by Dennis Peterson
Introduction - Trade Description and the Churches.
Trade names sometimes stick, for
instance, no matter who may be the manufacturer of a vacuum cleaner, it is
still used to ‘Hoover’ the sitting
room. In addition, so many deceptions have been used in marketing that the
law demands that packaging exhibits an accurate description of the contents
and where they were made. Oh that this could be extended to ecclesiology!
Demonstrating the accuracy of the adage, that ‘history is written
by the victors’, the origins of Catholicism have been quietly and conveniently
forgotten by the writers of popular Church histories, so that the label ‘Anglo-Catholic’ obscures
the true nature of the contents and where they were made.
Countless Anglicans have been misled and the Gospel of salvation fatally
obscured by the popular expressions of Anglo-Catholicism. Thus the vast majority
of Anglican lay people believe to some degree that the alleged Prayer of
Consecration or Eucharistic Prayer ‘does’ something to the bread
and wine, that because of that prayer Christ is somehow present in or under
the bread and wine.. The bread thus prayed over is commonly called the sacrament.
It is not the bread that is the sacrament any more than water is the sacrament
in baptism. The sacrament is the action performed with them, i.e. pouring
or eating and drinking.
The fruits of Anglo-Catholicism have been frequently criticised and condemned
from Scripture over the last one hundred and fifty years, but still it flourishes.
A fresh approach might be to highlight the little known fact that its roots
are thoroughly dishonest and to lay the axe to those roots.
Jerome’s Mistranslation of the Bible and its cause of later errors.
It is made devastatingly clear
in by A.J.Tait (1) that Catholic Tradition which has
dominated modern Anglicanism, springs from serious and dishonest mistranslations
in Jerome’s Vulgate.
Tait very thoroughly examines Jerome’s Latin
translation of the Bible and shows that his erroneous renderings in Hebrews
were: ‘in no small measure responsible for the development of the mediaeval
conception of a continual propitiatory offering, whether by Christ Himself
in the heavenly sanctuary, or by Christ through His priests at the altars
on earth.’. (2)
In brief, concerning references in Hebrews to Christ’s offering for
sin, Jerome translated the Greek aorist that expresses a single event, usually
in the past, by the continuous present. Since the Vulgate was the only version
of the New Testament available to the West for
over a thousand years, its
errors took deep root. Thus it was believed that Christ is in this age continuously
offering His sacrifice in heaven. That erroneous belief was promoted by such
influential writers as Bicknell on the Articles and Dix on the liturgy, and
was expressed liturgically in the A.S.B and currently in the Communion services
in Common Worship.
Having discovered the immense effect on Church doctrine of Jerome’s
mistranslations, I searched for some discussion of Jerome and the Vulgate
in popular Church histories. Almost all the books I could access completely
ignored Jerome. The one that paid him any attention only mentioned his influence
on monasticism. Yet it can be shown that Catholic Tradition is the fruit
of eleven hundred years of dependence on the errors of Jerome’s Vulgate.
The ignorance of this scenario is almost universal; one colleague was of
the opinion that Catholic Tradition was the ‘the wisdom of the ages.’ I
am afraid that sadly this is far from the case.
The eclipse of Greek by Latin as
the lingua franca of the West in the 4th century had made the New Testament
increasingly inaccessible. Pope Damasus asked his secretary Jerome, to translate
the Bible into Latin and it was published in AD 382. It has been authoritatively
described as ‘perfunctory’ and ‘capricious’ with
J.N.D. Kelly in his biography of Jerome says, ‘…he does not
hesitate to twist or suppress facts,’ and writes of his ‘theological
prejudice.’(4) Jerome was a prime mover towards
the worship of Mary winning a debate on her perpetual virginity not so
much by logic as by insults and travesties of his opponent’s points.
