Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
September 25, 1997
Last Updated :
June 2, 2012
Most Of The Apostles Were Martyred, Jesus Prophesies Peter's Martyrdom, Church Fractures Several Hundred Years After Book Of Acts, False Doctrines Abound, Verses Regarding Spiritual And Doctrinal Unity, Persecution By Roman Emperors, Fourth Century Compromise By Church Fathers, Book Of Enoch Accepted By First Century Christians And Early Church Leaders, Fourth Century Church Fathers Reject Book Of Enoch, Who To Believe: Apostles Or Later Church Fathers, Different Canons Over The Centuries, The Bible Has Been Manipulated By Political And Religious Forces, Debate Regarding Authenticity Of Book Of Revelation, Our Christian Faith Influenced And Dictated By Biblical Canon We Have Been Given, Things We May Never Know Or Believe, Decisions Affected By Compromise With The Roman Government, Certain Bible Books Have Been Lost Forever, The Controversial And Heretical Books Are Removed From The Canon, Beware Of False Doctrines, Did The Church Fathers Go Too Far, Manuscripts Hidden For Many Centuries In The Vatican Library, Vatican Control Over Scriptural Interpretation And Salvation, Franco Zeffirelli's Radical Movie "Brother Son, Sister Moon", Scriptural Foundation For Forsaking All Worldly Possessions, Francis' Audience With Pope Innocent III, Contrast Between Franciscan Monks' Poverty And Opulence Of Roman Pope's Court, The Roman Catholic Church Maintained The Scriptures In Latin, God's Warning To Selfish False Shepherds Of Ancient Israel, Scriptural Mandate To Feed God's Sheep, Sins Of Catholicism
Aside from the Apostle John -- who is believed to have died a natural death on the isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea -- and Judas Iscariot, the Lord's betrayer -- who we know chose to commit suicide -- tradition holds that most -- if not all -- of the remaining Apostles died a martyr's death. In fact, Jesus prophesied the Apostle Peter's martyrdom when He said the following near the end of the Gospel of John:
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me."
John 21:18-19, KJV
Within a few hundred years of the events which are described for us in the Book of Acts, the situation within the Lord's Church had changed considerably. Despite warnings from the Lord Himself and the Apostles, infiltration by false Jewish brethren had taken its toll and false doctrines abounded, no doubt even more than what had already occurred by the latter half of the First Century. With all of the Apostles now gone from the scene, and thus unable to correct any errors which may have crept into the Church, the doctrinal and spiritual unity that is described for us in the following verses had become heavily polluted by misguided ideas and the doctrines and traditions of men, some of whom were only self-serving wolves within the Lord's Church:
"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are . . . That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
John 17:11, 21-23, KJV
"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
John 10:16, KJV
"That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 15:6, KJV
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
1 Corinthians 1:10, KJV
"Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
2 Corinthians 13:11, KJV
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"
Ephesians 4:1-3, KJV
"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;"
Philippians 1:27, KJV
"Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind."
Philippians 2:2, KJV
To aggravate the situation within the Church even more, many years of an unpredictable tide of persecution by one Roman emperor after another -- from Nero to Diocletian -- had also taken a very heavy toll. The Lord's Church was growing weak, tired and battle-weary. Thanks to the early missionary work of the Apostles and other Christians such as Paul, Barnabas, Mark John, Silas, Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla, and Titus, while the Church had made inroads into Roman society -- even infiltrating Roman high society -- nevertheless, it remained in a very precarious position. At certain points, Christians were even allowed to own property, while at other times they occupied the lowest rung of Roman society and were heavily persecuted, imprisoned and killed. The tide of persecution changed depending on the emperors who were in power.
The end result of these various factors is that they made the Church very vulnerable to compromise, and compromise is exactly what some of the bishops eventually sought during the Fourth Century reign of Emperor Constantine I -- son of Emperor Constantius -- who is also known as Constantine the Great. I discuss this process of compromise in more detail in such articles as "Pontifex Maximus: Pagan High Priest to Roman Catholic Pope". Through this compromise with the Roman world of that era by certain Christian bishops, the so-called "Holy Mother Church" slowly rose to power, and began to gain control of the minds and spirits of the masses of the Roman Empire. This also included controling and determining what was to be taught as sound Christian doctrine.
