Where did Catholicism originate from? Isn’t Catholicism just another version of Christianity with some minor differences? I thought they both believe in Jesus and God so they are basically the same right? Are we just splitting hairs here? If we just look at today’s Catholicism and Christianity, we will be lost. It is best to go back in time to the history of the early Christian and Catholic church. If we can understand all the historical facts and documents, we can then know the truth.
First of all, I want to start with the most important and fundamental difference between Christianity and Catholicism; salvation. Let’s look at this famous verse:
Romans 10:9-10 – that if thou mayest confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and mayest believe in thy heart that God did raise him out of the dead, thou shalt be saved, for with the heart doth [one] believe to righteousness, and with the mouth is confession made to salvation (YLT)
According to this verse, if you confess with your month and believe that Jesus was God and was resurrected, you will be saved from the lake of fire. It is a free gift. It does not matter what crimes or sins you have committed or will commit in the future. You will be saved from the second death of the lake of fire. And although the lake of fire is harsh and severe, it is not eternal. This is the Christian belief. For Biblical evidence of this, see my article on the lake of fire.
The Catholic belief is that salvation is a long process. They believe that every sin you commit must be forgiven either in this life or after death in purgatory. It is not until God has forgiven you of every sin you committed that you will go to heaven. If you are not forgiven, you will spend eternity in hell. That sounds like a major difference to me. However, a lot of leaders, churches, and time has distorted these two views of salvation. The majority of Christians today believe that salvation is a free gift, but also believe in an eternal hell. To figure out the truth, we have to go back to the early church.
Peter and Paul
After the death of Jesus, Peter and Paul were the main leaders of the church. Peter (1 B.C. – 67 A.D.) was considered to be the first Pope by the Catholic Church, although that title was not invented yet. The Bible contains important accounts of Peter: he was one of Jesus’ disciples, he walked on water, Jesus washed Peter’s feet, Peter denied knowing Jesus, he was put in prison by King Herod, but was rescued by an angel (Acts 12). Peter was finally put to death by Nero in 67.
Paul (5 A.D. – 67 A.D.) was initially a Roman citizen with high social status. However, on the road to Damascus he had a vision of Jesus according to Acts 9. This caused him to become a Christian and change his name from Saul to Paul. God gave Paul divine wisdom and knowledge that allowed him to write the majority of the New Testament, including the book of Acts. Later in life, Paul was in and out of prison several times. He spent around 6 years in prison. Although the details of Paul’s death are unknown, his tomb was supposedly found at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, which was announced in 2009.
After Peter and Paul, Christians started to move out of Jerusalem and Israel. Instead of Jerusalem, the three main cities of Christians were Antioch in Syria, Alexandria in Egypt, and Rome in Italy. In Antioch, one of the early bishops was Ignatius, whom I discussed in my article on The Second Coming. His exact birth and death are unknown, but it was around 35.A.D. to 107 A.D. Ignatius is famous for his letters to various groups, including the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the Trallians, the Romans, the Philadelphians, the Smyrnaeans, and to Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna. He is also known for the first use of the Greek word katholikos, which means universal, complete, or whole when describing the church:
“Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic (katholikos) Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.” – Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ignatius
As seen in this quote, the Greek word katholikos is where the word “catholic” comes from. This letter lead many scholars to apply the word “catholic” to the church. Although Ignatius did not believe in an eternal hell, he started the development of catholic theology. Look here:
“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest” – Letter to the Magnesians 2, 6:1, Ignatius
From this quote, Ignatius liked the idea of having one bishop in charge of one area, such as a city. It seems there were several bishops per church or congregation at the time, and Ignatius wanted one bishop to rule an entire area. So you can see how the church may have adopted this initial idea, which over time evolved into the pope.
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