Modern Scholarship, Rome and a ChallengeSep 3rd, 2010 | By Sean Patrick | Category: Blog Posts
Within the Reformed blogosphere there has lately been put forth some pretty bold claims regarding the structure of the church in the first century, particularly the structure of the Roman Church.
Basically the argument is that in the first century the church did not have a monarchical bishop and was instead ruled by a group of elders who were all equal.
The main work that has been cited by those putting forth this hypothesis is “From Paul to Valentinus: Christians in Rome in the First Two Centuries” by Peter Lampe. Here is most of the entire work on Google.
One of Lampe’s conclusions, the one that is being embraced by the Reformed apologetic blogosphere1 is presented by Lampe thus:
The fractionation in Rome favored a collegial presbyterial system of governance and prevented for a long time, until the second half of the second century, the development of a monarchical episcopacy in the city.”
The intended connotation to all of this is that apostolic succession and in particular the office of the Bishop of Rome was a 2nd century invention. This has caused various Reformed bloggers to conclude that the Papacy is an invention and that apostolic succession is a ‘fraud.’2
This post is not attempt to give a thorough treatment of Lampe’s work. However, the question must arise, “How did Peter Lampe get to this conclusion? What evidence has Peter Lampe uncovered that is more reliable than early witnesses to the succession of bishops such as the list of St. Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.3.3)?”
Therefore, the challenge is the following:
Can you name one piece of historical evidence that meets these two conditions:
(1) it shows that there was no monarchical bishop in Rome until the second half of the second century, and;
(2) it is stronger evidence than is the list of St. Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.3.3)
(Please show why it is stronger evidence than is St. Irenaeus’ list.)3
“Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2 (A.D. 180).
“For what is the bishop but one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority, so far as it is possible for a man to possess it, who according to his ability has been made an imitator of the Christ off God? And what is the presbytery but a sacred assembly, the counselors and assessors of the bishop? And what are the deacons but imitators of the angelic powers, fulfilling a pure and blameless ministry unto him, as…Anencletus and Clement to Peter?” Ignatius, To the Trallians, 7 (A.D. 110).
- The fact that Lampe draws various conclusions in his study that these same Reformed bloggers would necessarily reject out of hand is not discussed here but has been demonstrated elsewhere such as here. [↩]
- Example here. [↩]
- See comments here Ecclesial Deism This was originally offered by Bryan Cross. [↩]