Vicarius Filii Dei
Vicarius Filii Dei (Latin: Vicar or Representative of the Son of God) is a phrase first used in the forged medieval Donation of Constantine to refer to Saint Peter, who is regarded as the first Pope by the Catholic Church.
Origins and uses of the phraseEdit
The earliest known instance of the phrase Vicarius Filii Dei is in the Donation of Constantine, now dated between the eighth and the ninth centuries AD.
Johann Peter Kirsch states that "many of the recent critical students of the document [i.e. Donation of Constantine] locate its composition at Rome and attribute the forgery to an ecclesiastic, their chief argument being an intrinsic one: this false document was composed in favour of the popes and of the Holy Catholic Roman Church, therefore the Christ Church itself must have had the chief interest in a forgery executed for a purpose so clearly expressed".
However, it goes on to state, "Grauert, for whom the forger is a Frankish subject, shares the view of Hergenröther, i.e. the forger had in mind a defence of the new Western Empire from the attacks of the Eastern Romans. Therefore it was highly important for him to establish the legitimacy of the newly founded empire, and this purpose was especially aided by all that the document alleges concerning the elevation of the pope."
Gratian excluded it from his "Decretum"; however, it was later added as "Palea"[definition needed]. It was also included in some collections of Greek canons. As a forgery it currently carries no dogmatic or canonical authority, although it was previously used as such for hundreds of years in the past.
The Protestant writer Andreas Helwig suggested that Vicarius Filii Dei was an expansion of the historical title Vicarius Christi, rather than an official title used by the Popes themselves. His interpretation did not become common until about the time of the French Revolution. Some later Protestant figures claimed that Vicarius Filii Dei was an official title of the Pope, with some saying that this title appeared on the papal tiara and/or a mitre.
Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid answers the Protestant claims by noting that Vicarius Filii Dei has never been an official Papal title. Catholics answer the claims that "Vicarius Filii Dei" is written on the Papal Tiara by stating that a simple inspection of the more than 20 papal tiaras still in existence—including those in use in 1866 during the reign of Pope Pius IX when Uriah Smith made his claim—shows that none have this inscription, nor is there any evidence that any of the earlier papal tiaras destroyed by invading French troops in 1798 had it.
Many Protestants have the view that Vicarius Filii Dei can be applied to the Bishop of Rome.
Origins of the controversyEdit
The earliest extant record of a Protestant writer on this subject is that of Professor Andreas Helwig in 1612. In his work Antichristus Romanus he took fifteen titles in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin and computed their numerical equivalents in those languages, arriving at the number 666 mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Out of all these titles, he preferred to single out Vicarius Filii Dei, for the reason that it met "all the conditions which [Cardinal] Bellarmine had thus far demanded." Besides being in Latin, the title was "not offensive or vile," but rather was "honorable to this very one."
Helwig suggested that the supposed title was an expansion of the historical title Vicarius Christi, rather than an official title used by the Popes themselves. Additionally, he said nothing about the title appearing on tiaras or mitres. Helwig's interpretation did not become a common one until about the time of the French Revolution. Some later Protestant figures directly claimed that Vicarius Filii Dei was an official title of the Roman Catholic Pope, some claimed that this title appeared on the papal tiara and/or a mitre.
Some Protestants view the Pope as the Antichrist. This view was common at the time of Helwig and is still part of the confession of faith of some Protestant churches, such as those within Confessional Lutheranism.
Historical Seventh-day Adventist viewsEdit
In 1866, Uriah Smith was the first to propose the interpretation to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In The United States in the Light of Prophecy, he wrote: "The pope wears upon his pontifical crown in jeweled letters, this title: 'Vicarius Filii Dei', 'Viceregent of the Son of God'; the numerical value of which title is just six hundred and sixty-six. The most plausible supposition we have ever seen on this point is that here we find the number in question. It is the number of the beast, the papacy; it is the number of his name, for he adopts it as his distinctive title; it is the number of a man, for he who bears it is the 'man of sin'."
Uriah Smith maintained his interpretation in the various editions of Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation, which was influential in the church.
In November 1948, Le Roy Froom, a Seventh-day Adventist ministerial leader, editor of the church's Ministry, and a church historian, wrote an article to correct the mistaken use of some of the denomination's evangelists who continued to claim that the Latin words "Vicarius Filii Dei" were written on a papal tiara.
Each pope, like any other sovereign, has his own tiara, which is the papal crown. There is, therefore, no one tiara that is worn by the full succession of papal pontiffs. Moreover, personal examination of these various tiaras, by different men back through the years, and a scrutiny of the pictures of many more, have failed to disclose one engraved with the inscription Vicarius Filii Dei ... As heralds of truth, we are to proclaim the truth truthfully. No fabrication should ever becloud our presentation of truth. The present truth of the threefold message [the Three Angels' Messages of Revelation 14] is so overwhelming in its logical appeal, and so inescapable in its claims, that it needs no dubious evidence or illustration to support it.
Froom continues in the article stating that a leading evangelist took photos of several tiaras in a trip to the Vatican and then, failing to find a tiara with the inscribed words, proceeded to add the words himself for use in his evangelistic preaching. The evangelist then tried to include the image in a book on Bible prophecy that he was publishing in one of the church's leading publishing houses in the United States. However, the image was rejected by the publishing house and by the General Conference for being misleading. However, some Adventist evangelists continue to make this claim. Froom concludes his 1948 article with the following words: "Truth does not need fabrication to aid or support it. Its very nature precludes any manipulation or duplicity. We cannot afford to be party to any fraud. The reflex action upon our own souls should be a sufficient deterrent. We must never use a quotation or a picture merely because it sounds or looks impressive. We must honor the truth, and meticulously observe the principle of honesty in the handling of evidence under all circumstances."
Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid answers the Protestant claims by claiming that "Vicarius Filii Dei" has never been an official Papal title. He also argue that even if it were a Papal title, that would not be sufficient to associate the Pope with the number of the Beast, as, for example, the name of Ellen Gould White can also be similarly manipulated to get the same number (ELLen GoVLD VVhIte 50+50+5+50+500+5+5+1=666). He answers the claims that "Vicarius Filii Dei" is not written on Papal Tiara by stating that merely looking at any of the more than 20 papal tiaras still in existence—including those in use in 1866 during the reign of Pope Pius IX when Uriah Smith made his claim—plainly shows that not even one of them has any such inscription, nor is there any evidence that any of the earlier papal tiaras destroyed by invading French troops in 1798 had any such inscription either.
Adventists Samuele Bacchiocchi responded to those claims, by pointing out that "interpreting 666 on the basis of the numerical values of the letters of names can give absurd results". He also notes the Donation of Constantine was considered as true to the point "this forged document was used by 10 popes over a period of six centuries to assert, not only their ecclesiastical supremacy over all the churches, but also their political sovereignty over what became known the Papal States, which included most of Italy." He also states the title "Vicarius Filii Dei" was considered as an official title of the pope.
- "St. Peter". Saints and Angels. Catholic Online. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
- "Donation of Constantine". www.thelatinlibrary.com.
- "A COPY OF THE DONATION OF THE EMPEROR COSTANTINE I (306-337) TO POPE SYLVESTER I (314-335)". May 7, 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-05-07.
- Kirsch, Johann Peter. "Donation of Constantine". The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
- Le Roy Edwin Froom (1948). Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2 (PDF), pp. 605–608. Review and Herald. Compare Ibid., p. 649; vol. 3 (PDF), pp. 228, 242.
- Patrick Madrid. "Pope Fiction". Envoy magazine, March/April 1998
- See Leroy Edwin Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2, pp. 605-608. Compare Ibid., p. 649; vol. 3, pp. 228, 242.
- A Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, a Lutheran Confession in the Book of Concord
- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 223
- Smith, Uriah (1866). "The Two-Horned Beast - A Review of H. E. Carver" (PDF). Review and Herald.
- Uriah Smith, The United States in the Light of Prophecy. Battle Creek, Michigan: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association (1884), 4th edition, p.224.
- "The Query Column: Dubious Pictures of the Tiara". Ministry, vol. 10, no. 21. p.35. November, 1948]
- "THE MARK AND NUMBER OF THE BEAST", Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER No. 139
- Bruinsma, Reinder. (1994). Seventh-day Adventist Attitudes Toward Roman Catholicism 1844–1965, Berrien Springs, Michigan. ISBN 1-883925-04-5.
- Heim, Bruno (1978). Heraldry in the Catholic Church: Its Origins, Customs and Laws, Gerrards Cross, Eng.: Van Duren. ISBN 0-905715-05-5.
- Noonan, James-Charles. (1996). The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church, New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-86745-4.
- Smith, Uriah (1881). Thoughts, Critical and Practical on the Book of Revelation, Battle Creek, Mich.
- Froom, Le Roy (1948). "Dubious Pictures of the Tiara." The Ministry, vol.10, no.21. November, 1948.
- Smithe, Jefferson (1902). Roman Catholic Ritual, London.