Bible Study: Differences between Catholics and Protestants

by Steve Ray on April 23, 2019

Protestant “Bible Christians” (a misnomer, since Catholics are the real and original Bible Christians), based on their recently devised “Reformation” principle of sola Scriptura, study the Bible with the following premises:

1. There is no binding authority but the Bible alone;
2. There is no official binding interpretation or interpreter; each person ultimately is their own pope; (However, no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation 2 Pet 1:21).
3. The Bible is perspicuous (i.e., easy to understand) and it can be interpreted and understood by anyone.
4. An individual can/should read the Bible and interpret the Bible for themselves.

Catholics (the original and consistent Bible Christians) have a different set of premises that direct their study of the Bible.

1. The authority of the Apostles and the Church preceded the Bible and the Tradition of the Church is an equally infallible authority (2 Thes 2:15; CCC 80 83). The Bible is part of the Apostolic Tradition.
2. The authoritative interpretation of the Bible is the prerogative of the Catholic Church (1 Tim 3:15; Mt 18:17; CCC 85?88).
3. The Bible is not always easy to understand (2 Pet 3:15?16) and needs to understood within its historical and contextual framework and interpreted within the community to which it belongs.
4. Individuals can/should read the Bible and interpret the Bible for themselves—but within the framework of the Church’s authoritative teaching and not based on their own “private interpretation” (2 Pet 1:20?21).

These basic differences place the Catholic and Protestant worlds apart even though they are opening the pages of the same book and accepting it as an authoritative revelation from God.

The Catholic position is biblical, and has been espoused from the first days of the Church. The Protestant position is unbiblical (assumed from their tradition) and is of recent origin.

The Catholic is in full continuity with historical Christianity; Protestants are in discontinuity.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin September 9, 2015 at 7:07 AM

I still don’t get how my Evangelical friends don’t feel the need to be Baptized.

Plus they always quote part of today’s Gospel about Idolatry referring to Catholic Statue Idolatry.
St Paul to Collossians 3:1-11 Funny how they Ignore the sins before that and tell me they are washed in the BLOOD and automatically Heaven Bound.

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.

emma072012Emma September 10, 2015 at 3:03 AM

hi, I’m a UK convert from the Baptist tradition and my brother is a Baptist Minister in the same city as me. I sustained months of harassment from him and his wife before I converted and they now don’t contact me and only speak to me when they have to. From experience I would say. Don’t try to convince a Protestant that Catholicism is right – they just bombard you with scripture and smile in a smug way when you can’t answer them. Just be bold and point out the differences like all the ones so accurately mentioned by Steve in the above article. I find if you really know your Catholic stuff it gets them thinking (and often very angry that their world view has been challenged).

Dana October 21, 2015 at 4:15 AM

This is not an accurate representation of the reformed Baptist teaching on sola scriptura. We do not believe the bible is easy to understand and that anyone can read it and know it fully. It must be interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit. The bible says Jesus Christ is the Word made Flesh. And we absolutely are accountable to our local congregation and church authority. We submit to their teaching and leadership and wisdom.

STEVE RAY HERE: “My assessment of the Baptist view and Scripture IS correct. I used to be one. The Southern Baptist interprets the Bible different than the Reformed Baptist who interprets differently then the American Baptist who interpreted differently then the other 40,000 Protestant denominations. Maybe the Holy Spirit is confused?

“You’re not accountable to your local congregation because if you disagree with your pastor you can jump ship and go to another one. My father was a Baptist his whole life and was considered a “Church chopper” because he kept looking for the church that interpreted the Bible correctly.”
“We believe the Bible is inerrant in its original manuscripts, is sufficient to meet our needs, is authoritative in our lives and is critical for the development of a biblical worldview. (John 17:17, 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12, Colossians 3:16)

STEVE RAY HERE: “Yes, you do believe these things – as do the Catholics. In fact Catholics believed these things 1500 years before the Protestant Baptists ever came into existence.”

We believe that biblical church leadership consists of a plurality of godly elders who are called by God and acknowledged by the church to love, lead, teach, serve, discipline and encourage the flock. (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-15)

STEVE RAY HERE: “Yes, as long as you agree with your pastors. However in the vast majority of Baptist churches you have one paid Pastor, not a plurality of elders.”

To say the Protestants are unbiblical because their title didn’t exist in Jesus’s time is a bit elementary. Surely you also would protest the bankrupting and thievery of the Catholic church to its people by the selling of indulgences? To claim the Catholic Pope is infallible is the unbiblical statement. The Bible says NONE is sinless, except Jesus. To expect perfection throughout the Church because of the perfect One we submit to, is not reasonable because of our sin nature. As followers of Jesus we should all stand in unity, I certainly appreciate that Catholic desire. But unity with Christ is most important. He says he did not come to bring peace but to bring the sword. Jesus demands our loyalty to Him above all others including our own parents and siblings.

STEVE RAY HERE: “You bring a lot of extraneous issues in here which are not pertinent to the discussion. We also would desire a great unity of all Christians but that has to take place within the church that Jesus found it 2000 years ago, the church that he put Peter in charge of when he gave him the keys of the kingdom.