Prior to this time -- including during the First Century -- there were a number of books, scrolls and manuscripts which the Early Christians apparently regarded as being Divinely Inspired. At the very least, they seem to have viewed them with some undetermined level of importance. If this were not the case, it does not seem likely that they would include quotes from these sources in the books which were accepted in the Biblical canon years later, as I will be discussing in more detail in a moment. This included certain quotes from -- or at least implied references to -- the Book of Enoch.
Aside from the original Apostles and Disciples, what is also known is that during the first few hundred years after our faith was founded, many of the Early Church leaders did in fact accept the Book of Enoch as Inspired Text; that is, as bona fide Scripture. These included such men as Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus and Tertullian. Furthermore, around 200 AD, Tertullian suggested that the Book of Enoch had been rejected by the Jews because it contains certain prophecies which pertain to Jesus Christ. While the debate concerning the authenticity and Divine Inspiration of the Book of Enoch continued, it seems that by the Fourth Century, the consensus amongst the Church Fathers was to reject it. Thus, it was omitted from the Biblical canon by most of the Christian Church from that point in time and forward.
The question in my mind is this: Why would at least some of the First Century Apostles and Disciples, as well as some of the early Church Fathers, accept the Book of Enoch as being Divinely Inspired, only to have it soundly rejected a few hundred years later by other Church Fathers? What happened during that interval which ultimately resulted in the sound rejection of the Book of Enoch? Perhaps an equally important question we should ask ourselves is why we should trust the judgment of later Church Fathers more than the opinion of the First Century Apostles and Disciples who embraced the Book of Enoch as Inspired Text.
While you are thinking about these questions, let me remind you again that the Christian Scriptures we possess today have not always been in their current form. As I explained in part one, there have been many different canons proposed over the centuries; and even today, the very same canon is not used by Christian churches all around the world. You can confirm this fact for yourself simply by conducting your own research, and using the search term "Biblical canon". What you will learn is that our beloved Bible has been subjected to considerable manipulation and influence by a wide body of political and religious forces over the centuries.
Some of you may even be surprised to learn that the Book of Revelation has not always been accepted as Divinely Inspired text either. In fact, even today it is not read within the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Similar to the Book of Enoch, the Divine Inspiration of the Apocalypse -- or Book of Revelation -- was a source of debate for a few hundred years after John first wrote it. Depending on which source you choose to believe, it was not accepted as a part of the Biblical canon until either the late Fourth Century -- at the Council of Carthage in 397 AD -- or possibly a few decades later at the Council of 419 AD.
While he eventually changed his mind, even the well-known Sixteenth Century reformer Martin Luther had some serious doubts concerning the Book of Revelation. Luther regarded it as a questionable document "neither apostolic nor prophetic" in which "Christ is neither taught nor known in it." While fellow reformer John Calvin accepted the Book of Revelation as being canonical, at the same time, it was the only New Testament Book for which he never wrote a commentary.
My point in sharing this information with you is simply this: What we Christians accept and believe to be Divine Truth in our modern day, is both affected and determined by decisions which were made many centuries ago. Our Christian faith is in large part based upon, influenced by, and in fact dictated by what we have been allowed to read. For the vast majority of Christians, this means only the books which the early Church Fathers deemed appropriate to include in the Biblical canon. If for whatever their reasons, they decided to not include certain books in the canon, most Christians today won't even know about them, unless they are willing to exercise personal initiative, and conduct Biblical research of their own.
Stated another way, there are quite possibly a lot of things which we Christians should know and believe today which we don't, simply because we have not been given the opportunity to learn about them. Why is this? Because the Church Fathers of centuries past felt that they should not be included in the Bible. Maybe they felt that a certain Book wasn't really Divinely Inspired. Perhaps they determined that another Book was too controversial or too difficult to understand. Maybe there were some texts which contained particular doctrines which the Church Fathers of that era personally did not like or embrace, and which they did not want Christians to know or to learn, so they left out those books as well.
