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Chapter 12

The Jesuits and Their Versions

 

In May 1962, Russell travelled for the first time across Australia, to Perth in the state of Western Australia, representing the University of Sydney. The Sydney University group was billeted at St. Thomas More College. The college is an adjunct of the University of Western Australia, run by the Roman Catholic Church, conducted by the members of the order of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).

This college was no isolated work of the Jesuits, for since their founding by Ignatius of Loyola in 1540, the chief thrust of the Jesuits has been in the field of education. They are described as a mendicant order of Clerks Regular. By the term mendicant is meant that they rely upon alms for their maintenance. The term regular was applied to those priests who do not serve as parish priests (termed secular) but rather belong to a contemplative order.

While initially the Jesuits confined themselves to establishing their own colleges for the training of members of their order, the first in Gandia, Spain, in 1546, very shortly they were penetrating the tertiary institutions of secular and even Protestant organizations.

In countries where Catholicism was threatened by Protestantism, the early Jesuits took up key positions, usually in colleges, in order to stop the defections from the Roman church." Encyclopedia Britannica, 1963 ed., Article Society of Jesus

Education is the principal occupation of Jesuits in the missions as well as in Europe and America. Ibid.

Some of the most prestigious universities in the United States, such as Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., are operated by the Jesuits. In 1896, the Jesuits obtained the permission of Oxford University to open Champion Hall as a part of the university. This pattern was adopted by the University of Western Australia when it permitted a similar privilege to the Jesuits in the establishment of St. Thomas More College.1

The Jesuits were committed to the restoration of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, which had been critically damaged by the Protestant Reformation. Perceptively, these servants of Rome recognized that the strength of the Reformation lay in its acceptance of the pure Word of God as the sole basis of truth. The Word of God was of only marginal consequence, in the minds of the Jesuits, as compared with the maintenance of papal authority. Thus, unlike the Reformers, the Jesuits possessed no conviction dictating to them that they preserve God’s Word inviolate. Indeed, it perfectly suited their purposes to denigrate God’s Word and to cast doubt upon its purity. If they could achieve this aim, then Christians would once again be compelled to depend upon the edicts and traditions of the papists to find a platform for their faith.

Even in the fourteenth century a companion of Wycliffe had declared:

Although there should be a hundred popes in the world at once, and all the friars living should be transformed into cardinals, we must withhold our confidence from them in the matter of faith so far as their teachings are those not of the Scriptures. Merle D’Aubigné, The Reformation in England, vol. 1, 97

It was this stand for truth which confrontationally challenged the entire authority of the papal system, an authority which the Jesuits sought to restore by their subtle activity in the educational institutions of Europe and abroad.

Sir Thomas More had challenged the trail-blazing work of William Tyndale in presenting these Scriptures translated from the original languages to the English people in their own tongue. Said More,

We must not examine the teaching of the church by Scripture, but understand Scripture by means of what the church says. Ibid., 395

Tyndale was quick to reply and apt to destroy the Lord Chancellor’s foolish assertion.

What! Does the air give light to the sun, or the sun to the air? Is the church before the gospel, or the gospel before the church? Is not the father older than the son? God begat us with His own will, with the word of truth, says St. James (1:18). If He who begetteth is before Him who is begotten, the Word is before the church, or, to speak more correctly, before the congregation.

Compelling as were arguments such as those proffered by Tyndale, they did not pierce the blind bigotry of papists determined to ignore the centrality of Scripture to a pure faith. Thus the Jesuits were absolutely correct in their discernment that a pure Scripture would destroy the power of Roman Catholicism.

No order of the Roman Catholic Church was better designed than the Jesuit, for the task of perverting Scripture:

It was at the feet of the Jesuits that the youth of the higher and middle classes were brought up from childhood to manhood, from the first rudiments to the courses of rhetoric and philosophy. . . . Jesuits were to be found under every disguise, and in every country; scholars, physicians, merchants, serving men; in the hostile court of Sweden, in the old manor-house of Cheshire, among the hobbles of Connaught; arguing, instructing, consoling, stealing away the hearts of the young, alienating the courage of the timid, holding up the crucifix before the eyes of the dying. MaCaulay, Essays, 480-4812

In the Council of Trent, convened in the sixteenth century to re-establish the supremacy of Roman Catholicism, the Jesuits played a decisive role. A significant group of delegates, taking their cues from the Protestant Reformers, advocated the concept of the supremacy of Scripture in providing doctrinal authority. But the Jesuits, and those delegates of like thought, saw the danger of accepting such a proposal; for had it been adopted, it would destroy, rather than establish, the Papacy. After much discussion, Gaspare de Posso, archbishop of Reggio, put forward an unassailable argument which decided the issue. He correctly asserted that there is absolutely no biblical sanction for Sunday observance. The "sanctity" of Sunday could only be validated by acceptance of the establishment of papal tradition as a God-ordained doctrine. The archbishop’s argument has been preserved. He stated:

The authority of the church is illustrated most clearly by Scriptures: for while on the one hand she [the church] recommends them, declares them to be divine, [and] offers them to us to be read . . . on the other hand, the legal precepts in the Scriptures taught by the Lord have ceased by virtue of the same authority [the church]. The Sabbath, the most glorious day in the law, has been changed into the Lord’s day. . . . These and other similar matters have not ceased by virtue of Christ’s teaching (for He says He has come to fulfill the law, not to destroy it), but they have been changed by the authority of the church. Mervyn Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 1, 128