A consequence was that celibacy became the Christian ideal making marriage
merely a remedy against sin and for the propagation of children. ‘Jerome’s
treatment enormously helped to shape both the Mariology of the Latin church
and the Christian sexual ethic that was to dominate western civilisation
until the renaissance at least.’(5) Concerning
his translation of the New Testament, Kelly comments: ‘On occasion,
however, one has to admit that his choice of a reading was not governed
by any scientific principle at all; it appealed to him, for example, because
it was to his taste doctrinally.’ (6)
In over twenty places he translated the word ‘metanoia’ as ‘do
penance’ instead of ‘repent’ but his errors in Hebrews
were responsible for changing the Gospel message in the Holy Communion.
Hebrews 10: 12, ‘But when this priest (i.e. Christ) had offered
(aorist) for all time one sacrifice for sins he sat down on the
right hand of God,’
in the Vulgate,
‘But this man offering (continuous
present) one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth etc.’ (Douay-Rheims
Similarly in Hebrews 1:3, Jerome changed the aorist to the continuous present,
so that Christ is continuously ‘making purgation
of our sins.’
The Greek New Testament was soon lost to the West, so for eleven hundred
years (a vast stretch of time roughly equal to the period from Alfred the
Great to the present day), the only New Testament available was in the Vulgate.
Consequently, for over a millennium the Churches believed uncritically that
in heaven, Christ is continuously offering for our sins. It is easy to see
how, as Tait shows, this deeply influenced thinking about Holy Communion,
moving people to integrate it with Christ’s alleged heavenly offering,
involving the idea that the bread and wine become Christ.
There is no doubt about Jerome’s capabilities as a linguist, and so
the inevitable conclusion is that he deliberately twisted Scripture to express
his personal opinions.
Anglo-Catholicism perpetuates earlier errors.
The truth at last!
When Erasmus published the Greek New Testament in 1516 together with an accurate
translation into Latin, his work was met with horror. He was accused of
blasphemy and the Archbishop of York said that the Erasmus translation
had over three thousand ‘dangerous differences’ from the Vulgate
adding, ‘If we don’t stop this leak it will sink the ship.’(7)
The problem Anglican Catholics face is the one that the Council of Trent
found unsolvable: how to reconcile the original Scripture and the Vulgate-based
Tradition. The Roman Catholics cut the knot by rejecting Scripture as a source
of authority in favour of that Tradition. This problem for Anglican Catholics
applies particularly to the Epistle to the Hebrews where Jerome’s errors
are the root of the Catholic Tradition of Eucharistic theology.
In spite of the fact that the death of Christ is referred to as a finished
work some twenty-two times in the Epistle, (1: 3 & 13; 2: 9, 10 &14;
3:11; 4: 1, 3 & 9; 5: 9; 7: 27; 8: 12, 14, 25 & 28; 10: 2, 10, 12,
14 & 18 and 12: 2), tortuous attempts are made to show that it was not
a finished work.
Many references could be given from the rest of the New Testament teaching
that the work of Christ was finished at Calvary, but high on the list must
be Mark 10: 45. For the Son of Man did not come to be
ministered unto but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many. A ransom, or redemption,
was secured by the price being paid once, after which the subject in jeopardy
was permanently freed.
cross of Christ emptied of its power. 1 Cor. 1: 17.
In Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy, the Work of Christ on Calvary’s
Cross is relegated to being the mere preliminary to the provision of the
Eucharist. Thus Dix said: concerning ‘…the atonement and reconciliation
achieved by the sacrifice of Christ. It is important to observe that they
are all here predicated not of the passion as an event in the past but of
the present offering of the eucharist.’(8) Similarly
Bicknell quotes Swete: “…the whole period of time from the Ascension
to the Return is one age-long Day of Atonement,” and continues, ‘So
our Lord, by His presence within the veil, is now making atonement for us.’(9)
The extremely serious issue that arises with Jerome based Tradition, is
that it strikes at the very heart of the New Covenant, the experience of
being saved and at the core of the Eucharist. Applying the prophecy of Jer.
