
place much later. Psalm 22 is especially amazing since it predicted 11 separate
things about Jesus crucifixion about a thousand years before they
happened. Psalm 22 was composed around 1000 BC while the prophet Isaiah lived
about 740-680 BC. Both passages, written far ahead of the time of Christ, are very
strong and clear prophecies.

A partial list of prophecies

Below is a partial list of the prophecies in the Old and New Testaments. This
is not a complete list by any means, and it is not intended to be. Very few people
will be converted to Catholicism by being persuaded that Jesus is the Messiah. This
whole article is included in this series as a companion piece to the proof that Jesus
is divine, and is strongly supported by the article which offers evidence for
theResurrection of Christ.

Old Testament Scriptures That Describe The Coming Messiah

The Messianic Where the prophecy
Jesus fulfillment of the prophecy
Prophecy appears in the Old
in the New Testament
(paraphrased) Testament
The Messiah will be the
offspring (descendant) Genesis 3:15 Galatians 4:4
of the woman (Eve)
The Messiah will be a
descendant of
Abraham, through Genesis 12:3, 18:18 Acts 3:25-26, Matthew 1:1
whom everyone on
earth will be blessed
The Messiah will be a
Genesis 49:10 Matthew 1:1-2, Luke 3:23-33
descendant of Judah
The Messiah will be a
Deuteronomy 18:15-19 Acts 3:22-23
prophet like Moses
The Messiah will be the Psalm 2:7 Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22
Son of God
Matthew 28:5-9, Mark 16:6, Luke
The Messiah will
Psalm 16:10-11 24:4-7, John 20:11-16, Acts
be raised from the dead
1:3, 2:32
Psalm 22 (contains 11
The Messiah
separate propheciesnot all Matthew 27:34-50, John 19:17-30
crucifixion experience
listed here)
The Messiah will be
Psalm 22:7-8 Luke 23:11, 35-39
sneered at and mocked
Psalm 22:17 (note, a number
of translations render this
The Messiah will be
differently; this is a Luke 23:33, 24:36-39, John
pierced through hands
difference between 19:18, 20:19-20, 24-27
and feet
Septuagint and Masoretic
The Messiahs bones
Psalm 34:21 John 19:31-33, 36
will not be broken
Men Will Gamble for Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke
Psalm 22:19
the Messiahs clothing 23:34, John 19:23-24
The Messiah will
accused by false Psalm 35:11 Matthew 26:59-60, Mark 14:56-57
The Messiah will be
Psalm 35:19, 69:5 John 15:23-25
hated without a cause
The Messiah will be
Psalm 41:10 John 13:18-21
betrayed by a friend
Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9, 2:32-35, 5:31-
The Messiah will 32, 7:55-56, Romans
ascend to heaven (at the Psalm 68:18-19 8:34, Ephesians 1:20-21,Colossians
right hand of God) 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2, I
Peter 3:22 and elsewhere
The Messiah will be
given vinegar and gall Psalm 69:22 Matthew 27:34, John 19:29-30
to drink
Great kings will pay
homage and tribute to Psalm 72:10-11 Matthew 2:1-11
the Messiah
The Messiah is a stone
the builders rejected Matthew 21:42-43, Acts
Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16
who will become the 4:11, Ephesians 2:20, I Peter 2:6-8
head cornerstone
The Messiah will be a Psalm 132:11, Jeremiah 23:5-
Luke 1:32-33
descendant of David 6, 33:15-16
The Messiah will be a
Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-35
born of a virgin
The Messiah will make
Many places. Also see Matthew
the blind see, the deaf Isaiah 35:5-6
11:3-6, John 11:47
hear, etc.
The Messiah will be
beaten, mocked, and Isaiah 50:6 Matthew 26:67, 27:26-31
spat upon
The Gospel according The whole of the Gospels according
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
to Isaiah to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
People will hear and
not believe the arm of Isaiah 53:1 John 12:37-38
the LORD (Messiah)
The Messiah will be Matthew 27:20-25, Mark 15:8-
Isaiah 53:3
rejected 14, Luke 23:18-23, John 19:14-15
The Messiah will be Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37-
Isaiah 53:5-9
killed 39, Luke 23:46, John 19:30
The Messiah will be
silent in front of his Isaiah 53:7 Matthew 26:62-63, 27:12-14
Matthew 27:59-60, Mark
The Messiah will be
Isaiah 53:12 15:46, Luke 23:52-53, John 19:38-
buried with the rich
The Messiah will be Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27, Luke
Isaiah 53:9
crucified with criminals 23:32-33
The Messiah is part of
Isaiah 55:3-4, Jeremiah Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke
the new and everlasting
31:31-34 22:20, Hebrews 8:6-13
The Messiah will be
our intercessor
Isaiah 59:16 Hebrews 9:15
(intervene for us and
plead on our behalf)
Isaiah 61:1-3 (first mission First mission: Luke 4:16-21; Second
The Messiah has two
ends at . . . a year of favor mission: to be fulfilled at the end of
from the LORD) the world
The Messiah will come
Daniel 9:25-26 Galatians 4:4, Ephesians 1:10
at a specific time
The Messiah will be
Micah 5:1 Matthew 2:1, Luke 2:4-7
born in Bethlehem
The Messiah will enter
Jerusalem riding a Zechariah 9:9 Matthew 21:1-11
The Messiah will be
Matthew 26:15 with Matthew 27:3-
sold for 30 pieces of Zechariah 11:12-13
The Messiah will
forsaken by His Zechariah 13:7 Matthew 26:31-56
The Messiah will enter
the Temple with Malachi 3:1-3 Matthew 21:12, Luke 19:45


As mentioned above, evidence that Jesus is the Messiah should not be used as the
primary tactic when engaging in apologetics, but it may be that when talking with
Jews and others that this topic may come up. However, here are a number of
objections which are often made and which it will be useful to be able to refute.

Couldnt Someone Just Write These Down and Pretend They Were Written Earlier?

This is a common argument from people who do not believe in the Bible. However,
archaeological evidence has shown that these various prophecies were written
down 400-1,000 years before they actually occurred.

Of course, that does not mean that the prophecies are divinely inspired (we know
they are divinely inspired because the Church which has authority compiled the
Bible). But it does show that the prophecies were written before the events they
describe, and therefore some explanation for how Jesus fulfilled them has to be

Were These Originally Intended to Be Messianic Prophecies?

Some of the prophecies occur as part of the text of a story. Therefore, many people
ask, How do we know these are Messianic prophecies? Couldnt someone have
read these texts after Jesus came along andclaimed they were Messianic

The reason we know these texts were intended to be Messianic prophecies is

because they were recognized (and discussed) by the Jews before Jesus birth and
are still used today by Jews to determine who might be the Messiah! These
prophecies have always been understood to be refering to the coming Messiah.

Couldnt Someone Besides Jesus Fulfill These Prophecies?

In a word, no the chance of this occuring is so astronomically small as to be
ludicrous. The odds are so extreme that the fact that Jesus fulfilled them all is a
miracle in itself.

A number of people will object and say that Jesus deliberately fulfilled the
prophecies but this is not possible for a number of them. How could He, for
example, determine that He would be born in Bethlehem? Or that His bones would
remain unbroken? There are many prophecies which are beyond human control.

Can the New Testament be trusted?

Many people say that the New Testament is nothing more than Christian
propaganda - the truth of the matter is that it is a very historically accurate
document, as is discussed in the history of the Bible.

The Communion of Saints (CCC 946-962) Church Fathers

The teaching about the communion of saints is a key and core doctrine of the
Catholic Church, and one which causes a lot of confusion among non-Catholics.
As is always the case for doctrines of the Church which are often misunderstood, it
is first necessary for the Catholic apologist to make sure that the non-Catholic
actually understands what the doctrine is.

Church as the unified body of Christ

Central to the understanding of the communion of saints is the notion of the

Church as a single, unified body made up of believers. The best analogies for the
Church are a single organism in which the individual parts (members) work
together for the greater good, or as a family where the individual people in the
family do the same. This imagery is used regularly in the Scriptures (Ephesians
1:22-23,Galatians 6:10) and so non-Catholics should have no problem with it.

The trick to defending the Catholic notion of the communion of saints lies with
getting the non-Catholic to understand two things; that there is a community of
believers who can pray for each other, support each other and so forth and that
death does not break that connection.

Proving the first is not difficult the easiest and most direct way to do this is to ask
the non-Catholic, If I said that I was having a difficult time, would you pray for
me? The answer is (generally speaking) Of course! The Bible is full of
references to asking Christians to pray for each other these are understood by the
Catholic Church as asking saints to pray for us.

Arguments over the meaning of the word saint

Many Protestants will point out (correctly) that the word saint is used a number
of times in the Bible to refer to not only those who are in Heaven, but also those on
earth who are Christians. This means, they argue, that any special veneration of
saints in Heaven is inappropriate.

Of course, this does not mean that at all, and is in fact a complete logical
disconnect. The truth of that matter is that the same word (saint) is used to
translate the word meaning holy (sanctus in Latin) which is used to refer to
Christians on earth and the holy ones in Heaven (Revelation 5:8). This
does not mean what the non-Catholics want it to mean what it clearly points to is
that there is a similaritybetween the Christians on earth and those in Heaven.

Saint Paul used the word holy ones to refer to the Christians on earth because
they are holy they have been sanctified by the blood of Christ. The saints in
Heaven are also Holy, and are in fact more holy than those on earth because they
have been cleansed in purgatory of even the desire to do sin. The use of the same
word is confusing, but does not mean that the saints in Heaven should not be
venerated more than those on earth.

As discussed in a separate article, the prayers of the saints in Heaven (Revelation

5:8) are very efficacious because they are closer to God and their wills are more
closely aligned to His (they have no desire to sin, unlike the most holy person on

Although the fact that the word saint is used to refer to both Christians on earth
and those in Heaven, this does not speak against the practice of venerating and
praying to saints in Heaven. In fact, quite the opposite it shows that a very real
connection exists between the saints in Heaven and the Christians on earth.


In Deuteronomy 18:10-11 we are given very specific injunctions against

necromancy a number of non-Catholics say that prayer to saints is simply a form
of necromancy (talking to the dead) and should be outlawed. Even if they do not
say this then they claim that prayer to the saints is ineffective because they are
dead and cannot hear us (unlike Christians on the earth, who can hear us and pray
for us).

In order to refute this notion it will be necessary to show that the saints are, in
fact, alive. They are not physically alive in the way that we are, but they are
spiritually alive in Heaven they are, in fact, morealive than we are until we die!

The Bible clearly supports this teaching (as does the rest of the Christian religion!)
with its constant teaching that Jesus will give us eternal life. In Mark 12:26-27 we
are told that God is the God of the living, not of the dead. Hebrews 12:1 says that
we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses if they are capable of witnessing, they
must be capable of being spoken to and passing prayers onto God! Wisdom 3:1-
6says that the souls of the just are in the hand of God they are present to God. If
they were dead and could not interact with Him or anyone else, why would they be
described as being present to Him? Jesus says to the good thief in Luke 23:43 that
he will be with Him in paradise what does this mean if the saint is going to be
effectively dead?

There are also examples in Scripture of the dead saints specifically being seen to
be alive. Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah in Mark 9:4. In Revelation 6:9-
11 there are martyrs under the altar they have the desire for justice and
vindication on earth. Elsewhere in Revelation (20:4) the souls of those beheaded
are seen.

Finally, we have a specific, explicit example of a man in Purgatory (it is a place of

torment, but the man is compassionate towards his brothers therefore it cannot be
Heaven or Hell, and therefore must bePurgatory) who intercedes on behalf of his
brothers. In Luke 16:19-30 the rich man prays for his brothers note also that he
does not pray directly to God, but rather prays to Abraham. Here we have a
microcosm of Catholic teaching regarding purgatory, the saints and intercessory

Saints get confused?

A common although incomprehensible argument advanced by many non-

Catholics is that the saints in Heaven cannot hear all the prayers offered by
Catholics and that they get confused. This argument is relatively easy to refute it
would be impossible for a normal human to hear all these prayers and make sense
of them, but the saints exist in Heaven where the normal (earthly) laws of physics
and so forth do not apply. Saying that the saints cannot hear all the prayers offered
by the faithful because they are only human completely neglects to grasp the fact
that Heaven is not earth and that with God all things are possible!

Prayer to saints is worship?

This objection is explored in more detail in the article on Catholic prayer but, in
brief, it is essential to distinguish between worship and adoration (which is due to
God alone) and veneration, respect and honor (which are due to the saints and to
other holy or influential people to one degree or another). Do non-
Catholics worship the President when they honor him by calling him Mister
President? Do they adore their boss when they call him Sir? Do they worship
Old Glory when they stand and salute it when saying the Pledge of Allegiance?

Of course they are not they are given due honor to these people and things. This
is the case with the saints and the angels they are not worshiped as the Creator,
but rather are venerated as created objects which are good. Scripture supports this
teaching. In Joshua 5:14, Daniel 8:17 and Tobit 12:16 we see humans falling to the
ground before angels. This veneration is because the angels have great dignity,
which comes from the fact that they behold the face of God in Heaven (Matthew
18:10) something which the saints also do. In fact, Scripture makes it clear that
we shall be higher than the angels; in I John 3:2 we are told that we shall be like
Him (God) we shall see Him as He is. Angels behold the face of God, but are
nowhere identified as being like God. We are made in the image and likeness of
God (Genesis 1:26) and so share a closer bond (when perfected by Christ's
sacrifice and Purgatory) with Him than do the angels (although, of course, we do
not become God or gods!)

The veneration of the holy ones on earth is shown in Scripture passages such as I
Thessalonians 1:5-8 and Hebrews 13:7, which make it clear that we should respect
and honor those who are holy while they are on earth. Why, therefore, should we
not honor them even more when they have been perfected by death?

One mediator?

In I Timothy 2:5 we are told that there is only one mediator between God and Man
many non-Catholics understand this to mean that asking the saints to present
petitions to God is inappropriate. However, a careful reading of the Bible shows
that this is not the case.

Firstly, the statement that there is only one mediator is an example of hyperbole -
there are many example of hyperbole in the Scriptures. In Mark 10:18 we are told
that only God is good and yet inMatthew 25:23 the phrase good and faithful
servant is used. In John 10:11-16 Jesus is described as the shepherd; He says there
is one flock and one shepherd. Yet in John 21:15-16 He tells Peter to feed His
lambs and His sheep (a clear defense of Petrine primacy!), showing that He cannot
be the only shepherd. In Hebrews 3:1, 7:24 and 9:12-13 Jesus is identified as the
eternal high priest offering one sacrifice, yet in Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 we are
identified as a kingdom of priests for God and in I Peter 2:5 we are told to be a
holy priesthood offering sacrifices. The use of hyperbole also applies to the call
no man father controversy it is clear that when hyperbole is used it is not to be
applied literally.

The fact is that Jesus is the one mediator between God and Man, because Jesus is
both God and Man. The saints do not circumvent Jesus Christ in order to speak to
God they offer our prayers to Jesus Christ. The Scripture is very clear that we
should pray for each other James 5:16, I John 5:16. In I Timothy 2:1-7 we are
told to offer petitions this is the very passage which contains the statement that
Jesus is the one mediator! We are to offer prayers for each other and that applies
to the saints in Heaven just as it applies to us here on earth.
Are You Saved, Brother?

A common question used by a number of non-Catholics as an opening gambit is,

Are you saved? Many Catholics do not know how to respond, although the
Catholic apologist must be able to do so. Answering the question in an appropriate
manner will provide a lead into more detailed apologetics.

The average person (Catholic or not) who is not familiar with this particular brand
of theology may be confused by the question. Saved from what? is a common
thought running through people's minds. Even among those who understand that
we need saving from sin and ourselves, the insistent way the question is phrased
often not as Are you saved? but as Have you been saved? causes confusion.

To say have you been saved? implies an act of salvation which is a single event
which happened in the past. Because of the enormity of sin and evil in the world,
people are often left with the impression that such a singular event must be earth-
shattering and clearly identifiable as such. Lacking such an event in their lives,
they tend to conclude that they haven't been saved, and fall for the seductive
theological errors of the person asking the question.

These theological errors are very simple, and are connected with the erroneous
theological concept of eternal assurance (also known informally as Once Saved,
Always Saved).

The primary aspect of eternal assurance which bears on the question of have you
been saved? is best illustrated by an analogy. A person could have been saved
from drowning by an attentive lifeguard, but this does not mean the person is
immune to drowning in the future. As clearly demonstrated by other resources in
this section, eternal assurance is a false doctrine and a lie.

When are we saved, then? Catholics having a belief in a savior (one who
saves) and salvation (the act of being saved) - clearly must believe that, at some
point, they are saved? When does this occur? The answer like much of
Catholic theology is both simple and complex, and our analogy can serve us

Let us image that we are swimming in a choppy ocean far from land, surrounded
by waves that constantly batter us and currents that try to drag us under. With us is
a strong swimmer who is in no danger from the waves and who through physical
support and advice can prevent us from slipping below the waves. We know that
in one hour a helicopter will arrive and if we are on the surface of the water the
colleagues of our helper will winch us to safety.
We were saved from slipping under the waves when the strong swimmer first
appeared and helped us. We are currently being saved by his constant support and
help. And we hope to be saved by the arrival of his colleagues with the chopper.

This is the correct understanding of salvation; we have been saved by Christ, we

are currently being saved by Christ, and at our deaths we hope to be saved by
Christ. Our salvation has occurred in the past, is occurring in the present and we
hope it will occur in the future.

The theological confusion that many Protestants succumb to is because they fail to
understand the scriptures. The two words, "salvation" and "being saved" in the
New Testament are the words, soterion, a noun (denoting deliverance,
preservation, salvation), and, sozo, a verb (denoting to save). Both words have a
number of meanings, determined by the varying contexts in which the words are

In a first and basic sense, the word "salvation" virtually stands for Jesus Christ,
Savior, by whose act of salvation, we are saved.

Luke 2:28, 30-31 He [Simeon] took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: ...
for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the

Luke 19:9-10 And Jesus said to him [Zacchaeus], "Today salvation has come to
this house ..."

John 4:21-22 Jesus said to her [the Samaritan woman], "... because salvation is
from the Jews."

Acts 4:11-12 He [Jesus] is "the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has
become the cornerstone." There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there
any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be

In a second sense, the words, "salvation" and "being saved," are also used of the
present experience, God's power to deliver from the bondage of sin.

I Corinthians 15:2 Through it (the gospel) you are also being saved, if you hold
fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

Hebrews 7:25 Therefore, he [Jesus] is always able to save those who approach
God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.

Philippians 2:12 So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only
when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation
with fear and trembling.
I Peter 1:8-9 Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do
not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious
joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls.

II Timothy 3:15 ...and that from infancy you have known [the] sacred scriptures,
which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 2:3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?

In a third sense, "salvation" and "being saved" are also used for the future
deliverance of believers at the Second Coming of Christ. This salvation is the
object of the confident hope of the saints.

Romans 5:9 How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will
we be saved through him from the wrath.

Romans 13:11 And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you
to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;

I Thessalonians 5:8-9 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, putting on the
breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation. For God did
not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of
those who are to inherit salvation?

Catholic Christians can respond that they have been saved. This acknowledges the
first meaning of "saved" and "salvation" in scripture - Jesus Christ, Savior, by
whose act of salvation we are objectively saved - He died, rose from the dead,
saved them from sin.

II Corinthians 5:17 So whoever is in Christ is a new creation

Catholic Christians can also respond that they are being saved. This acknowledges
the second meaning "saved" and "salvation" have in scripture - the present
experience, God's power delivering constantly from the bondage of sin via grace
which the Church, the conduit of grace, makes possible through the seven

I Corinthians 15:2 Through it (the gospel) you are also being saved, if you hold
fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

Catholic Christians also respond that they hope to be saved, that they have hope
and confidence that God will give them the grace of perseverance; that they will
respond to it; and accept his gift of salvation until their death. This acknowledges
the third meaning the words "saved" and "salvation" have in scripture - the future
deliverance of believers at the Second Coming of Christ.

Romans 5:9 How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will
we be saved through him from the wrath.

So, to conclude, the Catholic asked such a question can respond with the three-part
statement, and then deliver questions of his own; How do you know that you are
being saved now? (i.e. how do you know that your current practices are, in fact,
increasing your holiness) and How do you know that you will be saved? (i.e.
how do you know you will get to Heaven?) These questions will, doubtless,
produce answers which will illustrate theological errors concerning the role of the
Church, the sacraments and eternal assurance. But, from other materials on this
disk, you should be well placed to answer them!

For now, you have answered the classic opening gambit of non-Catholic apologists
with a correct and clear answer, and one which you are able to defend. This simple
response may not seem like much, but it touches on so many theological concepts
(sola fides and eternal assurance being the main ones) that it provides an excellent
segue into deeper apologetics concepts.

Sola Fides

What is sola fides?

Sola fides is Latin for faith alone and refers to a relatively large number of false
doctrines held to a certain degree by a large number of non-Catholic
denominations. There is a great degree of variation between these theological
positions, and many people who hold to sola fides do not actually call it by that

In brief, sola fides is the teaching that mankind is saved by faith alone simply
believing in Jesus Christ or accepting Him as your personal Lord and Savior is
enough to make one saved. Very often, it is connected with the doctrine
of eternal assurance (the notion is that once you have displayed the faith in Jesus
you are permanently saved) although not always (the understanding of this flavor
of eternal assurance is that if your faith in Jesus Christ wavers then you are no
longer saved).

There are many different variations on sola fides this is because it is a man-made
doctrine and none of the versions make complete sense! However, an abiding
theme which runs through all the versions is the denial of the efficacy of good
works in acquiring salvation. It is here that the Catholic apologist can most easily
address the notion of sola fides and dismantle it.
A misunderstanding of Catholic teaching

The rejection of good works as being efficacious for salvation is based on

a misunderstanding of Catholic teaching; it is thought by a number of non-
Catholics that the Catholic Church teaches that good works
somehow entitle Catholics a place in Heaven, that we somehow earn salvation.
This is not the Catholic teaching salvation is a free-gift which comes from God
via grace without any sense of us meriting it. Faith is an essential part of this, but it
is necessary that we do something in order to be saved.

This misunderstanding is often expressed by non-Catholics as the notion that

Catholics believe that faith is irrelevant and that all that is needed is good works.
This is not the case, and is an example of theeither / or belief which many non-
Catholics demonstrate. When engaging in apologetics about this subject it will be
necessary to educate the non-Catholic about what Catholic teaching actually is.

Logical problems arising from sola fides

When taken to its logical extreme, sola fides causes a significant number of
problems. If the particular flavor of sola fides denies all works as having any
beneficial effect, then it completely denies free-will. The act of showing faith (or
even accepting faith, if faith is viewed purely as a gift) is a work according to
the strictest definition of the word. Very few people are completely comfortable
with the notion of denying free-will, but this is what is necessary if works are of
no avail.

When considered logically, if there is no free-will, then we are incapable of

committing any sin as we have to consciously choose to reject God's commands
and the moral law. If there is no sin, then what need do we have for a savior?

In a similar vein, if good works are of no avail (that is, if there is no action we can
take which can lead us towards Heaven and salvation) then why are bad works of
avail? That is, why does doing anything lead to damnation? It seems entirely
unfair (and, remember, God is a just god) that we would be judged solely on
our bad actions and that our good actions count for nothing. As above, this seems
to suggest that there is no such thing as sin and if that is the case, what did Jesus
come to earth and die for?

Of course, the vast majority of non-Catholics have not carried these thoughts
through to their logical conclusions, and if presented with them will react by
saying that they did not mean that. However, that is the logical conclusion of a
statement that works are of no avail and it is important as an apologist to
demonstrate the ultimate logical conclusion of a flawed position.

Biblical misinterpretation
Non-Catholics are very fond of quoting from Ephesians 2:8-9 and Galatians
2:16 which state that a man is not saved through works, but by faith. This seems to
be a very strong support to the position of sola fides on first glance, but this is not
the case.

It is clear that both of these verses are referring to the same thing the letter to the
Ephesians and the letter to the Galatians deal with many of the same themes as
each other. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are created for good works why would
we be created specifically to do such things and yet have these be of no avail? On
the face of it, these verses from Ephesians seem to contradict the many verses
elsewhere which speak of salvation through faith and works. It is therefore
necessary to interpret these (unclear) verses in light of the (clearer) Galatians

When the whole of the second chapter of Galatians is read, it is clear that the works
being referred to are the works of the Law of Moses, not good works as we
understand them. Paul is saying that keeping the Mosaic Law is not a source of
righteousness, rather faith in Jesus Christ is a source of righteousness. But what is
that faith? What does it mean? Saint Paul goes on to explain in Galatians 5:6 that
circumcision (by which he means all keeping of the Mosaic law) is of no avail, but
that faith working through love is what counts.

Jesus Christ makes it very clear that if you love me, you will keep my
commandments (John 14:15). To keep a commandment is to do something
either to actively avoid committing a sin, or to do a good work of charity. Jesus
makes it very clear that salvation (entering the kingdom of Heaven) is open to the
person who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven (Matthew 7:21). He
says in Matthew 12:50that whoever does the will of His Father is His family. In
these verse, Jesus specifically denies salvation by faith alone - not everyone who
says to me, 'Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of Heaven.

A correct Scriptural understanding of the role of works in salvation

There are many verses which the Catholic apologist should be aware of when
seeking to show a non-Catholic that sola fides is a false notion and that we are
saved through works as well as through faith. Perhaps the most significant and
important is James 2:24-26 which clearly states that we are justified by works and
not by faith alone and that faith without works is dead. Saint James is very clear
and frank in this, calling those who believe in sola fides ignoramuses! Polite
apologists may wish to not quote Saint James verbatim!

