Syncretism in the Alexandrian Church
Armed with allegorical hermeneutics which rejects a literal interpretation of scripture in favour of a deeper spiritual meaning, Alexandrian interpreters of scripture were able to explain away Old Testament texts, that taken literally, pointed to an earthly Millennial Kingdom. Using the philosophy of Platonic dualism, they downplayed the material blessings of a Kingdom promised by the prophets and reinterpreted them as spiritual realities. A spiritual understanding of the Millennial Kingdom was considered more philosophically acceptable.
Factors that influenced Alexandrian theology:
- Heavily Influenced the Greek philosophers, especially the Philosophy of Plato in their interpretation of scripture.
- Allegorizing of Scripture.
- Attracted to Mysticism.
- Tendency to believe in Tritheism (the three persons of the Trinity are three distinct Gods).
- Opposed the literal and historical method of the Syrian Antioch church.
An important note to take from the last point is that most of the older manuscripts have their origins in Alexandria. The Antiochian manuscripts were used much more frequently, which meant they wore out more rapidly and were then replaced, so Antichain manuscripts have a more recent dating. Unfortunately, when considering the reliability of texts, theologians look to older manuscripts as being more accurate. They do not look at the influence of Platonic dualism and allegorical interpretation when deducing the reliability of scripture. Hence Bibles such as the NIV that have focused on using the older manuscripts have left out many passages of scripture, which were deemed unacceptable by the Alexandrian theologians.
Clement of Alexandria (AD. 150-215), a theologian and philosopher was influenced by Platonic dualism and adopted Greek allegorical methods of interpreting scripture. There is a clear conflict in his areas of study – as a theologian, he would have studied God’s wisdom, as a philosopher he would have studied man’s wisdom. The end result is syncretism, the mixing of man’s wisdom into God’s word.
The consequence of his syncretism was that Clement agreed with Gnostics, in believing that religious knowledge, or illumination to be the chief element of Christian perfection. The only true knowledge up until this time had been Apostolic in its foundation and possessing Divine revelation. He supplemented this presupposition with the ideas of Greek Platonic philosophy.
The rise of the allegorical school of interpretation in Alexandria replaced the literal method used in the first two centuries of the Church. This was to have a major effect on eschatology.
A star pupil of Clement was Origen (184-253), who took Clement’s teachings even further integrating them into Christian theology. Influenced by Platonic Dualism, Origen believed that an earthly kingdom of Christ with earthly pleasures would not be possible. The seed of the doctrine of Amillennialism had been planted.
Origen was the first theologian to spiritualize the future earthly reign of Jesus Christ due to the fact that Platonic philosophy, which emphasizes the spiritual over the material, viewing the materialism as a shadow of a greater nonphysical significance.
The Syncretism of Augustine
Augustine the Father of Amillennialism:
It was Augustine (354-430), who was to become known as the “Father of Amillennialism.” Augustine moved to Rome in 383 at the age of 29 to debate philosophy. Within three years of his move to Rome, Augustine converted to Catholicism and was quick to rise up the ranks of the Catholic Church to become one of its great theologians. As Augustine was a Neo-Platonist he was strongly influenced by Origen and his use of Greek philosophy in the interpretation of scripture, including his allegorical methods of interpretation. Because of his belief in Platonic dualism, Augustine, like Origen, could not tolerate the idea of a Millennial Kingdom where believers had earthly pleasures. This belief led Augustine to establish Amillennialism as one of the doctrines of the Catholic Church.
What is important to remember is that the early Church support of pre-Millennialism was eventually squashed by Augustine’s Amillennialism, through the dominance of the Roman Church at the time and its claim to be the New Israel (Replacement Theology). The mediaeval Catholic church built its system of eschatology on Augustinian Amillennialism, where Christ rules the earth spiritually through his triumphant Church. This belief by the Roman Church was the motivating forces behind the popes instigating the crusades, with the goal of capturing the Holy City of Jerusalem.