While we may not fully understand why certain books were not included in the canon, being as these actions were taken so long ago, I suspect that some of the decisions may have been affected by the compromise which was made by certain bishops with the Roman authorities during that time. In other words, while their rejection of certain manuscripts may have been partially motivated by their honest desire to purge our faith of questionable doctrines and obvious heresies, at the same time, I have to wonder if the Church Fathers may have wanted to remove anything which might seem offensive, or which might make the Church less acceptable to Emperor Constantine and his successors. After all, as I have already pointed out, at that time in history, there were certain Church leaders who were very interested in acquiring power and wealth, as well as in spreading the Church's influence throughout the Roman Empire. Again, please refer to such articles as "Pontifex Maximus: Pagan High Priest to Roman Catholic Pope".
Whatever the case may be, as is clearly evidenced by the Book of Enoch, the battle involving the Book of Revelation, and no doubt other books as well, by the Fourth Century, the Church Fathers had already removed certain books, and continued to remove some books, from the canon. As I said a moment ago, a few of the known reasons why certain books were removed from the Biblical canon is because either they were considered to be uninspired text, or because they contained spurious text, or because they contained doctrines which the Church Fathers regarded as being heretical in nature.
Exactly how many books they ultimately removed, I suppose we will never know. The only evidence we have to go by are the remaining Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Works which have survived time, decay and the wrath of man. Many of these can easily be accessed online by any skilled computer user. Of course, there are undoubtedly many other ancient books and manuscripts which have been lost forever due to a variety of reasons.
On one hand, we can view these historical developments as a good thing in that the Church Fathers wanted to protect the Christian Church from false doctrines and other spiritual dangers. As we saw in part one, the Church has actually been plagued by false brethren and false doctrines since it was first established during the First Century. Following are a few more verses where we are warned to beware of doctrines which are contrary to the teachings of Christ and the first Apostles:
"Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."
Matthew 16:12, KJV
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:"
Ephesians 4:14-15, KJV
"Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein."
Hebrews 13:9, KJV
"As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do."
1 Timothy 1:3-4, KJV
On the other hand, it would seem that the Church Fathers made the decision that the common man did not possess the spiritual integrity or the wisdom to discern between good and evil in the manuscripts which were available at that particular time. While this is true even in our modern day, especially with so much deceptive nonsense available on the Internet, is it possible that in certain instances, some of the Early Church bishops may have been overly zealous, and may have purged out some manuscripts which should really have been retained in the Biblical canon?
Regardless, what would eventually become the "Holy Mother Church" delegated itself the responsibility of deciding what they -- and we -- should and should not read. Thus, as I said earlier, since that time, our faith has been carefully molded for us by others, because we can only believe in what we are allowed to read; and that has been determined for centuries by the religious powers-that-be. I sometimes wonder how many ancient books and manuscripts remain hidden away from public view in the vaults of the Vatican library. How many truths have we been denied, simply because it is not convenient for the "Holy Mother Church" to reveal them to us?
This is particularly true in the case of the Roman Catholic faithful; because to this present day, the "Holy See" claims to possess the sole authority for interpreting and explaining the Scriptures to the masses. Worse yet, this very same "Holy Mother Church" likewise claims to be the only entity on Earth which possesses the God-given authority to forgive sins, and to grant Salvation to the spiritually lost masses. As I point out in other articles, this claim is utterly false.
I can still recall how as a young Catholic decades ago, our local church had the practice of displaying a list near the back of the church which advised us of which movies we were permitted to see as members of the Catholic Church. While it was commendable that our Catholic shepherds would go to such lengths to ensure the spiritual integrity of their flock, at the same time, looking back now years later, it was really an insult to one's intelligence, and suggested that our parents did not possess the wisdom to decide for themselves which movies were appropriate for themselves, or for their children.
Some of you who are old enough will remember that in 1972, Italian director Franco Zeffirelli released a very beautiful and inspiring film called "Brother Sun, Sister Moon". This amazing movie dealt with the life of Saint Francis of Assisi and St. Claire. To say the least, the movie was very radical for its time, and caused no small stir within the Catholic Church. One reason for the strong backlash by the church -- the movie was banned in Italy for a time -- is the fact that it juxtaposed sincere, pure and simple faith in God with the hypocrisy and wealth of the "Holy Mother Church" in a very effective manner.
