What does the word ‘doctrine’ really mean?

Likewise, what is the meaning of the terms ‘dogma’, ‘creed’ and ‘tenet’?

For the latest version of this document, click here: www.biblepages.net/rsa082.htm

Countless churches and preachers have compiled dogmas, doctrines, tenets, creeds and statements of faith, and claimed them to be “the truth”. But, they do not agree with each other. Their opinions and teachings differ, and there is much confusion. This leads to the question, who has the “true doctrines” or “correct dogmas”?

This article considers the question, what does the word “doctrine” really mean? Likewise, what is the meaning of the terms “dogma”, “creed” and “tenet”? Further: As we all know, doctrines and statements of faith and so on always consist of teachings of men. So, is it correct to have such things, or to follow them?

The origin of the word ‘doctrine’.

Just as numerous other religious words, even “doctrine” comes from “church Latin”, the noun doctrina which simply meant “teaching”, “instruction”. That was connected to the verb doceo, “to teach”, and the noun doctor which meant “teacher”, “master”.

Here is point 1a in the entry on the English word “doctor”, in a year 2000 edition of ‘Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary’:

1 a: an eminent theologian declared a sound expounder of doctrine by the Roman Catholic Church—called also doctor of the church

The Catholic Church has its doctores ecclesiae, “doctors of the church”, whose teachings are held forth as “truth”. Many other churches have copied that Catholic concept and practice. Later in this article, it will be considered what Jesus said to his disciples in regard to how many “doctors” (teachers, masters) they were to have.

A note: Many churches have copied even the Catholic claim that they are “the true church”, with “apostolic authority” and so on. – The articles raa012.htm with its appendix, and rba072.htm, take a closer look at Matthew 16:18–19 and that “true church” dogma respectively the matter of “the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” and “binding and loosing”.

The origin of the word ‘dogma’.

In old Greek, the noun dogma was used in such meanings as “that which seems good to one”, “opinion”, “belief”, and also, “public decree”, “ordinance”. It came from the verb dokeô which meant “to think”, “to suppose”, “to imagine”, “to expect”.

However, in today’s religious English, the word “dogma” means something like “a religious teaching which is proclaimed as true without proof”.

In short: The word “dogma” is used as a synonym for “doctrine”. And again, “dogmas” and “doctrines” always consist of teachings of men.

The word ‘tenet’.

The word “tenet” is of Latin origin, from the verb teneo (tenere) which meant “to hold”. A tenet is something that is “held to be true”. And then: It is always some church or preacher that creates tenets by deciding what is to be considered as “truth”.

In other words: In modern-day religious English, the terms “doctrine”, “dogma” and “tenet” are used more or less as synonyms.

The word ‘creed’.

The English noun “creed” comes from the Latin verb credo which had to do with “trusting”, “entrusting” and “being credible” (trustworthy), and also, considering someone to be credible.

By extension, the verb credo was also used of “believing in what someone says”. And, that is what religious creeds are all about: Churches and preachers demand people to accept and believe all that the church or preacher says. A “creed” is always a document produced by men, containing dogmas, doctrines, tenets – teachings of men.

The noun “creed” has come to have the meaning “a brief authoritative formula of religious belief”. But, who really has “religious authority”? Who can speak for God? The article rsa062.htm has more on that subject, but in short: As of now, God does not have any mortal “spokesmen” here on Earth. (But, there are many who copy old Catholic claims and manners, and claim themselves to be “God’s representatives here on Earth”.)

A note: “Creed” is not the same as “faith”. The article rba092.htm contains a study on the matter of “faith”.

What does the Bible say about the concept of having ‘doctrines’ and ‘doctors of theology’?

(Again, the English words “doctrine” and “doctor” come from the old Latin nouns doctrina and doctor which meant “teaching” respectively “teacher”, “master”.)

What did Jesus teach his disciples in regard to the concept of having “doctrines” and “doctors of theology”? Among other things, he taught them this:

Matthew 23:8 “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 “And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 “And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (NASB77)

The context talks about the scribes and the Pharisees. They had managed to make themselves “religious authorities”, and they acted as if they somehow had a “seat of Moses”. They loved being called “Rabbi”. – The article roa121.htm has more on the Pharisees, and on Matthew 23.