To attempt to use scripture to correct Augustine’s doctrine of Amillennialism would have proved fruitless, as Augustine believed the final authority in Christianity was the Church of Rome, not the Bible, so the claim that the Roman Church was the new Israel, could not be countered by scripture.
Augustine, compared the Jewish people to Cain who murdered his brother and became the first criminal in biblical history. Augustine wrote, that the Jews, were ‘a wicked sect’ and should be banished because of their evil. Amillennialism, which goes hand in hand with Replacement Theology, rejects the idea of the Son of David ruling from Jerusalem, over the restored nation of Israel during the Millennium. Unfortunately, the curse of Anti-Semitism continued in the Reformation Churches with both Luther and Calvin being admirers of Augustine.
Other errors of Augustine are:
- He taught there is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church, along with its traditions and sacraments, a pagan technique, used by pagan priests to bind people to the pagan god’s and their temples.
- He encouraged the use of relics, a deeply pagan superstition.
- He encouraged the belief in purgatory, which Pope Gregory I eventually initiated into the Roman Catholic church in AD 593. This is a hideous doctrine that is still being used by the Roman Church to extort and manipulate its followers. The belief that souls must pass through stages of cleansing before being able to attain heaven, is a belief that is common in various forms of paganism. The Bible, however, has no mention of a need for such cleansing, as this is done by the blood of Jesus after a person accepts Jesus as their Lord (Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:1-3).
- Augustine was influenced by Plato, believing the Greek idea that while the soul is pure, the flesh is evil, thus the very physical act of intercourse was seen by Augustine as a necessary evil. Because of this Greek philosophical influence, Augustine interpreted the act of sex as sinful, causing him to institute celibate clergy. The consequences of this are evident in the multitude of sexual scandals faced by the Roman Catholic Church. Augustine’s idea of sex in marriage was that it was only for procreation, so the Church could have celibate priests. The false idea that he conveyed by this message was that the sin of Adam and Eve was sex. To this day Roman Catholicism has had to deal with a multitude of problems raised by this doctrine, especially with the large number of paedophile priests in their church.
- Because he believed sex is sinful, Augustine could not picture a Millennial Kingdom rule by Jesus, with people continuing to procreate, so, he developed the doctrine of Amillennialism, which denies the Kingdom rule of Jesus in Israel. This End Times theory is supported by the anti-Semitic doctrine of Replacement Theology, where the Church replaces Israel in the promises of God.
- Plato called the pure spiritual realm, “the Realm of Forms” which was the realm of ideals (perfection), and held that the physical sinful realm is only a shadow, or image, of the true reality of the perfect “Realm of Forms”. So, when mankind views the world, our reality is a shadow of the true form of the spirit realm. Plato then postulated that only philosophers are able to see and accurately interpret that spirit realm. Augustine, being heavily influenced by Platonic philosophy, took this understanding of reality from Plato, and inserted it into an understanding of Scripture, he developed the belief that only the spiritual priests had the knowledge to accurately interpret the Word of God. So, eventually, the sinful laity (general population) was banned from reading scripture.
- Augustine believed in the union of Church and state, and the declaration of the Pope was to be obeyed by all.
- He believed the final authority in Christianity was the Church of Rome and the Pope, not the Bible.
- Augustine wrote “The City of God,” and in the book, his theology emphasizes the Church as the Kingdom of God – the End Time theory of Amillennialism. He declared that Christ was already reigning with His saints and that the resurrection was of dead souls to spiritual life (allegory). This theology results in the interpretation of the entire world as “The City of God” (the kingdom of the world). The Church was encouraged to assume rulership of the nations, and instead of carrying the gospel to the world, church leaders began to seek prestige and power by political intrigue. The Dark Ages were the result.
Through the pride of the Bishops of Rome, the political manipulations of Constantine, and the syncretism that was allowed to contaminate the Church, what had been Christianity was transformed into Christendom.
