This document was written after receiving a challenging letter from an "informed" Catholic who vehemently denied that the title Vicarius Filii Dei ever applied to Rome's Pope. Among other things, he called me a heretic and closed his letter with the words: "Get thee hence, Satan." This appendage and its link to The Donatin of Constantine, displays the historical usage of this title. It is my hope that those who study this understand the solemnity of God's warnings and escape the imminent results of non-compliance.
God never errs, and when Christ vilified the Jewish
leadership through such words as "hypocrites, blind guides, fools, whited
sepulchers, serpents, vipers, and haughty" (Matt. 23:12-36; Luke 11:39-45),
it was not to provoke them to crucify Him. Christ's mission was to
save. And His warnings were to bring these people to repentance as well
as to instruct others to not trust in their religious system that was soon
to be eliminated.
Christ's true words of reproof were fruitful in bringing many of the priests to humility, self-analysis and repentance. Luke records these encouraging words: "And the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6: 7). God wants to save us for an eternity with Him; therefore, He sends us warnings in the Bible that are also informative and cutting. "Those whom I love I rebuke and chasten," He says, "be earnest therefore and repent" (Apocalypse 3:19, Douay).
It is not our intent to embarrass or condemn, but to inform and save. For this reason we recall some truths that the omnipotent One recorded in His Word. One important warning concerns the identification of the Antichrist power of Daniel and Revelation with a riddle that allows us to "calculate the number of the Beast" (Apo./Rev. 13:18) This "riddle" is not given for all to understand; as one would expect, some denying the truths of this "calculation" will attempt to attack the methods and character of those who reveal this. As you know, this technique effectively diminishes these God-given truths, thus discrediting their validity and nullifying God's intended warning. For this reason, we will briefly study some facts relevant to this significant identification with the hope that the rational will be stimulated to a deeper study of God's warnings, and like the Jewish priests, be "obedient to the faith."
As you will soon see, the Latin title bestowed upon
the Bishop of Rome is Vicarius Filii Dei. These words were
not invented by the Reformers, or bigots, but were used several hundred
years before the Protestant Reformation. In Roman Numerals, the letters
of this title which have assigned value add to 666. For VICARIUS:
V = 5, I = 1, C = 100, I + 1, U (or V) = 5; for FILII: I = 1, L
= 50, I = 1, I = 1; for DEI: D = 500, I = 1; totaling 666.
Some have questioned whether such a title is, or has ever been, assigned
the head of the Roman Catholic Church. This topic is of major importance
because this is one of several identifying traits of the organization
that the Bible explicitly warns us about. Let us read God's clue
from the Catholic Douay Bible: Here is wisdom. He who has understanding,
let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man;
and its number is six hundred and sixty-six (Apocalypse 13:16,
Douay). Because it is the number of a man, we need not consider
women such as Gene Dixon, Mary Baker Eddy, Amee Semple Mcphearson and,
of course, Mother Theresa.
In response to a writer's question, a Catholic journal replied that these Latin words are inscribed on the Pope's headdress.
"The letters inscribed in the Pope's miter are these 'VICARIUS FILII DEI' which is the Latin for 'VICAR OF THE SON OF GOD.' Catholics hold that the church, which is a visible society, must have a visible head. Christ, before his ascension into heaven, appointed St. Peter to act as His representative... Hence to the Bishop of Rome, as head of the church, was given the title, 'VICAR OF CHRIST'." Our Sunday Visitor, (Catholic Weekly) "Bureau of information," Huntington, Indiana, U.S., April 18, 1915.The Bible does not say that the "name" must be on a miter, so this point is moot; "it is the number of a man" (Rev. 13:16). The major significance of the preceding quotation is the fact that the title identifies the claim of apostolic succession through Peter. Jesus, they say, purportedly passed ecclesiastical authority to Peter (Matthew 16:18,19), who then passed it to each successor. We ask the question, Did the Bible give examples of one apostle having precedence over all others and bequeathing his office to successors? No!
The Bible speaks of various gifts in the church,
"And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets,
thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments,
diversities of language" (1 Cor. 12: 28). The Scripture does not
list a single text conveying infallibility to a church officer." If
the Bible is silent on the subject of assigning Christ's power to one
individual as supreme Pontiff of the church, then there must be a historical
point where that claim was made. There is, in fact, one such document,
and unfortunately, the origin of this claim is tainted with deception.