31: 31 - 34 concerning the New Covenant, the writer to the Hebrews says:
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First
he says: “This
is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will
put my laws in their hearts and I will write them on their minds. Then he
adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And
when these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice (but
the Greek is prosphora: offering) for sin. Heb. 10: 15- 18,
In the earliest account of the Last Supper, 1 Cor. 11: 25, the Lord said, ‘This
cup is the new covenant in my blood.’ Without possibility of question,
Christ was applying Jeremiah 31: 31 - 34 to the Last Supper and its proclamation
of His death. The parallel passages in the Synoptics, although the word ‘new’ is
not in the best MMS, can only refer to the prophecy of Jeremiah. What other
covenant could possible be in mind?
Clinging to the Vulgate-based Tradition, Dix and Bicknell seem to denigrate
the Lord’s greatest work by teaching that sins are perpetually being
remembered, that Calvary is not complete and we can only be sure of forgiveness
up to the last time we received Communion
Continual offering, by definition not complete, was the character and failing
of the Old Testament offerings, for they ‘…can never, by the
same sacrifices repeated endlessly …make perfect those who draw near
to worship.’ Heb. 10: 1.
The fruit of Christ’s sacrifice as a finished work, is that as Christ
sat down at the right hand of God, so also the forgiven sinner is saved and
enters the ‘rest’ of Hebrews ch.4, fulfilling Christ’s
invitation, ‘Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened and I
will give you rest’. Matt. 11: 28. Is the experience of being saved
through complete and eternal forgiveness, which is clearly and graciously
proclaimed in the New Testament message of Christ’s death, a common
experience of those under Catholic Tradition? I have been told more than
once that it is presumptuous to say one is saved.
Article XIX places as a mark of the visible Church of Christ the preaching
of the ‘pure Word of God,’ thus excluding the adulteration of
Scripture by mixing it with Jeromist Tradition. The Church of England Prayer
Book of 1552 expressed the New Testament teaching on the Communion, closely
returning to the example and commands of the Lord and His apostles. Thus
the words of Christ concerning the bread and wine in the 1552 Book are rehearsed
simply in a prayer before Communion.
Following Archbishop Laud’s
Jeromist views, the 1662 revision misleadingly entitled that prayer, ‘The
Prayer of Consecration’, ignoring
Hooker’s demonstration of the fact that the Lord who commanded ‘Do
this,’ gave the disciples unconsecrated bread and wine! The words, ‘This
is my body…’ were said after the distribution; the
is my blood…,’ were said after the wine had been drunk.(10) Current
liturgy emphasises the supposed role of ‘Consecration’ by separating
that prayer from eating and drinking, inserting the Lord’s Prayer,
anthems and the Prayer of Humble Access. That isolation from the eating and
drinking marks the ‘Consecration’ as an end in itself instead
of being the words of administration as Christ used them, and as the 1552
Prayer Book provided.
The only explanations of the Communion in the New Testament are that it
proclaims the Lord’s death to us (1 Cor. 11: 26, there using the downward
prefix kata) and that it expresses the unity of the congregation redeemed
by the death of Christ. (1 Cor. 10: 16).
Anglo-Catholics seem to take it for
granted that John 6 is Eucharistic, e.g. ‘Turning our attention to other
passages in the New Testament which have to do with the Eucharist, we find
the most important in St. John vi.’ (11).
John 6 and the passages on Communion each use the metaphor of eating and
drinking to illustrate our dependence upon the death of Christ for eternal
life, but whilst the Communion preaches the death of Christ with the option
for it to be accepted or rejected, John 6 develops the eternal results of
true committal by faith to the death of Christ. Thus the passages are parallel
but not interchangeable. If they were and John 6: 54, (Whoever
eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him
up at the last day), is Eucharistic, then the only way to be saved would be to eat the bread
and drink the wine of Communion.