The dualism of Plato which so influenced Augustine’s belief in the sinfulness of sex and the need for a celibate clergy, also influenced the insistence by the Roman Church of the perpetual virginity of Mary. This resulted in pressure being placed during the council of Ephesus (AD 431) to glorify Mary with the title of theotokos, “the mother of God.” This was a grave theological error, as Mary gave birth to the Son of David, Jesus the Son of God has always existed – Mary could give birth to the man, she could not give birth to His deity. This critical theological error would have a domino effect, seeing Mary continually moving up in prominence within the Roman Church, to her modern status where she is considered the queen of heaven and co-redeemer by many Catholics.
There can be no coincidence that this grave spiritual error took place at Ephesus the spiritual home of the demonic queen of heaven.
The Rise of the Papacy
Up to the year AD 313 each bishop had authority over their own city or area, the largest and most influential Christian cities being Rome, Carthage, Constantinople, Syrian Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem. From 313 to 590 the Roman Bishop started to gain prominence amongst the bishops of the major cities, whilst still holding onto the same title as an equal in authority – a position of “first among equals,” was attained by Rome. From 590 the bishop of Rome claimed full authority over all bishops and held the position of head of the Church. Factors that influence this rise in dominance were:
The early Church was centred in the eastern section of the Roman Empire, with the dominant Churches being at Jerusalem and Syrian Antioch. Rome only gained ascendancy with the conversion of Constantine. Then Rome being one of the six largest Christian cities in the Empire saw the Roman bishop attain more influence.
The Bishop of Rome replaced the Emperor:
By AD 476, the Barbarian tribes dominate the Western half of the Roman Empire – Alaric the Visigoth sacked Rome in AD 410. So, with no Emperor in the West, the bishop of Rome attained both secular and religious authority.
The only major city in the West:
Rome being the only major city in the West, gained power and prestige. Also, when disputes arose amongst the Eastern cities, they turned to Rome to mediate the dispute.
The title of Pontifex Maximus:
In 378 AD the Christian, Roman Emperor, Gratian refused the title of Pontifex Maximus (Bridge maker between man and God), as this would make him king and high priest – a messianic title. The title was taken up by Damasus I, the Bishop of Rome at the time. The Christians of that era looked at the Bishop of Rome as the head bishop of the Church. So, the Bishop of bishops claimed the title of Pontifex Maximus, a convenient but pagan title. An interesting point is that the Pope is now a political leader as head of the Vatican territory, and religious leader as head of the Catholic Church. He is the ‘high priest’ of the Catholic Church and also ‘king’ of his own territory, making the Pope the ideal title for Satan’s counterfeit messiah – the Antichrist.
Leo I (390-461):
Leo I (390-461), was a man of strong character, which was very evident in his convincing the pagan conqueror Attila, to save Rome from the ravages of his barbarian horde. Leo I was determined to use all his abilities and influence to ensure the recognition of the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome. He based his reasoning on the Roman Catholic belief of apostolic succession from Peter (Matt. 16:18). At the council of Chalcedon in 451, he made an attempt to claim the position of Universal Bishop. This move was rejected by the Eastern Churches; however, they made a grave error in allowing the Bishop of Rome to have exclusive right to the title ‘Pope’ (Greek páppas, meaning ‘father’). Give the Roman Church an inch and she will take a mile.
Apostolic succession is the belief by the Roman Church, of an uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority, from the Apostle Peter through successive popes. This doctrine is very convenient for the Roman Catholic Church. As with their claim that Peter was the first Pope, they then also claim full authority over the Church. So, the Pope is then the chief shepherd of the flock, while kings and rulers are merely one of the flock. This means that, according to the Vatican, the Pope is superior to, and has power over all the rulers of the earth. The problem for the Roman Church is that nowhere in the New Testament is the idea of “apostolic succession” set forth. To add to this conundrum, there is also no record of Peter being superior to the other apostles. Apostolic authority was passed on through the writings of the apostles, not through apostolic succession.
The detailed points that cover the errors within the doctrine of apostolic succession are recorded in the upcoming presentation on the fallibility of the Popes.
Pope Gregory (590-604):
Pope Gregory (590-604), like Leo I was a powerful Pope, who believed in the apostolic succession of the Pope, and the universal supremacy of the Roman Church. His position also extended to the teaching of Augustine, that there could be no salvation for anyone outside of the Roman Catholic Church, of which he was the supreme head. This doctrine saw Gregory come into conflict with John the Patriarch of Constantinople, who assumed the title of ‘Universal Bishop.’ Gregory accused the patriarch of the sin of pride, adding that his actions were profane, wicked and blasphemous, and suggested that he was preparing the way for the Antichrist. Although Gregory felt he could stand in judgement of John because he assumed the title of ‘servant of servants,’ his stance must be seen as greatly hypocritical. The Pope of Rome claims that they are the ‘Successor to Peter’ and ‘Vicar of Christ,’ placing the Pope as superior to all humanity, there can be no more profane, wicked or blasphemous belief. Gregory as a man with both temporal and spiritual power, was therefore holding to a position of king and high priest, making him the true forerunner of the Antichrist.
The Rise of Islam:
The rise of Islam in the seventh century saw the eventual conquest of the four dominant Christian cities in the East: Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch and Constantinople. In Syria alone 10 000 churches were destroyed or converted into mosques, and the churches of North Africa were virtually all obliterated including the church at Hippo. While the Christians of the Middle East and North Africa were fighting for their lives, Rome was free to extend her reach, being actively involved in missionary efforts.
The final reason for the rise of the Roman bishop to supremacy over the Church was the use of pure evil deception, of which there are two examples:
- The Forged Decretals:
A decretal is a papal decree concerning a point of canon law. The false decretals were put into circulation in AD 850, and claimed to be decisions and laws of the Bishop of Rome from the first century, and thus were strong evidence for the authority of Roman Catholicism. In actual fact, this collection of forged documents can be ascribed to a very talented and educated man, Isidore of Seville, who lived in the early seventh century. The authentic decretals of the Roman Bishop can be traced back to Siricius (384-398).
- The Donation of Constantine:
The Donation of Constantine is an 8th Century forgery, supposedly written by the Roman Emperor Constantine I. According to the document, Constantine was cured of leprosy by Sylvester, the Bishop of Rome at that time. In gratitude, Constantine elevated Sylvester over all Christian Bishops and bequeathed vast territories of the Roman Empire to the Vatican. The document was used by the Catholic Church to make legitimate the claim of the Pope as Bishop of Bishops, and enforce the temporal power of the Vatican. The Donation of Constantine gives authority to the Roman Catholic Church to claim not only clerical supremacy over all Christianity, but to also make the Pope an Emperor over the territories claimed by the document.
The Donation of Constantine was proved to be fraudulent by Lorenzo Valla in 1439, when he gave evidence of historical flaws that revealed the document to have been written centuries after the death of Constantine in AD 337. Ten Popes used The Donation of Constantine to back their claims to religious and political authority. For the last 600 years since the document was exposed as a forgery, the Roman Catholic Church has remained steadfast in its refusal to acknowledge this.
The weight of influence of these two deceptions must not be underestimated, for it was largely upon the two forgeries that the mighty power of the Roman Church was established. By the time the two sets of documents were recognised as forgeries in the fifteenth century, the great wealth and power of the Roman Church ensured that it did not waver from its claims of greatness. All the Popes since the fifteenth century have also refused to acknowledge the evidence. The added effects of these two sets of documents were to heighten the power of the Pope, giving recognition to unscriptural authority such as temporal power and speaking ex cathedra.