In one very moving scene, Francis learns of the true nature of the textile business that is operated by his very worldly father; a business which he was due to inherit. Deep in the hot, steam-filled cellars, he discovers the most miserable people -- both very young and very old -- washing and dying fabrics that will be purchased by the church, as well as by other rich clients. So moved by their awful plight, Francis begins to throw the expensive fabrics out the windows, which seriously angers his father to the point that he wants to disown his son.
In another very striking scene that occurs after the previous incident, and prior to Francis beginning his order of monks -- which must have left the Roman Catholic hierarchy of the 1970's aghast -- St. Francis removes all of his clothes and stands stark naked in the courtyard. This act symbolized his total renouncement of all of his worldly possessions, and his family as well. That Francis would do this should not surprise us. After all, his act of forsaking all of his possessions is fully supported by the Scriptures, as we can determine by the following verses:
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me."
Matthew 10:34-38, KJV
"Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."
Matthew 12:47-50, KJV
"And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life."
Matthew 19:29, KJV
"And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."
Mark 10:29-30, KJV
"Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."
Mark 13:12-13, KJV
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."
Luke 9:23-24, KJV
"Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."
Luke 12:51-53, KJV
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
Luke 14:26-33, KJV
When Francis and a small group of his Christian brothers are finally given an audience with Pope Innocent III in Rome, the contrast between their poverty and the opulence of the Pope's court is shocking to say the least. In a moment of what can only be described as Divine Inspiration, Francis leaves off from reading from his prepared script, and begins to speak to Pope Innocent III from his heart, by quoting from the Sermon on the Mount. In particular, he quotes most of the following:
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Matthew 6:19-33, KJV
As was to be expected, very similar to the Scribes and the Pharisees of centuries earlier who were greatly offended by Jesus' teachings, the pompous, well-dressed ecclesiastics in the great basilica are outraged that a poor, beggarly monk would even dare to preach to them regarding the Scriptures, and Francis and his group are swiftly and angrily removed from their presence. However, Pope Innocent III is touched by Francis' innocence and simplicity, and no doubt convicted by the words which were spoken by Francis. Thus, he orders that Francis and his fellow monks be brought back into his presence. Then, to the surprise of all present, Innocent III blesses Francis and his group, bows to the floor and kisses Francis' feet, and informs him that he -- meaning Francis -- has put them all to shame.
Even if you are not a Roman Catholic -- I am not -- I would encourage you to see the movie if you have an opportunity to do so. You will quickly understand why the Roman Catholic Church of that period did not like this movie, and even had it banned in Italy for a time.
In addition to removing certain books from the Biblical canon, and falsely proclaiming that it alone possesses the authority to properly interpret the Scriptures, something else which the so-called "Holy Mother Church" did in order to preserve and ensure its power and control over the poor masses, was to maintain the Scriptures in Latin. Obviously, this was not the language of the common man. Whereas Jesus and His Disciples had made His teachings freely available to all men, teaching in the synagogues, publicly and from house to house, once the Roman Catholic Church rose to power, the Scriptures became available only to learned scholars. I am reminded of the Lord's stiff warning to the false shepherds of ancient Israel who likewise failed to feed their flocks:
"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock . . . As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them."
Ezekiel 34:2-3, 8-10, KJV
While the "Holy See" makes false claims of being descended directly from the Apostle Peter, the truth of the matter is that for many centuries it failed to take heed to Peter's own admonition regarding being faithful to feed the Lord's flocks, as we can see by the following verse:
"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock."
1 Peter 5:2-3, KJV
Truly, the Roman Catholic Church is guilty of these very same sins. The RCC has become the biggest, fattest, richest, most worldly and complacent branch of Christianity in our modern day. This she has achieved at the expense of her flocks, whom she rapes like ignorant sheep. Later on in church history, we find even more sinister and horrible attempts by this false religion to control the common man's beliefs, as well as his spiritual destiny. Thanks to Tomas Torquemada -- the first Grand Inquisitor -- and those who followed in his footsteps, we are all familiar with the atrocities which were committed during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. These very same despicable acts were repeated hundreds of years later during the time of the Reformation when, according to some sources, millions of people were persecuted, hunted down, tortured and killed in horrible ways -- including being burned at the stake -- if they failed to embrace the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church.
Surely, this is not the religion that was taught to us by Jesus and His First Disciples. This was a religion of fear, and not a religion of love.
Please go to part three for the conclusion of this series.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .