The kingdom of God - Part 4A - The woman with the leaven and the Great Harlot

SERMON TOPIC: The kingdom of God - Part 4A - The woman with the leaven and the Great Harlot

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 16 February 2008


Sermon synopsis: The fourth parable of 'The Leaven' covers the period from approximately 600 - 1500 AD or the 'Papal Church' where widespread corruption spreads throughout the kingdom.
Who is the woman that mixes the leaven and what does the leaven represent?
Is it the spread of God's kingdom or rather the leaven of the Pharisees (tradition), and the leaven of the Sadducees & Herodians (power play, politics & simony in the church).
Who was the Great Harlot that John saw in his apocalyptic vision?

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The 7 parables of the kingdom - Part 4A

The Seven Parables of the Kingdom


The Sower

The kingdom is sown and experiences rapid growth – the enemy seeks to steal the seed or destroy the crop through persecution.


The Wheat and Weeds

The enemy sows a counterfeit seed. Persecution intensifies.


The Mustard Seed

Exponential growth of the kingdom, but the enemy infiltrates from within.


The Leaven

Widespread corruption spreads throughout the kingdom.






The Sower

AD 30 – 100

Apostolic Church


The Wheat and Weeds

AD 100 – 300

Persecuted Church


The Mustard Seed

AD 300 – 600

State Church (Constantine)


The Leaven

AD 600 – 1500

Papal Church (Roman Catholic)

The parable of the woman & leaven

Matt 13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large 1 amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

A little leaven spreads dramatically through dough causing a whole loaf of bread to rise.

1 Greek three satas (probably about ½ bushel or 22 liters)

Some Postmillennialists and Dominionists have tried to interpret this as the spreading of the gospel until the whole world has been evangelized!

However we must interpret Scripture with Scripture! A parable that likened God’s Kingdom to leaven would have startled any Jewish audience.

Ex 13:7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.

Leaven always has a negative connotation in the Bible, and it definitely does not represent the spread of the gospel.

Leaven in the Scriptures is always used to represent evil, sin and false doctrine. It was used by Jesus and Paul to symbolize the doctrine of men being mixed with the doctrine of God, thereby corrupting it.

What is the leaven?

Interpreting Scripture with Scripture, what does leaven represent?


Luke 12:12 Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”


Speaking of the sinner in the Corinthian church, Paul writes, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?... Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?... Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor 5:1-8)

False teaching

Matt 16:11-12… But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

What is the leaven?

Jesus told his disciples to beware of the leaven (or false teaching) of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and of Herod.

The leaven of the Pharisees was the substitution of ritualism and tradition for true worship. They were substituting the letter of the law for the spirit of the law. This leaven has permeated the Church. This is substituting religion for a relationship with Christ, also called legalism.

The leaven of the Sadducees was the emphasis on rationalism and denial of the supernatural. The Sadducees did not believe in angels or in the resurrection. This leaven has also permeated the Church, in the form of liberal Christianity. The Sadducees were the rich and sophisticated Jews in the time of Jesus. They were politically driven and in control of the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme judicial council of Judaism.

What is the leaven?

In Mark 8:15 Jesus instructed his disciples to beware of the leaven of Herod. 1 The leaven of Herod is the belief that politics and social reform, rather than preaching the gospel is the primary work of the Christian.

1 WIKIPEDIA: … more probably the Herodians were a public political party, who distinguished themselves from the two great historical parties of post-exilian Judaism (Pharisees and Sadducees) by the fact that they were and had been sincerely friendly to Herod the Great, the King of the Jews, and to his dynasty (cf. such formations as “Caesariani,” “Pompeiani”). It is possible that, to gain adherents, the Herodian party may have been in the habit of representing that the establishment of a Herodian Dynasty would be favourable to the realization of the theocracy; and this in turn may account for Tertullian’s (De praescr.) allegation that the Herodians regarded Herod himself as the Messiah.

What is the leaven?

In a later study we’ll see how the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3 correspond to the 7 church ages. For now, it’s suffice to say that the corresponding church age for the Leaven is the church in Thyatira.

The church in Thyatira is reprimanded for tolerating a false prophetess!

Who was the woman?




Rev 2-3


The Sower

Apostolic Church



The Wheat and Weeds

Persecuted Church



The Mustard Seed

State Church (Constantine)



The Leaven

Papal Church (Roman Catholic)



The Hidden Treasure

Reformation Church (Protestant)



The Pearl of Great Price

Missionary Church



The Dragnet

Apostate Church


Rev 2:20-23 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman 1 Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Jezebel may have been her actual name or an assumed name based upon her OT counterpart.

1 Some manuscripts read “your wife” instead of “that woman.” If so, this could mean that this Jezebel was the pastor’s wife!

Who was the woman?

In the OT, Jezebel was Ahab’s queen. She was a Phoenician and daughter of a pagan priest by the name of Ethbaal (Hebrew for “with Baal”). 1

1 Kings 16:30-32 Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.

Jezebel murdered God’s prophets (1 Kings 18:4) and had Naboth killed to steal his property (1 Kings 21).

1 According to Menander & Josephus, Ethbaal was king of Tyre and Sidon and priest of Astarte, who usurped the throne after murdering his predecessor, King Pheles.

Who was the woman?

Elijah confronts Ahab at Naboth’s vineyard

When Ahab brought Jezebel to Samaria, the capital of the northern tribes, she brought her religion with her. Baal was a fertility god and used both male and female temple prostitutes. Jezebel built a temple to Baal and an altar to Astarte. With this came hundreds of prophets to promote her religion (1 Kings 18:19).

Jezebel’s religion was a Phoenician Baal cult in Israel that promoted harlotry and witchcraft.1

Now it happened, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, ‘Is it peace, Jehu?’ So he answered, “What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many?” (2 Kings 9:22 – NASB).

Who was the woman?

The OT Jezebel seduced her weak husband, Ahab, to lead Israel into idolatry and sexual sin.

The NT Jezebel counterpart in Thyatira did the same.

‘Jezebel’ of Thyatira was a self-appointed prophetess (“who calls herself a prophetess”).

Jesus rebuked the Thyatiran church for their ‘tolerance’ of Jezebel who “misleads my servants into sexual immorality”.

This phony prophetess both taught and seduced her followers (“those who commit adultery with her”). The combination of religion and sex was a carryover from paganism. Jezebel taught the church to combine paganism and Christianity.

Who was the woman?

Idolatry and illicit sex were part of the pagan lifestyle.

1 Pet 4:3-5 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

We are commanded not to combine paganism with the worship of the true God.

1 Cor 10:19-21 Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.

Yet part of the leaven that infiltrated the church were old remnants of paganism.

Who was the woman?

Q: Who introduced pagan rituals and symbolism into the church?

A: Mainly Rome.

Rev 17:1-5 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

The pagan religious system first practiced in Babylon had been transplanted to Pergamos in Biblical times 1 but in later years would be merged with Christianity in Rome. Hence the title “Mystery Babylon”.

1 Rev 2:13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne.

Who was the woman?

Rev 17:15 Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.”

Rev 17:18 “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”

There was only one city that the apostle John and his readers would have understood by “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” and that was Rome.

The harlot

Rev 17:6-9 … When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns … “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.”

Throughout its history Rome has been described as the city of seven hills as indicated in coins which refer to it in this way and in countless allusions in Roman literature. Seven hills formed the nucleus of the ancient city on the east bank of the Tiber. These hills received the names of Palatine, Aventine, Caelian, Esquiline, Viminal, Quirinal, and Capitoline.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “It is within the city of Rome, called the city of seven hills, that the entire area of Vatican State proper is now confined.”

The harlot

Map of Rome showing the 7 hills on which ancient Rome was built



1 Cor 5:6,8


Luke 12:12

False teaching





Matt 16:11

Legalism, tradition

Liberalism & political mongering

Political & social gospel

Sexual promiscuity and pagan worship (Rev 2:20-23)


The church

Gal 5:7-9 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”



Rev 2:20-23, Rev 17

The parable of the woman & leaven

The 4th kingdom age – Papal - Leaven

In this study we’ll cover:

The leaven of Jezebel (Pagan corruption)

Drunk with the blood of the saints

The mother of harlots

Use of candles in worship

Prayer to images

Veneration of relics

Veneration of angels & saints

The leaven of Herod & the Sadducees (Political leaven)

Temporal power

Sale of church offices (Simony)

The leaven of Jezebel

Rev 17:6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.

Drunk with the blood of the saints

The OT Jezebel murdered God’s prophets:

1 Kings 18:4 While Jezebel was killing off the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.

Jehu is told, “You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the LORD’s servants shed by Jezebel.” (2 Kings 8:7)

Drunk with the blood of the saints

The blood of the prophets avenged when Jezebel is killed at Jehu’s instruction.

In the 6th century, Pope Pelagius defined a ‘heretic’ as being anyone who does not submit to the Roman Church. “Schism is evil. Whoever is separated from the apostolic see 1 is doubtless in schism,” he said.

In 1184, the Inquisition was made official at the Synod 2 of Verona by Pope Lucius III, in agreement with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa.

Under it everyone was required to inform against heretics. Anyone suspect was liable to torture, without knowing the name of his accuser. The proceedings were secret. The Inquisitor pronounced sentence and the victim was turned over to civil authorities to be imprisoned for life or to be burned. The victim’s property was confiscated and divided between the church and the state. 3

1 According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “An Apostolic see is any see founded by an Apostle and having the authority of its founder; the Apostolic See is the seat of authority in the Roman Church, continuing the Apostolic functions of Peter, the chief of the Apostles.” 2 A synod is a council convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. 3 Halley’s Bible Handbook

Drunk with the blood of the saints

The Inquisition claimed vast multitudes of victims in Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

It is generally divided into 3 major phases, each one authorized by the presiding pope.

The Medieval Inquisition, authorized by Pope Gregory IX in 1231. It was initially directed against some of the Christian sects of that day such as the Cathari, Albigenses, and Waldenses. Each of these sects actively opposed the corrupt popish clergy of the day. And while the belief system of the Cathari, and thus of the Albigenses, may have been heretical (there is not enough of a record remaining for us to know for sure), the beliefs of the Waldenses were orthodox - in fact, more orthodox than those of papal Rome.

The Spanish Inquisition, authorized by Pope Sixtus IV in 1478, added to the objects of papal wrath Jewish and Muslim converts to the faith. These conversions were mostly insincere, having been the result of coercion and/ or social pressure. Also, suspected Protestants were targeted at this time.

The Roman Inquisition, instituted by Pope Paul III in 1542 focused papal terror upon the Protestants.

Drunk with the blood of the saints

Von Döllinger, 1 a leading 19th century Catholic professor of Church History, holds the popes accountable, “The view of the Church had been… [that] every departure from the teaching of the Church must be punished with death, and the most cruel of deaths, by fire… Both the initiation and carrying out of this… must be ascribed to the Popes alone… who compelled bishops and priests to condemn heretics to torture, confiscation of their goods, imprisonment, and death, and to enforce the execution of this sentence on the civil authorities, under pain of excommunication.”

1 Von Döllinger was a German theologian and Catholic priest who rejected the dogma of papal infallibility. He is considered an important contributor to the doctrine, growth and development of the Old Catholic Church.

Johann Josef Ignaz von Döllinger (1799-1890)

Drunk with the blood of the saints

The Albigenses, or Cathari, in southern France, northern Spain and northern Italy allegedly held beliefs similar to 2nd and 3rd century Gnostic heretics. In 1208 Pope Innocent III ordered a crusade of extermination which wiped out town after town. The inhabitants were murdered without discrimination until all of the Albigenses were obliterated. In the Albigensian Crusade (1208- 1249) an estimated 1,000,000 Frenchmen 1 suspected of being Albigensians were slain.

Among the cities wiped out by Pope Innocent was Beziers, France - 60,000 massacred there, including women and children, in 1208 AD, which the pope called “the crowning achievement” of his papacy.2

The Albigenses may have been heretics. However, their torture and murder sanctioned by the Inquisition was not the way of Christ.

1 Max Dimont (Jews, God, and History), Helen Ellerbe (The Dark Side of Christian History)

2 Dave Hunt: Mystery Babylon Identified

The Albigenses

Pope Innocent III (1198-1216)

In 1233, Pope Gregory IX assigned the duty of carrying out inquisitions to the Dominican Order. Inquisitors acted in the name of the Pope and with his full authority.

Innocent IV (1241-1254), gave papal sanction to the use of torture in extracting confessions from suspected heretics. 1

Romanist writer, who deplored the persecuting policy of his Church, Professor Gabriele Rossetti (1783-1854) writes, “It makes the heart of a true Christian bleed to think of this fatal error of the Latin Church, which by persecuting others laid the foundation of her own irreparable ruin. That the opinions held by these so-called heretics were most injurious to the Church of Rome cannot be denied, but the means taken to destroy them were, of all others, the most likely to strengthen them, and render them more deeply rooted. Daniel and St. John foretold that Satan’s delegate would use horrid cruelties, and inundate Babylon with the blood of Christ’s martyrs; and the pope, to prove that he was not that delegate, did use horrid cruelties, and caused Rome to overflow with the purest of Christian blood!” 2

1 Halley’s Bible Handbook 2 Rossetti - Disquisitions on the Antipapal Spirit which Produced the Reformation

Drunk with the blood of the saints

The Waldenses were a Christian movement originating in 12th century France, who emphasized personal Bible reading and public preaching. They opposed papal doctrines like purgatory, infant baptism, indulgences and prayers to and for the dead - heretical beliefs of Rome to this day. In 1211 more than 80 were burned as heretics at Strasbourg, beginning several centuries of persecution.

Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492) decreed their extermination. They were wiped out except for a few survivors in the Alpine Valleys southwest of Turin, who are now the leading Protestant body in Italy.

In the 30 years between 1540 and 1570 no fewer than 900,000 Protestants were put to death by the Pope’s war for the extermination of the Waldenses. 1

1 Halley’s Bible Handbook

The Waldenses

17th century Dutch engraving of a 1251 massacre of Waldensians in Toulouse, France. The town and its inhabitants were burned

The Hussites 1 were all but exterminated. Here is part of Pope Martin V’s letter commanding the King of Poland in 1429… to exterminate the Hussites: “Know that the interests of the Holy See, and those of your crown, make it a duty to exterminate the Hussites. Remember that these impious persons dare proclaim principles of equality… that all Christians are brethren… that Christ came on earth to abolish slavery; they call the people to liberty… While there is still time, then, turn your forces against Bohemia; burn, massacre, make deserts everywhere for nothing could be more agreeable to God or more useful to the cause of kings, than the extermination of the Hussites.” 2

1 i.e. followers of Jan Huss 2 Dave Hunt: Mystery Babylon Identified

The Hussites

In 1478 the pope, Sixtus IV, allowed Ferdinand and Isabella to establish a special branch of the Inquisition in Spain. There was believed to be a danger to the church from Jews masquerading as Christians. Such Jews were referred to as marranos (‘swine’). Their conversion was the result of anti-Semitic violence during the previous century. To escape the likelihood of death at the hands of ‘Christian’ mobs, many Jews had been baptised.

Innocent VIII appointed the brutal Thomas of Torquemada Inquisitor General of Spain, and ordered all rulers to deliver up heretics to him. Under Torquemada Jews were given 3 months to become Christians or leave the country. Between 8,800 1 to 10,220 2 were burnt in the 18 years of Torquemada.

1 Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church 2 Motley, Rise of the Dutch Republic

The Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834)

Thomas of Torquemada

In “Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy” Peter De Rosa, a Catholic historian and former Jesuit, writes “When Napoleon conquered Spain in 1808, a Polish officer in his army, Colonel Lemanouski, reported that the Dominicans 1 blockaded themselves in their monastery in Madrid. When Lemanouski’s troops forced an entry, the inquisitors denied the existence of any torture chambers. The soldiers searched the monastery and discovered them under the floors. The chambers were full of prisoners, all naked, many insane. The French troops, used to cruelty and blood, could not stomach the sight. They emptied the torture-chambers, laid gunpowder to the monastery and blew the place up.”

1 In charge of the Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition

Pagan Rome threw to the lions, burnt and otherwise killed thousands of Christians and many Jews. Sadly ‘Christian’ Rome also slaughtered many Christians and Jews.

In his ‘Critical History of the Spanish Inquisition’, Canon Juan Antonio Llorente (1756-1823), who was General Secretary of the Inquisition from 1789 to 1801,and had access to the archives of all the tribunals, estimated that in the Spanish Inquisition alone the number of victims was 341,021 with about 31,912 executed 1 between 1480-1808.

1 In contrast to this high estimate, Will Durant in ‘The Reformation’ (1957) supported the following lower estimates from Catholic sources:

Hernando de Pulgar, secretary to Queen Isabella, estimated 2,000 burned before 1490.

An unnamed “Catholic historian” estimated 2,000 burned, 1480-1504, and 2,000 burned, 1504-1758.

Portrait of Llorente by Goya (1810-1811)

The Spanish Inquisition

Drunk with the blood of the saints

SOURCE: World Christian Trends, William Carey Library, David Barrett & Todd Johnson

Drunk with the blood of the saints

Rev 17:4-5 The woman… held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

The mother of harlots

The mother of harlots

Rev 2:20 You tolerate that woman Jezebel… By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality…

In the Eastern Church, the Greek council of Trullo (Constantinople, 692) reaffirmed the earlier tradition from the Council of Nicaea and included disapproval of such customs as celibacy of the clergy. In the West, Pope John VII would not recognise the decrees of this council.

In 1079 celibacy was first enforced for priests and bishops by Pope Gregory VII. Before this time, they were still permitted to marry.

We saw in our last study that mandatory celibacy is not taught in the Bible, nor was it practiced by the apostles.

The apostle Paul writes, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…” (1 Timothy 3:2 - KJV)

Paul calls forbidding marriage one of the “doctrines of demons”:

1 Tim 4:1-5 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons… men who forbid marriage … For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. (NASB)

We also saw that celibacy is a gift and shouldn’t be enforced:

1 Cor 7:9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Regrettably many priest and popes who couldn’t “control themselves” took vows of celibacy, but then did “burn with passion” as Paul had cautioned.

Our hearts are all the same. Many of these tragic individuals no doubt began with high moral and spiritual aspirations and in that spirit set out upon what they sincerely intended to be a life of purity and devotion to Christ. 1

Not only has celibacy made sinners of the clergy who engage in fornication, but makes harlots out of those with whom they secretly cohabit. Rome is indeed “the mother of harlots”! Her identification as such is unmistakable. No other city, church, or institution in the history of the world is her rival in this particular evil. 2

Former Jesuit Peter De Rosa writes, “After six centuries of strenuous efforts to impose celibacy, the clergy were a menace to the wives and young women of the parishes to which they were sent.” 3 1 Dave Hunt: A Woman Rides the Beast 2 Dave Hunt: A City on Seven Hills 3 Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy

The mother of harlots

The history of celibacy makes for reading so black. … A large part [of it] is the story of the degradation of women. … Ivo of Chartres (1040-1115) tells of whole convents with inmates who were nuns only in name … [but] were really prostitutes. 1

Rome has long been the butt of mockery because of their false claim to priestly celibacy. “Rome has more prostitutes than any other city because she has the most celibates” is but one example.

Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) used that fact to his advantage by “charging Rome’s numerous brothels with a Church tax. Then he gathered more wealth still by charging a tax on mistresses kept by priests.” 2

1 Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy 2 Dave Hunt: A Woman Rides the Beast

The mother of harlots

Portrait of Pope Sixtus IV

…roving monks were proving to be a social menace… there… were long periods when many monasteries were nothing but houses of ill repute… The second Council of Tours in the year 567… publicly admitted there was hardly a cleric anywhere without his wife or mistress. 1

Reformer Martin Luther was a former monk who forsook his vow of celibacy and married Katharina von Bora, a former nun. A popular legend abounded in those days that the antichrist would be the son of a monk and a nun – a tale possibly linked to the news of Luther’s first child. At the time Erasmus remarked sarcastically that, if the legend were true, “How many thousands of Antichrists had the world already known!”

Celibacy was hardly known in England before it was at last enforced by Innocent IV in about 1250. Most priests there were married, a practice long accepted by the Church… Pope Honorius II (1124-1130) sent Cardinal John of Crema to England to see that his decree against marriage for clergy was carried out. The cardinal gathered the senior clerics and chided them vigorously for their evil ways, declaring that “it was a horrible crime to rise from the side of a harlot, and then to handle the consecrated body of Christ.” The clergy whom he had lectured, however, surprised him in his room later that night in bed with one of the local prostitutes. At least he wasn’t married. 2

1 De Rosa 2 Dave Hunt “A Woman Rides the Beast” quoting R.W. Thompson

The mother of harlots

Visiting Germany in the 8th century, Boniface found that none of the clergy honored their vows of celibacy. He wrote to Pope Zachary (741-52): “Young men who spent their youth in rape and adultery were rising in the ranks of the clergy. They were spending their nights in bed with four or five women, then getting up in the morning… to celebrate mass.” Bishop Rathurio complained that if he excommunicated unchaste priests “there would be none left to administer the sacraments, except boys. If he excluded bastards, as canon law demanded, not even boys [would be left].” 1

Have things improved since then?

The New York Times website quotes the Associated Press (Published: June 12, 2005) as saying, “Sexual abuse by priests has cost the Roman Catholic Church in the United States more than $1 billion, a figure almost certain to rise by millions of dollars because of hundreds of still unsettled claims… The money was used by dioceses to pay settlements with victims, legal fees, counseling and other expenses since 1950, The A.P. found. At least $378 million has been spent in just the past three years, when the crisis erupted in the Boston archdiocese and spread nationwide.”

1 Peter De Rosa: Vicars of Christ

The mother of harlots

As we shall see, some of the worst offenders were the popes. (We noted in an earlier study that the danger of Episcopalian church governance is that Satan simply targets the top structure.) calls Sergius III, “One of the worst popes in history, his reign begins the era known as the pornocracy…” 1

At age 45, Pope Sergius III took 15-year-old Marozia as his mistress.2

She, her mother Theodora, and her sister, ‘filled the Papal chair with their paramours 3 and bastard sons, and turned the Papal Palace into a den of robbers.’ Called in history The Rule of the Harlots (904-963).4

The beautiful Theodora, wife of a chief senator of Rome, was the real power in Rome, whom Bishop Liutprand characterized as a “shameless whore... [who] exercised power on the Roman citizenry like a man.”

Theodora supported the election of John X (914-928) as pope. His relocation from Ravena to Rome was in order to more conveniently cover her illicit relations with him.5

1 Terry Jones 2 Liutprand – “Antapodosis” 3 i.e. adulterous lovers 4 Halley’s Bible Handbook 5 Liutprand: “Thereupon Theodora like a harlot fearing she would have few opportunities of bedding with her sweetheart forced him to give up his bishopric and take for himself - Oh, monstrous crime - the papacy of Rome.”

The mother of harlots

Marozia was both more beautiful and more wicked than her mother Theodora.

John X fell out of favour with Marozia, who was a Roman senator. She had him imprisoned and murdered 1 by suffocation. Later she raised to the Papacy her own illegitimate son, John XI (931-936).

Marozia was the mistress of Pope Sergius III, mother of Pope John XI, the aunt of Pope John XIII,2 and the grandmother of Pope John XII.

1 Liutprand (c.922–972), Lombard historian & bishop of Cremona & “The Annals of Beneventum” (written by contemporary monks) 2 Son of Theodora “the Younger”


John XII (955-64), became pope at age 18, and lived a life of unimaginable evil. Women were warned not to enter St John Lateran if they prized their honour; the pope was always on the prowl. Luitprand wrote in his journal: “Pope John is the enemy of all things… the palace of the Lateran, that once sheltered saints and is now a harlot’s brothel”.

Holy Roman Emperor Otto asked John to mend his ways. In fear, John fled to Tivoli after plundering the treasury of St Peter’s. Otto called a Synod,1 in effect to try John. Bishop Liudprand read out a list of the pope’s misdeeds: charging for ordinations, fornicating with numerous women, blinding his spiritual director, castrating a cardinal etc.

Otto wrote to John, “Everyone, clergy as well as laity, accuses you, Holiness, of murder, perjury, sacrilege, incest with your relatives including two sisters and of having invoked Jupiter, Venus and other demons.”

Deposed, but then later reinstated as Pope, several of those responsible for deposing him were summarily maimed or executed.

John’s life came to a violent end when at age 26, he “was killed while in the act of adultery by the woman’s enraged husband”. 2 It has been said, “At least he was lucky to die in bed, even if it was someone else’s.”

1 16 cardinals and numerous bishops were present. 2 Halley’s Bible Handbook

The mother of harlots

Pope Benedict IX (1032-1048) was described by Peter Damian 1 as “A demon from hell in the disguise of a priest…”, and said of him, “That wretch, from the beginning of his pontificate to the end of his life, feasted on immorality”. This was in the Liber Gomorrhianus (Book of Gomorrah), a treatise on papal corruption and sex that accused Benedict IX of routine homosexuality and bestiality.

He was also accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of “many vile adulteries and murders.” 2

Of Benedict, Pope Victor III in his third book of Dialogues, referred to “his rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts. His life as a Pope so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it.” 2

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “At the time of Leo IX’s election in 1049, according to the testimony of St Bruno, Bishop of Segni, ‘the whole Church was in wickedness, holiness had disappeared, justice had perished, and truth had been buried; Simon Magus was lording it over the Church, whose popes and bishops were given to luxury and fornication.’”

1 Peter Damian was “one of the most celebrated, universally loved and zealous reforming monks” who “strove for reforms in a deplorable time.” - Wikipedia 2 Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Libelli de lite

The mother of harlots

John XXIII (1410-1415), was “called by some the most depraved criminal who ever sat on the Papal Throne; guilty of almost every crime; as cardinal in Bologna, 200 maidens, nuns and married women fell victim to his amours; as Pope he violated virgins and nuns; lived in adultery with his brother’s wife; was guilty of sodomy and other nameless vices… and openly denied the future life”. 1

Pius II (1458-1464), was said to have been the father of many illegitimate children, spoke openly of the methods he used to seduce women, encouraged young men to, and even offered to instruct them in methods of self-indulgence. 1

Pius II declared that Rome was the only city run by bastards (i.e. the sons of Popes and Cardinals).

1 Henry H. Halley: Halley’s Bible Handbook

The mother of harlots

Pope Pius II (1458-1464)

Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492)

Paul II (1464-1471) “filled his house with concubines.” 1

Innocent VIII (1484-1492) had 16 children by various married women. 1

Only 2 of his children were publicly acknowledged, the others being presented as nephews (“The wicked man begat eight boys, and just as many girls, so that Rome might justly call him Father”). 2

1 Halley’s Bible Handbook 2 Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911

The mother of harlots

Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503).

Like his predecessor… Borgia as a fond father admitted who his children were, baptized them personally, gave them the best education, and proudly officiated at their weddings in the Vatican, which were attended by Rome’s leading families. Alexander VI had ten known illegitimate children, four of them (including the notorious Cesare and Lucrezia) by Vannozza Catanei, his favorite mistress. 1

1 Dave Hunt: A Woman Rides the Beast

The mother of harlots

Rodrigo Borgia (Alexander VI) Vannozza Catanei

The martyr priest Savonarola was an outspoken opponent and critic of both Innocent VIII and Alexander VI.

“When Vannozza faded, Borgia, then 58, took newly-married, 15-year-old Giulia Farnese” 1 as his mistress.

Alexander died of possible poisoning. His successor Pius III, who died only 10 days later, “forbade the saying of a Mass for the repose of Alexander VI’s soul, saying, ‘It is blasphemous to pray for the damned’”. 2

1 Dave Hunt: A Woman Rides the Beast 2 Wikipedia

Giulia Farnese Pope Alexander VI (Borgia)

The mother of harlots

Julius II (1503-1513) was “a notorious womanizer who sired a number of bastards, Julius was so eaten up with syphilis that he couldn’t expose his foot to be kissed.” 1

Paul III (1534-1549) had many illegitimate children. 2

1 Dave Hunt: A Woman Rides the Beast 2 Halley’s Bible Handbook

The mother of harlots

Portrait of Pope Julius II by Raphael

Besides the physical harlotry, there was also the spiritual adultery with paganism as “…the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” (Rev 17:2 )

Spiritual adultery – Pagan influence

The Roman church has been using candles in its worship for a long time. They were burned before images and prayers were made to the images. Some accounts say the practice goes back to about 350 AD while others say it became standard around 850 AD.

What does the Catholic Encyclopedia tell us about candles and their justification for usage? (Notice no Scripture is mentioned.)

We need not shrink from admitting that candles, like incense and lustral water, were commonly employed in pagan worship and in the rites paid to the dead. But the Church from a very early period took them into her service, just as she adopted many other things indifferent in themselves, which seemed proper to enhance the splendour of religious ceremonial. 1

1 Herbert Thurston, Candles, Catholic Encyclopedia

Use of candles in worship

Sadly many of the miracles in this period started to be linked to relics, rather than the direct work of the Holy Spirit.

In the previous period Augustine (354-430) had already listed a whole host of miracles in his book ‘City of God’, which were typically associated with infant water baptism, holy communion, the dedication of saints’ bones, and the like.

For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by his sacraments or by the prayers or relics of his saints.” 1

In fairness, both Augustine and Jerome had tried to distinguish between the ‘veneration’ of relics and saints as contrasted with outright ‘worship’.

Jerome, declared, “We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are.” 2

Augustine wrote, “Let us not treat the saints as gods, we do not wish to imitate those pagans who adore the dead.”

1 City of God 22:8 2 Ad Riparium, i, P.L., XXII, 907

Veneration of relics & saints

The honoring of icons (or holy images) was suppressed by imperial edict inside the Byzantine (Eastern) Empire during the reign of Emperor Leo III (717-741) although this was opposed by the popes in the West. Leo is said to have described image veneration as “a craft of idolatry”.

Leo’s son, Constantine V (741-775) held a synod (Council of Hieria) to make the suppression official.

In a response recalling the later Protestant Reformation, Constantine moved against the monasteries, had relics thrown into the sea, and stopped the invocation of saints. Monks were apparently forced to parade in the Hippodrome, each hand-in-hand with a woman, in violation of their vows. 1

John of Damascus, a Syrian monk living outside of Byzantine territory, became the major opponent of iconoclasm through his theological writings. 1

1 Wikipedia

Veneration of images (icons)

Regrettably the Second Council of Nicaea met in 787 AD to restore the practice of honoring icons. The assembled bishops affirmed the veneration of icons, images and relics, based on tradition rather than on Scripture:

We accept the image of the honorable and life-giving Cross, and the holy relics of the saints; and we receive the holy and venerable images; we accept them and we embrace them, according to the ancient traditions of the Holy Catholic Church of God… 1

They did however attempt to distinguish this from the worship of God, “Therefore, it is proper to accord to them a fervent and reverent adoration, not, however, the veritable worship which, according to our faith, belongs to the Divine Being alone — for the honor accorded to the image passes over to its prototype, and whoever adores the image adores in it the reality of what is there represented.”

1 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol 14

Veneration of images (icons)

Look at these excerpts from a review by Megan McKenna of “Praying With Icons” and weigh them against Scripture:

“Jim Forest’s Praying With Icons is a primer on the background of icons and their position in the Orthodox tradition as aids to, even servants of, those who pray. Describing the Transfiguration icon, which reveals the divine energies and light of God hidden in Jesus Christ, Forest reminds us that this experience in the life of Jesus is also about our destinies - to be deified, “christified,” … 1 It is no wonder that the gesture of kissing the icon privately and publicly and bowing before it is intrinsic to the art of praying with icons.”

1 One would expect to find these statements in a New Age or Eastern Religion book.

Veneration of images (icons)

What precedent is there in the Bible for ‘venerating’ images, besides the practice of the heathen and backslidden Israel?

Hosea 11:2 But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.

Ex 20:4-5 You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.

Isa 57:7-8 You have made your bed on a high and lofty hill; there you went up to offer your sacrifices. Behind your doors and your doorposts you have put your pagan symbols.

Veneration of images (icons)

Relics are the dead bodies or bones of the saints, whatever other things belong to them in their life and the instruments of torture by which they suffered death.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:, “The veneration of relics, in fact, is to some extent a primitive instinct, and it is associated with many other religious systems besides that of Christianity… The teaching of the Catholic Church with regard to the veneration of relics is summed up in a decree of the Council of Trent (Sess. XXV), which enjoins on bishops and other pastors to instruct their flocks that “the holy bodies of holy martyrs and of others now living with Christ … are to be venerated by the faithful, for through these [bodies] many benefits are bestowed by God on men…” 1

Those who oppose this unbiblical and pagan practice are condemned by the Council of Trent, “… they who affirm that veneration and honour are not due to the relics of the saints, or that these and other sacred monuments are uselessly honoured by the faithful, and that the places dedicated to the memories of the saints are in vain visited with the view of obtaining their aid, are wholly to be condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned, and also now condemns them.” 1

1 Catholic Encyclopedia

Veneration of relics

These are some of the alleged relics displayed both now or in days past:

The manger and Jesus’ baby clothes.

Hair of Mary (some brown, some blonde, some red, and some black),

Mary & Joseph’s marriage ring.

The tail of the donkey Jesus rode.

A tooth of the apostle Peter and Peter’s beard.

The 12 apostles’ combs.

Stones that were thrown at Stephen.

Among the relics are even feathers from both the angels Gabriel and Michael’s wings.

The Catholic Encyclopedia also claims that Mary’s house from Nazareth is now in the town of Loreto, Italy, having been transported there by angels! Remarkably the house has moved several times in ages past (up to 3 times in one year) before the angels settled down and left it in it’s present location.

Veneration of relics

There are many duplicates of relics. The apostles apparently each had several heads and a corresponding number of limbs to have furnished the present supply. Helena (Constantine’s mother) had three bodies and there are a few heads of John the baptist. And the finger with which he pointed out Jesus, there are 6 of these. There are 18 Crown of Thorns and 4 spears which pierced Jesus’ side.

One alleged relic was the foreskin of the circumcised infant Jesus. There were up to 18 different ‘holy foreskins’ in various European towns during the Middle Ages.

In Spain, a cathedral once displayed what was said to be part of a wing of the angel Gabriel when he visited Mary. Upon investigation, however, it was found to be a ostrich feather! 1

John Calvin mentions that in his day they had some of the wine that Jesus made from water in Orleans. According to him, once a year they gave a tasting to anyone who brought an offering.

Calvin said of the pieces of Jesus’ cross: “If all the pieces which could be found were collected into a heap, they would form a good shipload.”

1 Lorraine Boettner: Roman Catholicism, Philadelphia

Authenticity of relics

The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that many of their relics are spurious:

Nevertheless it remains true that many of the more ancient relics duly exhibited for veneration in the great sanctuaries of Christendom or even at Rome itself must now be pronounced to be either certainly spurious or open to grave suspicion. 1

Yet it mentions that no harm is done when someone pays homage to a relic, that they in good faith assume to be genuine:

On the one hand no one is constrained to pay homage to the relic, and supposing it to be in fact spurious, no dishonour is done to God by the continuance of an error which has been handed down in perfect good faith for many centuries. 1

1 Catholic Encyclopedia

Veneration of relics

Yet Hezekiah was commended for destroying the genuine religious relic of the bronze serpent because people were paying reverence to it.

2 Kings 18:3-4 Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done… He broke into pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.

Veneration of relics: Biblical perspective

At the formal exhibition of relics at St. Peter’s in Rome, formal and public worship is offered to them and the Pope and Cardinals kneel before them as they do before the host and the altar.

There is no record in the Bible of bones or relics being dragged out, venerated, and used to cure sickness. Men of God were always buried.

The account in 2 Kings 13:21 tells how a dead man came to life after coming in contact with the bones of the prophet Elisha, but there is no record that Elisha’s bones were worshiped either before or after that miracle. It was God that performed that miracle, not the bones; so it was proper that all veneration, worship, glory, honor and praise be given to God and not to the lifeless bones.

In 2 Kings 23:16-18 when Josiah came across the bones of the prophet of God, he commanded that they be left undisturbed.

In the book of Acts there is no evidence that the body of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, and the bones of the martyr James, were distributed around or sent on a tour as relics by early Christians. To the contrary, the Scripture states that Stephen was buried in the ground. (Acts 8:2)

Veneration of relics: Biblical perspective

Beginning in the 10th century, the Roman Church asserted that no one could be venerated as a saint without its approval. The first recorded canonization of a saint is Ulrich of Augsburg by Pope John XV in 993. 1

In 1170 Pope Alexander III established rules for the canonization of saints. Again this practice is unbiblical and based on tradition and superstition.

Some pointers on how to become a saint (the Roman way).

Character (i.e. good works)

The Pope institutes… a formal inquiry into the qualifications of the person for whom the honour is sought - his or her character and miracles. One official, called the devil’s advocate, advances all he can against him or her and he is answered by another advocate who successfully of course defends him or her. 2

Be martyred

If a person is martyred for the faith, miracles are not necessary to be declared a saint … all those who die as martyrs are believed to go straight to heaven. 1

1 Religion Facts 2 A Concise Guide to Bible Christianity and Romanism - Dr. Ian R.K. Paisley

Veneration of saints

Become pope (Clearly the qualification of ‘character’ and ‘good works’ are optional extras with this method, as is evidenced by some of the historical popes who made sainthood.)

Pope Gregory VII claimed that a “rightly elected Pope is, without question, a saint.” 1

Perform at least 2 miracles with your relics (this way is the most difficult because you have to do it when you’re dead).

For those who died naturally, however, at least one miracle is necessary to be declared Blessed (beatified) and at least two miracles are necessary qualified to be declared a saint (canonized). These miracles must have occurred after the person’s death (to demonstrate that the person is in heaven and able to assist the living 2), but miracles during his or her lifetime are also taken into account as evidence of God’s favour. 3

1 Peter De Rosa: Vicars of Christ 2 This is an important part of being a ‘saint’. 3 Religion Facts

Sainthood: The Roman way

Some of the benefits of sainthood include:

Your “name is inserted in the Canon of saints in the Mass hence canonisation.” 1

Churches and altars are then consecrated to him or her and his remains are preserved as holy relics. 1

You are called “Saint {insert name}”, instead of just “Blessed {insert name}” if you are only beautified.

You get to have people pray to you, instead of to God or Jesus.

1 A Concise Guide to Bible Christianity and Romanism - Dr. Ian R.K. Paisley

Sainthood: The Roman way

But does the Bible teach that we have ‘normal Christians’ and ‘super Christians’? How is a saint defined in the Bible?

The word ‘saint’ means ‘holy’ and is derived from the Latin ‘sanctus’. In the Bible it is used to describe all followers of God and not a special group of holy elite. Here are a few of numerous references to saints in the Biblical sense.

Ps 147:1 Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.

Acts 9:13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.”

Acts 9:32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda.

Paul addresses three groups at Philippi, (1) overseers, (2) deacons and (3) the rest of the believers as ‘saints’ - “To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). (See also Rom 1:7, 2 Cor 1:1, Eph 1:1)

And yet the Roman definition requires a person to be dead and pass certain tests before they ‘become’ a saint?

Sainthood: The Biblical way

The leaven of the Sadducees - politics

John writes of the harlot, “With her the kings of the earth committed adultery…” (Rev 17:2)

Pepin King of the Franks 1 was the son of Charles Martel, who saved Europe from Islam by his victory at the Battle of Tours in 732.

Pope Stephen II (752-757) requested Pepin to lead his army to Italy and conquer the Lombards who had pillaged Italy. He succeeded and gave a large part of central Italy to the Pope, which was the beginning of the Papal States, a temporal 2 dominion which continued for 1100 years. (King Victor Immanuel returned these lands to the Kingdom of Italy in 1870.)

Pepin’s son, Charlemagne was one of the greatest rulers of all time. He reigned 46 years with many wars and vast conquests. His realm included what is now Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, and parts of Spain and Italy.

1 A Germanic people occupying western Germany and northern France. 2 The temporal power of the Popes is their political and governmental activity, as contrasted with their spiritual activity.

Temporal power – Holy Roman Empire

Pepin the younger (714 - 768)

Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III in 800. After securing Charlemagne’s protection, Pope Leo III separated from the Eastern Empire and became supreme bishop in the West.

This “was perhaps the first moment in which the Church was generally granted a power of control of the imperial dignity, thus demonstrating a sort of power of international veto.” 1

Charlemagne… was one of the greatest influences in bringing the papacy to a position of world power. Soon after his death, by the treaty of Verdun (843), his Empire was divided into what became the foundations of modern Germany, France and Italy; and henceforth, for centuries, there was ceaseless struggle between popes and German and French kings for supremacy. 2

The “Holy Roman Empire” lasted 1000 years until Napoleon brought it to an end in 1806.

1 Wikipedia 2 Halley’s Bible Handbook

Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman Emperor

Temporal power – Holy Roman Empire

Nicolas 1 (858-867). First pope to wear a crown. To promote his claim of universal authority he used with great effect the “Pseudoisidorian Decretals,” a book that appeared about 857, containing documents that purported to be letters and decrees of bishops and councils of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, all tending to exalt the power of the pope. 1 They were deliberate forgeries and corruptions of ancient historical documents, but their spurious character was not discovered till some centuries later. Whether Nicolas knew them to be forgeries, at least he lied in stating that they had been kept in the archives of the Roman Church from ancient times. But they served their purpose, in “stamping the claims of the medieval priesthood with the authority of antiquity.” The Papacy, which was the growth of several centuries, was made to appear as something complete and unchangeable from the very beginning. The object was to antedate by five centuries the popes temporal power. The most colossal literary fraud in history. 2

1 This included the forged “Donation of Constantine” 2 Halley’s Bible Handbook

Pope Nicholas I

Temporal power – Holy Roman Empire

In commanding the king of Bulgaria to destroy another king, Pope Nicholas I wrote in 860, “A king need not fear to command massacres, when these will retain his subjects in obedience, or cause them to submit to the faith of Christ; and God will reward him in this world, and in eternal life, for these murders… We order you, in the name of religion, to invade his states, burn his cities, and massacre his people.” 1

1 Cormenin: “History of the Popes”

Temporal power – Holy Roman Empire

Since the earliest days of the Byzantium or Eastern Rome Greek Empire, the Church recognized the unique positions of five bishops, who were known as patriarchs: the Bishop of Constantinople, the Bishop of Jerusalem, the Bishop of Alexandria, the Bishop of Antioch, and the Bishop of Rome. All were confirmed as patriarchates by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The patriarchs held precedence over fellow bishops in the Church… the See of Constantinople was the primary power. (Commonly mistaken was that Rome was a primary power, this is untrue.) 1

Following the rise of Islam, the relative weakening of the influence of the patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, leading to internal church politics increasingly being seen as Rome versus Constantinople. 1

Pope Nicholas I undertook to interfere in the affairs of the Eastern Church. He excommunicated Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who in turn excommunicated him… Up to 869 all Ecumenical Councils had been held in or near Constantinople, and in the Greek language. But now at last the Popes insistent claim of being Lord of Christendom had become unbearable, and the East definitely separated itself. The Council of Constantinople (869), was the last Ecumenical Council. Henceforth the Greek Church had its Councils, and the Roman Church had its Councils. 2

1 Wikipedia 2 Halley’s Bible Handbook

Temporal power – The Great Schism

The … Great Schism, divided early Medieval Christianity… into Western (Latin) and Eastern (Greek) branches, which later became the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church respectively. Though normally dated to 1054, the East-West Schism was actually the result of an extended period of estrangement between Latin and Greek Christendom. The primary causes of the Schism were disputes over papal authority -Pope Leo IX claimed he held authority over the four Eastern patriarchs - and over the insertion of the filioque clause into the Nicene Creed by the Western Church. Eastern Orthodox today state that the 28th Canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council explicitly proclaimed the equality of the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople. The Orthodox also state that the Bishop of Rome has authority only over his own diocese and does not have any authority outside his diocese. 1

1 Wikipedia

Temporal power – The Great Schism

And the Breach grew wider with the centuries. The brutal treatment of Constantinople 1 by the armies of Pope Innocent III during the Crusades embittered the East all the more. 2

1 The most infamous action of the Fourth Crusade was the sack in 1204 of the Orthodox Christian city of Constantinople. 2 Halley’s Bible Handbook

Temporal power – The Great Schism

The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople (Eugène Delacroix, 1840)

Innocent III (1198-1216) was the most powerful of all the Popes. He claimed to be… “Supreme Sovereign over the Church and the World.” “All things on earth and in heaven and in hell are subject to the Vicar of Christ.” The kings of Germany, France, England, and practically all the monarchs in Europe obeyed his will, including the Byzantine Empire. Never in history has any one man exerted more power. 1

Boniface VIII (1294-1303) in his famous Bul, “Unam Sanctam” said, “We declare, affirm, define, and pronounce that it is altogether necessary for salvation that every creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” However, he was so corrupt that Dante, 2 who visited Rome during his pontificate, called the Vatican a “Sewer of corruption,” and assigned him, along with Nicolas III and Clement V, to the lowest parts of Hell. 1

1 Halley’s Bible Handbook 2 Dante (1265–1321), was an Italian poet from Florence whose central work, the ‘Divine Comedy’, is considered the greatest literary work in the Italian language.

Temporal power – Holy Roman Empire

In the early 14th century there was open conflict between Pope Boniface VIII and King Philippe IV of France.

Philippe IV “brought the papacy under his yoke, carried out the destruction of the powerful order of the Knights Templar, and laid the foundations of the national monarchy of France.” 1

After the death of Pope Benedict XI, the Papal Palace was removed from Rome to Avignon on the south border of France and for 70 years (1305-1377)the Papacy was the mere tool of the French Court.2

This became known as the “Babylonian Captivity” of the popes.

1 people/ 986 / 000093707/ 2 SOURCE: Halley’s Bible Handbook

Philippe IV King of France

Temporal power – Babylonian captivity

For 40 years (1377-1417), in what is called the “Western Schism”, there were two sets of Popes, one at Rome and the other at Avignon, each claiming to be the sole “Vicar of Christ,” hurling anathemas and curses at each other. 1

In the latter part of the “Western Schism” period there were 3 popes at once, in Avignon, Rome and Pisa.

1 Halley’s Bible Handbook

Popes of the Western Schism

Temporal power: 1, then 2, then 3 popes

Pope Gregory VII (c. 1020 – 1085) claimed that the Pope had the following powers, which we’ll contrast with Scripture:

The Roman church has never erred, nor can it ever err. 1

1 John 1:8,10 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us… If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

The Pope can be judged by no one on earth. 1

1 Pet 2:13-14 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors…

He can dethrone emperors and kings 2 and absolve their subjects from allegiance to their ruler. 1

Titus 3:1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…

1 De Rosa: Vicars of Christ 2 He was subsequently ‘dethroned’ by Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV

Temporal power – Biblical perspective

Hildebrand AKA Pope Gregory VII

All princes are obliged to kiss his feet.

Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:14-15)

Matt 20:25-28 “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…”

Temporal power – Biblical perspective

Simony, murder & corruption

Simony is the purchase or sale of Church Office with money. It is named after Simon Magus, who appears in Acts 8. Simon offered Peter and John payment, so that anyone he would place his hands on would receive the Holy Spirit i.e. trafficking “spiritual things” for money.

Kings habitually sold Church Offices to the highest bidder, regardless of fitness or character. 1

As for murder and corruption:

“… even Catholic historians admit that among the popes were some of the most degenerate and unconscionable ogres in all history… To call any of these men ‘His Holiness, Vicar of Christ’ makes a mockery of holiness and of Christ.” 2

Gregory I (590-604) strove for the purification of the church, deposed neglectful or unworthy bishops and opposed the sale of offices. In his personal life he was a good man, one of the purest and best of the Roman bishops. If more had been as he was the world would have a different estimate of the papacy.

1 Halley’s Bible Handbook 2 Dave Hunt: A City on Seven Hills

Simony, murder & corruption

The Darkest Period of the Papacy -The 200 years between Nicholas I and Gregory VII (870-1050) are called the “midnight of the Dark Ages.” Bribery, corruption, immorality, and bloodshed mark this blackest chapter of the church. 2

Leo V (903) reigned for one month before being imprisoned by Cardinal Christopher (903-904). Sergius III (904-911) managed to resolve their dispute by slaughtering them both.

Boniface VII (974-985) 1 murdered Pope John XIV, and “maintained himself on the blood-stained Papal Throne by a lavish distribution of stolen money.” The Bishop of Orleans, referring to John XII, Leo VIII and Boniface VII, called them: “monsters of guilt, reeking in blood and filth; Antichrist sitting in the Temple of God”. 2

There were three rival Popes in 1045-1046: Benedict IX, Gregory VI, and Sylvester III. Rome swarmed with hired assassins; the virtue of pilgrims was violated. 2

Clement II (1046-1047) was appointed Pope by Holy Roman Emperor Henry III of Germany “because no Roman clergyman could be found who was free of the pollution of simony and fornication.” 2

1 974,984-985: Now considered an anti-pope 2 Halley’s Bible Handbook

Simony, murder & corruption

Benedict VIII (1012 -1024) and John XIX (1024-1033) bought the Office of the Pope with open bribery. 1

Benedict IX (1032-1048) 2 “was made Pope as a 12-year-old boy through a money bargain with the powerful families that ruled Rome” 2 and “robbed pilgrims on the graves of martyrs.” 1

According to Catholic Education Resource Center, “Most historians sadly cite Benedict IX’s papacy as the lowest point in the history of all of the popes. After various scandalous intrigues, the clergy and people of Rome forced him to flee, deposed him and elected a new pope, Sylvester III … Benedict and his forces managed to regroup, and they deposed Sylvester… Sylvester III’s pontificate lasted all of 22 days… He was officially reinstated as pope on April 10, 1045. However, he resigned 21 days later on May 1, 1045. Apparently, Benedict IX was promised a large sum of money and a woman in marriage if he resigned his office in favor of John Gratian… However, the deal promised Benedict IX was broken, motivating Benedict IX to reclaim the papacy.” 3

1 Halley’s Bible Handbook 2 Pope 1032 to 1044, again in 1045, and finally from 1047 to 1048 3 Father William Saunders - Arlington Catholic Herald

John XXIII (1410-1415) 1 was the pope in Pisa in the latter part of the “Western Schism” period when there were 3 popes at once. He “bought the Papal Office; sold Cardinalates to children of wealthy families”. 2

Sixtus IV (1471-1484) was implicated in a plot to murder Lorenzo de Medici and others who opposed his policies, and used the Papacy to enrich himself and his relatives. He made eight of his nephews Cardinals while as yet some of them were mere boys. 2

Innocent VIII (1484-1492) multiplied church offices and sold them for vast sums of money. 2

Julius II (1503-1513) “purchased the papacy with his own private fortune.” 3

1 Now considered an anti-pope 2 Halley’s Bible Handbook 3 Mark Owen: What You Didn’t Know About The Popes Of Rome

Simony, murder & corruption

Rodrigo Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503), “committed his first murder at age 12”. 1

… “called the most corrupt of the Renaissance Popes, licentious, avaricious, depraved; bought the Papacy; made many new cardinals, for money; had a number of illegitimate children, whom he openly acknowledged and appointed to high church office while they were yet children, who, with their father, murdered cardinals and others who stood in their way.” 2

His teenage mistress, Giulia Farnese, “obtained a cardinal’s red hat for her brother (thereafter known as ‘the Petticoat Cardinal’), who later became Pope Paul III (1534-49) and convened the Council of Trent to counter the Reformation. 1

Because Alexander needed funds to carry out his various schemes, he began a series of confiscations, of which one of the victims was his own secretary. The process was a simple one: any cardinal, nobleman or official who was known to be rich would be accused of some offence; imprisonment and perhaps murder followed at once, and then the confiscation of his property. The least opposition to the Borgia was punished with death. 3

1 Dave Hunt: A Woman Rides the Beast 2 Halley’s Bible Handbook 3 Wikipedia

Simony, murder & corruption

Acts 8:9-19 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city… Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw… When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Sounds reminiscent of our “Send your check and receive your miracle” ministries of televangelists today? The original offer of purchasing God’s free gifts with money comes from a baptized, falsely-converted pagan sorcerer, who thought he was a Christian. The story continues:

Acts 8:20-23 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

When Jesus sent out the Twelve he told them, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt 10:8 )

Simony – The modern equivalent

We are then warned: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes… Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen…’ She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” (Rev 18:4-8)

The coming judgment of the harlot

Rev 18:2-3 “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit… For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her…”

When Elijah, wearied by the persecution of Jezebel and Ahab, asked God to take his life, he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:14)

God prophesied the fall of Ahab’s house and told Elijah, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel - all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18)

The choice of the words “Dark Ages” is truly fitting of this period we have looked at, in terms of the spiritual darkness that prevailed especially among church leadership.