“If we love Jesus, as I know you do, then we will love with Jesus loves. And what does Jesus love? The church is pride which is a physical organization which has an address and which Jesus started 2000 years ago.”

Jose Johnson April 24, 2019 at 9:35 AM

Steve Ray. Thank you for standing up for Catholicism. We lost ground because of what and how Vatican and European colonial powers spread Catholicism across world. If the west is a railroad engine the two rails are Democracy and Christianity. If Catholicism has to take root in the next generation of catholics we need Holy Mass and the Bible to be the rails. Which is possible ONLY if Catechism is taught to kids in a very serious fashion from Gr 1 to Gr 12, with Gr 7 and above exposed to CCC and YouCat. Evangelicals will shed their inhibitions and join us later.

Tones April 24, 2019 at 10:19 AM

Steve what makes you say that the early church was Catholic with a large C. The (Holy) Roman Catholic Church is a man made organisation and is in no way to be equated with the early Christian church of Peter, James, John, Matthew, etc and Paul. Confusing the two churches is where we see man imposing his ideas on the will of God. If you are talking about the catholic Church with a small c you may have a point.

STEVE RAY HERE: Tones, thanks for writing. Unhappily I have to disagree with you though. I used to be an Evangelical Protestant and say the same thing until I did my homework. You may want to get a copy of my books “Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Ancient Church” and “Upon this Rock: st. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church.”

These two books were a result of a massive study of the transition from the biblical narrative to the early Church. I had to wrestle with why what I called “the church” of today was so distinctly different than the first centuries which were distinctly Catholic.

The word “catholic” simply means universal: All truth, for all men for all time. No other institution could come close to claim to have fulfulled that mission but the Catholic Church. That title was used by a disciple of Peter, James, John and Paul — St. Ignatius of Antioch, a 1st century Christian. He was not creating a new name or playing with novelties. This was a well known title for the Church which was the only church.

You may also want to read my article entitled “Catholic, What does the Word Mean?

God bless you brother and May Our Lord Jesus bless you and all those you love!

Bill912 April 24, 2019 at 1:10 PM

Tones: Please read the early Father’s of the Church. You will find that they were Catholic. Especially read the Apostolic Fathers (those who were taught by the apostles); Clement of Rome, taught by Peter and Paul; Ignatius of Antioch, taught by John (possibly by Peter, as well); Polycarp, taught by John.

Also, read Justin Martyr (mid-second century). He described the Christian worship service. What he was describing was unquestionably the Catholic mass.

I recommend the three-volume set “The Faith of the Early Fathers”, edited by William Jurgens. I once highlighted the specifically Catholic doctrines in their writings; in the three volumes, I used up three highlighters.

JIMandEMILY May 1, 2019 at 11:35 PM

Say; Steve Ray: It is a well known fact that Luther cut 14 books from the bible in his first translation, seven from the Old Testament and seven from the New Testament. Under pressure, he reluctantly put the New Testament books into his 2nd translation. He despised the Letter of James(Faith without works is dead). So, he added the word “Alone” In Romans 3 v28. Luther revolted because he wanted a Council to re-interpret the New Testament. Of course, he was told NO. Abuse of indulgences and simony came later, he could have stood with the majority of bishops and priests that were also fighting against this practice, but, his hatred of Rome and the Pope was too strong. Shame……

Peter Aiello May 2, 2019 at 3:17 AM

Vatican II’s Dei Verbum 21 says: "Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture." The Church wouldn’t be saying this if Scripture was lacking or incomplete in any important way (see also 2Timothy 3:16-17). The Church is also ‘Sola Scriptura’ in the sense that only Scripture regulates Christianity. Nothing else is mentioned.
When we have the Spirit of Truth we are guided by God. He does not restrict this guidance only to the hierarchy. The Church is all of us. Vatican II's Lumen Gentium 12 says: "The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, (111) [cf. 1 Jn 2:20, 27] cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" (8*) [Cf. 1 Cor. 10: 17] they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth." See also 1Corinthians 2:10-16.
The issue of privately interpreting Scripture is interesting. The meaning of 2Peter 1:20-21 changes depending upon the translator. The old Catholic Douay Bible renders it: "Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation. For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time: but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost". The old King James says: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost". The Catholic version of the Living Bible says: "For no prophecy recorded in Scripture was ever thought up by the prophet himself. It was the Holy Spirit within these godly men who gave them true messages from God". It looks like the passage has nothing to do with not be being able to interpret Scripture for ourselves. It applies to the writers; not us. The word "interpretation" can also be translated "unloosing". The Living Bible and the old Catholic Bible translations make more sense because of verse 21. Anyway, how can you read something without interpreting it?


Let's read the whole context and not just one sentence.
"21. The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles."


"24. Sacred theology rests on the written word of God, together with sacred tradition, as its primary and perpetual foundation. By scrutinizing in the light of faith all truth stored up in the mystery of Christ, theology is most powerfully strengthened and constantly rejuvenated by that word."

Not to minimize Scripture but to put it in the context of the whole of Dei Verbum. And of course, we as Catholics are to read, study and interpret scripture but always in the tradition of the Church and the teaching of the Magisterium.

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