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Craig Rinkus wrote:

Hello fellow Christians,

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

  1. I was hoping you could tell me where in the Bible it says that the Pope is infallible when interpreting the Scriptures.

  2. I am looking for help in understanding 2 Maccabees 12:43, which seems to support the idea of giving money as an offering for the sins of the dead:

    "And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection."

    2 Maccabees 12:43

  3. I would like to better understand Tobit 4:11 and Tobit 12:9, which seem to support the idea of salvation by works:

    "For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness."

    Tobit 4:11

    "For alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting."

    Tobit 12:9

Thank you for your time, and God bless you.


  { Where in the Bible does it say the Pope is infallible when interpreting the Scriptures plus how...? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Craig —

Thanks for the question.

Let me answer the first question and my colleagues can answer the other questions on
2 Maccabees and Tobit.

First, as a side note, I don't think your question implied such, but the Church does not have an interpretation for every passage in the Scriptures. As my colleague John said in a previous reply:

As Catholics, we do not rely on an individual priest to interpret the Scriptures.
We do rely on the Church to interpret the Bible when it comes to essential doctrine. For example, in the early Church around the year 325 A.D., there arose a dispute about the nature of Christ and the Trinity.

A certain heretic named Arius claimed that Jesus was a created being and was not fully God and fully Man. The Church drawing on the understanding of Scripture which had been handed down from the Apostles orally by Tradition, gave us the word Trinity and defined it as Three Persons of one substance, in one God. Each being a Person of the Trinity, fully God by themselves, yet only one God; this being a mystery.
There are many Catholic exegetes who are not priests or bishops. The Church does not prevent people from studying the Scriptures, nor does it discourage legitimate questions which come from a faith that seeks understanding.

Not every verse in the Bible has a Vatican interpretation; there are only a few passages which must be understood a certain way, based on the Apostolic Teaching of the Church that has been passed down to us through Oral Tradition. Drawing on Her understanding of the Scriptures, as John has shown above, She also gives use the word infallibility.

There is no place in the Bible where it specifically states the Pope is infallible.

It is implied in Our Lord's Words to St. Peter:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

(Matthew 16:13-20)

and in 1 Timothy 3:15

15 If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

That said, I think we have to step back and remember that when these Words come from
Our Divine Lord's Mouth in Matthew, the only Scriptures in existence were the Old Testament Scriptures. The new Catholic Christians to the faith would not know what books made up the
New Testament Scriptures until almost 350 years later at the Council of Rome in 382 A.D.

  • How was the Catholic Christian Teaching passed down through the ages to 382 A.D?

By words; by Oral Tradition. "He who hears you hears me." Luke 10:16

  • Does this mean Papal Infallibility didn't exist?

No. Everyone believe in it, but there was never a need to formally define it until Vatican Council I in 1870 A.D.

  • Is this something new?

No, in Matthew 23:1-3 we read:

Jesus Denounces Scribes and Pharisees

1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.

Moses's seat was a foreshadowing of the Chair of St. Peter.

This posting clears up a lot of misconceptions:

Hope this helps,


John replied:


The texts in Tobit don't support salvation by works. What is clear is that in the Jewish tradition there existed an understanding that when one dies, one needs to be purified.

They also understood that the prayers or sacrifices of the living could be applied to the dead, just like we would prayer for a sick person in the hospital.

These Scriptures support the Catholic teaching of Purgatory but again, that is not salvation by works.

Purgatory is simply the finally stage of salvation, in which God purifies us by grace.


Mary Ann replied:

Dear Craig —

In reference to the passages from Tobit:

I don't see a problem. The text is clear. Alms deliver from death or from sin, in that they obtain mercy. Mercy obtains mercy. It doesn't buy it or earn it. God declares that love in action will be met with His Love, His mercy. Charity covers a multitude of sins, and when Paul (I think) said this, he was referring, not to feelings of love, but to charity in deed; to alms.

There is such a thing as salvation by works only in this sense: that in order to be saved by God's grace, we have to do works that express our faith and love. The working doesn't make the salvation happen, but it is the necessary condition of salvation. Even if it is just the work of making a plea for mercy, which is an act! God did not lie throughout the entire Old Testament,
in which He told people they needed to walk in His way. I just don't get the issue, I guess.

In reference to the passages from 2 Maccabees:

As for the money for the dead, it was a sacrifice (which can be an animal, grain , or money for the priests at the temple). I guess the money bought an animal to be sacrificed or paid for the support of priests who offered sacrifice for the dead.

Mary Ann

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