Bible Study Guides – The Difference Between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant View of the Bible

January 9, 2005 – January 15, 2005

Memory Verse:

“All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 11 Timothy 3:16, 17.

Suggested Reading: The Great Controversy, 197–210.

FIRST DIFFERENCE: The Basic Attitude Toward the Scriptures

1 Does the Bible contain all things necessary for salvation and can the Scriptures alone enable the Christian to reach spiritual perfection? 11 Timothy 3:16, 17.

note: The Protestant Position. “I see plainly and with my own eyes, that there are popes against popes, councils against councils, some fathers against others, the same fathers against themselves, a consent of fathers of one age against a consent of fathers of another age, the church of one age against the church of another age. . . . In a word, there is no sufficient certainty but of Scripture only for any considering man to build upon.” William Chillingworth, M.A., The Religion of Protestants, London, 1866, 463.

“He who receives a single doctrine upon the mere authority of tradition, let him be called by what name he will, by so doing steps down from the Protestant rock, passes over the line which separates Protestantism from Popery, and can give no valid reason why he should not receive all the earlier doctrines and ceremonies of Romanism, upon the same authority.” John Dowling, D.D., History of Romanism, New York, 1871, 67, 68.

See also The Great Controversy, 81, 102, 126, 166.

The Catholic Position. “The church . . . does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey, 1994, Paragraph 82, 26.

“Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God.” Ibid., 29.

“Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition. For this reason no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community.” Ibid., 291.

“The Bible was actually placed on the ‘Index of Forbidden Books’ by the Council of Valencia in the year 1229.” Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1962, 97.

SECOND DIFFERENCE: What Books Should Be Included in the Bible?

2 What books did Jesus include in the Bible or Scriptures? Luke 24:44.

comment: The Hebrew Bible used by the Jews in the days of Christ consisted of three parts. Those three parts are, first of all, the Law. This first part was Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The second part of the Bible was the prophets. The prophets consisted of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 11 Samuel, 1 and 11 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The third part of the Bible was the Writings. The first book of this third part of the Bible was the Psalms and this third part of the Bible was often referred to as the Psalms as in Luke 24:44. This third section consisted of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and 1 and 11 Chronicles, in that order.

3 What does the Bible warn about either adding or omitting any of the sacred writings? Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18, 19.

note: See The Great Controversy, 289, 290.

4 How many books are in the Catholic Bible? (See any official Catholic Bible in your public library.)

note: “It was by apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books. This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament . . . and 27 for the New.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey, 1994, 34.

comment: Notice in the above statement that if it is tradition that determines which books should be in the Bible, then tradition is above the Bible as a source of divine revelation. The Bible student who is a Protestant must have a different method of determining what should be included in the Bible than this, or he is on his way to becoming a Roman Catholic.

5 How many books are in the Protestant Bible? (See any Bible that has been translated by people who are Protestants, such as the NASB, the NIV, the fourth revision of the KJV, the NKJV, the RSV, etc.)

comment: Although the apocryphal books as they are called were included in the original 1611 King James Version, Protestants in general, from the time of the sixteenth century Protestant reformers, only have 39 books in their Old Testament (exactly the same as the Hebrew Bible used by the Jews) and 27 books in their New Testament.

6 Does the church have authority to add anything to the teachings of Christ? Matthew 28:18–20.

note: “The disciples were to teach what Christ had taught. That which He had spoken, not only in person, but through all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament, is here included. Human teaching is shut out. There is no place for tradition, for man’s theories and conclusions, or for church legislation. No laws ordained by ecclesiastical authority are included in the commission. None of these are Christ’s servants to teach. ‘The law and the prophets,’ with the record of His own words and deeds, are the treasure committed to the disciples to be given to the world.” The Desire of Ages, 826.

7 As in Bible times are there any popular beliefs and church practices today that cannot be found in the Protestant Bible? 1 Peter 1:18; Ephesians 2:3; Matthew 15:8, 9.

note: “When the common people started reading the scriptures they [as the Waldenses and the Paulicians and the Albigenses hundreds of years before] were ‘struck with the strange discrepancy between the teaching of the Sacred Volume and that of the church of Rome.’ ” Eugene Lawrence, Historical Studies, Harper Brothers, New York, 1876, 255.

“In the Book of God there were found no purgatory, no infallible pope, no masses for the dead, no sale of indulgences, no relics working miracles, no prayers for the dead, no worship of the Virgin Mary or of saints!” Christian Edwardson, Facts of Faith, Southern Publishing Association, Nashville, Tennessee, 1943, 14.

THIRD DIFFERENCE: Attitude Toward Bible Translations

8 What was the Roman Catholic attitude toward the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures and Bible Translations at the time of the Protestant Reformation? What is the Protestant position on this subject? Acts 22:2; 11 Timothy 4:13; 1 Corinthians 14:19.

comment: The Roman Catholic Attitude. The Roman Church at the Council of Trent condemned the idea that the Scriptures must be studied in the original languages. The theory that there were errors in the Vulgate was also condemned by the Council of Trent. In other words, they believed that they had an infallible Bible in terms of faith and doctrine.

The Protestant Position. For any person whose faith is based on a sacred book, it is very important to know exactly what that book teaches as originally written, that is, in the language in which it was originally written. This is why there was an increased interest in the study of Greek and Hebrew among the Protestants during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Protestant position was then, and still is today, that the Scriptures should be studied in the original languages, and that there were errors in the Vulgate. Protestants have never believed that there was an infallible or inerrant translation of the Scriptures. This was not claimed for any of the Protestant Bibles in the sixteenth century or for the King James Version or for any Protestant Bibles since that time.

9 In what language does the Holy Spirit want the people of the human race to receive the Word of God? Acts 2:4–11; 1 Corinthians 14:27, 28.

FOURTH DIFFERENCE: How Can An Understanding of the Bible Be Acquired?

10 What is the Protestant position about understanding the Bible? 11 Timothy 3:13–15.

comment: The Protestant reformers all taught that the Bible was plain, and its meaning could be discovered by anybody with the help of the Holy Spirit even without the aid of commentaries, clergy, or the church. See The Great Controversy, 251.

The Roman Catholic position condemned the idea that the meaning of the Scriptures was plain, and that it could be understood, without commentary, with the help of Christ’s Spirit.

11 What method was used by William Miller to acquire an understanding of the Bible? Isaiah 28:9, 10.

note: “Endeavoring to lay aside all preconceived opinions, and dispensing with commentaries, he compared scripture with scripture by the aid of the marginal references and the concordance.” The Great Controversy, 320.

12 What is the result of allowing either the church or theologians to interpret the Bible for us? 11 Timothy 4:3.

note: “The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in its support.

“Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to man in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology, as their guides, instead of searching the Scriptures to learn their duty for themselves. Then, by controlling the minds of these leaders, he can influence the multitudes according to his will.” The Great Controversy, 595.