Pope Nicholas I (858-872) was the first to utilize the documents to enforce his claims, stating “that which the Pope has decided is to be observed by all.” Again, it must be emphasized that this power was both temporal and spiritual – the authority of a king and high priest. This false claim became exaggerated to such an extent that when Gregory VII became Pope in 1073, he stated that as Pope, he had the power to give or take away rights over all property from small holdings to nations. Everyone on earth from the greatest to the least was to submit to him.
The Roman Bishop finally solidified his place as the sole head of the church with full authority. As the Bishop of Rome, the Pope rose to claim authority over all churches. He is called Bishop of Bishops, the Universal Bishop of the Church, which places him above all mankind, a king over kings, subordinate to nobody. The combination of pagan influences, Greek philosophy, pride, deception and lust for power had resulted in the formation of the Papacy. A position designed by man and far removed from God’s word, so far removed that the position was at the opposite end of the continuum, in the realm of apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3).
In Revelation 17, John records that the Antichrist (the beast) was “Full of blasphemous names,” and there can be no more blasphemous designation on earth than “Pope”:
- Bishop of Bishops – above all Church leaders.
- Pontifex Maximus – The sole bridge maker between God and man.
- Holy Father – The Pope replaces God the Father.
- Vicar of Christ – The Pope claims to be in place of (vicar) Jesus, which is the role of God the Holy Spirit.
- King and High Priest – The Pope holds the title of king and high priest, which is the Messianic title of God the Son, and it is forbidden for a man to hold that title by scripture.
- Apostolic succession – The Pope claims to have the keys of Peter, and therefore complete authority over all believers.
- Papal infallibility – The Pope as the representative of God on earth speaks the word of God, so the pronouncements of the Pope carry equal authority with Scripture.
- Unam Sanctum – the salvation of every single person is dependent on total obedience to the Pope and the traditions of the Catholic Church.
- Temporal power – The Roman Church claims that the Pope is superior to all secular leaders and authorities.
The word “anti” in antichrist means both “against” Christ and “in place of” Christ. This is confirmed by the following quote from John Paul II: “The leader of the Catholic church is defined by the faith as the Vicar of Jesus Christ (and is accepted as such by believers). The Pope is considered the man on earth who TAKES THE PLACE OF the Second Person of the omnipotent God of the Trinity” (John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p. 3 1994; emphasis added).
further quotes by Popes which give weight to the belief that the position of Pope is made for the future Antichrist are:
- Pope lea XIII (1878-1903): “We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty.”
- Pope Pius XI (1922-1939): “You know that I am the Holy Father, the representative of God on earth, the Vicar of Christ, which means I am God on earth.”
The dangers of syncretism are clearly visible in the rise to power and spiritual decline of the Roman Catholic Church.
Key factors in the corruption of the Roman Church were:
- The powerful influence of Greek philosophy, especially Plato and Aristotle amongst church fathers, the epicentre of the syncretical error being those stationed in Alexandria. Greek Philosophy proved to have a profound influence on Roman Catholic doctrine.
- Constantine opening the doors to pagan influences.
- The adoption of pagan customs as a means of bringing pagans under the authority of the Roman Church.
- The pride of man is a major driving force behind the contamination of God’s word, as man alters and manipulates scripture to fit his worldview.
- The spiritual influences that were the driving force behind the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church has been largely ignored. The modern Church would do well to be cognisant of the fact that the seat of Satan is in Rome, and the spiritual force of the queen of heaven has its base in the ‘Eternal City’.
- Anti-Semitism has been a major motivation behind the Roman Catholic Churches’ rejection of a Millennial Kingdom, with the Messiah reigning over the promised land. So, Amillennialism and Replacement Theology has resulted in the many within the church ignoring the importance of prophecy for the Church in the Last Days.
After a study of the history of the Roman Catholic Church and their claim to be the head of the Church, the evidence shows that rather than being the “mother church” as they claim, they are instead “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” as described by John in Revelation 17:5.