Roman Catholics, Quote Mining, and Honesty

I debated whether Roman Catholicism was really a topic that fits this blog. I thought some about the name of the blog. It is “The Rest of the Old, Old Story.”

This post definitely fits the blog title because I’m going to spend most of the time giving you the rest of the story left out by the Roman Catholics.

Quote Mining

Today, I was accused of quote mining for my teaching on apostolic succession.  The person accusing me of quote mining was Roman Catholic, of course, since it is a Roman Catholic doctrine I’m refuting on that page.

First, what is quote mining?

Quote mining is pulling quotes out of context to make an author say what he never said. One common example used is that the Bible says that Judas went out and hung himself. It also says, “Go thou and do likewise” and “What you do, do quickly.”

Put together, those verses say that you should hang yourself and do it quickly. Obviously, the Bible teaches no such thing.

Another example of quote mining could be obtained from my last paragraph. Someone could say, “Shammah said, ‘Those verses say that you should hang yourself and do it quickly.'” Obviously, I’ve said no such thing even though that’s an exact quote.

Roman Catholic Quote Mining

It’s funny that a Roman Catholic should accuse me of quote mining because they’re masters at it. The person who accused me of quote mining sent me to a page that he says has passages from the church fathers in context.


Let’s see. Let’s begin with this quote:

Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate.

They quote a little before that sentence in order to explain the topic over which Victor excommunicated all the churches of Asia. The issue was on what day to celebrate Passover. Victor and the church at Rome thought it ought always to be on a Sunday, and the churches in the east were celebrating it on the actual day of Passover.

Victor excommunicated them for it.

Well, there you have it. Look at Victor’s power. He was able to excommunicate all the eastern churches. This was A.D. 195, they say, though it was actually closer to A.D. 170. So there must have been a pope as early as 170, thus refuting Protestant charges that there was no pope in the early church.

But what’s the rest of the old, old story?

But this did not please all the bishops. And they besought him to consider the things of peace, and of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are extant, sharply rebuking Victor. Among them was Irenæus, who, sending letters in the name of the brethren in Gaul over whom he presided, maintained that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be observed only on the Lord’s day. He fittingly admonishes Victor that he should not cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom.

The Catholic web site didn’t actually give the reference for the passage they cited. I had to go find it. Fortunately, it wasn’t too difficult because I already knew about this passage. It’s in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, book V, ch. 24.

Talk about quote mining! They didn’t mention that the reason Victor wanted to excommunicate them is because he wrote a letter in the name of the church of Rome telling the eastern churches to observe Passover the western way. Polycrates, the bishop of Ephesus–a church that carried the exact same authority as Rome because both were founded by apostles–was upset about this. Rather than just give vent to his anger, he conferred with other bishops in Asia (which would be modern Turkey, not Russia or China or India) and was told it was fine to write Victor back telling him no.

The letter says they had always celebrated Passover on Nisan 14, and they would continue to do so. They were not going to forsake the tradition passed down to them from apostles.

Then, when Victor, who also had to be helped by Irenaeus in order not to slip into some gnostic heresy, couldn’t handle the response and flew off the handle, “bishops” sharply rebuke Victor, and Irenaeus, perhaps the most respected bishop of his day, “fittingly” admonished him.

So you decide for yourself. Did the Roman Catholics give you the whole story? On the matter of the papacy, they never do because there is no evidence whatsoever for a pope in the early church unless you quote mine.

More Quote Mining

Most of the quotes that aren’t ambiguous on the page I linked above are quote mines. Here’s another example:

And he says to him again after the resurrection, ‘Feed my sheep.’ It is on him that he builds the Church, and to him that he entrusts the sheep to feed. And although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, thus establishing by his own authority the source and hallmark of the (Church’s) oneness. No doubt the others were all that Peter was, but a primacy is given to Peter, and it is (thus) made clear that there is but one flock which is to be fed by all the apostles in common accord. If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church? This unity firmly should we hold and maintain, especially we bishops, presiding in the Church, in order that we may approve the episcopate itself to be the one and undivided.

They do at least reference this one. It’s from The Unity of the Church, a tract written by the great bishop Cyprian. He was bishop of Carthage in north Africa from 249 to 257.

Cyprian does talk a lot about Peter’s primacy. He’s the first early Christian writer to talk about Peter having the keys of the kingdom and passing them on.

However, do you notice anything missing from that paragraph above? How about a mention of Rome?

Those who read Cyprian know that the key phrase in the passage above is “in order that we may approve the episcopate itself to be the one and undivided.”

That’s translated pretty poorly there. The Ante-Nicene Fathers set has it as “that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided.”

What does he mean by the episcopate being one and undivided?

Well, the episcopate means all the bishops. Shortly after, he adds, “The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole.”

In other words, all the bishops together are one leadership of the Church. They, together, received the keys of the kingdom from Peter. Not the bishop of Rome. Sorry.

Is that really what Cyprian meant? Well, as it turns out, Cyprian actually talked about whether the bishop of Rome had primacy. In fact, he called a council of 87 bishops in 258 to discuss the claims of Stephen, bishop of Rome, who is the first bishop of Rome that we know of to claim he has authority over other bishops.

According to the records of the council, Cyprian opened up the council with a speech in which he said:

For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power,
has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another.

Hmm. I wonder why that Catholic web site didn’t quote this?

So now you know … the rest of the old, old story.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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