It was not until the eighth century that the Roman Church proclaimed authority over all of God's churches through the succession of Peter's bishoprice. This was done with a forged document called "Donation of Constantine." It first appeared around the year 752 AD, four centuries after Constantine's death (337 AD). Bearing the forged name of the fourth century emperor, Constantine the Great, it originated the doctrine of apostolic succession and first coined the name vicarius filii dei.
Although you are probably not fluent in Latin, we will quote one sentence from the Latin of the Donation of Constantine. This paper was confirmed by church council, incorporated in Roman Catholic canon law by Gratian, later endorsed by Pope Gregory XIII; and cited by the Catholic scholar and historian Lucius Ferraris, who proved that it is a forged document.
Ut sicut Beatus Petrus in terris Vicarius Filii Dei fuit constitutus, ita et Pontifices eius successores in terris principatus potestatem amplius, quam terrenae imperialis nostrae serenitatis mansuetudo haber videtur" Lucius Ferraris, Prompta Biblietheca, (edition of 1890), art, "Papa," II, Vol. VI, p. 43.Now, read the English rendering of this Latin translation from the Canon law of Gratian, which you will recall, was allegedly penned by Constantine the Great:
As the blessed Peter is seen to have been constituted Vicar of the Son of God on the earth, so the pontiffs who are the representatives of that same chief of the apostles, should obtain from us and our empire the power of a supremacy greater than the clemency of our earthly imperial serenity. Christopher B. Coleman, The Treatise of Lorenzo Valla on the Donation of Constantine, p. 13.If Constantine had, in fact, penned the former document, it would still not be authority to exalt the Bishoprice of one church over all others; yet this forged document actually became a "tool" to implement the doctrine of Papal supremacy and infallibility through Peter. Was Peter ever an apostle to the non-Jewish churches? Scripture is plain on this subject where we will learn some interesting facts about his apostleship.
On the contrary, when they saw that to me [Paul] was committed [by God] the gospel for the uncircumcised [Gentiles], as to Peter that for the circumcised [Jews] (for he [God] who worked in Peter for the apostleship of the circumcised [Jews] worked also in me among the Gentiles--and when they recognized the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas [Peter] and John, who were considered the pillars [of the Jerusalem church], gave to me and to Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they [Peter, James and John] to the circumcised [Jews].... Galatians 2:7-9, DouayThe Church historian Eusebius quotes from Iranaeus who records the first Bishops (Popes) of the church in Rome. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, first established this church during his two-year internment in Rome(Acts 28: 17-31), and he never claimed bishoprice for himself or Peter. Please observe that Peter, the apostle to the Jews, is not mentioned by Eusebius.
Having founded and built the church, the blessed apostles entrusted the episcopal office to Linus, who is mentioned by Paul in the Epistles to Timothy [2 Tim. 4: 21]; Linus was succeeded by Anancletus; for him, in the third place from the apostles, the bishopric fell to Clement, who had seen the blessed apostles and conversed with them, and still had their preaching ringing in his ears and their authentic tradition before his eyes.... Clement was succeeded by Evarestus, Evarestus by Alexander; then Xystus was appointed, the sixth from the apostles, followed by Telesphorus, who suffered martyrdom; next came Hyginus... Pius... Anicetus... Soter... Eleutherus... In the same order and the same succession the authentic tradition [truths] received from the apostles and passed down by the Church, and the preaching of the truth, have been handed on to us. Eusebius, The History of the Church, Penguin Classics, Middlesex, England, 1965. pp 208, 209.Another biblical truth concerning the apostles deals with their marital status. As far as we know, Paul is the only one who was unmarried, and of Peter, the first biblical reference to his marriage deals with Jesus' healing of his mother-in-law after teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. "But He [Jesus] rose from the synagogue and entered Simon's [Peter's] house. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a great fever, and they besought Him for her" (Luke 4:38, Douay, also see Mark 1:30).
Since we have previously quoted Eusebius as an authority on early church history, he mentions the bishop Chaermon who was married: "Chaeremon, the very aged Bishop of Nilopolis, fled [to avoid persecution] with his wife to the mountain region of Arabia" (Ibid. p 279). Marriage is in harmony with scriptural instructions that "a Bishop, then, must be. . . married but once..." (1 Timothy: 3:2, Douay).