I was brought up in the tradition where Confirmation candidates are told
wonderful things about the Eucharist, but when they at last receive the Wafer—nothing
happens! Many are disillusioned thinking either that they are not good enough
for it to ‘take’, or else there is ‘nothing in it.’
The vast majority of lay people, sincerely look to eating the Wafer as the
ground of their standing with God and the means of receiving spiritual help,
and that because it has been ‘Consecrated’. Focusing their hopes
and trust on the ‘consecrated’ Wafer, the death of Christ that
is ‘the Gospel by which you are saved’, fades into the background
and in practice is made irrelevant.
resolved to know nothing among you…save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
1Cor. 2: 2.
In the New Testament the death of Christ is the only source through which
forgiveness and life are to be received. (1 Peter 3: 24; John 1: 29; 3: 16
etc). In the New Testament the Eucharist is mentioned three times in the
Synoptics and twice in 1 Corinthians; the death of Christ is mentioned at
least ninety times and the Gospel (that Christ died for our sins. 1Cor. 15:
1-3) over one hundred times. If the claims now made for the Eucharist were
valid, one would expect the New Testament to be packed with references to
it, and the letters to the Galatians and to the Romans would never have been
written for they proclaim salvation by repentance and faith alone in the
death of Christ, without any reference at all to the Communion.
If Church historians had looked objectively at Jerome and the Vulgate, Catholic
Tradition would surely have been completely rejected and Eucharistic liturgy
would point away from the ‘elements’ to the death of Christ as
the only source of grace, as revealed in 1 Corinthians 11: 26.
The massive momentum of Jeromism has particular seriousness since the Christian
ministry is preparing people for eternity, thus we ought to take seriously
the Scripture, ‘We who teach will be judged more
3:1. Jeromism is ‘another Gospel’ whose preachers are in danger
of eternal condemnation, Galatians 1: 8-9.
The ignorance of the corrupt origins of Catholicism is almost universal.
Hardworking clerics with a strong sense of integrity sincerely believe that
their Anglo-Catholic theology is a legitimate ‘development’ (à la
Newman?) of the teaching of the New Testament.
The enormity of the situation is breathtaking! Ninety per cent of the bishops
who have ruled the Church of England during the last century and more, have
implemented a theology based on the quite dishonest translation of a 4th
century cleric of dubious reputation. They have corrupted the Gospel, changed
the face of the Church of England and its liturgy and presided over a century
We have a responsibility to all in the Church of England to use a term
that accurately describes the contents of the package! Used alongside ‘Roman Catholic’, the term ‘Anglo-Catholic’ implies a claim to
be Anglican, but the title ‘Catholic’ marks its adherents as
unashamedly ministering doctrines peculiar to Rome. The Anglican churches
are based on the supremacy of Scripture but the Roman churches are based
on the supremacy of Jerome’s Vulgate.
Would it not serve the cause of honesty, enlightenment and the glory of
Christ in his Gospel, if we replaced the term ‘Anglo-Catholic’ by
the more accurate name, ‘Jeromist’? Repeated use of this term
might open people’s eyes to the fact that Anglo-Catholicism should
not imply the label, ‘Made from Scripture’, but ‘Made from
the Vulgate’, and the fiction that Anglo-Catholicism is a legitimate
feature of the Church of England may be more vividly exposed, hopefully resulting
in many clergy and laity being liberated from its Gospel denying tenets.
Heavenly Session of Our Lord, A.J. Tait, Robert Scott, 1912.
Work cited p.109.
Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, St. Mark,Cambridge, p
liii & index under Vulgate.
4 Jerome, J.N.D.
Kelly, Duckworth, p64
Work cited, p 106.
Work cited p 87.
English Church and the Reformation, Longman Green & Co. p 26.
Shape of the Liturgy, Dix, Dacre Press, p 243
theological Introduction to the thirty-Nine Articles, Bicknell,
Longman Green & Todd, p 144.
Polity, Bk. V, ch. lxvii, 6.
and Worship, SP.C.K.1950.