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Religion Library: Roman Catholicism

Sacred Texts

Written by: Christopher Bellitto

Jerome's translation was the norm through the Middle Ages.  Parts of the Bible were translated into local languages like Dutch and English in the late medieval period, most notably by John Wycliffe and his circle at Oxford, but these efforts were often criticized by church authorities.  Martin Luther translated the entire Bible into vernacular German early in the 16th century. Luther wanted to put the Bible into the hands of everyone, since he believed all should read it for themselves and not rely on extracts at Mass and on an ordained priest for a definitive interpretation. In response, the Council of Trent in the mid 16th century took pains to say that only the Roman Catholic Church, not individual Catholics, could definitively interpret the Bible with full and final authority. Most Protestants relied on scripture as the ultimate authority in Church matters, while Catholicism held to the twin rules of scripture and tradition--the latter including statements by popes and councils, among other definitive writings such as those by the fathers of the early Church period, which enjoyed the authority of apostolic succession.

Study Questions:
     1.    What are the four Gospels central to Roman Catholicism? Describe each.
     2.    Why was developing a biblical canon crucial to Catholicism’s success? When was it developed and what did it include?
     3.    Where did Protestants and Catholics disagree on use of the Bible? Why?


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