Thus the Council of Trent accepted four errors in relationship to Scripture:

1. That tradition has equal standing with Scripture in determining doctrine.

2. That the apocryphal books are canonical.

3. That the Latin Vulgate is errorless and that it is unnecessary to study the original Greek and Hebrew writings.

4. That Scripture cannot be understood by the layman guided alone by the Holy Spirit.

Armed with the authority of the Council of Trent, the Jesuits exerted every effort to destroy the authority of the English version of Scripture based upon the received texts (Textus Receptus). They conceived a plan to destroy the value of Scripture and thus turn the English back to Rome: it was decided to concede the need for a Bible in the English language, but to base it largely upon the Latin Vulgate, with some reference to the original languages. This work was undertaken in Douay, a small town near Lille in France where the Jesuits had set up a university to train English priests to return to their homeland to promote the return to Catholicism.

It is instructive to compare the aims of the translators of the Douay Version with those of the King James translators. The Jesuits had no love for Scripture, for it was the greatest adversary of the Papacy. Thus in pursuing their translations,

the Jesuits were acting to turn the English people from the Bible, back to Romanism. B.G.Wilkinson, Our Authorized Version Vindicated, 66

Compare this attitude toward their task with that of fifty-four godly men who brought forth the King James Version.

But among all our joys, there was no one that more filled our hearts than the blessed continuance of the preaching of God’s sacred Word among us; which is that inestimable treasure which excelleth all the riches of the earth; because the fruit thereof extendeth itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directeth and disposeth men unto that eternal happiness which is above in heaven. Dedication of King James Version of Scripture

So despised was the Scripture by Roman Catholics that one learned Catholic theologian declared to Tyndale:

We were better to be without God’s laws than the pope’s. E.G. White, The Great Controversy, 246

While the Douay Version of Scripture was never able to achieve the acceptance accorded the King James Version, it was the influence of this Jesuit-inspired version of Scripture which has, in the latter half of the twentieth century, prevailed through the plethora of modern translations foisted upon present-day Christians. From the failure of the Douay Version has risen the success of the New International Version and similar other modern versions.

The Jesuits’ scheme was masterful. They did not discredit Scripture as did our ancestor, Dr. Henry Standish, bishop of St. Asaph in Wales. In 1516, Bishop Standish threw himself at the feet of King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine and exclaimed,

Great King, your ancestors who have reigned over this island—and yours, O great queen, who have governed Aragon, were always distinguished by their zeal for the church. Show yourselves worthy of your forefathers. Times full of danger have come upon us; a book has just appeared, and been published too, by Erasmus!3 it is all over with the religion of Christ among us. Merle D’Aubigné, The English Reformation, vol. 1, 163

As D’Aubigné remarked,

Bishop Standish’s courage was worthy of a better cause. Ibid.

How we wish that the bearer of our own surname had distinguished himself as did one of this successors to the see of St. Asaph who, seventy-two years later (1589), translated the Word of God into the Welsh language!

The Jesuits possessed much more guile than this mistaken bishop. They recognized that so loved and esteemed were the Holy Scriptures, such a source of faith and comfort, that any attempt to wrench them from the devout Christians of Britain was bound to fail. Thus they directed their attack along the subtle lines of producing an alternative version, one not only incorporating papal errors, but also casting doubt upon masses of retained texts.

Some have looked at the changes accepted into the Catholic Version of Scripture and have correctly pointed out that these changes are not favorable to Roman Catholic doctrine in some cases. Let us instance one example. The passage quoted earlier in this book, 1 Timothy 3:16 which affirms both the human flesh and the divinity of Jesus Christ, is not in accord with Roman Catholic doctrine. Roman Catholics firmly believe in the divinity of Jesus. Why then, it is often asked, should the Catholics accept this change? The answer is quite simple. Roman Catholics do not depend upon Scripture for their doctrinal positions. They depend upon the word of the pope and church tradition. That which is recorded in Scripture is of but marginal interest to them, for they have a preferred source of authority. However, the Jesuits rightly perceived that if the Bible were equivocal, even contradictory, the inconsistency would well serve the purpose of the Papacy in weakening the Bible as the sole authority for Protestant faith. If this aim were achieved, then the Jesuits felt certain that there would be a return to the acceptance of the authority of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. As we will see, this judgment was far from faulty.

 

1 Sir Thomas More (1478 - 1535) was Lord Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII. He sent many English Reformers to the stake, being a staunch Roman Catholic layman. His influence over the king was strong, but eventually he lost favor with the king and was beheaded. This act of Henry VIII, which was not specifically related to More’s faith, transformed More into a Catholic martyr and led eventually to his canonization.<BACK>

2 There are those in our midst today who are using the same threefold attack on truth:
a. The presentation of false doctrine to the youth
b. The intimidation of the timid
c. Uplifting the pagan symbol of the cross
It was a successful formula in the sixteenth century and is proving no less successful four centuries later. <BACK>

3 This was Erasmus’ Greek New Testament upon which the Textus Receptus was later based.<BACK>


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