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Matthew 16:18

And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Douay-Rheims)

Some commentary regarding the "gates of hell" drawn from Councils, Popes, and Saints:

  • "Wisdom may fill the hearts of the faithful, and put to silence the dread folly of heretics, fittingly referred to as the gates of Hell." (St. Thomas Aquinas)

  • "we bear in mind what was promised about the holy Church and Him who said the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (by these we understand the death-dealing tongues of heretics)... (Second Council of Constantinople—Sentence Against the "Three Chapters")

  • "The holy Church built upon a rock, that is Christ, and upon Peter… because by the gates of Hell, that is, by the disputations of heretics which lead the vain to destruction, it would never be overcome." (Pope St. Leo IX)

  • "So when S. Peter was placed as foundation of the Church, and the Church was certified that the gates of hell should not prevail against it, — was it not enough to say that S. Peter, as foundation-stone of the ecclesiastical government and administration, could not be crushed and broken by infidelity or error, which is the principal gate of hell?" (St. Francis de Sales)

Question: From a Catholic perspective, it seems that the gates of hell pertain to erroneous teachings (i.e., heresies). If one goes as far back as possible to the original Greek, might there be a way to connect the original (Greek) words used to denote "the gates of hell" to the notion of heresies?

Remark: I vaguely recall reading something along these lines a while back but I can't remember where. Perhaps a Catholic theologian may be able to point me in the right direction—or at least in a direction where I can better understand the connection between "gates of hell" and heresies from a Catholic perspective.

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I am not a theologian, sorry. But I will answer using simple common logic of a Catholic.

One very simple clue is John 14:6:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me"

So, Jesus is the way, the "gate" to the Father ("through me").

What would the "opposition" (Satan), "gate to hell", want to do?

  • The opposite way (sin)
  • The lie (heresy)
  • Death (rejection of Jesus, rejection of the Life)

One simple definition of heresy is: "an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth" or "contrary to the orthodox teachings (especially Christian doctrine)". In the case of Christianity, it is clear which clear teachings that must be accepted.

For example, saying that Jesus did not die on the cross, but just faked it, or saying that the apostles substituted him with another person, is clearly a "heresy" (a doctrine contrary to the Christian teachings), even if you are not Catholic. It is contrary not only to the Christian faith but also to simple historical facts.

The second clue is that Christ rose from the dead, 1 Cor 15:14:

"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

So, a false teaching (heresy) is a teaching that takes you away from the "gate" to the Father.

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