The Bible out of Context: “Saved by Faith Alone”?

by Steve Ray on November 19, 2015

When reading the Bible devoid of its historical and textual context, there is no context except the context which any person might supply for it.

or put otherwise,

A text without a context is a pretext.

I always get frustrated when self-proclaimed Bible students or teachers start pontificating about the meaning of the Bible and theology without a clue what they are talking about or what the Bible is talking about. We had a classic example of this in our family this week. A Fundamentalist condemned us Catholics for emphasizing the need for good works (cp. James 2:24) using verses like Romans 3:28 that says, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.”

IMGP0964.JPGWith great ignorance the Fundamentalist said “This verse proves you Catholics wrong. We are saved by faith alone and not by good works.”

Such blithering nonsense has nothing to do with Romans 3:28 — which is not a Catholic-Protestant debate but a Jewish-Gentile debate. But in an argument like this the Fundamentalist ignores the historical and textual context. He uses the Bible verse as a club–as a proof-text to promote his Fundamentalist traditions of men. He creates his OWN context to the detriment of the historical and textual context. It is his argument to trip up Catholics who are not well catechized in their faith.

In Romans and Galatians (and Acts 15) this is the argument: Can an uncircumcized Gentile become Christian (follower of the Jesus the JEWISH Messiah) without first becooming a Jew by being circumcized and obeying all the Laws of Moses and regulations of the Pharisees?

circumcision.gif“Works of the Law” is a technical term. It refers to those actions that made Jews distinct from the Gentiles. Paul says we are not justified by “works of the Law” or Mosaic circumcision and prescribing to all the 613 laws of Moses, but rather by faith.

This is how the Catholic Church understands the New Testament and why the Fundamentalist who takes verses out of their context plays the fool and twists the Scriptures to their own confusion and the confusion of all those who are foolish enough to listen to them.

For more on this read my earlier blogs “Flint Knives and the Gospel” and “St. Paul Did Not Write to Us.”


Sola Scriptura and the Canon of Scripture

by Steve Ray on November 3, 2015

Sola Scriptura and the Canon

When non-Catholics are asked to provide biblical support or their belief that the Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith for the believer, they usually cite 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which states that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful”. However, they somehow miss the fact that the two verses immediately prior stress the importance of oral teaching and the teaching authority of the Church. Here is the entire passage with context added:

bible112 Timothy 3:14-17

Verse 14: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of (Timothy had learned the Gospel and become convinced that it was true by Paul’s ORAL preaching and teaching. This oral preaching and teaching is known to Catholics as Sacred Tradition.), because you know those from whom you learned it (Timothy had learned the Scriptures first from his mother and grandmother, and then the full gospel from Paul, an Apostle (and Bishop) of the Church, and possibly from other Church leaders whom Timothy had heard preaching and teaching. The teaching authority of the Church is known to Catholics as the Magisterium.) ,

Verse 15: and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures (Timothy would have known only the Old Testament scriptures from his infancy since the New Testament had not been written or completed at the time Paul’s letter to Timothy was composed. However, the New Testament is recognized as part of the Bible, the written Word of God. This is known to Catholics as Sacred Scripture.), which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (Only after commending the Tradition “handed on” from the Magisterium does Paul go on to discuss the nature of Sacred Scripture in the following verses.)

Verse 16: All Scripture is God-breathed (referring exclusively to the Hebrew Scriptures) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Viewed this way, we can see that 2 Timothy 3:14-17 does not support the doctrine of sola scriptura at all. In fact, the opposite is true. (Compare: 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15, 3:6.)

Another point to consider is that Paul’s disciple, Timothy, was a Greek, and the Old Testament that Timothy would have been most familiar with from the time of his youth was the Greek Septuagint. Because of his travels outside of Israel, Paul, too, would have been familiar with and would have used the Greek version of the Old Testament writings. Eighty percent of Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament in the New are from the Greek Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible. Therefore, in this passage of scripture, Paul encouraged Timothy to continue in what he had learned from the Septuagint.

This has important implications for a controversy concerning seven books of the Old Testament now known collectively to Catholics as the “Deuterocanonicals” and to Protestants as the “Apocrypha”. Catholics consider the Deuterocanonicals to be inspired scripture while Protestants reject them. The Greek Septuagint contains these seven books while the Hebrew version of the Old Testament does not. (For more on this topic, see Gary Michuta’s excellent book Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger).

There is no doubt that the Septuagint was known to and used by Jesus, Paul and Timothy and yet, in the 16th century, Martin Luther removed these seven books from the Bible because they contain passages that support distinctly Catholic doctrines like praying for the dead and purgatory—doctrines which he rejected. Luther justified his action in part upon the fact that the some Jews themselves rejected the Deuterocanonicals as part of their canon.

This development in the history of the Jewish canon is interesting in itself. Beginning as early as 90 A.D. some Jewish leaders began to re-think which books of the Bible should and should not be considered scripture. In the second century, the Jews questioned the Deuterocanonical books due in large part to the fact that the early Christian Church was using the Deuterocanonicals to support the Christian belief in the resurrection from the dead. The Jewish scriptures were being used to win converts to the Christian faith! Consequently, some two centuries after Christ’s death and resurrection, the Jews are often thought to have questioned the Deuterocanonical books which taught the resurrection. Martin Luther used their doubt to justify his own. (For more on the “Council of Jamnia and the collection of Old Testament books, read my article The Council that Never Was as published in This Rock Magazine.)

This leads to a couple of obvious questions: “Why would the Holy Spirit guide a group of rabbis on matters related to the Old Testament canon when there was already a Christian Church in existence that was under His infallible guidance as Jesus had promised? And why should Luther accept the revised Hebrew canon instead of the canon of the Septuagint that had been used by St. Paul and from then on in continuous use in the Church for over fifteen centuries?

Luther picked that truncated canon for the same reason the rabbis did:  in order to undermine the teachings of the Catholic Church which did not fit his new theology.

For more, click here.


Purgatory? Doesn’t that Deny the Work of Christ?

by Steve Ray on September 29, 2015

What’s the Deal with Purgatory?
by Steve Ray

Purgatory4Isn’t the finished work of Christ sufficient? Didn’t he pay for all my sins? Why the heck do Catholics teach that we have to suffer in Purgatory for our sins? Plus, the Bible never mentions purgatory so it must be an unbiblical doctrine, right.

Wow! Sounds like me back in my old days — before I discovered the fullness of the Faith in the Catholic Church. I used to argue like this against Catholics because my Baptist tradition told me so.

(Picture at bottom: Communion of Saints with the Mass in the center: 1) above the Church Triumphant in heaven; 2) middle the Church Militant on earth, and 2) below the Church suffering — being purified in Purgatory.)

After converting to the Catholic Church an a Baptist asked me why we believe in Purgatory so I wrote an explanation using many examples like hitch hiking in the Alps, driving off the road and more.

Plus, from my old Baptist tradition, what could St. Paul possibly mean when he said he suffers to “fill up that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col. 1:24)? That was one of the verses I had to “blip over” when I was a Baptist–many don’t even see the verse!

Anyway, for my response to the Baptist antagonist and other helpful information on Purgatory . . .

-For my letter explaining Purgatory, click here.
-For Jimmy Akin’s explanation, click here. For Catholic Answers, click here.
-Patrick Madrid’s article, click here.
-For more such articles and letters, click here.


{ Comments on this entry are closed }

A New Creed for the Modern World

September 21, 2015

Everyone knows the ancient Christian creeds are outdated and passé. It is time we have a new creed that fits everyone in our brave new modern world.  We believe that God is in all of us; He has been created in our image We believe that each one must find the truth that is right [...]

Read the full article →

What Do We Mean by “Unanimous Consent of the Fathers”

August 7, 2015

Unanimous Consent of the Fathers By Steve Ray The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers (unanimem consensum Patrum) refers to the morally unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers on certain doctrines as revealed by God and interpretations of Scripture as received by the universal Church. The individual Fathers are not personally infallible, and a discrepancy by [...]

Read the full article →

Salvation by Faith Alone?

July 30, 2015

Since the days of Martin Luther it has been popular to reduce salvation to a sound bite. Salvation is not by works but by “faith alone.” However, the Bible seems to have another idea. In my book CROSSING THE TIBER I mention a few passages from Scripture to give a more biblical perspective. Here is [...]

Read the full article →

Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful New Testament Wording

May 30, 2015

We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. The original language of the Bible is full of rich imagery, stark reality, and colorful terminology. [...]

Read the full article →

Interesting Explanation of Baptism from Protestant Dictionary – “baptism…in itself is unimportant”

May 20, 2015

I was looking up Greek definitions of the word baptism and found this interesting “definition.” This dictionary is usually very good but I found this summary of biblical passages on baptism very intriguing and disingenuous. Take a look at this definition and think about it for yourself. Analyze it and the verses used. Notice how they [...]

Read the full article →

Are You Born Again?

May 19, 2015

 Since we are all renewing our Baptismal Vows at the Jordan River today, thought this post from a year ago might be appropriate :-) It seems that God is kind of predictable in a way :-) since He always starts new things in the same way – with “water and the Spirit“. Consider the following: 1) The [...]

Read the full article →

A Baptist Friend Asks: The Bible Says “All have sinned” so how can Mary be Immaculate?

April 6, 2015

A Southern Baptist writes: I am a Southern  Baptist who has a lot of respect for the Catholic faith. The Immaculate Conception is a hard concept for me. Does it also include the belief that Mary never sinned? How does that pass muster with Rom. 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the [...]

Read the full article →

Okay, what about Catholics and the Death Penalty?

March 9, 2015

March 9, 2015 By Dr. Ed Peters, Canon Lawyer   (see also The Stream’s: “Should Catholics Oppose the Death Penalty?“) “Dr. Steven Long beat me to it. His rejoinder to the “Capital punishment must end” editorial of America, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, andOur Sunday Visitor is essential reading even if, in some places, Long’s essay, “Four Catholic [...]

Read the full article →

Marriage in Heaven? Will We Know and Love Our Spouses in Heaven?

February 19, 2015

My dad died almost two years ago. Mom misses Dad and was discouraged about Mark 12:25 which her paraphrased Living Bible improperly rendered “will no be married” in heaven. I wrote the following to comfort my Mom. Mom, I know it is important to you since Dad’s death as you look forward to eternity and [...]

Read the full article →

The Rapture? Not All Evangelical Protestant Scholars Agree

December 29, 2014

I was organizing the 5,000 books in my Logos Bible Software program on my laptop and noticed this quote about the so-called “Rapture” as taught by many Evangelical Protestants. The Rapture is a new Protestant doctrine that was invented in the mid-1800′s in Scotland. The new novelty is mainly based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The [...]

Read the full article →

“Sunday Mornings in Ancient Times” or “Why I Teared up Last Sunday”

December 22, 2014

Tears welled up in my eyes — again — at Mass last Sunday. It was not always so. As a former Baptist I used to think the Catholic Mass was a sacrilege and an abomination. How could anyone worship a piece of bread? Really! However, last Sunday I was overcome with emotion while sitting in [...]

Read the full article →

Can You Spot the Errors?

December 20, 2014

This is a typical non-Catholic Creed. It was forwarded by a Catholic asking if they could agree to it in order to get a new job. What do you think of this creed and could you sign onto it? If you think there are errors, what are they?

Read the full article →

Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Official Affirms Teaching on Absolution, Communion for the Remarried

November 14, 2014

Catholic World News – November 14, 2014 In a letter written three days after the conclusion of the recent Synod of Bishops, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirmed St. John Paul II’s teaching on absolution for those who have remarried outside the Church. Asked by a French priest whether [...]

Read the full article →