A note: Obviously, those instructions by Jesus refer to things in the religious context. His disciples were not to have any spiritual “Fathers” (“Padres”, “Papas”). God was their only spiritual Father. Neither were they to have any mortal “spiritual leaders”. Jesus was their Teacher, Master and Leader. – The article raa082.htm has some notes on religious titles.

Matthew 15:7–9.

On one occasion, some scribes and Pharisees were criticising Jesus. He told them off, and noted that through their teachings (doctrines), they caused people to go against God’s injunction. He continued:

Matthew 15:7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, 8 ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” (NLT04, highlighting added)

(It appears that Jesus was citing Isaiah 29:13.)

Again, the context of Matthew 15:7–9 has to do with certain scribes and Pharisees. There are many “pharisees” even in our day, persons who make themselves into “religious leaders” and lay forth their own teachings (doctrines) as if they were “commands of God”.

Did the saints excommunicate people, on ‘doctrinal grounds’?

Indeed, did the saints cast out people from their fellowships, on “doctrinal grounds”, the way churches and preachers do in our day?

The answer to that question is that the concept of excommunication, as it is interpreted and practised by churches today, is of Catholic origin and has very little to do with the Bible or with what the saints practised. But, a more thorough study of the matter of marking, avoiding and casting out (excommunicating) cannot be included here. The article raa103.htm has more on that subject.


The word and concept “doctrine”, as it is used by the “religious world”, has to do with forcing on people a by men created set of teachings.

Is that biblical? Again, consider what Jesus said to his disciples:

Matthew 23:8 “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 “And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 “And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (NASB77)

Now, it is true that Jesus said those things to his disciples, people of the first century. But certainly, those principles are applicable even today.

Again, the old Latin words doctor and doctrina meant “teacher” (“master”) respectively “teaching”. And then: “Doctrines” always consist of teachings of men.

Many churches and preachers hold forth their teachings as “pure doctrines”, as a sales argument for the purpose of gaining new members and followers. Also: They use those things for controlling people. In that connection, some churches and preachers have, copying old Catholic manners and concepts, even claimed that they somehow have a right to “bind and loose” things for others and to decide what is right and what is wrong. But, when Jesus spoke about “binding and loosing”, Matthew 16:19 (the same as the judging which is mentioned in Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:30), he was talking to and regarding his closest disciples, the apostles. They were to “bind and loose” – act as judges, assisting Jesus in the administration of the Reign of God. And then, that was something they were to do, not while they were mortals but after they had become immortals. The article rba072.htm has more on this, including Matthew 16:18–19.

Here, one must keep in mind that even bible-translations and “biblical” lexicons, dictionaries, commentaries and the like, are produced by biased and erring men, and that all too often they even contain purposely twisted things. So, one must not consider bible-translations or those other things as “compilations of truth”. – Today, there are bible-study tools which, if wisely and diligently used, can help one to penetrate at least some of the smoke-screens in the field of religion. The articles rga022.htm, rsa012.htm and rsa023.htm have some notes on keys, helps and tools for deeper study and understanding of the Scriptures.

See also the “recommended reading” section, below.

Please tell others about this site. Please also link to it. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/contents.htm

Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters.

An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → rsa092.htm

On the King James version. The story behind king James’ bible, including the men who were involved in producing it. → rsa032.htm

Matthew 16:18, “I will build my assembly, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it”. What and where is the ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form? Is it an earthly religious organisation as some claim, or something else? → raa012.htm

Matthew 16:19, the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and “bind” and “loose”. What kind of “keys” and “binding and loosing” was Jesus talking about? → rba072.htm

What does the Bible say about authority? Who has biblical, spiritual or religious authority? Who can speak for God? → rsa062.htm

What does the word “faith” mean? What is true faith? → rba092.htm

What does the Bible say about the Pharisees? → roa121.htm

What does the Bible say about religious titles, such as “apostle”, “bishop”, “evangelist”, “father”, “pastor” and so on? → raa082.htm

What the Bible says about marking, avoiding and excommunication. → raa103.htm

Easy keys to deeper understanding of the Scriptures. → rga022.htm

How to study the Bible in a deeper way. → rsa012.htm

Some notes on computer bibles, bible study software. → rsa023.htm

On the words and concepts “clergy” and “laity”. → rsa072.htm

1 Corinthians 1:10, the translation “all speak the same thing”. What was the apostle Paul talking about? → raa062.htm

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