The last topic to discuss refers to the fallibility
of Peter. Peter was very human, and prone to mistakes. This is why
the church apostles and elders rendered a prominent decision as a whole
concerning Gentile converts (Acts 15). Jesus knew Peter's frailty,
and recognized that his sympathetic overtures to discourage His great sacrifice
were of Satanic origin, and stated: "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense
to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of
men" (Matthew 16: 23, Douay).
And let us not forget that even though Peter was among those who worked mighty miracles through the Holy Spirit, and was one of the individuals given the "keys," he still denied his Lord three times at the point of His greatest need, "Then he began to curse and swear saying, 'I do not know the Man!' And immediately a rooster crowed" (Matthew 26:75 and Mark 14:72; Luke 22:60).
This was not the only time Peter shrank from living the truth. After his vision of unclean animals, which instructed Peter to associate with non Jews (Acts 10:28), He ate and associated freely with the Gentiles; but later, fearing intimidation by the "circumcised," he withdrew from the Gentiles. This required Paul's stern rebuke: "But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was deserving of blame... But when I saw that they were not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas [Peter] before them all: 'If thou, though a Jew, livest like the Gentiles, and not like the Jews, how is it that thou dost compel the Gentiles to live like the Jews'" (Galatians 2:11, 14, Douay).
With a negative track record such as this, one can easily see exactly why God never declared one individual the leader of His church, Vicar of the Son of God, or supreme leader of a world government. Mankind has done otherwise. The authority of the Pope in the Church was voted on July 18, 1890 at Vatican Council I. He was given the title of our Savior, Jesus, by being declared Pastor Aeternus (Eternal Shepherd), having supreme authority over the entire Church and on matters of faith and morals his decretals are "without error." In His wisdom, God gave us the Holy Spirit, and appointed the writings of the prophets and apostles recorded in His Word (2 Peter 3: 2). Peter admonishes the church leadership, not "lording it [to rule] over your charges [the church], but becoming from the heart a pattern [example] to the flock" (1 Peter 5: 3, Douay).
History bears a grim record of injustices committed by men who felt "inspired" by God. There has been a tremendous letting of blood in the past, and today, by people who force religious dogma, or protect themselves from zealots with a force of arms. Jesus never commanded, not once, His church to force Bible truths or demand church attendance. When a Samaritan village refused food and water to Jesus and His disciples as they traveled to Jerusalem, James and John were sternly rebuked for advocating their destruction: "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of," He said (Luke 9:55). Yet the Bible is twisted to support the Church's employment of force, and the implementation of collusion with civil rulers to enforce their agenda. This is why the Bible calls it "the abomination of desolation" or, "the abomination unto desolation" (Daniel 12: 11, Douay) and regardless of their tactfulness today, they will enforce church legislation in the future. As we enter a renewal of forced intimidation, Protestants will also claim to be "vicars" of Christ and unite with the Papacy. Paul warns us of these events: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come, For men shall be... fierce [and] despisers of those that are good. Having a form of godliness [professing Christianity], but denying the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3:1,2,5). God's appeal to His people at this time is found in Revelation/Apocalypse 18 where our fallen system of religion is called Babylon (confusion). A mighty angel proclaims:
She has fallen, she has fallen, Babylon the great; and has become a habitation of demons, a stronghold of every unclean spirit, a stronghold of every unclean and hateful bird; because all the nations have drunk of the wrath of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and by the power of her wantonness the merchants of the earth have grown rich. And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Go out from her, My people, that you may not share in her sins, and that you may not receive of her plagues, for her sins have reached even to heaven, and the Lord has remembered her iniquities... Therefore in one day her plagues shall come, death and mourning and famine; and she shall be burnt up in fire; for strong is God who will judge her. Ibid, verses 2-5, 8, Douay.This appeal will be heard by many. Pastors will influence their congregations for biblical truth, and congregations will demand biblical accountability of church leaders. Wanting to obey God supremely, they will discard the traditions of the church, and worship God in Spirit and truth. Of these faithful saints is is recorded, "Here is the patience of the saints, who keep the commandments of God [all ten], and the faith of Jesus" (Ibid. ch. 14:12, Douay)
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Copyright © 1998 by Charles H. Clever. All rights reserved.