The connection between salvation, love of Christ and what that requires us to do
has been discussed above. In I Corinthians 13:2 we read that faith without love is
nothing. Galatians 5:6 has already been mentioned above.
Similarly, the passage from John 14:15 has also been discussed the same
sentiment is expressed in John 14:21. But this finds support in all the other verses
which advocate a keeping of Christ's commandments. To keep a commandment
requires an action of some sort; a deed or a work. Matthew 7:21, 19:16-
17, Romans 2:2-8 and Philippians 2:12-13 all make it very clear that some sort
of work is required.

The final judgment

A number of non-Catholics may argue that while good works are necessary
for showing that we have faith, we are not judged according to them and that they
are irrelevant when determining whether we go to Heaven or Hell. The Bible,
however, is very clear that this is a false and incorrect notion.

Matthew 25:31-46 is the clearest teaching that mankind will be judged according
to works done or not done; here we read how Jesus will separate everyone into two
groups those who did the will of His Father and performed good deeds and those
who did not. This passage even lists a number of good deeds the corporal works
of mercy.

In addition, Romans 2:5-8, II Corinthians 5:10, 11:15, Colossians 3:24-25 and I

Peter 1:17, Revelation 20:12-13 all make it very clear that mankind is judged
according to works in addition to faith.

Eternal Assurance and the Sin of Presumption

A correct understanding of the falseness of the doctrine of eternal assurance

(sometimes called once saved, always saved) and the sin of presumption is vital
for a Catholic apologist, as this is such a common position among non-Catholic

What is the teaching of eternal assurance?

There are many flavors of eternal assurance, but all of them share the belief that
once one is saved (generally speaking, this is salvation by faith alone and / or
based on a simple profession of faith) one cannot loose that salvation. The doctrine
is based on a number of Scriptural verses misunderstood or taken out of context;
generally speaking John 10:28 and 16:22 which speak of the fact that no-one can
snatch them [Christians] out of my [God's] hand. This is understood to mean that
salvation, once attained, cannot be lost.

There are certain flavors of eternal assurance which say that, if one ends up
committing a mortal sin (or, as it is often called, backsliding) then one was never
actually saved in the first place. It looked as if one was saved, but this was in fact
not the case. The Catholic apologist should be ready to point out that this
teaching either makes absolutely no sense or is simply the Catholic teaching (of
potentially being able to loose one's salvation) dressed up as eternal assurance. In
either case, such a view of eternal assurance is not hard to refute.

Scriptural interpretations by analogy and common sense

Verses such as John 10:28 and 16:22 can seem, on first reading, to support the
notion of eternal assurance. But this is not the case the Catholic apologist does
not even need to seek out the many verses which deny eternal assurance in order to
prove his or her point.

While it is certainly true that no-one can snatch them out of my hand, it is
entirely possible for someone to willingly leave the fold of God's love. This is what
sin is a willing acceptance or doing of something that is not of God.

An analogy would be that no-one can snatch us out of a car driving down the
interstate but we can certainly choose to undo the seatbelt and leap from the car!
It would be fatal, but so is choosing to sin (from a spiritual perspective).

These verses do not teach eternal assurance, but rather the doctrine that no-one
can make us sin all that people can do is tempt us to sin, but the final choice
remains solely ours.

Bible verses which refute eternal assurance

Because the doctrine of eternal assurance is so bound up with sola

fides and salvation by a single profession of faith, many of the verses which refute
those doctrines are relevant to refuting this one.

In Matthew 24:13 we are told that those who persevere to the end will be saved a
clear refutation of the notion of eternal assurance. Romans 11:22 speaks on a
similar theme. In Philippians 2:12 we are told to work out your salvation with fear
and trembling - not only does this refute the idea that works are of no avail, but
also shows when read in the context of the whole passage that the idea of
eternal assurance is foolish.

I Corinthians contains two particular passages 9:27 and 10:11-12 which speak
very clearly on this subject. In fact, I Corinthians 10:11-12 refutes eternal
assurance explicitly saying that those who thinkthey are secure may fail! II
Timothy 2:11-13 says that we must hold out to the end in order to be saved.

There are also passages which speak specifically about those who have received
Christ and have then fallen away. Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-27 refer
to people who are Christians (and, therefore, saved) but then commit sins and,
while remaining Christians, are not likely to inherit Heaven.
Additionally, if we were forgiven all sins, past, present, and future, it would make
no sense for Christ to require us to pray, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have
forgiven our debtors," which he explained is required because "if you forgive men
their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not
forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses"
(Matthew 6:12-15).

The illogic of eternal assurance

Eternal assurance is an illogical position for the same reason that sola fides is
illogical it denies free will and the very existence of sin. If one is eternally
assured of salvation after stepping into some group of the saved, then what does
it matter if we sin? It in fact means that sin does not exist there are no moral
absolutes and there is nothing that will offend God. This means we cannot choose
God, and hence do not have free will. If there is no sin and we have no ability to
choose sin or God, what need do we have for a savior? Eternal assurance in fact
denies the very purpose for Christ's incarnation.

The sin of presumption

The sin of presumption is the name given to the belief in eternal assurance; it is
presuming on God's mercy. It is not just a theologically incorrect position to hold,
but is also one which is a sin because it makes one proud and think that one has no
need of God's further assistance. The person thinks they are already permanently
saved and so they do not need God, the Church or anything else.

The sin of presumption does not include making statements such as when we are
in Heaven . . . or by talking about seeing God face to face and all the other
benefits of Heaven as something which we knowwill happen. Catholics who are in
a state of grace (and it is possible to know when you are in a state of grace as
only mortal sin takes that away, and you are always aware of when you have
committed a mortal sin) are assured Heaven at that moment. The sin of
presumption refers to a belief that regardless of mortal sins one will still merit

Because of the nature of the culpability for sins committed, it is impossible to

know if anyone else is going to Hell. This is the flipside of the sin of presumption.
Although it is reasonable to assume that someone who is not Catholic and engages
in regular sins for which he or she has no remorse is going to Hell, one cannot state
so with certainly.

This does not mean that a Catholic evangelist cannot tell the person he or she is
very likely, unless he or she bucks his or her ideas up, to go to Hell but rather that
the evangelist simply cannot be totally certain. We, as humans, do not know what
special graces and merits God may apply to any individual nor can we be certain
of the level of culpability for sins.

The Catholic Church teaches that although we know that Hell is populated (based
on the words of Christ that not all will be saved therefore some will be damned)
we cannot know if any individual is in Hell.

Mortal & Venial Sins Church Fathers

A difference of terminology

Before a Catholic apologist embarks on a defense of the distinction between mortal

and venial sins it is first necessary to ensure that the non-Catholic understands
what the Catholic teaching is. Many Protestants refuse to use the words mortal
and venial sins but instead use the word backsliding (for mortal sins) and
stumbling (for venial sins). These words refer to the analogy which they use for
faith; the idea of moving towards a point of holiness. If one stumbles on the road
then one is slowed but is still moving towards the goal. But if one backslides
then one is not only not moving towards the goal, but is in fact moving away from

Before engaging in any apologetics on this subject, it will be necessary to

determine if the non-Catholic is actually in complete agreement with the Catholic

Why the distinction matters

Many non-Catholics say that there is no distinction between sins that either all
sins are (effectively) mortal or that all are (effectively) venial. This is usually tied
up with the notion of eternal assurance and / or sola fides no matter what is done
the Christian is always saved. All sins can be viewed as venial in this
understanding as none of them lead to the loss of salvation, or all can be viewed as
mortal as all would lead to damnation unless the person was permanently saved.

This is, of course, not the case there is sin which kills the life of God (from
which we get the word mortal meaning deadly) in a person and there is sin
which, while damaging the life of God, does not kill it.

A Catholic apologist should understand and be prepared to explain the distinction

between mortal and venial sins, and should also be able to discuss morality as the
distinction between the two types of sin hinges on that.

Refuting the notion that all sins are equal via common sense

The easiest way of refuting the idea that all sins are equal is to first attack and
refute the teachings that give rise to that notion sola fides and eternal assurance.
But it is also simple common sense all people know that there are degrees of
wrongdoing. Murder is worse than theft, for example. Stealing a loaf of bread is
not as bad as stealing a million dollars. Rape is worse than lying. In addition, there
are always circumstances which can mitigate culpability stealing a loaf of bread
from a large supermarket because you are starving and stealing a loaf of bread
from a poor, hungry family out of simple malice and spite are not the same thing;
even though when viewed objectively they are.

Refuting the denial of mortal sins by Scripture.

I John 5:16-17 makes it very clear that there is mortal sin and hence there must
be sin which is not mortal (that is, venial). These verses even use the word
deadly! In these verses we find the Catholic teaching on mortal and venial sin
that mortal sin kills the life of God.

Inevitable questions regarding mortal and venial sin

The non-Catholic will doubtless have questions concerning mortal and venial sin at
this stage. Most commonly, the questions are; How do I get mortal sin forgiven so
that I have the life of God back within me? The answer is via the sacrament of
confession. The other question is, If venial sin does not kill the life of God within
me, and therefore does not damn me, how am I to reconcile the idea that nothing
imperfect shall enter Heaven? Are there sins which God overlooks or covers up?
The answer is, of course, no the cleansing process is purgatory.

Purgatory Church Fathers

Purgatory is one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Church, and Catholic
apologists should always be prepared to explain and defend the teaching. In
virtually all cases it will be necessary to explain what the doctrine of purgatory
actually is as very few non-Catholics truly understand the teaching.
The importance of explaining the Catholic teaching on a particular matter is always
great, but never more so than with purgatory.

Oh, I believe in THAT!

One of the most significant and important facts about the doctrine of purgatory is
that a lot of non-Catholics actually hold to a belief which when examined is
identical or compatible with the Catholic Church's teaching on purgatory. A
number of prominent non-Catholics have also held to beliefs which, when
examined, are entirely compatible with the genuine doctrine of purgatory as held
by the Church.

But II Maccabees isn't canon!

The staunchest defense of the doctrine of purgatory is found in II Maccabees
12:44-46 where prayers are offered for the dead (and even a collection is taken up
to pay for a temple service). Many non-Catholics, however, will reject this
Scripture because they do not think it is canon the Catholic apologist must first
show that this book of the Bible is, in fact, canonical.

Other Scriptural support

II Maccabees is not the only book of the Bible that supports the Catholic doctrine
of purgatory. It is made very clear in multiple verses that we are to be perfect in
order to get into Heaven Jesus tells us to be perfect in Matthew 5:48,
and Hebrews 12:14 and Revelation 21:27 make it clear that nothing unclean shall
enter Heaven. James 3:2 makes it clear that we have all sinned, and so that we
cannot be considered perfect. How, therefore, can we ever see Heaven?

I John 5:16-17 distinguishes between mortal and venial sin, and James 1:14-
15 says that mature sin leads to death. But what about the sins which do not
cause death? Or sins which are forgiven? How are we to be made perfect in order
to enter Heaven if we have these lesser sins on our souls?

II Samuel makes it clear that David was punished for sin even though he had been
forgiven a temporal punishment remained which had to be paid. Matthew
5:26 describes how people will not be released until they have paid the last
penny, and in Matthew 12:36 people will account for every idle word on
judgment day. Does account mean that it will simply be looked at, we will be
judged to be imperfect, but let into Heaven anyway?

I Corinthians 3:15 answers this very clearly for us this says that we will suffer
loss (of our sinfulness) but we will be saved as through fire. This is purgatory
the idea that our sinfulness will be burnt away and we will be made pure.

Matthew 12:32 says that sins against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this age
or the next; what is this next age where sins can be forgiven? Sins are not forgiven
in Hell, and do not need to be forgiven in Heaven (as everyone there is perfect)
so there must be a third place where sins can be forgiven. Obviously, a sin against
the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven as it is so serious it is clearly a mortal sin.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 the rich man has compassion
for his brothers and is in a place of torment; there is no torment in Heaven and
there is no compassion in Hell. This manmust be in purgatory or Jesus is telling a
parable which gives us inaccurate information about Heaven or Hell.

Finally, we see that Paul prays for his dead friend in II Timothy 1:16-18 why
would he pray for him if he were in Heaven or Hell? What good would his prayers
do? His prayers only make sense if there is purgatory.
Indulgences & Confession

The doctrine of purgatory is intimately connected with the teaching

on indulgences and confession - a Catholic apologist should consult the relevant

Indulgences (CCC 1471-1479, 1498)

What is an indulgence?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides the best definition of indulgences
in paragraphs 1471 and 1472 indulgences are connected with the sacrament of
penance (confession) and are described as a remission before God of the temporal
punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven (CCC 1471). This
temporal punishment occurs in purgatory.

What an indulgence is not

Many non-Catholics misunderstand what indulgences are either deliberately or

not. It is necessary to explain what the Catholic Church actually teaches about
them to most non-Catholics, as what many people think indulgences are is
genuinely contrary to Christianity.

Indulgence are not a license to sin - they are not a method by which someone can
commit a sin and be forgiven for it or have it not count. If a person sins they
must get his sins forgiven in the usual way through
the sacrament of reconciliation and cannot have them forgiven by an indulgence.
An indulgence is a remission of punishment for sin which has already been

Similarly, an indulgence cannot be obtained for sins which have not yet been
committed and which, therefore, have not been forgiven. Indulgences can only be
obtained for sins already committed.

Indulgences cannot be bought. Although there have been, historically, abuses of the
system where indulgence were sold this was, has always been and is totally illegal
and not approved by the Church. Indulgences are not bought. Although
indulgences can be attached to almsgiving, this is not the same thing as actually
buying an indulgence. Giving money to charity or the poor is a good thing and a
corporal work of mercy it is only natural that this would have some spiritual
benefit attached to it.

Defending the notion of indulgences

Because indulgences are so tied up with confession and purgatory it will first be
necessary to defend these teachings if the non-Catholic insists on talking about
indulgences without first talking about and accepting these teachings politely tell
him that indulgences cannot be discussed without the foundation
of confession and purgatory; one needs to learn to walk before one can run!

Although sola scriptura is a false doctrine (this is why the fact it never says the
word indulgence in the Bible is not an issue!) the easiest way to defend
indulgences is with a number of Biblical principles. Each follows on logically from
the other presenting these logical steps to the non-Catholic is the very best way
of defending indulgences.

Sin results in guilt and punishment

When we commit a sin guilt clings to our souls, making them unclean before
Almighty God. This is why forgiveness is pictured in Scripture as a washing and
Jesus chose baptism as the method of getting rid of our sins (Isaiah 1:18 and Psalm
51:4, 9 show this teaching very clearly).

But we incur more than guilt we will also be punished for our sins. God says
in Isaiah 13:11 that He will punish the world for its sin. In Ecclesiastes 12:14 we
read that even the smallest sins have an associated punishment (this passage also
shows that good works have an attendant - positive - judgment!)

This punishment is both temporal and eternal

A temporal thing is one which exists in time it eventually ends. Eternal things do
not. The punishments for sin are cited as being eternal in many places in scripture
this is why the Catholic Church teaches an eternal Hell. Daniel 12:2 and Matthew
25:46 are two of the many verses which speak of the eternal nature of punishment.

Temporal punishments may remain when a sin is forgiven

When a Catholic repents and obtains forgiveness through

the sacrament of confession he is absolved of the guilt of sin, but the punishment is
not automatically removed. A clear case is found in II Samuel 12:13-14 here
King David is told that God forgives him for his adultery and murder but that as a
punishment his son will die. In Deuteronomy 32:48-52 God says to Moses that he
is punished for breaking faith with Him; Moses is not allowed to lead the people
into the Promised Land.

It is this teaching that non-Catholics have the greatest problem with and where the
hardest task of the Catholic apologist rests fortunately, the evidence of Scripture
is firmly on the side of Catholic teaching. And so is common sense if a thief is
forgiven by the person he steals from he still goes to jail for it, and he still has to
return the item stolen.
From a spiritual perspective the greatest example of this punishment remaining
after sin is death itself we are forgiven all sins by regenerative baptism, but we
all still die. Death entered the world through the original sin of Adam and Eve yet
Christians (who are forgiven their sins) still suffer physical death.

(This denial of the principle of punishments remaining even after forgiveness is at

the heart of the false health and wealth Gospel and the rejection of the truth
about pain and suffering.)

God blesses some people as a reward to others

Although this may seem to be entirely unfair, it is the way of the world and God.
Most Christians will, when pressed, admit that they have personal experience of
the prayers of one person affecting another in a positive light this is a clear
example of this. This teaching is also found in the Scriptures God tells Abraham
that as a reward for his faith he will be the father of many nations (Genesis 12:1-2).
InGenesis 12:3 it is made explicitly clear that by Abraham all the families of the
earth shall be blessed. This is referenced in Romans 11:28 where Paul says that
the Jews are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

In addition to giving spiritual and physical blessings to people because of the faith
of others, God also remits the temporal penalties of people as a reward to others. I
Kings 11:11-13 recounts how King Solomon had turned from God near the end of
his life. God tells him He will take the kingdom away from him. However, He says
that - for the sake of your father David - He will not do it during Solomon's
lifetime, but rather take the kingdom away from Solomon's son. Additionally, He
says that He will not take the whole kingdom, but I will leave your son one tribe
for the sake of my servant David. God lessens the punishment in two ways; He
delays it and lessens it by leaving a remnant of the kingdom.

God's reasoning for this is very explicit - For the sake of your father, David.

Another example of God's willingness to cancel temporal punishment (in this case
death) is found in Genesis 18:23-32. Here Abraham begs God to not destroy
Sodom if he can find a few righteous men. God is more than willing to withhold
His punishment for the sake of a few righteous men but Abraham cannot find
any! Despite the wickedness of Sodom, this is a clear example of the teaching that
the righteousness of people can benefit others both with blessings and with the
remission of punishments.

God remits temporal punishments through the Church.

This principle is intimately connected with the sacrament of confession and

the authority of the Church to forgive sin. Christ gave the power to forgive sins to
men (Matthew 9:8) and as the article on confession clearly shows this means
the Church which has the power to bind and loose (Matthew 18:19).

The ministers of the Church were given the power to forgive the eternal penalty of
sin they would therefore clearly be able to forgive and remit merely temporal

God blesses the dead as a reward to the living

Many non-Catholics do not accept two principles which are key to this one
namely the communion of saints and the full 73 book Biblical canon. The teaching
of the communion of saints shows that dead Christians are, in fact, alive to us and
to God and can pray for us. More importantly as regards indulgences,
however, we can pray for them.

The seven books of the Bible which Martin Luther removed because they
advanced Catholic doctrine include II Maccabees which recounts in 12:40-45 of
how prayers were offered for the dead so that they might be delivered from their
sin. This was and is a historical practice of the Jews and the early Christians and
is continued by the Catholic Church to this day.

Prayers for the dead remit the temporal punishments which they suffer
in purgatory this is an essential part of the doctrine of purgatory.

Putting it all together

These principles are the core to understanding both the doctrines of prayers for the
dead and of indulgences. Some people may be puzzled by the inclusion of the
rewarding and blessing of people by the prayers and actions of others how is this
relevant to indulgences? Are indulgences not simply a remission of the temporal
punishment in purgatory as a reward for virtuous actions?

No, they are not. Because the Church has the authority to bind and loose, she also
has the authority to administer the treasury of merits. This is the infinite ocean of
grace which was earned by Christ during His Passion and death and which the
faithful contribute to by their good works and prayers. The Church can and does
choose to apply this grace wherever she wishes; and she chooses to do so to
those who gain an indulgence, in order to lessen their punishment in purgatory.

Objections to indulgences

A number of Christians have objections to indulgences all of these stem from a

misunderstanding of what the doctrine is.

Indulgences are a money-making scheme

No, they are not. As mentioned above the sale of indulgences is expressly
forbidden. Although it is true that in the early 1500s and elsewhere there was
great abuse of the system by greedy men this does not mean that the teaching itself
is false. This is an example of scandal in the Church. A good analogy to use to
defend the Church in this case is that there are so-called Christian televangelists
who make millions of dollars by scamming people and tax fraud does this mean
that Christianity itself is evil and fraudulent because a few men abuse it wrongly?
Or does it just mean that evil men will attempt to use anything to gain wealth and

Indulgences negate the work of Christ!

No, they do not and to say that shows a gross misunderstanding of not only the
nature of indulgences but also what the work of Christ actually achieved. The
source of the grace which remits the temporal punishments comes from Christ's
sacrifice on the cross, administered by the authoritative Church.

Additionally, Christ wants through love for humanity us to assist in the work of
redemption and forgiveness; and also the remission of temporal
penalties. Colossians 1:24 tells us that Paul is making up what is lacking in
Christ's sacrifice how can this be? Paul does not mean that Christ's sacrifice
was insufficient but rather that his own sufferings are added to Christ's. To be
perfectly honest, for Saint Paul to say that he is making up what is lacking in
Christ is far more shocking than any Catholic teaching about indulgences! It is
clear that there is a principle involved here which is entirely Biblical and should be
accepted by all Christians.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Most Protestants are dismissive of the idea of Purgatory the majority claim that
the only cleansing required for salvation is the precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus
Christ. The notion of a place or state where a final cleansing occurs is alien to their
theology. When speaking to non-Catholics like this, it will be necessary to defend
the doctrine from the ground up as it were.

But there are also Protestants who, while baulking at the word Purgatory, are quite
happy with the actual concept. These Protestants simply choose not to use the word
Purgatory to define this belief. There are many reasons for this many
Protestants regard the final cleansing before we enter into the full glory of Heaven
to simply be part of the moment of death, or the first thing that happens in Heaven
before we enter into our final reward. In that understanding, this cleansing is not a
state or place as the Catholic Church defines Purgatory, but is rather simply an
incident or action.
Other Protestants do not use the word Purgatory because they do not know what
the Catholic Church actually teaches and have an erroneous idea about what the
Catholic doctrine of Purgatory is; a number of non-Catholics think that Purgatory
is a second chance where those who have died outside the state of grace
necessary to enter Heaven are allowed to have another go. This is, of course, a
completely false doctrine and absolutely not what the Church teaches. If a
Protestant thinks that this is what the doctrine of Purgatory is, it is hardly
surprising that they do not wish to use the word!

When engaging in apologetics, it is always necessary to make it clear what the

doctrine under discussion actually is, as it may be that the other person may
actually believe the doctrine, but just not use the word!

This is very true for Purgatory before the Catholic apologist launches into a
spirited defense of the doctrine, it is always best to find out if the views the person
holds are compatible with the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory; there is no sense
arguing about something you both agree on! A number of common causes of
disagreement (which are no such thing) are as follows;

The person thinking the Catholic Church believes something she does not has been
mentioned above; it is essential to clearly define what the Catholic doctrine means.
When this is done, it may be that the Protestant will be much more willing to
accept the notion of Purgatory.

Secondly, the person does not think that the final purification takes place in a
separate place to Heaven, or separate from death. The apologist should point out
that the Catholic Church defines Purgatory as a state or place, which is actually
very vague. The firm points of the doctrine are that a cleansing takes place and that
this cleansing is not an increase in merit, but rather simply a removal of the
temporal punishments due to sin and a perfection of the soul so that it no longer
desires sin in any way. Virtually all Protestants agree that we (as humans before
death) desire certain sinful pleasures but that we will not (as humans in Heaven)
desire these sinful pleasures. This change however it is accomplished is
Purgatory. The Protestant who says that this change occurs instantly at the moment
of death is not heretical, and while perhaps not completely orthodox in the
language used is in step with much of Catholic teaching.

Thirdly, the Protestant may view indulgences and prayer for the dead in a dim light
this may stem from a misunderstanding of what they are and do, or it may be a
simple denial of them. In this case, it will be necessary to show that prayers for the
dead are a thoroughly Biblical practice (II Maccabees 12:44-46 it may be
necessary to show that Maccabees is part of the Biblical canon) and to
defend purgatoryand indulgences as a complete doctrine. There are many
Protestants who believe in some sort of final cleansing or change and yet have
issues with prayers for the dead or indulgences; most often because they see this
cleansing as an instant event in which mankind can have no effect.

Finally, though most Protestants do not have a formal doctrine of Purgatory, a

number of prominent non-Catholic thinkers and theologians have believed in it to
one degree or another. Here are a number of quotations from a variety of non-
Catholic Christians;


"Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable,
that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I
hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were
forbidden. At our age the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of
intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him?"
(Letters to Malcolm).

"I believe in purgatory. . . . The right view returns magnificently in

Newmans Dream [of Gerontius]. There, if I remember it rightly, the saved soul, at
the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear for a
moment longer With its darkness to affront that light. . . . Our
souls demand purgatory, dont they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us,
It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime,
but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw
away from you. Enter into the joy? Should we not reply, With submission, Sir,
and if there is no objection, Id rather be cleansed first. It may hurt, you
knowEven so, sir" (ibid.).


"Many humanly impressive and seemingly beautiful and worthwhile works that
Christians do in the Lords name will not stand the test in that day. It will
become evident (v. 13) that the materials used were wood, hay, and straw. The
workmen will not lose their salvation, but they will lose a portion of any reward
they might be expecting. They shall be saved, yet so as through fire. The thought
here is of a person who runs through flames without being burned, but who has the
smell of smoke on himbarely escaping! In the day of rewards, the useless evil
things will be burned away, but salvation will not be forfeited" (1 Corinthians, on
chapter 3).


"So, if purgatory is understood as a temporary, incomplete, joyful existence that

involves growth and anticipation of reembodiment in heaven, then we can accept
it, as long as we remain clear about what the concept really means and includes"
(Immortality: The Other Side of Death).


Although not accustomed to thinking much about purgatory because I have shared
the knee-jerk reaction against it in Evangelical thinking . . . I cannot deny that most
believers end their earthly lives imperfectly sanctified and far from complete. . . .
Obviously, Evangelicals have not thought this question out. It seems to me that we
already have the possibility of a doctrine of purgatory. . . . Ask yourself, are you
not going to need some finishing touches in the area of holiness when you die?"
(Four Views on Hell).

"There are many respected [Protestant] theologians who have thought the same.
One finds sympathy with an idea of purgatory in George MacDonald, J. B. Phillips,
William Barclay, and many others. . . . I would defend a doctrine of purgatory in
this way. It is obvious that Christian character is not perfectly transformed at death.
Therefore, it is reasonable to hope that there might be a perfecting process after
death" (ibid.).


"My friend, you and I need to recognize that we have to give an account of
ourselves to him [Jesus]. Ill be honest with you; that disturbs me a little. I am
wondering how I am going to tell him about certain things. So I cant sit in
judgment upon you; Im worried about Vernon McGee" (Through the Bible, on
Romans 14:10).

Catholic Prayer

Many non-Catholics do not understand a number of aspects of Catholic prayer.

There are some non-Catholics who think that Catholics do not actually engage in
prayer that they would understand, instead thinking that Catholics pray in a pagan
fashion and never to Jesus or God the Father. Obviously, this is untrue, and it will
be necessary for the Catholic apologist to clear up this misunderstanding if it
exists. One of the best ways to do this is to simply pray with the person you are
talking to; say a quick prayer to Jesus asking that the two of you will be able to
understand each other's position and that you will both come to the truth. This is a
prayer that neither Catholics nor Protestants will have any problems praying.

With that potential confusion out of the way, there are basically five objections
which are raised by non-Catholics regarding Catholic prayer. The Catholic
apologist should be ready to answer any of these.

Prayer to Saints
Non-Catholics are often confused by the fact that Catholics pray to saints, seeing
this as an example of worshiping a creature rather than the Creator (and thus
idolatry). It will be necessary to clarify firstly what Catholics actually do and then
to defend that (rather than what the non-Catholic thinks Catholics do).

Catholics do not worship saints, we simply give them honor and veneration. We do
not pray to them in the same way as we pray to God a better understanding
would be that we pray with saints or pray in communion with the saints. They act
of praying to a saint is better understood as asking the saint to pray for us and
present our petitions to God.

Essential to defending the notion that the saints in Heaven are capable of
presenting our petitions to God is that the saints are alive and part of the Church
(although just not part of the Church Militant here on earth). This is the theology of
the communion of saints, and in order to defend Catholic prayer to saints it will be
necessary to defend that teaching.

Once it is shown that the Catholic Church is right to regard those who have died in
Christ and are in Heaven as part of the Church, it may be necessary to show that
prayer on behalf of others is efficacious. InRomans 15:30 we read that Paul asks
for prayers on his behalf. In Colossians 4:3 and I Thessalonians 5:25 we read Paul
asking people to pray for us. II Thessalonians contains two further similar verses
1:11, 3:1. Ephesians 6:18-19 asks for supplication for all the saints (that is, the
Christians made holy by baptism) and for Paul.

Use of these verses, while beneficial, may not actually be necessary once the
apologist has shown that the saints in Heaven are just as much a part of the Church
as Christians on earth. Which Christian, when asked to pray for another Christian,
would not do so? Catholics ask saints to pray for them just as any Christian might
ask another person to pray for them saints are simply closer to God as they are
now in Heaven and have been made perfect by purgatory. Why would a Christian
not ask them to pray for him or her?

In addition to references to the Christians on earth praying for others, there are
Scriptural references to the saints and angels praying for the faithful on earth.
In Tobit 12:12 we read that the angel presented Tobit & Sarah's prayers to God, and
in Revelation 5:8 the angels are shown offering the prayers of the holy ones to

Don't you worship statues?

Although the valid use of statues (and icons, and pictures, and other forms of
liturgical art) has been covered elsewhere, the accusation that Catholics pray to
statues (either of the saints, angels or of God Himself) is one which is commonly
leveled at Catholics. In order to defend the Catholic practice of using statues in
prayer it will first be necessary to show that the use of statues is acceptable and
secondly that Catholics are not praying to or worshiping the statue itself (which is
just plaster or wood) but rather the person represented by the statue.

In just the same way as a person might have a picture or photograph of a loved one
in order to remind him or her of their friend or family member, so to do Catholics
use statues as a reminder and a focus when praying to a saint, angel or God. In
addition to the beautifying of our places of worship by the use of liturgical art, it
serves a very practical purpose of reminding us. However, Catholics do not pray to
the statues themselves but rather to the people who are presented by them.

Why do you use candles?

A number of non-Catholics find the use of candles to be in some way sinister,

thinking that it is an example of paganism or a non-Christian form of worship.

The use of candles is not a formal part of Catholic worship they are used because
they are beautiful and because they remind us of the light of Christ. Candles are
used in many Catholic liturgies to symbolize the light that comes from Christ, God
the Father and Heaven. A candle remains burning after the prayer has been said,
and so the use of the candle reminds us that our prayer stays always before God.

There is no sinister motive in the use of candles, and the Catholic apologist should
simply reassure the non-Catholic that this is the case. If the non-Catholic does not
believe the Catholic, then there are larger problems to understanding and dialog
than merely the use of candles!

Rote prayer

Many non-Catholics are concerned by the fact that Catholics make extensive use of
rote prayer; prayers which they themselves did not write and which they seem to
just be saying by habit without thinking of what they mean. There are a number of
ways to deal with this objection.

Firstly, it is in fact correct that rote prayer treated simply as a habit and without
any genuine motivation behind it is not a good thing. Prayer is far more than
merely saying a few words it requires a complete and total commitment of will
and a willingness to engage in genuine dialog with the divine. The Catholic
apologist should always agree with the non-Catholic on this point.

However, it is not true that the use of rote prayer is always an example of simply
saying the words out of habit without truly engaging in genuine prayer. Very often,
the use of rote prayer allows the Catholic to pray devoutly and intensely without
having to worry about the words that should be used.
By using words someone else has composed the Catholic has access to wonderful
prayers and truths of the faith discovered by or revealed to other people. The use of
someone else's words can reveal additional truths about the Catholic faith and the
nature of God which were not known before. In addition, the use of rote prayers
connects all Catholics together the fact that, all over the world, millions of
Catholics are praying the Angellus is part of the unity of the corporate worship of
the Church which finds its truest expression in the Eucharist.

Finally, rote prayer is not confined to just Catholics many Protestant

denominations have liturgies and other structured prayers. Even in the least
liturgical Protestant denomination the service will have some sort of form and
structure and this form and structure is a form of rote prayer. Individual
Christians of all denominations will pray using words which they learned from
others rote prayer is not simply a Catholic practice.

It is also mandated in the Bible when Jesus is asked by His disciples how they
should pray, He gives them the Lord's Prayer. This is perhaps the most common
rote prayer in the world, and is shared by virtually all Christians. The rest of the
Bible abounds with examples of people using form prayers to pray the entire
book of Psalms is the prayer book of Israel. All observant Jews (which Christ and
the apostles were) would have used the Psalms as a prayer book and a form of rote

Repetitious and vain prayer?

In Matthew 6:7 we read that we should not babble as the pagans do with many
words. An example of this sort of pagan prayer is given in I Kings 18:25-29 where
the priests of Baal attempt to call upon their God for hours on end and nothing
happens. An accusation leveled against the Catholic Church is that the repetitious
prayer which is part of the various litanies, chaplets and the rosary is an example of
vain repetition. This is not the case.

Firstly, Jesus is not advocating that we should never repeat ourselves when praying
this is clear from other Scriptures. Many of the Psalms (which Jesus would have
used as an observant Jew) are basically litanies or examples of repetitious prayer (it
is from this source that the Catholic Church got the idea for litanies!) - would Jesus
have condemned these prayers too?

But there are also examples of repetition in prayer in the Scriptures which Jesus
specifically holds up as being good He prays for a third time and uses the same
words in Matthew 26:44. The tax collector inLuke 18:13 kept praying the same
prayer for mercy. The angels described in Revelation 4:8 pray day and night with
the same three-fold prayer. All of these are examples of repetition we are told in I
Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing.
What, then, is Jesus speaking against? He is speaking against vain repetition
repetition which is simply words without meaning behind them, or prayer to the
wrong person. We are told to pray often prayer is conversation with God. What
we should be asking for, all the time and constantly, is mercy from God. Even if we
think of different ways of asking for this, aren't we repeating ourselves? But, if we
have faith in God, our prayer may be repetitious, but it will never be in vain.

Call no man Father

Matthew 23:9 reads Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father,
who is in heaven. Based on this isolated reading of a single passage of Scripture
(which is not how Scripture should be read) a number of anti-Catholics claim that
the calling of Roman Catholic priests Father shows that the whole Catholic
religion is a fraud.

Although this seems like a ludicrous charge to make, many non-Catholics take it
very seriously indeed, and so the Catholic apologist must be ready with answers to
this objection.

A literal reading?

The Protestant position relies on a literal reading of the Scripture that we should
never call anyone father (or teacher, as that title is mentioned in the previous
verse). If this were the case, then we all have some problems!

What is someone supposed to call the man who married his mother and had
children with her? Jesus Himself uses father in this sense; in Matthew 19:19 he
confirms the commandment to honor thy father and mother, and in Luke
14:26 he mentions the word father again. In Hebrews 12:7-9 Paul refers to those
who sired us as our earthly fathers.

The sensible answer to this question is that Jesus was using hyperbole He was
deliberately exaggerating in order to make a point (we see another example of this
hyperbole in Matthew 5:29-30 where Jesus advocates mutilation of the body
which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, remember, and therefore should never be
dishonored in this manner.) Most Protestants will agree with this they are not
suggesting that we cannot call our dads father or the people who work in schools
teacher. All they are suggesting is that we should not call Catholic Priests

This seems to be rather silly we can make certain exceptions, but not others?
What is the Protestant basing this on? If he or she is basing it on his own personal
interpretation of the Bible, it will be necessary to show the truth about Sacred
Scripture and its origin, and to point out that person interpretation and sola
scriptura is a false doctrine.
Scriptural support for the Catholic position

In addition to the inherent foolishness of saying that this verse should be

interpreted to apply to certain things but not others, there are verses in the Bible in
which people are referred to as father.

Jesus calls Abraham father in Matthew 3:9. Saint Stephen in Acts 7:2 calls the
Jewish leaders fathers, and Saint Paul makes similar statements in Acts
21:40, 22:1 and Romans 9:10. Abraham is called the father of us all in Romans

Saint Paul claims a special kind of fatherhood several times in his letters he
writes about this in I Corinthians 4:14-15, I Timothy 1:2 and Philemon 10. Saint
Paul also makes reference to the idea of spiritual fatherhood elsewhere in Titus

John refers to the elders he is writing to in I John as fathers (I John 2:13-14).

This is, however, not confined to the New Testament - Joseph tells his brothers So
it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh,
and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt in Genesis 45:8. Job
has a similar statement - I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the cause of
him whom I did not know (Job 29:16).

God says that He will make Eliakim, the steward of the house of David, a kind of
father when he says In that day I will call my servant Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah .
. . and I will clothe him with [a] robe, and will bind [a] girdle on him, and will
commit . . . authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of
Jerusalem and to the house of Judah" in Isaiah 22:20-21.

Elisha cries, My father, my father! to Elijah as the latter is carried up to heaven

in a whirlwind in II Kings 2:12. Elisha himself is called a father by the king of
Israel in II Kings 6:21.

It can be seen that the word father is extensively used to refer to not only those
who are natural or adoptive fathers, but also those who have a position of
superiority over those who act as their children. This can be a spiritual or political
leadership, or simply a term of respect.

If we were to forbid the use of the word father in any context except refering to
God, then it would loose its meaning as there would be no earthly example of
fatherhood to enable us to understand divine Fatherhood. It is only by seeing that
earthly examples of fatherhood (either real or metaphorical) are pale reflections of
divine Fatherhood that we can understand God's role as our heavenly Father.
Teachers and Masters?

In addition, the passage in Matthew 23 prohibits the use of the word teacher and
master. But Jesus Himself appoints people to be teachers in Matthew 28:19-
20 for example. Are we really to understand that Jesus appointed men to be
teachers but that they were not to be called teachers?

Paul himself uses the word in I Timothy 2:7 and II Timothy 1:11, and reminds us
that the Church has an office of teacher in I Corinthians 12:28. The gifts of the
Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4:11 include the gifts that make some teachers.

The correct interpretation

It can clearly be seen that a literal interpretation of these words does not work, and
that many people who held a position of spiritual fatherhood (as Catholic priests
do) were called fathers by Jesus and the early apostles. So, what was Jesus
speaking out against?

In Matthew 23:6-7 (just before these verses) we read that Jesus is condemning
those who are proud and grasp after honor and praise. Jesus then used hyperbole to
show that the scribes and Pharisees not looking to God as the source of all
authority, but rather trying to place themselves above Him.

Jesus isn't saying that we shouldn't call men who are (either literally or spiritually)
our fathers father; He is saying that we should not attribute the wrong kind
or degree of fatherhood to them. We should not treat a spiritual (or actual) father as
if he were God Himself and had that kind of total and divine Fatherhood. The
spiritual paternity of these men should not be confused with that of God; He is our
supreme protector, provider, and instructor not any one man.

Catholic priests are referred to as Father because they enjoy a spiritual

fatherhood over the members of their parishes. It is for this reason that they refer to
their parishioners as my son or my child. In this, they follow the examples of
the apostles and other men who enjoyed spiritual fatherhood over others.

It may be that the non-Catholic will, when this has been explained, object to the
teaching that Catholic priests enjoy any sort of spiritual fatherhood, and it will be
necessary to consult the article concerning the priesthood to defend this teaching.

Anointing of the Sick (CCC 1499-1532)

Many non-Catholics who have little or no problem with other sacraments (such
as baptism, matrimony and even the Eucharist) find the anointing of the sick harder
to accept. However, this sacrament is well attested in the early Church and is well-
founded in Scripture, as well as being explicitly referenced there.
Understanding what the sacrament actually does

It is important to make the person the apologist is talking to understand what the
sacrament actually does it is not a form of guaranteed miracle healing, but rather
aligns the person's spirit with that of Christ. The Catechism gives a clear
description of what the sacrament does (CCC 1532) and it is important to note that
the restoration of health only takes place if it is conducive to the salvation of his
soul. Thus, while the sacrament certainly spiritually heals a person, it only
accomplishes physical healing in so far as that is necessary for the salvation of a
soul. The sacrament of the anointing of the sick is a primarily a spiritual healing
rather than a physical one and thus if someone is not physically healed as a result
it does not mean that the sacrament is false.

The discussion of pain and suffering is covered in a separate article.

Direct Scriptural References

There are two times when the sacrament is directly referenced in the Scriptures,
and this should be enough for most sola scriptura Christians to accept that it was
genuinely instituted by Christ. These references are Mark 6:12-13 and James 5:14-
15. There are a number of key points to note about these passages.

In both these cases, those who are administering the sacrament are
ordained priests (either the Twelve or the presbyters (or elders in some
translations) which is where we get the word priest from). Also, although there is
clear reference to prayer in addition, it is made very clear that the physical method
of administering the sacrament is the anointing with oil just as the Church does
today. The healing of those anointed is clearly connected to the sacrament's

Indirect Scriptural support & support from the writings of early Christians

As a sacrament the anointing of the sick takes its power and efficacy from the
atoning death of Jesus Christ. Although many people think that Jesus's death
merely forgives us our sins and does nothing to our physical illness, this is not
supported by the prophet Isaiah nor the Gospel of Matthew which quotes him; this
was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, He took our infirmities and
bore our diseases (Matthew 8:17).

The sacrament is well-attested in the writings of the Church Fathers. Origen writes
around 250 AD that the Christian who is truly sorry for his sins does not shrink
from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and from seeking medicine . . . [of]
which the apostle James says: If then there is anyone sick, let him call the
presbyters of the Church, and let them impose hands upon him, anointing him with
oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and if he
be in sins, they shall be forgiven him (Homilies on Leviticus 2:4).

Bishop Serapion writes in the year 350 in The Sacramentary of Serapion 29:1, We
beseech you, Savior of all men, you that have all virtue and power, Father of our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and we pray that you send down from heaven the
healing power of the only-begotten [Son] upon this oil, so that for those who are
anointed . . . it may be effected for the casting out of every disease and every
bodily infirmity . . . for good grace and remission of sins.

Both of these references (as well as the two Scriptural references above) refer to
the anointing of the sick and confession in the same breath this is because the
two sacraments are both sacraments of healing. This finds its truest expression in
the fact that Jesus performed many of His healing miracles by saying Your sins
are forgiven.

The anointing of the sick is both Scriptural and can be shown to have been
performed since the earliest days of the Church. Much of the confusion
surrounding this sacrament comes from the fact that it does not always produce
instantaneous physical healing an effect some non-Catholics think that it should
have even though the Church has never taught that it should, and has in fact taught
the healing value of pain and suffering.