SPIRITUAL DARKNESS IN THE MIDDLE AGES #12
LORDS OVER GOD'S HERITAGE
by Ralph Woodrow
THE HIGHEST RANKING men of the Roman Catholic Church, next
to the Pope, are a group of "cardinals." The Bible says that
Christ placed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and
teachers in his church (Eph.4:11). But we never find any
indication that he ordained a group of cardinals. To the
contrary, the original cardinals were a group of leading priests
in the ancient pagan religion of Rome - long before the Christian
Era. A booklet published by the Knights of Columbus, "This is the
Catholic Church," explains: "In ancient times the cardinals were
the chief clergy of Rome - the word is derived from the Latin
word 'cardo,' 'hinge', and thus referred to those who were the
pivotal members of the clergy."
But why were these priests of ancient Rome linked with the
word "hinge"? They were, evidently, the priests of Janus, the
pagan god of doors and hinges! Janus was referred to as "the god
of beginnings" - thus January, the beginning month of our Roman
calendar, comes from his name. As god of doors, he was their
protector or caretaker. Even today, the keeper of the doors is
called a janitor, a word from the name Janus!
Janus was known as "the opener and shutter." Because he was
worshipped as such in Asia Minor, we can better understand the
words of Jesus to the church at Philadelphia: "These things saith
he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David,
he that openeth and no man shutieth: and shutteth, and no man
openeth ... I have set before you an open door" (Rev.3:7,8). The
pagan god Janus was a counterfeit; Jesus was the true opener and
"The college of Cardinals, with the Pope at its head", writes
Hislop, "is just the counterpart of the pagan college of
Pontiffs, with its Pontifex Maximus, or Sovereign Pontiff, which
is known to have been framed on the model of the grand original
Council of Pontiffs at Babylon!" When paganism and Christianity
were mixed together, the cardinals, priests of the hinge, that
had served in pagan Rome, eventually found a place in Papal Rome.
The garments worn by the cardinals of the Catholic Church
are red. Cardinal birds, cardinal flowers, and cardinal priests
are all linked together by the color red. The Bible mentions
certain princes of Babylon who dressed in red garments: "...men
portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed
with vermillion" - bright red - "girded with girdles upon the
loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, all of them
princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of
Chaldea" (Ezekiel 23:14,15). The harlot symbolizing Babylonish
religion was dressed in scarlet - red garments (Rev.17:4). From
ancient times, the color red or scarlet has been associated with
sin. Isaiah, in his day, said: "Though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be white as snow, though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18). Adultery is sometimes
referred to as the scarlet sin. The color red is associated with
prostitution, as in the expression "red-light district."
In view of these things, it does not seem unfair to question
why red would be used for the garments of the highest ranking men
in the Romish church. We are not saying it is wrong to wear red,
yet does it not seem like a curious custom for cardinals? Are we
to suppose such garments were worn by the apostles? Or is it more
likely that the red garments of the cardinals were copied from
those worn by priests of pagan Rome?
The priests of the hinge in pagan days were known as the
"flamens." The word is taken from "flare," meaning one who blows
or kindles the sacred fire. They were the keepers of the holy
flame which they fanned with the mystic fan of Bacchus. Like the
color of the fire they tended, their garments were flame
color-red. They were servants of the pontifex maximus in pagan
days and the cardinals today are the servants of the Pope who
also claims the title pontifex maximus. The flamens were divided
into three distinct groups and so are the cardinals - Cardinal-
bishops, Cardinal-priests, and Cardinal-deacons.
Next in authority under the Pope and the cardinals are the
bishops of the Catholic Church. Unlike the titles "pope" and
"cardinal", the Bible does mention bishops. Like the word
"saints", however, the word "bishop" has been commonly
misunderstood. Many think of a bishop as a minister of superior
rank, having authority over a group of other ministers and
churches. This idea is reflected in the word "cathedral", which
comes from "cathedra," meaning "throne." A cathedral, unlike
other churches, is the one in which the throne of the bishop is
But turning to the Bible, all ministers are called bishops
--not just ministers of certain cities. Paul instructed Titus to
"ordain elders in every city" (Titus 1:5), and then went on to
speak of these elders as bishops (verse 7). When Paul instructed
"the elders" of Ephesus, he said: "Take heed unto yourselves, and
to the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers
(bishops), to feed (pastor) the church of God" (Acts 20:17,28).
The word translated "overseers" is the same word that is
elsewhere translated bishops. The word "feed" means the same as
the word translated pastor. These ministers were referred to as
elders, bishops, overseers, and pastors - all of these
expressions referring to exactly the same office. Plainly enough,
a bishop - in the Scriptures was not a minister of a large city
who sat on a throne and exercised authority over a group of other
ministers. Each church had its elders and these elders were
bishops! This was understood by Martin Luther. "But as for the
bishops that we now have", he remarked, "of these the Scriptures
know nothing; they were instituted ... so that one might rule
over many ministers."
Even before the New Testament was completed, it was needful
to give warnings about the doctrine of the Nicolaitines (Rev.