Yet even in this period there too was always a remnant “whose knees have not bowed down to Baal”. One only has to mention Peter Waldo and his Waldenses, John Wycliffe and his Lollards, Jan Huss and his Hussites and the martyr Savonarola to realize this.

The Challenge

Let’s contrast a man from either extreme, Cesare Borgia & Savonarola.

Cesare Borgia (1476-1507) was the illegitimate son of the notorious Pope Alexander VI and his mistress Vannozza de Cattanei. He was made a bishop at 15 and a cardinal at 18. He later resigned the cardinalate and was appointed commander of the papal armies.

He is believed by some to have murdered his brother Giovanni because of “jealousy over Sancha of Aragon, wife of Cesare’s other brother Jofré, and mistress of both Cesare and Giovanni.” 1

He was feared by his own father and murdered those who stood in his way. 2

His dying words were: “I have taken care of everything in the course of my life, only not for death, and now I have to die completely unprepared.”

1 Wikipedia: Rendina, I capitani di ventura 2 E.g. Giovanni Sforza, first husband of Cesare’s sister Lucrezia, was… drowned in the Tiber river by Cesare’s order. - Wikipedia

The Borgias & Savonarola

Cesare Borgia

Savonarola (1452-1498)

In Florence, Italy, a priest by the name of Girolamo Savonarola preached boldly against the wickedness of his time. He did not spare Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI) but spoke out against his immorality and appealed for a general council to confront the papal abuses.

In his fiery sermons, he called Rome “a harlot ready to sell her favors for coin” 1 and accused the priests of bringing “spiritual death upon all… their piety consists in spending their nights with harlots.” 1

He was excommunicated by Alexander VI.

In 1498, “after signing confessions that had been wrung out of them by the cruelest of torture, Savonarola and two comrade friars were hanged and burned to ashes.” 1

Savonarola said, “The whole world knows that His glory has not been spread by force and weapons, but by poor fishermen.”

1 Historian Will Durant, “The Story of Civilization”

The Borgias & Savonarola

The Council of Constance condemned Czech priest, Jan Huss, as a heretic because of his calls for reform and for translating Scripture into the language of the people.

Despite having been promised safe conduct to the council by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, he was treacherously burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.

While being martyred, he is said to have prophesied: “You may roast this goose,1 but in a hundred years a swan will arise whose voice you will not still.”

In 1517 (102 years after his death) his prophecy was fulfilled when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Bavaria and the Protestant Reformation ignited.

1 Huss means goose in the Bohemian language.

Jan Huss – the goose & the swan

Jan Huss (1374-1415)

Before applying the torch, Louis of Bavaria and the Marshal of the Empire approached, and for the last time implored him to have a care for his life, and renounce his errors. “What errors,” asked Huss, “shall I renounce? I know myself guilty of none. I call God to witness that all that I have written and preached has been with the view of rescuing souls from sin and perdition; and, therefore, most joyfully will I confirm with my blood that truth which I have written and preached.” 1

Poggius, who was secretary to the council, and Aeneas Sylvius, who afterwards became Pope,2 and whose narratives are not liable to the suspicion of being coloured, bear even higher testimony to the heroic demeanour of both Huss and Jerome 3 at their execution. “Both,” says the latter historian, “bore themselves with constant mind when their last hour approached. They prepared for the fire as if they were going to a marriage feast. They uttered no cry of pain. When the flames rose they began to sing hymns; and scarce could the vehemency of the fire stop their singing.” 1

To his credit, over 500 years later, Pope John Paul II came to the homeland of Jan Huss and said, “I feel the need to express a profound regret for the cruel death inflicted on Jan Huss…”

1 “Story of Liberty” by Charles Carleton Coffin 2 Pius II 3 Jerome of Prague (d. 1416), early Bohemian church reformer & friend of Huss.

Huss prepares for a marriage feast

Dr. Ken Curtis (Christian History Institute) writes, “As a Protestant believer, I absorbed a common attitude among us that asks: How did the church ever survive the Middle Ages? How could the church sink so low? Why did God allow the papacy to develop as it did? How could both doctrine and practice become so corrupt? I have to now admit that the more I learn of this period, the more I come to marvel they did as well as they did. In every generation there were godly men and women who followed Christ with a devotion we would look far to find today. The medieval church met just about every barbarian threat across Europe and brought brutal peoples to some level of Christian understanding and practice. I dreamt recently that we 20th century Christians and churches will have far more to answer for than our medieval ‘dark age’ predecessors at the Great Judgment when the Lord takes into account the light we each had.”

The Challenge

Literally millions of Christians were put to death, either directly or indirectly by the Church in the war against thinking differently. Finally, at the fifth Lateran Church Council in 1516, A. Pucci, a Cardinal of the Church, told the pope, “The whole body of Christendom is now subject to one head, even to thee; no one now opposes, no one now objects.” 1

A year later Martin Luther nailed his famous ‘95 Theses’ (a list of 95 religious abuses) on the church door and sparked the Reformation.

Just when Rome thought it had stamped out all opposition and put everything under its feet, their power began to fall. They had to relearn the lesson of Imperial Rome, that the more one persecutes Christians, the more they multiply, as others see the true character of both sides and ask themselves, “Which is more Christ-like?” 1

As Tertullian said, “the more you kill the more we are. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

1 Stephen E. Jones “The Seven Churches”

The Challenge


Appendix 1: The fate of Marozia

A northern soldier of fortune, Alberic, bearing the title Marquis of Camerino came to Rome. He was a good ally to Theophylact, and Theodora got him married to her daughter Marozia. After the deaths of Theodora and Alberic (both around 928), Marozia had Pope John (her mother’s lover) imprisoned and reportedly suffocated to death. The next two popes, Leo VI and Stephen VIII, reigned for less a year and three years respectively. Both disappeared mysteriously.

Marozia’s first son (by Pope Sergius) became Pope John XI in 931. She married again and when her second husband died, she married his half-brother King Hugo of Provence, a wedding officiated by her son Pope John XI in 932. Meanwhile her second son called Alberic after his father was feeling increasingly left out. He came to know that Hugo had planned to render him helpless by blinding him. Alberic appealed to the Romans to rise against Hugo, an outsider. When the Romans responded and got ready for battle, Hugo abandoned his wife and fled.

Alberic put the pope (his half-brother) under permanent arrest in the Lateran Palace and imprisoned his mother Marozia in Hadrian’s mausoleum where she remained for over 50 years.

Alberic’s greatest achievement was to strip John XI (and his successors LeoVII, Stephen IX, Marinus II and Agapitus II) of all temporal power. This allowed the popes to concentrate on their spiritual duties and the good effects were felt far and wide. Alberic died in 954 at the age of 40 but not before he had made the nobles swear at the tomb of St Peter that they would make his son Octavian pontiff on the death of Agapitus II. And so Octavian became Pope John XII in 955 about the age of 18. He promptly assumed temporal powers, again making the papacy a lucrative position to aspire to.

For years Marozia languished in prison. In 986 when she was in her mid-90s, she was at last released by order of Pope John XV and King Otto III (grandson of Otto I). A bishop exorcised her of any demons she possessed and she was absolved from her sins. She was then executed.


Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ

E R Chamberlain, Bad Popes

History of the Popes, Cheetham, Nicholas

The Rise of Western Christendom, Peter Brown

The Conversion of Europe 371-1386


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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV: Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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