2:6). According to Scofield, the word "Nicolaitines" comes from
nikao, "to conquer", and "laos," "laity", which, if correct,
"refers to the earliest form of the notion of a priestly order,
or 'clergy', which later divided an equal brotherhood (Mt.23:8),
into 'priests' and 'laity'."
The word "priest" in a very real sense belongs to every
Christian believer - not just ecclesiastical leaders. Peter
instructed ministers not to be "lords over God's heritage" (1
Peter 5:1-3). The word translated "heritage" is "kleeron" and
means "clergy"! As The Matthew Henry Commentary explains, all the
children of God are given the "title of God's heritage or clergy
... the word is never restrained in the New Testament to the
ministers of religion only."
In rejecting an artificial division between "clergy" and
"laity", this is not to say that ministers should not receive
proper respect and honor, "especially they who labor in the word"
(1 Tim.5:17). But because of this division, too often people of a
congregation are prone to place all responsibility for the work
of God upon the minister. Actually God has a ministry for all of
his people. This is not to say that all have a pulpit ministry! -
but even giving a cup of cold water is not without its purpose
and reward (Matt.10:42). It would be well for each of us to pray,
"Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). In the New
Testament, the full work of a church was not placed on one
individual. Churches were commonly pastored by a plurality of
elders, as numerous scriptures show. "They ordained elders
(plural) in every church" (Acts 14:19-23) and in "every city"
(Titus 1:5). Expressions such as "the elders (plural) of the
church" are commonly used (Acts 20:17; James 5:14).
All who have been washed from their sins by the blood of
Christ are "priests unto God" and are "a royal priesthood" (Rev.
1:6; 1 Peter 2:9). The priesthood of all believers is clearly the
New Testament position. But as men exalted themselves as "lords
over God's heritage", people were taught that they needed a
priest to whom they could tell their sins, a priest must sprinkle
them, a priest must give them the last rites, a priest must say
masses for them, etc. They were taught to depend upon a human
priest, while the true high priest, the Lord Jesus, was obscured
from their view by a dark cloud of man-made traditions.
Unlike Elihu who did not want to "give flattering titles
unto man" (Job 32:21), those who exalted themselves as "lords"
over the people began to take unto themselves titles which were
unscriptural, and - in some cases--titles that should belong only
to God! As a warning against this practice, Jesus said, "Call no
man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father which is
in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master,
even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your
servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and
he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Matt.23:9-12).
It is difficult to understand how a church claiming to have
Christ as its founder - after a few centuries - would begin to
use the very titles that he said NOT to use! Nevertheless, the
bishop of Rome began to be called by the title "pope", which is
only a variation of the word "father." The priests of Catholicism
are called "father." We will remember that one of the leading
branches of the "Mysteries" that came to Rome in the early days
was Mithraism. In this religion, those who presided over the
sacred ceremonies were called "fathers." An article on Mithraism
in The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "The fathers (used here as a
religious title) conducted the worship. The chief of the fathers,
a sort of pope, who always lived at Rome, was called 'Pater
Patrum'." Now if the pagans in Rome called their priests by the
title "father", and if Christ said to call no man "father", from
what source did the Roman Catholic custom of calling a priest by
this title come - from Christ or paganism?
Even the Bible gives an example of a pagan priest being
called "father." A man by the name of Micah said to a young
Levite, "Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest"
(Judges 17:10). Micah was a grown man with a son of his own; the
Levite was "a young man." The title "father" was obviously used
in a religious sense, as a priestly designation. Micah wanted him
to be a father-priest in his "house of gods." This was a type of
Catholicism, for while the young priest claimed to speak the word
of the "LORD" (Judges 18:6), the worship was clearly mixed with
idols and paganism.
The Roman Catholic Church uses the title "Monsignor" which
means "My Lord." It is somewhat of a general title, The Catholic
Encyclopedia explains, and can be properly used in addressing
several of the higher church leaders. "Instead of addressing
patriarchs as 'Vostra Beautitudine', archbishops as 'Your Grace',
bishops as 'My Lord', abbots as 'Gracious Lord', one may without
any breach of etiquette salute all equally as Monsignor." One of
the meanings of "arch" is master. Using titles such as
archpriest, archbishop, archdeacon, is like saying masterpriest,
etc. The superior of the order of Dominicans is called "master
general." We need only to cite, again, the words of Christ which
are in contrast to such titles: "Neither be ye called masters:
for one is your master, even Christ."
Even the title "Reverend", Biblically speaking, is applied
only to God. It appears one time in the Bible: "Holy and reverend
is his name" (Psalms 111:9). The word "reverend" comes from the
Latin "revere" and was first applied to the English clergy as a
title of respect during the fifteenth century. Variations of this
title are these: The Reverend, The Very Reverend, The Most
Reverend, and The Right Reverend.
When Jesus spoke against flattering titles, the basic
thought was that of humility and equality among his disciples.
Should we not, then, reject the supposed authority of those high
offices in which men seek to make themselves "lords over God's
heritage"? And instead of men receiving glory, should not all the
glory be given to God?
To be continued with "An Unmarried Priesthood"